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The Lens of Perception
April 5, 2004 7:35 PM   Subscribe

In the Psychedelic Library you can find the likes of Aldous Huxley, The Acid Queen by Robert Hunter, LSD, My Problem Child from Albert Hoffman, The Private Sea: LSD and the Search for God by William Braden and Through The Lens Of Perception by Hal Zena Bennett is a fascinating account of a peyote experience in Mexico. The Psychedelic Library ultimately asks the question: can drugs, used in a positive and healthy way, truly guide us towards who we can become? No matter what you believe, it's an invaluable resource.
posted by ashbury (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Robert Graves ate psylocybin as a means of getting closer to some conception of the divine, thought that the Maenads ate amanita muscaria, and tried to derive via etymology and and myth the origin of Dionysus in other hallucinogenic mushrooms. Lots along those lines in The White Goddess.
posted by kenko at 8:32 PM on April 5, 2004


Can drugs, used in a positive and healthy way, truly guide us towards who we can become?

Yes. If I were king these drugs would be legal and there would be a whole set of curricula around their use. Psychotropics can do amazing things towards changing your perspective. It can also do great damage if abused or used without understanding. It's a damn shame that psychotropic drugs are not in their proper place within Western civilization.
posted by filchyboy at 8:48 PM on April 5, 2004


Where Has All the Acid Gone?
Apparently MetaFilter ate it all.
posted by garethspor at 9:00 PM on April 5, 2004


It's a damn shame that psychotropic drugs are not in their proper place within Western civilization.

But they are in their proper place. They are illegal. I did my share of hallucinogens in my younger days and, at the time, I truly thought I was "expanding my mind". But with a little age and a lot of perspective, I've come to realize that I wasn't looking for something as much as I was escaping something. If you are so desperate to discover what you could become, start by coming to terms with what you are. Try a little self respect before looking to chemicals.
posted by JeffK at 10:32 PM on April 5, 2004


TELEVISION
posted by Satapher at 10:52 PM on April 5, 2004


My favorite LSD tale: Doc Ellis

I had a number of of fun, eye-opening experiences with LSD when I was younger, but looking back, what JeffK said really rings true: it was just Escapism from someone who didn't know himself, understand himself or even trust himself. Results may vary, though, I guess.
posted by dhoyt at 11:25 PM on April 5, 2004


Psychotropics can do amazing things towards changing your perspective.

If you are so desperate to discover what you could become, start by coming to terms with what you are. Try a little self respect before looking to chemicals.

If you are so desperate to affirm your own context, start by crafting responses that actually apply to the original statements, and not you're own perspective.
posted by cohappy at 1:39 AM on April 6, 2004


and by you're I mean your, dammit.
posted by cohappy at 1:45 AM on April 6, 2004


All you need to know. Includes more than 100 recipes for psychotropic phenylethylamines. A background in organic chemistry is helpful.

But anything that makes jam bands interesting HAS to be dangerous.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:58 AM on April 6, 2004


JeffK and dhoyt, you both seem to be separating your experience with LSD from who you are today. It may very well be escapism, but would you be the same person (who trusts themselves and is happy with who they are) without this experience?

Do you have to actively seek growth to gain knowledge about yourself? Can escapism lead to growth?

And JeffK, please explain how drugs and self respect are mutually exclusive.
posted by untuckedshirts at 5:58 AM on April 6, 2004


Yeah, I have no problem with dhoyt's qualified assessment, but JeffK, your dichotomy is classic: It was OK for me to do this when I was younger, but now that I got mine and have grown out of it, we must stop everyone else from being able to do it.
posted by soyjoy at 7:51 AM on April 6, 2004


Well those are some interesting counterpoints.

untuckedshirts: I think it's obvious why drugs and self respect are mutually exclusive. How can you say you respect yourself if you pump foreign substances into your body to alter your brain chemistry? The only reason you would alter the workings of your brain is if you did not accept and respect the way it was currently working.

soyjoy: I am in no way saying that it was OK for me to do it. It was not OK. It is not OK.
posted by JeffK at 8:33 AM on April 6, 2004


How can you say you respect yourself if you pump foreign substances into your body to alter your brain chemistry?

Like coffee, or a fine Cabernet, or nicotine? It's all a matter of degree and perspective.
posted by tr33hggr at 8:56 AM on April 6, 2004


The only reason you would alter the workings of your brain is if you did not accept and respect the way it was currently working.

Wrong, unless you're willing to try new experiences, how do you know whether your brain is working as well as it could? Complacency is the enemy of innovation.
posted by Gyan at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2004


I have no idea how you would regulate it, but I'd agree there is strong potential for LSD at least in the treatment of depression.
You don't really know who you are and what matters to you until you do some LSD alone.
posted by Leonard at 9:04 AM on April 6, 2004


How can you say you respect yourself if you pump foreign substances into your body to alter your brain chemistry?

Like turkey dinners, flax seed, or cheese? Like long-distance running, snogging, or horror movies?

You deceive yourself if you think you are not altering your brain chemistry.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 AM on April 6, 2004


Every time you have sex you you alter your brain chemistry in ways scientists don't understand.

The only reason you would alter the workings of your brain is if you did not accept and respect the way it was currently working.

People do lots of things for lots of different reasons, and some are good and some are bad. It is true that some people do drugs because of the reasons you say. However, this does not make it correct to assert that all people doing drugs do so for those reasons.
posted by cohappy at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2004


You don't really know who you are and what matters to you until you do some LSD alone.

Oh, good grief.

Look, I've taken acid and plenty of other drugs, too. I'm not gonna tell anybody that they're "evil" substances or anything, but enough with the pretentious twaddle.

People take drugs to get high; zone out after a rough day, see the pretty light show, amp themselves up for a night on the town whatever. and if that's what you're into that's fine for most people. But don't dress it up in this "then I saw god" bullshit.
posted by jonmc at 10:49 AM on April 6, 2004


jonmc -

I have my doubts about folks who see gods and goddesses as well, but you can't dictate the requirements of an experience for everyone. Sure, for many people drugs are just a party in a pill (or bong, or whatever). Just as for some people religion is a nice way to see other people and maintain social stature.

For others, though, the experience is a "holy" one, a psychological journey, and I think it's short-sighted to dismiss their perspective just because you don't agree, or haven't had the same experience.
posted by tr33hggr at 10:58 AM on April 6, 2004


For others, though, the experience is a "holy" one, a psychological journey, and I think it's short-sighted to dismiss their perspective just because you don't agree, or haven't had the same experience.

I'm sure they do feel that tr33hugger, but as a wise man said to me recently, feelings arent facts. The fact that a lot of the "holy" people are the same ones who like to sit in circles and bang bongos, think Charlie Manson was a cogent social theorist and worst of all, listen to techno, does nothing to dissuade me from the idea that they're easily led and somewhat dim.
posted by jonmc at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2004


jonmc: But don't dress it up in this "then I saw god" bullshit.

The comment you quoted, doesn't mention anything about spiritual experiences. You brought up a strawman. Leonard is probably referring to Cary Grant type benefits.
posted by Gyan at 11:12 AM on April 6, 2004


and worst of all, listen to techno, does nothing to dissuade me from the idea that they're easily led and somewhat dim.

Now that I like. But you know that's a slippery slope you're slidin' down there. Let's not paint with such a wide brush here, because the same argument can be used to justify all sorts of attitudes. Like - "the fact that a lot of the "lesbian" people are the same ones who don't shave their legs, listen to Tracy Chapman, and worst of all, don't sleep with men does nothing . . ."

Feelings aren't facts, but I'd imagine that "facts" make up very little of our experience and feed little into our perspective.
posted by tr33hggr at 11:15 AM on April 6, 2004


jonmc: personal milage may vary. I heard of and met quite a few people who took acid as a simple recreational drug, and that's largely what they got out of it.

For me, it was the only drug I was ever really interested in, and it wasn't just for a bit of escapism. Perhaps, consequently, it wasn't just that to me, and the most profound and important experience of my life came about as a result of LSD. None of my friends (who tripped) said they'd experienced the same thing, not the relatively worldly ones nor the more 'cosmic'.

Just because you haven't seen an ostritch doesn't mean ostritches are fantasy; the world doesn't end at the edges of your experience, jonmc;
posted by Blue Stone at 11:18 AM on April 6, 2004


Cary Grant. Sheesh, now I'm picturing him saying "Ac-id, Ac-id, Ac-id," in that accent of his.

I'm just reacting to the general tone of people feeling the need to justify their buzz-seeking by pointing psychological or spirtual benefits. It's like someone justifying a fifth of whiskey by saying, "it makes me write better," or "it makes me a better lay." Look, it you wanna trip or get loaded, it needs no justification. Knock yourself out, but don't try to shit a shitter.
posted by jonmc at 11:19 AM on April 6, 2004


jonmc: I'm just reacting to the general tone of people feeling the need to justify their buzz-seeking by pointing psychological or spirtual benefits.

All you're doing is revealing your rationale for drugs.
posted by Gyan at 11:28 AM on April 6, 2004


Live and let live just stay away from the bunk doses.

:)
posted by birdsong at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2004


All you're doing is revealing your rationale for drugs.

No, when I drank and got high, I made no bones about the fact that I did it to get loaded. In my experience that's why most people do it, to feel good.
posted by jonmc at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2004


No, when I drank and got high, I made no bones about the fact that I did it to get loaded. In my experience that's why most people do it, to feel good.

And because that is why you did it, that is why all people do it. Otherwise they're just fooling themselves.
posted by cohappy at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2004


I'm just reacting to the general tone of people feeling the need to justify their buzz-seeking by pointing psychological or spirtual benefits. It's like someone justifying a fifth of whiskey by saying, "it makes me write better," or "it makes me a better lay."

I think that members of cultures that use psychedelics such as peyote, ayahuasca, and psilocybin would object to you telling them they're just catching a buzz.
posted by nixxon at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2004


Yeah, jonmc, your last comment seems to support the quote you're trying to rebut. It's good that you've qualified it to "most people," and what you say may apply to "feel good" drugs, but I'd assert that LSD and other powerful hallucinogens are not "feel good," but "feel different" drugs. And to some people there's a lot of overlap between "feel different" and "know self" or "know God." Just because you or your friends didn't approach them that way doesn't mean there's not a great number of people who do.
posted by soyjoy at 11:55 AM on April 6, 2004


Now I don't know about seeing god or something, and I won't say that we weren't tripping because it was fun, but it sure did provide quite a bit of insight, insight that's difficult to put into words sometimes, but insight nonetheless. The metaphor I use when talking about these kinds of drugs is this: It's like trying to understand your TV signal by looking at the static. If you're on a normal cable or airwave system, you get white-noise static, while satellite TVs look like broken jpegs when the signal gets noisy. Either way you're looking at a funny signal but it tells you about how the real picture is composed. Psychedelics cause interference in your brain, and that interference gives you clues to how your normal perception of reality is composed.

On the other hand, they're incredibly dangerous things, I've learnt my lessons and now I'm over them. it was some fun times, but I wouldn't feel right recommending it to others, people need to make these decisions for themselves. But I certainly wouldn't be as dismissive about the experience as some people of this thread would.

For what it's worth.
posted by garethspor at 12:45 PM on April 6, 2004


I think it's obvious why drugs and self respect are mutually exclusive
posted by JeffK at 8:33 AM PST on April 6


No, you need to say why it's so. And say clearly. You may learn something about your own opinion and why you hold it.

When people say something is 'obvious', it usually means they've stopped thinking about it. What's obvious to one person may not be to all.
posted by Miles Long at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2004


Big bag o' shrooms.
posted by homunculus at 9:10 PM on April 6, 2004


The great part about psychedelics, as opposed to some other types of drugs, is that you can start out just intending to catch a buzz or detach for a while, and end up communing with the universe/God(dess) and having a pretty wonderful and truly profound experience. It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. Recreational chemistry: come for the swirly fractal patterns, stay for the cosmic wisdom!

(Although personally, LSD is not my bag, baby. 12 hours is just way too long for an altered state to last, no matter how potentially enjoyable. Part of the point of having altered experiences is to try to integrate what you've learned from them with your "normal" consciousness, and when the trip just goes on and on and won't let you get some sleep and reflect upon what you've experienced, you can't do that as well, IMHO. Stick with the gifts Mother Nature created, where possible.)

Also, soyjoy's last comment was absolutely right on. Two not-so-hypothetical situations to ponder:

1) I spend Yom Kippur being bored in synagogue "because I'm supposed to" and being forced to alter my body and my perceptions (in a non-enjoyable way) by fasting for > 24 hours. The main thoughts in my head are boredom, hunger, and simmering resentment.
2) I take the day to go the local park instead and and alter my body chemistry in a much more enjoyable and interesting way. I listen to music on my walkman, and commune with God/Nature/the Divine in a more meaningful, thoughtful, and honest experience. The main thought in my head is "oh wow" and a good bit of awe and humility.

Question: Why the hell should situation #1 be considered a more legit and authentic religious or spiritual experience than #2?
posted by Asparagirl at 8:09 PM on April 7, 2004


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