following is an excerpt from
The Psychedelic Experience.
It is based on the
Tibetan Book of the
co-authored by the late
This site does not advocate the use of
psychedelic drugs. If you suffer from an
addiction to such drugs, we recommend
help from the
dual-diagnosis discussion forum.
A psychedelic experience
is a journey to new realms of consciousness.
The scope and content of the experience is limitless,
but its characteristic features are the transcendence
of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions,
and of the ego or identity. Such experiences
of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety
of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises,
disciplined meditation, religious or aesthetic
ecstasies, or spontaneously. Most recently they
have become available to anyone through the
ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as
LSD, psilocybin, mescaline,
the drug does not produce the transcendent experience.
It merely acts as a chemical key - it opens
the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary
patterns and structures. The nature of the experience
depends almost entirely on set and setting.
Set denotes the preparation of the individual,
including his personality structure and his
mood at the time. Setting is physical - the
weather, the room's atmosphere; social - feelings
of persons present towards one another; and
cultural - prevailing views as to what is real.
It is for this reason that manuals or guide-books
are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a
person to understand the new realities of the
expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps
for new interior territories which modern science
has made accessible.
explorers draw different maps. Other manuals
are to be written based on different models
- scientific, aesthetic, therapeutic. The Tibetan
model is designed to teach the person to direct
and control awareness in such a way as to reach
that level of understanding variously called
liberation, illumination, or enlightenment.
If the manual is read several times before a
session is attempted, and if a trusted person
is there to remind and refresh the memory of
the voyager during the experience, the consciousness
will be freed from the games which comprise "personality"
and from positive-negative hallucinations which
often accompany states of expanded awareness.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead was called in its
own language the Bardo Thodol, which means Liberation
by Hearing on the After-Death Realm. The
book stresses over and over that the free consciousness
has only to hear and remember the teachings
in order to be liberated.
The Tibetan Book of
the Dead is ostensibly a book describing the
experiences to be expected at the moment of
death, during an intermediate phase lasting
forty-nine days, and during rebirth into another
bodily frame. This however is merely the esoteric
framework which the
used to cloak their mystical teachings. The
language and symbolism of death rituals of
the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion,
were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions.
The esoteric meaning is that it is death and
rebirth of the ego that is described, not of
indicates this clearly in his introduction when
he writes: "It is a book for the living
as well as for the dying."
esoteric meaning is often concealed beneath
many layers of symbolism. It was not intended
for general reading. It was designed to be understood
only by one who was to be initiated personally
by a guru into the Buddhist mystical doctrines,
into the pre-mortem-death-rebirth experience.
These doctrines have been kept a closely guarded
secret for many centuries, for fear that naive
or careless application would do harm. In
publishing this practical interpretation for
use in the psychedelic drug session, we are
in a sense breaking with the tradition of secrecy
and thus contravening the teachings of the lama-gurus.
Following the Tibetan
model then, we distinguish three phases of the
psychedelic experience. The first period is
that of complete transcendence - beyond words,
beyond space-time, beyond self. There are no
visions, no sense of self, no thoughts. There
are only pure awareness and ecstatic freedom
from all game (i.e.,
and biological involvements. The second lengthy
period involves self, or external game reality
- in sharp exquisite clarity or in the form
of hallucinations (karmic apparitions). The
final period involves the return to routine
game reality and the self. For most persons
the second (aesthetic or hallucinatory) stage
is the longest. For the initiated the first
stage of illumination lasts longer. For the
unprepared, the heavy game players, those who
anxiously cling to their egos, and for those
who take the drug in a non-supportive setting,
the struggle to regain reality begins early
and usually lasts to the end of their session.
like these are static, whereas the psychedelic
experience is fluid and ever-changing. Typically
the subject's consciousness flicks in and out
of these three levels with rapid oscillations.
One purpose of this manual is to enable the
person to regain the transcendence of the first
period and to avoid the prolonged entrapments
in hallucinatory or ego-dominated game patterns.
be ready to accept the possibility that there
is a limitless range of awareness for which
we now have no words; that awareness can expand
beyond the range of your ego, your self, your
familiar identity, beyond everything you have
learned, beyond your notions of space and time,
beyond the differences which usually separate
people from each other and from the world around
remember that throughout human history, millions
have made this voyage. A few (whom we call mystics,
saints or Buddhas) have made this experience
endure and have communicated it to their fellow
men. You must remember, too, that the experience
is safe (at the very worst, you will end up
the same person who entered the experience),
and that all of the dangers which you have feared
are unnecessary productions of your mind. Whether
you experience heaven or hell, remember that
it is your mind which creates them. Avoid grasping
the one or fleeing the other. Avoid imposing
the ego game on the experience.
try to maintain faith and trust in the potentiality
of your own brain and the billion year old life
process. With your ego left behind you, the
brain can't go wrong.