following is an excerpt from
The Psychedelic Experience.
It is based on the
Tibetan Book of the Dead
and co-authored by the late
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
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
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 the body.
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.
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 them.
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.