A reader writes:
The previous contributor wrote:
There isn't any doubt that psychedelics seem to bestow insights on those who take them. Almost everyone who trips says that they got a lot out of it. What I'm questioning is how real that is. I'm saying that as a person who has tripped many many times, and who has done so in the company of a great many people.
I think the real benefit of psychedelic experience is not the actual content of any particular "insights" provided to the user, but rather the visceral realization that our existence is by definition subjective.
Through the distortion of inputs to our brain from our five senses and the intellectual and emotional filters through which we normally process the world around us, the psychedelic experience points out in a deeply profound and thorough way that our normal perception of the world is always colored by context, our history, and our corporeal nature. It forces the tripper to acknowledge and understand that there are many – perhaps an infinite number – of perspectives that can be brought to bear on the same objective reality, and makes us realize that objective reality is one which we can never really know.
Of course, it only really takes one or two trips to come to that realization, which is why I think I found myself getting less and less from subsequent psychedelic experiences back in my college days.
I've taken acid exactly once and count it as one of three absolute highlights of my life (the other two are getting married and seeing the birth of my son). That experience ranks so highly because it did change my life. I took a small dose so my experience wasn't psychedelic (with hallucinations and all that), but it was truly powerful.
We were on a secluded beach on Baya. A gorgeous day. We dosed at around noon and from then until dusk, I experienced joy and *awe* of a kind that still, to this day, 20 years on, makes me shiver. I felt connection with and absolute astonishment at nature, people, the ineffable … in short, life. Like another reader, I have not taken acid again because I see that experience as (poseur alert watch!) a lamp on my path. No exaggeration.
Psychedelics are no substitute for prayer and meditation, which I, too, see as the true path to enlightenment. Yes, you "come down." Yes, reality hits you squarely in the jaw after an experience like that. I'm very sure I don't give off any special good vibe. But I had a glimpse of what living a fully, more joyfully can mean. That gift feeds me still, in all that I do.
Needless to say the only people who dismiss psilocybin have never tried it, and in many cases, for those people I do not recommend it anyway. Not because I'm a medicine man and I know better, but because the entire experience is about focusing on trust and comfort. Perhaps it's an overgeneralization to say that people who are scared, who do not trust others, do not fare well with mushrooms… but it's not far off.
It's a personal experience, that is not to say private. You take it with those you trust and love. Because your insight is extremely keyed in while tripping, it's unwise to do it without some form of ritual. But for all the caution, I can say that my mind has never, of its own accord, gone where it has on mushrooms.
The best experience was three years ago with my girlfriend, now my wife, on new year's eve. We stayed in, ate them around 9, and started to come down sometime after midnight. It doesn't get spoken about very often in the same way the high does, but the come-down is also extremely impacting. You've just spent hours opening every door your mind could choose, and during the come down you have the very sober realization of the real world, and you have to deal with it. What did I see, why can't I have it always, etc. Having my wife there was incredible, because during the come-down our fear was just as synchronized as our joy and amazement only a few hours earlier – but we had each other. We didn't need to say a word. Just pure, complete nonverbal understanding and trust, and it saw us through.
It takes a lot out of you, all the more reason to avoid abuse. But something just happens in your mind, it clicks on and slowly dissipates, allowing you to relive the very real emotion and connection. You come out of it with a repository of trust that can't be shaken, and allows you to locate yourself in a way quite nearly impossible given the amount of neuroses pumped into you in your daily social and professional life.
That's the best I can do to relate the spiritual quality of it. You are confirmed, allowed to exist without fear or doubt for a short time, and it doesn't leave you. That's why I haven't done it in three years; I still have that experience.