Psychedelics: A Visitation to the Human Mind
The use of psychedelics is not a novel concept, they have been used as psychospiritual medicine for reaching altered states of consciousness and cognition for millennia by many ancient societies. This includes Peyote which was used by indigenous North Americans, Ibogaine used across West Africa, Psilocybin used in Ancient African and European cultures, Ayahuasca which has been used and seen as an esteemed plant teacher among dozens of South American indigenous peoples for generations, and synthetic hallucinogens like LSD and DMT which especially gained popularity in the 1950s. Numerous literary and archaeological references point to the notion that psychedelics were also ritually used by Ancient Romans, Greeks, and potentially early Christians too. Both the Ancient Romans and Greeks are considered to be some of the most progressive and free thinking of ancient societies – which alludes to the use of psychedelics possibly being a factor in nurturing such an environment. The mysterious intelligences stimulated by the use of entheogens seems to have faced a semi-hiatus of societal integration by the West since the dawn of Christianity, up until the early 1950s. This is where the Beat Generation took center stage. The free verse, nine stanza poem Wales Visitation, written by one of the leading figures of the Beat Movement: Allen Ginsberg was written during one of his many LSD trips. To an observer, the poem is an exploration of the mind under the influence of LSD and expresses the interconnectedness of the physical world and more abstract, unchartered territories of consciousness. Ginsberg uses the tangible, visible beauty and wonder of the world as a vessel for this otherwise ambiguous concept: consciousness and the capacity of human cognitive potential. Through the use of Wales Visitation, various scientific studies, and anthropological perspectives I aim to explore this relationship between the ritual use of psychedelics and the cognitive evolution of mankind, throughout history and with regard for the future; the extent of which Allen Ginsberg’s literary provisions fed the rationale of acceptance of psychedelics by American culture and how said psychedelics played a role in the rapid development of human cognition, and more broadly the societal structures in which we live. Further research in this area could facilitate breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of consciousness and provide entries for normalized medical and spiritual implementation of psychedelics in modern society.
This relationship has presented itself not only through archaeological discoveries, such as the documentation and artifacts that point towards the use of Kykeon, a psychoactive brew considered similar in its effects to modern-day LSD, by the Ancient Greeks but also through scientific studies that investigate the human neurological response to psychedelics. In Michael J. Winkelman’s article “The Mechanisms of Psychedelic Visionary Experiences: Hypotheses from Evolutionary Psychology” (2017) he asserts that psychedelics have profound cognitive, emotional, and social effects that influenced the advent and evolution of cultures and religions worldwide and that the mechanisms used in the brain when under the influence of psychedelics are intrinsic to the human cognitive motor; deeply rooted in human consciousness. Winkelman establishes this claim by revealing evidence on how human neurophysiology has adapted to interact optimally with psychedelic substances: “The role of psychedelics in human evolution is indicated by evidence that psychedelics bind to human serotonergic receptors with a higher affinity than they do to those receptor systems in other primates” (Winkelman 2017). This argues the fact that neurological mechanisms that are triggered by psychedelics can also be stimulated through non-drug induced mechanisms, and finally that links can be made between the effects of psychedelics and numerous religious and cultural rituals associated with profound spiritual experiences. These non-drug induced mechanisms include meditation, hypnosis, breathing techniques, sleep and food deprivation, and trances stimulated by rhythmic hymns or drum play. Winkelman’s purpose is to explain the fact that the psychedelic-induced visionary experiences involve the same mechanisms as other non-drug mechanisms purposed for altering consciousness and that these intelligences are innate to the human brain in order to bridge the explanatory gap between subjective testimonies and neurophysiological data. The compounding of these different sources of evidence provide a multi-faceted, stronger argument which could encourage further research.
Now, to return to the activities of the Beat Generation and the impact thereof; they were the literary catalyst for social and political change in the West; this included sexual liberation, drug experimentation, the rise of environmentalism, and the rejection of the materialistic norms on which the industrial revolution was built 100 years prior. Their literary contributions were to be the stimulus of the 1960s American psychedelic counterculture. As the French archaeologist, Philippe Descola put it: “the advent of materialist theories of consciousness in the late twentieth century would require particular ethnographic attention as it represented a deviation from the supposedly universal distinction between body and mind – a genuine anthropological anomaly” (Langlitz 742). This desire to connect with an altered state of consciousness has been psychologically constant through time, though there has been push-back – specifically by members of authority. Social anthropologist and medical scientist Arthur Saniotis explains that “as societies became more hierarchical and stratified such substances tended to be viewed as being detrimental to public welfare and controls were placed on direct and revelatory access to the sacred” (572). The effects of psychedelics on the human mind was seen as a threat to a maintenance of power. The rebellion instigated by the 1960s psychedelic counterculture and their predecessors, the Beats, against authority and their restrictions in regards to mind altering substances, but also social freedoms was a response to this age-long suppression. This brings me to question, to what extent has the use of entheogenic substances led to the growth and development of individual bodies and societies as a whole? To what extent have certain intelligences, potentially intrinsic to human beings, been subdued by authoritarian entities?
The Beat Generation can be credited for laying the groundwork for the evolution of thought surrounding psychedelics in the years following. Allen Ginsberg, as one of the most prominent figures among Beats, is seen as having played a ground-breaking role in building new paths for spiritual and artistic expression through expanding boundaries in personal freedom and playing a pivotal role in social and political changes in American society. It is believed that this was largely due to his spiritual nature and seemingly larger-than-life charisma. Ginsberg’s fluid personality led him to his success by being able to build an abundant network and social circle and eventually asserting his role as a pioneer in changing perspectives on spirituality as being separate from the culture or religion one was raised in. Ginsberg challenged “the common wisdom of scholars of mysticism who… asserted that mystical experiences occur[ed] only within the cultural religious framework in which the individual mystic grows up and lives his or her life” (Ariel 60). Instead, his unconventional, and therefore revolutionary way of taking on the role of a charismatic leader through spiritual, non-hierarchical means was his key to success in implementing social changes to his environment. As an avid user of psychedelics, was this fuelling his fluidity in thought and wisdom in leadership? Wales Visitation, a poem written in 1967, in the heat of the psychedelic revolution does not specifically convinceits readers to do anything other than to simply be, or tune in to yourself and the connection to your environment. Ginsberg often expressed social and political criticism as well as delving into topics that were considered very controversial at the time, such as drugs and homosexuality. This poem speaks to the individual as a part of a greater whole as Ginsberg proclaims in his final stanza: “What did I notice? Particulars! The vision of the great One is myriad”, through this line he is expressing the God-like capacity in everyone, all “Particulars”, or individuals are alike, just as the likeness is “myriad”. Ginsberg addresses the divine and untethered, rather than acknowledging the symptoms of society’s pitfalls which consists of much triviality and tragedy. Camille Paglia, a social critic and academic, says in her article “Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960s” that “drugs remade the Western world-view by shattering conventions of time, space, and personal identity” (58) which ended up making politics and social reform lose some of their meaning. With this, it provides insight as to where a mind under the influence of LSD goes. The poet deviates from the standard framework of perception; allowing for a better understanding of their place in the universe, and understanding of the healing elements in the world around us – as is the case for various indigenous groups in the amazon for example, and lets the experiencer detach themselves from the metaphorical chains that their own identity have created for them. This identity being largely shaped by their environment consisting of societal norms and expectations, and the financial, physical, and behavioral limitations present within that construct.
Through the reading of Wales Visitation, Ginsberg urges his audience to seek out this state of mind, or at least expose its existence through his strong emotive presence and inflection. Considering the context of Ginsberg’s literary career, his intention was to inform through entertainment. This poem was made psychologically accessible to others through its use of the physical landscape – in this case in Wales – to convey a more ambiguous concept of the self. Additional to Ginsberg’s literary career and psychedelic experimentation being fueled by the desire to arouse change in the world around him, he strived to recreate what he called a mystical vision in which the poet William Blake communicated with Ginsberg, which came to be known as his Blake Vision. His prominence in counterculture from the 1950s through to the 1990s also provided him with the opportunity to write a statement for a drug related U.S. Senate hearing in 1966 in which he spoke of his own experience with LSD: “I accept the evidence of my own sense that, with psychedelics as catalysts, I have seen the world more deeply at specific times. And that has made me more peaceable” (Walker 214). Ginsberg continues to describe the LSD experience as one that has not been clearly explained to those who aren’t familiar with it first-hand, and then responds to that statement by laying it out as being “like Wordsworth’s descriptions of natural unity, like the breakdown of personal self during sexual communion” (Walker 214). William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet. Something I found especially profound in Walker’s analysis of Ginsberg’s Wales Visitation in his article “Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Wales Visitation’ as a Neo-Romantic Response to Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’” was his mention of how he “focus[ed] especially on the physical details of the landscape, he had managed to overcome many of the problems he had always associated with recording visionary experience” (Walker 215). I agree that the reliance on the physical attributes of our reality as a means to convey that which presides on a metaphysical level is an extremely powerful way of translating a complex and even mystical subject into something understandable for a third party observer, an action that needs more careful curation since there’s such a strong stigma and to some extent also scientific doubt regarding the topic of psychedelics, the root of hallucinations, and the impact they have on the human brain.
In the third stanza, Ginsberg contrasts the modern, material world illustrated by “thorned tower[s]” and “TV pictures flashing” against the quivering valley, “mossy hills”, “white fog” and more. This contrast can be seen as an anomaly, when compared to the rest of the poem which is acutely focused on the eternal, natural world rather than the fleeting, material world. This can also be reflected in the way the humans have centered their lives and perceptions largely on exactly that: the fleeting, material world. So that begs the question; if we were to collectively seek out unfamiliar faculties of the mind, could we recompose the structure of our society and our place within it? To further display the rhetorical strength Wales Visitation holds in the discussion of psychedelics and their profound impact on the human mind, most specifically one’s perception of themselves in relation to their surroundings Ginsberg reiterates the likeness between himself and his environment. Throughout the entirety of the poemhe consistently interweaves his own breathing: “Heaven breath and my own symmetric” and the life breathed by the natural world: “White fog lifting and falling on the mountain brown”. He also anthropomorphizes earthly concepts through lines like “…Oh! To earth heart – Calling our presence together”, “vegetables tremble”, and “All the Valley quivered”. In doing so, Ginsberg creates a pattern of intrinsic congruencies between the self and the external, physical world. In terms of his choice of words, Ginsberg repeats the action of “lifting” or moving in “upward” motions throughout his poem which indicates breathing, but also potentially the lifting of human consciousness; the lifting of our cognitive development and thus our quality of life. As the poem takes the reader through its intricately described landscapes, a pattern of fluidity can be seen, whether it’s the “rivers of wind”,” undulating on mossy hill – a giant wash that sank white fog delicately down red runnels”, or the “white fog pour[ing] down”. All stanzas create an image of fluidity, movement, and a certain comfort in wilderness; finding solace in the unknown.
I find the following two stanzas are the most profound and effective in illustrating the meaning of the poem:
but what seen by one man in a vale in Albion,
of the folk, whose physical sciences end in Ecology,
the wisdom of earthly relations,
of mouths & eyes interknit ten centuries visible
orchards of mind language manifest human,
of the satanic thistle that raises its horned symmetry (Ginsberg, lines 8-14)
Groan thru breast and neck, a great Oh! to earth heart
Calling our Presence together
The great secret is no secret
Senses fit the winds,
Visible is visible,
rain-mist curtains wave through the bearded vale,
gray atoms wet the wind’s kabbala (Ginsberg, lines 69-75)
Both stanzas allude to a greater network of information beyond what we perceive in our normal mental state and praise the wisdom supplied by our surroundings and within ourselves.
This poem provokes thought regarding the unknown and unseen. As a poet, Allen Ginsberg’s credibility is experiential, but due to its emotional and creatively provocative nature it is especially strong in its pathos rhetoric. The essence of Ginsberg’s poem can be reflected in most religious teachings, especially those of the East. Essentially the concepts covered throughout this poem are relatable; the cold, wet, yet comforting, and alive landscape can easily be visualized and understood. And so, can a person’s own breath, something that is experienced every moment of and directly facilitates one’s existence. Ginsberg’s expression through his poem, as is the case with much of art’s bearings, makes way for innovative and progressive thought, which throughout history has been an integral part of cognitive and societal evolution. Upon hearing or reading the poem, one can easily imagine breathtaking stillness and simultaneously fierce vitality in the landscapes described, and also understand the connection between nature and the self – though logic could stifle the extent of this understanding. This is due to the atomized nature of modern society, in which there is a need to categorize, label, and understand our surroundings and ourselves through a lens of logic, reason, and judgement. From a scientific stand-point it may be difficult to read the poem and directly correlate the author’s experience with quantifiable evidence of LSD’s power over the human brain, but what is known is that Ginsberg’s experience on LSD led him to writing this poem which focuses on the unification of his own breathing and existence and that of the world around him. Thus, tapping into a realm of near infinite possibilities where one isn’t stunted by what can and cannot be achieved in this material world, or by the limitations of their own perception of themselves and the way the world interacts with them.
When looking at the explosive changes in social structure and values of the West, although still very much a work in progress, from the 1950s until today which has been a period of extensive experimental and research-based use of psychedelics, a strong case is built towards the impact entheogens have on the cognitive development of human beings and their societies, or communities throughout the process of evolution. Allen Ginsberg’s career contributions to American literature ignited intrigue and open-mindedness towards the use and research of psychedelics, which in turn had and will continue to encourage further growth in the field of psychedelia and neurology. With his poem, Wales Visitation, he effectively communicates the interconnectedness of the self, or consciousness and the physical world. Given the context of the poem, having been written while under the influence of LSD during an especially politically turbulent decade, it also pertains to the idea that entheogens play a role in amplifying that connectedness, potentially opening doors to new faculties of the brain, and as a result having a direct influence over the development of our physical reality through actions manifested by this awareness.
Microdosing: Mushroom Chocolate Date Truffles
A sweet way to microdose magic mushrooms, the cacao and dates mask the unpleasant taste of the mushrooms, creating the perfect edible carrier. This recipe makes a total of 25 truffles, which will cover a little over ten weeks of continuous microdosing.
*Spread out your microdosing, the recommended routine is as follows:
day 1: microdose // day 2: skip // day 3: skip // day 4: microdose – and so forth.
one chocolate truffle = one microdose
- 1 1/2 cups medjoul dates, pitted
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
- 5 grams dried mushrooms (I used McKennaii)
- Grind the mushrooms into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder.
The measuring of the mushrooms can be done in two ways, one of which is a lot more time consuming but with guaranteed accurate doses. Considering how small the dose is though, the potential slight differences won’t be significant. You can choose to add the mushroom powder to all the other ingredients and blend in a food processor or for exact dosing you can add 0.2 gram of mushroom powder to each Chocolate Date Ball separately.
- Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix until completely smooth. This can also be done with clean hands. If going for the exact dosing method, keep the mushroom powder separate for this step.
- Using your hands, roll the mixture into 25 balls. For exact dosing, add 0.2 gram shroom powder to each separate Chocolate Date Ball before rolling into neat balls.
- Coat each truffle with cocoa powder and sprinkle with extra cinnamon and ginger.
- Transfer balls to an airtight container and store in the fridge for a long shelf life that’ll survive your microdosing journey.
- If you prefer to increase or decrease your dose, I suggest sticking between 0.1-0.3 gram.
- If you prefer not to use psychoactive mushrooms you can use dried Reiki, Lion’s Mane, or Chaga mushrooms instead – all with their own set of powerful properties.
- When microdosing, the dose should be small enough that you do not feel any psychoactive effects and you can continue with your regular day to day tasks. My advice is to listen to your body and try your first one on a day that you don’t have anything planned and adjust your next dose accordingly.
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