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Sample essay topic, essay writing: A Brief Overview Of Psychedelics - 3039 words
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Introduction:Throughout human history people have sought experiences that somehow transcend every day life. Some sort of wisdom that might progress their knowledge of self and of the world that they live in. For some reason they believed that the tangible world just could not be all there is to life. Some believed in a greater force that controlled them, some believed of invisible beings that influenced their lives, some of an actual other world that paralleled their own. Many of these people also believed that it was possible to catch a glimpse of these forces, beings, or worlds through a variety of means that propel individuals into altered states of consciousness.
These techniques include meditation, hypnosis, sleep deprivation, and (what will be discussed here) psychoactive drugs, more specifically psychedelic drugs.Although in the modern world such drugs have developed an almost taboo status, it is impossible to ignore the tales of enlightenment reported by ancient cultures and even those rebels that use such drugs illegally today. While the American government has been one of the main influences on today's society's negative attitudes towards psychedelic drugs, they have granted some scientist and psychologists permission to experiment with such agents, and despite the controversy and varying results there seem to be many positive uses of psychedelic agents. These positive uses and the research that has been directed toward these uses will be reviewed in the following, as well as a brief history of psychedelic drugs.History: Native Americans are probably the people most known for their use of psychedelic drugs. Being a very religious people, their entire society revolved around the spirit world, and some believed that access to this world was possible by eating certain plants that were abundant in their surroundings. In what are now Mexico and the Southwestern United States, tribes familiarized themselves with mescaline, the active ingredient in the peyote cactus
Another drug that was used by tribes in these and many other areas was psilocybin, the active hallucinogenic ingredient of the mushroom Psilocybe mexicana and other psilocybe and conocybe species that grow on the pacific coast of North, South, and Central America. Ritual use of psilocybin and mescaline among Mexican and Central American cultures is known to date back to 1500 BC (O'Brien, 1984). While American Indians are well known for their use of psychedelic agents other cultures have also been known to use psychedelics, especially psilocybin. So-called 'magic'; mushrooms also grow naturally in many parts of Europe and Asia. Norse tribesmen, for example, were believed to use Amanita muscaria or fly agaric mushrooms to bring on feelings of rage before going into battle. The same mushroom may have also been the inspiration to the founders of Hinduism.
Preparations of datura, the agent found in jimson weed, are used in magic and witchcraft in many areas of the world, (Aaronson, 1970). More recently many artist, writers, and musicians have been known to use mescaline and psilocybin and other naturally occurring hallucinogens such as those found in morning glory seeds, and nutmeg, as well as synthesized hallucinogens like LSD. Because of their mind-expanding qualities, the high insight into reality that they seem to produce, as well as highly complex sensory experiences, some report receiving inspiration from such drugs. The modern world's first glimpse into the world of psychedelics was through d-lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by two Swiss chemists from the alkaloid lysergic acid found in ergot, a parasitic fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
Five years later, on April 19, 1943 Albert Hoffman, one of LSD's co-discoverers accidentally ingested some of the drug, and was surprised by what he saw on his bike ride home, (Plotnik, 1995). He experienced restlessness and dizziness followed by a mild delirium in which he experienced 'fantastic visions of extraordinary vividness accompanied by a kaleidoscopic play of intense coloration.'; To be sure that the visions Hoffman experienced were a reaction to LSD, he took another dose of 25 mg which today is considered to be two and a half times the normal dose for a major trip. He again experienced intense visualization as well as synesthesia, or the merging of senses: 'sounds were transposed into visual sensations so that from each tone or noise a comparable colored picture was evoked, changing in form and color kaleidoscopically.'; (O'Brien, 1984). After 1943, LSD was 'a drug in search of a use,'; (Brecher, 1972). The United States army used it as a brainwashing agent, and as an attempt to make prisoners talk more readily.
It was also reserved by the armed forces as a possible means of disabling an enemy. Psychiatrists, believing that it mimicked a psychotic state, used LSD on themselves and staff members of mental hospitals in order to better understand mental illness. It was also used as an accessory to psychotherapy in the 1940's and early 1950's in the U.S., England and Europe. In his book The Doors of Perception (1954), Aldous Huxley relayed favorable reports of his experiences with mescaline and encouraged others to explore the possibilities of mystical visions and the potential for increased creativity that psychedelic agents offered, thus sparking what some refer to as the psychedelic revolution. Throughout the 50's and 60's many scientists and psychologists, notably Dr. Timothy Leary, experimented with various psychedelic agents on themselves and volunteers.
Soon however the widespread illicit use of the drugs by the public, especially the hippie subculture, along with a variety of fears that were aroused through some testing, forced governments to prohibit such drugs, except for use by government sanctioned researchers. Many such researchers were in disagreement over the specific capabilities of the drugs, and thus they argued over what the agents should be called. Originally they were thought of as psychotomimetric drugs, because of their ability to mimic psychotic states. However it was soon discovered that their capacities well exceeded the suggestions of this generic term. Humphrey Osmond (1957) discusses his search for a name:'I have tried to find an appropriate name for the agents under discussion: a name that will include the concepts of enriching the mind and enlarging the vision. Some possibilities are: psychephoric, mind moving; psychehormic, mind rousing; and psycheplastic, mind molding. Psychezynic, mind fermenting, is indeed appropriate.
Psycherhexic, mind bursting forth, though difficult, is memorable. Psychelytic, mind releasing, is satisfactory. My choice, because it is clear, euphonious, and uncontaminated by other associations, is psychedelic, mind manifesting. One of these terms should serve.'; From that point on the world referred to these 'mind manifesting'; agents as psychedelic drugs. As with many other drugs, the fact that psychedelics are illegal does not stop their recreational use, and they are still fairly popular today among students, intellectuals, and artists.Why Psychedelics are not like Other Drugs When calling something a drug, one assumes that the content and nature of the experiences induced by that substance are artificial products of its pharmacological interaction with the brain. However, to the contrary, psychedelics do not create artificial experiences but release genuine expressions of the psyche, revealing its functioning on levels not normally available for observation or study.
One must recognize that psychedelics function more or less as nonspecific catalysts and amplifiers of the psyche (Grof, 1994). Psychedelics represent a completely new field of psychology. If one were to compare psychology to astronomy, psychoanalysis would resemble Galileo's telescope, which lets one see a somewhat magnified image of an object, however that image appears upside down and backwards. The telescope changed our whole idea of the solar system and revolutionized navigation. Psychedelics are more like today's high-powered Hubbell-type telescopes that are able to scan the depths of outer, invisible space. They are not convenient.
One cannot go bird watching with them. They explore a tiny segment of an enormous infinity. They raise more questions than answers, and to understand those answers psychologists must change their thinking to fit their new tools (Osmond, 1957). In order to truly comprehend and understand psychedelics, one must put away the narrow and superficial conceptual model used in academic psychiatry and psychology, which is limited to biology, postnatal biography, and the Freudian individual unconscious. The phenomena that are exposed during a psychedelic experience include sequences of psychological death and rebirth, encounters with archetypal beings, visits to mythological realms of various cultures, past incarnation memories, extrasensory perception, episodes of out of body states, experiences of cosmic consciousness research. Attempts to interpret any of these phenomena in the context of traditional Newtonian-Cartesian science inevitably leads to serious paradoxes (Grof, 1994).
Most subjects find the psychedelic experience valuable; some find it frightening, many say that it is uniquely lovely. But nearly all subjects, ranging from artists, scientists, philosophers, and businessmen agree that these experiences are not escapes from, but enlargements, burgeonings of reality. Their statements suggest that although its functioning is impaired, the brain acts more subtly and complexly than when it is normal. Yet surely, when poisoned, the brain's actions should be less complex rather than more so! Therefore, if these statements are correct, it would seem that the paradoxes shown here would deem it necessary to not only not think of psychedelics as ordinary drugs, but to think of psychedelic exploration as a completely new way of understanding the human mind.The Psychedelic Experience, 1: The Four Levels of the Psychedelic Experience Many times, subjects have difficulty describing their experiences; it is highly likely that these difficulties occur because of the difficulties that researchers often have when trying to interpret these reports in some sort of organizational structure. One of the more successful attempts at organizing subjective reports of psychedelic experience has been made by R.E.L.
Masters and Jean Houston, (1966). Masters and Houston have guided and observed 206 subjects through many LSD and peyote sessions. From their observations, they propose the existence of four levels of mental functioning in the psychedelic state: sensory, recollective-analytic, symbolic, and integral. At the first, or sensory, level, the subject may report a changed awareness of the body, unusual ways of experiencing space and time, heightened sense impressions, synesthesia ('feeling sounds,'; 'hearing color';), and- with the eyes closed- vivid visual imagery. These sensory level experiences are those that Dr. Hoffman had on his first 'trip';, these tend to 'decondition'; a subject, to loosen his habitual conceptions, and to ease the rigidity of his past imprinting.
At the second, or recollective-analytic, level, the subject's reactions become more emotionally intense. He may relive periods of his life. He may formulate insights into himself, his work, and his personal relationships. Of all Masters and Houston's subjects, only forty per cent reached the third, or symbolic, level. At this level, visual imagery generally involves history and legend, or the subject may recapitulate the evolutionary process, developing from primordial protoplasm to man.
He may also embark upon a 'rite of passage'; and imagine himself participating in a baptismal ceremony or a puberty ritual. Eleven per cent of Masters and Houston's subjects reached the fourth, or integral, level, at which religious or mystical experiences occur. Masters and Houston have described the religious experience as a confrontation with 'the Ground Being';; they contrast it with mystical experience, which they see as dissolution, as a merging of the individual with the energy field of the universe. One woman related, 'All around me was the Light, a trillion atomized crystals shimmering in the blinding incandescence.';(Masters, 1966) A vivid description of a psychedelic session has been given by Allen Watts (1962), in which the subject is listening to a recording of a Catholic Mass. This description clearly depicts how the subject shifts from the sensory, to the recollective-analytic, symbolic, and integral levels.'I am listening to the music of an organ .. The organ seems quite literally to speak. There is no use of the vox humana, but every sound seems to issue from a vast human throat, moist with saliva ..
'; This is the sensory level of the psychedelic experience. Perceptual changes have formed the organ music in to a human voice. Other sense impressions take form as Watts speaks of 'a vast human throat, wet with saliva.'; He is making visual and other connections with what he has heard.'I am listening to a priest chanting the Mass, and a choir of nuns responding. His mature, cultivated voice rings with the serene authority of the One, Holy, and Apostolic Church, of the Faith once and for all delivered to the saints, and the nuns respond naively it seems, with childlike, utterly innocent devotion. But listening again, I can hear the priest 'putting on'; his voice, hear the inflated, pompous balloon, the studiedly unctuous tones of a master deceptionist who has the poor little nuns, kneeling in their stalls completely cowed. Listen deeper.
The nuns are not cowed at all. They are playing possum. With just a little stiffening, the limp gesture of bowing nuns turns into the gesture of the closing claw. With too few men to go around, the nuns know what is good for them: how to bend and survive. This is the recollective-analytic level, at which memories and insights often occur.
Watts is listening to a recording of the Mass, when suddenly he perceives a pompous quality to the priest's tones. Going deeper into the analysis of what he hears, Watts discovers that the nuns' response displays more than obedience- it is their shrewd way of playing the game of survival.'But this profoundly cynical view is only an intermediate stage .. In the priest's voice I hear down at the root the primordial howl of the beast in the jungle, but it has been inflected, complicated, refined, and textured with centuries of culture .. At first, crude and unconcealed, the cry for food or mate, or just noise for the fun of it, making the rocks echo. Then rhythm to enchant, then changes of tone to plead or threaten.
Then words to specify the need, to promise and bargain. And then, much later, the gambits of indirection. The feminine stratagem of stooping to conquer, the claim to superior worth in renouncing the world for the spirit, the cunning of weakness proving stronger than the might of muscle- and the weak inheriting the earth.'; This is the psychedelic experience's symbolic stage. The priest's voice reflects the evolutionary process; the nun's response echoes female archetypes.'As I listen then, I can hear in that one voice the simultaneous presence of all the levels of man's history, as of all the stages of life before man. Every step in the game becomes as clear as the rings in a severed tree ..
I, as an adult, am also back there alone in the dark, just as the primordial howl is still present beneath the sublime modulations of the chant .. Down and at last out- out of the cosmic maze .. I feel, with a peace so deep that it sings to be shared with all the world, that at last I belong, that I have returned to the home beyond home .. The sure foundation upon which I had sought to stand has turned out to be the center from which I seek.'; This is the integral stage of the psychedelic experience. Watts sees himself in the voice of the priest and in all the precursors of that voice. His 'home beyond home'; and 'sure foundation'; is the very center of his being. Because the sensory and recollective-analytic levels are the more commonly occurring of the four levels due to the fact that they are the lower or initial levels, there are considerably more recorded accounts of experiences in them. The following are accounts from subjects of varying researchers.
A subject of Constance Newland (1962) became interested in studying famous paintings after ingesting thirty milligrams of psilocybin, he assertedly lost his reading ability completely while under the influence of the drug, while his capacity to view the pictures grew pleasurable. 'I glanced at my watch but could make no sense out of the numerical symbols. I looked at an art magazine; the pictures were beautiful, almost three-dimensional. However, the script was a jumble of meaningless shapes. The same subject, near the end of his 'psilocybin high,'; reported still another alteration in the viewing process:'Earlier, I had tasted an orange and found it the most intense, delightful taste sensation I had ever experienced.
I had tried reading a magazine as I was 'coming down,'; and felt the same sensual delight in moving my eye over the printed page as I had experienced when eating the orange.'The words stood out in three dimensions. Reading had never been such a sheer delight and such a complete joy. My comprehension was excellent. I quickly grasped the intent of the author and felt that I knew exactly what meaning he was trying to convey.'; In the former instance, motivation for reading was low because the subject was interested in studying art prints. In the latter episode, the pleasure of eating an orange permeated the act of reading a magazine, which then became a delightful experience. The following report is another, perhaps simpler account of an experience during a peyote session that bridges the symbolic and recollective-analytic levels of psychedelic experience (Aaronson, 1970)'The guide asked me how I felt, and I responded 'Good.'; As I uttered the word 'Good,'; I could see it form visually in the air.
It was pink and fluffy, like a cloud. The word looked 'good'; in its appearance and so it had to be 'Good.'; The word and the thing I was trying to express were one, and 'Good'; was floating around in the air.'; Name and thing are often wedded at the recollective-analytic and the symbolic stages. A subject will say the word 'Mother'; and feel that the word itself contains aspects of his own mother. A theology student will say 'Logos'; and imagine that God and Christ are both present within the word. Not until the drug's effects begin to wear off can these individuals tear the words apart from the experience (Aaronson, 1970). P.G.
Stafford and B.H. Golighty (1967) have cited the account of a student who utilized the recollective-analytic level to practical advantages learning enough German in a week to enroll for an advanced course in the subject:'I hadn't ev ...
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