The term “psychedelics” was proposed by psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond and translated from Greek means “manifesting the soul” (psyche – soul, and delic – explicit, manifesting). These include preparations both chemically obtained, such as LSD, MDMA and DMT, and the active substances of various plants found in the wild: Mexican cacti, some species of poisonous mushrooms, vines in the Amazon jungle. Action psychedelics is primarily to change the usual perception of the world and achieve a special state of consciousness. This experience can be both positive and extremely negative, dangerous for the human psyche.
The history of medical use of psychedelics begins with the discovery and accidental use of LSD-25 by Swiss chemist albert Hoffman in 1947. While working in the laboratory, Hoffman spilled a negligible amount of the drug on his hand and, without suspecting anything bad, went home on his bike. Hoffman’s report on how he rode his bike through the streets of Basel under the influence of a large dose of LSD, became a legend. On the way he had a strong change in the perception of the surrounding space, there were fantastic vision, like a dream. The visions intensified and after he got home, Hoffman was scared he was going crazy. His neighbor he took for the evil witch, Hoffman seemed that his conscious possession of demons; deciding that is on the verge of death, Hoffman was asked to call him doctor.
By the time the doctor arrived, the crisis had passed, to his surprise, Hoffman felt himself full of strength and energy, as if reborn into the world. This state of health lasted all day. Hoffman wrote a report on his unusual experiences to the immediate supervisor, Dr. Arthur Stoll, whose son, a Zurich-based psychiatrist, became interested in studies of the effects of LSD in clinical settings. His report on the effects of LSD-25 on a group of healthy volunteers and psychiatrist patients, published in 1947, immediately became a sensation in the scientific world.
Initially, the LSD has high expectations regarding modeling them psychotic States similar to that experienced by patients with schizophrenia. It was assumed that this simulation will help to better understand the causes of schizophrenia, and to find effective drugs for its therapy. It soon became clear that the nature of the visions provoked by taking LSD had nothing to do with schizophrenic psychoses, and such studies were curtailed for lack of prospects.
But suddenly LSD was quite effective in psychotherapy of neuroses. The fact that under the influence of this drug as it eliminates the barrier between the unconscious and consciousness, greatly facilitates access to the displaced material that POPs up in the patient’s mind in large quantities in the form of awakened memories and unexpected insights. This description is undoubtedly a simplification of the mechanism of action of psychedelics, but for the purposes of our study it is enough.
Thus, psychodynamic processes occur much faster than traditional psychoanalysis, the doctor no longer has to break through the protective mechanisms of the patient’s psyche, which are weakened by the action of drugs.
Great work in the field of psychedelic therapy was carried out by the American psychiatrist of Czech origin Stanislav Grof. With this name we still have to repeatedly encounter in the course of our narrative, and so it makes sense to talk about it in more detail.
Stanislav Grof is an outstanding doctor and scientist who has devoted more than forty years to the research of unusual States of consciousness and spiritual growth, one of the founders and the most prominent representatives of transpersonal psychology. Some researchers compare it to the scale of contributions to modern psychology, with such giants as Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung.
Grof was born in Prague on July 1, 1931. From 1956 to 1967, S. Grof worked as a practicing psychiatrist, actively studying at that time the psychoanalytic model of consciousness and its application in the treatment of neuroses. During the same period he was actively studying psychoanalysis. In 1959, the Grof was awarded the Kuffner prize, a national Czechoslovak award given annually for the most outstanding contribution in the field of psychiatry. Since 1961, he has led research on the use of LSD and other psychedelics in the treatment of mental disorders in Czechoslovakia.
In 1967, as a fellow of the Foundation for support of psychiatric research (USA), Grof received the opportunity to undergo a two-year internship at Johns Hopkins University and subsequently continue his research activities at the Maryland center for psychiatric research. From 1973 to 1987, S. Grof lives and works at the Esalen Institute (big sur, California). During this period, together with his wife Christina, he develops the technique of holotropic breathing, an original method of psychotherapy, self-knowledge and personal growth, which we will discuss later in this book.
Grof is one of the founders of the international transpersonal Association (ITA) and has long been its President.
Currently, S. Grof is a Professor of psychology at the California Institute of integral studies. In addition to his main activities, he conducts training seminars for professionals (“Grof Transpersonal training”), as well as lectures and seminars around the world. Stanislav Grof is the author and co-author of more than one hundred articles and fourteen books translated into twelve languages.
The first acquaintance of Grof with the action of LSD occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1956. At that time, Sandoz, a company engaged in the industrial production of the drug, provided free samples to psychiatrists around the world in exchange for information about its effects.
Here is how about this experience tells himself Grof:
“I began to feel the effects of LSD forty-five minutes after taking it. At first it was a slight malaise, dizziness and nausea, then these symptoms disappeared and were replaced by a demonstration of incredibly colorful abstract and geometric visions, alternating in front of my mind’s eye with the speed of pictures in a kaleidoscope. Some of them resembled exquisite stained glass Windows in the medieval Gothic Cathedral, and others – Arabesque Muslim mosques. To describe the finesse of these visions, I would compare them to Scheherazade’s “a Thousand and one nights” and the stunning beauty of the Alhambra and Shanda – these were the only comparisons that came to my mind at the time. Today I am sure that my psyche has somehow generated a wild set of fractal images, like graphic images of nonlinear equations, which can give a modern computer.
As the session went on, my experiences wandered around and around this realm of aesthetic delights and were replaced by an unexpected encounter and confrontation with my subconscious. It is difficult to find the words to this intoxicating Fugue of emotions, visions and illuminating insights concerning my own life and existence in General, which suddenly became available to me at this level. It was so profound and overwhelming that it immediately overshadowed my earlier interest in Freud’s psychoanalysis. I couldn’t believe how much I’d learned in those few hours. A breath-taking feast of colors and an abundance of psychological revelations – they would be enough in themselves to turn my first acquaintance with LSD into a truly memorable event.
This day marked the beginning of my radical divergence from traditional thinking in psychiatry and the monistic materialism of Western science. I came out of this experience that touched my very essence, shaken by his power. At the time, I did not believe that the potential for mystical experience was natural to any human being by right of birth, and attributed it all to the effects of LSD. I felt that the study of unusual States of consciousness in General, and especially those caused by the effects of hallucinogens, as far as I can imagine, is the most interesting area of psychiatry. I realized that, under the right conditions, the conditions caused by the effects of hallucinogens-far more than just dreams, which play such a crucial role in psychoanalysis – really are, if you use the words of Freud, “the Royal way to the subconscious.” And, right there and then, I decided to devote my life to the study of unusual States of consciousness.”
Stanislav Grof, “When the impossible is possible»
His vast research experience on the use of LSD Grof summarized in the book ” the Field of the human unconscious.” In this study, Grof significantly expanded psychoanalytic cartography of the psyche, introducing the concept of transpersonal area, that is, part of the human consciousness, beyond his personal experience. The discussion of this undoubtedly interesting point of view is beyond the scope of this book, and I refer those interested in the topic directly to the mentioned work of the Grof himself.
We are interested in the information presented in the section “Psychodynamic experiences in LSD sessions“, in which the Grof describes the experience of its patients regressing under the influence of the drug in childhood and aware of long-forgotten early traumatic experiences:
“The experiences in this category come from the individual unconscious and from the spheres of personality available in the ordinary state of consciousness. They belong to the most important memories, emotional problems, unresolved conflicts and suppressed material of different periods of human life. Most phenomena occurring at this level can be interpreted and understood in psychodynamic terms. When deciphering, they require knowledge of the basic principles of the dynamics of the unconscious, given by Freud, and especially the mechanisms responsible for dreams, as well as familiarity with certain specific characteristics of LSD States and their symbolic language. Simple psychodynamic experiences take the form of re-living the emotionally intense (traumatic or beneficial) events of infancy, childhood, and later periods of life and re-examining attitudes towards them. More complex experiences are the embodiment of fantasies, dramatization of dreams filled with desires in reality, dreams taken from movies, and a complex mixture of fantasy and reality (highlighted by me. – Primas’. ed.). In addition, the psychodynamic level includes a variety of experiences that contain important unconscious material, appearing in a hidden form of symbolic masks, protective distortions and metaphorical hints.
Psychodynamic experiences are particularly common in the course of psycholytic therapy in mentally ill people and in uncontrolled LSD sessions in people with serious emotional problems. Much less often they occur in sessions of emotionally stable persons, whose childhood was relatively calm. In psycholytic therapy, psychodynamic experiences can predominate in several initial sessions, following each other, before being resolved and integrated, that is, included in the conscious experience, the underlying unconscious material is comprehended and the patient can move to the next level. In psychedelic therapy, such biographical material is worked out in the initial and final periods of the session. Sometimes psychodynamic experiences can predominate throughout a high-dose session, although preprogramming and the overall situation with this form of LSD therapy contribute to experiences at deeper levels of the unconscious. They will be described later (perinatal and transpersonal phenomena).
The phenomenology of psychodynamic experiences in LSD sessions is largely consistent with the basic concepts of classical psychoanalysis. If psychodynamic sessions were the only type of LSD experience, they could be considered as laboratory evidence of the main Freudian prerequisites. Psychosexual dynamics and fundamental conflicts of the human psyche, as they are described in Freud, with extraordinary clarity and vitality are manifested even in the sessions of naive newcomers, never subjected to psychoanalysis, not familiar with psychoanalytic literature and have not experienced any direct or indirect effects of this direction. Under the influence of LSD in these individuals experiencing a regression into childhood and even early infancy, revive in memory the various psychosexual traumas and complexes of sensations related to infantile sexuality, and confronts conflict, including the activity of various libidinal zones”.
S. Grof ” Areas of the human unconscious»
Remember the sentence I highlighted in the text. We’ll get back to him later.
In the Soviet Union experiments with LSD conducted by Kiev psychiatrist Maria Telishevska receiving convincing results in the treatment of patients with alcoholism. It is no secret that in the formation of alcohol dependence psychological factor is important. The results of the research Teleshevsky was published in the monograph published in 1964 by the publishing house “Medicine”.
Further developments are well known. The massive abuse of psychedelics and primarily LSD, which resulted in a whole “psychedelic revolution” of the 60s, could not but cause a response from the authorities, outlawed not only LSD and its analogues, but also imposed a ban on medical research with their use. Without casting the slightest doubt on the correctness of the decision in respect of restrictions on the mass availability of the drug, it is necessary to Express regret about the hasty prohibition of further study promising drugs in psychotherapy.
After reading this Chapter, perhaps someone will be tempted to experiment with psychedelics on their own. You do not need to do this in any case. First, it is illegal, and by purchasing such drugs on the black market, you should be aware that you are breaking the law and can cause serious trouble. Secondly, you can never be sure what exactly you sold under the guise of LSD or MDMA. No one guarantees the quality of the drug, the dosage is also uncontrolled. Moreover, under the name “ecstasy”, for example, sold dozens of tablets with a variety of chemical components, it may very well be that MDMA in the tablet is not at all and it consists of some absolutely you do not need psychostimulators, mixed with heroin.
And most importantly. Even applying yourself clean psychedelics and in the correct dosage, you run the risk of irreparable harm to your mental health. This is no exaggeration. The flow of unconscious material can be so strong and so shocking that the human psyche will simply not be able to bear it, to cope with the volume and intensity of experiences. The result may be an even greater flight into the disease, aggravation of all symptoms, until irreversible changes.
A prerequisite for therapy with psychedelics is the presence of an experienced specialist who can guide you through this test, to prevent, if necessary, a severe crisis, to return to reality, to help correctly interpret what is happening.
I believe in the future of psychedelic therapy. Even now we can observe the gradual rehabilitation of the medical use of such drugs. In Switzerland, since 2008, the use of LSD in the treatment of cancer patients and other terminal conditions is allowed. Dr. Mithofer in the United States provides MDMA-based psychotherapy to sexually abused women with very good results.
Let’s wait for the full legalization of psychedelic therapy, no need to engage in Amateur activities, the risk is too great. In addition, currently there are other, non-drug and completely safe methods of working with consciousness, which we will discuss below. One of these methods is auto-training.