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Psychedelic Press UK

The following article was written by Ido Hartogsohn. He is an Israeli writer and psychedelic activist. His first book ‘Technomystica: Consciousness in the Age of Technology’ was published (Hebrew) in 2009. Hartogsohn is currently writing his Ph.D. on the role of set and setting in the psychedelic research of the 1950s and the 1960s.

Psychedelics and Entheogens are two names for the same group of psychoactive compounds (usually referred to as ‘psychedelics’). These two terms delineate two very different perspectives on the proper way to use these psychoactive compounds.

Psychedelic is a term that was invented by the British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1957, during a correspondence with Aldous Huxley, as the two were trying to find a new designation for the psychopharmacological group of substances which included compounds such as mescaline, LSD, and the psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms). The new name was supposed to replace terms such as…

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Psychedelic Press UK

The following article was written, and published here with the permission of, Ross Heaven.

The Western world is increasingly familiar with ayahuasca, the visionary brew and “plant doctor” of Amazonian shamans, thanks to celebrities like Sting and Madonna who have drunkit and television programmes like Bruce Parry’s Tribe and Amazon,which showed the presenter drinking ayahuasca in the jungles of Peru, during which he experienced, he said, some of the most profound insights of his life. (1)

Scientific studies carried out by Western doctors have also demonstrated the effectiveness of ayahuasca in curing illnesses that orthodox medicine finds it hard to address. Especially impressive is its ability to help people overcome drug and alcohol addictions,with a success rate of 70% through the use of ayahuasca alone. (2)

Less well-known – but no less effective – is another of Peru’s visionary healing plants: San Pedro. Like ayahuasca, it has been drunk…

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Psychedelic Press UK

The following essay has been written by Kevin Murray and is published here with his kind permission. Please find his contact details at the bottom of this article.

Psychotropic drugs and their role in the history of Buddhist practice in the West is a contentious topic, but for many practitioners in the 1960s and 70s, these substances offered formative rites of passage which provided valuable insights into meditative states of consciousness. As these neophyte Buddhists developed commitment and ability in their practice, most abandoned these chemical catalysts, and “today many teachers advise against the path they travelled” (Badiner 17). In this essay, I will examine the influence of certain hallucinogenic and psychotropic substances on the expansion of Buddhism in the West. I contend that the current generation of Buddhist students are steeped in the spiritual myths of the 60s and cannot help but consider their teacher’s awakening via psychotropic substances with…

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Psychedelic Press UK

The following article has been written by Oliver Genn-Bash, current president of the University of Kent, Canterbury, Psychedelics Society. He can be reached at: ogennbash89@gmail.com

‘A good traveller has no fixed destination, and is not intent on arriving’ – Lao Tzu[1]

Taoist philosophy is extremely interesting when looking at it within the context of the psychedelic experience. Whilst there is largely a consensus regarding the subjectivity of the psychedelic experience there are certain common aspects which seem to permeate the experience from individual to individual, despite the supposed subjective nature of it. Taoism may ultimately provide us with a framework through which to understand the psychedelic experience in a constructive manner, whereby we may be able to examine various seemingly intuitive revelations through a certain lens.

The first point I want to make regards the notion of the self within the psychedelic experience. Losing our sense of self is…

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From: http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v11n2/11243pal.html

“Both meditation and psychedelics are close to my heart. I’m grateful to both of them for having shown me that true essence of the heart, which is the heart of everyone and everything, our ultimate belonging and source of meaning. For starters, psychedelics began disrupting my, up until then, fairly smooth and protected life – enough to be able to ask, for the first time, a deep and urgent question. This kind of questioning goes far beyond words and concepts and leaves nothing untouched. We think we know about ourselves and the world. It is incredibly freeing and quite confusing. Next, meditation harmonized it all again, so that I could live with a measure of integrity and ease. Then, after many years of rigorous formal practice and complete abstinence, psychedelics have once again inspired my beginner’s mind’, getting me out of the habits and ruts that seem to be part of the package deal of life and which, though necessary and comforting, stand in the way of our fresh, direct experience. Now, I haven’t traveled the psychedelic path much for about two years. It looks like everything has its time, life comes in cycles.

This is how it was for me, and it does not seem to be so unusual. The dramatic rise of interest in Yoga, meditation and eastern religion in the 60s and 70s was closely related to the psychedelic movement. A poll conducted by the Buddhist magazine “Tricycle” shows that 83% of the 1,454 respondents had some firsthand experience with psychedelics.

During the 80s and 90s many of the spiritual, once young ex-hippie communities had become middle-aged meditation centers with relatively few newcomers under the age of 30. The next generation seemed less interested in meditation, alternative lifestyles – and also in psychedelics. On my recent trip through the States, during which I visited a number of meditation centers across the country, I noticed many young faces again. Being accompanied by my twenty-year-old daughter, I had easy and quick access to them and I was not surprised to learn that most of them have had some contact with mind-altering plants and chemicals.

So what is the relationship between psychedelics and meditation? One way to approach such a question is to first look at the meaning of the words independently. “Meditation” has roots in the Latin “meditari”, which in turn has roots in the indo-Germanic “med”, having something to do with “measuring, walking, staking out”. We could define it as the act of exploring, walking in, measuring, staking out the sphere of our consciousness. “Psychedelic” is based on the Greek words “psyche” and “delos”, the first meaning “breath, the seat of consciousness”, the second “clear, visible”. Psychedelics can help us to clear our mind and make visible the nature of consciousness.

So from the etymological point of view, through very different lineages, they are pointing in the same direction, the investigation of our inner being. This process is also known as  practice’ and the linguistic relationship of the two words mirrors the actual experience of many people: Very different means to investigate a very similar subject: Ourselves, the meaning of existence, the Ultimate.

Viewed from yet another angle, the difference might not be as big as it seems: neurologists have discovered that physical exhaustion, prolonged fasting and other austerities (such as the Buddha underwent before his Great Enlightenment) as well as wound fever (such as Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, as well as many other Christian Saints, suffered from at the time of their spiritual awakening) produce changes in the brain that are virtually indistinguishable from the changes produced by the intake of psychedelics. At this point it might be useful to make a distinction between the virtue or goal of practice, the loving, beneficent and constant awareness of this never-ending process of exploration, and the methods that aim at getting us there. The former is universal, true and necessary for everyone. Dogen refers to this when he states that “Zazen has nothing to do with sitting or standing or laying down” – and St. Paul when he admonishes us to “pray at all times”. When it comes to the methods, we have a choice, and all of them work sometimes and sometimes they don’t. Some work better for some people than for others, and all of them have their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Traditional mainstream Buddhist training does not include the use of mind-altering substances. With very few possible exceptions, they are simply not mentioned in the sutras and other texts. Some think that they are dealt with in the precept that states “a disciple of the Buddha does not intoxicate mind or body of self or others”. Others think differently: the same poll mentioned above found that almost 60% of the responding Buddhist practitioners felt that psychedelics and Buddhism do mix and that they would consider taking psychedelics in a sacred context (in the “under 20” category this percentage was 90%). The traditional understanding of intoxicants refers to all mental and physical phenomena that foster confusion through fanning our likes and dislikes. And as the Buddha never fails to point out, ultimately everybody has to decide for themselves what is what.

While it is true that the setting and the techniques used at traditional Buddhist retreats are not geared toward the use of psychedelics, it is quite obvious that skills in meditation, the practice of being at peace within one’s body and mind, even in uncomfortable places, can be of great help in the course of a psychedelic session. Not only from this point of view, one could say that the practice of meditation is available to more people than the practice of psychedelics.

Are there any dangers involved with the use of psychedelics? Yes, there are. They are very powerful sacraments, or medicine, and they have to be approached with the utmost respect, preferably under the guidance of an experienced friend. The fears most commonly voiced are damage to body and brain as well as dangerous behavior and addiction. The classic psychedelics, unlike substances such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, have virtually no organic toxicity in the quantities in which they are ingested. Their addictive risk is too small to be measured when used in ceremonial settings. Psychedelic traditions from the Vedic dawn to Eleusis to the Native American Church have succeeded in creating ritual contexts in which hazardous acting-out is virtually unknown.

But what of the dramatic changes which psychedelics can have on our psyche and spirit, our heart/mind, our consciousness? Of course this effect is the very reason for taking them in the first place. Is it ultimately helpful or harmful? A moment after his great awakening, a Zen master exclaimed “…my life is completely ruined…”. As we get closer to the life force itself – not just our ideas about it – our categories and points of view are put into perspective, and their relative nature becomes obvious. And it is from this perspective that we must judge the value of any given experience.

Buddha recommends to view our life “as a dream, a flash in the darkness, a star in the morning dawn, a bubble in a stream, an illusion of the senses”. The aim of practice is to wake up from that dream. One question often asked after a deep experience is: Was it a genuine awakening, or was it just another dream within a dream, another illusion within an illusion? Personally, I don’t worry too much about this. A primary religious experience is the seed for a spiritual life, no more and no less. No matter how genuine the encounter with the Ultimate might be, it does not guarantee a genuine spiritual life. The experience may be authentic, but what counts is our daily life – and how authentic it is depends on how we live, its quality, what we do with it. Will we be able to muster up the necessary determination and patience to let the light which we glimpsed for a moment, be it through meditation or psychedelics, gradually penetrate our whole being? Will we allow the experience of oneness and belonging – whether or not it wasn’t really real – to inspire and transform our lives? This is our challenge and our hope, individually and as a species.

Vanja Palmers has practiced Zen for thirty years and has received Dharma transmission from his teacher Kobun Chino Roshi. He lives with his family in Switzerland and is the head of a meditation and animal rights centre.”

Psychedelic Press UK

Inspired by surrealists such as Picasso, Dali, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Tokio Aoyama also channels through his art the essences of peace, ascension and love, embodied by musicians such as Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Sun Ra, as well as celebrating the free-spirited nature of artists including Miles Davis, Sly Stone and Basquiat. Tokio’s art is his soul and the philosophy of his life and he has been kind enough to answer some questions for PsypressUK in the run up to his forthcoming exhibition at the Hoxton Gallery in London.

What is it about art that first drew you into becoming an artist?  Furthermore, who and what have been the biggest influences on your art since?

I painted Al Pacino about 12 years ago and that was my first canvas painting with acrylic paints. I remembered how I was struggling with controlling my brush on the canvas, at the…

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