Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 500 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to www.batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, where you’ll find all the previous ones. Look under the past interviews menu and you’ll find all the previous ones organized in several different ways. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So, if you appreciate it and would like to support it in any amount, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site, and there’s a donations page for people who don’t like to deal with PayPal. My guests today are Michael Pollan and Chris Bache. I’ll introduce Michael first. Michael is the author of eight books, including How to Change Your Mind. Michael, say something because Chris’ picture is on the screen.
Michael: Hi Rick, Hi Chris, it’s good to be here.
Rick: There we go, there’s Michael. He is the author of eight books, including How to Change Your Mind, which is the one we are going to be talking about today, And a number of books about food, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times best-sellers. Michael is a longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine. He also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, where he is the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Science Journalism. In 2010, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Okay, Chris Bache has been on BatGap before in a panel discussion about five or six years ago. You go ahead and say something, Chris, so your picture will pop up.
Chris: Hi, Rick. Good to be here. Looking forward to our conversation today.
Rick: Good, there you go. My software switches back and forth according to who’s talking. Chris is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University, where he taught for 33 years. He is also adjunct faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies and a fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. An award-winning teacher, Chris’s work explores the philosophical implications of non-ordinary states of consciousness, especially psychedelic states. Chris has written four books, Life Cycles, a study of reincarnation in light of contemporary consciousness research, Dark Night, Early Dawn, a pioneering work in psychedelic philosophy and collective consciousness, and The Living Classroom, an exploration of teaching and collective fields of consciousness. His new book is LSD and the Mind of the Universe, Diamonds from Heaven. And I didn’t show Michael’s book when I mentioned it. Here’s a picture of Michael’s book, How to Change Your Mind. The subtitle is, “What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.” So, it’s great to have you guys. I’ve been really looking forward to this and really enjoying preparing for it, and there’s been a lot of excitement, I think, among the Batgap listeners and viewers. In fact, I mentioned this interview the other day on some Facebook group. I mentioned Michael Poland’s name and some guy said, “The Food Guy?” So, Michael, how did you switch, if you did, from being the food guy to invest into exploring psychedelics?
Michael: Well, before I was the food guy, I was kind of the nature guy. I’ve always been interested. The reason I got into food is I was very interested in the reciprocal relationship between people, and particularly plants, but other species in general, and co-evolution. In a book you mentioned earlier, The Botany of Desire, I had looked at this whole question of domesticated plants and proposed the idea that they manipulate us as much as we manipulate them, and that a very fine evolutionary strategy for a select group of plants, and this is true for animals too, is to figure out, and by that I mean, through trial and error, natural selection or artificial selection, how to gratify human desire. A big human desire, obviously, is for food, and that’s what most domesticated plants have worked on, that strategy. But beauty is another, and there’s a whole bunch of them. But the one that I found most curious is the plants that thrive by gratifying our desire to change consciousness. In that book, I wrote a long chapter on cannabis, and looking at how it has served the cannabis plant to basically, through trial and error, figure out how to engage with the whole receptor network in our brains, and elsewhere in our body. I’ve had this long-standing interest in plant medicines and psychoactive plants, and I kind of laid that aside while I was doing all this food research for the last several years, and then stumbled on this new research going on to use psilocybin specifically, which I realize is not a plant, but a fungus, a mushroom, to… Well, no, technically it’s not. It’s another kingdom entirely. Actually, we’re more like fungi than we are like plants. Plants are primary producers. They can take sunlight and make food from it. We are parasitic on them, and so are mushrooms. So, we share that in common. We depend on plants’ use of photosynthesis. Anyway, I heard about this research giving psilocybin to people who had terminal cancer, and that it was helping them deal with the prospect of death or the fear of recurrence. And this struck me as a very curious thing to do. On its face, I didn’t see the logic of it. And then I was also, kind of as journalists do, picking up that there was something in the air around psychedelics right now, and that there was a kind of renewed interest that was very serious from a scientific or philosophical point of view. And that came… I was at a dinner party with a group of people I didn’t know. It was a long table in a big house, and I heard down at the end of the table this woman who looked to be about about my age talking about her acid trip. And I figured she was talking about some college adventure, and then I listened a little closely, and it was a couple of weeks ago. And here she was, a very prominent developmental psychologist, talking about the insights into the consciousness of children that her new acquaintance with LSD had given her. And as journalists, we put together a couple of data points, and that was enough to convince me that there’s something going on here that I want to look into. So that’s kind of how it happened. I was also just thrilled to have a new topic as rich as this, I mean, I was a total neophyte when it comes to spiritual matters, neuroscientific matters, psychological matters. So, to me, the great thing about writing books and being a journalist and not a specialist is you get to master whole new topics as an adult, and you get paid to do it. It’s kind of a great gig.
Rick: Yeah, I kind of feel that way doing this. Although it’s pretty much the same topic, but a different flavor of it every week, and I love just focusing on it. One thing that comes through in your book, Michael, and one thing you just kind of alluded to, is that there’s certain intelligence in the plant kingdom, and specifically in the psychedelic plant kingdom, that they’re not just dumb chemicals. It’s almost as if there’s a spirit of the plants which has an agenda, which has an initiative, which wants, in some people’s estimation, to foster human evolution by providing themselves to us as means of shifting our consciousness. Do you want to touch upon that a little bit?
Michael: Yeah, I don’t think I would go that far, or I haven’t had evidence to go that far, that plants are bearing a message and trying to get us to save them or save the planet. It could be true, but I don’t have evidence of that. But I have written on plant intelligence, and I’m constantly amazed at what plants can do and how much we underestimate them. We’re learning now that plants have a pretty elaborate communications network, that the trees in a forest convey messages using mycelium, which are the filaments of mushrooms, to send messages to trade nutrients, that the trees in a forest can warn each other when there’s a threat. And when they’re told of that threat, they’ll actually change their flavor in their leaves to make them less appealing to insects, or they’ll start producing toxins of various kinds. Plants have memory. Plants are intelligent. I have no question about that. It has something to do with how you define intelligence, of course. A basic definition is a problem-solving ability, that their reactions to situations are not simply automatic or instinctual, but that they can deal with novel threats in novel ways, and that they can remember things, too. There have been some very interesting trials. Monica Gagliano is a botanist who’s demonstrated that plants can remember and store information in a way. So, I have enormous respect for them. I think that we have to acknowledge they have a kind of subjectivity, the way we do. They’re conscious, not in the sense I think we normally mean by that word, which also folds in ideas of self-consciousness and a subjective sense of what it’s like to be Chris Bache or Rick Archer or Michael Pollan. I don’t have any reason to believe they have that, but they have a point of view, and they have interests, and they pursue these in a different way than we do. And they’re conscious in the sense of being aware of their environment and responding appropriately.
Rick: may get into this later, but some say that consciousness is fundamental and matter is sort of an epiphenomenon of consciousness rather than the other way around, that all forms of matter reflect or express consciousness to varying degrees, even a stone and obviously way on up the evolutionary ladder. But let’s table that for a little bit later. So, you overheard this conversation at the dinner party, and so how did you proceed? I know you proceeded in many cases with a great deal of caution and seriousness.
Michael: Collective skepticism.
Rick: Locked in, trepidations. You were often unable to sleep the night before a session because you were sort of anxious about what might happen.
Michael: The idea of even having a session came a little later. The first thing I did was reach out to an editor at The New Yorker and say, “I’ve got a really cool story. I want to write about these trials,” interview the people who were going on these psilocybin journeys, talk to the scientists, try to understand the neuroscience of it and the psychology. And to my delight, they were willing to underwrite that project. So that was the beginning of my investigation, and I wrote a piece for The New Yorker, which came out in February 2015, called “The Trip Treatment,” and it’s available online for free if you just search that. And that was a kind of straight-ahead piece of science journalism. There was no participatory angle to it. I don’t think they would have published it if there were. It was all like white coats and scientists and patients, volunteers. But the interviews were extraordinary, and the people I met and the kinds of transformative experiences that a single psychedelic journey had given them, completely resetting their attitude toward death, lifting their fear entirely in many cases.
Rick: You mean cancer patients? – I’m sorry?
Michael: Cancer patients. – These are cancer patients, yeah. With serious diagnoses. Some were terminal, some were paralyzed by fear and anxiety at the threat of a recurrence. But in all ways, they had this, what the doctors call, existential distress. And they found relief in about 80% of the cases, which is quite remarkable. And it’s a single intervention. We don’t have much like that in psychiatry or palliative care. We have morphine. We give people which dulls their perception and relieves their pain, but doesn’t help them spiritually deal with the situation they’re in.
Rick: Tell us some more anecdotes and give us an overview of the research that’s taking place. And it’s not only cancer patients, but alcoholics and depressed people. And so, give us a sort of overview.
Michael: It started with cancer patients, the first kind of clinical applications. And the reason for that is a couple. One is it’s a sympathetic group. The regulators are a little less worried about any potential toxicity in the case of people who have terminal diagnoses. In the same way that people with AIDS, they were willing to give drugs that hadn’t been thoroughly vetted yet if people wanted to take them. So, there was a comfort level, I think, for the regulators and a sympathetic angle for the public in general. How could you withhold this from someone who is dying and had tremendous fear, and here was something that promised to lift it? But since then, since the success of those trials, there have been several others looking at different indications, medical indications. An important one that’s being worked on now is depression. And this grew out of the cancer trials in that they saw that depression scores, as the psychologists measured them, had dropped significantly. And so, the FDA actually encouraged the researchers to, why don’t you look at depression more widely, because this is a tremendous problem. The tools we have to treat it are very poor. Rates of depression are rising rapidly. I think a big question remains is whether depression is one thing. And if the kind of depression that a cancer patient experiences is similar to the kind of depression of someone who has a general depression or treatment resistant depression for years and years and years. The cancer patient’s depression is recent very often and has a clearly defined cause. And that’s not true for everyone struggling with depression. So, we’ll see. We’ll see if it works. There’s some evidence that it will. There was a trial at Imperial College in London of depressive patients, treatment resistant, I believe they were. And many of them, most of them, showed significant but short-lived results. Their depression lifted for a couple of months and then gradually it returned. Not in all cases, but in most of them. So, there’s encouraging reason to pursue this. And there are two big trials going on right now for depression are about to get started. There have been, as you suggest, trials for addiction in alcoholics and cigarette smokers and cocaine addicts. And those in a preliminary way are showing very promising results. And I think that’s interesting and may turn out to be, Ithink behavioral change may be one of the really big applications of psychedelics. With that in mind, they’re looking at Johns Hopkins, I think, is going to look at eating disorders. And that’s very important because anorexia is actually the hardest psychiatric illness to treat and has the lowest rates of success and the highest mortality of all psychiatric problems. So, I think if we can make progress on that, it’d be fantastic. Let’s see what else is being tried. There was a small trial of obsession, obsessive compulsive disorder, and there’ll be more work with that. The drugs have been used with high functioning autistic people who have social anxiety. And that that result has been encouraging also. So, there’s a whole range. And to people who think, how can psychedelic be such a panacea? I think it’s important to note that the kinds of problems it works on or seems to be effective with, have a lot in common. They’re all at the end of the spectrum where people’s thinking becomes too rigid, too trapped in deep grooves of habit, whether mental habit or behavioral habit. People are in these loops, and they can’t break out of them. And what the psychedelics seem to do is a real jolt to the system and gives people the kind of perspective on their lives that can actually break mental habit. And it needs to be accompanied by lots of therapeutic intervention. These aren’t people going off and having a psilocybin trip in the woods alone. These are guided trips. And I think is a really important distinction. People are very carefully prepared in advance, told what to expect, how to deal with difficulties that will come up if they, you know, because it can be a very, very frightening things can happen, especially if you’re if you’re facing your mortality. And then during the experience, the guides are with you the whole time in the university trials are usually two guides, a man, and a woman. And they’re not saying very much. It’s very noninterventionist. The idea is to basically give you a sense of safety so you can surrender to what can be a very disturbing set of mental events. And then after the session, you come back usually the next day or in the next couple of days. And you have what’s called an integration session where you tell the therapist what you saw, what happened, what you’re puzzled by. And with the therapist, you try to kind of come to some interpretation of what’s happened and figure out how you can take the lessons, the insights of that trip and apply them to the conduct of your life.
Rick: Have these therapists usually taken psilocybin themselves so that they have a better idea of what the person is going through?
Michael: Well, I can only guess about that because none of them will admit it.
Rick: I should hope so.
Michael: But I can see why it would put them at reputational risk for objectivity. People would challenge the studies saying these people are, aficionados of psychedelics. I have reason to believe that some of them have, but none of them would talk about it on the record. A couple would talk about it off the record and some would just simply say no. So, it’s hard to believe you wouldn’t develop the kind of curiosity I developed, because in the course of doing this research, it became clear to me that I couldn’t really understand what these volunteers were going through without having a similar experience myself. And that then became the more autobiographical part of the book where I engaged with several underground guides because I couldn’t get into the above ground trials and work with them to have a very similar experience in a slightly different context.
Rick: Your answer to that question brings up a point, which is that since, I guess it was the early 70s when Nixon declared Timothy Leary to be the most dangerous man in America and psychedelic research was clamped down upon, there hasn’t really been much going on. And now it sounds like it’s kind of burgeoning, but is it? Can anybody anywhere who’s qualified study this or is it still like a real trickle compared to what might be taking place?
Michael: The only reason it’s trickly at all is that there’s no federal funding. All the funding is private money, charitable donations, and luckily there’s a lot of visionary people with a lot of dough in this country and they’re supporting the work. But there’s quite a bit of it. There are many universities around the country getting interested and getting involved. There are these two depression trials, each are going to have six or eight sites, each of which is a medical school or a university. The FDA is not standing in the way. They made a decision way back in ’92, because people have been knocking on the door for a long time, that they would treat psychedelics like any other drug. And if you could persuade them that there was a good reason for this experiment, they would grant permission and the DEA would grant a license to use it. So, I haven’t heard of people, serious researchers, encountering federal obstacles. The main obstacle is money.
Rick: Okay. Your comment about the commonality of all the types of difficulties which are being addressed with psychedelics being that all these people are too rigid or locked down in their thinking or in their perspective. I was thinking that as you were leading up to that comment. It seems like psilocybin and some of these other drugs they’re using are so different from usual protocols, because most things tend to dull you in one way or another, Whereas this is a real opening up of your awareness and a radical shift of your perspective. In fact, I think you say many times in your book that a lot of people say, “Wow, that was the most profound experience I ever had in my life, and I don’t feel like drinking anymore or smoking cigarettes anymore.” So, it’s interesting that there could be such a thing that, with one session would give you such a radically different perspective and shift your behavior permanently.
Michael: Yeah, and also other psychiatric drugs essentially deal with symptoms, and you take them every day, perhaps for the rest of your life.
Rick: At great expense.
Michael: And these chemicals are in your brain all the time. Here you’ve got this one-shot or two-shot intervention. The chemical, which is not very toxic, whether you’re talking about psilocybin or LSD, is in your brain for a short amount of time. And you are dealing with cures in many cases. You’re solving the problem because, as you say, you’re not dulling the patient. You are opening them up. And I think we’re leaving them from ego consciousness for a period of time. I think that’s probably an important mechanism for how this works. One of the really interesting findings of the research that I cover in the book is, the effort to figure out what’s going on in the brain when someone’s having a psychedelic experience. And the current thinking is that there’s one particular brain network, the default mode network, which is this tightly linked set of structures in the midline that connect the prefrontal cortex to older, deeper areas of memory and emotion in the posterior cingulate cortex. And this is kind of the orchestrator or conductor of brain activity, this network. It is closely associated with the generation of the idea of a self. And so, it’s where self-reflection takes place. It’s where time, mental time travel takes place, theory of mind, the ability to impute mental states to others. And what’s called autobiographical memory, the faculty by which we take the events, whatever happens in our lives, and tie it into the story we tell ourselves of who we are. So, if the ego could be said to have an address, it’s probably in this area. And this area of the brain is suppressed dramatically. And this was a big surprise because they thought psychedelics in the brain would just represent a lot of fireworks, you know, an excitation of everything. In fact, it’s the opposite for this one particular network. And you can correlate a radical down regulation in the default mode network with reported experiences of ego dissolution. When people tell you, on that trip, I just completely, my sense of self was obliterated. They will see on the FMRI that their default mode network has been essentially deactivated. So that’s a very interesting insight into where that kind of thinking to the extent it has a material manifestation where that’s happening. And it may be that the relief from ego consciousness and an overactive default mode network is implicated in a lot of these problems like depression. There is research to suggest that depressed people have an overactive default mode network that’s kind of punishing and they can’t get out of their heads. Because the default mode network also lights up when you’re mind wandering, when you don’t have anything in the world getting your attention. It operates in a seesaw relationship with the intentional network, the attentional networks. And so, giving people a vacation from that, that kind of regulatory authority allows lots of other activity to bloom. And there’s an illustration in my book that shows it was an attempt to show people how the brain gets rewired during the psilocybin or LSD experience. And in this drawing, around this circle, you get all these different brain networks, the visual cortex or the auditory networks or the networks that direct your physical activities. And suddenly you get all this communication between networks that don’t ordinarily communicate with one another. And that might explain synesthesia, the phenomenon of being able to see musical notes, that perhaps your auditory center is talking directly to your visual cortex without going through the default mode network. So, the brain is temporarily rewired. And we know that brain connections are new ways of thinking. And if you have them, even temporarily, you can exercise them and make them more salient. And it’s just a theory, but that’s one of the operative theories of what might be going on here, that when you have some profound insight on psychedelics, it may be the product of connecting the dots literally in a new way.
Rick: Yeah. A couple of thoughts on that. One is that if we think of the brain as a filter or a lens or a receiver of consciousness rather than as a generator of consciousness, then what you said about the default mode network shutting down or becoming more quiet would imply perhaps that there’s less filtration taking place. So whatever consciousness is can shine through more fully, and the ancient traditions say that consciousness is bliss in one of its attributes. And so, you can experience very gratifying, fulfilling states if that default mode network is shut down somewhat. Another little point there is that a lot of the meditation research has shown that there is a remarkable degree of coherence between different parts of the brain that are ordinarily not correlated or coherent with one another as measured by EEG. So, frequencies will just sort of line up in synchrony, whereas before they were asynchronous.
Michael: And also, the meditation research done by people like Judson Brewer, who also has taken fMRI images of experienced meditators while they’re meditating, those scans look very much like the psychedelic scans. He saw that, actually, and was quite struck by the similarities, so that meditation also down-regulates the default mode network, and I think that’s really significant. But your point, too, about opening up the doors of perception, as Huxley called it, when he talked about the reducing valve, it was pretty clear he was talking about the ego. The ego is really what walls us off from whether it’s internal, unconscious material, or external sensory information. It is what defends us from being overwhelmed by reality, by being overwhelmed by nature, by being overwhelmed by what’s in our unconscious. And those walls come down, I think, during psychedelic experience, and that accounts for the sense of merging that people have. So, I think we’re talking about a lot of different vocabularies for the same thing. I’m using ego and walls, and I know that’s very psychodynamic, and you’re using a more spiritual vocabulary, but I think we’re talking about the same thing.
Rick: Yeah, I think so. Chris, do you have any questions or comments on what we’ve been saying so far?
Chris: I’ve just been enjoying Michael’s presentation a great deal. I’m so deeply appreciative that a person of your caliber, Michael, has done such an excellent job of presenting the history and the issues and the people’s lives being touched in this form of therapy. You just opened up the conversation to many people who previously would have just never been willing to have a conversation about psychedelics, and you’ve done such a good job with it. You’ve done it so well, and you capture the personalities involved so well. I just really appreciate what you’ve done.
Michael: Thank you. I was approaching it from outside, obviously, and with a certain naivete and skepticism. There are people with a lot more knowledge and experience in the psychedelic world, but they’ve tended to be in a conversation that takes place within the psychedelic community, and I wasn’t coming from there. I also always write for an audience that I don’t assume has any interest in the subject. I’m just much more interested in talking to the general reader and grabbing them by the collar and saying, “Hey, this is really cool. You should read this stuff,” whether it’s about food or agriculture, all these kind of things. I think that that stance was very useful to me in bringing people into this conversation, and it’s been very gratifying to see how many people, whether they’re in the therapeutic community or the neuroscience community, have gotten excited in the last year about the potential here and want to get involved as researchers and as people experimenting with psychedelics. So, this Renaissance was happening. I was reporting on saying that it was already happening, but I feel very lucky that I was able to play some role in bringing people into the tent.
Rick: So we could probably spend an hour going through all the various stages of your exploration with psychedelics and different experiences you had and all that stuff, and all that is covered very well in your book. So, I think what I’d like to do is just ask you a question which came in from someone actually named Suzy Parkinson in Carlsbad, California. She asked, “Since your original psychedelic journeys, or as a result of them perhaps, has your belief system or perspective changed, deepened, or taken on a meaning which it didn’t previously have?”
Michael: Yeah, it’s a great question. Thank you for posing it. My experiences have changed me in various ways. I think for the most part, the personality changes are pretty subtle. My wife’s not here right now, but I would drag her in to say — to tell you that I’ve asked her this question because your partner knows you better than anybody else and is very sensitive to any changes. And she basically feels that I’m a more open and patient person than I was, and she was very apprehensive when I started getting involved with this, that I might change for the worse. She doesn’t seem to think I have. Intellectually, there has been a change. I think my understanding of spirituality has changed and what that means. I think it’s important to understand you guys work on these issues all the time, but I was really kind of spiritually retarded before I started this. It’s just a part of my life, my mind, that I hadn’t developed. Some people look at body and desire and they think that’s a very spiritual take, or I talk about food in a very spiritual way and the importance of communion, but I really didn’t see myself as spiritual, partly because my understanding of spirituality was that it existed in opposition to science, skepticism, and that it implied a — I’m telling you, I was retarded — but it implied a belief in the supernatural, things beyond the scope of science ever to understand. And so, I approached it that way, and I was very much a pretty confirmed materialist in my philosophical outline, that the laws of nature could explain everything. And I realized how limited this was. AndI had, after my psychedelic journeys, and after one in particular where I had a very profound experience of transcending my ego, my usual sense of self, and I actually beheld myself dissolving. I’m first bursting into a little cloud of Post-it notes. That was me, and there was nothing left. And then another time where I felt myself kind of spread out on the ground like a coat of paint or butter. But a new perspective arose for me to observe this scene, and that was the spooky part, and it’s the part I still don’t understand. From what new point of view was I taking in this scene? It was an I that wasn’t familiar to me. It was an I that was completely fine with what was happening, unburdened, untroubled, disinterested, and reconciled to whatever there was. And it was quite profound. And once that sense of self was gone, I was totally open or unprotected, undefended against anything, and then started merging. And in this particular instance, I merged with a piece of music. I had had my guide put on this unaccompanied cello suite by Bach No. 2 in D-Major, which is a very sad, beautiful piece of music, and I became it. There was no subject-object duality at all. I was identical to this music. I could feel Yo-Yo Ma’s horsehair on his bow going over my skin, and I was inside this dark well looking out, and the breeze of the vibrations of the music, I could physically feel them. It was remarkable. And I came out of that. The next day, I went to my guide for integration, and I said, “Well, I’ve had this experience of complete ego dissolution.” And she said, “What did you learn from that?” And I said, “Well, that you’re not identical to your ego. There’s another ground on which to stand, but it was a very mysterious other ground.” And she said, “Well, wasn’t that worth the price of admission?” And I said, “Yes, but it was really interesting, but what do you do with it? Now my ego is back in uniform, back on patrol, and so what good was it?” And she said, “Well, you’ve had a sample of this way of being, and you can cultivate it.” And I said, “How?” And she said, “Through meditation, basically.” And like a great many people and a great many American Buddhists, this opened a door into– it made me much more comfortable in the mental space of meditation, and I could navigate it better. And sometimes I do attain that perspective that I had had during that psilocybin trip. So, did that make me more spiritual? I’m not prepared to conclude that that new perspective that opened up is some transpersonal perspective or some universal consciousness. I know that Aldous Huxley, when it happened to him, said that was the mind at large, which was something that we tune in that’s outside. I’d be really curious to hear Chris’s take on that. I don’t know. It could just as easily be another product of my mind that I hadn’t experienced before because the damn ego overshadowed it. But I came to see that my understanding of spirituality was faulty because what spirituality is for me is a powerful connection, an openness, an undefended ability to connect, whether it’s to nature, which is very important to me, the natural world. And during another psychedelic experience, I had the sense of nature being very much alive. the leaves in my garden were returning my gaze in some sense. And it was a beautiful experience. It was really wonderful. So, there was the connection to nature that is opened up. And then there is a connection to other people, the feelings of love that so many people report on psychedelics, and this powerful connection to other people and the universe in some more general way. And so that’s what spirituality is now to me. It’s opening the gates so you can connect at a very deep level without any screen between you and the other, no subject object. And I learned that the opposite of spiritual, the word spiritual, should not be material as I understood it. It should be egotistica because it really is the ego that stands in the way of those powerful connections and that the ego is the enemy of spiritual development. So that was my takeaway. It’s not final in any way. I think I have a lot more to learn from the experience, and I might come out in a different place. I’m very curious about, well, Chris, I would be curious to know how you would interpret that experience of this new perspective opening up on your dissolved self.
Chris: Well, as I listen to you speak, I’m reminded of Shunryu Suzuki in his beautiful little book on meditation, Big Mind, Little Mind. And, it’s like there’s little mind, which is very efficient getting things done. It sits at our desks, answers the phone. And then there’s big mind, which is really that dimension of mind, which is just so profoundly larger than, other than, and inclusive of little mind. It’s just a different wavelength of consciousness. And then the question is, of course, all of the meditation traditions agree that there are many, many layers to ego. So, you can kind of get clear at one level and get caught in another and clear at that level and get caught in another. It’s a labyrinth kind of thing. But according to their ways of thinking, it is possible to profoundly quiet, still allow ego to become transparent. And when ego becomes transparent, there’s this larger background context surfaces in awareness. So that rings true in my experience. The question then becomes, okay, if there’s little mind and big mind, what is the nature of mind? Just mind. And that opens it. Then we’re off to the races because then we get into a very interesting discussion of what is the nature of consciousness and what is conscious and who can have consciousness and so on and so forth.
Michael: So, let’s open. What is the nature of mind? I know that’s a big, fat question.
Chris: Yeah, that’s a big one. And personally, I don’t have a vested interest in specific definitions of consciousness and specific definitions of mind. I’m kind of happy to go where different people want to go with definitions of consciousness per se. As long as the definition is open to a complete phenomenology of mind. Because my background training is in philosophy of religion and phenomenology has been a large part of that. So, I think it’s important for us to critically, not naively, but critically look at the broadest body of data that we have for what mind is and how mind manifests and what it can do. So, can mind influence the health of the body? Can mind actually influence physical objects, telekinesis? Is there a mind linking between human beings and plants so that there can be a genuine exchange of information at some level? That opens, that gets us into the deeper question. And then when we go to Aldous Huxley and he goes to mind at large, that’s the assertion of an encompassing mind that holds all minds, all sub-minds held within a master kind of intelligence of the universe. I’m comfortable with that concept just because I’ve had so many experiences of so many dimensions of that mind that I’m comfortable. I talk about the creative intelligence of the universe. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what name we should give it and sometimes I’ll talk about it as the divine, but I’m not a theist and I’m not a supernaturalist. I completely agree with you on that way. To me, it’s all natural. It’s all nature. It’s all part of nature. And there’s nothing about, for me, the study of consciousness, which should be beyond the range of scientific investigation. But I’ve spent so much time over the many years exploring different aspects of that mind that…
Michael: Using what tools?
Chris: Well, my primary tool has been LSD in my explorations. I also have experience with psilocybin and other, and ayahuasca and salvia divinorum. But my primary instrument of exploration was LSD, used in a particular, very specific modality. So, should I describe this, Rick? Should we do this now?
Rick: Let me just wrap up a point that Michael made earlier and then let’s do it. Michael was saying that he used to have a sort of aversion to the notion of spirituality because he felt it was anti-scientific. Excuse me if I didn’t express that quite right, but there was some distrust of it because it seemed probably you heard a lot of “woo-woo” things. Look at it, religion and science have been at each other’s throats for a long time. People used to be burned at the stake for believing that the earth wasn’t the center of the solar system. And I feel that we’ve reached a point where science and spirituality can complement each other tremendously. If we take anything that spirituality or any religious tradition has ever proposed or suggested as a hypothesis, rather than as something that we ought to believe in, then it’s something that might be open to experiential investigation. And I think Chris will comment on a lot of things he’s investigated experientially, which might seem extremely hypothetical to the average person. Some of these things have very far-reaching implications for humanity, for religion, for spirituality. I don’t think there’s a heck of a lot of value in just believing in something because somebody says you ought to, or some tradition says you ought to, or anything. I think everything should be open to experiential investigation. So that’s what the scientific attitude brings to spirituality. On the other hand, spirituality can bring something to science because science doesn’t possess the tools for investigating the subtle realms that spirituality has specialized in, has dealt with. And LSD is such a tool, although ultimately our human nervous system is such a tool. And throughout the ages I think what mystics have been doing is using that tool and fine-tuning it and learning how to use it such that they can explore all sorts of subtle dimensions. And, add to human knowledge in ways that modern science couldn’t even hope to begin to do at its current stage. So I just wanted to get that out, and then you go ahead Chris and segue from that.
Chris: Well, just a footnote, add a note on to what you said Rick. It’s one thing to study the quantitative qualities of consciousness and it’s another thing to study the qualitative nature of consciousness. And I think science is extraordinarily good at studying the quantitative nature of consciousness and looking at the various physiological correlations, various states of awareness, so on and so forth. But I think we can study scientifically, if we broaden our methodology of science, we can study the qualitative characteristics of consciousness. We do so by controlled experiment. We do so by getting carefully screened different people from different backgrounds, for example, putting them through the same exploratory regimen, carefully recording their experiences afterwards, comparing their experiences across populations. we can’t put experience under a microscope, but we can use all of our critical skills to study the qualitative nature of experience, and then we can start broadening it into cross-cultural and historical analysis. So, I think we can be critical, but being critical is larger than being neurological.
Michael: Well, what’s interesting to me about consciousness as a subject for scientific exploration is you can’t study it without experience. There’s no other tool, right? Phenomenology is the only tool to understand the subjectivity, at least so far. And so, I agree. I think you have to go down that path, and you can do that with a lot of rigor. And it’s one of the interesting things about the psychedelic work. The reports of the volunteers are critically important. And sometimes you correlate those reports with what you’re seeing on your brain scans, but sometimes you don’t need to. But I think a big question is whether there’s any real evidence to think that brains don’t produce consciousness or that mind precedes matter. I think that’s a very interesting question. And I went into my own investigations assuming–because that’s the consensus among scientists–is that, we don’t know how it happens, but we assume that these neurons, these cells, are producing consciousness in some way. Even though it’s very hard to get from cells to that phenomenon. Nobody has a clue how to do it. That seemed to be the more parsimonious or starting principle. But a lot of people, after experience of psychedelics, come out in a different place.
Rick: I interviewed a guy a few months ago named Mark Gober who wrote a book called “The End to Upside-Down Thinking,” which addresses this very point. And it may seem parsimonious initially that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of brain functioning, but there are so many anomalies when you look at it that way that keep pecking away at that materialistic worldview. And Mark in his book really goes through these in a very brilliant way.
Michael: What’s the name of the book?
Rick: It’s called “The End” or maybe it’s “An End,” I think maybe “The End to Upside-Down Thinking” by Mark Gober, G-O-B-E-R. And he’s been on BATGAP a few months ago, so you can find him there.
Michael: There’s a new book also by Jeffrey Kripal called “The Flip.”
RICK: Oh yeah, he’s been on Back App too.
Michael: This book is fascinating. I recommend him to come back on the show. But he’s also looking at a series of people, some of them scientists, others philosophers, who underwent this flip in their thinking to believing that mind may well perceive matter and has these case histories among other things.
Rick: Let me, oh go ahead Chris, you were going to say.
Chris: The field of study that shifted my thinking in that regard, because I finished graduate school, even though it was in philosophy of religion, I was a pretty atheistically inclined agnostic by the time I finished graduate school. I was well versed in the rise of science and in human values and enjoyed that and joined that movement Fully. I tell my students, if you haven’t fallen in love with science, you’ve missed One of the great romances of history. This is just such a massive, extraordinarily ground shaking pivot in human understanding. But one of the areas which shifted my thinking about the idea that our brain creates consciousness, and of course, clearly, our brain does generate consciousness in a sense, but it was the reincarnation research. It was Ian Stevenson’s research at the University of Virginia and the multiple volumes that he had published, documenting very detailed cases of from around the world, children, very small, three, four, five years old who had detailed memories of what appeared to be their previous life. And he was able to extract, get those memories, consolidate them and verify sufficient number of those memories to build an extremely strong case for the fact of reincarnation, without knowing the theory of it, without knowing how it actually takes place, that there is some type of continuity of consciousness. Now, there’s lots and lots of levels of issues involved in these things.
Michael: one life to another life.
Chris: Yeah, it seems to be. Some people would say, well, those memories are actually drawn out of the collective unconscious, and, it doesn’t show continuity of life to life. But I think Stevenson’s evidence is really a strong evidence for some type of continuity of an awareness from lifetime to lifetime, especially his last book, which was a two-volume book on philosophy and on reincarnation in biology, in which he studied bore the marks in their body in the form of birthmarks, which replicated wounds of death in the previous incarnation. So somehow, it was as if consciousness had been traumatized in such a way that it not only imprinted on subsequent mind, but it imprinted on the body of subsequent mind. So, after looking at this data a lot, I think what it tells us is, we have information in our mind that predates this body. And if that’s the case, and if those can be legitimated, verified memories, then that indicates that there is at least in some way in which our awareness, our memory, our mind is not generated by our brain.
Rick: A very simple metaphor for this, which I’m sure you’ve both heard, is, radios and televisions. They are detectors, not transmitters, they’re receivers of fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, which is ubiquitous. And if the radio breaks, the radio transmission from the tower 50 miles away or something doesn’t stop. Other radios can still pick it up and we can get a new radio and listen to it again. So, if consciousness is a field as opposed to just a product of the brain, then we’re all tapped into that field and we kind of share it in common as a foundation. But then how do you account for individuality and an individuality moving from life to life, from one body to another? And that leads me into a question I’d like to ask, which will get us a little bit back to psychedelics, which is that research shows that subjective experiences in meditation and other spiritual practices have physiological effects, which we’ve been talking about, and Western science is only able to measure the gross physiology. And traditionally it’s understood that we also have a subtle physiology. Chinese and Vedic systems offer elaborate explanations of the subtle body using terms such as chi or prana or shushumna and ida and pingala, nadis, etc. And these traditions understand that it’s necessary to condition and strengthen the subtle body to sustain the enormous flows of energy that accompany spiritual awakening. Often spiritual aspirants spend years or decades doing this before awakening occurs. So, this whole subtle body thing has implications for reincarnation because it would be the subtle body that moves from one gross body to another when the gross body wears out. The Bhagavad Gita says it’s like changing clothes. But here’s the question, what are your thoughts on the fact that anyone can ingest a psychedelic substance without having prepared the subtle body? Or can psychedelics facilitate such preparation? Either of you can answer this.
Michael: I’m going to give this one to Chris.
Chris: Thanks, Michael.
Michael:Now the question is built on an understanding of subtle bodies and gross bodies that is totally unfamiliar to me.
Chris: In answering, in responding, I don’t want to assume the observation that it’s the subtle body that transfers from incarnation to incarnation. It may be, I’m just not sure that we’ve nailed it down that close.
Rick: So it’s a hypothesis. Let’s take it as that.
Chris: It’s a hypothesis. And so, again, individuality is the whole question is what is individuality? So is the individuality of one life transferring to the individuality intact in another life? And I think those are very subtle and complicated questions and I don’t mean to prejudge them at all. So, I don’t want to assume a set answer to what is individuality or what is the subtle body. That said, my experience, I have a lot of convictions around the subtle body and specifically, the impact, the way psychedelic experiences can impact the subtle body. But to explain, let me just say a little bit about my background because there are so many different variations of psychedelic experiences and I want to define mine. That’s the body of data that I draw from. When I finished graduate school in ’78, I met the work of Stanislav Grof immediately. He had just published Realms of the Human Unconscious. He had a hundred essays published by that time. And I was immediately taken, atheistically agnostic as I was, I was immediately taken by his research proposal that through these substances if they were used in a careful and controlled circumstance that we could use them to experience deeper dimensions of our own mind. And I was particularly interested in his observation that one can go deeper than personal consciousness, one can go deeper than even collective unconscious. You can go deeper into the mind of the universe itself. He didn’t say it quite like that, but that was the implication of what he did. And I was immediately fascinated by that because I was a philosopher of religion and exploring the consciousness of the universe. If there is a consciousness of the universe, could it have enormous implications for a variety of philosophical questions. So, this was 1978 and I wanted to do this psychedelic work. I was just like Michael after doing the research and looking at the literature and looking at some of the people’s lives who’ve been changed. I wanted to participate, and I basically did what Michael did. I basically made a choice to have some underground experiments with psychedelics. I don’t like going underground. I’d much rather be in a legally sanctioned experimental protocol, but that wasn’t available to me. So, I chose to learn Stan Grof’s methods for working with psychedelics and how to have a psychedelic session and all the ins and outs that have now become kind of standardized in psychedelic protocols to use his methods and then to use them privately to explore my own consciousness and to do it as rigorously as I could using all the philosophical and phenomenological and psychological tools I’ve gathered in graduate school. Now Stan differentiates between two different types of psychedelic work, low dose psychedelic work, usually between 15-200 micrograms and high-dose psychedelic work, which is usually up to maybe 500 micrograms, 600 micrograms. These low-dose method generates a sort of a gradual slowly peeling back the layers of consciousness through this personal unconscious through the perinatal or the death-rebirth dynamics into transpersonal reality. The high-dose psychedelic work was in the early years focused on working with terminally ill patients, cancer patients, and they were basically trying to not heal the personal unconscious, but to kind of blow through all the levels of the personal unconscious, trigger a near-death type experience, a trigger a profound encounter with the universe, and then let that encounter with the deeper structure of the universe see how it might impact their anxiety around their imminent death. So, what I did after about four, three low-dose sessions, I opted to work with a very intense regimen with LSD. I worked at psychedelic therapy. I did what turned out to be a 20-year regimen of doing high-dose psychedelic therapy, always using the same protocol, always using the same test conditions. I worked at 500 to 600 micrograms, which is not a protocol that I recommend. I really don’t. I didn’t know as much then as I don’t now. But what I did was to do 73 high-dose, fully internalized, therapeutically focused psychedelic sessions with a sitter, and my wife, first wife, Carol, who is a clinical psychologist, agreed to be my sitter and was my sitter for all of my sessions. And I just pressed this. I worked for four years, and I stopped for six years, and then I came back and worked for 10 very aggressive years. So over the course of 20 years, I did 73 sessions. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this protocol. I would really recommend people work with lower doses. And there is no research protocol right now federally sanctioned that is recommending or looking, considering using doses this high. But I wanted to push the limits, and I thought that if psychedelic, high dose psychedelic work could be done safely three times in the Spring Growth Project, then it could be done safely more than three times. What I found was that it could be done safely more than three times, but it’s very, very demanding work, and it’s more demanding than the original protocols that Spring Growth envisioned. And it opens up opportunities that the early protocol did not envision, but it also opened up challenges that the early protocol had not envisioned. And one of those challenges has to do with how these deep states of consciousness impact our body and impact our subtle energy system. Because what I found was that when I went into these states and went into deeper levels of consciousness and then stabilized my consciousness at that level so that my conscious experience was coherent and stable at that level, eventually pushing, continue to push, I would drop down later into a deeper level of consciousness and then stabilizing at that level and then dropping into a deeper level of consciousness. Each state into a deeper level of consciousness was a state into a higher level of energy, just extraordinarily, very, very powerful levels of energy. So that I had to work very conscientiously as all long-term psychedelic journeyers do, work with the body, work with the subtle energy system, work to detoxify the body, work to clarify negative emotions, work to basically strengthen the subtle energy body. So basically purification, I think, is essential and is endemic to working with psychedelics. In Tibetan Vajrayana, the monks have to do ngondro before they are allowed to take in the high teachings capable of generating enlightenment. So ngondro are the foundational practices. They are the five 100,000 practices that every monk does in Vajrayana. One of those practices involves doing 100,000 prostrations while reciting mantras and prayers and doing visualizations. That’s a tremendous transformation, clarification, strengthening of your subtle energy system. And they do this as a preliminary to entering to receiving the teaching that will allow them to enter into the very, very deep states of consciousness that Vajrayana makes possible. If you go into these deeper states of consciousness quickly, like you tend to do in psychedelic states, tremendously powerful purification processes are triggered. Physical purification processes, physical detoxification, emotional detoxification, mental detoxification. There’s a tremendous kind of catharsis that takes place at all of those levels. And some of those levels, I think, are well described in terms of our subtle energy system. So, you really have to work with the subtle energy bodies. And I don’t think of them as just one body, but multiple bodies that mesh very well against the Indian Ayurvedic system or the Chinese acupuncture meridian system.
Rick: you’re actually almost downplaying what you went through here. If people were to read your book when they do, it’s a tribute to your wife that she was able to sit through these sessions as your sitter watching you go through this because you were going into convulsions, there was projectile vomiting, you were making all kinds of weird noises, and what you were experiencing subjectively was excruciating in many cases. Suffering beyond anything you could have imagined. And you chalk it up to deep purification. You say in your book, “The core of the cycle is this. Increased awareness triggers the surfacing of toxins in the system that in turn precipitates a crisis of disease followed eventually by a higher level of health. This cycle operates at many levels. At the physical level, the psychological level, and the soul level.” And very often -I’m just summarizing here -but very often in your sessions the first part would be one of these horrible ordeals that you would go through, and then the second part, having cleared that away, you’d go into an ecstatic realm and experience all kinds of beautiful things.
Chris: Yeah, basically again, I’m going to discuss this strictly in terms of the LSD body of work. After I stopped my sessions, I’ve done psilocybin a number of times. I’m comfortable in that world. I’ve done ayahuasca several times. I’m comfortable in that world, but I really would like to restrict myself to just the LSD work in describing this. When you die as a self, I understand psychedelics following Stan Grof, and this is a description in terms of their psychoactive properties, not their physiological and neurological properties, but psychologically they seem to function as amplifiers and catalysts of psychological processes. So, they take what is small and make it loud, and they take what is distant and make it close. So, it’s a hyper catharsis and a hyper amplification. For a number of hours, we enter into a temporarily hypersensitive state of awareness, and what we do with that awareness determines what happens in a session. We can listen to a concert and have a good time. We can have conversations, or we can go deep within and use this hypersensitivity to unearth the obstacles to healthy functioning, But then if we go deeper, we can enter into deeper levels of existential functioning and deeper relations with the universe. It’s important to remember, I think, that what we are doing in our laboratories is we are rediscovering a class of chemicals that have been used in cultures for thousands of years. Ayahuasca, we have at least 1,500 years, and psilocybin mushrooms and peyote and mescaline. So, there’s a lot of history between humanity and these substances. Now what we’re doing is studying them in a particular context, which is giving us great insight into these processes, but there’s also a large body of wisdom held in these cultures that have been using these materials for a long time. According to many of these systems, their view is that consciousness is a universal quality of life. We are individually conscious. Other aspects of the physical world are individually conscious, but the universe is conscious and that there are many tiers of comprehensive functioning in the universe. And when you enter into deeper states of awareness, each of these deeper states is a higher level of energy, which then requires a stabilization, it requires a purification process and stabilization process to stay coherent at that level. Now here’s the tricky part. When I started this work, I was thinking this is all about therapy or this is about healing my personal psyche or it’s about enlightening Chris Bache’s poor psyche. It’s about something personal. But some of the pain that you’re referring to, Rick, came about when I went through, after two years of work, went through a crushing ego death experience, just cracked me wide open and then it took me into a new layer of work where for the next two years I went through excruciating psychological, psychophysical suffering. It was so large and so broad and so deep and it went on for so many years that eventually I became convinced that this was not about healing Chris Bache’s’B psyche. It’s not about purifying something that’s somehow personal to Chris Bache. That eventually I was forced to draw the conclusion that somehow something had happened in my sessions that the universe or some functional dynamic of the universe was using my sessions to bring about some type of healing at the collective level of consciousness, some type of healing aimed at the personal psyche. And eventually the way I understand this is that just as I remember all Chris Baches’ experiences for better or for worse, the human species, there is a mind of the human species that remembers all of the experiences of all the members of its species. So then if you think about all the terrible things we’ve done to each other and all the wars and all the killing and all the bloodshed and all the rape and all those terrible pains that somehow the species is stuck with those and has to digest those in the same way that I am stuck with Chris Bache’s’ experiences. And that just as it’s good for Chris Bache if I can somehow confront the darkest pieces of my shadow and bring that to rest, the same thing happens at the collective level for the species as a whole. Usually that type of confrontation takes place in terms of social transformations or social revolutions, but I think in very, very deep psychedelic work my experience was that somehow something was using my sessions to decathlete some body of pain and suffering that was stuck or lodged in the collective psyche. So, to me I just had to go to a collective model in order to understand the data.
Rick: That actually gives new meaning to the saying that Christ died for our sins, you know? I mean, if a being is of great enough stature in terms of the vastness of his awareness, then it’s like an ocean being able to dissolve lots of mud and stuff as opposed to a glass of water which can only take a little bit of mud without becoming entirely overwhelmed by it.
Chris: We see that also in the Buddhist traditions, the bodhisattva is basically someone who basically places the good of the whole over their individual good, makes that their project. But I don’t think this is heavy-duty spiritual requiring great, great beings. I think any mother, any father worth their soul, would do what they can to help end the suffering of a child that they saw. This is just part of the natural case, what it means to be a human. So, if you’re given an opportunity and in deep psychedelic sessions you sometimes are given an opportunity, if you’re given an opportunity to relieve suffering, it’s just the most natural thing in the world to try to do that as best you can.
Rick: Sure, but as best you can. It’s a question of capacity. Rupert Sheldrake talks about morphogenetic fields and you were just alluding to fields being able to store the traumas of humanity. And I’ve also heard it said that wars break out when there’s enough stress accumulated in the field that it can no longer be contained, like the way lightning strikes when there’s enough static electricity built up in clouds. And so, if we can sort of become that field or attune ourselves with it then it seems from what you’re saying in your book that we can become an instrument for its purging, for its purification.
Michael: Yeah, I think the universe seems to be intensely interested in us as individuals, but the universe also seems to be intensely interested in us as a species. And when you’re moving into that level of consciousness where the universe is communing with the species and you’ve gone through ego death, and you’ve gone through a series of deaths where you basically, have dissolved your boundaries and have basically opened up into not all that it is, not mind at large, but species mind, the collective mind of the species, it seems very clear that the universe is nurturing the well-being of this universe, of this species just as it nurtures the well-being of all individuals within the species and all the other species on the planet. That there is a tremendous power that cascades through all of our lives individually and collectively.
Rick: Michael have we lost you?
Michael: No, I’m fascinated by what I’m hearing. I don’t know quite how to process it. I’m kind of curious to know, Chris, where did that turn come from thinking you were dealing with your individual suffering to realizing that this was a collective matter, that this was a transpersonal question? Was it an insight you had during one of these high dose experiences or was it in processing it after the fact? Because that’s a big shift.
Chris: Yeah, it was a big shift and it is a both-and, but probably the most important part of it was after the session as I processed and worked it. It took me years, because I kept trying to process in terms of Stan’s paradigm, in terms of the paradigms that were available and all the paradigms approaching psychedelics were always about healing the individual, enlightening the individual, something like that. And I kept trying to understand and I wrote Dark Night, Early Dawn in large part to answer the question, why did suffering get as large as it did in my psychedelic sessions to try to answer this problem. And eventually that’s where I made the jump beyond the person centered model into a collective model. Now my thinking has gone further since then, but that was where I made the jump. And I wrote that in ’95, ’96, I started the work in ’79. I wrote that book when I was about 15 years into that process. So, it took me at least that idea and then agree to that idea. And then once I began to see it and understand it, then a whole lot of other things began to make sense because the collective level, After going through that ocean of suffering, I call it the ocean of suffering, which lasted two years. When that came to a culmination, when that culminated and I went through a death and rebirth process that was associated with that level of consciousness and went deeper into archetypal reality, high archetypal and low archetypal reality, I had many, many experiences that basically showed me how that worked, showed me how the species mind is alive within all of our fractally embedded individual minds, how our individual minds feed into the collective mind, as Rupert Sheldrake says, and how the collective mind move feeds into the individual mind, that there’s a constant feedback system in that process. And that’s intellectually, it was Rupert’s work. When I integrated Rupert’s morphic field theory into Stan Gross’ paradigm, that’s the part that gave me the intellectual permission to make this radical reinterpretation of the data.
Michael: That’s fascinating. How do you respond to people who say, “Well, you just had a drug experience. You messed with the chemistry in your brain and you had these delusions that you were getting some kind of insight into something collective.” That’s how a lot of people not versed in this world or having had this experience would automatically go. Why should a molecule afford such insight?
Chris: Well, that’s an anthropological question. And I’d rather leave that one to the anthropologists. But I understand the objection. I understand the cautionary concern. I was trained as an analytic philosopher and I was trained in a highly, kind of highly skeptical discipline. So, I really affirm that I value that skepticism. But I also, I think it’s important that we look at the history of human beings’ use of these substances and look at some of the literature and how these substances have been regarded in other civilizations. I think it’s important to look at all the data that is emerging in the modern study of psychedelics. So that in Dark Night, Early Dawn, I have a chapter on the methodology of basically taking a philosophical approach to psychedelic inquiry. And I list some of the reasons why we should take these series, these experiences seriously and we should not dismiss them. One of the data is we sometimes get knowledge in these states of consciousness that we did not have prior and we can reasonably exclude that we did not have, but this knowledge turns out to be true and valid.
Michael: Like the perinatal research that Stan did, for example.
Chris: Some people, will relive aspects of their birth that they can later verify or kind of more radically, one can have an experience which teaches you something about how whales give birth or how lions experience hunger, which you had no idea of before, never crossed your awareness before. And it turns out to be physiologically accurate. Sometimes in one case, I remember Stan saying that in one of his sessions, he was confronted with a person who basically was insisting that Stan call his mother and father, gave them a telephone number and wanted to reassure the parents that he was okay. And this was really, really strange and out of left field. But they wrote down the number, wrote down the names and after the session was over and everything was stable again, Stan very carefully reached out to this phone number and found the husband and wife on the other side and the phone. And it turns out that their son had just died. I don’t remember whether it was several days ago or several weeks before. And they understood that their son would wish them to know that he was okay. So, you get very, very unusual circumstances like that.
Rick: So wait a minute, this wasn’t the physical person in the room that gave the phone number, this was something Stan kind of cognized in some psychedelic state and actually was given a phone number by some non-physical entity and then called the parents and it panned out.
Chris: It was verified.
Rick: Wow, that’s interesting.
Michael: Chris, you said also that you wouldn’t recommend this kind of regime. I have two questions about that. Why not? And second, after the agony that you went through in these sessions, how did you ever muster the courage to do it again, let alone two more times?
Rick: Yeah, before you answer that Chris, I just want to add a little related bit. Did you ever feel that maybe you were frying the circuitry and all this suffering was a result of some damage that you were inflicting upon yourself or that maybe you were opening yourself up to some negative astral level or something like that? How did you have the confidence to proceed? I’m just adding that on to Michael’s question.
Chris: Well, I really trusted Stan Groff’s work. that’s why I consider myself in his lineage. My work is based upon his scholarship. I trusted what I saw in Stan’s work. I trusted the methodology. I trusted his surveying of the literature. I trusted his evidence that there was no physiological, no genetic damage. I trusted the cases that he presented. I appreciated the rigor with which he had digested all various bodies of psychodynamic theory, as he does in Beyond the Brain and integrated them into the phenomenology of psychedelic discourse. And primarily, one of the primary things I got from Stan’s work was an absolute trust that if you surrender completely to what arises in your psychedelic session, you can trust that. And you may not understand it going in, and it may be absolutely horrendous and painful going in. It may take you months or years to understand why things are unfolding the way they are. But you can trust it, and it will always come out good in the end. And that was the procedure I took. I found– why not doing this work, and then what happened in the work? Why not doing this work? I wouldn’t work at doses that high. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend doing doses that high occasionally, but I wouldn’t do such a pounding, blowing a consciousness apart so aggressively for so many sessions and so many years, even though I was doing it in a very responsible manner. I was doing it about five times a year, so I had a lot of time to recuperate. I was taking care of my body. I was doing spiritual practice during all this time. I was keeping detailed notes. I made a phenomenologically precise record within 24 hours of every session. I studied the sessions. I was really trying to be as methodical as I could. But basically, by the time I was at the end, the time I was finishing this journey, I had a number of breakthroughs and a number of insights we can talk about. But I came to understand that one other assumption that I had made about this work was wrong. The assumption was that there is a certain goal that you can get to, that there was an end point, that it could be oneness with God or oneness or the meta cosmic void or the supracosmic void, that there was an end point that you would get to. And what I found eventually, when I had experienced many permutations of oneness, I found that there are variations and subtleties of oneness and there are even variations in the void, in the domain of formlessness. And if you have a method which is so powerful, it keeps pushing you to the edge of your experiential boundaries. It’ll keep taking you through remorselessly boundary after boundary after boundary, leading into deeper, deeper intimacy with the, I call it the creative intelligence of the universe. I don’t know what else to call it. It’s infinitely vast, it’s infinitely intelligent, it’s infinitely compassionate. What it has taught me and just the experience of dissolving into it without any boundaries left over has been enormously, has been deeply life-changing. But late into the process, about 17 years into the process, I had an experience where I was as far deep into the diamond luminosity, I call it, deep into what the Buddhists call Dharmakaya, the clear light of absolute reality. As far into it as I had ever gone, I was in deep state of bliss and clarity. And all of a sudden, my visual field pivoted 90 degrees and I saw reality far, far in the distance. It looked like galaxies and a ray of light emerged from that reality and hit me and it absolutely shattered me. And in those few seconds I realized it’s an infinite progression. You cannot get to the end of the universe, you cannot get to the end of the mind of the universe, it’s an infinite progression. And that’s one of the reasons I would be gentler with myself. I would be gentler because I think what we can do with these substances, we can open ourselves up to the infinity and we can take in as much of the infinity as we can get into our system, as much as we can psychologically digest, emotionally digest, physically digest, and I’m more patient now with the slower trajectory of spiritual and psychological development than I was when I was a young man running into the states.
Rick: What you were just saying addresses something that Michael brought up a few minutes ago, which was how can some molecules adjust our brain in such a way that we actually begin to have cognitions, deep meaningful cognitions about the meaning of life or the nature of reality and all that. And I had written down a question here, “Are psychedelic visions merely projections of our personal psyche, or do we experience things that actually exist but are ordinarily beyond the range of our perception?” But what you just said about the creative intelligence of the universe or the mind of the universe answers the question, because if that’s the way it is, if there is a mind of the universe, if the foundation or the ground state of the universe is an ocean of creative intelligence out of which the universe emerges, then by whatever Means, psychedelics or meditation or whatever, that we manage to merge with that ocean, then we sort of realize our ultimate essential identity with that mind of the universe or with that creative intelligence, which is, we can say, the repository of all the laws of nature, the repository of all knowledge. And although as a human being we can only kind of express so much of it, we’ll always have our limitations as a finite instrument, we can kind of dip into it in such a way that we share in a kind of omniscience. You know what I’m trying to say? And we absorb it to some extent. And so, all the great pronouncements of the mystics throughout the ages have been their attempts through the human form, through human language, to express that merging that they experienced.
Chris: Yeah, I think when we have temporary experience of infinity it leaves a lasting impression even when we are back to being a finite being. And if we have temporary experience of infinite love, all-embracing, all-inclusive, and a love that transcends species and reaches out to the molecules of existence, the atoms of existence itself, then when we congeal back into our ordinary time-space suit, it has an effect, it has a profound effect. And I guess that’s one of the other reasons I would suggest that we should give these experiences a measure of credence. It’s not just because of the empirical assessment, empirical data, and the correlation between multiple experiencers. And I want to mention there’s always deception, there’s always incompleteness, there’s always distortion. We always are going to have to deal with, “well, what if it’s just this and not that?” Absolutely, that’s the nature of the dialogue, that’s a discussion.
Rick: That’s a worthy question.
Michael: The experience has enormous authority. I think it’s one of the most striking things about psychedelics is that, what William James called the noetic sense in speaking of mystical experience, that it is, these don’t seem just kind of subjective opinions, they seem like authoritative truths. And that’s one of the reasons they’re so sticky. I wonder, Chris, whether you feel that with the proper discipline and commitment you could get to the same place with meditation.
Chris: Absolutely. I think so, with some qualifications. In that, since I’m a professor of religious studies and I’ve taught courses in comparative mysticism and I have had the luxury of studying some of the mystical traditions, the great masters who do this through entirely natural means, and there are masters who do it with other assisted means as well, the great masters have always been my guiding light in this material. And it’s always been, to be able to sustain these states for a few hours is great, but to be able to sustain them for months, years, that’s greater still and to be respected. Now, I mentioned that Carol, my sitter, is a serious Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner always was during the years we were working together. And she never did a psychedelic session, never did a session with me. She was always much more contemplative in her practice. And subsequently, after we had separated, and she’s remarried and I’ve remarried, we’re still close, she has gone on and completed her three-year, three-month, three-day retreat under the supervision of her teacher. So, she’s a serious practitioner. And I’m a modest practitioner by comparison, but I understand the relationship between my psychedelic experiences and the experiences which are preserved in the meditative traditions that she has introduced me to or that I’ve been introduced through her. And I see a very, very strong correlation. I don’t think the cosmology that we’re encountering with deep psychedelic work is original. It’s not new. We see this cosmology in the great spiritual mystical traditions of history. That said, I think that all of those traditions in history are all stage specific. They all reflect a certain historical context and anthropological context and even an evolutionary context. I don’t see them as eternal truths. I see them as approximations of an ever-growing, expanding truth. So, I think that there are certain ways in which the cosmology that psychedelics can introduce us to can push the edges of those classic cosmologies and you can push the edges and that opens up new possibilities. I don’t think, for example, a deep immersion into trans-temporal experience is a deeply ingrained quality in mystical experiences, but that has happened a great deal in my psychedelic experiences. I started this work in 1979 because I was interested in spirituality. I was interested in enlightenment. I had been meditating for a number of years. I thought that I could encounter the kind of blocks that are pretty typical in early stages of meditation and I thought that by doing some sessions I could deal with those blocks, blast through them and I could reach enlightenment faster. It didn’t work out quite that way. But what I found was that when I really went into it, that was one track, the enlightenment track. A second track opened that was really a very different track and that’s the track of cosmic exploration to actually explore the consciousness of the universe, to explore deeply the fabric of reality and experience it all its ins and outs. It’s not that these are incompatible, but the cosmological inquiry came to dominate my sessions. So, I wouldn’t want to use the measure of enlightenment as meaningful and beautiful and important as that is, as the criteria for evaluating everything that happened in my sessions. I sort of see there are different projects and only in the very late years did it kind of come back around into the classical enlightenment kind of work.
Rick: I think there have been plenty of yogis and siddhas and so on who have done plenty of cosmic exploration and they’ve written down their findings. They’ve just gone about it through various other means. Did you want to add something there, Michael?
Rick: Okay, I have a line of questioning here that will shift our gears a little bit.
Chris: Let me just mention one thing. If psychedelics, if LSD is only an amplifier of consciousness, then by definition it does nothing that can’t be achieved through other methods for exploring consciousness, because it’s not the psychedelic which does this, it’s consciousness which does this. We’re simply amplifying and focusing it and you’re focusing consciousness in meditation, you can go into these places in meditation.
Rick: Yeah, and that thing you said about patience as you get older and kind of abandoning the enlightenment or bust attitude, I mean, I had done some psychedelics in the 60s for about a year and then I learned to meditate when I was 18 and I’ve been doing it for 51 years, a couple of hours a day. And for many years there was a sort of desperate feeling of, “God, I’ve got to get enlightened, I’ve got to break through.” After a while that just sort of dissipated, it just sort of oozed away and contentment kind of dawned and I just don’t think that way anymore. I don’t know whether that’s due to natural maturation or whether it’s due to the results of meditation bringing about a kind of an abiding sense of fulfillment, which is not dependent upon any external circumstances. But one way or the other, I think that whatever one chooses to do; safety first is a good rule of thumb because impatience can result in some pretty unfortunate situations, if one proceeds recklessly in any sense.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely.
Rick: Okay, so here’s a question I wanted to ask. I have a good friend named Dana Sawyer, we’ve been friends since we were kids practically. He’s been a professor of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art and an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at the Bangor Theological Seminary, and he’s written biographies of Aldous Huxley and Houston Smith. And he had two questions that are related. One is, “What are the connections…” we’ve kind of covered this, so maybe the answer to this first bit will be quick. “What are the connections, similarities and differences between psychedelic states and mystical states of consciousness?” Have we covered that adequately? Maybe we have.
Michael: Well, the researchers that I spend a lot of time interviewing see them lining up very closely, and sometimes they use the term “mystical-like experience” because I think they don’t want to offend anyone on the religion side. But they study very closely the anatomy of mystical experience, especially as William James described it, and they feel that it has all the 6, 7 or 8 characteristics.
Rick: Yeah, actually I was reminded and a question just came in that Ram Dass gave some LSD to Neem Karoli Baba, and apparently it had no effect on him, because presumably I guess the interpretation was that he was already in some kind of high abiding state and LSD really couldn’t add to it in any way.
Michael: I’ve heard that story for a very long time and the dose was one of Chris’s doses, it was like 500 or 600 micrograms, and I have to say I’ve always thought it was apocryphal, but we have to ask.
Chris: Now you’ll find the story in the book “Miracle of Love” which is Ram Dass’s collection of anecdotes about Neem Karoli Baba, and according to Ram Dass, he gave him 600 micrograms the first time, and then basically he wasn’t affected. He came back to the United States and he told his friends and he said, “Oh, he must have palmed it. Nobody can take 600 mics and not be affected,” and he went back to the ashram and Neem Karoli Baba called him over and he said, “Do you have any more of that Western medicine?” And he brought everything he had, him see that he was taking them and swallowed them, and it didn’t affect him.
Rick: Did you ever hear Bruce Joel Rubin’s story? Bruce wrote the screenplay for the movie “Ghost” and he won the Oscar for that, and he also wrote the screenplay for “Jacob’s Ladder” and some other movies. Anyway, he’s been on Bat gap, but he was a teenager living in New York City in some apartment, and somebody brought over a glass mayonnaise jar full of liquid sandos that was going to be shipped up to Millbrook for Timothy Leary’s gang and asked if he could store it in their refrigerator. So it was in their refrigerator, so they’re sitting around and they think, “We should try this,” and so his friend was going to put a drop on his tongue using a dropper and he squeezed the whole dropper. Anyway, you can look it up, it’s quite a story.
Chris: Groff says that there is a natural threshold of about 500 micrograms. If you take more than that, you don’t necessarily get higher, so there’s a kind of a cutoff around 500 to 600 micrograms.
Rick: That’s good to know.
Chris: Saturation point.
Rick: Here’s the important question, and then we should let Michael go. This is my second one from Dana. I should have asked this one first. He said that Houston Smith once argued that traits matter more than states, and even if psychedelics can trigger religious experiences, it’s less clear they can develop religious lives. Dana mentioned that psychedelics can definitely trigger genuine mystical states, as measured by eight of the nine parameters of the states/Panki typology, but the ninth parameter is continued improvements in behavior. So, is there evidence that psychedelic experiences lead to more compassionate or selfless behavior?
Michael: I think it’s a really good question. I don’t think I know the answer to it. Some people feel that the fact that attaining knowledge through psychedelics is so rapid, I hate to use the word easy, especially after what Chris has told us, that it is less enduring, has less traction in our lives. The analogy sometimes used is that if you climb the mountain and you get to the top and you get that view, and then someone lands on the mountain in a helicopter, they get the same view, but they haven’t earned it in the same way, and therefore it is less powerful. That strikes me as kind of a Puritan view, that you need works, you need good works to justify faith. So, I don’t know if it’s true. I think that there are many people who’ve had psychedelic experiences that they’ve carried the insights and the convictions through to their lives and changed their lives and become more moral or more ethical people, and there are people for whom it hasn’t been sticky. And I think that’s part of the work of integration. I think that’s part of approaching it with reverence and recognition of the power that there is another big step, which is how do you apply what you’ve seen and what do you do with it and how does it change your behavior? And I don’t think there’s anything, there’s nothing inherent in the experience that makes you more or less likely to do that. It’s really up to us. But, I think it’s something everyone doing these explorations should bear in mind. It’s not going to be automatic. There are people who’ve done psychedelics and come out and behaved really badly, and there are people who’ve had their ego dissolved during psychedelic experience and then it inflated enormously after. And so, I think we have to be very wary of those pitfalls.
Rick: I think the same can be said of meditation. I know people who’ve been meditating for decades that I wouldn’t want to associate with. They act like real SOBs sometimes, and others who really underwent a deep transformation and became much better people. So maybe there does need to be, in addition to whatever, the practice for dipping in the consciousness, maybe there needs to be a kind of a conscious attention to ethics and, being a more responsible human being.
Chris: Yeah, I completely agree with both of you. I agree with you, Michael, that a mystical experience does not a mystic make, to paraphrase Houston Smith, but also a mystical experience can a materialist philosophy unmake. And so, I think it has philosophical significance if we have X number of people who do X number of sessions and have an emerging consensus around what they envision the cosmos to be like. That’s significant. But I think you’re absolutely right. To have an experience does not necessarily make you a wiser, kinder, gentler person. But if you use those experiences and work conscientiously in integrating them, then hopefully they will. They don’t flip a switch. They don’t make you what you are becoming automatically, but they act as, I think, a seed catalyst.
Chris: And you cultivate those seeds.
Michael: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great note for me to leave you on. I’m very sorry I have to leave, but I have another appointment. And I thank you very much for a very stimulating conversation and I look forward to continuing sometime.
Rick: Yes, thank you so much, Michael. And I should add that Michael’s book will be coming out in paperback on what, did you say the 14th?
Rick: Well, Tuesday. By the time this interview is up, the book will be out. And you can get it on Amazon and I’ll have a link to it on the page on batgap.com where I feature this interview.
Michael: And Chris, I look forward to your new book and I’ll be sure to order it. c Thank you, Michael. We have more conversations, I hope. We have lots more to talk about.
Michael: I think we do. We’ve just begun. Thank you.
Rick: Thank you, Michael.
Michael: Real pleasure.
Rick: And those who are listening, hang on because I’m going to continue a little longer with Chris. Let me start, Chris, by asking a few questions that have come in from the audience, and I want to save time before we wrap up to talk about your notion of the birth of the future human, which I think is fascinating and the changes that humanity may have to go through as that birth takes place, okay? So, let’s budget our time. Let me know when you feel like we should cut the questions and get to that. Here’s one from Amit in New Zealand. He asks, “After ayahuasca sessions, I experienced some detrimental energetic shifts, for lack of better words, waking up deeply physically tired for months afterwards that became somewhat worrisome. Are there specific methods or practices that you can personally recommend for the most efficient integration and minimization of any potential detrimental physical energetic effects after some deep sessions?”
Chris: That’s a complicated question. First, because every psychedelic is a little different, and you’re talking about ayahuasca. It has a different quality than LSD and a different quality than psilocybin mushroom. But basically, ayahuasca, potentialists assume a rather strong dose of ayahuasca, has tremendous impact on our physiology and our psychology. And when we jar ourselves that way, when we enter into these temporary conditions of awareness, which are so radically different than our ordinary awareness, it’s going to shake up our system and it’s going to impact us. And I think we have to be gentle with ourselves and we should cultivate practices of contemplation to help us integrate these experiences. I don’t think there’s necessarily any formula that will ensure an outcome that doesn’t lead to these periods of physical exhaustion or sometimes a psychological kind of exhaustion that follows. But basically, I think if we go to the spiritual literature, and we look at the literature about what does it mean to take up a spiritual practice, my belief is the more powerful the psychedelic experience you want to cultivate, either by the nature of the chemical, the strength of the chemical, or the frequency with which you’re doing the chemical, the more you push your system into this new territory, the more important it is for you to cultivate meditation and the classic forms of contemplative practice, taking care of the body, stretching the body, taking care of the subtle energy system, taking care of your emotional life, taking care of your mental life, your spiritual life. I think those are all important. Now, how it actually cashes out to a specific regimen. I know I have my regimen, I always have had my regimen that changed through the years. I just think it’s good to ask the question that he’s asking and to seek advice and to cultivate the regimens which will help stabilize the system when it’s come back from such an extreme experience.
Rick: Good answer. And there’s other things: exercise, diet, obvious stuff that anybody benefits from if they do it regularly and properly. So, all that stuff – everything is interconnected. This is a question from Bobby in Griffin, Georgia. Bobby asks, “If psychedelics give a glimpse into true nature or reality, then that seems to beg the question of there being some sort of sheath or mask covering common daily experience. Is this sheath or veil developed during early childhood and therefore would infancy and early childhood experience be akin to psychedelic experience?”
Chris: Well, I understand the logic and I sort of see that and I know the number of people would say that. And at the same time, I hope no child has ever had some of the experiences that I’ve had on psychedelics, not just the negative ones, but even the cosmic ecstatic ones. That’s an extremely powerful experience and I hope a child doesn’t have to take that in. But within that caveat, I think there’s a certain sense in which children are more naturally receptive to some of those more sensitive dimensions of consciousness and they lose that sensitivity as they get older and it’s kind of talked out of them and conditioned out of them until later they have to rediscover it. I think it’s not just like something that happens in childhood. Again, I don’t just study psychedelics, I study reincarnation research, near-death episode research, out-of-body research. I study lots of different forms of non-ordinary states of consciousness. And I think the image that’s coming clear is that when we die, we expand into a larger, subtle, higher state of consciousness and when we incarnate, we contract into a small, physically dominant kind of consciousness. We die, we expand into great spaciousness, we incarnate, it gets small. We keep this up over and over and over again. The more we do it, the more over thousands and thousands of years, the more we do it, slowly we begin to integrate spiritual dimensions and physical dimensions so that they’re not really an either/or, that they begin to be a both/and within our own lifetime, within our own body. So, I think it’s actually taking up an incarnation at all has a naturally contractive effect on consciousness. I don’t think it’s something we’re doing wrong to our children, though once you understand that progression, I think there are things that we can do that would help our children adjust to this world.
Rick: Yeah, that cycle you just mentioned can be true of meditation too. My teacher used to use the example of dyeing a cloth in India, where they’d take the white cloth, dip it in the colored dye, then bleach it in the sun, then dip it in the dye, then bleach it in the sun, go back and forth and back and forth until eventually it becomes colorfast even if you leave it in the sun. So, you dip into samadhi and then you engage in activity, and you do it again and engage in activity, and the nervous system gets transformed thereby.
Rick: And the samadhi becomes stabilized, so you end up having Nirvikalpa samadhi all the time, or whatever they call the term. It doesn’t have to just be with eyes closed.
Rick:Okay, one more question from the audience and then I want to get into the birth of the future human. So, David from Cambridge, England asks, “If psilocybin or similar substances were made widely available to the public, do you think there would be a negative side effect to consciousness and/or society? Are these substances restricted, perhaps due to society not being ready for them?” And I’ll add that Michael Pollan wrote an op-ed in the New York Times just the other day commenting on the recent permissiveness in Colorado for the use of psychedelic mushrooms, and he cautioned
Chris: Yeah, they decriminalized mushrooms.
Rick: Right, so he cautioned, you know, take it easy, we shouldn’t go too fast here because there could be negative consequences.
Chris: Yeah, we should have gotten Michael to comment on that since that just came out today.
Rick: I ran out of time, yeah.
Chris: Yeah, okay, focus on the Cambridge question again.
Rick:Oh, is it perhaps prudent that psychedelics are restricted to the extent they are, or at least to some extent, because all hell might break loose if they just became like the libertarians want to legalize all drugs. I don’t know if that would be advisable.
Chris: One of the points that Michael makes in his article, if I can just invoke something he said there, which I completely agree with, is that when you look at cultures who have a long-term relationship with psychoactive substances, you do not find them being used recreationally. You find them being used under very careful ritual spiritual conditions. You find them being used in collective circumstances that you don’t just go trip out by yourself. We have a great deal to learn from cultures who have a living history with these substances. Our culture has very little living history with these substances except recreational or in the underground movement. So we are, given our naivete, maybe it is good to be cautious for bringing these into our culture. But I absolutely agree with something else Michael says, is that nobody should be put in jail for possessing some psychoactive mushrooms. I don’t think they’re toxicology, they’re very safe psychologically, extremely safe. They’re not habit forming. You want to use them carefully. You want to use them under guidance, but they’re much less destructive than cigarettes or alcohol. And we’ve learned how to live with cigarettes and alcohol. So I hope that we will decriminalize, I hope that we will more importantly, we will learn how to work respectfully with these very powerful substances. They can be life transforming but we have to be careful as we approach them.
Rick: Good, so well said. You have a section in your book towards the end that’s entitled “The Birth of the Future Human – Global Awakening and its Impact on Society.” I just want to read a couple little bits from it. You say, “I believe that the global systems crisis taking place in the world outside us is deeply connected to the evolutionary metamorphosis taking place inside us. You say, “Humanity is coming into a time of great awakening, a profound shift in the fundamental condition of the human psyche. But for there to be a great awakening, there must first take place a great death. This global crisis will be so severe that it will impact not only individuals but the collective unconsciousness of humanity itself.” And I’m just going to read a little bit more because when you had the session in which you kind of cognized that, you wrote recently, “It took me more than a year to recover from this session. For months I walked around the city where I live feeling like someone walking around Hiroshima a week before the bomb was dropped with unbidden knowledge of what lies ahead and profound respect for all the participants. It was terrible to experience humanity’s coming collapse but redemptive to experience the rebirth that followed. Since that session I have never doubted the larger arc of our evolutionary journey even as I mourn its casualties. Without a vision of where nature is taking us, without understanding the higher good that our collective suffering is bringing forward in history, we might drown in the sorrow that lies ahead and we must not drown. I believe the form that the future human will take will be the diamond soul.” So that gives you a springboard to elaborate a bit.
Chris: Yeah, okay. Let me just back up just a second. When you work with high doses of LSD, when you’re doing it in a totally internalized, contracted for and you intensify it with music and eye shades and all that usual good stuff, you basically just explode your consciousness. You just shatter your consciousness and you explode it and for six hours or eight hours at a time you become a different kind of being. You’re not a human being. You open yourself up into unprecedented intimacy with the universe and the universe is in the role of teacher and in the role of instructor and the universe decides where you go and what you learn. It seems to be a balance between what you’re capable of taking in and what the universe wants you to take in. So as my journey continued and I was doing this systematically over the years, one of the things that began to happen about 23 sessions in started then is that I began to have a series of visionary experiences of where the universe was taking the human race, the human species. Basically about the evolutionary dynamics of the species, one’s consciousness became such a powerful factor in human evolution where we’re not right now fundamentally changing our body very fast but we are changing consciousness relatively fast. And so, I had many experiences of the evolutionary dynamics of where humanity is and where it’s going and the vision that came through over and over again was that humanity was poised on the edge of an enormous breakthrough, just a tremendous breakthrough that would forever change the foundation of life on this planet and it wasn’t simply a civilizational breakthrough or an economic breakthrough or technological breakthrough or an industrial production breakthrough. It was a breakthrough in the fundamental platform of consciousness, the fundamental baseline of human consciousness and that there was a tremendous pressure building up and there was a tremendous kind of acceleration of our conscious dynamics and there was a tremendous detoxification taking place in the reincarnation of generation after generation. So, this was not simply influencing individuals, it was influencing the entire human species, there was a collective dynamic. It showed me the vision that we are coming to a great awakening, just an exponential increase in our psychological and psychophysical capacity but it didn’t give me any indication of how it was going to accomplish this. I had no idea after years of vision how it was going to accomplish this. And then in 1995 the universe took me deep into deep time, it was a grueling experience to get there but eventually blew me out into a radical expanded time framework and took me into the heart of the death and rebirth of humanity. The state of consciousness that I was in when I went through this process was not Chris Bache having a collective experience, I dissolved completely and I experienced a coming crisis as the species experiences it. It’s like being able to experience a thunderstorm where you can experience the storm as a totality and each individual drop simultaneously. And what it showed me was that this tremendous global systems crisis that we are entering which seems to be driven by an ecological crisis, this world climate change eco-crisis leading to, would lead to a tremendous global crisis of a fundamental institutions, a major die-off around the planet, tremendous pain and suffering. But that this pain was actually transformative, that this pain was actually part of a process of confronting our past and confronting the legacy of that past, essentially confronting karma and going through a death and rebirth process that would basically carry us beyond our standard level of functioning before this point in time. So, there was a sense in which in this event, it’s not a single event, it’s an evolutionary process. I don’t know how many generations it will take. I’m assuming it would take multiple generations for this to be enacted, but that we actually will be brought to our knees, we will lose control, we will basically suffer terribly, our children and grandchildren will suffer terribly, but that this suffering was actually labor. It wasn’t simply a destructive process, it wasn’t simply an extinction process, or it may feel like that at the time, but it was a labor process that when this process reached its absolute peak, and it looked like we would all die, the storm passed and there were survivors. And as the survivors began to pull their life together, they began to connect with each other in new and unprecedented ways. There was a time of new values, new insights, new technology, new social relationships, a new internalization of deep spiritual values, fundamentally a new experience of oneness in our daily lives that we really truly experience that we are all one in this process and we have deep responsibilities to all life forms, not only to each other in human life forms, but to all life forms on the planet and elsewhere. No that’s sort of one kind of, that’s the part that you quoted. There’s another part of the sessions which basically took reincarnation, – I wrote my first book on reincarnation, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking in terms of reincarnation, but it took me deep and it took me into an experience where I began to integrate all my former lives. They began to come in to be very fast and furious and they began to, it was like winding light, kite string made of light around a spool and when I had integrated so many lives, eventually there was a fusion of all of their learning and all of their experience fused into one and when there was a fusion, my consciousness exploded into a diamond light consciousness and I became an individual, but in an order of individuality which I had never experienced before. It was the sum total of all of my lives that had cascaded and lifted me into a state of consciousness that was more than just the sum of all their experiences. There was a catalyst into a deeper functioning of conscious awareness with respect to myself, with respect to other people and with respect to the universe. That’s what I came to call the birth of the diamond soul, that when we reincarnate over and over and over and over again, we are not simply making incremental improvements on our quality of life, more compassion, more knowledge, so on and so forth, but in an evolutionary sense, there comes a time when sooner or later the soul wakes up inside our physical incarnation. So, all of our former lives, all of our learning, all of the experiences we have kind of fuse and reach a crescendo and we wake up. It’s like the bubble pops and we wake up and we know we are not just this body, we know we are not just this ego, we know we are not just this incarnation, that we have relationships with everyone around us that’s been going on for thousands of years and it opens up new possibilities for a deeper communion with the creative intelligence of the universe itself. I think what my visionary experience has been, is that this is a transition which we are making as a species. We are growing into the birth of the diamond soul. We are also obviously going into a cascading series of crises at the global level. So, as we are trying to become one planet in the outside, I think there is a synergistic coupling to the fact that we are trying to become one being internally. We are integrating all of our former lives into ourselves as we are trying to transcend the limitations of our past engineering and ecological industrial practices. We are trying to become one planet geophysically, geopolitically. We are trying to take responsibility for the healthy functioning of a planet that reinforces and is fueled by this intra-psychic process where we are trying to grow up. We are trying to come to terms with who and what we actually are. This is what I call the birth of the future human. I think this crisis that we are entering and that will dominate the crisis, it’s not simply an industrial production crisis. It’s a crisis of consciousness. It’s an evolutionary crisis and it’s giving birth to a future human. Late in my sessions at the very, very end, the last great vision that the universe gave me in one of my sessions, it took me deep into deep time. It took me deep into the future and it gave me my last experience of the future human. It was as if it took me into the future and allowed me to try on for size the fundamental blueprint of the human psyche at that point in the future. This was the most extraordinary being. Just, I can’t describe to you quickly what an extraordinary Being, this being is. Just picture the highest, finest qualities we’ve imagined. Picture the highest spiritual capacities we can imagine, a mind completely open to the universe, a heart completely open to each other, just an extraordinarily magnificent being. That’s what’s at stake here. That’s what we’re trying to become. That’s where I think we’re going.
Rick: Beautiful, so eloquently put. I can’t really add anything to it and we’re almost out of time, and I’ll just say that if anybody finds what you just said frightening in terms of what the world may go through in transition to this beautiful future, there are people who are stocking up food and stocking up guns and doing all kinds of things in preparation for the chaos they feel will be coming, I’d say that what you really want to stock up on is consciousness, spiritual evolution, as much of it as you can get under your belt through whatever means works for you. That will be the best form of preparation for whatever life may bring.
Chris: I absolutely agree. The old kind of survivalist is basically trying to take care and hold on to ego, but what we really need is cultivation of service, transformation, generosity, compassion � those are the qualities that will carry us into this future.
Rick: Yep. Alright, well I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, I’ve really enjoyed reading your book. I want to close with an endorsement from our friend Anne Baring, who’s been on BATGAP, about your book. She said, “Once or twice in a century a book appears that has the explosive force of a supernova, breaking through the limitations of religion, science and culture. LSD and the Mind of the Universe is such a book, a gripping account of an utterly unique and extraordinary hero’s journey that opens our minds and hearts to a new vision of our universe and ourselves as inseparable from the ineffable being we have called God. All beliefs fade before the incandescent revelations contained in this book, a deeply moving template of our evolutionary journey.” I think, beautifully written, and it was a marvelous book. So, the book, as you said, won’t be out until when, November or something like that?
Chris: November 26th. Amazon has it on pre-order, but it’ll be out then.
Rick: Yeah, and I have a link for it prepared so people can order it now and it’ll come in time for Christmas.
Chris: There you go. I did this work for time to digest everything that happened in those first 20 years before I was really ready to share them with other people.
Rick: Yeah, and it’s been a great conversation. Conversations like this could go on for many more hours, but interviews are meant to be sort of a sampling.
Chris: Wonderful, Rick, and the work you’re doing here, the number of minds that you’re opening, the number of conversations you’re having, bringing people together – talk about a catalyst for positive change in our future. Way to go, brother.
Rick: Thank you very much. Hope to meet you in person one of these days.
Chris: Yes, let’s do that.
Rick: Okay, so let me just close by thanking those who have been listening or watching. I encourage you to go to batgap.com and explore the menus. There’s a few things there you might want to do, like sign up for the email newsletter or subscribe to the audio podcast or donate if you feel like donating. And there’s some other things on the site if you poke around. So really appreciate your time and attention, those in the audience, and also you of course, Chris and Michael, who has left. But it was a great conversation and I’m really glad we got to do it. Thank you.
Chris: Thank you.