Tuesday, 6 December 2011

the noradrenaline hypothesis of self-consciousness

this is a monograph to help me promote a book i wrote with dr. tomorrow (frank ogden)

SHAMANIC GRAFFITI - 100 000 YEARS OF DRUGS, 100 YEARS OF PROHIBITION


fall 2008 -

I was studying meditation with a character who called himself Master Dyhan Vimal -

"look around the room and notice the things in it and meditate on how you are not these things... keep falling into yourself" - the objective being to enhance sense of self what Eckhart Tole describes as "fierce acceptance and intense presence" - perhaps the dynamic opposite of dissociation, depersonalization, derealization.





THE NORADRENALINE HYPOTHESIS

of self-consciousness





MARCUS RUMMERY
2011
The  Noradrenaline Hypothesis

Marcus Rummery 2011

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science measured against reality is childlike and primitive – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

Albert Einstein
Abstract

This monograph concerns the null hypothesis that noradrenaline levels in the HPA (hypothalamic – pituitary – adrenal) axis of the brain are not correlated with the subjective “sense of self”.  The work of Terrence McKenna and Drs. Timothy Leary and Stanislav Grof combined with psychopharmacology and psychiatry provides the intellectual foundation, all constructed upon the common bedrock of psychedelic literature generally.  I have just published (21st Century Inc.) a book called Shamanic Graffiti: 100 000 years of drugs – 100 years of prohibition with co-author Frank Ogden who worked at Hollywood Hospital near Vancouver Canada from 1961-1968 as a “psychedelic flight engineer” supervising “integrative” experiences with LSD and mescaline.  His notes provide further data along with my own seventeen years of personal growth and research since “turning on” to Prozac in 1993.   The Hollywood Hospital material indicates than Dr. Grof’s description of the drug experience is much more accurate and practical than Dr. Leary’s.  Grof proposes that psychedelic drugs “increase the energetic niveau of the psyche” and therefore can act as an “inner radar” seeking the “highest emotional charge”, when this experience begins the therapist(s) must encourage the fullest possible expression with the greatest “discharge to the periphery” of emotional energy.  Grof organizes the unconscious into four levels - the sensory – aesthetic, biographical, perinatal (around birth) and transpersonal.  Leary believed that the brain could be organized into eight circuits and that during “critical windows” the first four circuits would take “imprints” that together forge a “reality tunnel” through the brain determining how future realities will be experienced.  The second of these circuits I believe to be related to noradrenaline and subjective sense of self – dissociation vs. philosopher Eckhart Tolle’s “fierce acceptance and intense presence.”  If this second noradrenaline circuit is functioning well the brain will be able to better integrate the unconscious material.  The upper half of the brain (circuits five to eight) involves mostly interrupting the lower circuit imprints and consciously creating new ones (transcendence).  Although Leary’s description of the psychedelic experience doesn’t seem as valid as Grof’s his eight-circuit model does integrate well with psychopharmacology.  I conclude by suggesting possible psychedelic drug treatments for specific conditions and outlining Operation Resilient Dawn – a $30 million mission to establish 150 psychedelic clinics around the world, at least two-thirds at Universities and Hospitals, by 2030.


PREFACE

“We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”

Johnny Gator in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia

“Sometimes in life we master our experiences, sometimes we don’t.”
anonymous synopsis of abnormal psychology

“All mental illness is the result of an unwillingness to experience legitimate pain.”

Carl Gustav Jung

The most important event of my life occurred on February 19, 1995 when I experienced a transformational psychological death-rebirth experience after taking psilocybin mushrooms.  A year earlier, a few weeks into my second course of Prozac treatment, I had smoked a joint and had a full-blown panic attack; I fell into a deep depression, lost thirty pounds, quit University, and developed psoriasis. 

A few weeks before that infamous day in February, my Mushroom Armageddon, given my adverse reaction to Prozac, I was switched to desipramine, one of the original tricyclic anti-depressants marketed after the very first imipramine emerged in the early 1960s. Desipramine is 1500 times stronger at raising noradrenaline levels than serotonin and in my opinion having high noradrenaline levels was essential to surviving the events that followed. 

Warming up for a party at a friend’s house, right after ingesting the psychoactive fungi I happened upon an Omni magazine with an article by LSD discoverer Albert Hoffman.  In it he laments his problem child’s descent into the unsupervised and unscientific underground, but the last paragraph puzzled me, it said LSD showed promise in the treatment of alcoholism and depression.  But how could hallucinations and uncontrollable laughter be considered psychotherapy?  

This question was interrupted by the specter of an old high-school friend comforting his terrified girlfriend – whose eyes shone with terror.  “I’m going to take her home,” he said sheepishly, “it’s her first time.”  This cast rather a pall over the evening and I felt a surge of something very strong and dark mounting in my chest.  My attention was diverted by a strong taste of pepper, apparently due to a conversation happening beside me.  This gustatory hallucination continued as we headed into a cab to a party called “Who’s Your Daddy.”  Anxiety was mounting, tracing it to thoughts was impossible, I thought I saw an old woman at a bus stop draw her finger across her throat.

When we arrived at the party I was in full-blown panic/insane/suicide mode.  My skin was white and the cupboards were a melting nauseous green.  I begged my friend for the keys to his apartment where I had some diazepam (Valium), wondering if I could resist the temptation to hurl myself off a bridge on the way.  He pleaded with me to stay and suggested we go outside and get a breath of fresh air.  We went outside, I sat on an electrical-box and the next one or two minutes of clock time would confound every assumption my mind possessed. 

A couple breaths of winter air and every cell in my body seemed to let go, leaving a feeling of total visceral relaxation and a kind of perfectly grounded selfdom.  Psychologists use the term depersonalization to describe feeling alienated from one’s self; this was an experience of repersonalization. 

Everyone agrees that a drug can make someone feel really good or really bad - but going from bad to worse to transformation and a much more solid brand of feeling good than I had ever imagined possible was an astonishing surprise. The following six months I was a changed man - spiritual (thinking and feeling beyond my “skin encapsulated ego”), pragmatic and happy. 

The second most important event in my life was being sexually abused as a child.  Trauma primed me for an explosive reaction to psychedelics that reverberates to this day.  Depression and alcoholism are over-represented on my family tree and when a sensitive nervous system meets a vicious and uncompromising world an angry ruthless suffering is often the result.  Not that my life has been a miserable one, for as I would learn later, it is in the misery itself where the mystery of transformation lay.

Needless to say the “afterglow” waned after about six months but I had learned that the worse I felt the closer I was to getting better.  Being an optimistic greenhorn of 21 I figured it was only a matter of time before psychedelic therapy would be widely available.

In fact my experience was not typical for me or anyone, scientists Robert Masters and Jean Houston in their 1966 book Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, described only five percent as achieving this “integral” level.  It is my belief and therefore my burden to prove that my augmented noradrenaline levels during the tumult of the mushrooms prevented the normal dissociating one would naturally resort to and allowed me to integrate my unconscious and become transformed.


Introduction

“It’s not what we don’t know; it’s what we do know that ain’t so.”
                                                                                    Will Rogers

It has been suggested by the late psychedelic researcher Terrence McKenna and others that the introduction of psilocybin mushrooms to the early human diet about 100 000 to 30 000 years ago inspired the rock art found on cave walls beginning near Lascaux France 32 000 years ago.  The art depicts a way of life where the experiences of altered states of consciousness are apparently central to the whole community and especially a particular specialist known as shaman.  Depictions of mushrooms have been found in cave art dating from 5 - 7 000 BCE in the Sahara desert and recently in cave art in Spain dating from 4 000 BCE, but if the promiscuous drug habits of the rest of the animal kingdom are any indication our ancestors would have began tripping on one or more of the 138 species of psilocybin mushrooms long before they painted those pictures of them. 

McKenna further suggested that predicting the movement of prey by “shape-shifting” and becoming the prey was probably an early task excelled at by certain bemushroomed tribesmen, many of whom may have been using the mushrooms in low dose to improve visual acuity for hunting.  With the improved vision and applied psychology of shape shifting, using this technology was selected for, providing prehistoric hippies with an evolutionary advantage.  At higher doses the shaman may have experienced synesthesia or the blending of senses such as visions into sounds and even words thereby improving language (which scientists think began in Africa 250 000– 50 000 years ago). Terrence McKenna further proposed that high doses of psilocybin are aphrodisiacs and this gave rise to an orgiastic matriarchy where women ruled due to their capacity to give birth.  Even higher doses may have yielded religious ecstasy involving communing with other intelligence(s).  The mushrooms brought the dawn of a prehistoric psychedelically inspired spiritual culture quite different than the alcohol drinking agrarian civilizations that would follow beginning about 8 000 - 5 000 years ago.

One of the images that frequently appear in cave art is the “killed or wounded man” which is usually a stick figure with spikes running through him.  This may represent the discovery that altered states could be entered where painful experiences resulted in impressive psychological and physical healing.

The word Shaman comes from The Siberian Tengus tribe’s own word “saman” meaning “to ride” the word has become “an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world.”  Although the shamans treat all illnesses they are particularly skilled with trauma.  Dr. Peter Levine a California psychologist also specializing in trauma, who created the system of Self-Regulation Therapy (SRT) discusses Shamanism in his book Waking The Tiger, "Since pre-civilization, Shamanistic healers from many cultures have been able to successfully orchestrate the conditions that encourage the "lost soul" to return to the body.  Through colorful rituals, these so-called "primitive" healers catalyze powerful innate healing forces in their patients.  Often the proceedings continue for days and may involve the use of plant substances and other pharmacological catalysts.  Significantly...the subject would always shake and tremble as the event nears its conclusion."

The Shamans believe the ill member’s soul has left the body and must be brought back.  Mircea Eliade was one of the original scholars of Shamanism, he wrote of a Toleut (a tribe in Siberia) Shaman calling the soul of a sick child home to his body, "Come back to your country; to your people...to the Yurt, by the bright fire...Come back to your father...to your mother..."

Fate unfortunately had it’s own agenda and although outposts of shamanic healing persisted the natural magic spirituality of the archaic hunter-gatherers was no match for the civilizations that emerged about 8 000 BCE in modern day Iraq and China.  As history began it would seem most of these practitioners went underground, except for the folks that escaped west to the Americas, the central and south of which contain more hallucinogenic and psychoactive compounds than anywhere on earth.  The shamanic cultures in these regions were interrupted only in the 15th century when the Europeans finally arrived.   

However two other truly psychedelic societies survived further east with Indian Soma and Greek Kykeon.   The oldest written religious text is the Rig Veda the first book of the Hindu version of the bible written as long ago as 1 500 BCE.  In almost every one of a thousand hymns mention is made of a plant-God they call Soma with 114 hymns devoted to the mysterious libation exclusively – no one has determined the formula but cannabis, opium, ephedra, natural compounds similar to LSD and amanita muscaria mushrooms have all been suggested.  It appears a middle-eastern tribe called the Aryans split into three groups about 2 000 BCE, with one group settling in India worshipping Soma and another in modern-day Iran worshipping “Haoma” – linguists have suggested both words stem from the ancient Aryan word “sauma” meaning to pound or press.

Further west, as part of the Eulysian Mysteries the Greeks too drank a brew called Kykeon administered by high priests or as the late scholar of religion Mircea Eliade called them hierophants or “revealers of the sacred and profane”.  If, as Timothy Leary and others have argued with “game theory” society is organized according to game systems, complete with rules, roles, rituals, goals, language and values then the hierophants in society don’t just keep score and enforce the rules they invent the games themselves.  Modern equivalents might be Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey.

Eulyses was open to anyone, even slaves and women, as long as they had not committed murder and spoke Greek.  Initiation involved ritualized confessions and fasting broken by the elixir Kykeon and followed by entering the “telestrion” theater where a dramatic retelling of the myth of the fertility Goddess Demeter and the resurrection of her daughter Persephone culminated in the raising of a single sheath of wheat symbolizing perennial regeneration and death/re-birth. The experiences of transcendence and immortality at Eulyses lasted from 1600 BCE to 400 CE when the temple was destroyed and the pharmacological Atlantis of Kykeon joined Soma in a lost world of forgotten magic.

The capacity of peyote to produce religious visions was condemned by the Spanish and Portuguese missionaries way back in the 16th century and drugs have been used in folk medicine since the beginning, but it was not until a laboratory synthesis for mescaline was invented in 1919 by the German chemist Ernst Spath that modern psychedelic research began in Europe. This resulted eight years later in the publication of Kurt Bheringer’s Der Meskalin Rausch in 1927 mostly focused on the psychosis (madness) mimicking effects and the closed-eye visuals the drugs produce. 

In 1896, the same year mescaline was identified as an active compound in peyote by German chemist Arthur Heffter, Dr. Sigmund Freud published his landmark paper On the Aetiology of Hysteria where he described girls having been sexually abused before eight, repressing the memory and then at adolescence or early adulthood, a relatively trivial event like an inappropriate smirk from a classmate triggered a full blown case of “hysteria”.  Freud recalled the trauma with his patients and they “abreacted” or re-lived it and he reported cures, only to later recant and claim the reports of abuse were merely fantasy projections of the infantile mind as it attempts to resolve the Oedipal (son-mother) and Electra (daughter-father) complexes or problems in one of the previous libidinal developmental phases.  In my opinion this an obvious violation of Occam’s Razor that the simplest explanation is usually best. 

Many consider trauma that occurs before about eighteen and relative maturity to be especially likely to cause mental illness.  With about a quarter of girls sexually abused, a quarter of boys physically abused, about one fifth of both sexes subjected to vital neglect and of course some exposed to all three, that yields two billion souls on this planet who have suffered developmental trauma.  When the death of a parent, divorce or severe emotional abuse is added to the equation the number multiplies.

Despite Freud’s abandonment of his “seduction theory” and the primary significance of the abreaction of trauma, during WWII the British Psychiatrist William Sargant began using barbiturate type tranquilizers and sub-anesthetic doses of ether to excite soldiers suffering from battle trauma to help them reach catharsis followed by dramatic improvement.  Although initially explored for their visual properties and capacity to mimic madness it is as an aid to abreacting repressed or unmetabolized emotion that psychedelic drugs offer their most practical miracle.

Mescaline emerged with LSD as aids to psychotherapy in the 1950s as the modern west finally rediscovered its own shamanic roots.  In 1957 Dr. Ross MacLean, after trying LSD himself, opened a clinic in his psychiatric hospital near Vancouver Canada that ran until 1975 and treated almost a thousand clients.  From 1962-1968 WWII two air force vet and entrepreneur Frank Ogden worked as therapist at Hollywood Hospital and our book is partly based on his experiences and his notes on the sessions of the “thousand heroes” who tripped there.  Shamanic Graffiti: 100 000 years of drugs – 100 years of prohibition also discusses an alternative theory of evolution where the brain with its one hundred or so neurotransmitters and the drugs that modify them co-evolve symbiotically. 

By 1967, 2 000 papers and 100 medical books had been published on psychedelic psychotherapy, there were six psychedelic clinics treating alcoholism in North America and psychiatrist Dr. Stanislav Grof was being courted in his hometown of Prague Czechoslovakia to join a new facility in Maryland that was poised to lead the world. 

The Maryland Psychiatric Research Center opened its doors in 1969, moving the six-year-old psychedelic project from Spring Grove State Hospital.  750 clients would receive therapy and dozens of papers would be published before the center closed in 1976.  The original approach was facilitating an overwhelming life-changing mystical experience but when Grof arrived in 1968 after twelve years of working with the drug, he brought with him a more psychodynamic paradigm, humbly situated in an over-all spiritual framework.  Freud – Jung - Grof

Grof divided the unconscious into the sensory-aesthetic, biographical, perinatal (birth-trauma) and transpersonal, he saw the aim of therapy as allowing the brain to find its “highest emotional charge, activate it and discharge the energy to the periphery” whichever level of the unconscious the energy blockage was located.  After leaving Maryland in 1973 he and his wife Dr. Christina Grof developed Holotropic Breathwork, a system of altered-breathing, evocative music and focused bodywork designed to facilitate similar states of consciousness.     

Conversely, Timothy Leary wasn’t interested in using the drugs to cure mental illness at all but instead to produce states of religious ecstasy and revelation.  In his model a few psychologists would trip with the subjects while at least one other professional would remain sober as “ground control.”  A maximum dose was worked out for each subject’s body weight and they were told to take the pills whenever they wished.  Although the phrase appears earlier in psychedelic therapy literature Leary popularized the key formula that determines the nature of the psychedelic experience – set, setting, drug – set being the subject’s entire life up to the session and all his expectations and setting meaning where he takes the drug and most crucially who he takes it with.

From 1960-1967, where anything close to what could be reasonably called research ended, Leary and his Harvard, Mexico and Millbrook teams turned-on about a thousand people with about two-thirds reporting life-changing mystical experience.  In what has become famous as the Good Friday experiment (1962) Drs. Walter Pahnke and Timothy Leary led the first double-blind, (active) placebo controlled test of the “mystico-mimetic” (mimicking mystic states) theory of psychedelics, although many people had disturbing trips and one subject required the anti-psychotic thorazine about two-thirds met the criteria for the “peak mystical experience”.  This two-thirds ratio appeared again in 2006 with the work on religious experience and psilocybin headed by Dr. Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins  that produced similar results.  That is with spiritually ambitious, well-adjusted people in a supportive environment ingesting psilocybin, (and probably LSD or mescaline) about two-thirds will have a subjectively meaningful spiritual experience that most will regard as the deepest of their entire lives.  Why would this religious ecstasy be denied them?

Perhaps because along with the religious ecstasy the rules, roles, rituals, goals, language and values of our “games” also apparently become more malleable during and after these boundary-dissolving experiences, impairing the culture’s ability to “manufacture consent” and control behaviour.  Dr. Leary believed psychedelics suspend all reality imprints including social games and allow new more conscious and consensual games to be created.  In his ideal world each tripper is a pagan scientist - a hierophant (high-priest) - creating new and better games by casting off the shackles of the mind through chemically subverting mental control with psychedelic drugs.  Lose your mind to use your head.

In 1957 he co-wrote The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality that featured his “Leary circle” which allows group therapy behaviors to be charted according to opposing traits like passive – dominant.  A classic in the field the American Psychology Association declared it book of the year in 1957 and the Leary circle remains in use to this day.  But nearly all his novels, papers, monographs, articles, software, recordings, books and theories are centered on the main focus of his career from 1960 on – The Serial Imprinting of the Eight-Circuit Brain.

Leary proposed that consciousness emerges whenever energy is received and processed by organized structure, intelligence can be claimed too if the organized structure transmits energy (now information) as well.  Each of the eight circuits represents a different network receiving, processing and transmitting energy/information. 

One early psychedelic researcher psychiatrist Dr. Oscar Janiger mathematically determined the most frequently uttered description of his hundreds of LSD subjects, which Leary reported as being - “it’s all alive; it’s all connected; it comes in waves.”  The boundaries created by the reality tunnel imposed by our imprints suddenly vanish.


The Case For a New Paradigm

“The revolution is in the ditch until we get our chemistry right.”
                                                                                   
Terence McKenna

Studying consciousness without drugs is like studying electricity by standing on a hill in a lighting storm with a key – inefficient to say the least.  But the reasons humans started taking drugs in the first place must be considered with the questions of why many if not most animal species are known to willingly and with “malice aforethought” consume psychoactives. 

The earliest evidence for human psychoactive drug use indicates the stimulant betel nut began use at least 10 000 years ago, coca leaves were chewed in present day Peru by at least 8 000 years ago and the mescaline containing peyote cactus began use at least 5 700 years ago in modern day Texas.  But according to anthropologist Dr. David Lewis Williams’ “neuropsychological theory” of cave art, it was altered states of consciousness caused by or at least similar to those induced by psilocybin, that inspired the very first glimmers of recognizably human culture in Europe about 30 000 years ago when the first cave art appears.  At least thirty different species of psilocybin containing mushrooms would have been available. 

To synopsize McKenna’s argument again early humans ate low doses of psilocybin mushrooms to enhance visual acuity, specialists (shamans) took higher doses to “shape-shift” into their prey, still higher doses allowed the shamans to experience sensory blending - helping convert pictures to sounds improving spoken language; religious ecstasies and healing trances became accessible at even higher doses.   Although the oldest cave art discovered (so-far) originated in Europe about 30 000 BCE, by 10 000 BCE it was being created all around the world often with common themes of shamanism and healing trances.

The shamanic worldview posits a mundane reality, an underworld and over-world, a shaman, usually through overcoming an illness, becomes able to travel the worlds often endeavoring to retrieve lost souls and return them to the body.

In light of Grof’s description of reliving life-traumas and even birth itself (death/rebirth) having a compassionate but unflappable elder singing encouragement seems like a good idea.  Whether the metaphor is soul retrieval or re-living birth (rebirth) this ancient specialist may have preceded the prostitute as the world’s oldest profession.  But long before the shamans enter the picture 100 000 – 30 000 years ago, according to Leary the human brain began to develop its circuitry.

The first four circuits are based on earthbound life and climax with the tribal frenzy of Hiroshima in 1945, while the second four are emerging only in the past few millennia and are designed for life in outer space.  Each of the first four circuits takes an imprint during critical windows.  Circuit one’s critical window spans between birth and six months, the second circuit imprints from six months to age three, the third circuit is imprinted by five and then from twelve to sixteen the fourth and in most cases final, circuit’s critical window is open for imprinting.  Though critical windows span months or even years the imprints are often formed in an instant, but can still be modified until the window closes.  

Water began forming on earth 4.2 billion years ago and evidence of life begins at 3.7 billion years ago, so about four billion years ago circuit one (bio-survival) began.  500 million years ago when life left the ocean and formed vertebrate packs of animals the second circuit (mammalian-political) emerged with a distinct sense of self, based on gender and the perception of the other members of the pack – higher or lower in the social hierarchy.  From six months to three years the second circuit takes it’s imprint in the territorial toddler.  Leary used to joke that “all politics should be discussed on all fours” because it was all second circuit power games.  

Two important developments were emergent with our ancestors ascension from the ocean – the spine and the lungs – and the second circuit while operating chemically mostly with noradrenaline can also be affected through the breath.  In yoga asanas or postures are often used first to calm and energize the body (C1), pranayama or breath control exercises are used to do the same for the nervous system (C2) and then meditation is used to calm and energize the intellect (C3) or the next in Leary’s circuits.

From about two million years ago when primates started using tools to about 7 000 years ago when the hunter-gatherer archaic society began to succumb to writing, agriculture and civilization the third (symbolic-intelligence) circuit activated in the human brain.  Finally the fourth (tribal-domestic) circuit emerged as humanity began to settle along the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers and experiential spirituality yielded to organized religion.  From twelve to sixteen this fourth circuit takes its imprint; Leary used to brag he could tell when somebody lost their virginity by what kind of music they listened to. 

Often one of the four circuits will take a heavier that normal imprint resulting in a personality heavily weighted towards one circuit.  For instance someone who takes a heavy imprint on the first circuit might be called “viscerotronic”, passive, affable and even lazy.  A heavy second circuit imprint might produce an individual aggressive, physically strong and even belligerent.   If the third circuit takes a heavy imprint someone might be hyper-rational, overly analytical and even emotionally cold.   People who have taken a heavy fourth circuit imprint may become very religious and/or they become a very attractive, successful person who may be manipulative, intolerant and even narcissistic.   The imprints on the four circuits together form a “reality tunnel” through which we are each condemned to experience the world.

That is unless the higher circuits are activated and the reality tunnel can be dissolved into the infinite and eternal possibilities of consciousness.  Leary liked to use the analogy of the T.V. set, with the first four circuits like channels, each playing the same thing everyday – the upper four circuits however are infinite.  How do you fire up the higher circuits?  This can be achieved by a variety of methods - yoga, dancing, dehydration, starvation, chanting, drumming, life-threatening ordeals – but the most popular and most efficient technology seem to be cannabis and psychedelic drugs.

Leary was sometimes known as “theory Leary” due to his penchant for studying and creating idea systems and particularly fusing disparate ones into something knew.  Thus the circuits are considered according to the dimensions they operate on with the first being approach avoid, the second higher or lower, the third left - right and the fourth tribal domestic circuit operating on the dimension of time.


Circuit
I
II
III
IV

Biological –
Survival
Mammalian –
Political
Symbolic –
Linguistic
Tribal –
Domestic
Time
4 billion – 500 million years ago
500 million – 2 million years ago
2 million –
10 000 years ago
10 000 BCE –
1945
Age Imprinted
0 – 6 months
6 mos. – 3 yrs
3 – 5 years
12 – 16 years
Dimension
approach - avoid
up (dominant) –
down (submissive)
left –
right
time
Internal Chemistry
Adrenaline –
Endorphins  
Noradrenalin- GABA
dopamine
serotonin
External
Chemistry
opiates
alcohol
stimulants

Prozac
mdma
Highlights
Opium eating emerges          4 000 BCE
Alcohol (beer and wine) use popular by
3 000 BCE
Greek Homeric Hymns emerge 850 BCE

500 BCE Buddhism
      0       Christianity
600 Islam

Opium smoking emerges 1500
Alcohol use (spirits) skyrockets 1750
Coffee and tea popular by 1850
Prozac and MDMA emerge in 1980s

However history regards Leary’s contributions to psychedelic science Stan Grof got a head start in the field.  Four years before Leary tried “the flesh of the Gods” in Mexico, in Prague Czechoslovakia Stan Grof tried LSD and began a career in non-ordinary states that continues fifty-four years later.

Not long after Dr. Grof personally attained “cosmic consciousness” through a combination of LSD and stroboscopic brainwave entraining Stan and colleagues were giving the drug to patients with every psychiatric diagnosis as many as one hundred and twenty times each.  The state pharmaceutical company began manufacturing the drug and by the time Grof left for the United States in 1967, he and his team managed an eighteen bed locked ward devoted to LSD therapy.

After a few more years of psychedelic research and publishing in the U. S. in 1973 when work with psychedelic drugs had become almost impossible Grof moved to the Esalen Institute in California where he reviewed his notes from seventeen years of work.

One interesting fact was the absence of a single predictable effect of the drug; even pupil dilation was absent in some subjects, this led Grof to the conclusion that LSD “is a non-specific catalyst of the mind that increases the energetic niveau of the psyche and works as inner-radar, allowing the mind to gravitate to the highest emotional charge.”  Fifty years earlier Freud had declared dreams “the royal road to the unconscious” but the lab had produced a kaleidoscopic royal super-highway.

Grof divided the experiences of the unconscious into four categories – sensory, biographical, perinatal (around birth) and transpersonal.  The first category usually involves visual distortions, and the common practice of lying down with eyeshades supported subjects seeing geometric light shows, Grof refers to this as the “sensory barrier to the unconscious.”  Normally within thirty to sixty minutes after beginning the session geometric figures have progressed to film quality waking dreams of emotionally charged events from childhood.

Abuse, neglect, accidents and surgeries figured prominently and Grof created the term COEX system or “system of condensed experience” to describe discrete biographical events like trauma or systems organized according to emotional themes such as shame or revenge.  As a Freudian trained psychoanalyst Grof encouraged the reliving or abreacting of any traumata and this often produced good therapeutic results. However even after the successful resolution of a clearly psychologically important event, if the psychedelics were administered again, the subject would often seem to be suffering even more.  The increased intensity of feeling, with deep despair and terrific rage often arising, indicates the process has moved beyond the biographical and into the elemental struggle of the birth trauma (perinatal).

Although Grof doesn’t claim that the sessions always progress in a linear way he does compare revealing the unconscious to “chemo-excavation” where layers are slowly removed during anthropological finds yielding the most recent secrets first.  Subjects tend to eventually manifest all three aspects of clinical birth and the period preceding – Grof labeled the categories as the four Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs). 

BPM I is characterized by “the oceanic bliss the fetus enjoys during the symbiotic fusion with the maternal organism”, this passive ecstasy is interrupted by BPM II which features the collapsing of the womb and the introduction of noxious chemicals to evict the fetus. Grof describes BPM II as a “no-exit hell”, the womb has collapsed but the cervix has not yet dilated offering escape.  When it does finally begin to open a violent, biological frenzy begins during the struggle down the birth canal (BPM III) until finally birth (re-birth) BPM IV.  Successfully navigating the biographical and perinatal unconscious requires the activation of the sixth neuro-electric/ meta-programmer circuit in Leary’s model.  In Grof’s model generally only after the perinatal unconscious has been totally integrated can the next and final level of the unconscious be entered – what Grof labels transpersonal.  “It includes ancestral, collective and past incarnation memories; authentic identification with animals and plants; and extrasensory perception.”  Experiences of cosmic consciousness, archetypes, the clear white light, the meta-cosmic or supracosmic void, God, Gods or Goddesses might be considered transpersonal as well.

Frank’s Hollywood Hospital notes from almost one thousand subjects, with about half suffering addiction or other mental illnesses, combined with my own experiences supports Grof’s cartography of the unconscious.  Grof has compared the paradigm shift required in psychiatry and psychology to the paradigm shift in physics as it evolved from Newtonian to relativity to quantum mechanics – the main difference being that in physics data can’t be ignored.

An important distinction to Grof’s work is the methodical process it involves – a beginning, middle and end to the therapeutic journey. Whereas a lot of psychedelic researchers focused on religious experience or expanded consciousness for its own sake, Grof offers narrative structure; a sublimely arduous descent into the underworld of the “sweating self” and total rebirth into magic. 


sensory
biographical
perinatal
transpersonal
Disturbance of the senses, sometimes hallucinations or closed-eye visuals of geometric patterns
All experience since birth organized according to emotional themes into systems of condensed experience or COEX systems.
Psychedelics act as an inner radar guiding the brain to its highest emotional charge
The birth trauma itself organized in Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPM)
BPM I – before birth intrauterine ecstasy
BPM II – womb collapses, no way out, no-exit hell
BPM III – cervix opens, frenzied battle to escape
BPM IV - birth

Experiences of past-lives, cosmic consciousness, archetypes, the white-light, the meta-cosmic Void or God, Gods or Goddesses
                                                                                   
By 1973 Grof had published nearly a hundred papers and several books detailing his ideas and was instrumental in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology; meanwhile Timothy Leary found himself in the hole in Folsom Prison.   Grof has tested his ideas in the field with thousands of subjects; Leary was limited mainly to his own nervous system but nonetheless a synthesis of these apparently dynamically opposite geniuses is still worth attempting. 

Back to Leary -

The fifth (hedonic-aesthetic) circuit emerged about 2 000 BCE when the focus could shift slightly away from basic survival to the full erotic potential of the human experience – its turned on best by yoga and cannabis.  Cannibinoids like THC, (tetra hydro cannibinol), CBN (cannibinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) all operate on receptors for the endocannibinoids (internal cannibinoids).   This endocannibinoid system (Circuit 5) which, was named anandamide after the Sanskrit word for bliss, has over 400 subcomponents and interacts with every organ system in the body.  Dr. Robert John Malemeade chairman of the biology department at the University of Colorado believes disorders like irritable bowl syndrome, migraine headaches and fibromyalgia are related to deficiencies in the endocannibinoids.   A cannibinoid antagonist (decreaser) was researched as an appetite suppressant but there were so many side effects like suicidal tendencies and depression that they had to discontinue the study. 

The brain has a symbiotic relationship with the drugs that it already has receptors for particularly cannabis – she makes us feel good so we run around the planet planting her seeds.  Even heavy smokers are at LOWER risk of lung cancer than non-smokers and THC has been proven to shrink cancerous tumors and help the body to eliminate precancerous cells before they start!  Read that again.  With only fifteen states allowing medical marijuana they still have a 1.7 billion dollar a year industry second only to Viagra’s 1.9 billion dollar American yield with every state in the union.  Big Pharma will eventually learn to work with cannibinoids and develop new drugs based on its compounds and other drugs that enhance cannabis.  Yoga and cannabis came out of ancient India and both are gaining popularity fast – circuit 5 is firing like never before.

Circuit Six (neuro-electric) involves the brain’s capacity as a self meta-programmer, de-fragging and healing where needed and upgrading the operating system for the whole neural network.  Circuit seven involves communicating with the DNA and circuit eight communicating with intelligences within the nucleus. 

The sixth, seventh and eighth circuits differ from the lower circuitry in their relationship of time and space - the brain, the DNA and the intelligences within the atomic nuclei seem to all work via holotropic or holographic principles.  To use the computer analogy again when files are deleted some aspects may remain forcing the new files being created to be stored surrounding remnants of the old ones – defragmenting means sequencing all files in order so the computer doesn’t have to work as hard to retrieve files.  It may be that holotropic systems when appropriately engaged scan their networks seeking unmetabolized or unprocessed energy (de-fragging), once discovered it agitates the compartmentalized block, increasing the energy, complexity and novelty; driving up the intensity into a self-organizing critical state (SOC) – the experience on its more superficial level is of abreacting or reliving trauma and, on its more powerful, elemental level, death and rebirth. 

Holography was a technique for creating three-dimensional photographic images introduced in 1947 by British-Hungarian Physicist Denis Gabor that earned him the 1971 Nobel Prize.

Wikipedia defines holography as, “…a technique that allows light scattered from an object to be recorded and later reconstructed so that it appears as if the object is in the same position relative to the recording medium as it was when recorded.”  In other words the image itself is not recorded but the interference pattern between two versions of the image allows a full 3D “hallucination”.  It wasn’t until the laser was invented in 1960 that the image could be re-illuminated and only recently have “volumetric displays” emerged that allow for a full “holodeck” experience. 



Aside from entertainment holography may teach us something about how complex systems work - surging towards greater organization through increased complexity until self-organizing critical states spontaneously occur.  Because the images themselves are not recorded but the interference pattern between the two versions is, holographic-holotropic systems are very hard to destroy - in holographic systems the whole is contained in each part.

All reality can be viewed relatively – all you need are two realities to compare and contrast and through the relationship between them a higher fidelity truth can be understood. 

The second holotropic brain - Circuit Seven (neuro-genetic) involves the capacity to communicate with the DNA within each cell, here we may discover a whole universe of intelligent beings dismissed as hallucination mostly by those who have never traveled there. 

In DMT: The Spirit Molecule Psychiatrist and Professor Rick Strassman describes the shockingly powerful hallucinations experienced during his research with injecting experimental subjects high doses of the drug intravenously in the 1990s, the first government funded psychedelic research since the pogroms of the 1960s and 1970s.   What makes the potency of DMT so surprising is the simplicity of the molecule and the number of plants and animals that possess the schedule 1 “narcotic” including the human brain.

Co-discoverer of DNA’s structure Francis Crick and fellow noble laureate geneticist Kerry Mullis both credit LSD as having informed their work but DMT, and to a lesser extant the closely related psilocybin, seem to activate this hypothetical “seventh (DNA) circuit” directly.  Recall that a hologram requires signal interference; Terrence McKenna argued that DMT bonds to the DNA molecule causing the strands to vibrate which created the signal interference and the Holotropic experiences.  Many users of psilocybin at high-doses have even reported hearing a voice that Terrence sometimes called the “gnosis” – could this be the intelligence(s) of DNA?

Strassman’s subjects reported many encounters with DNA in DMT: The Spirit Molecule:

“There were spirals of what looked like DNA, red and green.”
“The visuals were dropping back into tubes, like protozoa, like the inside of a cell, seeing the DNA twirling and spiraling.  They looked gelatin-like, like tubes, inside which were cellular activities.  It was like a microscopic view of them.”
“There was a spiral DNA-type thing made out of incredibly bright cubes.  I “felt” the boxes at the same time my consciousness shifted.”
“I felt the DMT release my soul’s energy and push it through the DNA.  It’s what happened when I lost my body.  There were spirals that reminded me of things I’ve seen at Chaco Canyon.  Maybe that was DNA.  Maybe the ancients knew that.  The DNA is backed into the universe like space travel.  One needs to travel without one’s body.  It’s ridiculous to think of space travel in little ships.”

After drinking the psychedelic tea ayahuasca with a Peruvian Shaman I closed my eyes and enjoyed a brilliant technicolour kaleidoscope show with the intuition that a bird like discarnate being was scanning my body and reporting at the end of each scan that everything was working perfectly.  I also felt that it sensed me sensing it and met my fascination and even love with equal intensity, it was an extremely comforting experience whatever its origin or meaning. 

Strassman concludes the risks of DMT outweigh its benefits largely because the “contact experiences” were too frequent and occasionally too disturbing to continue with.  Regardless of the therapeutic value of the drug, scientists must continue to give it to human subjects so we can learn who these characters are and what they want.    

Finally the eighth (neuro-atomic/ non-local quantum) circuit allows information exchange with intelligences from within the nucleus of the atom – drugs that activate this final circuit like ketamine tend to interfere with glutamate which is the most common stimulatory neurotransmitter in the brain.  Antagonizing (decreasing) the activity of this chemical reduces the electrical output of the brain, in the case of an anesthetic in surgery the basic brain electricity decreases below consciousness – the ghost in the shell is taken completely off-line.  However sometimes anesthetized subjects experience out of body experiences (OBE)s or near death experiences (NDE)s, for these events to be recalled at all the self must have enough electricity to function.

Holotropic 
Circuit
V
VI
VII
VIII
Function
NeuroSomatic
NeuroElectric
NeuroGenetic
NeuroAtomic
Time
2 000 BCE –
future
500 BCE –
future
1959 –
future
1980 –
future
Internal Chemistry
endo-cannibinoids
Combination of receptors
DMT
Glutamate
External Chemistry
exo-
cannibinoids
psychedelics
DMT
Ketamine –
Salvia
Highlights
Sufism emerges 600
Psychedelic science emerges again 1950s
DNA structure discovered 1959
Ketamine emerges 1963

Yoga/cannabis emerge in the west - 1960s
Consumer Electronics emerge 1970s
DMT tourism – religion
 emerges 1990s
Ketamine used in psychiatry 2010


In the case of Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy the dose is calibrated to be low enough to keep the “ghost in the shell” online but sufficiently present to facilitate integration.  In fact Ketamine’s popularity as an anesthetic declined due to the psychedelic type effects patients often experienced as it wore off.  One of the great mysteries of neuroscience is how anesthetics actually work – ketamine and nitrous oxide are both NMDA inhibitors that in turn effect glutamate and possibly the basic electrical charge of the brain but how exactly this relates to anesthesia is unknown.  It has been suggested in a variety of pain disorders that ketamine can “reboot” the brain – if anxiety is experienced a benzodiazepine – Valium type drug is added.  This approach could be applied to any aberrant brain patterns like addiction or pedophilia.  High doses of ketamine also bind to opiate receptors and this may be why ketamine is often a drug people end up addicted to.  Although for most addiction ketamine is an ideal first line, Ketamine addicts would start with ibogaine, which will be discussed later.                                                                                   
Where psychedelics offer promise is where learning is central to the disorder, disease or illness.  To use the tortured computer analogy for the brain one more time, the conventional psychiatric drugs operate on the hardware, psychedelics operate on the operating system and conventional talk-therapy involves the software.  At their extreme schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, bipolar, major depression, attention deficit, obsessive-compulsive and personality disorders may be primarily genetically determined responses triggered by virtually any level of stress.  At the other end of the continuum resides Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, where one learning experience has caused everything - if the trauma is metabolized the patient will be cured.  Between the purely biological and the purely learned lies the grey area where most disorders, diseases and illnesses reside.

The shamans use psychedelics; Tim Leary and Stan Grof created some brilliant ideas around their meaning – but how does any of this relate to modern science?  In my opinion the theory and practice of psychiatry can be briefly synopsized as follows - for anxiety anti-anxiety drugs that increase the brain messenger chemical (neurotransmitter) GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), for schizophrenia and other psychoses anti-psychotics are prescribed so the dopamine (thinking-reward) system is turned down, conversely for attention deficit it gets turned up.   For milder depressions, obsessive compulsive disorders and some anxiety disorders serotonin levels are increased, for more severe ones noradrenaline and serotonin are both raised and for bipolar disorder drugs that slow down the electrical activity of the brain are used to keep it on an even keel.  Conveniently this model allows the marketing of a plethora of drugs, but alas most of the low hanging structure-activity chemical fruit has been picked, the blockbuster patents are expiring and research has failed to produce the next generation.  Psychedelics lay waiting outside the box – but how do you use them? 

After reading Frank’s notes based on almost 1 000 subjects from Hollywood Hospital’s LSD-mescaline clinic (’57-’75) it is clear Grof’s description of the psychedelic experience is more accurate that Leary’s.  In filmmaker Connie Littlefield’s LSD documentary Hoffmann’s Potion Dr. Grof accuses Leary of not giving “…people fair information.  He said it makes your trillions of cells dance the dance of liberation but he didn’t say you might go to hell before you get to heaven, and you might stay there if you don’t know what you are doing.”

One early LSD researcher psychologist Dr. Gary Fisher claims to have supervised a 400-mcg trip for Leary where the drug guru “had a hard time.”  Leary was less interested in using the drugs to explore and improve his own life and more interested in creating a social religious experience.   The Hollywood Hospital approach that I studied was virtually identical to Grof’s except Grof included his own version of psychodynamic theory; studying a group using Leary’s methods and theories may have yielded different results.

Spiritual gurus like the late Indian saint Ramana Maharshi in India or Eckhart Tole in Canada cite a death-rebirth as the beginning of the their enlightenment.  While they seem to attribute their experience to adopting a certain philosophy, what may be happening is a natural process they react to rather than control.  Perhaps when someone abreacts a trauma the brain’s emotional limbic engine is firing more and more intensely and chaotically until a self-organizing critical state emerges and the trauma is metabolized.   As far as the brain goes this is limited to integrating biographical and perinatal traumata but once the personal boundary of the ego has been exceeded and the communication with the DNA and beyond hypothetically begin, new worlds, undreamed begin to unfold.

The death-rebirth sequences seem like fractals beginning with the biographical then perinatal brain, DNA and finally the non-local quantum circuit – working through the unresolved un-integrated energy/information in the network by driving up the chaos through novelty until the self-organizing critical state is reached – integrating the energy/information with the rest of the network.  The experiencer experiences a story accelerating to the inevitable conclusion of yet another rebirth.


Conclusion

Who should take psychedelics, how much and how often?  Again Grof argues that psychedelic therapy is indicated where learning is critical in the development of the condition.  Mental illnesses are assumed to work on a continuum where the most severe are problems of hardware and require ongoing drugs/electricity to maintain functioning.  At the least severe are illnesses caused by a particular trigger in the environment the most obvious example being Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; of course all illness involves both stress and constitution to some degree.

In my opinion psychedelics should be administered according to a three-phase process.  In the first phase indicated only where brain networks are truly pathological as in addiction, psychopathy or paraphilia involving coercion then the Circuit 8 drug ketamine or in extreme cases ibogaine should be administered to fundamentally interrupt the chemical/electrical patterns and allow the brain systems to “reset”.  All psychedelic therapy should employ both a male and a female therapist who have become well acquainted with the client to facilitate the process optimally.  Although Ketamine is safer and easier to work with ibogaine seems to act as “master key” for the brain occupying a plethora of receptors, soothing cravings and allowing the healing process to proceed.  Only after one to three ketamine sessions have failed however should ibogaine be resorted due to the low therapeutic index, unless the client is addicted to ketamine.

For all other indications from death anxiety, PTSD, some forms of depression and personality disorder, all forms of psychosomatic illness and paraphilia, creative problem solving and spiritual experiences phase one is skipped and phase two - one to three MDMA sessions - begins the process. In cases where ketamine and/or ibogaine are used first, phase two follows the successful outcome of phase one.  This will introduce the client to the psychedelic process in the most psychologically digestible way possible and forge a strong bond with the therapeutic team.  

Phase three is composed of one to six sessions using traditional psychedelics like psilocybin, mescaline and LSD, alone or in combination to work through the deeper dynamics of the unconscious.  Of course new drugs will emerge that replace or augment all three proposed phases of psychedelic therapy.  In this third phase if resistance is encountered more psychedelic material may be added or stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) or methamphetamine given to facilitate a breakthrough.

The risks for this type of therapy are flashbacks from poorly integrated sessions, Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPD), aggravation of pre-existing or latent symptoms and in two recorded cases death.  Both fatal LSD cases involved high-doses with apparently intense perinatal and transpersonal themes but no physical cause of death could be found.  The worsening of symptoms or even the emergence of new ones is likely but continuing the process will almost always resolve them.  Flashbacks differ from HPPD in that flashbacks are probably related to unfinished unconscious material while HPPD may operate independently of the session’s integration and involve temporary changes in the brain’s visual system.  Although the ability of benzodiazepines (Valium) to treat the condition, the fact that the symptoms almost always eventually disappear completely and some sufferers never took any hallucinogens all suggest the condition doesn’t involve organic damage.  Full disclosure of risks and ongoing development of treatment for adverse events should play an important part in future work. 

Phase
Phase One
Phase Two
Phase three
Diagnosis
Addiction,
Anti-Social Personality Disorder with or without
psychopathy, coercive paraphilia

Death anxiety, PTSD, certain forms of depression and personality disorder, many/all psychosomatic conditions and paraphilias, creative problem solving, spiritual experiences and those who successfully complete phase one
Those who have completed at least phase two
Treatment
One to three ketamine sessions and if not successful followed by one to three ibogaine sessions with a male and female therapy team
One to three MDMA sessions with a male and female therapy treatment team
One to six sessions with psilocybin, LSD, mescaline or combination with a male and female therapy team



Operation Resilient Dawn

On January 1, 1966 there were 210 independent investigative teams working with LSD in the United States alone, by the end of that year only six survived.  What would have those thousands of scientists and clinicians accomplished in the forty-five years since had the field not been crushed almost to total oblivion?

Operation Resilient Dawn seeks to open 150 dedicated psychedelic clinics worldwide with at least two-thirds at hospitals or universities by 2030 with a budget of $30 million, applying the methods of psychedelic therapy described above as a possible      starting point.

















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