Elder Interviews: Myron Stolaroff 1998 Part I

Myron Stolaroff: “I feel very indebted to Albert Hoffman for inventing LSD. After my first LSD-experience I claimed that this was the greatest discovery that man had ever made, because after all the human mind is the most important attribute we have, and this lets us understand our mind and the enormous potential of mind.”

Kaleidoscope – Gwyllm

Second in our Elder Interview series… Myron Stolaroff.
This interview was kindly provided by Neal Goldsmith. (Thanks Neal!)

If you like/gather wisdom from these types of philosophical/psychological/psychedelic conversations, information, please help support this site.
Gwyllm




____________________

Myron, Neal & George

A Conversation with:
George Greer and Myron Stolaroff November 13, 1998

Neal Goldsmith: Thank you Myron and George for joining us today. Perhaps the best way to get started would be for each of you to take a turn just telling us about your personal and professional backgrounds and how you got interested in this area.

George Greer: You go ahead, Myron.

Myron Stolaroff: All right. I was trained as an electrical engineer. But rather early in life – around the age of 30 or so – I got involved in activities that began to unfold the overriding importance of the spiritual aspect of reality. I’d come through readings – and maybe just some inherent understanding – to have an appreciation for divinity. So I was very fortunate in my life to make contact with Gerald Heard, and I used to visit him from time to time in Los Angeles. He’s the person who told me about LSD. What he had to say was remarkable. This led me to eventually look up Al Hubbard and I became absolutely fascinated with him and his tales. That led me to Canada and my first LSD experience.

Goldsmith: Approximately when?

Stolaroff: That was in 1956. That was a remarkable opening for me – a tremendous opening. I relived a very painful birth experience, that had determined almost all my personality features. But I also experienced the oneness of mankind, and the reality of God. I knew that from then on, that I would be totally committed to this work.

A few years later, in 1961, I resigned from Ampex and set up the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park. We were fortunate to get Dr. Charles Savage as our medical director, and we gathered a research team – Willis Harman at Stanford University, Bob Mogar from San Francisco State College, and Jim Fadiman, a graduate student in psychology at Stanford. While we carried on our work, we also carried on research.

So over about three and a half years we processed some 350 people. I not only was able to witness how these people learned great skills and improved their lives, improved their relationships and well-being – but also, how some of them changed in profound and fundamental ways.

That work went on until the FDA began closing this research down in 1965. Of course, that was a crushing blow. But, fortunately, in 1970, another door opened. I discovered that there were many new compounds that were not illegal. So my wife and I spent the next approximately 20 years or so investigating these new compounds and how different people would react to them.

So I accumulated experience and the more I saw and the more I gained from my own personal experiences, I came to realize that these substances were probably the most powerful learning tools that we have available to us. This Is provided we learn how to use them properly, with intention, honesty, and a sincere desire to learn.

I think that about sums it up.

Greer: My involvement began when I was a sophomore in college and my roommate said that he’d learned things from taking mescaline. I had some experiences then and we learned quite a bit. In one experience, like Myron, I came to an appreciation of the reality of spirit and God. That was a definite, permanent life change for me, in terms of what’s real and what’s important.

Then, in 1980, I’d finished my psychiatry training and learned about MDMA being used for therapy and to help in relationships. So my wife and I had an experience that was very profound for us in terms of talking about issues in our relationship – forgiving each other for things that we had done – and sped up our decision to get married. We’ve been together – gosh, almost 20 years, at this point.

I did some regulatory research in California, where I was living, and found out that it was legal for me, as a physician, to prescribe and administer a medication if I manufactured it myself. So I met with Dr. Alexander Shulgin, Sasha Shulgin, and we manufactured MDMA in his laboratory. I also had to have peer review and informed consent to do these experimental sessions, all of which I had. We gave MDMA to about 80 people, and about 15 couples, over about five years – until it was scheduled in 1985.

One of the most unique effects we found was the enhancement of deep, intimate, emotional communication among couples. That seemed very different from other psychedelic drugs. Because MDMA didn’t distort thinking or perception – you know, no hallucinations or visual distortions – the mind is very clear; the ego is present.

The people we gave it to were not people who came because they were having a serious relationship problem – they were highly functional people who wanted to have a different perspective and explore their relationships. They got a lot of benefit out of it at the time, and also by the time we did follow-up up to two years later. They said that a lot of communication skills they learned with MDMA had persisted at least for that long.

One of the reasons we didn’t work with people with serious problems is that we really were not set up to do any kind of inpatient treatment, if the session triggered deep conflict. So we screened out anyone who had ever been incapacitated by mental illness. I never recommended MDMA to any of my psychiatry patients that I was seeing in my practice. People only came to have a session if they heard about it, word of mouth, through their friends. It was very separate from my practice. I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to recommend an experimental drug to my patients. That’s part of the reason that we didn’t see people with more serious problems.

Goldsmith: I got the outline for successful work with couples that you developed together for today’s conversation and I thought I’d take a minute or two to read it.

There are two parts to the recommendations you make. The first set of factors apply to individual self-realization – to make one a better partner in a relationship. The second part describes the parameters of the actual conduct of a psychedelic session, held to permit a couple to enhance their relationship.

The factors for developing one’s individual potential are:

  1. Become aware of the vast potential available to the human being.
  2. Discover the inherent nature of Reality and Mind, and their spiritual basis.
  3. Become one with all of creation.
  4. Discover love is the bottom line. One must first learn to love oneself.
  5. We create our life, so we must become fully responsible.
  6. Honor the cosmic gift of free will, in self and others.
  7. Learn how to learn. Involves being open, setting aside all preconditions, trusting, listening carefully.
  8. Confront restrictions and obstacles.
  9. Ask for the help that the Universe provides.
  10. Live what we learn.

The factors for the couple’s session are:

  1. Sharing an explicitly expressed common goal/purpose for the relationship, and psychedelic session is required before the session.
  2. Participants make a list of issues they wish to resolve, both joint and personal.
  3. Being explicit about agreements is also required. When will it be over? Don’t make phone calls, other agreements about the structure, etc.
  4. Making sure that both people have checked into themselves, emotionally and intuitively, and are sure that having a session at this time is the right thing for them to do for themselves.
  5. No attachment to outcome or changes expected in the other person. You know, this is a particularly deadly one if not at least mutually attempted.
  6. No personal sacrifice is expected, or given, if there is a possibility that it could lead to later resentment. No care giving from the other can be expected, while, at the same time, people can be present and as available as possible for each other.
  7. It is best to have a trained therapist or sitter available to take care of practical things, at least the first time, as well as hold hands, etc., if needed – so the partner is not called upon to do care giving. Not having a sitter places more demands and can prevent a deep letting go if the person feels he or she has to be on duty for someone else.
  8. Use the non-defensiveness provided by MDMA to clear up differences.

Myron, I think you were going to take us through the first set.

Stolaroff: Very good. We were asked to talk about work with couples and I had mentioned that I’m not a therapist and so haven’t conducted couples therapy. But my own experience using these substances in my own relationships and assisting others work through relationship issues – and the experience of many, many others who are familiar with these substances – indicates that the best way to be in a relationship is to be all the person that you can be. So what I would like to do is run through a number of aspects that contribute to our discovering and realizing our full potential.

The first factor – “Become aware of the vast potential available to the human being” – most people are unaware of the absolutely vast potential that we have in being a human being. This is apparent the first time anybody takes one of the stronger psychedelics, like LSD. One of the amazing things is the way barriers to perception fall away and you become aware of more and more that you’ve never perceived before – a remarkable opening. As you continue to use these substances, these openings can continue and grow, until you become convinced that the process is practically limitless. That as long as you’re willing to explore with integrity – and I might say courage – because sometimes it takes a lot of courage – you can continue to explore in almost any area. There seems to be no end to learning. So it would seem that we truly are infinite and that there’s no end to the amount that we can learn and grow.

Greer: As you’re talking Myron, I’m having the image of someone living in a box, and of all the sides of the box falling away. They discover that they’re a completely different sort of being than they thought they were and that all the decisions they’ve made about how to live their lives – including: “What can I do in a relationship?” and “What’s possible in a relationship?” – all those have to be considered again, because all the rules have changed.

Stolaroff: That’s so true and it’s just wonderful finding people discover that. How great they feel when they’re able to do that. I think a very important part of this is discovering the inherent nature of reality, the inherent nature of time – and the fact that it is a spiritual thing. I think that’s one of the reasons there’s a lot of misunderstanding in the world – especially with scientists. Whereas the polls show that about 90% of the people believe in God, according to a Newsweek article about scientists and God, only about 40% of scientists do. I think scientists are appalled by the discovery of the transpersonal aspect of ourselves, even though, as you continue to discover, this aspect becomes the most real part, because it is so satisfying and so vast.

Greer: In my early experience, I struggled with that duality – between the scientific model of the Universe — including scientific human psychology — and the realization that we, as human beings, have a tremendously greater degrees of freedom than would be the case if we think of ourselves as simply personalities, with the familiar structures and forms. It’s important to understand the different levels of reality that the natural scientists apply to physical things – you need to have that – but it doesn’t work to apply those to yourself.

FIGURE

Outline For Successful Psychedelic Work With Couples

Factors for Developing One’s Individual Potential

  1. Become aware of the vast potential available to the human being.
  2. Discover the inherent nature of Reality and Mind, and their spiritual basis.
  3. Become one with all of creation.
  4. Discover love is the bottom line. One must first learn to love oneself.
  5. We create our life, so we must become fully responsible.
  6. Honor the cosmic gift of free will, in self and others.
  7. Learn how to learn. Involves being open, setting aside all preconditions, trusting, listening carefully.
  8. Confront restrictions and obstacles.
  9. Ask for the help that the Universe provides.
  10. Live what we learn.

Factors for The Couple’s Session

  1. Sharing an explicitly expressed common goal/purpose for the relationship, and psychedelic session is required before the session.
  2. Participants make a list of issues they wish to resolve, both joint and personal.
  3. Being explicit about agreements is also required. When will it be over? Don’t make phone calls, other agreements about the structure, etc.
  4. Making sure that both people have checked into themselves, emotionally and intuitively, and are sure that having a session at this time is the right thing for them to do for themselves.
  5. No attachment to outcome or changes expected in the other person. This is a particularly deadly one if not at least mutually attempted.
  6. No personal sacrifice is expected, or given, if there is a possibility that it could lead to later resentment. No care giving from the other can be expected, while, at the same time, people can be present and as available as possible for each other.
  7. It is best to have a trained therapist or sitter available to take care of practical things, at least the first time, as well as hold hands, etc., if needed – so the partner is not called upon to do care giving. Not having a sitter places more demands and can prevent a deep letting go if the person feels he or she has to be on duty for someone else.
  8. Use the non-defensiveness provided by MDMA to clear up differences.

Goldsmith: I might add — that this paradigm battle going on between traditional psychology and transpersonal psychology is very similar to the paradigm shift earlier in the century that took place in physics. It seems to be the way we get this new world view. Each discipline goes through it, at its own historical stage, but the transformation is quite similar. In each case, it is toward certain ways of thinking about reality that don’t jibe with a more deterministic or mechanistic perspective.

Greer: I think that captures it nicely.

Stolaroff: I like to think that this essence within us is really a core of wisdom, almost like an embryo that wants to grow and get out. I think there is an essential drive within us to expand, learn and grow, so that hopefully, these kinds of discoveries and insights will continue to permeate throughout all of society, in due time. Especially if we’re willing to accept and allow it to happen in other people.

Bodhisattva – Gwyllm

Greer: Yes and if both members of the couple have that kind of core life goal, they’ll both be headed in the same direction. Having that common purpose is going to resolve lots of relationship conflicts.

Goldsmith: You’ve been talking here about the inherent nature of reality and mind, and of their spiritual basis – which is the second factor. Could you tell us about how the third factor – “Become one with all of creation” – influences the relationship? Do we even need a relationship if we’re one with all of creation?

Stolaroff: What this is saying is that when you become one with all of creation, all the barriers that we have created and all the defense mechanisms, all the attachments and judgments that we’ve created, that keep us from relating effectively with everything around us, all of these things are somehow dissolved and out of the way. What we discover is this absolutely remarkable, indescribable state of oneness with absolutely everything in creation. It’s a state of supreme bliss.

Goldsmith: How does one even relate to the concept of “relationship” in that state?

Stolaroff: Although I might have experienced this oneness at times, I am very quickly pulled back into my body and my habits and expressions. In a real, meaningful relationship, if a couple can open up to the essential cores of each other and share that, it’s one of the most satisfying things that we can do and that, then, can become a model for extending that connection to other people and to everything else.

Greer: For me, becoming one with creation is a state of mind experienced briefly in deep meditation or in a psychedelic experience. Being in a relationship can be a reminder of the psychedelic state in every day life. Being one with a partner in a spiritual way can remind us of this connection with all creation.

That, for me, leads to the next point, “Love is the bottom line,” and loving oneself. If you have an experience of being one with creation and you completely love yourself, that type of peak experience – that type of deep, emotional belief – can stay with you. Then you can begin to come from a place of basic love when approaching your partner.

Goldsmith: Maybe this would be a good point to explain what MDMA does and why it is therapeutic.

Greer: It really has to do more with what MDMA doesn’t do – in that it doesn’t distort perception; it doesn’t distort thinking; it doesn’t make a person feel dissociated from the physical world around them, from people around them. Since it’s so close to the normal state of mind, there seems that there can be more carryover of insights after the experience.

What MDMA does that allows the connection – that experience of love – to happen is it blocks the neurophysiology of the fear response. If your nervous system isn’t responding with fear, out of survival instincts, then this feeling of connection – or in some, even of becoming one with creation, certainly with a partner – can be experienced.

Stolaroff: Well said! I have the feeling that MDMA takes you right down to the core of your being, into your essence, and you’re able to live in that place for a while. It allows you to bypass all the other stuff in the unconscious, which the more powerful psychedelics uncover and can result in discomfort until dealt with and resolved. It’s remarkable that MDMA can take you right into your center, where you feel the oneness, where you feel so completely at peace with yourself and others – and it allows you to function from there. That’s why, I think, Sasha Shulgin early coined the word “window” for it – because it’s like looking out of the window onto creation the way it really is.

Greer: I agree. I don’t think the MDMA creates anything – it just removes the blocks to our perceiving what is there all the time. Our essence is, by definition, always present – if we just had the ability to attain that perspective. So it helps one discover that such a thing is even possible.

Goldsmith: This then leads into numbers five and six. Myron, maybe you can help us understand individual responsibility and free will in the face of this all-encompassing cosmic oneness.

Stolaroff: One of the discoveries that I have found to be really important is that the bottom line for our functioning is intent. Most of us, in the condition we find ourselves in the world, are a composite of a lot of different aspects of character and being. Many of these are often conflicting things. For example, maybe we’d like to lose weight – but, at the same time, we love to eat rich desserts. So, we’re filled with a lot of conflicting desires.

But if our intent is deep enough, it will actually pull all of these conflicting areas into alignment. In other words, our deepest intent will override other considerations and become the source of our behavior. I think we can discover that the life that happens to us – in the way that we function, respond and so on – really comes out of this very, very deep intent, whether it be conscious or unconscious With proper use of psychedelics we can discover that our deepest intent, down where our essence is, is number four: It is love. So the best thing that we can do, then, is to come out of that place of love.

Revelation – Gwyllm

Greer: I’m relating this to this number five here, because I feel like an intention and willingness are the two main things that are required to have a good psychedelic session. To form a clear intention of the highest order. Having the intention to create your life – that’s a very great purpose to have. The responsibility comes in with the willingness to experience whatever happens to you on the way to fulfilling that intention or that purpose. If our intention is to be the best human being we can be, we need to be willing to experience pain, suffering, confusion – everything on that path. The responsibility is: I’m responsible for what I create, and I’m willing to experience the consequences of it.

Goldsmith: So it’s that mind-set of that intentionality that brings us to a point where we can experience number four – that deep love. Which is then the healing factor, Myron, that you were talking about, that brings the two disparate sides together – in this fearless state, the state where you don’t have the psychological fear response.

Stolaroff: Yes, that’s right. But another aspect is that we can develop inner strength. Because once we recognize that what is being carried out in our life comes from our intention, by deepening our intention, we can then make choices – and find that, with intent, those choices become fulfilled. Which is the same as saying that we’ve created our life.

But, along with this – and I’ve had a chance to observe this over a number of decades now, – there is such a thing as just becoming our essence. I think, as humans, we’re expected to do more. We do have faculties, and we do have muscles; we can develop and train these faculties and muscles so that as we choose to live with intent, we can develop the characteristics for carrying out that intent – and therefore live more and more successfully.

Greer: You mention in your number six, the cosmic gift of free will – it really is a gift, because from one perspective, there’s no reason that we should necessarily have free will. But free will makes it possible to have our own intention, to actually accomplish it and carry it out.

Stolaroff: If you look at the world, you see that a tremendous amount of the harm in the world is caused by people being unwilling to let others have free will. There’s a desire to control and manipulate, to assert one’s own position. I love a phrase that’s in Ken Keyes’s book, The Power of Unconditional Love, where he says: We have the right to state our preferences, but we don’t have the right to make demands on our partners or other people.

Greer: And it won’t work, anyway.

Stolaroff: (Laughs) Well, as a matter of fact, it usually makes things worse, doesn’t it?

Greer: Especially in a psychedelic session, where the sensitivity is turned up maybe 10 or a hundred-fold. Any attempts to have the other person’s life or experience fit in your own agenda is a setup for wasting a lot of time and energy that you will have to recover from all over again. We’ll get into that more later, I believe.

Goldsmith: You both seem to be alluding to these nested levels – first, being inside the self and then taking that out to the dyad, the relationship, then out to everyone else – the larger community, and ultimately to the Universe as a whole. At each of those levels, you’re talking about the same two things – love and free will, or responsibility. So, responsibility at the level of the individual has a certain form, and responsibility at the level of a couple has another character; responsibility as part of the community, or as part of the Universe – each has its responsibility, call it “self-will,” or “free will.” The more nested – the more you look at it in its larger perspective – the more free will and responsibility turns into something bigger. Call it love.

Greer: I think these principles of love and free will and responsibility actually do apply, both to deep, mystical experience, as well as to getting along with your co-workers. It applies no matter what we’re doing.

Stolaroff: Yes.

Goldsmith: So how do we get there? How do we learn to learn and confront the restrictions and obstacles that so many of us find in our way and encounter professionally?

Stolaroff: This next item – “Learning how to learn” – is very essential. George mentioned earlier a number of the factors involved – being willing to keep open. In using the psychedelics, one of the hardest things to learn is to just be simply open to what’s happening, and just allow it to happen.

A problem, as I see it, is that there are a lot of things that we’ve made unconscious that are uncomfortable and we really are not too keen to experience. If you let go to the experience, these things want to come up, and we have a tendency to put the brakes on. There’s a dynamic described in Buddhism that I think is quite appropriate and widespread, and I find that I’ve done it a lot – it’s called “grasping.” This is trying to make reality what you want it to be, instead of simply allowing it to be what it is.

Learning requires this kind of openness – the willingness not to grasp, not to prevent things from happening. As a matter of fact, once you’re open to the normal flow, it almost immediately becomes more comfortable. It’s in this state that you learn really important things – that the unconscious really does become conscious.

Another very important issue in being willing to allow things to emerge is fear. Fear is probably what holds us back the most. But once you experience this larger realm, or have an experience with divinity, then you begin to trust it and the more you trust, the more willing you are to open yourself to whatever it is that happens. So you become more willing to set aside your preconditions, your judgments, your attachments, and so on, and pay careful attention to what’s happening. This leads to the most effective kind of learning.

I like to think of it in another sense, also – that the surface mind is in partnership with the inner self. An excellent way to learn is to consciously focus on an object or issue. Then let go so completely that your inner self – which is the source of wisdom and understanding – can manifest and show you what you’ve asked for.

At this point I’d like to introduce another Buddhist term — “aversion.” When something painful or objectionable wants to come up, we often avoid it or shut it down. This is aversion. It is a principal reason we don’t experience what we ask for. We have to be willing to experience whatever is involved in receiving our answer.

Salvia Eyes – Gwyllm

Goldsmith: There is a standard frustration or paradox – you’re an engineer, Myron, and so you know what bootstrapping means – lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps is impossible in terms of gravity – and in self-exploration and psychotherapy, it likewise seems that we are hobbled by the paradox that we need to get past our defenses – but our defenses won’t let us do that very thing.

Stolaroff: Yes.

Goldsmith: So it speaks, then, to the value of this sort of chemical intervention, that enables one to peer over through the window that you were describing earlier.

Greer: That’s exactly right. Particularly with MDMA, the reduction in fear enables us to be aware of our preconceptions; to just to be aware that they’re there, but not to then grasp them out of fear. Because we form personalities and beliefs and , psychological “assumptions,” to protect us from feeling fear and anxiety. That’s what defense mechanisms are for and they’re very functional, but they’re not helpful to learning new perspectives. You’re right, Neal – to bootstrap yourself, you must either have a traumatic life experience that forces you out of a preconception about reality, some other sort of life confrontation, an experience of grace, or a psychedelic experience that you take with this kind of intention and willingness.

Under those conditions, all your mistakes and limited, illusory preconceptions are shown to you. So then, through free will, you can make choices to maintain that belief or to let it go. Especially with MDMA – without the fear – you can listen to your partner do the same thing and help each other gain an enhanced perspective.

Stolaroff: I think one of the really hard things to learn – of course, this isn’t true with MDMA, because the specific function of MDMA, as you mentioned earlier, George, is to somehow nullify or shut off fear. But with other psychedelics, fear can become very present. Just being willing to be afraid is one of the really important things to learn – being willing to be afraid and trust so that the basis of the fear can reveal itself – which most always is a wonderful accomplishment.

Greer: Right – that’s right.

Goldsmith: It’s difficult to see the distortions that the fear and defensiveness make. That’s so prominent in relationships, when your partner says something and you respond from your own personal issues and don’t really hear what your partner is actually trying to say, which many times will be coming from their own personal issues. Fear distorts seeing the partner, so when the fear is removed in an MDMA session, being able to see the partner more clearly is a powerful experience.

Greer: Right. And the reduction of fear also enables you to be more honest – with yourself and with your partner. During my first experience with my wife, at a certain point she asked if I minded something that she had done. In a normal state – being a nice person, I like to be liked – I would have said: “Oh, no – that’s okay.” But at that moment I said: “Yes, I really didn’t like that – and I can forgive you for it.” That was a novel experience for me at that time. It’s not that people need MDMA or psychedelics to do this – or, really, any of the things we’ve been talking about – but it certainly can help tremendously if life doesn’t provide the opportunity to resolve these issues.

Stolaroff: In watching couples under MDMA, one of the things I’ve been amazed at is that this kind of judgmental defensiveness is so subdued that a person can bring up something that before might have been a very loaded topic about which each partner would have immediately established their position against each other. Under MDMA it’s remarkable how they can really listen to each other – maybe for the first time.

Greer: Yes and I would only add the issue of intention – if one has the intention to reach the goal, then, when you meet a restriction or an obstacle, you just refuse to give into it, in order to maintain that intention. If it’s just fear, you just sit there and watch it and your attention can outlast the fear – especially if, like in an MDMA or psychedelic state, there’s a lot more energy available. It’s like calling the bluff of your fears and obstacles.

Stolaroff: Oh, that’s wonderful – yes.

Goldsmith: Which kind of leads us, in a way, to the next factor. If I may. I want to confront you, Myron, with a particular angle on this one. I know that you’ve talked about asking for and receiving help from the Universe and from God. Speaking specifically to our readership of students, scientists and scholars, as an engineer, tell us in concrete terms, how to ask for the help that the Universe provides.

Stolaroff: [Laughs.] Well, gosh – it’s really simple. First of all, my own dynamic is that I’ve always felt totally responsible. As a matter of fact, one can get thrown off base because sometimes people, very early in their experience, have a very profound experience of being God and therefore of being in control of the Universe – which makes you feel very responsible for everything. So I always felt that I had to do everything myself – that I had to figure it out, or had to be willing to look or take responsibility. Then it’s quite astonishing that sometimes, all of a sudden you say: “My gosh – I can’t find my way through this. I don’t know what’s happening or what these feelings are – please help.” Sometimes the answer comes almost instantaneously, miraculously. For so long – and I’ve seen other people operate this way, too — I’ve had such a sense that I alone have to accomplish it, that it doesn’t occur to me to lay back and ask for help.

This can also include asking others for help – I had to learn that my companions oftentimes had answers I was looking for. I’ve learned to be much more willing to ask others for help and be open to what they have to say.

But I do feel that our essence is the container of practically infinite wisdom – that we have almost all knowledge and all wisdom. Of course, all this isn’t accessible to us, because of various conditions we’ve created. But one of the ways of overcoming those conditions is recognizing that that information is there, and asking for it and being open to its coming.

Goldsmith: Isn’t that why people sometimes use these substances to get in touch with the external, the vastness of the Universe and at other times to get in touch with the vastness of the internal Universe: that both are a source of the same resonance or truth.

Greer: Yes, the same continuum.

Stolaroff: Yes. I like word “continuum,” George – because I really don’t see any kind of separation.

Greer: Right. In terms of me, asking for help the Universe provides, it is the ego opening the door to something outside itself.

Stolaroff: Oh, yes – very good.

Greer: If the ego is in a bind and can’t move forward, it can’t answer its own questions. I had an experience like this, where I discovered my mind was trying to answer its own question, and it, by definition, didn’t know the answer. By asking for help outside – and it can be God, the Universe – it doesn’t really matter what you call it – and all the 12-Step programs relate to this, the “Higher Power” – it’s all the same thing. It is critical for the transformation of the personality for the ego to open to input from outside of itself – from intuition. That’s when the magic happens, if you will.

Stolaroff: I’d like to quote Jesus on this point. Early in a search, it may not seem so, but with pursuit and intention, I believe we do find this statement to be true: “Seek and ye shall find; knock and ye shall enter; ask and it shall be given unto you.”

Greer: This reminds me of the whole concept of prayer. In my earlier adulthood I thought of myself more as a Buddhist, into meditation, and prayer really wasn’t something real to me. But later, I came to see the whole concept of prayer and praying as directly addressing this issue – because prayer is a method of asking for help from outside oneself, from outside the ego. I don’t think it really matters what you pray to – it’s the process of praying – psychologically, at least – that opens one up for this kind of transformation.

Stolaroff: Yes – I think that’s very, very true, and I’m glad you brought it up. I think prayer is important. As you say, you don’t have to have any specific kind of understanding – except one, I think, and that is to have confidence that the answer is out there somewhere.

Greer: Right.

Stolaroff: Of course, if you try this and you get the answer, that convinces you that it’s there and you get to trust it more. That continues to make it more effective.

Goldsmith: So this method of bootstrapping – not the chemical one – for transforming one’s life, seems to result from a kind of focused intentionality – through prayer or even meditation. Applying this then to our factor number ten: live what we learn – which is, of course, the hard part – it seems like there can be a personal bootstrapping effect that comes from this kind of focus or intentionality. Would that be a fair statement?

Greer: I think so. The bootstrapping results from asking and getting help from outside of one’s ego. Living what we learn – what’s the point of any of this unless it manifests in your life? If you just have these great experiences of insight, but then you don’t express this in the world of nature and human beings – then it might be nice for you, but it’s really no good to society or culture.

Goldsmith: Yes, and can it really be good for you, if it’s cut off from society?

Buddha – Gwyllm 2011

Greer: True – I think a lot of the skills that one learns in a psychedelic experience can carry over to living what you learn, or practicing what you preach. These inner skills can lead to outer skills, but that’s a whole other place and so your most intimate interpersonal relationship is the first place that this externalization of skill will manifest.

Stolaroff: That’s very well put, really that’s the essence. [Laughs.] It’s great to have these wonderful experiences – but if we don’t put them into effect in our life, we’re throwing away so much.

I’d like to further comment on one aspect of this issue. I think a lot of people get fooled by their psychedelic experiences, because they are so wonderful, they’ve had such openings and such increases in understanding, that they feel that they can rest on their laurels. On the contrary, what I have found – and, in fact, have been quite surprised at – is how easy it is to regress to old habits. What has surprised me is the amount of effort and intention I’ve had to muster to actually live these things in life. I don’t know whether it’s true with others or not – it is something I’d like to bring up at the psychedelic elders conference [Michigan, November, 1998] we’re going to.

Greer: I’ve never had anybody tell me it was easy.

Stolaroff: Oh, well, thank you. [Laughs.]

Goldsmith: Well, there were some who said it was easy – people like Leary, in the early days.

Greer: Yes.

Goldsmith: There’s always this sort of undercurrent – especially, perhaps, in the public perception – that psychedelics are a magic pill – you know, instant enlightenment; chemical Satori. Those are all old terms that were used in the early ’60s – by the press, mostly. But it’s a very interesting comment you make, Myron, about your own personal experience – about how easy it is to fall back. It will be interesting to see what the elders have to say. One would like to think that people who were active in the use of psychedelics would become wise old Buddhas. To be frank, I wonder how these tools help us – by providing insight, or rather, by helping to focus us on the path, which is what then provides the insights. Are these tools more effective in changing one’s life, than someone else might be, using intentionality and focus, but without these substances?

Stolaroff: Now that we’re on this subject, I must say that there are some experiences that are so profound and have such deep impact, that there is instant change. There are some things that happen that you just can’t retreat from.

Goldsmith: Like your early experience you mentioned at the beginning.

Stolaroff: Yes. If the experience isn’t retained, perhaps we haven’t experienced deeply enough, or we require deeper processing. If you want to play the violin or the piano, you have to fit in many hours of practicing and developing skills, making the appropriate nerve connections and movements until it becomes spontaneous. I think there is part of our organism that simply has to be trained to search effectively for these great truths.

Greer: What you’ve raised here, Neal, touches on a couple of things for me. One, the abuse of psychedelics and two, to segue into our next set of factors, the actual conduct of a session. I’ve seen a lot of patients who abuse lots of drugs – including LSD and MDMA – and don’t learn much of anything. I believe the reason they don’t is the whole issue of set and setting. Abusers don’t have the intention to learn from the experience – they’re using it for the intention of escaping.

You know, when I was in college having those early experiences, I didn’t take it until my roommate said you can learn something. So that was always my basic intention. In fact, I found it a very poor tool for escaping anything – all your unconscious problems are right in your face. But I do know people who would go out and take LSD, drink beer, drive around and look at the pretty lights – and they never got anything out of it, except for a few hours of entertainment.

Part II…. Continues.

Eclipse – Gwyllm

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