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Psychedelics that open doors for personal and societal growth

Personlig utvikling med psykedelika, psilocybin og LSD

For many, psychedelics are surrounded by both mystery and myth, whether it's LSD or the mushrooms in the family psilocybe, so-called "magic mushrooms". Part of the reason is that the effects deviate quite markedly from what you can experience with other substances - and not least from what we experience in our normal everyday consciousness. This can be quite demanding to deal with both for science and for us as so-called modern people. The experiences people have under the influence of psychedelics break with many of the ideas we have about ourselves, about what consciousness is and about the nature and structure of reality itself. This can be quite provocative, as our contemporary world is so "scientific" in its thinking about these questions that there is hardly any room for other narratives about who we are, where we come from and how all things are connected than the stories science offers.

 

Nothing wrong with science per se, but precisely because of the success of science and technology in predicting, creating, healing and generally presenting reality in a more objectively correct picture than any other faith has ever done, we are easily blinded by that being human in itself is largely precisely thatnotis about the conditions that science so cleverly explores.

Maya's Veil

Taking psychedelics can be experienced as pulling away the veil between our daily, limited self, and our deeper layers that are still in full contact with the ancient forces that drive and bind people together in the often incomprehensible drama we experience as life. - While our senses usually relate mostly to the "outside" of the physical world - for the simple reason that we need a usable orientation device in order to function and survive here - the senses open up under the influence of psychedelics to the actual content of human existence: We see, hear and feel adversity, success, victory and defeat, fear and shame, love and joy - as well as the content and quality of your most important relationships, and what has led to the situation you are in here and now. - Not to mention the cosmic dance in which the masculine and feminine aspects of the eternally ongoing act of creation move in rhythms so unbearably beautiful that the most hardened realist would be able to break down in tears of joy. Several describe the experience as one of the most significant and meaningful they have had in their entire lives. And this is only the first level. 

With larger doses or repeated "trips", out of body experiences, memories from one's own birth or previous lives, encounters with deities from known and unknown cultures or intuitive understanding of known and unknown archetypal symbols are described. Interestingly, contact with the monotheistic God or the biblical Jesus is very rarely described. Instead, several experience insights into deep secrets about the universe and the spirit world, or merging with the soul of people groups or animals, with objects or even complete merging with and dissolution into the universe itself. In the latter case, "the traveler" experiences no longer having either a bodily form or a personal identity: In direct contrast to daily life, it is now our usual surroundings that are inaccessible - including our own body and psyche.

 

All these experiences point to a reality where man cannot primarily be defined by his physical form and figure, but must rather be understood as a participant in an infinitely complex reality consisting primarily of consciousness energy, and where everything else - what we usually cast our eyes on in everyday life - is more like scenery to count. We could also call it a condensed layer of matter on top of the actual living, underlying energy. These backdrops, with their absolutely beautiful and interesting expressions, are naturally necessary frames for the earthly chapters of the human drama, the beginning and end of which stretch towards time horizons that we cannot even begin to grasp with the brain's ability to think. Scientific studies that limit themselves to this part of reality or these backdrops can thus never answer the really big questions that have always plagued humanity, no matter how interesting and useful such studies are. Here we have more faith in the path taken by people like Stanislav Grof, who with an exemplary open mind studied and categorized thousands of LSD sessions both with the aim of helping the patients and mapping the "realms of the human unconscious", which are also the name of one of his books (read more about this and other books here)

Psychedelic therapy for humanity?

Grof and others have shown that psychedelics have great potential to free people from ingrained ideas, limiting belief systems or traumatic life experiences. In this way, the substances can contribute to deep healing of the individual, as well as to a collective lifting of the human spirit as such. Recent studies have shown, for example, that dying people benefit greatly from the drugs in that the fear of death is reduced or disappears completely. Other studies show that depressed people have a better effect from a single dose than they get from traditional, mood-regulating agents taken daily, and psychedelic-supported treatment of addiction also shows promising results - which can naturally appear paradoxical to people without knowledge of the field.

Psychedelic substances have been used for thousands of years by shamans and other "wise men" - and on certain occasions also by large masses of people. Rather than today's categorical legislation, the use in earlier times was probably regulated more by collective beliefs about what is sacred or taboo, and on which occasions it was right or useful to indulge in non-ordinary states of consciousness. Absence of formal legislation in no way means absence of regulation: Social sanctions usually sting more than a fine of a few thousand.

While we might not immediately vote for "psychedelic freedom", we think that the drugs must be available both for research and therapy, as well as for adult individuals who can make informed and conscious choices. It is, for example, a bit of a paradox that as a 19-year-old and with the state as client, you can go to distant regions and participate in acts of war where, in the worst case, you will be shot to pieces, but you cannot legally pick morels from the ground to eat them . Everything is rarely connected within one and the same culture – regardless of how widely accepted the current regulations are. The reason is, of course, that we still have a relatively undeveloped culture, that society is simply quite adolescent.

One of the downsides of living in such a pubertal society is that everything is flattened and adapted to a minimum common multiple of interests, needs, abilities and ideas, while those who have other interests are hindered, held back and even punished for what they believe is good for themselves. In Jonas Gahr Støre's words about completely different topics: "We prohibit what is dangerous". He might as well have added "what we don't like and what we don't understand". Because who on earth is the Labor Party or Jonas Gahr Støre to decide what is good or dangerous for me?

Yes, we are probably all the same in that we share the same basic and yet rather superficial needs for food and drink, security in house, home and finances - but somewhere deep inside us rotates our deeply individual way of connecting on the eternal and universal forces which form the basis of our real needs. Not a single party or ideology in this world can grasp, embrace or facilitate the fulfillment of these needs. At their best, religions have at least attempted something like this, but in most cases have degenerated into elitist tools for controlling other people; Tools to prevent the average man and woman from gaining access to real, spiritual knowledge - and even to material goods.

Freedom and individuation

When it comes to getting answers to what is actually good for a person, there is probably more to be gleaned from ancient scriptures than from the platitudes that our leaders of today play out. At the same time, it is a great advantage to live with the opportunities that modern science, technology and freedom from priests, imams or other "scribes" give us. The development history of the human individual can be understood as the path from a relatively unconscious part of the clan or tribe's group soul, to a future, imagined state where we can almost be said to become our own "gods" We're not there yet, so to speak. As indicated above, we can rather claim that the human race is in puberty as far as the level of social, psychological and spiritual development is concerned: We are still in the middle of a rebellion where we assert our so-called individuality, which when we look more closely at it means little other than jumping from one extreme to another, and where belonging to the group with the "correct" opinions is felt to be so compelling that this fact must be strongly denied so that the fear of being an insignificant zero does not completely overwhelm us. 

How we want to regulate or not regulate various substances also has to do with what we think the state should be and do for us. Is it an extended mother figure who will ensure that nothing bad happens to us, or should it interfere far less in our lives? - And is the human psyche the last area waiting to escape this control? Is there a deep fear of what would happen to existing truths and power structures if everyone were to discover their own truth in a landscape that breaks so radically with the techno-instrumental way most of us live our lives? Richard Nixon and his henchmen incarnated this fear when they witnessed, almost in panic, how hordes of young people with psychedelic experiences no longer passively allowed themselves to be enlisted in the military machine, but on the contrary rebelled against the brutal US warfare in Vietnam. Something like this would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier.

Alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, sleeping pills and other prescription drugs people use in large quantities help to maintain this state, while psychedelics at their best may represent a break with all of this – with our mind-boggling denial that man is anything more than a clever monkey. Perhaps psychedelics are the earth's gift to humanity - a gift that can help to raise awareness and lift us out of the dead water of pubertal impulses, but it is also a gift that we should manage with great wisdom and sobriety.

Willy-Pedersen-Psykedelika-LSD-psilocybin.JPG

Anna Marie Høifødt and drug researcher  Willy Pedersen has studied Oslo people's use of psychedelics for personal growth. They believe that it can be misleading to call psychedelic substances drugs, and that they can contribute to personal growth.

Er magic mushrooms/psykedelisk sopp nyttig?

Evidence indicates that psychedelic use is associated with pro-social, personal growth benefits including increased nature relatedness, potentiating conflict resolution and sustaining compassion. Indigenous communities around the globe have used psychedelics in spiritual ceremony and healing for millennia.

Kan psilocybinsopp være frigjørende?

The feeling of losing yourself is absolutely awful, but also necessary. It is the one that gives you the deep insights, according to users of the illegal drugs LSD and wild mushrooms.

The research magazine Apollon, 9 March 2021

One of the first major studies on psychedelics in modern times was conducted at Johns Hopkins University on a group of patients with life-threatening cancer. Two similar studies were conducted in 2011 and 2014 with 12 participants, so the aim here was to see if the results held up in a larger population (56 participants). All studies were double-blind and placebo-controlled. All participants had potentially life-threatening cancer diagnoses and marked symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. One group received a high dose of psilocybin, corresponding to 3.5 g of mushroom (P. Cubensis), and the placebo group received a low dose, corresponding to 0.25 g of mushroom. Before taking the medicine, they had an average of three preparatory meetings. There were two therapists present throughout the process and the room where the treatment took place was a "cozy" room with plants, pictures and a sofa where the participants had to lie. Following the medicine day, the participants had an average of six integration meetings, again with both therapists present.

The results were measured by asking both the participants themselves and other observers such as family, colleagues and friends. 62% reported that the high-dose experience was among the five most meaningful experiences they have had in their life, where experiences such as the birth of a child, death in close family, weddings and the like were on the list. 86% reported a moderate to high increase in quality of life, a figure that only decreased by 3.5% over six months. When measuring the reduction of symptoms for anxiety and depression, the results were 52-60% for the high-dose group compared to 12-16% for the placebo group.

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