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Krippner & Luke - Psychedelics and Species Connectedness

Krippner & Luke - Psychedelics and Species Connectedness

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Published by: David Luke on Jun 17, 2011
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maps bulletin • volume xix number 1
Is it this naked existence that recon-nects the natural environment to themental capacities of those psychedeli-cally-inspired experients? This type of experience forges a way of thought that is lled with ethical, ecological implica-tions, and which is reflected in the workof shamans, alchemists, and other practi-tioners who respected nature (Krippner,1994/1995). The patriarch of psyche-
Psychedelics and
Species Connectedness
David Luke, Ph.D.Beckley Foundationdrdluke@googlemail.comStanley Krippner, Ph.D.Saybrook Graduate Schoolskrippner@saybrook.edu
is given over solelyto ecology suggests that at the very least the consumption of psychedelicsubstances leads to an increased concern for Nature and ecological issues.On one level we can understand that this may be due to a basic apprecia-tion of place and aesthetics that accompanies the increased sensory experi-ence, or that since psychedelic plants come from Nature we are forced toenter its realms when we search them out. However, on a deeper level wecan also appreciate that a communication with Nature may on occasionoccur through the phenomenological properties of the psychedelic experi-ence, some of which have been hailed by experients as life-transformingand spiritually renewing, even “mystical.”With the aid of mescaline Aldous Huxley came face to face with sucha mystical experience, even though the Oxford Theologian R.C. Zaehner(1957) denigrated his experience of “nature mysticism” as somehow infe-rior to the “genuine” theistic mystical experience. Yet the irony remainsthat the very split from Nature that some Christian theologians claimoccurred in the Garden of Eden may lie at the heart of many people’scurrent sense of separateness from their ecology. Whereas, under speciccircumstances of substance, set, and setting, psychedelics are capable of augmenting such a reunion. Despite Zaehner’s derisions, Huxley (1954)reportedly witnessed this reunion through his experimental uses of mes-caline: “I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of creation –the miracle, moment by moment of naked existence” (p. 4).
delia, Albert Hofmann, demonstratedthis by reporting that a mystical natureexperience he had had when he wasyoung pregured his discovery of LSD.He stated that “…my mystical experienceof nature as a child…was absolutely likean LSD-experience…. I believe I was insome fashion born to that” (Hofmann,Broeckers, & Liggenstorfer, 2009, p.2).Hofmann wrote about attaining “one-
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maps bulletin • volume xix number 1
ness with Nature,” and it is this feelingof unity that characterizes many of theseexperiences described as “mystical,” nomatter how diverse they might be inother aspects.Throughout his long life Hofmannincreasingly drew upon the great hopethat psychedelics were the key to this re-connection for others. When asked about the role that LSD had played in bringingpeople back to Nature, he commented,It has given many people goodideas, and those who have gone back to Nature have been saved.Many people, however, are stillstuck in technological Hell andcannot get out. Nevertheless, manyhave discovered something whichhardly exists in our society anylonger: the sense of the sacred.(Hofmann et al., 2009, p.6) Always vocal on ecological issues, Hof-mann recalled that among his most sat-isfying experiences were hearing youngpeople say things like, “I grew up in thecity, but once I rst took LSD, I returnedto the forest” (Hofmann et al., 2009, p.4).Providing us with an insight into thecause of this yearning for a return to Na-ture, based on their extensive experien-tial research with psychedelics, Mastersand Houston (1966) noted that,...the [psychedelic] subject, almost from the start, already has achieveda kind of empathy with his [or her]surroundings as a whole…That isto say, nature seems to the subject a whole of which he [or she] is anintegral part, and from this charac-teristic feeling of being a part of theorganic ‘body of nature’ the subject readily goes on to identify withnature in its physical particularsand processes.But if a person is empathizing withNature in this state, whose feeling’s isshe or he feeling? The notion that thereis some entity with which to empathizeimplies that the thing itself has emo-tions, and the idea emerges that Natureitself and the beings who inhabit it – bethey animal, vegetable or perhaps evenmineral – are also sentient.Such animism is at the root of allshamanic belief systems, and, as JeremyNarby (2006) noted, shamanism involves“attempting to dialogue with nature”(p.16). In shamanism, of course, thiscommunication is frequently achievedthrough the ingestion of psychedelicplants, fungi, or other natural substances(e.g., Krippner, 1994). As a nature-based epistemology,shamanism is ecological to its core. Theshaman is a caretaker of Nature and anegotiator between people and “other-than-human persons,” as Graham Harvey(2005) called them in his “Animist Mani-festo.” For Harvey, it is humanity’s fungalfriends themselves that transmit the ideaof animism the best: “Maybe sometimesthe mushrooms just want to help us joinin the big conversation that’s going on allaround us.” (Harvey, 2005, p.128)Mycologist Paul Stamets speculatedthat mushrooms have a hidden agenda to bring humans into communication withother species. In studying the taxonomyof the Psilocybe genus Stamets noted howthese psychoactive mushrooms proliferateparticularly in the wake of human’s hab-its of “taming the land” and other interac-tions with the natural world. Examplesinclude, “chopping down trees, breakingground to create roads and trails, and do-mesticating livestock” (Harrison, Straight,Pendell, & Stamets, 2007, p. 138). By thismeans, Stamets believed, certain mush-rooms become available to those whomost need to speak to Nature throughthem. For Stamets, when this dialogue isengaged, the message “…is always that weare part of an ‘ecology of consciousness,’that the Earth is in peril, that time isshort, and that we’re part of a huge, uni-versal bio-system.” However, Stamets isnot alone because “many people who havetaken these substances report receivingthe same message” (Harrison et al., 2007,p. 138).There is a body of research that backsup Stamets’ assertion that it is not just he and Harvey who are receiving myce-lial messages from Nature. A survey intopeople’s exceptional experiences withpsychedelics found that encountering the“spirit” of the ingested plant or funguswas the most widely reported of a rangeof 17 “paranormal” and “transpersonal”type experiences occurring with thosetaking psilocybin-containing mushrooms(Luke & Kittenis, 2005). According to the
Homann recalled thatamong his mostsatisying experienceswere hearing youngpeople say things like,“I grew up in the city,but onceI frst took LSD,I returnedto the orest”
maps bulletin • volume xix number 1
respondents this encounter also occurredquite frequently, and was the secondmost prevalent experience with anyone substance, preceded only by experi-ences of “unity consciousness” on LSD. Additionally, the encounter with “plant consciousness” was the most widelyreported transpersonal event for severalother psychedelic substances too, suchas ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, and the Amanita muscaria mushroom. If Harvey’s“Animist Manifesto” is to be taken seri-ously then these plants are clearly tryingto tell humanity something.Interpreting humanity’s many dia-logues on the mushroom experience,mycophile Andy Letcher (2007) termedthese mushroom-mediated encoun-ters with discarnate spirit entities the“animaphany.” He warned, however,that these experiences largely go ignored because, in a Foucauldian sense, theyoffer a resistive discourse to that of thesocietally legitimated explanations of what occurs under the influence of suchplants and fungi, in the West at least (Foucault, 2006). Being based solely onthe effects of mushrooms on others, theselegitimated discourses typically take apathological, psychological or prohibitorystance, and so this subjective animaphanyappears to transgress a fundamentalsocietal boundary, communicating with“spirits,” which subsequently becomeslabelled as “madness.” But which is themore “mad,” communicating with thespirits of Nature or sitting back whileEarth’s ecology descends rapidly into thegreatest wave of mass extinction in 65million years?It appears that the plant entities arenot the only ones getting in on the ap-parent conservation conversation; as suchpharmacologically-induced trans-speciescommunications also engage the animalkingdom. Through the use of psychedel-ics, particularly LSD and ketamine, thephysician John C. Lilly, M.D. (1978)claimed to have began communicatingtelepathically with other species andconsequently made an ethical U-turnin his highly invasive animal research(such as dolphin dissection), to increas-ingly involving consensual peer to peerexchanges with nonhuman species. If other species can communicate withhumans, then perhaps the best way todo this would be directly – in a languagethat transcends physical restrictions. If such telepathic-like communication re-quires changing one’s consciousness, thencertain plants are expertly disposed to begin this dialogue through their potent psychoactive compounds.Ever since Albert Hofmann (2005)had an out-of-body experience on hisrst accidental LSD journey, and GordonWasson’s photographer Allan Richard-son had an apparently predictive visionduring their seminal mushroom tripin Mexico (Richardson, 1990), suchpsychedelic explorers as Aldous Hux-ley and Humphrey Osmond have beenintrigued by the occasional stimulation of anomalous faculties with the use of thesepsychoactive substances. A review of theparapsychological literature (Krippner &Davidson, 1970; Luke, in press) indicatesthat while the issue still requires furtherresearch there is good reason to considerthe possibility that psychedelics might actually promote such parapsychologicalphenomena as telepathy. However, thekind of species centrism that Homo sapi-ens are prone to, tends to promulgate theview that animals, and especially plants,lack consciousness. However, given thepossibility that these plants and animalsmight be sentient, direct communicationwith them should not be ruled out, andmight be encouraged instead. Psychedel-ics, especially those involving plants,would seem well suited for that task.
But which isthe more “mad,”communicating withthe spirits o Nature orsitting back while Earth’s ecologydescends rapidly intothe greatest waveo mass extinctionin 65 million years?
Albert Homann and Stanley Krippner.Photo courtesy o Stanley Krippner

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