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Hungarian Psychedelic Community DAATH2

The Spiritual Characteristics of a Hungarian, Psychedelic Drug Using, Semi-Virtual Community

1.

The Brief History of Psychedelics ...................................................................................... 2 1.1 Which drugs are the psychedelics? .................................................................................. 2 1.2 The role of the psychedelic substances in indigenous societies ....................................... 2

2.

The Modern Use of Psychedelics ....................................................................................... 3 2.1 Albert Hofmann ................................................................................................................ 3 2.2 Psychedelic revolution psychedelics inspired art and literature - and research of CIA 3

3.

Virtuality as a Place of Development of Common Beliefs ................................................. 4 3.1 The birth of the Hungarian Psychedelic Community (Daath).......................................... 4 3.2 The aims of the community .............................................................................................. 4 3.3 The role of the online character ........................................................................................ 5

4.

The Spiritual Ways of the Community ............................................................................... 6 4.1 Symbolic boundaries ........................................................................................................ 6 4.2 The spiritual paths of the psychedelic experience ............................................................ 6 4.3 The intensification of the identity psychedelic ceremonies .......................................... 7

5.

The Self-Representation of the Community towards the Hungarian Society ..................... 8 5.1 Spiritual and theoretical conversations turn to practical talks .......................................... 9 5.2 Reducing harms online ..................................................................................................... 9 5.3 Turning towards the society ............................................................................................. 9 5.4 Psychonauts .................................................................................................................... 10

6.

Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 10

7. References ............................................................................................................................ 11

1. The Brief History of Psychedelics


1.1 Which drugs are the psychedelics?
Psychedelic drugs or entheogenes are able to induce states of altered perception and thought. They are also called mind-expanding drugs, because it is believed that they can develop unused potentials of the human mind.1 Psychedelics have a kind of culture that tends to open up their users to the spiritual dimension, independent of organized religion. After all they show that there is more to reality than ones former world view had encompassed. Thus these experiences start many of the users searching for spirituality. (Psychonauts 2006) Psychedelic drugs are part of a wider class sometimes known as the hallucinogens, which also includes related substances such as dissociatives and deliriants. The best known psychedelic drugs are LSD, psilocybin (the agent of magic mushrooms), mescaline (the agent of peyote cactuses) and DMT (the agent of canary grass and harding grass, it is also created in small amounts by the human body during normal metabolism.)

1.2 The role of the psychedelic substances in indigenous societies


The use of hallucinogenic plants has been part of human culture as far back as the earliest recorded history. The role of these plants was diverse in different societies from Siberia to Australia, but with many similarities. Usually psychic powers have been attributed to these plants and have become an integral part of numerous primitive religions. Some examples for the different utilizations: in South America, many tribes take ayahuasca to foresee the future, put on or remove spells, or insure the fidelity of their women. The ayahuasca is also regarded as an omniscient teacher. Many indigenous people of the Amazon claim that they learn the medicinal properties of plants by drinking ayahuasca. As Ruperto Gomez, an Ashaninca Indian in Peru remarked: Some say it is occult, which is true, but it is not evil. In truth, ayahuasca is the television of the forest. You can see images and learn things. (Narby 1999) In Mexico and in the Southwest, datura is used in divination, prophecy, and ritualistic curing. Modern Mexican Indians value certain mushrooms as sacraments and use morning glories and the peyote cactus to predict the future, diagnose and cure disease, and placate good and evil spirits. (Schultes 1976) Worthy of note that even in the USA where one of the strictest drug policy and prohibition is in force we can find some churches and religious communities where the followers are able to utilize certain psychedelics in order to practice their rituals. For example the members of the Native American Church practice peyotism, which involves the use of the entheogen Peyote.

Cf. Encyclopdia Britannica, Wikipedia

2. The Modern Use of Psychedelics


2.1 Albert Hofmann
Albert Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland in 1906 and graduated from The University of Zrich with a degree in chemistry in 1929. In the 1930s he was researching in lysergic acid what finally led to the synthesizing of LSD-25 molecule in 1938 with which he had a selfexperiment in 1943. From that time hundreds of experiments started with this molecule mainly in psychiatry. Even Hofmann became a type of a psychedelic guru by his writings and experiments. Hofmann celebrated his 100th birthday last year, in 2006 with an LSD symposium in Basel2.

2.2 Psychedelic revolution psychedelics inspired art and literature - and research of CIA
During the Cold War, intelligence agencies were keenly interested in the possibilities of using LSD for interrogation and mind control as well as for large-scale social engineering. The CIA mind-control research on LSD had begun in the 1950s and continued until the late 1960s. In the 1960s consume of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms appeared as a counter-cultural act. Ken Kesey, the famous writer author of the best-selling novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest volunteered to take part in a government drug research program in 1959, that tested a variety of psychoactive drugs, such as LSD, psilocybin, morning glory seeds and mescaline which were all legal at the time and paid the volunteers 75$ per day. Fuelled by their mind-expanding experiences, a bunch of people, called the Merry Pranksters, under Keseys leading, drove around the United States in a multicolour bus with the mission of turning on the youth of the country with LSD and other psychedelic drugs. After returning to California, the Merry Pranksters sponsored a series of parties designed to introduce LSD and other hallucinogens. These events were informally called Acid Tests3, with signs asking Can you pass the Acid Test? In the meantime Dr. Timothy Leary was popularizing the use of LSD and other psychedelics in his way with emphasizing their spiritual and therapeutic benefits. By 1959, Leary was teaching Psychology at Harvard. In 1960 he had his first self-experiment with psilocybin. In 1965, Leary commented that he learned more about [his] brain and its possibilities [and] more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than [he] had in the preceding fifteen years of studying doing research in psychology. (Ram Dass4 2001) In 1963, Leary and Richard Alpert were fired from Harvard because of using volunteer undergraduate students as guinea pigs for their experiments with psychedelics. The experiments continued both therapeutically and recreationally in Learys house in Millbrook and after some publications (such as the Psychedelic Experience first published in 1964) Leary quickly became the main figure of the psychedelic movement.

2 3

For more information about the symposium visit this website: http://www.maps.org/hofmann100/ The word acid is a commonly used slang for LSD. 4 Ram Dass is also known as Richard Alpert.

Learys work had a significant influence on the hippy generation as they both rejected active political engagement with the mainstream. On the Woodstock festival thousands of hippies used LSD following the dictate of Leary to turn on, tune in, and drop out, hoped to change society by dropping out of it. In that time many stories of bad trips and accidents appeared related to these substances and finally it lead to the prohibition of their use in 1971. Since then, consumption of psychedelics became mainly an act of underground movements and different subcultures. From the 1990s, the entheogen use characterizes primarily the electronic music scene. Still many people believe they can achieve mystic or religious experience by altering the chemistry of the body with psychedelic drugs, while others use them just for having fun, so the psychedelic movement has not terminated yet.

3. Virtuality as a Place of Development of Common Beliefs


3.1 The birth of the Hungarian Psychedelic Community (Daath)
In the second part of the 1990s, there were few Hungarian websites dealing with the psychedelic culture. The idea of creating a new homepage which collects all available writings of this topic and gives a forum to the people who are interested was born in 2000 and one year later the first version of Daath was ready5. Typing the URL address of the page we encounter a sign Daath2 where the number signifies that it is the second version of the webpage. Four people took part in the first meeting with different spiritual backgrounds. The main founder considered himself in that time a Taoist, one of them was influenced by Buddhism, the third was Christian and the fourth was interested in the spiritual techniques of Gurdjieff6 and other psychedelic-influenced teachers. In spite of their differences, they could think together perfectly in the topic of psychedelics and the roles in making the webpage evolved easily. Until these days, their backgrounds and interests have changed a lot: the Taoist founder dedicated himself for making films (in 2006 he made a documentary about the community with the title Psychonauts for more details see 5.4), the Christian person went to India, the Buddhist fellow turned to be a Christian and started a family, while the spiritual approach of the fourth person remained more or less the same. In 2004 he became the editor and the moderator of the website.

3.2 The aims of the community

The word Daath is used in the Kabbalah and means Knowledge. For more information visit this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Da%27at_%28Kabbalah%29 6 George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) was an Armenian-Greek mystic, a teacher of sacred dances, and a spiritual master.

Primarily the main goal of the webpage is to collect psychedelic-influenced writings and to build up a community with a forum and to facilitate the meeting of people with the same interest. They started a conversation that was different comparing to the usual medical and criminological context. In the last years the most rapidly growing fields of the page were the accounts based on personally lived-through experiences and the forum, with more and more topics, members and conversations. As the community grows, new aims arise. The most actual goal is giving help in the reduction of harms caused by the unaware use of psychedelics and cautioning about the unknown contented pills.

3.3 The role of the online character


Being a member of an online community amounts to some peculiarities in self- and socialrepresentation, although the researchers of this phenomena warn us that one cannot observe the online relations of a community without taking into account its offline aspect and their effects on each other. Our view, and one that seems most consonant with current anthropological theory and practice, is that the distinction of real and imagined or virtual community is not a useful one, and that an anthropological approach is well suited to investigate the continuum of communities, identities, and networks that exist from the most cohesive to the most diffuse regardless of the ways in which community members interact. (Wilson Peterson 2002) Here is a review of the most important characteristics of the online side of Daath: The members may appear in virtuality with a tabula rasa regarding their offline life: they can create a new identity and introduce themselves from a totally different narrative. This anonymity allows more liberty to most people than face-to-face relations. In cyberspace, people can think together on a defined a topic; in our case: the psychedelics and the surrounding culture. Virtuality gives a new possibility for the representation of a group. People can join the community regardless of country borders and they may identify themselves with a common purpose. Every conversation, argument and account of experience remains on the website, so the forum provides the people with the possibility of learning from each other and thinking or acting together. The community of the forum could be described as a kind of subculture, because their main interest focuses on an illegal topic, but we cannot set aside that the website is accessible for everyone and the registration is easy, so we may treat Daath as a semi- or an entirely public-subculture, which is opened for everybody who is interested.

4. The Spiritual Ways of the Community


4.1 Symbolic boundaries
For discovering the boundaries that characterize most illegal drug-using societies, we must first observe the sorts of everyday and vocational conversations, where consume of drugs and users appear. According to the research of Kenyeres and Mszros (2005) the conversations about the use of illegal drugs can be divided in to three main types: Criminological context where drug using equals to committing a crime, so the consumption appears in the context of jurisdiction; Medical context where the main focus lies on the physiological effects caused by these drugs and users often appear as mentally ill people who need to take part in medical or therapeutic treatment; and the Spiritual context usually this is the point of view of the psychedelic drug users, who intend to achieve transcendent or spiritual development, a deeper selfexploration and to form a more detailed image of the world by using these substances.

Since the majority of the psychedelics are currently in illegal status in Hungary like in most countries of the Western world the conversations about them in the press and media are usually situated in the first two contexts, which results in a distorted image of the drug consumers: for the majority of the society the illegal drug users turn up within a negative connotation and usually appear as inactive members of the culture, because they have got no chance to start a conversation in their spiritual context and to talk about the possible beneficial effects that are accessible by the aware use of these substances. As the editor of the community website stated, the word psychedelic primarily refers to the aim of the usage and in the second place it refers to those substances that are generally utilized on this purpose. The psychedelic use mainly aims at the self-explore, the rise of creativity, the intensification of the social relations, the achievement of religious experiences and other intellectual goals.

4.2 The spiritual paths of the psychedelic experience


If we believe the psychedelic users and researchers, we should notice that these drugs with the proper aim of utilization may cause a more complex state of mind than just being stoned. The related studies point out that the psychedelic drugs can catalyze intense spiritual experiences where users feel they have come into contact with a greater spiritual or cosmic order. Some users report insights into the way the mind works, and some experience long-lasting changes in their life perspective. A number of persons consider LSD a religious sacrament or a powerful tool for access to the divine. Several books have been written

comparing the LSD trip to the state of enlightenment of eastern philosophy. With the words of an old member of the Daath community: The psychedelic experience as a mystical experience is a kind of stripping-away process, the state of the Naked Human. When we take off our clothes, we are still humans, but without the excesses our culture demands of us. To see ourselves in this naked state is a deeper kind of humanness. A less historical, more natural, direct and truer humanness [] the psychedelic experience is nothing more than a provoked mystical experience. (Psychonauts 2006) Some psychedelic-influenced writers emphasize that these substances might play a significant role in the turn of people towards religions or other forms of spirituality. Aldous Huxley after having his first psychedelic trip advocated mescaline as a means of vitalizing religious life, with particular emphasis on its mystical aspects: mescaline experience is what Catholic theologians call a gratuitous grace, not necessary to salvation but potentially helpful and to be accepted thankfully, if made available. To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large - this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual. (Huxley 1954) The founders of Daath were also interested primarily in the spiritual experiences that can be achieved by the use of these drugs. In my first interview with the founders I asked about the motives of creating the website and the community. All of them agreed that a spiritual search had antedated the trying out of the psychedelic, and/or the consumption just triggered the search. In a later interview some of them said that the role of these experiences had been only the revealing of paths that could be followed, but the psychedelic use cannot substitute the following of a path. Avoid the danger of mistaking the finger pointing to the Moon for the Moon itself goes the Buddhist saying. This harmonizes with the observations of Walter Houston Clark, professor of psychology of religion: The [psychedelic] drugs are simply an auxiliary which, used carefully within a religious structure, may assist in mediating an experience which, aside from the presence of the drug, cannot be distinguished psychologically from mysticism. (Clark 1964) Psychedelics may help in finding spiritual ways, but sooner or later the user would better focus on setting forth on the discovered path, rather than keeping on altering the chemistry of the own body. Drug use is no shortcut for religious development. It depends mostly on your personality. If you are spiritually inclined and already on the right path, then these drugs can help you forward. But if you approach uninitiated or neglectfully, with only hedonism in mind, or if you have totally different expectations, then it is unlikely that you will have a religious or transcendent experience. (Psychonauts 2006)

4.3 The intensification of the identity psychedelic ceremonies


Inside the community there is a group of 25-30 people who know each other personally and regularly meet in a tea-room for chatting about psychedelic or everyday things7. Entheogen use does not characterize these meetings, only the parties and the reunions in the flat of a member. The best occasions for strengthening the common beliefs are together-experienced psychedelic trips. In these meetings theories turn to practice. Usually not everyone takes
7

In 2007 the preferred tea-shop closed, so there was no meeting until December.

entheogens on a common trip, so I could observe one ceremony without taking LSD. Nearly all psychedelic reunions are followed by another meeting in a week, where the members discuss their experiences. Most members think that it is almost as important as taking part together in the trip, because the narratives from different aspects help the others to be able to interpret even their own experiences. In my opinion the first two years of the community was the time of creating and strengthening common beliefs. I describe this state as a liminoid8 period, based on the definition of Turner (Turner 1974) because in this state the members had emerged from the social structures and symbols towards a transcendent platform, from where they started to build up the common spiritual background of the community. After the psychedelic reunions of these years the members were talking about the appearance of an entity what they called the Daath conscience. When entering this conscience as they explicated the individual looses the personal viewpoints and enters into a temporal common reality where he/she becomes part of this common creature, just like in the state of communitas9, introduced by Turner. The members agree that in this state there is no need to talk to understand each other. Hofmann referred similarly to this state: In LSD inebriation the accustomed world view undergoes a deep-seated transformation and disintegration. Connected with this is a loosening or even suspension of the I-you barrier. (Hofmann 1980) In the Daath conscience members have a strict psychic contact and believe that they are thinking about and experiencing the same things in the same reality, which is inaccessible for the ordinary states of mind. Using a metaphor of a member (and also referring to the previously mentioned Buddhist saying): living through a psychedelic experience is similar to ascending to the heights with a helicopter. On top of the world one may see the ways that led to the mountain peak (~ higher truth) and can identify with the atmosphere temporally, but after some hours the liminoid flight reaches its end, the helicopter starts to descend (~ the mind-expansion state wears off) and the person returns to his/her own reality, trying to elucidate the experiences. In order to spend longer time on the hilltop, the individual has to start his/her journey by foot (for example with regular meditation) and pass through every single stage of the path, which may take years or decades. The members discuss these experiences also in the forum, so they get built in the common identity and become available to every visitor of the webpage.

5. The Self-Representation of the Community towards the Hungarian Society

Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behaviour are relaxed a situation which can lead to new perspectives. People, places, or things may not complete a transition, or a transition between two states may not be fully possible. Those who remain in a state between two other states may become permanently liminal (Wikipedia). Turner inaugurated the word liminoid to denote the quasiliminal character of some cultural performances and leisure activities in complex societies.

During the liminal stage, normally accepted differences between the participants, such as social class, are often de-emphasized or ignored. A social structure of communitas forms: one based on common humanity and equality rather than recognized hierarchy (Wikipedia).

5.1 Spiritual and theoretical conversations turn to practical talks


In the last three years, a new tendency grew up in the conversations on the forum of the website: the practical approach of the drug use became more popular, while the accession of the theoretical and spiritual topics slowed down significantly. Old topics like Do psychedelics bring us closer to God?; Freedom as heaven of the soul and Sensation of the void are not as frequented as they were in the first years, which can be interpreted from various approaches, but the common factor would be the arisen interest about the proper use of psychedelics. Latterly most conversations focus on the characteristics of the different drugs and the method of using them without having unpleasant experiences. Another popular topic within the pragmatic context is drug policy: growing and utilizing psychedelics in the eyes of law, the inefficiency of the prohibition and the war on drugs, visions of legalization, etc.

5.2 Reducing harms online


Probably the most serious consequence of the strict drug prohibition is that the commerce of the illicit drugs is in the hands of criminal organizations on the black market. This adds up to the fact that the compound and the quality of the accessible drugs on the market is totally uncontrollable, thus the risk of taking dangerous substances is disproportionately higher than it would be under state supervision, like in the case of legal medicaments. There are quite a few topics in the Daath forum in which the members respond to this unpleasant situation. Perhaps the most remarkable matter takes shape in the market of the ecstasy tablets. Recently there are a lot of fake ecstasy pills circulating in the US and in Europe, because the precursor chemicals for MDMA (the agent of the original ecstasy tablets) are tightly controlled by the government, so many criminal manufacturers substitute drugs that are less expensive and risky to produce. Many a time these substitute substances are far more dangerous than MDMA itself. In order to reduce harms and avoid accidents caused by false pills, the members started to make an ecstasy database filled with their experiences with different tablets. Nowadays a high percentage of people visit the forum to obtain information about the ecstasy pills that are currently in commerce. The odd thing about it is that MDMA (ecstasy) is usually not considered as a psychedelic, but an entactogen, which means that it induces feelings of empathy. A short argue had preceded the dealing with the entactogens on the forum, but finally the pragmatic viewpoint the protection of health and the safer use of drugs succeeded. Thus, the profile of Daath now is wider than the theme of psychedelics, since the harm reduction in case of non-psychedelics appeared on the website.

5.3 Turning towards the society


It seems futile to share psychedelic experiences with people who are not already interested, because they are useful only for those who seek them. But I feel that these experiences have a universal importance that is relevant to everyone. (Psychonauts 2006) There is a certain ambition among the members to open their cultural scene and show it in their spiritual and not medical or criminological context. More and more members intend

to talk about their viewpoints and experiences in the media. They would like to break out from the so-called subcultural status, and be full members of the society. Most members consider the circumspect psychedelic use as a great possibility for mentally healthy people; therefore they try to spread authentic information about the nature and the proper use of these drugs. To achieve this goal they made a film to introduce their point of view to the rest of the society.

5.4 Psychonauts
Psychonaut: an explorer of the mind, who journeys into his/her psyche using hallucinogenic drugs or other consciousness altering techniques. Psychonauts believe that these spiritual experiences, when properly processed, lead to long-term and positive benefits in their everyday lives. (Psychonauts 2006) In this 41 minutes long self-representing documentary, nine members of Daath talk about the psychedelic experiences, the personal ways that lead them to try these substances, their aims of consuming psychedelics, their spiritual improvements and their opinions of the illegal status of these chemicals. This film was the first significant step towards a bilateral conversation with the society on the issue of the possible beneficial use of illegal drugs. The documentary is downloadable from the Daath website (with English and German subtitles) and it was presented in several festivals including Hungarys biggest festival: the 38th Hungarian Film Week in February 2007. The presentations were followed by three broadcasts on different Hungarian radio stations with the appearance of the director/homepage founder and two actors of the film. In one of the interviews the editor of the webpage emphasized that the documentary deals with people who had psychedelic experiences and not with the chemicals themselves. The novelty of the film is that it does not show people who have problems with their drug use, but people who could build their experiences in their everyday lives, so it tries to compensate the dominant problem-centric image of drug users and in the meantime it provokes a social conversation on this issue that is not based on prejudices and fictitious drug-myths.

6. Conclusion
In this paper I introduced a semi-virtual community whose members consider psychedelic drug use as a great possibility for self-exploring and accessing transcendent or religious experiences. According to the observation of entheogen researchers and users, the circumspect consumption of these chemicals may lead to momentous spiritual experiences and long-term personal development that cause lifelong beneficial effects. The community tends to help its members and visitors in having positive experiences with the proper use of these chemicals. Thanks to the online character, the conversations on the forum are accessible for everyone, so on the one hand they can have an effect on the image of of the visitor on psychedelic culture and its actors, while on the other hand they can give useful advices and help in harm reduction related to the use of these chemicals. Perhaps the most surprising result of my research was the intentioned relation of the members towards the rest of the society. Most people think that drug users constitute minority groups 10

that are marginalized and excused by a meaningful participation in society. The criminological and medical contexts about the drug phenomena which are preferred by the media and the press are also fuelling the subsistence of these stereotypes. Contrarily to these negative notions, the psychedelic users usually cultivate a good relation with the society and would like to demystify their way of living with the opening of their cultural scene. The first big step towards this aim was the making and showing of the documentary: Psychonauts. The feedbacks by the audience and the professionals were favourable so far, thus the bilateral conversation on psychedelics, based on the spiritual context, is likely to begin.

This paper is based on my thesis: A Magyar Pszichedelikus Kzssg online-offline lete s kzdelmei a trsadalmi stigmatizci ellen (2007). Department of Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Science, Etvs Lornd University, Budapest, Hungary The thesis is available at the following URL: http://www.daath.hu/incoming/Kardos_daath_szakdolgozat.doc

7. References
Clark, Walter Houston (1964) Mysticism as a Basic Concept in Defining the Religious Self, Lumen Vitae 19 221-232 Hofmann, Albert (1980) My problem child, McGraw-Hill Book Company Huxley, Aldous (1954) The doors of perception, London: Chatto & Windus. Kenyeres, Lszl Mszros, Zoltn (2005): Kbtszerkp a nyomtatott sajtban URL: http://www.mediakutato.hu/cikk/2005_03_osz/06_kabitoszerkep Leary, Timothy and Metzner, Ralph; Alpert Richard (1964) The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Citadel Underground, Paperback Narby, Jeremy (1999) The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Tarcher / Putnam Books Kovcs, M. Andrs (2006) Psychonauts, Arna Mozgkp Mhely URL: www.daath.hu/psychonauts Ram Dass: Fierce Grace, (2001), Zeitgeist Video Schultes, Richard Evans (1976) A Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants, illus. Elmer W. Smith, New York: Golden Press (http://www.erowid.org/library/books_online/golden_guide/) Turner, Victor (1974) Liminal to liminoid in play, flow, and ritual: An essay in comparative symbology, Rice University Studies 60(3):53-92. Wilson, Samuel M. Peterson, Leighton C. (2002) The anthropology of online communities, in : Annual Review of Anthropology 2002, 31:449-467 www.erowid.org www.wikipedia.org

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