Until the summer of 1963, Timothy Leary, PhD, was a lecturer in clinical psychology at Harvard University. There, with his colleague, psychology professor Richard Alpert, PhD, and others, he conducted extensive original research in the theory and practice of consciousness expansion through the use of psychedelic (literally "mind-manifesting") substances.
Dr. Leary's Harvard studies demonstrated that compounds such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescalin facilitated and accelerated deep and valuable insights into such key value-forming areas as philosophy, ethics, religion, and esthetics. His work indicated the wide applicability of psychedelic materials in the fields of social and personal psychology as well. These discoveries, which seem so valid and worthy of further investigation, were compromised in the eyes of University administrators because of what they considered an alarming excess of undergraduate enthusiasm over the spectacular effects of psychedelics.
Provoked and compromised by a spate of lurid press coverage, the school administration refused to sanction further experiments, which inevitably would have involved newly developed, unorthodox, and therefore controversial psychedelic techniques and theories originated by Dr. Leary and his associates. Drs. Leary, whose contract expired, and Alpert, who was forced to resign, eventually left Harvard amid a storm of student protest.
Dr. Leary is the author of forty articles and five books on the proper use, the eflects, and the potentials of psychedelic materials, to which category marihuana belongs. At present he directs the Castalia Foundation in Millbrook, New York, where he is continuing his writing and research. At the time of this writing he is contesting a sentence of thirty years in prison and a fine of $30,000 for the possession of less than one-half ounce of marihuana, arguing that his freedom of personal conscience, guaranteed by our Constitution, grants him the right to study and alter his own consciousness with marihuana. This polemical essay on the rights of human consciousness (the civil rights of the mind) was written for this volume.
I have written these pages about the social, ethical, and scientific meanings of marijuana under two compelling time-pressures: first, the gentle prodding of David Solomon, who was kind enough to hold up publication of this book to include my hasty comments; and second, the less than gentle insistence of a Texas judge that I spend the next thirty years in prison.
I am concerned more about my promise to David Solomon than about the threat of incarceration. If psychedelic drugs tell us anything, it is that the prisons exist only in man's mind. Any ground is sacred ground if you are open enough to realize it Including Leavenworth.
By legal and social standards, the sentence of thirty years' imprisonment and a $30,000 fine for the possession of half an ounce of marijuana might seem severe. But the basic issue here is internal freedom. The basic charge is heresy. At other stages in this long struggle for freedom of consciousness such penalties would be considered light. I protest but not complain.
My crime is the ancient and familiar one of corrupting the minds of the youth. This charge is a valid one. I have written some forty articles and five books about the effects of psychedelic drugs. I have addressed these messages to all who can read, but I have been keenly aware that it has been the young who have attended and acted on these messages.
The March 11, 1966, issue of Time magazine announces that at least 10,000 students at the University of California have taken LSD. The number of students who smoke marijuana is considered to be considerably higher.
I am repeatedly asked to deplore this use of psychedelic drugs by the young. Is not this a dangerous and reckless misuse? And I repeatedly refuse to generally condemn this psychedelic revolt of the young. Cite me an individual case and I may be able to speculate about this specific recklessness or wisdom. But, in general, I say that it is a good thing that more and more Americans are expanding their awareness, pulling back the veil of symbolic platitude, and confronting the many other levels of energy that are available to man. It is a tragedy that more older people aren't joining the young. To parents who are worried about their children "turning on," I would say, "Don't fight your kids; join them in this adventure of exploration. If you are tolerant of your children's use of alcohol (which numbs their vision), why are you intolerant of their wish to expand their vision?" In the gamble of life my wager goes down on the side of the young. The current generation is the brightest, holiest, bravest, and most curious of any generation in human history. And, by God, they better be.
None of us knows how to handle the power and promise-threat of mind-expanding chemicals. But if I am confronted with a fifteen-year-old who does not know what he is doing and a fifty-year-old who does not know what he is doing, I'll take the fifteen-year-old every time. In using a new form of energy, whatever mistakes the teenager makes will be in the direction of sensation, love-making, curiosity, desire for growth. The fifty-year-old has abandoned sensation, lost the impulse to make love, killed his curiosity, and dissipated his lust for growth. You know how he uses new forms of energy: for control and power and war-making.
Support the kids. Listen to them. Learn from them if they will let you. They are closer to their nervous systems, closer to cellular and seed wisdom, closer to the Divine Energy than we parents. The human species, let's face it, is an adolescent, as yet unformed, confused, evolutionary form. Stand in the way of the energy process as it slowly, relentlessly begins to uncoil, and it will crush you and your symbolic illusions. Cherish it, nurture it, let it grow, let it blossom, and you will be reborn in and with your children.
Marijuana alters consciousness.
LSD alters consciousness.
On that they all agree. Policeman. Priest. Pusher. Politician. Prophet. Pharmacologist. Psychologist.
They all agree that marijuana and LSD alter consciousness. But how? And to what end—evil or beneficial? To these queslions there is no agreement.
Sincere, well-intentioned men are led to extreme positions. On the one hand, punitive laws, repressive crusades, police action, the arming of agents of Health, Education and Welfare, the lengthy imprisonment of citizens for no crime other than the altering of their own consciousness:
One of the stiffest end most inflexible sets of laws ever put to the Federal books, the Boggs–Daniel Act (1956) represents the high-water mark of punitive legislation against the use, sale, and handling of drugs. It imposed severe mandatory sentences for sale or possession of narcotics—permitting in most cases neither probation nor parole. . . .
In some states, such as New York, sentencing is fairly lenient. Mere possession (25 or more marijuana cigarettes . . .) carries sentence of only (sic) three to ten years.'
In today's affluent society the use of marijuana is no longer confined to the "dregs" of society. It is becoming increasingly fashionable for middle- and upper-class youth. California jails now hold close to 6,000 people for breaking marijuana laws. Sixty-four percent of all Californians arrested on marijuana charges are under 25 years of age. Arrests for breaking marijuana laws . . . since 1962 . . . have increased nearly 500%.'
On the other hand, passive resistance, poetic and artistic and scientific appeals to reason, futile protests, flights into exile, cynicism:
. Dr. S. J. Holmes, director of the narcotic addiction unit of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto . . . believes it is "fantastic and ridiculous" that a person caught with one marijuana cigaret can be sent to prison.
It is particularly ridiculous, he said, when compared with the use and effect of alcohol. "This situation is really a disgrace to our civilization and merits much consideration."'
The preliminary estimates of a foundation-financed study on drug use at San Francisco State show that 60% of the students will at some time use an illegal drug . . .
Marijuana is sold on the campus, smoked on the campus, and used by professors.
A Berkeley sorority girl said, "When you drink you lose control and sensitivity, generally feeling and acting like a slobbering idiot. This never happens with pot."
Most spoke of the legal problems as did this girl: "It doesn't bother me to break the law. How many times do you break it jaywalking and so on? The main thing is that I just don't think of using marijuana in these terms. It's pure hypocrisy and stupidity that it's not legal. The law is wrong for both practical and moral reasons.'
There are many dimensions to the psychedelic drug controversy and no simple answers. I wish to consider in this essay three issues: the political, the moral, and the scientific.
THE POLITICAL ISSUE
The Politics of Consciousness Expansion
To understand the psychedelic controversy it is necessary to study the sociology of psychedelic drugs. Who wants to smoke marijuana? To eat peyote? To ingest LSD? What people are involved in this new drug menace? The young. The racially and nationally alienated. The creative. Most users of psychedelic plants and drugs fall into at least one of these three categories.
Over 50 percent of the American population is under the age of 25. Ominous, isn't it? From 50 to 70 percent of the use of marijuana and LSD is by the high school and college age group. From 50 to 70 percent of the arrests and imprisonments for possession of psychedelic substances fall on the shoulders of those under the age of 30. Whisky-drinking middle age imprisons pot-smoking youth Think about this.
The Racially and Nationally Alienated
Negroes, Puerto Ricans, American Indians. The use of psychedelic plants in these noble minority groups of the American society is high. The whisky-drinking, white middle-class imprisons those with different cultural and religious preferences. Think about this.
I would estimate that over 70 percent of nonacademic creative artists have used psychedelic substances in their work. Painters. Poets. Musicians. Dancers. Actors. Directors. The whisky-drinking middle brow imprisons the growing edge. Think about this.
The Criminal and Psychedelic Drugs
The stereotyped picture of the marijuana smoker is that of a criminal type. The statistics do not support this myth. Marijuana is used by groups that are socially alienated from middle-class values—youth, Negroes, Indians, creative artists, but few criminals. Alcohol is the drug of the nonyouthful, noncreative, white criminal. The economics of heroin leads the addict to commit crime. Few criminals smoke pot. Few pot smokers are criminals (except for the offense of changing their own consciousness).
The Psychedelic Minority Group
A United Nations report on worldwide use of drugs estimated that in 1951 there were 200 million cannabis users. This is an awesome statistic. Worldwide, there are more marijuana users than members of the Protestant and Jewish religions combined.
The number of pot smokers worldwide is larger than the population of the United States of America. It is safe to say that there are more pot smokers than there are members of the middle class throughout the world. Indeed, we have the astonishing spectacle of a middle-class minority, tolerant to alcohol and addicted to bureaucracy, passing laws against and interfering with the social-religious rituals of a statistically larger group! Think about that one.
It has been estimated that as many as ten million people in America today have used marijuana, peyote, and LSD. Remember the Indians, the Negroes, the young, the creative. We deal here with one of the largest persecuted minority groups in the country. This group is nonvocal, effectively prevented from presenting its case, essentially stripped of its constitutional rights.
Another crucial sociological issue that is easily overlooked: psychedelic people tend to be socially passive. The psychedelic experience is by nature private, sensual, spiritual, internal, introspective. Whereas alcohol and amphetamines stimulate the afferent nervous system—inciting furious game activities—the psychedelics stimulate the afferent nervous centers. Contemplation . . . meditation . . . sensual openness . . . artistic and religious preoccupation.
Excesses of passive contemplation are no better than excesses of action—but certainly no worse. God and the DNA code designed man to have interoceptive and exteroceptive neurological systems, and any harmonious view of man should allow for judicious and thoughtful balancing of both.
Throughout world history psychedelic people have not tended to form commissions to stamp out nonpsychedelic people. Nor do they pass laws against or imprison nonpsychedelicists.
THE ETHICAL ISSUE
The Molecular Revolution
Politically oriented activists have throughout history left the psychedelic minority pretty much alone. The power-holders have been too busy fighting each other to worry about those who prefer to live in quiet harmony and creative quietude.
It is harder work to contact and control your nervous system than the external symbol structure. Yogins, meditators, monks, hashish mystics have been too busy decoding and appreciating their afferent (sensory) and cellular communication systems to busy themselves with political struggles.
But now comes the molecular revolution. The work of James McConnell demonstrates that learning is molecular. Dumb flatworms eat smart flatworms and become smart. Holger Hyden discovers that the brain cells of educated rats contain a third more RNA than do the brain cells of uneducated rats. University of California psychologists pass on learning from one rat to another by injecting RNA from trained rats. Neurologists are "wiring-up" the brains of animals and men and altering consciousness by pressing buttons. Press a button: make him hungry. Press a button: make him erotic. Press a button: make him angry. Press a button: make him feel good.
The psychedelic chemicals flood out of the laboratories—into the hands of the two familiar groups: those who want to do something to others and those who want to do something to themselves.
U.S. Army psychologists secretly drop LSD into the coffee of an infantry platoon. The surprised soldiers giggle, break ranks, and wander off looking at the trees. Psychiatrists secretly drop LSD into the water glasses of psychotic patients and report that LSD enhances insanity. And on the college campuses and in the art centers of the country hundreds of thousands of the creative young take LSD and millions smoke marijuana to explore their own consciousness. The new cult of visionaries. They turn on, tune in, and often drop out of the academic, professional and other games-playing roles they have been assigned. They do not drop out of life, but probe more deeply into it, toward personal and social realignments
characterized by loving detachment from materialist goals.
Laws are passed encouraging the administration of LSD to the unsuspecting (patients, soldiers, research subjects) and preventing self-administration!
The Two Commandments of the Molecular Age
Of the many powerful energies now suddenly available to man, the most challenging and sobering are those that alter the fabric of thought and judgment—the very core of meaning and being.
Learning, memory, mood, judgment, identity, consciousness can now be transformed instantaneously by electrical and chemical stimuli. In the long-short diary of our species, no issue has posed such a promise-peril.
The history of human evolution (not unlike that of every other species of life on our planet) is the record of new forms of energy—physical, mechanical, chemical—discovered, slowly understood (and misunderstood), painfully debated, eventually adapted to.
Today the human race is confronted with new energies that tax our wisdom, confuse our judgment, terrorize our emotional securities, excite our highest aspirations, and threaten to alter our central notions of man and his place on this planet. Never has man faced ethical and political issues so complex, so delicate, so demanding, so frightening. Never has man been in greater need of ethical guidance. And where is it?
Our scientists plunge enthusiastically into the process of mind-changing, consciousness alteration, with little apparent regard for the moral, political complications.
One of the few men who have recognized the high stakes of this new game of cerebral roulette is David Krech, psychologist ae-Berkeley. Dr. Krech is quoted as saying:
Until recently, these substances were considered science-fiction, but real science has been moving forward so rapidly in this area that science-fiction is hard put to keep up with it. About 15 years ago, I doubt whether I could have found more than a half-dozen laboratories in the entire world which were concerned with basic research in behavior, brain, and biochemistry. Today there hardly exists a major laboratory where such research is not being given high priority.
If we should find effective mind-control agents, we must consider whether the manufacture and dispensing of such agents should be left to private enterprise or to military control or to political control. And how should this be done, and when and by whom? It is not too early for us to ponder very seriously the awesome implications of what brain research may discover.'
The time has come for a new ethical code to deal with issues unforeseen (or were they, really?) by our earliest prophets and moralists. Although the social-political implications are hopelessly complicated, the moral issues are clear-cut, precisely pure. And if the moral center of gravity is maintained, the endless chain of political and administrative decisions can be dealt with confidently and serenely.
Two new ethical Commandments are necessary as man moves into the Molecular Age. Compared with these imperatives the codes of earlier prophets seem like game rules—codes for social harmony. The new Commandments are neurological and biochemical in essence, and therefore, I suspect, in closer harmony with the laws of cellular wisdom, the law of the DNA code.
I did not invent these Commandments; they are the result of some 250 psychedelic sessions. They are revealed to me by my nervous system, by ancient, cellular counsel. I give them to you as revelation, but ask you not to take them on faith; check them out with your own nervous system. Ask your DNA code. I urge you to memorize these two Commandments. Meditate on them. You might take 300 gamma of LSD and present these Commandments to your symbol-free nervous system. Nothing less than the future of our species depends upon our understanding of and obedience to these two natural laws.
THE TWO COMMANDMENTS FOR THE MOLECULAR AGE
I. Thou Shalt Not Alter the Consciousness of thy fellow man.
Il. Thou Shalt Not Prevent thy fellow man from Altering his own Consciousness.
Commentary on the Two Commandments
Thousands of theological, philosophical, and legal texts will be written in the next few decades interpreting, qualifying, and specifying these two Commandments. I happily leave this chore to those who face the implementation of this code. But a few general comments may be helpful.
1. These Commandments are not new. They are specifications of the first Mosaic Law—that man shall not act as God to others. Be God yourself, if you can, but do not impose your divinity on others. They are also specifications of the two Christian Commandments—Thou shalt love God and thy fellow man.
2. There are several obvious qualifications of the first Commandment. Do not alter the consciousness of your fellow man by symbolic, electrical, chemical, or molecular means. If he wants you to? Yes. You may help him alter his own consciousness. Or you may get his conscious, alerted permission to alter his consciousness for him. In the direction he wants.
3. There are several obvious qualifications of the second Commandment. Do not prevent your fellow man from altering his consciousness by means of symbols. This is the familiar "Freedom of expression" issue. But also you must not prevent your fellow man from altering his own consciousness by chemical, electrical, or molecular means. These are new freedoms which the wise men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights did not anticipate, but which they might have in-included had they known.
4. May you prevent your fellow man from altering his consciousness if he thereby poses a threat to others or to the harmonious development of society? Yes. But be careful. You walk a precarious precipice. Whenever society restricts the freedom of the human being to alter his own consciousness (by means of symbols or chemicals), the burden of proof as to danger to others must be on society. We may prevent others from doing things that restrict our consciousness—but the justification must be clear.
THE SCIENTIFIC ISSUE
The Scientific Meaning of Marijuana
The political and ethical controversies over psychedelic plants are caused by our basic ignorance about what these substances do.
They alter consciousness. But how, where, why, what for? Questions about psychedelic drugs remain unanswered because our basic questions about consciousness remain unanswered. As we learn more about the biochemistry and physiology of consciousness then we will understand the specific effects and uses of consciousness-altering plants.
External, look-at-it-from-the-outside science is not enough. Biochemistry and neurology will soon unravel some of the riddles of molecular learning and RNA6 education. Blessings on James McConnell and David Krech and Holger Hyden. But then what? Who shall use the new magic molecules? Who shall control them? The routine scientoid solutions are: Inject them in the stupid, inject them in the crazy, inject them into army privates, inject them in the senile—and eventually, when they are safe enough to prevent law suits, sell them to the docile middle class.
But wait a minute. We can't do that any more—remember? We are not dealing with molecules that blow up the enemy or eradicate insects or cure headaches or produce the mild stupor of alcohol or tranquilize the active. We are dealing with agents that change consciousness. And we have a new Commandment to obey—remember? "Thou Shalt Not Alter the Consciousness of thy fellow man."
And if you try to control the new molecules, then we have the black-market problem all over again. You remember the LSD situation? The scientoid plan was to research LSD quietly in mental hospitals and army bases—double-blindly drugging the unsuspecting. But the word got out: "LSD produces ecstasy. LSD helps you see through the game veil." And the revolution began. The upper-middle-class underground. the white-collar black-market.
And then the laws and the penalties and the arming of agents of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, to hunt down psychedelics.
Any officer or employee of the Department . . . may
1. carry firearms
2. execute and serve search warrants . . .
3. execute seizure . . .
4. make arrests without warrants . .
And next come the Smart-pills. Will the same cycle of dreary platitudes and bureaucratic hysteria make the rounds again?
WASHINGTON, D.C., JANUARY 1, 1969.—HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE OFFICIALS ANNOUNCED TODAY REGULATIONS CONTROLLING ILLICIT USE OF AMINO ACIDS.
ACCORDING TO THE NEW LAWS, DNA AND RNA MOLECULES CAN BE ADMINISTERED ONLY BY GOVERNMENT-APPROVED PHYSICIANS IN A GOVERNMENT-SUPPORTED HOSPITAL.
HARVARD BLACK MARKET BARED IN RNA.
SMART PILL FAD NEW CAMPUS KICK.
"Hey! Did you hear? There's a new shipment of black-market Einstein A.A. in the village!"
"I'm giving my wife some Elizabeth Taylor acid for Christmas. Smuggled in from Mexico. We can all afford to learn new methods, right?"
"I know it's against the law, but Willy is five years old and can't work quantum-theory equations. So, in despair, I've connected with some Max Planck RNA."
NEW YORK, APRIL 1, 1969, A.P.—The newly organized microbiological unit of the Health, Education and Welfare Department armed with paralysis spray guns and electron microscopes raided an RNA den last night. Over one hundred millionth of a gram of amino acid was seized. Agents estimated that the haul was worth close to $800,000. Held on charges of being present in premises where illegal drugs were seized were a poet, a philosopher, and two college-age girls. H.E.W. agents tentatively labeled the contraband molecules as Shakespeare RNA, Socrates RNA, and Helen of Troy RNA.
R. Wilhelm Phlymption, President of the American Psychiatric Association—Amino Acid Division, when notified of the raid, said: "Amino acids RNA and DNA are dangerous substances causing illegitimacy, suicide and irresponsible sexuality. They should only be administered by psychiatrists in government hospitals or army research stations."
The four alleged drug-cultists who were held in $25,000 bail smiled enigmatically, but made no comment.
These headlines won't happen, will they? They can't happen, because now we have the two commandments for the Molecular Age.
Remember: "Thou Shalt Not Alter the Consciousness of thy fellow man."
Remember, congressmen, policemen, judges. And agents of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, lay down your arms. Remember the second Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Prevent thy fellow man from Altering his own Consciousness."
Now that chemists have produced psychedelic chemicals, now that biochemists are isolating the powers of RNA, it is time to face the real scientific issue.
The meaning and use of consciousness-changing methods cannot be understood from the standpoint of external science, from the standpoint of look-at-it-from-the-outside science. Not only does this violate the first Commandment, it just doesn't work.
The meaning and use of psychedelic chemicals—LSD, RNA, marijuana—depends on the scientists taking the molecules himself, opening up his own consciousness, altering his own nervous system. Only in this way will we develop the maps, models, languages, techniques for utilizing the new mind-changing procedures.
You can't use the microscope by clapping it over the eyes of unsuspecting mental patients and army privates.
The mind-altering chemicals—marijuana, lysergic acid, amino acid—have to be studied from within. You have to take them. You can observe their effects from outside, but this tells you very little. You can "sacrifice" the animals and discover brain changes. You can drug mental defectives and seniles and observe gross behavior changes, but these are the irrelevant husks. Consciousness must be studied from within. Molecular learning is communication at the cellular and molecular level. The mental defectives can't decipher these languages. The molecular psychologist must decipher these languages.
This is not a new idea. This is the core idea of all Eastern psychology. Buddhism, for example, is not a religion; it is a complex system of psychology, a series of languages and methods for decoding levels of consciousness.
And this is the original method of Western scientific psychology—the trained introspection of Wundt, Weber, Fechner, Titchner. The scientist must learn the language of the neuron and cell and teach it to others. It's a tough assignment, isn't it? No more dosing the passive subjects. You inhale, swallow, and inject the magic molecule yourself. You train others to do the same.
Frightening? Yes, it is frightening. And this defines the first criterion of the scientist of consciousness. He must have courage. He must embark on a course of methodically and deliberately going out of his mind This is no field for the faint of heart. You are venturing out (like the Portuguese sailors, like the astronauts) on the uncharted margins. But be reassured; it's an old human custom. It's an old living-organism custom. We're here today because certain adventurous proteins, certain far-out, experimenting cells, certain beatnik amphibia, certain brave men, pushed out and exposed themselves to new forms of energy.
Where do you get this courage?
It isn't taught in graduate school or medical school or law school. It doesn't come by arming government agents. It comes from faith. Faith in your nervous system. Faith in your body. Faith in your cells. Faith in the life process. Faith in the molecular energies released by psychedelic molecules.
Not blind faith. Not faith in human social forms, but conscious faith in the harmony and wisdom of nature. Faith easily checked out empirically. Trust your equipment and its reaction to the molecular messages of the psychedelic drugs.
To do this we need a method and a map. The method tells us how to use consciousness-altering substances—marijuana, LSD, RNA. The map is the language of the different levels of consciousness triggered by the psychedelic molecules.
The two Commandments tell you that—politically and ethically—you may not drug others but have to do it to yourself. And the scientific nature of the problem—consciousnesstells you again that you may not drug others but have to do it to yourself.
You cannot understand the use and meaning of such psychedelic substances as marijuana, LSD and RNA until you have models, maps of the different levels of consciousness contacted by these substances.
Maps implement and make possible the two Commandments. These moral imperatives insist that only the carrier of the nervous system can alter the function of that nervous system. Only you should decide where your consciousness should locate. To make such decisions—which levels of consciousness to contact and how to reach them—you need information. To understand how marijuana affects consciousness you must understand the dimensions of consciousness and the specific level which cannabis triggers.
This brief essay does not allow a detailed description of the maps and methods of consciousness expansion and of the exquisitely detailed implications for using psychedelic substances. Here I can list only the major levels of consciousness, indicate which plants and drugs get you to each level, and, in particular, attempt to suggest the meaning of marijuana.
Consciousness is energy received and decoded by a structure. There are as many levels of consciousness available to the human being as there are anatomical structures in the human body for receiving and decoding energy. There are as many levels of reality as there are anatomical structures for decoding energy. The anatomy of consciousness is the anatomy of neural and cellular structures.
There are six levels of consciousness, and each of these levels is reached and triggered by means of chemicals—produced naturally by the body or ingested in the form of drugs.
1. The Level of Minimal Consciousness: sleep, coma, stupor. This state occurs naturally by means of internal body chemistry or can be induced by drugs such as barbiturates, somnambulants, alcohol, and opiates. External stimuli are disregarded.
2. The Level of Symbolic Consciousness (usually and erroneously called "normal consciousness"). This level of consciousness is exclusively focused on external perceptions or mentalisms (thoughts) about external conditioned symbols. This state occurs through the process of imprinting—a chemical fixing of the nervous system which "hooks" attention to externals. The chemical process is at present unknown. Serotonin may be the chemical secreted by the body that addicts the nervous system to symbolic externals. Note that narcotic-type drugs (including alcohol) release man from the addictive hook to symbols in the direction of "escape" whereas the psychedelic chemicals release man from the external-symbolic in the direction of expanded consciousness.
3. The Level of Sensory Awarenesss—External. Here, consciousness is focused on the sensory nerve endings that receive energy from the outside. The retina of the eye, the eardrum and the Organ of Corti, the olfactory (smell) bulbs, the taste buds, the naked endings which receive impulses of touch, temperature, pain. In routine consciousness we are aware only of symbols—"things" seen, heard, touched, tasted. At the Neural or Sensory Level we are aware of direct energy exploding on our sense endings—light waves hurtling into the retina at the speed of 186,000 miles a second, pressure exploding the naked grenades of sensation in our touch receptors, and so forth. Drugs that trigger direct sensation are marijuana, small doses of LSD (25-50 gamma), of mescaline (50-150 mg), psilocybin (6-16 mg).
Certain yoga exercises can attain the Sensory Level of Consciousness. [Yoga is the royal road to the Divine through the senses. The strategy of the Yogin is to eliminate all external stimuli except those that trigger the sense organ he wishes to "turn on." Meditation is a technique for eliminating extraneous stimuli and zeroing-in on the eye (mandala), ear (mantra), taste-touch-smell (tantra.)]
Marijuana is the mildest of the psychedelic drugs. It activates the external sensory system and tones down the symbolic game addiction. Experienced marijuana users know how easy it is "to hang someone up" on the gustatory sense by talking about food during a session. Pot-smoking musicians let themselves get hung-up on sound waves hitting the tympanic membrane. Pot-smoking artists turn off visual symbols and register light pounding against their retinas. The aphrodisiac, touch amplification of cannabis is a well-known, well-guarded secret among marijuana adepts.
4. The Level of Sensory Awareness—interoceptive. Here, consciousness is focused on the billions of nerve endings that are buried within the body and clustered in centers that receive impulses from visceral organs. For thousands of years it has been known that existing in the body is a chain of neural centers that collect messages from internal-organ systems. These centers are called cakras. Sexual, digestive, eliminative, cardiac, respiratory, cerebellar, cortical—the seven sense organs of the internal environment: structures for decoding energy as complex and varied as the eye, ear, tongue, nose. Chemical alteration of the nervous system is required to contact these inner sense organs. Marijuana can do it only if you turn off external stimuli. Smoke pot in a completely dark, silent room, and if you are well trained, you can contact your cakras. Moderate or large doses of LSD propel consciousness into the kaleidoscopic Niagara of internal-body sensation, but when this happens the unprepared voyager either gets confused or lets this internal flood of electric energy flow by unrecognized.
5. The Cellular Level of Consciousness. Every cell in your body is playing out a game that has been played out millions of times before. Within the nucleus of each cell in your body is a strand of nucleic acid molecules, possessing a timeless wisdom, which creates bodies (like yours and mine) exactly the way General Motors designers plan each year's crop of automobiles. (An accurate irony. And designed for quick obsolescence, too.)
Now it is possible for man's nervous system to get in touch with cellular consciousness. This statement may sound far-out and mystical, but it is not. I am talking about the transmission of information in electro-molecular form from within the cell to nerve endings outside the cell. The brain can be "taught" by molecules such as RNA. Tribal educational processes employ symbols given social meaning through conditioned associations. Recently scientists have discovered another form of education: learning by means of cellular molecules which pass on ancient energy-wisdom in the language of chemistry. Molecular learning, cellular consciousness, can be stimulated by plants and drugs. Moderate doses of LSD (100-250 gamma), of mescaline (150-500 mg), of psilocybin (16-50 mg) can put the nervous system in contact with cellular messages—if external stimulation is temporarily blocked off. These experiences often described in the language of "reincarnation" are routine phenomena in LSD sessions. Marihuana and mild doses of psychedelic drugs cannot produce this level of consciousness.
6. The Pre-Cellular (Atomic) Level of Consciousness. For thousands of years psychedelic philosophers have reported the ultimate state of transcendental consciousness in terms of pure energy: "void," "white light," "the core flame," "the light within." Though metaphors vary, there is agreement on the elemental, pre-life nature of this energy. Many LSD subjects also report similar experiences—after ingesting large doses (250-1500 gamma). Here our maps of consciousness fade into obscurity. Here our symbols become poetic, mystical. The empirical question is: Can the human nervous system contact, pick up, chemical energies of a molecular or atomic level? Can such experiences be mapped and made available for subsequent observations? I do not know. I present this sixth level of consciousness hesitantly, knowing that I risk losing even the least skeptical of my readers. We must keep an open mind. We must provide in our symbolic mappings categories for events that, at the moment, go beyond our observations.
This list of six levels of consciousness may be thought of within the metaphor of expanding optical lenses—which are familiar external techniques for expanding man's visual consciousness.
Narcotic drugs—including alcohol—shut off vision, dull perception, provide escape from the glare of reality.
"Normal" symbolic consciousness is normal, uncorrected vision.
Marijuana is the weakest, the mildest of the expanding lenses. It and other stimulants of sensory awareness are like corrective lenses; they bring vision into sharper focus. Moderate doses of LSD, mescaline, psilocybin are powerful microscopes that bring cellular structures into focus. Heavy doses of LSD are like the electron microscope. They magnify to such a power that cellular structure is reduced to a whirring flux of molecular particles.
You can no more generalize about psychedelic drugs than you can about optic magnification. Before making a statement about the psychedelic experience or about a psychedelic substance you must define the type and the dosage. Expanding lenses run from the corrective lens through the range of magnification to the millionth-power amplifiers.
A final comment about the disciplined yoga of psychedelic drugs. They are not shortcuts; they do not simplify. They answer no questions; they solve no problems. Indeed, the psychedelic drugs complicate knowing and understanding because they show each issue in multidimensional complexity.
My first adult psychedelic experience came in Mexico in 1960 after eating seven of the Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico. I have often said of this experience that I learned more in five hours than I did in the previous sixteen years as a psychological researcher. But this learning must be specified. It was revelatory rather than intellectual. For example, suppose that I had been living three hundred years ago and had spent sixteen years in medical research, poking, examining, and thumping sick bodies to determine the cause of disease. Then one day someone puts a microscope to my eye and I look at the blood cells of a healthy person and the blood cells of a sick person. In one split second I would have understood more about the cause of disease than I had learned in the previous sixteen years. I would have understood that there exists a level of energy and invisible meaning, hitherto undreamed of, that was crucial to my profession. I would realize that the rest of my professional life would be dedicated to the laborious, disciplined looking through the lenses at the new data suddenly made available.
The understanding and application of the psychedelic drugs require brutal diligence on the part of the researcher or the searcher. There is no instant mysticism, no instant psychoanalysis available here. Only the challenge and the promise of long, dedicated, systematic work, of observation and replication.
Even the benign and gentle amplification of marijuana requires study and discipline. It takes time to use marijuana. It is a subtle and fleeting experience. One who is used to the crudity and jolting paralysis of alcohol smokes cannabis and says nothing happens. He fails to notice the soft, sensitive unfolding of his sense endings. The wise use of cannabis requires a precise knowledge of its effects and exquisite skill in arranging the external stimuli so that they gratify and talk directly to the exposed sensory nerve endings rather than inundate and jumble. For some reason my countrymen are reluctant to realize that psychedelic drugs pose a linguistic problem. That one must painstakingly learn the new dialects of sensual and cellular energy.
From the earliest days of our search-research project at Harvard, in Mexico, and later in Millbrook, New York, we have stressed training. In lecturing about the effects of psyche,- delic drugs I repeat this point over and over again: training • • . specialized training. After four years of college, if you want to specialize in science it takes four years to get a doctorate. Four postgraduate years to get a PhD. To specialize in medicine, it requires eight years after college. Eight postgraduate years to get the MD. Dear friends, to specialize in the use of your own nervous system, to learn to use your head, and to use the wisdom in your cells, it requires many more years. Count on fifty years of postgraduate work to get your LSD.
1 The Drug Takers, TIME-LIFE Books, 1965, pp. 53-54.
2 San Francisco Magazine, February 1966, p. 16.
3 Toronto Globe and Mail, Feb. 17, 1966, p. 5.
4 San Francisco Magazine, February 1966, pp. 18-19.
5 This Week Magazine, Feb. 13, 1966, p. 5.
6 Within the nucleus of every living cell lies a tiny, complex chain of nucleic acid molecules called the DNA code. DNA is the brain of the cell: the timeless blueprinting code that designs every aspect of life. DNA executes its plans by means of RNA molecules. RNA is the communication system, the language, the senses and hands of the DNA. The language of RNA can be passed from one organism to another. The discovery of this fact is revolutionizing our theories of memory, learning, consciousness, and education. The basic unit of learning is molecular. The basic unit of consciousness is molecular.
7 Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965.