Some science behind the scenes

Set and setting

The idea of the need for the right set and setting to undergo any form of spiritual experience, but particularly any involving drugs, was devised in the 60s.  Timothy Leary's explanation is still one of the most succinct and useful.

Timothy Leary – High Priest

And a lesson, and this one not really understood yet - the incredible suggestibility and the vulnerability of the brain. Under the psychedelic trip your cortex is washed clean of the rituals and clichés.  The empty mind.  So far so good.  But then if the situation or some strong-minded person in the situation strikes a posture, spins out an idea, well, you are much more likely to accept it and you can’t call on any of your past cliches to argue yourself out  of it.  Jack Kerouac was right when he warned about psychedelic brainwashing.

But what to do about this vulnerability?

How could the trip be guided in the love-learning direction?

What could serve as compass to orient the session when consciousness spins out, beyond symbols? How could reminders, maps be brought along on the voyage? And exactly which maps and reminders could remain useful in those hurtling regions where routine game-symbols were seen as your own consciousness talking back to yourself?  The mocking mirror reflection of your own thought processes.

The answers to these questions (which were to preoccupy me for the better part of the next six years) are spiritual planning and prayer.

Planning the who, where and why and how of the session.

You don't make love in the turmoil of Times Square.  Neither do you take LSD there.  It’s risky to make love with strangers.  You don’t have your mystical experiences with strangers.

Six thousand years of sacred experimentation suggest how the environment can be arranged to produce the spiritual experience.

  • With whom? Alone or with essence friends who share your spiritual aims.
  • Where? In a setting free from secular distraction, profane pressure, accidental interruption.  Since the dawn of human history such places have been the center of any civilized God-fearing way of life.  They are called shrines, sacred groves, retreats, temples, holy places.
  • When? At a sacred time dedicated to the spiritual quest. A sacred time is selected not by man’s mind but by the greater, older energies – seasonal, solar, lunar, planetary, menstrual.
  • Why? To find God. To divest all the leathery metal, armour plating and lie naked, exposed, for God to find you. To die and be reborn.
  • How? Through prayer. Prayer is the art of communicative union with all your inner selves.  Prayer is compass and gyroscope. Prayer is the language that makes sense to your eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch; to your heart (thump thump ), to your lungs (inhale-exhale), to your bowels, to your genitals, to your ancient cells, to your ancient selves – hairy, fanged. clawed, scaled, reptile, amphibious, protozoid. Prayer is the energy language of God.  The history of our research on the psychedelic experience is the story of how we learned how to pray