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Brain scans reveal how LSD affects consciousness (nature.com)
376 points by etiam on Apr 11, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 201 comments

I'm a Ph.D student in Cognitive Science and I'm currently writing my dissertation on the topic of conscious perception.

I think this study is pretty damn interesting because the cingulate cortex (ACC & PCC) along with the thalamus are implicated in states of consciousness (i.e. wake/sleep/coma/vegetation/etc) and also in "access consciousness" (i.e.: “consciousness” in the sense of “I am conscious ​of​ such and such”). Subjects dosed with psilocybin have decreased BOLD (blood-oxygen level-dependent) signals in these regions.

BOLD signal essentially tells you how active a brain region is (the more active the region, the more energy it needs, so the more irrigation it requires), so this tells us that the thalamic and cingulate regions are relatively suppressed by psilocybin.

This is congruent with a longstanding (albeit simplistic) theory on how hallucinogens work. The idea is that hallucinogens would actually be inhibitory in their function, but they would selectively inhibit regions that are, themselves, inhibitory.

So in a hand-wavy way, you can think of the ACC as keeping imagination in check. It inhibits perceptual areas (that are also activated by imagination) so that when you imagine a tiger, you don’t actually ​_see_​ a tiger. With psilocybin & LSD, this function is suppressed so you see the tiger.

Again, I'm simplifying to the point of risking a collective beat-down from my colleagues and lab-mates, but I thought it might help illustrate what's groovy about this study.

I forgot where I read the idea but some neuroscientists proposed that consciousness in the brain is more a measure of interconnectivity of activated brain regions. Basically, whatever brain region communicates with each other allows for mixed matching, whatever that brain region does (synesthetic people are very concrete examples of this).

What do you think? Could this be true?

I find it interesting to consider but have a hard time understanding how the brainstem fits into this.

-- psych. & computer science student with a strong interest in cognitive science & neuroscience

Continue your passion! Neuro is so cool and we need comp-sci people, at the least to process the data and help out with connecting VGA cables (I shudder at bio people's hard-coding).

Interconnectivity in the brain is very stereotyped. Certain areas typically only talk to certain others. The 'connectome' in the brain is being mapped these days and there is a lot to learn, but I think we can say that the connectome is stereotypical. That's good, we can make a road map then!

Consciousness is a tougher nut to crack, though. Many questions arise from disease studies like this one: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12301-man-with-tiny-b... . Obviously from that patient, he lives a normal life (within the IQ standard deviations) and no-one else saw deficits in him worth concern. Other patients report only balance issues and delayed speech with having half of all the body's neurons not develop: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329861-900-woman-of.... Still other people have extreme deficits in short term memory from having comparatively small portions removed : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Molaison .

What I am saying is that the brain is a confounding mystery and we need the help of people in comp-sci. If you have the time, try to volunteer at your local university, we need the help.

> Continue your passion! Neuro is so cool and we need comp-sci people, at the least to process the data and help out with connecting VGA cables (I shudder at bio people's hard-coding).

What do you mean by the connectome is stereotypical? I was reading up on connectomes and was pleasantly surprised to find out that model organisms like C Elegans have been fully mapped but I haven't heard of any large insights being derived from this.

In general what are the computational stumbling blocks in Neurosci at the moment? (I have a genomics background)

I'd like to do a Phd in Cog Sci or Neurosci (computational) but I've been so stress free ever since moving to industry (from academia) 10 months ago I can't really see myself going back for the long haul.

Stereotypical in the sense that most connectomes are the same amoungst the same sub-species. You mention C. elegans as an animal and it's connections are mostly the same no matter the animal. That is a huge finding btw, going in, there is nothing to suggest that they should be all pretty much the same.

The neuro stumbling blocks are computational power and knowledge of the modulation of the circuit. We just can't model the circuits in sufficient detail right now and we don't know how to 'cheat' it such that we can still see most of the behavior but can do so in some fraction of the computation time. We need better and more efficient models. Your genomics work would be very useful in the numerical analysis of neural nets. The mammalian brain is also very mysterious still, C elegans is transparent, mice are not. We are having a heck of a time mapping it. The work is slow going, but still moving. Better modeling should accelerate the process and help us narrow where to look and the best bang for our buck in terms of experiments.

I would not go back to grad school if I were you then. Grad school is a ton of stress for little reward (in terms of $$$). In terms of desire, it is very individual and mostly depends on the advisor. If you want to go back and have a super-duper advisor already waiting for you, by all means. But the stress load is extreme. 90+ hr weeks for 5-7 years and ~30k/year.

About the stress of academia...

I did some work with a cognitive science / computer science researcher while in undergrad and know plenty of PhDs in various fields. Academia is seeping with stress. Grad students have a very high rate of mental illness. I greatly admire the people who do that work, especially if they are working towards tenure. The work is incredibly fun, but you have to be a certain kind of person to handle the tenure route.

So did you stop at the Bsc level or did you go ahead and do a Masters? Tenure is basically not worth it to me. If I went back to grad school I'd go with the intention of moving right back to industry afterwards. While I don't miss the constant stress I do miss the challenge, progression, joy of discovery and relative independence of Grad School.

It's generally accepted that information sharing between distant cortical regions is a hallmark, if not the mechanism of consciousness. From there, there are many takes on that idea.

Really, though, it helps to understand what led to the idea if you want to understand the scope of the theory. The first models of consciousness actually weren't; they were instead models of attention and executive control, but researchers began to tease out both the function and hallmarks of conscious processing in these theories.

In the late 50's, Broadbent published on the famous "cocktail party effect", which basically states that bottom-up (extrinsic) attention can cause interrupts. In other words, you can be engrossed in a conversation, but still immediately notice your name being called out from across the room. He proposed a simple model that involves two steps:

1. a set of parallel sensory buffers that store information temporarily (later became sensory memory, e.g. iconic memory)

2. a unique, limited-capacity "perceptual system"

The big idea is that certain operations can take place in parallel, while others are strictly serial in nature. Things like speaking are serial, but extrinsic attention is parallel and can quite literally interrupt a conversation. From there the model was refined in several ways:

Baddeley and Hitch (1975) propose that between each processing step is a "loop" (the most famous of which is the phonological loop) that maintains information by rehearsing. The "central executive" then coordinates, selects, and triggers the maintenance and activity of the peripheral systems that implement the buffers. We now have a basic theory of multitasking by context-switch.

Norman and Shallice (1986) further clarify the distinction between automatic, non-conscious processes and voluntary, consciousness-dependent processes. This distinction is what sets the stage for modern, neurocomputational theories and models of consciousness.

To review, each of these models has the following in common:

1. A central (albeit ill-defined) component that is associated (albeit incidentally) with conscious perception and deliberate behavior.

2. The notion of an "observer" entity that issues command & control operations. (Note: the philosophical criticisms on this particular point are largely responsible for the ensuing paradigm shift, see Daniel Dennett)

3. Some independent, parallel functions. I like to think of them as goroutines.

The modern take is that there is indeed a distinction between automatic-and-parallel processes and their voluntary-and-serial counterparts. The shift is in understanding the nature of this serial controller. We no longer see it as a volitional homunculus, but essentially as a router.

The idea was first formally proposed by Bernard Baars (1989) and is called the "global neuronal workspace" theory. The idea is that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of independent local cortical processors that perform specialized tasks, in parallel. Consciousness, then, is the act of allowing these processors to communicate with each other through long-distance cortico-cortical connections (in particular, a fronto-parietal network of pyramidal neuron axons... but I digress), and this routing/broadcast structure is called the Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW).

From there, there are many schools of thought about how local information is granted access to the machinery of consciousness. My Ph.D explores the theory that attention may be the gatekeeper of mechanism, the implication being that attention must intervene in order for consciousness to occur. Here's our latest publication, which shows that retroactively orienting attention towards an unseen stimulus can render it conscious after the disappearance of the physical source: http://goo.gl/dYdRcl The implication is that we have a "pre-conscious" (see: http://goo.gl/xQXjGe for an explanation of the term pre-conscious) stimulus encoded into the visual system, that is not consciously perceived, and that will never be consciously perceived unless acted upon by an outside force. We show that attention can serve as this outside force, thus arguing in favor of the GNW by virtue of the fact that no other theory posits such a level of access control on the machinery of consciousness.

>I find it interesting to consider but have a hard time understanding how the brainstem fits into this.

I suspect much of the confusion is related to terminology: you have to distinguish between consciousness and consciousness ;) It's well-understood that the brainstem (or rather, not the brainstem per se but the thalamus) regulates consciousness in the sense of sleep/wake/arousal. It also plays a critical role in cortical oscillation, and oscillation implies communication, which is necessary (but not sufficient) for consciousness.

>-- psych. & computer science student with a strong interest in cognitive science & neuroscience

Keep it up! Cogsci is increasingly computational, so we need hackers. We also need better software engineering... badly!

Interesting! Is there a brain region related to telling apart results of imagination and our actual perception that would work as a fail-safe mechanism?

The ACC is implicated in many, many, many things, but it always seems to rear its head when error-monitoring of some sort is involved. Any time you want to respond to a mis-prediction, an error of judgement, or some sort of high-level mismatch, you're pretty much guaranteed to see ACC involvement.

The theory goes that beyond some differential threshold, the ACC detects the mismatch between the perception (the tiger in my example) and the sensation (the actual input into the system) and then "does something".

We're not sure what that "something" is: it could -- to proceed by computational analogy -- raise an exception and signal some other process to regulate the system, or it may directly inhibit certain early visual neurons in an attempt to downplay percept.

This theory could also be completely wrong.

The ACC. Brains are squishy and evolved from fish, especially the basal ganglia parts like the ACC. They don't have fail-safe parts. Whatever gets 'routed' is going to synapse regardless of if it is 'real' or not. You cause a neuron to fire and it fires and sends it's signal onwards, it does not care why it fired.

Caution, hand-waving abounds in this comment.

That's a bold claim indeed, especially with that attempt at an explanation.

> You cause a neuron to fire and it fires

Tautology much?

> it does not care why it fired.

That's not even good English grammar. I mean, it's a very informal style, that I only understand because the information is redundant. Of course there are fail-safe parts. I don't even need to study to see that redundancy is a vital feature of the nervous system. In the same way, the ACC probably isn't the only point of failure for certain perceptions of the environment.

LSD and psychedelics are the next frontier in science IMHO. And I don't mean just neural science, psychology or psychiatry.

It seems that these substances hold the key to how the brain "produces" reality and that could open doors to areas such as computer-brain interfaces, transfer of consciousness, fully immersive "life-long" virtual reality and so on. But that's just peanuts.

There's the social aspect - psychedelics have had a strong influence on millions of people when they became popular in the '60s, shifting their worldview, which in turn lead to new directions in music, art, film, literature, science and society in general.

Then there is the "ecological" aspect. Many people report "feeling one" or "connected" to everything including other living beings when tripping on psychedelics.

That metaphor persists after coming down and many people become aware of their place in nature, what they eat, how they treat animals and plants and eventually other humans. "Flower power" might just be what's necessary to curb humanity's most stringent problems, such as "climate change".

"Make love not war" hippy slogan will also help given how armed the world is right now. I would add "use condoms !" to it though - there's too many of us here already! :).

The MRI images are a confirmation of the "mind expanding" term used so often in conjunction with these substances.

Maybe "mind expansion" is what's needed in order to combat the "mind shrinking" that is so beneficial to the few, who, with their ignorance and greed, are about to run this ship into the ground.

I'd love to see more research, a lot more research with these substances.

Understanding these links is very important, because right now there is a new, larger, global wave of psychedelic use which is unprecedented.

If you guys want to start soft with some small dosages of mdma at home, I definitely recommend you to spend some time watching Daft Punk videos on YouTube, you won't regret that! It will a be somewhere in the middle between sweet, smooth, nice and brainfucking! You won't forget the music and the mood for long...

Pretty cool. I'd like to point out that meditation might have a similar dampening effect on the default mode network as well. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25904238

The question arises again, can psychedelics have lasting effects or is meditation the only way to create permanent positive change in that direction?

Finally, a quote from a letter to Osho: "Many people are experimenting with the drug ecstasy. I heard you say once that a lie is sweet in the beginning and bitter in the end, and truth is bitter in the beginning, and sweet in the end. I have been meditating, but I don't have the experiences people report from the drug ecstasy. Is the drug like the lie, and meditation the truth? Or am I missing something that could really help me?"

I did ecstasy and i did LSD. Ecstasy is like a lie in this quote comparison. You get high in the beginning and it brings you down at the end, really awful feeling at the end. LSD is different, i experienced world differently even for couple of days after i took LSD. World seemed different. I knew what was important in life and what not, very clear.

I can't describe how you feel on LSD, and people that didn't took LSD or ecstasy are not aware what their brain is capable off.

When i first took ecstasy i didn't believed that you can feel that way. So different from alcohol, weed. You feel love. LSD was even weirder experience. On LSD you can shape reality, you can feel reality so well, like you are part of it, connected. I saw snail on the road, everything was blurry around him, but he was visible, so sharp, i could feel him as part of me, connected, in this journey called life.

Everything was so obvious, answer for question "why?" was known, even if i couldn't say it out loud, i could feel that answer for this question was somewhere in my mind, but i just couldn't access it. Feeling that it's there made everything clear, i felt peace.

Everything that i did in life before and what i would in future seemed such trivial and not important. That connection with reality, understanding different forms of it, changed me. I feel like LSD can give you answers, answers for questions that you would not find without it.

For a counterpoint to this - I decided to do 150 micrograms of LSD after reading a lot about it on HN, talking with many friends that had tried it or do it fairly regularly and reading as much as I could find (Sam Harris, Huxley, What the Dormouse said etc.).

Nothing can really prepare you for it - the dream like state, the visuals and just the capacity of how different things can be. When looking at things I saw them shift, it felt similar to those computer vision machine learning videos from google. As if I could see my vision attempting to resolve images into objects that fit their parameters. I felt like I got some insight into how consciousness works by messing with it.

The trip itself was mostly pleasant - the next day and several months were not.

The next day I couldn't stop pacing, couldn't relax - kept hyperventilating. I couldn't eat either, basically kept having panic attacks. Over the next few weeks I felt outside of myself - like it was weird to be alive and in a person. I was terrified that I was going schizophrenic or losing my mind. I thought I might have a psychotic break. All of this paired with insomnia/general sleep disturbances (which scared me too). I thought I might have to stop working, I had anxiety with real physical effects (headache, lack of appetite, extreme fear). Even watching TV was difficult/overwhelming.

I had serious existential fear about dying and the inevitability of my family dying (and still do to some extent) - sometimes feeling that everyone else is insane for not being afraid.

I didn't end up taking SSRIs, but I did tell people and got help - it's about seven months later and I feel mostly better.

I'd caution people against trying it.

I'm sure that any medical professional you saw has already told you this, but the symptoms you experienced are normal, and referred to as "hallucinogen persisting perception disorder", and I had a very similar experience.


The symptoms will go away, and you'll feel better. Promise. 150 mcg of LSD is, in my opinion, more than I'd recommend someone taking for their first time. Microdosing (around 10% of your dose) and slowly increasing the dose is a much safer way of going about it, and I'd recommend doing it gradually if you ever feel like trying psychedelics again in the future.

For now, the best thing you can do is to stay busy and try not to focus on it. LSD can give you a very raw view of reality without the candy-coating of normal consciousness, and it can be a very jarring experience.

If you ever need to talk, feel free to reach out to me personally, or join the IRC chat at tripsit.me:


What the parent was describing isn't HPPD, which involves sensory disturbances, usually minor optical hallucinations, and is mostly limited to people who used psychedelics heavily over a long period. The parent probably experienced the disturbances of mood that psychedelics can cause in the days following a trip, got panicked that something was wrong, and then the anxiety perpetuated their destabalized state. Or something else, but not HPPD.

More likely, he experienced derealization or depersonalization. The shake in consciousness can be jarring in that, one realizes the weight of being the "one" behind the sensors, heuristics, and thinking. The ghost in the machine... Really, there are books written about this. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Allen Watts. Life is intrepid and scary because consciousness is a black box. Anxiety is just a symptom of being shown the unusual, being shaken to a core of meaning that defeats the usual humdrum of assumed knowledge.


I'm surprised the drug trip sitting chatroom blacklists Tor.

I'm gonna bet you're not addicted to any external substance and that in your case, this was purely a mind expanding experience. One could also say LSD might have unlocked what was already there in the background (i.e. "subconscious") of your mind.

I would not consider this a bad trip. More like a rude awakening. Had you gone through something else in real life, major trauma of sorts, you may have experienced exactly the same... half life of LSD is about 5 hours, which means in about 30 hours, most of it > 99% was gone from your body, but your head/brain was still attached :), meaning, whatever your worldview was, got shaken to the core for one reason or another...long after the LSD was gone.

If everyone who tried it had an experience, or rather, epiphany such as yours, we'd all be so lucky.... and maybe the world would be slightly better place than it is today. Unfortunately, few if any experience reflection upon using drugs, pot, LSD or whatever, and continue to abuse them rather than deal with the pain of what's going on (mostly angst and integrity/identity issues that fester for decades sometimes) in better ways.

EDIT: I've never tried LSD, though I've been tempted after reading many testimonials on Erowid from some really smart people who did it to 'see what it's like to have your mind bent'.... Guess I'm too chicken to try it.

I'm a fairly introspective person and I wouldn't say that it shook my world view - in the sense that I went in with a scientific world view and came out with one. I do have a better empathetic appreciation for mental illness and psychosis though (read And Then I Thought I was a Fish if you want to scare yourself). A trip makes you realize how incredible differently someone else's mind can perceive the world.

The challenging or scary part for me at least is when you rely on your own mind as a place where you can reason about things and then you start to worry if your ability to do that has been compromised.

The anxiety attacks after made me think that I really was dying or had a brain tumor or something and since I knew that the drug could no longer be in my system I got scared. I could no longer rationalize it as temporary affects of the drug. Researching all of the psychiatric information I could find online started to convince me that we know very little of how consciousness and mental illness actually work and I felt stupid for taking such a large risk.

Another thing I found scary is that a lot of healthy, normal people believe things I find absurd (like religion) and the information we're exposed to growing up seems to act as the training data for our neural net. I think consciousness emerged out of some evolved way to handle feedback and I didn't want to lose my ability to be able to reason about things.

The physical sensations after were really unpleasant (elevated heart rate, depersonalization, seeing visual patterns) and might have been caused by the anxiety that the LSD seemed to trigger. Also I had really low Vitamin D which seems to correlate with these kinds of issues too.

The fear of death I used to think about more than most people in a kind of distant way, but this experience made it feel imminent and traumatic - I think you're right that another life event could have caused similar symptoms.

I do worry less about things that aren't about people dying so maybe that's a good thing. It also comforts me a bit that everyone on earth is in the same boat, we're all sharing it for a limited time together and can work to make amazing things. Sometimes though, when I really think about the inevitability of dying it's still hard to go to sleep.

I think most people don't think about it.

Personally, I'm not really worried about death at all. Having spent years of my life studying physics and coming to the conclusion that an eternalistic view of (space-)time is more likely correct, as seems to be implied by the theory of relativity, I know that my life here on earth won't disappear as a consequence of death, and this gives me solace.

I absolutely detest psychedelic drugs though, they nearly ruined my life twice. Anyone advocating their use doesn't know how much damage they can do to some individuals. There is nothing inherently enlightening about throwing a chemical wrench into your brains neural cogwheels.

> an eternalistic view of (space-)time is more likely correct, as seems to be implied by the theory of relativity, I know that my life here on earth won't disappear as a consequence of death

Can you expand on this? Do you mean to say that your life won't disappear because you'll always exist at a specific point in time space?

Yes, personally I believe that the past, present and future states of the universe exist as a kind of eternal structure. This is commonly known as the "block universe" view. In that context my life is but a small (but nonetheless eternally existing) pocket within space-time.

In particular, I think that the relativistic concept of simultaneity is a strong argument in favor of this kind of view.

Thanks for this, that's inspiring. I suffer from fear about death as well, and will look into this as what i crave most is a way to just be comfortable with the reality of dying.

I'm curious, would you be able to go into how they nearly ruined your life?

>The challenging or scary part for me at least is when you rely on your own mind as a place where you can reason about things and then you start to worry if your ability to do that has been compromised.

As someone who did LSD many years ago and was deeply moved by it, the scary part wasn't worry that my brain had been compromised by LSD. What was scary was that suddenly I was aware that perhaps my brain had been compromised all along, and I just didn't realize it until I did LSD.

If it does anything, LSD (at least at moderate-high doses) tears away the ego and strips away the unconscious filters through which we view reality. It can be a profoundly humbling, illuminating, and terrifying experience, all at the same time. Use with caution.

"Sometimes though, when I really think about the inevitability of dying it's still hard to go to sleep."

I totally understand this sentiment. Thinking about death in life's quiet moments is almost like thinking about an absurdly complex problem set, for which there is no one right answer, and maybe one that needs no answer.

I have never tried psychedelics, but my idea of death was altered recently when a friend was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer. He went from relatively healthy to "weeks to live" within a span of days. It shook me, obviously and shifted something in my perception.

This is why I steer clear of psychedelics...I fear that I could lose my ability to attempt to reason about such events. It is also why I don't drink. I feel like I need to be able to "control" such shifts. Sometimes though, I feel that this idea of control is a total illusion, or a coping mechanism.

"Sometimes though, when I really think about the inevitability of dying it's still hard to go to sleep.

I think most people don't think about it."

I'm not sure if it helps but one can accept ones mortality and not be afraid of it.

I think about dying usually daily and contently accept it. At least until the time comes, probably. I don't believe in any kind of afterlife (at least the time of death comes, probably).

I think you are mixing up a knowledge of a thing and a fear of a thing.

The difference between knowing one will die one day, and being afraid of dying one day, is similar to the difference of knowing there are mice under ones bed, and being afraid of the mice.

I've had to deal with a shiteload of anxiety issues and seen close family members dead, though, so either there's the stoic acceptance or serious mental issues.

I've had help from stoic philosophy and zen meditation. Would be a total wreck without them probably.

Religion is what the unconverted soul does in order to do right by God. To "make it to heaven", so to speak, by doing good things and avoiding doing bad or downright ugly things. All attempts at pleasing God - i.e. religion - are doomed because you inevitably will fail to meet the standard, because it is an impossible one - i.e. don't lust for women in your heart. Just as I wrote that...probably a thought or an image flew. Too late, you just sinned.

What's a chap to do in the face of the ever present human nature and its propensity to play God with anything and everything it can get away with? -NOTHING- seems like a really tall standard. Have you tried to do -NOTHING- lately in the face of whatever went on in your mind which was absolutely telling you to act?

Try that. And when you fail - and you will... MAYBE..and I say MAYBE then you might get a glimpse of how powerless we are as humans as well as our will to execute on what we know is right, but constantly fail to do.

Maybe this makes sense to you.. maybe it doesn't. My only advice is - keep being whomever you are... and you may, if you're humble enough, experience this conversion, past which there's no turning back.

The only two elements required to get to it is humility and faith..... in the end you will see Who God is, regardless.

I'll stop here before I start to proselytize or make even less sense.

> because it is an impossible one - i.e. don't lust for women in your heart.

Not impossible. Hard. Worth it IMO.

I'm now married after having lived that way for a number of years and it still has benefits. Not only for my SO.

As mentioned above, breaking into that state was hard, I worked for months without luck so I totally can relate to the "impossible" claim.

I relate the breakthrough to my being "born again" experience and I think I would rather die happily on the spot instead of going back.

Edit: posted from sockpuppet account because while I happily might share personal stuff I try to separate it from work stuff.

Without going too far off topic into a boring argument that won't go anywhere - I should say my religion comment includes the idea of a god/faith or supernatural creator etc.

I experienced a similar (but non-drug related) shock to you several years ago and it changed how I think. I came to the conclusion that religion is just an old fashioned, and highly specialised, way of treating mental health. Without going into details, it gives people an ultimate dose of peace of mind.

well people have tried excessive orgasms for treating mental health... or drugs... or workaholism... or some other addiction. It never pans out. So I guess surrendering to a higher power isn't so bad. Just gotta choose that power wisely, no?

Yeah, some religions are more benign than others, to put it mildly. I'm not religious personally, but I find it interesting that a lot of these religious movements practice stoic values and do some sort of meditation. Those two aspect are now mainstream treatments (AKA CBT and Mindfulness) that doctors recommend for mental health problems. That's just scratching the surface though.

You sir, at least have an inquiring mind. That's a lot more I can say for many people who I've known years and years.

don't lust for women in your heart. Just as I wrote that...probably a thought or an image flew. Too late, you just sinned.

Nope. A fleeting image or thought is lust in your mind, not in your heart.


Religion is what the unconverted soul does in order to do right by God

Enlightenment is achieved by realizing one does not need God to do right.

My problem is that I don't trust my own sense of morality.

Can you expand on that?

Yes. I know what I need to do, I know what is right, yet I end up doing the wrong thing anyway. This happens more often than not. Thus, I don't trust my own sense of morality.

I think that's just being human.

> I'll stop here before I start to proselytize

Too late.

(Also: If the standard is an impossible one, that is a problem with the standard.)

theoretically.... it is possible to never act out of integrity. emphasis on theoretically.

I can really relate to what you are saying. I share many of your fears and have general anxiety about dying too early and death or not existing anymore in general. But i never took drugs. For me it started with a traumatic event (passed out one morning 3 years ago when i was ill and did not drink) and even after doctors checked everything countless times i developed fears, especially related to my heart and premature death scenarios. I have it under control and can live normally, but these thoughts are basically is always somewhere in my mind. I also have slight visual disturbances (like visual snow) that are persistent for 3 years now and started in the time when i had most of the anxiety and panic attacks.

I had a similar experience. Except it was caused by marijuana.

It sounds like a classic case of Depersonalization disorder, which is a subset/interconnected with anxiety. Google it.

The consensus is that it can be triggered by substances in approx 3% of the population. Weed, mushrooms, ectstacy and LSD are the most common culprits. It's extremely common, though it has very little mindshare among mental health professionals. Probably because there is no pharmaceutical treatment.

It took me about 2 years to get back to reality after my trip. I'm still not quite the same. But I'm thankful for the experience because it's been the hardest thing I've experienced and I've learned a lot about myself, self care and the importance of relationships

Good luck sailor!

I had a similar experience (depersonalization) also caused by marijuana. Mine lasted for several months until I was back to normal-ish. It was very scary and disorienting.

For anyone experiencing this, I have three pieces of advice: (1) Don't worry too much. Things will get back to normal, and worrying is part of the cause. (2) Try meditating. When I started to meditate while depersonalized, the effect was incredible: it changed from a negative experience to a very positive one. I'm now actually glad for the experience overall, despite the initial scariness. (3) Your worldview is changing. Try not to fight it too much.

I tried marijuana and my experience with it was a lot more like what my friends and you describe LSD or similar drugs to be like. Before marijuana I already had mild hallucinations and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia from a mild psychosis. It's definitely made my existing hallucinations much stronger even years after smoking.

For me the general feel of the trip was as if some sort of filter had been removed so you get to experience things you probably shouldn't experience. This includes experiencing experiences (fractals). What we experience tends to be individual so I won't go into that. But you get a wider eye view, motions are more defined, shapes are more defined, etc. It's like a burn in effect (in an image editing sense) but applied to other senses as well.

My favorite was probably not being able to determine the size of objects (or that it would fluctuate) which made sitting in front of a computer like sitting in a gigantic room with a gigantic tv.

It was a bit uneasy after the trip at first but I got used to it quickly. I've already had similar experiences but of course not as strong.

In my experience with all of this so far the best tool for me is being skeptic. My only fear is that I'll lose the ability to reason forever, which I have already lost in short bursts here and there.

I'm immediately skeptical of people who claim to have felt "similar" effects to LSD without LSD, but that's a pretty interesting scenario involving weed (how much?!) and schizophrenia. No clue how close you could get to emulating it, but it sounds like at least a few of the common effects of an acid trip.

There does seem to be some links between the endocannabinoid system (the primary target of marijuana) and the serotonin system (the primary target of LSD). EG:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17944876 http://www.jneurosci.org/content/27/43/11700.abstract

From what I can see, the relationship isn't terribly clear at this time. As dopamine and serotonin systems are linked to schizophrenia, until more is known, I personally think anyone with even mild signs of schizophrenia would do best to avoid chemicals like marijuana, LSD, stimulants, etc.

Just one big drag with some tobacco. (i don't smoke so maybe nicotine also has a say) although I've had plain as well and I remember it being somewhat the same.

I have never taken LSD so I can't really say for sure but it just sounds more relatable. Maybe something in between?

Some of the things I vaguely remember: There are fractals, although not as strong as people suggest on lsd. If i close my eyes it's like I'm going through different scenes (kinda like a dream I guess). Sound and touch feeling kind of echos Events are somewhat quantized or it's like you can see them before they happen/react to them Mild synthesisa (it doesn't seem as strong as people who say they have it is) Some mild out of body experiences (I've had stronger out of body experiences without) Sound volume becomes meaningless so I can't tell if a sound is close or distant Very vivid side vision hallucinations like I can see my friends gaming or whatever in my side vision but when i look I realize they went out to the grocery store Almost human like facial expression in cats

Without drugs I've had: Out of body experiences Different household ish sounds, usually slamming sounds People talking (although mostly gibberish) as if i'm at a party Explosions and sometimes screams (sometimes my name) Seeing bodies and faces in for instance piles of clothes or similar randomness lots of programming related experiences where I think I can program in real life (I thought stack overflows would cause my consciousness to pop and reset) sudden "messages" such as i see an image of my fridge being on fire so I have to run and check. I've had ghost-like people (I don't believe in ghosts) pull my skin, feet, etc Sudden bizarre realizations with strong visuals and sometimes out of body experiences that show how to solve them (for instance I thought a programming problem I couldn't solve was caused by my kitchen chairs not being aligned properly to the table) I thought I was talking to people telepathically (mostly people I know online)

Fortunately I don't have much of this anymore but when I do it's a lot easier to handle than before. I dropped out of college because of this and I wasn't particularly good with school in general so it really really helps reading and understanding how the brain and technology works.

This is something I've always wanted to talk about. I keep most of this kind of secret as I don't really like talking about some of the experiences I had and I don't like feeling as if I'm bragging about it so a throwaway account turns out to be a nice idea.

Nasty sounding condition. Here's a link[1] and a summary,

> ...a mental disorder in which the people have persistent or recurrent feelings of depersonalization and/or derealization... Depersonalization is described as feeling disconnected or estranged from one's body, thoughts, or emotions. Individuals experiencing depersonalization may report feeling as if they are in a dream or are watching themselves in a movie... derealization is described as detachment from one's surroundings. Individuals experiencing derealization may report perceiving the world around them as foggy, dreamlike/surreal, or visually distorted... the inner turmoil created by the disorder can result in depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, phobias, etc.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depersonalization_disorder

Never heard of this before.

It sounds somewhat like what many people report having experienced during their trip proper. But extended well beyond that time.

I wonder whether people with DePersonalisation Disorder had somehow held on at a time when most would have just let go.

Disorder is another word for chaos, which has, of necessity, been embraced by many.

I don't partake in any kind of drugs outside of alcohol in social settings. I do however have an anxiety disorder that comes with a lot of panic. I always described myself in the throws of panic as feeling like I was playing a video game. It's a very surreal experience to feel like you're driving a car except your body is the car. You think right arm move and it does, but it doesn't quite feel like yourself. Very strange experience. Incidentally, it took me about 2 very long years to get a good handle on it where I'll only have an episode like that once or twice a year.

Perhaps you really saw the "bitter truth" as GP put it for the first time? I really don't mean this in a patronizing way. More that powerful drugs like this have a tendency to show you things about reality both good and bad that you otherwise would never have known. The discoveries you make can reverberate for years. The resulting bum out about the bad things (and I guess the stoke for the good things) can manifest sort of indirectly/physically (as opposed to consciously/mentally).

> Perhaps you really saw the "bitter truth" as GP put it for the first time?

That's exactly what happened. He saw the cosmic joke of existence.

Sorry to hear about that :( The first time I took LSD (not hallucinogens in general, but LSD) went sort of similarly for me. Of course a life provides many confounding factors, but I ended up depressed and anxious for about three or four months afterwards. Took me a while to work my way out of it. I still think it was a worthwhile experience, but my symptoms weren't as bad as yours sound. I hope you're making a good recovery.

I just don't get it why anyone would try a second or third time after you already had 3-4 months of depression and anxiety after the first trip?

For me that would mean the end of my business and on top of that it would certainly hurt my relationships with other people.

No way I'd ever do such a gamble.

> I ended up depressed and anxious for about three or four months afterwards

Holy shit, that sounds awful.

Like I said, there were a lot of confounding factors that make it hard for me to put the blame solely on the acid. But pretty much I went in to it without taking it seriously. I ended up tripping pretty hard, by myself, from 1 PM - 9 PM, then kept tripping (not very hard, but enough that I didn't like it) throughout the rest of the night. I ended up watching the movie Chinatown on Netflix because I absolutely could not sleep -- pro tip, this is not a good movie to watch when you're afraid about not having come down and you're not sure if this is what life is going to be like forever into the future. This was the day/night before my school's next semester of classes started; needless to say it put me in a really weird place.

I have a ton of weird files that I wrote in VIM while I was tripping most heavily. I kept opening a new split/file instead of using parentheses, and I kept wanting to do this because my thoughts kept becoming more and more abstract. So I'd write a sentence, move that thought process to more abstract language, open a new buffer, repeat. At some point I remembered how to write macros and wrote a recursive macro that wrote some line of text and then a newline. I should really post this .tar.gz I have of all the files at some point, they're pretty out there.

EDIT: I guess this is the time I talk about my weird acid trip on HN. OK. Hope you all enjoyed.

> I have a ton of weird files that I wrote in VIM while I was tripping most heavily.

Which of course is the normal state for anyone who uses VIM by choice ;-)

Why not post them now? I'd be very interested in reading them.

Post the .tar.gz

I agree


Damn. This is my normal without any drugs. No LSD for me.

Probably a good idea.

I have a great circle of friends and family and would describe myself as possibly more stable and relaxed than most people, yet I had a similar experience to the above poster. Then again, I was kind of asking for it.

My tip for anyone wanting to try hallucinogenics is to micro dose (~10µg) and to be really cautious about the set and setting.

As a counter-counter point, I tried it as something of a last-ditch effort after having daily panic attacks for a year. I haven't had one since and I'm depressed much less often.

I took a hell of a lot less and made extra care to do it with kind, experienced people in a safe environment with incredibly joyful activities lined up (The Lego movie is a favorite; starts with a song called 'everything is awesome'). A friend who is a clinical psychologist lived nearby which didn't hurt if things went south.

Maybe the brain is somewhat more plastic for the duration, I'm not sure, but I do think caution should be used. In research contexts a professional is there to keep you on the right track. I'm willing to bet that if I had been alone, I would have ended up worse than I started.

There's very little reliable (read: modern) academic research out there, but looking for it can probably give a little piece of mind. I'm on my phone, but there's a paper (linked to in this article; not sure how permanent that is) that shows that mental disorders in psychedelic users appears similar to mental disorders in the regular population.

There's also some personality studies showing a long-term increase in the openness trait which is an incredibly unusual occurance.

Edit: I considered posting this under a throwaway, but it's sort of a shame that we can't talk about these things at least a little openly.

>I felt like I got some insight into how consciousness works by messing with it.

That's what I got out of it. When people ask me what it's like, I say it's like those stickers people put on large windows so that birds will realize there's a window there and not fly into them. By introducing this aberration, you become aware of the lens through which you perceive everything and get a sense of how the lens may distort reality.

I recently tried to read 'The denial of death' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Denial_of_Death). I did not manage to go too far - but one of their theses, maybe the main one, was that we are basically crazy not to fear death, that in the childhood we learn how to ignore the objective reality which is too much for us to bear.

That is one of my favorite books of all time. If the book is too big there was film made that was highly influenced by Becker's ideas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_from_Death

Have you had any bipolar or schizoaffective symptoms in your past medical history? ...Or does anyone in your family by chance?

LSD (even small doses) is known to trigger manic episodes and schizophrenic breaks for those who suffer from such things -- oftentimes the person is not even aware they have the underlying problem until after it is triggered by drug use, which leads to the popular mythology of "folks who never came back from their trip."

Psychedelic-aware health practitioners would strongly advise anyone who has any history of schizoaffective or bipolar symptoms to avoid LSD at all costs. 'Shrooms won't hurt your brain though, and you can benefit from meta-cognitive reflection in that state just as well.

I don't and as far as I know my family doesn't - I wouldn't have tried LSD if I did (I was already nervous enough even without the additional risk). In general I'm pretty stable.

Given all the data I could find it seemed that the majority of people have positive experiences and only a minority have the trouble that I had, but it's possible that it's underreported - either way the risk is real.

I've never tried shrooms, but from what I read the risk there seems similar.

Interesting. I've had some short periods of my life like that (without drugs). It could have been some growing pains of the brain (age 20 roughly) but I also correlate these episodes with time where I shifted religious beliefs.

Could it be a normal response when adapting to changes in our fundamental axioms? I mean, it's bound to be stressful when you don't even trust your most basic assumptions of reality.

> I was terrified that I was going schizophrenic or losing my mind.

This is probably depersonalization/derealization with a bit of HPPD

it felt similar to those computer vision machine learning videos from google

Very, very interesting observation.

It sounds like you went through existential depression, Glad to hear you're doing better now.

They way you felt after taking LSD is kinda what I have been experiencing life for the last twenty years, but not the severity as you describe. It all happened after a horrid panic attack, actually a few.

I remember having a bad panic attack, seeing the walls in the bathroom undulate, my perception of things seemed different. Why do we all seem to run to the bathroom, and look in the mirror when we feel sick? I had more than a few panic attack according to my doctor, but to this day I still don't know what's wrong with me. I am better, but I think the aging process had something to do with that?

Anyways, I cried, and cried that night. I was a nervous wreck, but finally fell asleep.

I woke up, walked down the hall, thanking God it was over. When I got half way down the hall, all the nervousness, tearing, etc. came rushing back. I thought maybe it will just be another day.

Well days turns to weeks, weeks to months, months to years.

The very next day, I remember going through the yellow pages looking for a psychologist. I really belived a therapist would help. I went for months, and it didn't help in the slightest.

I did end up seeing the right Psychiatrist, and he helped, but the medications he precribed never seemed to be strong enough, and they were both addictive.

For years, the only drug that helped were two 12 o.z. beers. I would hold off until 3:00 p.m., and take my alcohol medication. I tried to keep it to two because I didn't want to turn into my father. Well, I just gave up, and drank. I had good and bad days. I pretty much gave up social drinking. I knew I needed to save my liver for the bad days.

I can honestly say whatever I had, and haven't completely rid myself of, ruined my life. I made some money, but it was just luck.

I used to be the most capabable person in school, work, or in most situations. I got to the point where I couldn't buy groceries, without shaking with fear.

I look back, and my breakdown happened after a Thanksgiving dinner. To this day, I don't know what caused me to bust a gasket. I was happy with pretty much everything in my life. I didn't have a bad childhood. I was just a twenty something trying to finish school, and have a life.

Growing up some people use to kid around with me, and say stuff like "_________you seem like the type that doesn't need drugs to have a good time?" I would laugh it off.

Anyway, maybe they saw something in me, I couldn't see? Even though I had hair half way down my back, I didn't take drugs. I drank beer, and maybe had five joints up to my breakdown, but psychadelics, and any illegial drug was definitely out. I never told anyone. I didn't want to come across as "that guy".

I recall in second grade, the teacher made us watch a movie about taking drugs. The guy was just doing normal things, took a drug, and his world was a spinning vortex. I remember thinking, why would anyone do this to themselfs? I've even carried this fear up to this day. Who would have known my brain tripped out on its own?

I know this, because of that event, it's been sheer luck I'm not homeless. Sheer luck! I could be homeless within a week? As to mental health professionals; they try. They definetly know more than the family doctor.

Do you have any insights on helpful therapies, or really any advice on what you think is the mechanism?

My significant other experienced the same kind of unexplainable paranoia/anxiety that also had a sudden onset that didn't seem to be triggered by anything. In her case, alcohol is still the most effective medication, combined with anti-anxiety drugs for the "bad days".

Have you ever tried practicing meditation? Among other things it allows to notice and distance from ones current cognitive bias, including strong fear, delusions etc. It requires at least some stability at first, though, so that you can practice it when it's easy.

I had a similar experience with dmt, but it was horrible at the time of the trip also. But I do look back on the new perspective I got from it, though difficult to adjust to at the time, as ultimately positive.

I also attribute some of that difficulty to the stage I was in I'm my life, young adult.

> I saw snail on the road, everything was blurry around him, but he was visible, so sharp, i could feel him as part of me, connected, in this journey called life.

This happened to me on psilocybin. I could just see snails everywhere in the grass. While nature usually feels somewhat alive, didn't feel any special connection with snails though. Just seemed odd that I could notice them so easily, from fairly far distance. Must be the vortex shape of their shell.

Worth noting that mileage varies, many people report an after-glow, not 'feeling awful', when coming down from MDMA, which may linger for hours or be present the next day.

For anyone interested, I recommend visiting the non-profit Erowid.org – a great source of anecdotal 'experience reports' for various psychoactives, as well as often providing information on legality, chemistry, toxicity, etc.

Some other footnoes:

The term 'ecstasy' is sometimes used [and sometime used unscrupiously] to refer to mixtures of pure MDMA with other things, or even mixtures devoid of MDMA entirely.

DanceSafe.org and others have tested and reported on countless 'brands' of pills etc. and in some the primary identified active ingredients are caffeine or amphetamines.

Impurities definitely results in some of the bad experiences associated with ecstasy :(

Be safe out there...!

*Ecstasy is an undefined product.. it's easy to critique the black market, but even products on Amazon or ebay are known to be counterfeits.

It could be caffeine, meth, research chemicals, MDA, MDMA, bath salts... who knows? Who can verify these things?

One can only hope even a claim of 'pure' MDMA is what someone says it is. The same issue applies to LSD. How can you be certain it's not DOB or a research chemical?




You can buy chemical reagent tests that will give you reasonable certainty that what you're taking isn't meth/something else, but you're right that there's always a risk when taking an unknown substance that it could be a as yet unknown research chemical or cut with something else.

[0] dancesafe.org

I went to an underground party in Switzerland a few years ago. There was a lab setup in one room to test pills. I am sure it isn't so uncommon.

While ecstasy might often label other drugs, people refer to MDMA when they look for it.

Also, Dance Safe (which you linked to) can assure you of drug quality. There are also other signs, e.g. ensuring it tastes very, very bitter and smells like licorice.

It sounds like LSD convinced you that you knew that stuff, without you actually knowing it. There are plenty of mental conditions where people are mistaken about what they know.

You make it sound like this is a positive thing, I'm not convinced. If LSD actually gave you that insight, then maybe. But to give you the certainty without actually having the knowledge doesn't seem valuable.

For example that snail - did you actually see him in sharp focus? Or did LSD convince you you saw him, but actually you were looking at a memory.

> You make it sound like this is a positive thing

Meaning only exists between our ears -- it's not some intrinsic attribute of reality. I, for example, experience bouts of depression, where nothing about the world around me has changed, and yet my perception of (and feelings about) it becomes melancholic and devoid of purpose or meaning.

If you walk away from an experience with a renewed sense of meaning or purpose, even if you can't give a rational reason for such changes, I would think that would still be a good thing, no?

No, because it's not real.

He felt a connection between himself and the snail. There is no actual connection, but he felt it. If he believes that connection to be real he will act on it, but those actions will not be the right ones because their basis is false.

The problem is that it's actually possible to have a real connection, even between a person and a snail, but instead of a real connection you have the feeling of a connection, without the actuality of it.

> with a renewed sense of meaning or purpose

You are saying something different from what he said. I don't argue with what you said, because you are right, how a person experiences things is all internal.

But I feel like the drug is giving a fake experience, when the real one is possible. That's where the problem lies - you are fooling yourself, pretending you have something, when you don't.

>> the feeling of a connection

He's writing about the snail, and we, in replying, are all talking about the snail he's talking about.

The snail made quite an impression. And he's more aware of the snail than he would be without taking LSD.

He's taken the LSD. The snail changed how his mind works - it affected the words you wrote today - and my words, too. If he didn't have anything, you wouldn't be writing about it, and I wouldn't be replying to you. Your comment is real, as is mine, as is the impression the snail made on him.

It cannot be a "fake" experience, if he experienced it in actuality.

His experience of the snail was changed, though it's appropriate to say the snail's experience of him was not changed much by him taking LSD.

>> i could feel him as part of me, connected, in this journey called life.

The snail is part of him now. It's even a part you, and me, too, in participating conversation involving him.

What's an "actual connection"? What is the "real" experience?

Sorry but you really sound as if you have no idea what you are talking about.

What makes one experience real and another not real?

You have no idea what someone else is experiencing (you can observer their reaction to it, but you have no idea about the actual experience) so I don't know how you can dismiss one as real and another as not real.

What is the "real experience" you are talking about? You don't seem to understand what said "connection" is even referring to, it's not a physical fishing line.

Your experience with ecstasy and mine are rather different. It may because I seek out the "pure" substance - MDMA, rather than E - but anecdotally it may also be due to differences in our natural serotonin. The "raver hangover" is pronounced (anecdotally) in people with naturally lower seratonin. Take 5HTP.

I recently phrased it like this: MDMA is like a colored light source. A little bit, and everything is brighter. You can see the colors of the light, and the things (other people) illuminated by it. A lot, and all you see are the colors of the light.

One of the things this means is that it introduces you to the "best" version of yourself. What it feels like to be that person is still a touchstone of mine.

I never had bad feelings on MDMA, or afterwards. No comedown either, on the contrary, plenty of afterglow. The interpersonal variability of these experiences is amazing.

Indeed, my first reaction to that statement was that that is not typical. It happens, sure, but for me it is always so fascinating that the MDMA / Ecstacy trips just kind of switch on and off, and everything afterwards is as it was before. Perception of colors, shapes, people... phases back in, but there is no real down phase. The next days are a little drab, maybe, with the serotonin level being rebuild, but not really down, just maybe less party feeling. I never took too big of a dossis though, maybe that's the reason?

The day after MDMA always is shot in my personal experiences. Very lethargic, feeling worn out and out of it.

The day after taking LSD on the other hand was a great. Was very productive and motivated.

To each their own.

EDIT: Important to note than I'm never active on MDMA, always a couch potato so the feelings of lethargy may differ.

AFAIR that's a swing of serotonin level (typical with MDMA).

Yeah but if you use it frequently you will.


Serotonine depletion, or something like that. It's a bad idea to use MDMA frequently anyway because of its neurotoxicity.

The answer I felt for "Why" was just another question: "Why not?"

> Everything was so obvious, answer for question "why?" was known, even if i couldn't say it out loud, i could feel that answer for this question was somewhere in my mind, but i just couldn't access it. Feeling that it's there made everything clear, i felt peace.

So, what was the answer?

> Everything that i did in life before and what i would in future seemed such trivial and not important. That connection with reality, understanding different forms of it, changed me. I feel like LSD can give you answers, answers for questions that you would not find without it.

Reality includes the past and the future though. This just sounds myopic.

I apologize for not immediately grasping your experience, I've not experimented with LSD.

> So, what was the answer?

The poster you replied to specifically said he had no way of finding words to explain his experience. This is common with LSD trips and other such experiences. The very first line in the Tao Te Ching is "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao." Some things are ineffable. For instance, it's not possible to explain the experience of the color red to a blind person. You can explain metadata like the fact that it is light of a certain frequency, but there is no way to actually convey the experience.

> Reality includes the past and the future though. This just sounds myopic.

The future and past may or may not exist as physical realities, but that's not relevant to the direct human experience. Unless your brain has time travel capabilities, your experience of the past is just replaying memories and the future is just simulations of potential paths. There is only what is happening right now - future and past are just fafuture. That doesn't mean you can't think about the past and future and make decisions based on those thoughts, but it is impossible to experience the past and future

> This is common with LSD trips and other such experiences.

What other experiences?

> The very first line in the Tao Te Ching is "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao." Some things are ineffable.

So you're saying the parent commenter was made aware of the Tao? Or that it was a religious experience? I don't follow.

> For instance, it's not possible to explain the experience of the color red to a blind person.

That's bogus. You're likening abstinence from LSD to a disability.

> Unless your brain has time travel capabilities, your experience of the past is just replaying memories and the future is just simulations of potential paths.

I didn't say anything about time travel. My point was it's a bit concerning that somebody would refer to their past and future as "trivial and not important." You mentioned using knowledge of the past to plan the future. That suggests you agree that the past and future are connected and important.

> What other experiences?

Fevered dreams, near death experience, deep meditation, orgasm, stroke, epileptic fits, etc.

> So you're saying the parent commenter was made aware of the Tao? Or that it was a religious experience? I don't follow

I wasn't making any claim about his/her experience of the Tao. It was simply to emphasize my point, which is that certain experiences can not be described or analogized, but must be experienced first hand.

> That's bogus. You're likening abstinence from LSD to a disability.

Why is that bogus?

> That suggests you agree that the past and future are connected and important.

No, I said nothing of the sort. I said that you can't experience the future and past. They are just ideas in your head. They are just conceptual tools that you use to better your experience. How can conceptual tools be as important as you actual existence?

> So you're saying the parent commenter was made aware of the Tao?

No, he's saying, "Some things are ineffable." — in exactly so many words.

There are experiences we can have that simply can not be articulated in something as clumsy and imprecise as language. The same word can mean subtly different things to the parties of a single conversation, and this kind of thing is pretty much all subtlety.

The experiences you can have working with psychedelics are among the most, "You really had to be there," things possible, for values of "there" that generally taken to mean, "inside the same skull".

But we're humans and our foremost means of communication is language. Who cares if it's clumsy and imprecise? Try us, it's the best we've got. Saying it's ineffable is lazy. Unless you're talking about the centerpiece of your religion, I suppose, so I thought parent was suggesting that this person had stumbled upon the Tao.

Edit: My comments are getting hammered into oblivion, forbid somebody should try to hold something up to the light and expect an answer other than "you have to use psychedelics to get it." Maybe it's bad to care about objectivity when in the company of psychonauts? Sorry, but I have a hard time distinguishing what I read here from a host of other woo, and I'm left with questions, not answers. My questions are not meant to be dismissive in any way, but they are deliberately prying.

Okay, I'm going to try to articulate the experience? Again, words are insufficient, but here are more of them.[1]

So here goes:

In the day-to-day life you experience a boundary between that which we consider 'self' and that which we consider 'other'. That boundary gives the environment shape, defined by what you know to be you. To say the same thing another way, the boundary is the difference between seeing the color blue, and describing it. Or the difference between listening to music, and describing vibrations in the air. Alan Watts has some lectures which might help you understand what this boundary is, if you don't "get it" yet.

That boundary is illusory. It is a way of thinking, a way of separating out the ego's experience from the environment. It is a pattern of thought and thought patterns can be changed. Psychedelics (I'm told), meditation (I know), and other techniques (sensory deprivation? sleep deprivation? haven't tried) are ways of changing your thinking to remove or blur this boundary. Some ways are more permanent than others; having such an experience often leaves you questioning what permanent is in the first place.

And again, as many in this thread have said, I've described it, or tried to, but it is necessary to experience it to actually understand the full detail of the situation.

[1] Commentary: I would argue that any form of expressing experience to another person is by construction imprecise; to truly have the same experience you must be the same person, and then you wouldn't need words. http://eidolon.net/?story=Closer

In the day-to-day life you experience a boundary between that which we consider 'self' and that which we consider 'other'. That boundary gives the environment shape, defined by what you know to be you.

To say the same thing another way, the boundary is the difference between seeing the color blue, and describing it.

I think I understand (to some degree) what you mean by each of these statements. The first seems to relate to the Buddhist concept of non-self (at least to the degree that you perceive the boundary of self to be relative rather than a well-defined absolute) while the second I think relates to the nama-rupa distinction or in other systems to the notion of qualia as opposed to abstract descriptive knowledge.

However it isn't clear to me that these are the same thing. Could you clarify how you understand the relation between these two notions ?

It's not lazy to say something such as an LSD trip is ineffable. It's just how it is.

Sure a lot of the sounds, sounds and experiences may technically be describable. But it's the experience itself that is ineffable.

I've done LSD twice myself, and won't be doing it again for many years as I started suffering from panic attacks and pretty much an existential crisis as many others in this thread reported.

That said, I don't regret taking it at all. It definitely broadened my mind to how simple we take the world for granted.

Whilst we're on the subject of language it would be a little enlightening if you'd tell me the meaning of "woo".

It is not a word I see often, but whenever I have seen it (never yet heard) it seems like someone wishes to push ideas they cannot or will not grasp into an objective category such as "things I and other straight thinking individuals like Feynmann know to be empirically bullshit".

Was this the way you intended to used term "woo" here?

Seems he's just resorting to insults in his response:


Saying it's ineffable is being accurate. The human language is clumsy, and I'd argue our normal consciousness and ego lack the mechanisms to convey this experience in any tangible way to a person who hasn't also been affected by it.

LSD is quite possibly the most powerful thing I've ever experienced. It really is like describing color to a blind person.

You're going to be frustrated if you try to understand it without actually trying it. I just wouldn't recommend it for anyone who doesn't respect it appropriately.

I think any novel experience is impossible to explain to someone who hasn't "been there."

That said—it's interesting to consider, what can we say to each other, we who have plenty of experience with LSD?

Hello. I hope your life is cool, and I bet it is!

Right now I'm on a bench in a park near Riga's old town. It's one of the first days of real nice spring.

Life is strange, earth is strange, grass is strange...

Being on a planet in the middle of space is strange...

Enjoying this field of vision with colors and textures and light and dark is strange...

For me, the LSD experience is a vantage point. Like climbing up on a secret roof and looking at everything... really, everything... thoughts, language, logic, structure, emotion, time, space, mass, energy, love, yearning, fear, history, the future, ambition, alienation, loneliness, fruits, bread, wine, smoke, oceans, rivers, stars, computers, electricity, flowers, religions, poems, books, families, stories, superstitions, science, math, soil, worms, ... yeah, I'm just listing everything right now!

And then you go to sleep, enjoy the next day in some calm and beautiful way... and then it's Monday, and you head back to your office... the apartment building staircase where people avoid each other... cars everywhere... couples who seem bored with each other... people working all day with bullshit they hate... humanity collectively very worried about money, borders, property... and all this stuff.

And then you spend your life wondering...

Perhaps that is your answer - that you will only be left with questions until you experience one of these states firsthand.

> So, what was the answer?

There isn't one, of course. Drugs like LSD and psilocybin put your mind in a state where you perceive knowledge that you don't actually have. For many, that's enough to (begin to) resolve depression and anxiety, but obviously no drug is going to reveal the "true" nature of reality to you or something ridiculous like that.

>Drugs like LSD and psilocybin put your mind in a state where you perceive knowledge that you don't actually have.

I'm not sure altered perception is by definition "false" or "untrue." It's hard to be objective about experiences that by their nature are outside our objective reality.

Nothing is outside our objective reality that I'm aware.

You know when you're learning some new maths, or some other difficult abstract concept, and it just sort of "clicks" eventually and you understand, in whole and all at once? Something like that feeling you can get from drugs like LSD or psilocybin, but you don't actually "learn" anything in the usual sense. You just have a sensation of "getting it" for whatever problem happens to be on your mind, even if asking you to articulate it right then would result in nonsense because the sensation is actually backed by nothing at all.

And I'm not trying to dismiss the experience of using hallucinogens by saying this, either. There is a class of problems people might be working through, which can cause anxiety and depression, and for them the sensation of "getting it" is enough to solve the problem. Hallucinogens are a great thing.

And, to be clear, hallucinogens can also help you reason about your problems and provide actual insights that might not have occurred to you otherwise. However, in that case, you will actually be able to articulate it later, and perhaps even during.

So it's good to have a firm grasp of what you're getting. It's sad if an otherwise good mind falls for the trap of thinking there is actually something there, and becomes obsessed with the "real reality" or whatever secret they think is being revealed to them by their drug use.

> You just have a sensation of "getting it" for whatever problem happens to be on your mind, even if asking you to articulate it right then would result in nonsense because the sensation is actually backed by nothing at all.

Another example of this is when you are drifting towards sleep and thoughts start careening through your head. At some point you might have observed that you had a wonderful "aha" moment where it all just "clicked". But when you attempt to backtrack to check what it is that suddenly made so much sense, you grasp at straws (worst feeling ever) ...

Feynman wrote about this in his bio and I remember bookmarking it because I totally understood what he was talking about. Let me see if I can find it right now.


"One thing that often happened was that as the hallucination was coming on, what you might describe as "garbage" would come: there were simply chaotic images ­­ complete, random junk. I tried to remember some of the items of the junk in order to be able to characterize it again, but it was particularly difficult to remember. I think I was getting close to the kind of thing that happens when you begin to fall asleep: There are apparent logical connections, but when you try to remember what made you think of what you're thinking about, you can't remember. As a matter of fact, you soon forget what it is that you're trying to remember" - Richard P Feynman (Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman)

Thanks a lot for this comment, my thoughts regarding LSD's effect on the brain were plodding towards what you just articulated. I've said this before, not in the context of LSD but in the context of mathematics, that's why your post really resonated with me. That whole sensation of some difficult, abstract concept "clicking" is useful but incredibly deceptive. That's why I love the rigor of mathematics. It draws you from whatever snake pits your intuition might have led you to. Even though your understanding of a concept might be wishy washy you know that by following the steps piecemeal they will lead you to the correct conclusion.

Which leads me to one of my favorite math quotes ever:

"In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them." - Von Neumann

They are inside objective reality (in that they can be studied scientifically) but are most likely internally generated.

This makes them true in the sense that e.g. dreams are true experiences.

I guess what I was getting at is that maybe dreams or trips can be defined as truthy experiences so far as the fact that our brains are experiencing them, even if they aren't objectively "true" in what we define as the "real world." Experiencing "meaning" from music for example isn't necessarily objective, but it still feels a bit like "knowledge" to me.

For what it's worth I've never used hard psychedelics, and I haven't studied classic epistemology since college so my viewpoint comes a bit from a point of ignorance but I wanted to provide a different perspective for discussion.

There isn't as far as I am aware any evidence that indicates that experiences are internally generated or "likely internally generated".

If you meditate for emotional stillness and spiritual depth, then there is no reason you can't seek happiness and awareness from a girlfriend or a psychedelic drug experience. Or from both at the same time.

You could meditate alone for a thousand lifetimes and not experience love. Saying you can endogenously experience psychedelic states by meditation or Kundalini yoga sounds nice and ideal, but it is only partially true. It can only show you glimpses.

Whatever this world is, it is here for us to enjoy. Proclaiming the answer to enlightement is living an ascetic life without luxury items, smart attractive people or drugs of any kind is silly.

"Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun." - Alan Watts

(Obviously Osho didn't live an ascetic life. He meditated enough not to need MDMA but not Rolls-Royces.)

> Saying you can endogenously experience psychedelic states by meditation or Kundalini yoga sounds nice and ideal, but it is only partially true.

Even if some people can experience psychedelic states through extensive meditation, that doesn't make their experience intrinsically better. They're chasing the same experience as someone who experiments with psychedelic drugs, but there always seems to be an irritating sense of smug superiority from people who do meditate.

meditation is just like teaching yourself programming for years. after 10k hours of practice in either you can reach to a state of expertise. E.G., you can write any kind of software in your expertise with ease. Similarly you can repeat the same experience as per your wish (like traveling through different planes of existance, hering/seeing extra-dimensional stuff and much more).

Taking drug to experience the state is like throwing yourself onto the source code without any learning/experience to fix a bug. You might end up fixing the bug by accident in some cases, but it can very well lead to other failures which you couldn't imagine with virtually zero experience in programming. More often you end up having bad experiences In both and frustration thereafter.

Meditation is a virtue signal, like jogging or being vegetarian.

It also tends to go along with a sense of being on a cosmic path toward truth, beauty, and enlightenment...

Ugh, those people. I bet they think that "turbos don't make real horsepower" too.

well, this is the topic of quality vs quantity, and most people including me prefer the former for obvious reasons

> The question arises again, can psychedelics have lasting effects or is meditation the only way to create permanent positive change in that direction?

I have over the past seven years taken ayahuasca more times than anyone who isn't studying to become a shaman probably reasonably should. (Still debating the apprenticeship, but leaning strongly towards yes.) Doing so — and, more specifically, the changes I have witnessed and implemented consequent to those experiences — has, without question or hesitation, improved pretty much every aspect of my life. I'm smarter, I'm happier, I'm calmer, and I have a better and more diverse community of friends; I've shed bad habits, delusions, maladaptive behaviors, and people who brought — and kept — me down.

Many regard it as form of "cheating" your way towards enlightenment — as if that's even a thing. I think that's a misinformed and prejudiced attitude; and, yet, if you look at it in a non-judgemental light, it's also a little bit true. Psychedelics, taken intentionally, can be powerfully positively transformative, and they can get you there in an eyeblink.

Literally, I've had years-, even decades-old behavior patterns that were limiting me that evaporated instantly, never to return, after ceremonial experiences that showed me what was behind those patterns, why I kept engaging in them, and how that was holding me back. Others have taken a bit more chipping away at, but the end result is the same: a way of engaging with the world that wasn't conducive to success or happiness or whatever is recognized, and changed, and the experience you have of life, particularly in places where those patterns would previously have been expressed, is forever changed, for the better.

There are risks, and they most definitely aren't for everyone, but for those for whom they are indicated, and who are willing to engage with the experience as a transformative one, and not merely one of, "Ooh, pretty colors!" the only things that limit how far you can go are yourself, and the laws of physics — and I'm starting, sometimes, to question the latter (or, rather, some of the assumptions behind them) a bit...

EDITs: there were many.

Beautiful, thank you for sharing your experience.

>The question arises again, can psychedelics have lasting effects or is meditation the only way to create permanent positive change in that direction?

Wait, how is the second settled? E.g. about "meditation" being a way (and much more, the "only" one) "to create permanent positive change in that direction"?

I've known a few ex-monks that have been doing meditation for decades, and that have become as anyone since they've stopped, or worse, alcoholic etc. So I wouldn't call that a "permanent positive change".

And also, though I don't hang with such crowds, I imagine lots of people doing "medication" of the western lifestyle type (think californians), that are just as jerks/selfish/psychotic/etc as anyone can be, even while doing it.

I was referring to the physical changes in the brain, which I guess could translate into noticeable behavioral change. I wish meditation was a "take this once" pill, but from my experience as well, when I slack on my practice I notice myself falling back to my original baseline, but maybe a bit higher than when I started.

Anyways, if a meditative practice seems to bring fleeting results, I'm sure you can imagine how much quicker the psychological breakthroughs on psychedelics can dissipate.

>Anyways, if a meditative practice seems to bring fleeting results, I'm sure you can imagine how much quicker the psychological breakthroughs on psychedelics can dissipate.

Not sure this is that obvious though -- psychedelics are strong chemicals and can produce physical changes of a scale that meditation probably can't (e.g. on a negative side, haven't heard of anyone being "fried" from too much meditation).

meditation not done correctly and without guidance would mostly result in no progress. You should try meeting Om Swami [0] to check for yourself the man who has attained spiritual adeptness with meditation – he'd be in Canada next month.

0: omswami.com

When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.

(You yourself actually know your mind best. Don't get attached to any teacher.)

It's not mandatory to have a guru (teacher isn't a right translation of Guru) to follow path of self-realization however, having one certainly help. When someone asked Ramakrishna (the Guru of famous Vivekananda) similar question he said indicating a boat being dragged by a steamer "The boat can very well cross the river on its own but when it's attached to the back of a steamer, it crosses the same quite quickly." So the role of Guru is like that of a steamer in the sadhak (practitioner) life.

A practitioner really doesn't know his mind because the one who knows his mind can really subdue it. After all the modifications of mind is the only thing that has to be put under control so that it speaks only when you want it to. That's the state of self-realization.

That quote is used in one of 2015's top electronic songs: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/17515-dj-koze-xtc/

So far the best comment regarding drug use vs meditation I came across is, that with drugs, you can experience something that is true but not good, or good, but not true. During meditation, on the other hand, you experience what is good and true. I am meditating regularly and I can support that claim about goodness and trueness.

For me, true & not good or good & not true comes with smoking the pot, for example.

With LSD I am not that sure, lately I have been experimenting with microdosing and have mainly positive experiences, close to those of meditation, although sometimes I felt a bit more agitated than usually, but it is just the matter of the right dose, you should be noticing almost nothing special when microdosing.

Interesting is to combine both, microdosing and meditation.

There are no 'lies' or 'truths' in this. It's all emotions, and they aren't meaningful at all. Meditation may have positive effects such as increased conscientiousness or ability to focus. But while certainly good, it doesn't have any of the meaning people like to ascribe to it.

Drugs aren't actually that different, except they're more dangerous because the effects of meditation are limited by the available time and exhaustion.

Also, I can't recommend experimenting with LSD. mdma and possibly ketamine highly enough. It got me out of a 10-year spiral of depression and at least the first two are self-limiting to a degree where the temtation to take it too often is low. Just stay away from cocaine (&derivatives) and all opiates.

I suspect LSD and meditation might approach the same thing from different angles. LSD itself can force you to deal with thoughts in your brain you can normally filter or suppress—potentially similar to how meditation can reveal unconscious biases, fears, desires, etc.

I don't think that meditation is CONTRARY to drugs.

Ecstasy is pretty stupid as far as mind-drugs go. You experience intense happiness, pleasure, indeed ecstasy for no reason. LSD is far more substantial: if you're laughing, you're laughing for a reason. If you're happy, something is making you happy. If you're scared, it's because of something already in your brain (or I guess some immediate danger like normal).

Let me firmly disagree.

LSD is exciting, fascinating, marvellous, yes indeed! It makes that whole armor of everyday consciousness drop away. Maybe it's like becoming a child, a very aware and sensitive child, in an adult's mind? Everything is fresh like it's the first day of the world, yet everything around you is ancient and significant, too...

It's also unsettling. The LSD mindset for me is like being an alien visiting Earth. And in a way I think we all are like aliens (hey, Heidegger was all about this idea, and many religions too). These experiences cast a strange and eerie light over my life. I'm grateful!

But I disagree that ecstasy—let's say MDMA—is stupid! For me, and several people I know, it's very much an eye-opener, too. I think we, especially some of us, live in a time of much anxiety, loneliness, remoteness, some kind of rigidity, emotional distance. And MDMA makes all of that drop away for an evening at least.

So LSD brings out this kaleidoscopic perspective of cosmic and microcosmic beauty. MDMA makes it possible, for someone who has difficulty, to sit up with someone for eight hours talking about everything, life, family, desires, interests, fears, anxieties, appreciation... These conversations have been enormously beneficial for me.

I think it would be wonderful if both drugs were made available for adults.

Sorry, I should have spoken better to begin with. I think it has a place in e.g. traumatic therapy, but I don't think the average use of MDMA is going to naturally lead to much introspection or a better understanding of the world without focus and guiding the experience—again, you might have a nice night, a night you need, but it's not comparable to psychedelics or meditation. This last point is what I mean by "stupid".

> Ecstasy is pretty stupid as far as mind-drugs go. You experience intense happiness, pleasure, indeed ecstasy for no reason.

There's a reason why MDMA has had such a long history of use in psychotherapy, and it's not just because other psychedelics were taken off the table in 1971. When used in the right context, it can be a very useful tool for introspection and processing difficult emotions.


I agree; however, it doesn't naturally lend itself to introspection without focus. I'm emphatically for its use in traumatic therapy.

Why do you need a reason to love yourself?

I'm not quite sure what you mean. I certainly have fears, anxieties, and assumptions that build up in my mind that prevent me from taking the best care of myself as I can. I would be surprised if I were unique in this.

If you have the right sort of brain for it, ecstasy will give you the best feeling you will ever experience. It is so beyond what you would have imagined possible. For me, the come down is not hard at all, it's pretty enjoyable actually.

LSD can also give you small glimpses of ecstasy here and there, but overall it's way different. It basically allows you to experience a different consciousness. LSD is often life-changing, because it really shows you that reality is not what you thought it was. It kind of gives you a glimpse of a reality that is richer and more "real" than what you're used to. There's really no way to explain it, honestly.

There is a book called the Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, by James Fadiman, which among other things contains the results of some psychedelic studies that were done in the 1960s before it was all banned. The executive summary is that long-term changes in behavior frequently occurred, and they were overwhelmingly positive: increased conscientiousness, openness towards others, self-love, diminishing unhealthy fears and behaviors. Really quite amazing stuff.

Psychedelics can absolutely have profound, long lasting changes. It is quite common for a powerful Ayahuasca experience to have residual effects for months, and sometimes even years afterwards. Of course, your neuroses are strongly influenced by your environment, so if you go back to your old life eventually you will probably end up with the same problems again. Ayahuasca, when taken in conjunction with positive lifestyle modification, has the potential to make absolutely radical, permanent changes on a time-scale that most western psychiatric professionals find absolutely incredible.

Modern science hasn't even started to appreciate the existence of consciousness let alone validating which is the better method. The Himalayan yogic and tantrik traditions have gone to the depth of consciousness, dimensions, multiverse ETC, and literally have thousands of books written on the subjects (both practical and theoretical). There aren't only drugs but better mechanisms like mantras, rituals etc to actually experience different dimensions literally as you experience this physical dimension. Our mind acts as a filter to have us only perceive the quantum part of the reality for which 5 senses capture input. The rest is too magnanimous to even try to pen it down. The mind needs gradual training to be ready to experience those states or else it'd just damaged with information-overload as in case of LSD etc.

10k hours of intense concentrative meditation and you'd not remain a human forever. The expansion of consciousness would let you perceive dimensions at your will, move about in other worlds with subtle body and in this world you can literally look into someone else's mind and thoughts they're having.

But this science was, is and would never be available online, rather under direct guidance of an adept, who'd only impart it to worthy, selfless individual. as it stands a very good chance of miss-use by selfish individuals

> Modern science hasn't even started to appreciate the existence of consciousness let alone validating which is the better method.

Wow, you sure don't know what you're talking about.

David Nutt, Albert Hoffman, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Charles Darwin... every single one of these scientists has both made statements about the nature of consciousness and done research which has significantly furthered our understanding of consciousness. And I'm not even bringing up the field of psychology in that list because arguably the entire field of psychology is about consciousness, so I wouldn't know what scientists to pick from that field.

What you said was both ignorant and insulting to a lot of people's hard work.

Look up the field of transpersonal psychology. Ken Wilbur is one name that comes to mind. It is sort of the scientific study of spirituality - I don't have a degree, only a well read layman and can make heads and tails of what the research involves (as well as a informed amateur in religious studies, etc). To the HN crowd, it will seem like New Age woo-woo, but one has to really experience trance states in a Vodoun ceremony (Umbanda specifically) to grok the scientific materialism point of view is overlooking some components of consciousness.

The OP sounds like a hard line anti-science type. Merging the two points of view is the best idea. He is somewhat correct, but to say science will never have anything useful to add is shortsighted

so tell me any theory that tries to validate the existence of non-material consciousness. Giving loads of names of scientists won't help in establishing what modern science says about consciousness. The current stance is to try to define consciousness in physical terms (as a matterial substance) but with no success. As per scientists consciousness behaves to be more than the sum total of neurons in the brain. It's impossible so far to articulate consciousness in The law of thermodynamic, so hence the material hypothesis has never stood a chance. Non-material is where science hasn't taken a single step AFAIK yet.

> so tell me any theory that tries to validate the existence of non-material consciousness.

A great deal of the context around quantum mechanical study has been to validate the existence of free will; whether consciousness can be ascribed to deterministic processes or not.

> Giving loads of names of scientists won't help in establishing what modern science says about consciousness.

It would be a great starting point if you decided to bother to inform yourself on what these people have said about consciousness.

> As per scientists consciousness behaves to be more than the sum total of neurons in the brain.

Some scientists take this few. Many don't.

> It's impossible so far to articulate consciousness in The law of thermodynamic,

That's because the law of thermodynamics deal with heat and entropy. If you're expecting laws about heat and entropy to apply to consciousness I'm not sure where your thought process has gone so horribly wrong, so I can't really help you.

"It's impossible so far to articulate consciousness in The law of thermodynamic, so hence the material hypothesis has never stood a chance." is a non sequitur as is "As per scientists consciousness behaves to be more than the sum total of neurons in the brain".

You cannot give an example of consciousness in the absence of matter. Perceptions are always demonstrably linked to material entities - ask a brain surgeon who can tweak your perceptions with an electrode. I think you make a categoric mistake in insisting on separating perception from the activities which are responsible for it. Might a software daemon one day in the far future report consciousness? I can see no reason why not; we have kinship with that hypothetical daemon! Searle's Chinese translation argument is related to your thoughts on this and has been (as far as I can see) comprehensively demolished though I guess there will always be a rear-guard protest.

I think the problem arises from the fuzzy definitions and assumptions used.

Do read Stanislas Dehaene: Consciousness and the Brain

The things you can experience and learn about people while on ecstasy and LSD don't even compare to meditation. Meditation is about silence in your mind and removing thoughts. The most profound effects I've seen from LSD and ecstasy come from when people interact with each other. They feel a sense of bond that is nearly impossible sober. People are free to express things with each other on these drugs and the mental barriers are removed which creates that strong connection.

There is another element that happens at festivals where there is the feeling of not following the rules. Not just to break the rules, but you are free to do whatever you want and no one will judge you. This reenforces that connection feeling by just talking to people while you are high and feeling no judgmentalism, which is near impossible in normal life.

Further I feel like meditation has reached a state of popularity and like it is what you are supposed to do which makes it lose some of it's essence for some people. Anything that's done because others are doing it can cause this feeling. The fact that I see kids age 5-15 meditating makes me think this because there's very little chance all those kids have the problems and mental state where meditation will be a huge help. It's more of something they should be doing which takes away from what meditation is really for.

The original goal of meditation isn't to solve mental problems (though it helps when you really have them) but rather to realize that you're not this body, mind, thoughts etc we often associate our selves with.

Yoga sutras starts with: The goal of Yoga is to regulate the modifications (tendencies) of mind, So the seer rests in its true nature.

The true nature of our consciousness (the seer) is existence-knowledge-bliss.

With meditation (which is 7th limb of yoga) practitioner increasingly progresses to realize his true nature eventually. It requires constant long effort and perseverance and right guidance.

Funny you quote that.

There is a song by DJ Koze with that in the lyrics and I always wondered where it came from.


@nefitty, you posit that the diminishment of the self is a "permanent positive change." But you didn't provide any evidence. The reductio of your argument is that it's better to just be matter, since no self is involved. Few will agree with you.

Well, problems with the default mode network seem to be linked to depression, Alzheimer's, attentional disorders, anxiety, and on and on. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_mode_network#Pathophys...

My comment was meant about the positive effect that meditation has on DMN function through structural changes. My contention is that these changes are likely more permanent and longer lasting than the behavioral changes triggered by psychedelics. I am going to go out on a limb and say most people think it's better to experience lowered anxiety, depression and increased attentional capacity, which is what I meant.

I agree and I suspect that by breaking up the default network psychedelics give us the opportunity to settle into a new, healthier attractor / mindset. They are also pretty dangerous - not everyone comes back and they lose themselves.

Most people enjoy being content, fulfilled, and just being themselves.

A tree is usually content to sit still most years. A rock, even more so. They sit there and are content and fulfilled. They're being themselves, without having to make a move.

Humans are not rocks, nor are we trees. Our nature demands growth, change and action in order for us to flourish.

"Diminishment", not "negation". A reductio argument is only valid if the assertion whose absurd terminal case you're highlighting is actually part of the original claim. You're making a straw man here.

A reductio does not suggest that an argument is false. It is instead a tool that is useful for contrast enhancement. The real meat of the point I made is that there cannot be evidence for the OP's claim. It's just an opinion founded in OP's spiritual preference, which is apparently to not exist as such.

> which is apparently to not exist as such.

You're once again mischaracterizing the actual claim, and in a way that suggests you not only disagree with it, but feel a need to mock it. Please don't do that.

Just because you don't like the point doesn't mean I am mocking anyone - it's a legitimate point. What do you think the dissolvement of the self entails? No Self! You literally cease to feel like you exist independently of the rest of reality. You may be new to this kind of thinking, but some of us have explored this thought space fairly exhaustively. And it's not your role to come onto HackerNews, declare people as mocking others, and to ask them in a parental tone to not do that. If anyone does that, it's dang (which I still don't appreciate, but hey, it's his job, at least. It's not your job).

There is a categorical difference between "diminishment" and "dissolvement" [sic]. You keep asserting that the ur-comment's point is the removal of a "self". We're suggesting, instead, that there's value in a lessening of it (a notion which is actually rather well supported, if you take "self" to mean some of the egoic structures that people carry around, but which end up being more of a hindrance to a richer, more connected and fulfilling experience of life, as I do), to which you respond with, "Yeah, but why would you want to be a rock?" or, "You don't even want to exist!" You're missing the point, and your tone reads as disdainful and dismissive.

Even in this very comment: "You may be new to this kind of thinking, but some of us have explored this thought space fairly exhaustively." I studied philosophy of mind in university, which subsumed cognitive science, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and more. I've also explored this question from the spiritual side, having spent time in Buddhist temples in India, Nepal, Thailand, and Tibet, as well as here in the US — and with shamans in the Amazon, where I've taken a profound amount of psychedelics. I'd ask you kindly to refrain from making assertions about what other people know or understand on the basis of a few sentences exchanged on a textual forum. It's rude, and it's often factually wrong.

On that point: no, I'm not 'dang. But I do hang out here rather a bit, and I do want this to be a place where discourse is civil and substantive. 'dang has a sometimes terribly thankless job, and he gets a lot of flak for it — including, as above, from you. Given all of that, I think the community could do a better job of self-policing.

He's free — encouraged, even — to come along and ask me to stop, or tell me I'm out of line, in general, or in specific, and I'll defer. Until then, this is my community too, and as a member in what appears to be good standing, I have a say in the tone of the place, and I'm going to use it.

Yes, it is a removal / diminishment / dissolvement / insert-word-here of the self, depending on the kind and amount that you do. That's what the article talks about, and that's what psychedelics do in general. And citing the OP:

"can psychedelics have lasting effects." (followed up by claiming that these lasting effects are positive)

You do not want the effect of the psychedelic to last, because you cease to exist as such when it's in action, and that's what I was replying to. It was followed up by a religious quote, and you may not be aware of this, but in religions such as Buddhism losing the self is considered to be enlightenment. Assuming this is a "permanent positive change" is extremely controversial, especially from a western perspective, and certainly from a psychological perspective. Psychedelics are dangerous because the default network may not reform.

Regarding your other comments, what you are doing is known as "junior modding" on the internet, and is generally frowned upon. Have a nice day.

Very fascinating continuing research!

This group has been doing a number of studies on psychedelics and this is not their first rodeo.

You can see some of their previous research here https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267512525_Homologic... (PDF) which talks about the brain under the effects of Psilocin, which is the active chemical which comes from Psilocybin Mushrooms.

It's a fascinating area of research, and I've found it surprising how few drugs are actually examined in this manner. The lack of rigor that goes into the law with regard to drugs is deplorable.

Finally some good research on LSD in humans.

Very interesting finding about the increased connectivity to the visual cortex. It certainly vibes with my anecdotal experience -- the whole visual world just seems more meaningful and 'in focus'. Tripping in an art gallery can be a real treat :)

I tried that at the Van Gough museum but got creeped out at seeing everyone ignoring each other and staring at walls and had to escape to a nearby park.

Sounds like a pretty normal art gallery experience then.

I can't believe I never thought of doing that.

It's my favorite thing to do. Also helps that in a museum no one will judge you for staring at the wall for an eternity.

The non trippers don't see those moments as eternity.

That is the most "lit up" MRI scan that I've ever seen. Obsessive compulsive people have highly activated brains, and I know musicians activate many parts of the brain - but not like this.

Interesting comment on OCD, given that I have the disorder. Could you link me a source for that claim? Many friends of mine study neuroscience so I'm inadvertently becoming more interested as an amateur.

This scan shows glucose metabolism vs "normal": https://www.pinterest.com/pin/264445809342542302/

Feels like that too :-)

The color map in the illustration does not represent blood flow (~neural activity) but "connectivity" with the visual area. The measure used to estimate this connectivity isn't given in the article, and I wasn't able to find the associated publication. I am inclined to scepticism with this kind of measures. There exist a lot of them, and the choice of one, if not the crafting of a new one is likely to be influenced by the hypothesis of the tester.

Interesting also the linked study on Psilocybin, which seems to decrease activity among brain hubs: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/6/2138.full "Psilocybin caused a significant decrease in the positive coupling between the mPFC and PCC. These results strongly imply that the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain's key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition."

I backed this study on Walacea, you should check it out if you're interested in this research getting funded whilst governments etc play catch up


Edit: watch out for this study's results soon:


See also how brain connectivity gets changed by psilocybin (magic mushrooms): http://mindblog.dericbownds.net/2014/12/psilocybin-changes-b... (and the actual paper: http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/11/101/201408...).

In short: you get more long-range correlations, so the perceived synesthesia may have very "hardware" basis.

For me LSD & Mushrooms were eye opening experience, I was born in a huge city, I grow up far away from nature, surrounded with cars, Millions of people .

I think psychedelics opened my eyes to nature, To what we were created from, We are a part of that but today we are so busy progressing in our careers, Buying bigger house and saving more money we ignore our real nature.

Earth is not just ours, Its home to million of other creatures that we ignore to see, Its what feed us and there are a lot of amazing secret living there.

I believe in third eye. and i believe psychedelics opened that third eye for me.

I spent an hour reading this thread and I still have no idea whether I should try it or not. I always leave confused when I read about LSD, as if it's both amazing and horrible.

As someone that's done it (a dozen or so times), I always read these threads and feel confused about whether I should recommend it to other people. I usually do recommend it, though, with plenty of caveats.

It can be an incredible experience if only for the shift in perception that it causes. It makes you see that the way your mind operates day-to-day (through highs, lows, and in-betweens) does not even come close to the range of experience that's possible.

It can be euphoric, and it can be scary, and depending on your predispositions it can probably improve your life significantly (given that you integrate insights from your experience into "normal" life), or really mess with your head (esp. if you have latent schizophrenia or similar - I'm admittedly pretty ignorant about this so obviously do your own research).

Anyway, my recommendation to people using it for the first time is to start with a low dose (you often won't even realize it's having any effect until after the trip is over – I didn't believe it my first time), make sure you are in a safe place where you can be left alone to relax if you need to, and ideally make sure to have someone with experience & that you trust to spend time with you and guide the trip.

Also, here's some recommended listening: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/03/21/james-fadiman/

This is sadly anecdotal because I can't find a reference online, but there was a story a decade or two ago about someone who sold completely inert blotting paper tabs at a festival.

No LSD, nothing at all. 100% placebo.

And people still tripped on them - to the extent that some of them came back and wanted to buy more, telling him how amazing the LSD was.

Perhaps the science is a little less straightforward than it seems.

That's what hippies call the setting. That's literally what the hip in hippie means to me, the ridiculous enthusiasm. I don't mean offense, but I find other words for the kind of careful optimism that is necessary to keep this ignorant excitement going.

That said, the article's link to the paper seems broken. Because there's no correct link to the paper yet in this discussion, my impression that most comments here don't really hold scientific merit gets stronger. I will admit that I don't understand enough of statistics to judge the methods used, if there was any control group at all.

I used to work with fMRI scanners, and I would definitely not want to lay inside completely still while tripping on acid for 8 hours. Interesting results though.

there's also the new 5HT2a inhibitor, pimavanzserin...as a thought experiment, what would scans w/ this medicine AND LSD onboard show?

Fringe, anyone?

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