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The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale (newyorker.com)
155 points by tsg on Sept 6, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 164 comments

While I don't doubt the psychological benefits of ayahuasca (or any hallucinogenic), the language of many of those advocating in the article set off red flags. "Format your harddrive", reminds of Arch Oboler's "Society of the Cosmos", something dreamed up by Evangelical hucksters who didn't see a future in peddling Jesus so they turned to techno speak to wring out the marks.

"We manifest abundance wherever we go," sounds even worse. That's the kind of reason Dominionist give when trying to dodge their car taxes.

What did Hunter Thompson say about the seekers who tried to buy enlightenment by the dose?

Instead the real benefit is trying to rationally understand their experience. "Wait, was there a giant hand with my dad's watch on it's wrist crushing the room? Damn, I didn't realize I was letting that take over my life."

Without that personal insight you are just dealing with pseudo-spiritual abstractions.

Is this the Hunter Thompson quote you're referring to?

“We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that 60's. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”

leave to Hunter S. Thompson of all people to throw a little __sobriety__ into the conversation. Somebody had to say it and he said it well.

Well, not "of all people".

Hunter S. Thompson has that reputation from younger people as "crazy guy who did lots of drugs". That was part of it, but his reputation came from his writing and journalism. He created a new, influential style of gonzo journalism[1] where he was openly opinionated and wrote with emotional attachment, and certainly some exaggeration.

That he's remembered as "crazy guy on drugs" instead of "great writer" or "trenchant journalist" shows very well the pop culture drift that happens with public figures.

Thompson was a standout writer with a brilliant critical eye towards society and found much of it disagreeable. That he found a way to relate that to his contemporary generation is shown by his body of work.

That he's remembered as a "drug guy", so a critique of Timothy Leary is surprising is ... too bad.

Check out "Hell's Angels" or "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72", if you've got the time.

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

Don't forget Rum Diary.

really glad you pointed this out. I had to run to my copy of Kingdom of Fear after reading the Leary quote and get away from the internet after reading some of this stuff.

My favorite passage is kind of a combination of the crazy guy, eloquent and beautiful writer, with deep and insightful commentary: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1074-strange-memories-on-thi...

of course, you're exactly right. there is a lot of nuance and depth to Hunter and many people wrongly conflate the man himself with his character Raoul Duke, who was a hyperbolic representation of Hunter's own libertine tendencies.

that said, yeah man, he really did do a lot of drugs, and wrote about it too. he was, however, a much more grounded and reasonable person than Tim Leary, and to his credit. Leary's excesses poisoned the well for a generation.

Yep. It's been a while since I read that.

I feel like the sheer amount of bullshit surrounding these drugs leaves me with a duty to take heavy doses of psychedelics and proudly learn nothing but "boy that was fun"

Agreed on the bullshit. I think this might have something to do with me growing up in a certain hippy town on the California coast, but I couldn't get through this article without a lot of eye-rolling. OK, let's just put the whole drug thing aside and call it a hobby. You can have a hobby without having a pseudospiritual and vaguely appropriative justification for it.

Bodybuilders have a term that they use to describe the mythos that has evolved in their subculture regarding steroids and supplements: Broscience. This is the yuppie drug-dabbler equivalent.

Offtopic, but unfortunately broscience has extended beyond pharmaceuticals to training practice. This kind of thinking dominates the crossfit world with terms like "muscle confusion" and "failure". It's sad because I got into crossfit ten years ago because it was fun, something different every day kept me coming back. I didn't want to be a Navy SEAL, just to keep active, but the almost religious adherence to the training philosophy -- and the injuries sustained by several people I knew -- drove me away. Now I find myself sedentary and looking for something similar, but less pseudo-scientific.

I am similarly put off by yoga, which as practiced currently is not an "ancient tradition" but a bizarre relic of 19th century Indian nationalism[0]

Some people find the woo motivating, but I find it to be a distraction. I want my exercise regimen woo-free, thank you very much.


I would actually argue that yoga is now sufficiently commercialized as to bear little resemblance to anything "ancient" or "mystical". I can buy a book, get some videos or take a class and hear nothing spiritual at all. (Side note: Mark Lauren, in his fairly good _You Are Your Own Gym_ covers yoga a bit). This isn't to say there's not lots of people selling the "spiritual enlightenment" line.

I think all exercise programs tend to have a something to sell, because otherwise how do you make money? It's an interesting balancing act, however. Your doctor can tell you "get more exercise", but that's a pretty abstract concept that requires planning, commitment and is by definition kind of uncomfortable. So a whole industry has grown up around branding exercise. It works, too. Some of it is better than others, but people, myself included, buy it. We might buy it because we're gullible, we might buy it because it's easier than coming up with our own plan or more interesting when executing it.

But the number of books that grace the shelves with words like "warrior", "ultimate", "prescription", "philosophy", "enlightenment", "Spartan", "SEAL", etc, etc, etc. is pretty staggering. But frankly, whatever works. Insurance companies often incentivize gym memberships, but rarely do they pay for you to regularly see a trainer, so whatever is safe that gets people exercising. I complain, but it's not even in the same league of problematic as unregulated administration of pharmaceuticals by spiritual leaders.

In practice, Yoga is pretty woo free for the most part. I was also concerned to try it because of the woo but my friends all said I'd like it.

I took some classes and not a single instructor treated the class as anything but an exercise class with some meditation at the end. I even took an "alternative" yoga class with weights.

How about Kettlebell training ?

It can be done easily in your home (if you have some space) and you can do great full body workouts. I was pretty much out of shape when I've started it two years ago and now I feel great.

The people over at the Kettlebell subreddit are quite helpful: https://www.reddit.com/r/kettlebell

The FAQs show some good starting points https://www.reddit.com/r/kettlebell/wiki/index

Maybe this is something for you. Altough some people around Pavel (and Strongfirst) can come off a little bit cult-ish, but I don't think that it is too bad.

I have a few around. When I lifted competitively (15 years ago?) we had a few Pavel guys in the community. Nice guys but... weird.

My biggest issue with kettlebells is that my basement ceiling is low so swinging them is probably out and I've only got 7 months or so of outdoor training. I'll check it out, however, can't hurt to ask.

swinging shouldn't be a problem if you are doing the russian swing (maximum shoulder height).

For the more advanced exercises military press, snatch and clean and jerk you need a room where you can stand up with your hands straight above your head.

I am training outside the whole year, but it doesn't get extremely cold here in winter -5° to -10° Celsius is pretty much the minimum. But I am under a roof and so it works for me (but I have to store the Kettlebells indoor so the handles are warm).

Ping-pong is great, and sex.

We used to have a local ping pong group that met regularly and I had a few friends who did it. Then they lost their venue for being to loud and boisterous. Apparently there were a few people who were intense about ping pong.

Have you tried interval training? I've had the best return on effort with that out of everything I've tried (jogging, traditional gym work, cycling). It's light on broscience and seems to be supported by all the 'real' scientific testing. It only takes 10-15 minutes per day and it's completely self-guided (I use a timer app on my phone to keep track of intervals.)

Like HIIT? A bit. I did the NYTimes 7 minute workout for a bit to try and break out of a rut. It was pretty good, but I fell off that wagon too, partially lack of variety, I think. It reminded me a bit of basic training. I think there's got to be a market for guided training like that. They were often used for punishment, but I liked grass drills.

I hear good things about parkour. Never tried it myself though.

Yeah, there is a lot of bullshit around psychedelics, and it's totally possible to take them and just have fun, but if you're interested in the way the mind works and how we piece together reality from our perceptions, there is a lot to work with there. I think where people go wrong is in thinking that drug experiences show you some truth that's hidden from you in normal life. It really just shows you how ill equipped your brain is to understand reality, or how ill-conceived the idea of 'reality' really is.

I think the idea of seeing some hidden truth, comes simply from seeing the world from some other perspective. I guess the problem people have with that is that people who take drugs talk like their epiphanies are only obtainable by doing drugs (and thus unique and rare). When instead drugs are more tools to find out things you personally didn't know.

Very well said.

Exactly. We don't need to take psychedelics with the intention to get smarter or enlightened.

We can take psychedelics just to enjoy psychedelics. This is a good enough reason.

That's a valid reason. So is "I wanna knock some of the BS in my head loose".

I may be close minded, but "To receive the essence of Grandmother's wisdom and understand the psychic vibrations, not within us, but beside us, as I'm guided by the Jaguar riding the Anaconda, who is really the glory beyond our lesser selves, being to us a more perfect realm as Grandmother wishes it through the greater understanding of our abundant vision..." doesn't really sound like a reason.

Not that I'd stop someone from doing it for that reason, but I fail to see how it's the least bit useful and it seems ripe for exploitation.

There's a lot of bullshit - and most people are drawn in by pseudoscience nonsense. I was interested in seeing what people were talking about and the perspective change (also Sam Harris, lots of historical people, Huxley, What the Dormouse Said, everything I'd read etc.)

I tried it basically with as most preparation as you could possibly have and it wasn't enough. There's more detail in my posting history, but I'd suggest caution.

Or "boy was I wrong -- wow"

One of my favorite Terrence McKenna quotes:

"Once you've gotten the message, hang up the phone."

Hallucinogens may deliver you the message, but you need to know to take it once you have it, and not go crazy taking more and more. I have a friend who fell down that rabbit hole. Doesn't seem to end well.

In "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", Feynman describes using LSD at the encouragement of John Lily, who claimed it would improve his thinking. Feynman tried it, and thought he'd solved a problem he was working on. As he was preparing to give a talk on the solution, he realized that he hadn't solved the problem; he'd only hallucinated that he had solved the problem. He was furious. That ended his experimentation with LSD. He wrote "I like to think, and I don't want to break the machine."

I loved that story in the book, because it was so much like my own experience with simple dreaming. We often hear about the brilliant creativity of our dreaming minds and the deep answers that await us if we'll pay attention to our dreams. I figured that was safer than drugs, so I kept a dream journal, because it was supposed to help you remember your dreams better (it does) and unleash the genius of your unconscious.

Over time, I had several instances of making some progress on a question (programming logic design, for example) as I was on the border of awake and asleep, but these were essentially just the result of awake-enough thinking through of a problem as I lay there just before I fell asleep.

But I did have a few instances of real solutions in my sleep that I thought were major breakthroughs. The funny thing was that almost the instant I woke up, I saw fatal flaws in those "breakthroughs" that had been completely invisible to the triumphant, celebrating genius that I was in the dream. Literally seconds after regaining consciousness, I would see how ridiculous my brilliant idea was because of something I had completely overlooked in my dream state but was instantly obvious in my waking state. (Waking up literally does bring some crucial part of your reasoning back online.)

After a few of these, I put away the dream journal with a chuckle and got another good laugh when I read about Feynman's experience with LSD. After my own experience, I can easily imagine how you might feel as though your intoxicated mind was somehow operating on a "higher plane" when cut free of the restraints of reality, but it doesn't mean that what you discover there is of any real value back in the world of reality.

As much fun as it sounds, with no benefits beyond the entertainment value and the serious risks involved--a top student and mentor of mine back in school raised his consciousness so high that he lost the ability to feed or dress himself in the real world ever again--I'll just stick to actual consciousness.

There are anecdotes about successful breakthroughs as well. The more famous one is Francis Crick coming up with the double-helix of DNA while on LSD.

Then there's a well known psych experiment from the 60s that claims pretty good results: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychedelics_in_problem-solvin...

I learned OpenGL during an LSD trip. My subjective experience was that the information just went in without any resistance. I've since written a lot of OpenGL code, and I can run it all and see that it objectively works. Of course, I've learned hundreds of other things without taking any drugs. But, again subjectively, it's usually more incremental and seems like more of a struggle with attention and comprehension. At least, I can say that I didn't get anything wrong with OpenGL. I didn't hallucinate that I learned it. The programs I wrote immediately following the trip worked fine.

I agree. I got the message, and hung up the phone.

My friend is also have difficulty leaving the path. A couple of months ago my buddy & I got some urgent texts from him-- he had taken a really large dose of LSD and ended up spending the next 12 hours in a emergency room's psych ward.

I think that part of the reason that we have this B.S. propaganda around psychedelics (i.e. "They're the key to enlightenment!") is that it can be pretty hard to encourage people to try drugs. And while they aren't the key to enlightenment, they are just such a _different_ experience that it can be... interesting, or help personal growth, in some lesser but still substantial ways. But that's not a great soundbite.

Marketing is much harder than we give it credit for.

//edit although on further googling, I think the quote is from Alan Watts and it's about sober meditation after a trip.

> "Psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen..."

> it can be pretty hard to encourage people to try drugs

I think that in our society we have a problem with people taking too many drugs already. Deadly smoking of tobacco is decreasing but still too common (killed my mom). Booze and coffee are things people tolerate but use to adjust their mood. Pot seems to finally becoming accepted by law abiding society. But do we need to encourage more than this? As a parent of a teenager who is generally tolerant of such things, I'm suddenly feeling I want society to have less drugs ;-)

Seriously, would society be improved with more psychedelics?

I think you should read (or listen to) Sam Harris talk about psychedelics. (I really enjoy him, but my dad thinks that he's boring as shit. Either way, you can be reassured that he's not someone who jumps to conclusions-- he's a methodical person.) https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/drugs-and-the-meaning...

The key paragraphs are:

> I have two daughters who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that they choose their drugs wisely, but a life lived entirely without drugs is neither foreseeable nor, I think, desirable. I hope they someday enjoy a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If they drink alcohol as adults, as they probably will, I will encourage them to do it safely. If they choose to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation.[2] Tobacco should be shunned, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer them away from it. Needless to say, if I knew that either of my daughters would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if they don’t try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.

> This is not to say that everyone should take psychedelics. As I will make clear below, these drugs pose certain dangers. Undoubtedly, some people cannot afford to give the anchor of sanity even the slightest tug. It has been many years since I took psychedelics myself, and my abstinence is born of a healthy respect for the risks involved. However, there was a period in my early twenties when I found psilocybin and LSD to be indispensable tools, and some of the most important hours of my life were spent under their influence. Without them, I might never have discovered that there was an inner landscape of mind worth exploring.

Psychedelics have far less harm on health than the legal drugs you listed.

in place where such an evil thing as alcohol is legal and widely accepted, there is no good enough excuse to have psychedelics banned by state.

I am not saying everybody should do them, far from it, but people shouldn't be banned from access on their free will under threat of destroying the life by jail time - that's beyond ridiculous.

Alan watts said that. Terrence Mckenna would probably say the opposite.

Terence McKenna used that quote a lot actually, but it was from Watts.

there were two Terrence McKenna's.

One was a carnival barker, a demagogue, and showman who preaches to the choir about all kinds of things that excites them. those people bought tickets to hear him speak, and indeed, he gave them what they wanted.

the other was a deeply insightful and contemplative man who was a scholar, philosopher, and mystic. he said what he meant and what he believed to be true, regardless of what the audience might have thought about it.

there were two Alan Watts as well, of course. he was a public persona just as much as Terrence ever was. More-so actually.

It's true even if you don't take psychedelics. There's a tendency to confuse peak experiences (however that comes about) and awakening.

Bonnie Greewall, who wrote her PhD dissertation on specific form of spiritual emergence in the field of transpersonal psychology is one person who teaches this. She speaks of people who, having confused those peak experiences with "enlightenment", goes on trying to seek out greater and greater experiences. There is a kind of withdrawal effect that happens when the next big thing doesn't show up. This is in contrast to awakening, in which one is aware of true nature as awareness. This awareness is available in all states, whether blissful or wrathful, with or without psychedelics.

At the end of the day though, it's still about awareness, whether that is in the ceremony or in the ordinary life.

I think the psychedelics gives the kick out of the nest some people need. I know a lot of folks roll their eyes at some of the things being said in the article, but having participated in ceremonies and hanged out with the folks who go, they are not as far-fetched as you might think it is. Both the cringe-inducing quotes and the folks who roll their eyes are, I think, representative of the the spiritual miasma and dis-ease in modern society.

And since I got into some drama here the last time I said something like this, I'm going to try to write as clearly here: while there are some people who can answer what these peak experiences and these spiritual paths do for themselves as individuals, we as a human species and a race _as a whole_ still have not figured out the place and purpose of spirituality in modernity. Modernity was first the separation, and then the complete disassociation of spirituality. A Dagara medicine man friend of mine puts it, "there were the Keepers, the Breakers, and the Menders". The Keepers are traditionalists. The Breakers are modernists. The Menders are only emerging.

Modernity broke the traditional views, with some proponents seeing themselves as heroes for doing so. Although it isn't as if all traditional views were all that great, in the glee to toss everything out that smacked of traditional, we left a big gaping hole in our beings. We don't even have the language in modernity to speak of this without feeling cynical, or opening ourselves to being attacked for being superstitious.

This is the hole that traditional spirit medicines like Ayahuasca helps now -- despite, as the article says, it wasn't traditionally used that way. It just happens to be something a lot of us need, even if we don't always know we need it.

But since we don't have modern (or post-modern) language or framework to speak about spirituality in a coherent way ... well, let's just say we're all engaged in a grand discussion about that, groping together towards the answer. Ayahuasca is part of that ongoing groping we humans are doing.

Whatever we come up with, it's going to radically include both traditional and modern view, both rational -- and yes, irrational and transrational things about our world.

Yup. A friend sent that a while ago. I sent it around to the folks who regularly takes Ayahuasca. We were all cracking up. It was either written by someone who took it at least once, or maybe just connected really well with it.

I didn't know at the time it was such a thing in SV though.

The classical comparison that comes to mind is this:

LSD is like walking through the doors of perception.

DMT (as in ayahuasca) is like being shot out of a cannon.

I wonder if it has dawned on any of these "shamans" that a fistful of risperidone might be useful for the freakouts? Antipsychotics exist for a reason. Also, anyone on MAOIs is likely to have a very bad time, and people on SSRIs may not notice a thing (other than barfing).

The whole enterprise seems very poorly thought out.

> The whole enterprise seems very poorly thought out.

That depends on which circle you sit with. Some of them are straight up dangerous (meaning, whoever is running it has not been through the proper training), while others are incredibly well-organized and safe.

And "freak-outs" are oftentimes the point, not meant to be suppressed or dealt with, but guided through by a competent shaman / group. You get to a certain level of understanding when pushed a bit beyond your comfort zone, and that can be difficult sometimes.

Right, but if people are getting stabbed it's generally time to put an end to the offending freakouts.

One locus of the universe puts a "knife" between the "ribs" of another. The second locus transcends material existence and returns it's material to the whole which it was never really apart from.

It's all fine.

According to my friends and everything I've read on the subject, the cannon effect is achieved when you smoke DMT.

Ayahuasca is DMT + MAOI inhibitors and is more like the usual experiences of orally ingesting LSD, psilocybin or mescaline.

Plus fantastically uncomfortable physical side effects, and on the positive side an experienced spotter to help you along.

Depends. If the MAOIs are extracted from the caapi, leaving out the other alkaloids, even the uncomfortable physical side effects can be avoided.

A lot of the physical side effects are inherent to MAOIs - they have crazy interactions with all kinds of stuff present in most people's bodies. (Hence the psychedelic interactions with DMT that produce the "ayahuasca" effects, and hence the long and hard-to-follow list of things to avoid for 1 or more weeks pre-trip.)

There's a reason why MAO inhibitors are so rarely used in psychiatry. High efficacy, but the side effects are nasty to deal with.

Ah but that's working around the 'plant spirit' and all that other stuff, you won't have an 'authentic' or 'real' experience and the hipsterswill laugh at you....

What's the point of the tone of your comment? Some people would find the processed drug to lack the "authentic" experience of what is found in nature. Doubt anyone really cares. Sounds more like a caricature to me.

I'm sneering at people who make themselves sick unnecessarily by drinking random plant-juice with a side-order of woo rather than a proper preparation that would give the same effects without the discomfort or other risks, all in the name of 'authenticity'.

More like, certainly... but I'd say, on a radically different level. It's a very powerful thing, much more of a tool for personal discovery than anything remotely like a recreational or party drug.

Source: first hand. :)

What did you discover?

Well, that's the trouble with "personal discovery" - it tends to be personal, and insights thus derived to lack general applicability.

Speaking for myself, on the rare occasions in my life when I've taken a psychedelic (LSD or psilocybin, never DMT as here), I've found the experience useful simply because such a radical change of perspective offers access to insight which might not be available in a more ordinary frame of mind. Such insight is, in my experience, occasionally of value. Of course, such insight is, also in my experience, much more often the kind of thing that makes sense only in hindsight and with the benefit of confirmation bias, which is to say, it doesn't make sense at all.

I think it's very easy for people to make too much of experiences like these; to be taken out of the world, as these substances do, can be wonderful or terrible or both at once, but I can't imagine a case in which it could be neither, and our culture doesn't really provide a good conceptual framework for dealing with wonder and terror. And I know with certainty that it's very easy to talk such an experience to death; in the case where it does offer beneficial insight, such insight is generally of such an intimately personal nature, and so inextricably bound up in one's unique and individual experience of reality, that to try to make it comprehensible to others is often to make it incomprehensible to oneself. At the very least, you want to let it settle a good long while, and integrate into your personality if it's going to do so, before you try to elucidate it to someone else - and, beyond that, there's a very solid point to be made that, if it really is going to change you, it'll do so in a way that doesn't need to be explained to anyone.

Whether any of what I've just described has any use to you, I have no idea, and this is the kind of question you could ask five people and get twelve answers in any case. But maybe it's been worth your while; in any case, I hope it has. I'm happy to answer any further questions it might elicit, although of course I can't promise those answers will be any more useful than this one has been.

That was one of the better descriptions of psychedelics and their value that I've read in a while. No new-age "woo" while still not discounting the value that can sometimes be found in them. It's been a while since I've had any similar experiences but the main thing I always took away was that these things, occasionally used, can be valuable tools for deliberately shifting your perspective. Just as (physically) looking at something from another angle doesn't always offer great insight, occasionally it gives you some new bit of info that you can integrate into your overall concept of a thing.

I agree with soylentcola: this is one of the better general purpose descriptions of the general effects and possible advantages of psychedelics.

I can share a pretty concrete benefit that I received in one of my very rare experiences: for the first time, I was able to clearly see some of the not so good edges of my ego. This awareness allowed me to make some substantive modifications in my life that have brought some big, long-term improvements.

Each of my once per year experiences have proved to be beneficial, though often in very subtle and indirect ways. As you said, it's easy to get that mixed up with confirmation bias.

One of the people in the article discovered that, despite the miserable physical pain, afterwards all his childhood self-loathing and anger was gone.

Which meshes with my own confirmation bias: It's mostly about the way people feel about things. Such experiences often don't offer any kind of concrete insight on their own. Instead, they put the person in a frame of mind where they are more open to new ways of looking at things. (Personal experience: I've tried psychedelics myself.)

tbh it doesn't sound like you have a serious confirmation bias; it sounds like you are looking at the evidence trying to build your ideas on firm foundations, and are aware when the foundations aren't firm. That is a healthy cognitive outlook.

For me the experience that has made the most discernible difference in my everyday life has been to recapitulate in a waking [altered] state a recurring dream narrative I've had for decades, recasting [archetypal] its content (which had been a source of anxiety) in a much more positive way. This was followed by a 'coda' of sorts in which the previously unrealized reformation of one of the images was inhabited for some time and found to be a source of joy, as an affirmation of a personal observation/credo about human interaction.

The emotional effect of the easing of an almost entirely unconsidered but omnipresent background note of minor but real and adamantine anxiety is completely personal, but I would by analogy describe the before-and-after as if a decades-old background musical harmonic dissonance were suddenly reframed by the addition of a new bass note, which integrated them into a satisfying (and hitherto unimagined) chord.

I could describe the specifics, but I'm trying to avoid the cliché of sharing dream content with the expectation that its logic and e.g. discernible ties to everyday consciousness can somehow be translated and made of interest...

...I fear those are just deep-sea fish that are better discussed at a remove, or, alluded to rather than named.

If that makes any more sense itself. :)

Maybe a more direct TL;DR would be, _a long-standing semi-conscious fear which had resurfaced repeatedly in disturbing dream, was revisited and unexpectedly resolved in such a way that I came away with greater serenity, which has persisted now for many years after the experience_.

That might be akin to saying that the experience afforded the resolution of a long-standing emotional conundrum, apparently for good. The consequent sense of equanimity has stuck with me and is something I am grateful for.

(I am certain I myself might have come to the same resolution through some other path; my sense from the communities I am in is that one reason people pursue this one is that such experience are very common. Whether through intrinsic pharmacology or some alchemy of set setting and expectation seems almost not to matter, IMHO.)

I've only ever smoked it... No other frame of reference.

Just curious - Why would someone on SSRIs not notice a thing?

Forgive my ignorance but... Aren't those anxiolytic? Does that somehow prevent ayahuasca from functioning?

Why would someone on SSRIs not notice a thing?

In the case of ayahuasca, quite possibly because they're dead. You don't mix SSRIs and MAOIs unless you have a very good idea what you're doing, and even then probably not without a reasonably well-equipped clinic to hand.

Serotonin Syndrome is not something to fuck around with.

Not that I'd advise anyone take the risk, but there are lower risks associated with mixing SSRIs and MAO-B inhibitors (like ayahuasca). It's the older class of anti-depressants which are both MAO-A and MAO-B inhibitors that you don't want to mix with SSRIs (and lots of other things too). MAO-A oxidises/metabolises seratonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, whereas MAO-B is mostly just dopamine. MAO-A inhibition also causes the 'cheese effect' (consumption of tyramine causing hypertensive crisis).

As an aside, it's a real pity that the side effects of MAO-A inhibition loom so large in people's imaginations. They're extremely effective anti-depressants and many of the risks can be easily mitigated, but GPs and even shrinks are now too afraid to prescribe them.

Most psychedelic drugs operate through the serotonin pathways. SSRIs cause downregulation of postsynaptic serotonin receptors, meaning the effects of things like LSD and MDMA are reduced.

Some folks have reported SSRIs dampen psychedelic trips. But maybe there's something more with the MAOIs in ayahuasca? Seems rather overhyped, with emphasis on "natural" and "discovered by ancients" nonsense. In reality MAOIs are rather dangerous.

You're making an assumption that "freakouts" is necessarily a bad thing. Freakouts can have some severe material consequences (including as we saw, death), but antipsychotics do not necessarily help. Humans have a normalcy bias such that, anything that is unfamiliar are to be considered with caution, fear, and even anger. There's a tendency to use antipsychotics to get someone to a state of what's considered "normal", but "normal" does not always mean healthy.

The shamans who are trained in the jungle and work with this stuff uses a variety of methods to work with those kinds of episodes. These are not fun, and they aren't really safe either. Some of the groups in the US are not trained or equipped to deal with it, and the more responsible ones will refuse to let someone drink if there are prior cases of psychotic breaks.

I do remember in one ceremony, one of the persons there went off on a journey. This was a group I don't usually participate with. To me, it wasn't unusual for someone to go into an episode like that. I've seen it happen in others and in myself. (And granted, I have heard of those who go somewhere and never come back but I have not seen it directly myself).

What was unusual in that case was that there no separate room set aside. Usually, the energies being whipped out of a person like that is intense enough to start inducing things in other people. What it usually induces is fear (fear of the unknown). As people started to get more and more uncomfortable, their own consciousness transmits feelings of judgement and censure ... which does not help the situation.

Ayahuasca is tricky like that. She'll allow situations like that to arise, and see if you're going to be mindful of things; or to facilitate an empathy exercise where you feel what it is like to be on the other side of those judgements. Freakouts like that can happen to anyone -- and likely, the more rigid, the more closed-minded, the more judgemental you are, the more likely it will be your turn next.

Once upon a time I took everything under the sun. I don't judge people for doing the same.

But if you're claiming to "guide" people through a trip with potential for physical harm (and in an inustrialized, urban environment, that's pretty much all of them), you're goddamn right I'll judge you if you fuck someone up.

If a hospital pulled this shit and didn't even try to mitigate potential harm, they'd be shut down. Would you claim it should be otherwise? People certainly have out of body experiences in the ER on a fairly regular basis...

So, no, I don't take issue with people using hallucinogens. I used a ton when I was younger and had a vanishingly small number of bad trips. The part I take issue with is where people get irresponsible. Humans are pretty fragile (stop by the ER some time, they can survive a lot, but not everything). I judge those who won't take care of each other.

You make some good points.

However, I'm not speaking about whether someone's action is worthy or unworthy, but rather, the specific reaction of judgement itself as a form of conscious energy. When examined energetically, the intention of judging itself is often a form of social aggression, usually in reaction to aversion.

Aversion is a natural instinct when we come across something that is toxic, or more precisely, perceived as toxic to our bodies. Toxins get expelled. This is very natural, at least for human bodies.

The thing is that Consciousness spans more than being human, and it persists beyond the our given lifetime as a human. We trade roles and act out this theatre where, sometimes you are the one judging, and sometimes you are the one being judged for the same actions. What is toxic at some level of teaching is not toxic at other levels of teaching. The teaching that an individual needs is specific to that moment, in that setting.

Also, 'harm' and 'potential harm' is not so simple. There are physical, emotional, and mental damage that can be inflicted, both accidentally and deliberately. However, it's been my experience that people generally confuse pain with suffering, and conflate the two. Pain can be measured and compared, but suffering cannot. Suffering does not result from pain so much as it results from going against the natural flow of consciousness. So when we speak of "harm" in the conventional sense, we measure it in terms of pain, but we are often really speaking of "suffering" in the subtext, or subconsciously.

When people are reacting to freakouts, they are not usually reacting to the potential danger so much as the suffering from the arising fear of that danger. The aversion to suffering is so strong, there's this spiraling effect as the fear in participants start resonating, and then compound out of control. From this perspective, judgement is a kind of immune response to toxic energies, and while it might be appropriate outside of ceremony space, it isn't necessarily helping you as a participant if you focus too much on judging others within the ceremony. This is, after all, gaining insight about yourself. A good question to be asking at that point is, "What am I learning from this experience of me judging someone else?"

To come back to your points though: what I said above comes out in groups that act responsibly, and can provide a reasonably safe place to explore dangerous aspects of life like that. They don't spike the brew. I've been with groups where there are EMT or an MD on hand. There are sufficient facilities to isolate someone going through an intense journey (which always look like freakouts). There are sober helpers to make sure people get what they need ... and keep the knives hidden away. The shamans know how to deal with the really nasty stuff that will pop up once in a while.

While the nature of medicine is such that many will experience a safe way to explore some very dangerous stuff, one of the things people explore is life, and the inherent dangers and risks of life. At some point in someone's journey, they learn by taking falls and getting back up.

It seems like at least some of the groups you've sat down with had these things nailed down. At some point there are objective hazards in life, and I'm comfortable knowing that we can't possibly control them all. I've done some pretty irresponsible things to my brain (18-hour trips on alpha-methyltryptamine, that sort of thing) but in the end I am the one who pays (or will pay) the price for that.

Honest-to-god shamans that are the recipients of generations' worth of accumulated cultural traditions aren't my concern; I'm hardly fit to judge them. But that doesn't seem to be what's going on in some of these ceremonies. It's irresponsible (and kind of shitty) to act as a guide unless the guide is prepared to handle extremal behavior.

As far as judging others for taking hallucinogens, nah. People's brains react differently to different agents at different points in time, and that's something that you either learn to deal with or you stop taking hallucinogens.

I run an ayahuasca clinic in Upstate NY. I make all my own preparations and tend to the ritual aspects as well as guide people on trips. I've been doing this as my profession for several years now, feel free to ask any questions

Wow! That must be an insane profession. I have a few questions for you: Firstly, how do you deal with the legal aspect of things? (If you can answer that, if not, I understand)

Secondly, why take the potion instead of pure DMT? If that is the active ingredient (along with an MAOI), I'd imagine just taking the pure compound to be more efficacious. (And the trips last only 20 minutes or something- under an hour)

Thirdly, say you have a chronic illness that requires constant management, like type 1 diabetes or something. I've heard the potion takes 12 hours, or in some extreme cases days, to work itself out of your system. Would that person still be a candidate for the ritual, or would they need to go through it with a medical professional on-site or something?

I think a lot of people view it as a spiritual or emotional thing. The potion is part of that process. If they just wanted to inject a drug to make themselves feel better, they'd go get something from a pharmacy or street dealer.

It's not as crazy as you might imagine - at least, compared to the lifestyles my clients lead. I (unfortunately) do not live in a geodesic yurt in some Catskill mountain grove, but in a modest rear house apartment in a town with generally nothing going on. The ceremonies are all hosted at friends or acquaintances houses who rent it to me.

The legality of it is something I am not worried about. The reagents to make DMT are not illegal to possess, only DMT itself. I keep them all separated at all times and I do not possess any baggies, scales, or any drug paraphernalia. The drugs are created on-site by me a day before the trip - this is part of the package I offer. Basically you come stay at a gorgeous (sometimes less so but generally nice) home and relax, put your cell phone in an anti-static bag in a safe and unwind before the next day. Sometimes I throw little parties with my friends' bands, but thats at the discretion of the client (after all a party is a good way to attract cops). If I do get caught, I would try my best to use the case as a legal vehicle to change the scheduling of DMT and other psychedelics.

With regards to potions + crystals (the 'pure' form of DMT), well, like other business I offer various products and packages. The trips are different, totally separate categories of mind-altering. Both options are available plus other packages. There's a DMT + LSD two-night stay that I personally think is the most fun (depends on my ability to procure that though, since I'm not that good at synthesis and LSD is legit the hardest drug to make) since they get both the intense "next-level" DMT and then they can ride it out on some low-dosage LSD where we paint, read, write, occasionally program (lots of 'hacker' clients), discuss, and whatever else the client wants to do. I get a lot of couples who just want me to be there to administer the potion and then be "on-call" in case they freak out but that's only happened once. I just write on those days. Working on a fantasy novel.

I have friends who have chronic illnesses who swear by "recreational" drugs such as LSD, DMT (both forms), and, of course, THC. They have good judgement of their limits and I would say are more in touch with their body than able bodied people, it's fascinating to hear them talk of their conception of their physicality as compared to (this is a real quote) the finance bro who sees it more "like a bunch of car parts that evolution glued together". People with illnesses are attuned to their systems in a way that offers a unique perspective to me. However, I have personally never administered a trip to someone who wasn't able-bodied or otherwise 'healthy' - not bc of my preference, it's just been the clientele so far. We generally do not trip with medical people on staff unless requests but that's never come up.

I have heard second hand that this site works great http://pwoah7foa6au2pul.onion (please use Tor browser to access)

1. How'd you find yourself doing this?

2. From your experience, how does ayahuasca compare to other psychedelics?

3. Any personal advice for someone interested in experimenting with these drugs?

1. I lived in Marin and worked as a software engineer and then later a research fellow for ten years (still sometimes on and off when they need me). Then I got really bored and moved across the country to start an art commune with old friends from college. We did our thing, went separate ways and I decided to invest what I had left in some land by a river / waterfall. Well one of the people we met from the art commune's dad was an exec, like VP level, for Fiji Water and one day we were driving around and I showed them the land and they loved it and bought it from me for double what I paid. I used that cash to buy a house outright in a dinky little town with enough leftover to mean I only had to work like 10-15 hours a week to be able to retire at 47. I didn't want to program, didn't want to be a landlord or do more flipping, so I went on an acid trip to figure it out and my friend floated the idea as a "startup" as a joke, but it's funny because he was associated with the Body Actualized Center which was basically the same thing before it got shut down (there's a bunch of articles about it, probably the biggest one to get busted in years). So yeah sorry to ramble but essentially I wanted a really weird part-time job and so I just invented one.

2. I personally am not the biggest fan of ayahuasca, but am in awe of it. I respect it and let it do its work upon people but I rarely take it and I have a feeling I never will again. I usually just smoke a bit of DMT mixed with THC shatter when I'm coming up with the client(s) to get into a similar headspace but other than that I'm sober and there to guide and work with the psychonauts. I've taken it four times, each time was different and each time I found new words and new ways to express myself but I'm much more careful about it now. LSD on the other hand I do about every month or so. It is, in my opinion, the finest substance known to man besides cannabis. If you want to have a profound physical and mental experience that takes over your body and melds your mind, by all means drink the potion. LSD lets you have a little bit more control and is less, in my opinion, 'religious'.

3. Do them with people you know and love. Don't go into it expecting wisdom or enlightenment and don't be surprised when the work you create or the thoughts you write are inane and obtuse once you see them through sober eyes. Do it because the mind and body and spirit need to be explored and known in ways that some may see as meandering or even farcical (how many times has acid been the butt of low-rent sitcom gags?) but to the determined can be a wellspring of experience and, perhaps most importantly, a joy that is inimitable.

I've been a little wary of the set and setting of the ceremonies I've heard about here in Brooklyn. In your experience how much of an effect does it have? Taking it upstate would definitely be of more interest to me.

The set and setting is everything, initially. If you come up in a bad zone, you probably will be 'tainted' in a way - of course, people mellow out and come out of it but a lot of newbies freak out initially and it spirals. Personally I wouldn't take ayahuasca in NYC unless it was in a huge apartment with a garden or like maybe a house on rockaway beach, but with regards to, say, LSD or DMT, once you have, shall we say, marinated in a good environment and found your footing, the second or third time user can pretty much go wherever on it. When I lived in NYC for a spell I loved tripping in central park by the Met and walking down to times square. Some people call me crazy but i have never been so inspired and entertained in my life. That was back when there was this incredible cafe in an old ballroom, the Hotel Edison Cafe I think it was called and that was like my headquarters for city trips.

But upstate is 100 percent the way to go. The Hudson Valley is the most beautiful place on earth to me and there are tons of amazing amazing places to explore, like old mansions, crumbling stone forts, just like straight up lore-making kinds of environs to let your mind unravel.

Please add your email or other contact info to your HN profile

Huh. I had no idea such a thing existed in upstate NY. How can I learn more?

If you're around Hudson I'm sure I'll bump into you sometime. The code phrase I use is "Will no one help the widow's son?"

Is there any way to safely take ayahuasca if I'm taking an SSRI?

Please tell more about this clinic! Or contact info :)

All of this "self exploration, cosmos consciousness, soul enlightenment" justification for using these drugs sounds to me like the promises of profit in Tim Ferris' 4 hour work week: 1) take drugs 2) ??? 3) Enlightenment. You know that Mt Fuji analogy whereby a hiker hikes to the top of Mt Fuji for enlightenment, choosing his path on the way? Well it seems to me like this people are looking for a quick helicopter ride to the top. And having used these drugs myself in the past, I was so stupid and naive to think that it would impart the wisdom that decades of life should give you. Idk to me this all seems like a bunch of bullshit.

Drug experiences are still experiences and like any experience, you can learn something from them or waste them.

At the absolute least, a psychedelic experience should teach you a lesson about the reliability of the senses and about how subjective our experience of reality can be, which is a valuable lesson to learn, IMO, and no matter how much you understand it intellectually, directly experiencing it is another matter entirely.

You make a good point - the psychedelic experience can lead to a greater sense of empathy in that you perceive the world not through the eyes of your ego but as "all one" (over simplification). An increase in empathy is a good thing but equating these drugs to a magic pill for self actualization is wrong.

> world not through the eyes of your ego

in most cases, you don't see much of the world past you own eyes anymore, but some "fantasy", which is why it is aptly called an hallucinogen. It messes with your head and you have a hard time making sense of the world so you revert to some basic notions of knowledge, that appear like an epiphany because they are that basic. I don't think these are new found insights and good luck if these facilities of your brain are damaged in the process. It is called acid for a reason.

Edit: A neat analogy would be fuzzing a production system. Not only that, it is randomly deleting files and flipping bits of memory to see how robust the system is. If your system is error free, the fuzzing is not a problem, but every system has bugs.

It seems like the people profiled in the article failed to learn that completely. Instead they go on about plant spirits and vibrations and other things they hallucinated as if they were actually real. That the perception of truth and truth itself are the same thing.

You don't need drugs at all to learn how subjective our own perceptions of reality are. And the risks suggest that it would be unwise to do so.

Like I said, you can waste it, amd lots of people do. Some people go through their entire lives and learn nothing. I'm sure you can appreciate that reading about a rose is not the same as smelling and seeing and holding a rose, though.

Interesting that you used the helicopter analogy. I used the same analogy earlier this year when trying to convince someone to try LSD. In my analogy, the helicopter won't drop you off at the summit (LSD only lasts 12 hours), it will only help you fly around and see if there are any alternate paths that you could take. If you are already aware that there is a path up the mountain, then taking a helicopter up would be wasteful. But if you get stuck in a local valley and can't find your way up, you might despair and stop trying to climb. Once you fly around and find a plausible path, the helicopter drops you off where you started and it's up to you to climb up the mountain.

They are a tool. I think a good analogy is an empty notebook. The notebook provides a potential medium for personal enrichment, but you need to have a prepared mind to get anything out of it.

I would argue that psychedelics are much more powerful than a notebook, but also require greater care and preparation.

Many opt to simply have the analogous experience of "doodling in the notebook", as it requires much less effort and can be great fun. However, this does leave greater potential for a bad trip if one is not ready to face what they may encounter.

I wouldn't describe the drug as imparting wisdom, so much as letting you view the world through eyes unfettered by cultural programming. The wisdom comes from holding on to that feeling of unfettered experience, and trying to progressively deconstruct your cultural programming until you return to that place.

Be careful. These quotes from the article are kind of worrying:

“Do you have doctors or anyone on hand who understands what’s happening on a pharmacological level if something goes wrong?” There was a tense silence, and then Little Owl replied, “We are healing on a vibrational level.”


I asked how she could tell it wasn’t something requiring immediate medical intervention, and the [mediator] replied, “Intuition.”

Provided you screen for things like heart conditions, contra-indicated pharmaceutical or supplement usage, or some mental health issues, psychedelics are, on the whole, profoundly physically safe.

Not saying shit doesn't happen, but if you're going to the jungle to work with these plants, with a reputable practitioner, you're at vastly greater risk from things like snakes and mosquitoes — or even jaguars and alligators — than you are the plants, themselves.

Indeed. This is not a toy drug. This is heavy-duty.

I wonder if there is maybe something simple, medically, that can be done by a 'non pro' - like - if there are specific and identifiable symptoms - 'take this pill' which has a neutralizing or softening effect or something. Hopefully something safe and natural. Maybe even something like 'drink caffeine and eat something fatty' - or whatever might work that's easy and accessible.

As far as I know, you can get "chill pills", I think maybe benzodiazepines will calm you down, but even in an ER they just make sure you're safe and let your ride it out. Once that roller coaster starts it needs to run it's course.

Source: Burnout friend.

I think for opioid overdose there is a medical intervention, but for these psychedelic things ... I guess there isn't much to do.

But psychological risk is real. My friend did something similar in Brazil and had 'fear' episodes for years.

The experience you will have is tremendously dependent on a few things: your existing state of mind, the physical environment / location of the experience, preparations (if any) made for the experience, and arguably most importantly (IMHO), your intention or reason for seeking the experience.

If you go at it with the attitude that this is simply a reason to get high, or to observe visual disturbances for the sheer sake of hallucinating, there's a very good chance that will comprise your experience. Conversely, if you set an intention of learning about yourself, life, death, existence, the universe, etc., and approach it with regard, then there is a very good chance you will have that experience.

From what I have gathered observing myself and my friends, the latter can be quite transformative to the self. It can encourage profound positive changes in attitude and improve quality of life, increase spiritual awareness and feelings of interconnectedness, greatly diminish or eliminate one's fear of death, among other things. These feelings can last, sometimes for life, and it can take months to fully integrate the lessons learned and information gained after returning from the "journey". See the John's Hopkins study on psilocybin for more information.

Preparation and intent simply cannot be understated when it comes to the use of these substances. What the psychedelic enthusiasts refer to as 'set and setting'.

If the effect only manifests when you think about it correctly, is it a placebo?

And this is precisely where trying to measure a unique experience with microscopes and well-established materialist scientific theorems begins to fail us. An experience, by the way, that many call the 'most important' of their life. They describe it as 'noetic' in that it seems more real than ordinary consensus reality, and 'ineffible' in that it cannot be successfully described, it must be experienced firsthand.

These aren't just the waxings of a hippie distracted at work, I can point you to studies that demonstrate the repeatability of it all (i.e., 'most important experience of life' claims, noetic properties, ineffable, etc.) Many people use these descriptors when regarding their respective psychedelic journeys.

In my opinion, the reason some people have awe-inspiring life-changing experiences and some just see neat visuals or have the ominous 'bad trip' goes back to my first comment. Set, setting, and intention are absolutely everything with these substances. The stuff just seems to be of a higher order, and it seems it gives you just what you deserve.

When people watch scary movies, why is it they are more likely to have a nightmare afterwards?

Our brain chemistry is exceedingly complex. Also, our emotional state primes our brain with other chemicals. Fear can produce a rush of adrenilne, for example.

So yes, thinking about it 'correctly' changes your brain. Your brain is a chemical reaction, so adding another thought modifying chemical is likely to have different results based on the chemicals already there.

Cognitive distortion may manifest in many ways, like bad trips.

Why does the plant produce DMT? Is it a poison? Are there other plants that produce it?

I wonder about the evolutionary reasons for its emergence. Does the plant influence the Human so that the Human protects and nurtures the plant? When did Humans begin altering South America? 15,000 years ago? More than enough time for the plant to adapt.

It's a strange feeling to ingest a hallucination producing organism. I remember being 19 years old, in the 90s, being given mushrooms. I spent the next several hours sitting at a tree stump feeling myself sink into it, feeling merged with plants around me. I remember thinking a lot about the juxtaposition of the natural with the concrete and brick and asphalt just a few hundred meters away - and wanting to tear it all down. Now, decades later, reading the woman's experience, I wonder if the fungi had somehow manipulated me.

Might want to spend some time thinking about that phrase "evolutionary reasons". There's an assumption in there I'm not sure you've noticed.

That's pretty cryptic... Ok, what do you mean? I'm dense.

I am not the OC, but I think he was going on about how you apparently attributed a certain level of "reason" to evolution. His contention is that evolution exists free of reason. I think you two are disagreeing on the term reason.

You mean "reason" in the sense of "why" and he means reason in the sense of "logical conditions". The why is an interesting question, what environmental or other factors provided an advantage in a plant containing this chemical, or was it a non-important side effect of some other change. It is interesting, maybe not easily knowable.

Hope this clears it up. I may be wrong, but I get annoyed when I read comments that are negative without an explanation, so I thought I would attempt to shine some light.

'Negative'? That seems a touch harsh, although possibly just because I find myself on the pointy end.

Maybe less "negative" and more "non-constructive". It is a personal annoyance of mine when a reply points out a flaw or misunderstanding, but does so behind a veil of ambiguity. It completely passes up on a chance to educate the OP, and instead leaves them feeling uncertain.

You assume there are reasons to be found in evolution. Are you sure they aren't simply put there after the fact?

Oh - I was using 'reason' as is often used in the informal vernacular - to mean why or follows from. I assumed that most people on here would understand from the context. But, I can see now that it's a loaded word given the subject - sorry to confuse.

Thousands of organisms (including rats and humans) biosynthesise dimethyltryptamine, and to me at least, that's not the interesting part, the part I find more interesting is that of the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of plant species in the Amazonian jungle, they found the two that work together, oral DMT isn't normally active, as it's broken down by monamine-oxidase, one of the plants in Ayahuasca is an inhibitor of this enzyme.

A similar story exists around the discovery of LSD (LSD-25 was just one in a sequence of lysergic asid that was synthesised by Albert Hoffman) – it was years later that Hoffman decided to revisit the compound, thinking... "There must be something there..."

It's all likely coincidence, but there exists (especially with plants, such as those that produce DMT, and Psilocybin) that we have evolved together.

Interestingly, there are hundreds of plants that produce it. Even more interesting, the human body also produces it. There was some human studies that took place in New Mexico. Check out: DMT: The Spirit Molecule for some interesting reading if such studies are of interest.

So much pretension, so much bollocks...

Just drop some acid like a normal person, or take a harmaline cap and some dmt later. No need for all this 'purging' and ceremony.

I don't know that it is bad for novices to have some framework in which to interpret and assimilate what is often a very intense experience. A reasonable degree of nuance might suggest that, while there's perhaps quite a lot of reason to blame people experienced enough to know better for making more (less?) of it than it merits, there's no reason to blame people who lack that experience for wanting, especially their first time, something a little more special than just "oh, drop some acid like a normal person".

Special? Fine, set and setting can be very important. But the nonsense about picking the vines at a certain time of day, and the idea that we don't need medical expertise on hand because we're special and....

It really winds me up. You're doing oral DMT, not magic...

I agree although some ceremony can add to your trip.

I agree with both of you. Ceremony is one way to attain a pleasant set and setting, but ultimately I get somewhat exasperated by all the woo and mysticism surrounding psychedelic use.

Psychedelics can be therapeutic or "spiritual", but once you have some familiarity they can also just be fun. I've had equally wonderful experiences sitting alone in the woods, playing beer pong at a frat party, exercising, playing an instrument, having sex, etc. Higher doses of certain psychedelics will make some of these experiences less pleasant / possible, but in general it can be much more than the solemn introspection that most people expect.

You seem to be so certain of this, eh?

I wonder what the effects of chemically-induced pseudowisdom are. Real wisdom, after all, is both physiological and mental, a product of experience as well as of neurochemistry. What might be the ill-effects of feeling that one has gained wisdom when in fact one has only altered one's brain chemistry?

Well, if real wisdom requires experience then the harm you are talking about is probably slightly less harmful than the pseudo-wisdom one feels when reading another persons experience in a book. After all reading a book doesn't give us an experience, its all "just" chemistry too..

> After all reading a book doesn't give us an experience, its all "just" chemistry too..

I'd disagree there. It's less experience than actually doing something, but more than just getting a chemical flow across the brain. Reading is a weak sort of experience, no?

I was being toungue and cheek. Of course reading a book is an experience, as is taking drugs. And its not just chemical , you might go to the park and have an adventure between two blades of grass or something. Its not like people just drop a tab, close their eyes and lie in bed. I would say in order of strength of experience I would say something like: [Big Adventure without drugs] > [Small adventure with drugs] > [Reading] > [Dreaming]

I tripped once years ago on an extract of morning glory seeds that a genius friend of my sister concocted. (Essentially lysergic acid amide, plus maybe some other alkaloids, look it up if you're that interested.)

There was no preparation as far as set and setting. Basically I was a chronic drug-using teenager who was trying something new. Took the stuff before a concert and began tripping during the opening act. Had a great time. Saw some weird shit. Blacked out for a while as usual because I was also smoking a lot of pot and drinking beer for hydration.

Somehow reconnected with the people I went with and got a ride home, with some intervening adventures on the way. Lay down in bed to sleep and that's when it got weird. Hard to describe and kind of boring if you weren't there (but you might have been! ;-))

Woke up the next morning still tripping balls. Couldn't stop it, got kind of scared. Called people and said shit I don't remember and that they still won't repeat.

Finally stopped tripping later that day, and was exhausted for another day. Found out later from the genius that the dose was roughly equivalent to 350-500 mcg of LSD (i.e., a lot).

Read The Yage Letters shortly after that. Haven't tripped since. Occasionally consider it since I've done a lot more reading and work in the 37 years since that experience, but now it's a hipster thing so it's embarrassing to admit. I mean, the New Yorker is writing articles about it. You don't even have to dig through a few different grungy bookstores to find a copy of the Beat take on it from the '50s.

So, probably never yage / ayahuasca, but maybe someday a tab of acid. Or maybe not. I'm a lot more self-aware and enlightened than I was at 17, but I think that's mostly because I've lived another 37 years and survived all the trouble along the path, not because I tripped once.

P.S. People had these exact same kinds of conversations on this topic 35 years ago.

I'm a SV entrepreneur who is pretty well-connected with the community here (only mentioning this for the sake of credibility).

Maybe it's because I missed Burning Man this year, but I haven't heard of anybody doing this outside of articles on Tech Crunch that say people are (let alone normal hallucinogens).

Marijuana or Adderall, sure (Meadow and Eaze are doing well here); maybe even the /r/nootropics stack, but not hallucinogenic substances.

I know people who have experimented with shrooms, but they don't consider them a "drug of choice," let alone a productivity enhancer by any means. In fact, one of my acquaintances ended up going off the deep end when he started taking LSD. It was a really sad story.

A friend of mine participated in an ayahuasca ceremony, and he said that it completely changed him, from a person who wanted to try ayahuasca to a person who would never do it again.

Has anyone here actually tried ayahuasca and can share their experience?

I have, not in Peru but at home. I've tried DMT roughly 300 times, pharmahuasca (N,N-DMT in an enteric capsule, inside a larger capsule of synthetic monoamine oxidase inhibitor) and ayahuasca, and the usual others (I've tried everything I could find from Pihkal and Tihkal). I eventually became too afraid of DMT (I had mistakenly bought 5-MeO-DMT and was using the same dosage and that wasn't pleasant, and now I'm too anxious to "blast-off" because of the pace) and wanted something slower, so I turned to Ayahuasca.

It's a difficult feeling to describe (three Ayahuasca sessions at home so far.) – it's similar to N,N-DMT but whilst DMT feels like chapter-skipping, Ayahuasca feels like things are being played at 1x – If you have specific questions I will try to answer them.

If you get the chance or you are guided to it, you should try Ayahuasca with someone who carries strong medicine. Here's what I mean by that.

The shamans who train out in the jungle are trained directly by the plant spirit. Each plant carries an energy, a consciousness, and a host of insights and realms connected with it. The icaros of the Mestizo tradition will call upon those plant spirits with whom the shaman has gained a relationship with. And by "gain a relationship with", usually means ingesting and working with the consciousness of that specific plant -- some requiring cycles of years to establish a powerful relationship.

So when such a shaman sings, that plant spirit is brought into the ceremony space while your consciousness is open. In a group setting, it will express itself in a form that somehow blends what you need with what the group needs. This means that the medicine coming through in an Ayahuasca ceremony facilitated by someone trained in a lot of plant medicines will not just be bringing Ayahuasca to the table -- but also specialist medicines that Ayahuasca enables as a "master plant".

It's also not just the material you are using. The relationship you have with the Ayahuasca spirit will inflect and influence your own experience. Ask her about this next time you decide to try it at home again.

You still think of it as "trying" after 300 doses?

I was lucky enough to breakthrough on my first dose, and the only times I haven't broken through have been down to choice (to feel what lower doses felt like) – I invested in better equipment (http://imgur.com/vjvKzQB – from one of my posts in the /r/DMT channel in reddit) after the first few breakthroughs, it was the most interesting, terrifying, and beautiful thing that has ever happened to me, and I wanted to keep doing it to try and work out just what it was, there have been moments where I have lay in awe completely convinced I am witnessing everything happening everywhere in the universe, there have been times where I've been convinced I am solely responsible for the destruction of the universe, that my consciousness was the last thing left, there have been so many other strange experiences, I could never control them, I had to just sit back and feel everything, so it was always trying, I doubt that it's possible to master the effects, and most I know from various communities on the subject tend to ease off at around the same number of times that I did, as a chemical, it's absolutely non-addictive, all psychedelics I tend to find as self-regulating.

Have you ever just combined DMT and a MAOI to replicate the effects or is that not how it works?

Yep, as mentioned, I twice had DMT (HCl) in an enteric capsule within a capsule of synthetic MAOI (Moclobemide) – it was a similar experience to Ayahuasca but there was much more of a mechanical feel to the CEVs, similar to the visuals produced by the Ketamine hole, there was also more anxiety, the plants combined with DMT in Ayahuasca are synergistic, the mechanical feeling could be a subjective effect in the brain caused by knowing the source of the material before consumption.

It has been life changing through and through -- too much to type and so much to say. But a few suggestions for those who are curious:

1) Do your research; don't go in there not knowing what you've signed up for. It can be incredibly transcendent and healing, but also quite possibly the hardest experience of your life. Difficult experiences make you stronger; this is the point. 2) For first timers -- and really anyone -- I would highly, highly recommend starting at a minimum of TWO nights. When going into the experience for the first time there's a lifetime of tangled psychology that the medicine loosens up, and there have been many people who go in for a single session unaware that the experience changes over multiple nights, end up disappointed or scared, and then leave and never touch it again. Night one untangles, leading into the second night and beyond which tends to get much, much deeper. 3) Read this book by Ralph Metzner, who has studied the subject extensively; it will give you a better idea of the pharmacology as well as the experience: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Spirits-Ralph-Metzner-Ph-D/dp/.... And lastly, 4) leave your expectations behind. I can only speak from personal experience, but the Aya seems to enjoy toying with those who expect certain things from her -- this ends up generally being a valuable lesson in humility, for better or for worse.

Psychedelic experiences, like any drug experience are highly dependent on dosage, which is not standardized for Ayahuasca, as well as setting, and many other factors. Hence expect to hear a variety of experiences. It's generally gonna be quite a high dose of DMT from what I've heard so quite mind blowing.

Dosages are not standardized. They are customized. The point isn't to try to get you to fit into a mold; a big part of this is to come into a wholeness of being.

The day we try to standardize Ayahuasca dosages in order to create a map of causal effects ... that's the day we missed the point of this.

I drank on at least 35 nights, most of them with Mestizo shamans brought into the US. This happened within the span of three intense years.

Every single time was difficult and challenging. Each one of them brought a theme that picked off where the last left off. What I worked on was a range of things: from physical ailments, to letting go of attachments and facing fears, to purging out BS in the mind, to spiritual ailments spanning across multiple lifetimes. I had to work through a lot of internal resistance. There were training in a variety of things at a variety of levels of being. It did not help that there was something within me that drove me to keep coming back, like I'm hurrying to make it. There was period where, by the next ceremony rolls around, I forgotten the initial suffering and I have fond memories of the peak. By the time I got to the most recent one I participated in, I could intuitively tell when I was going to work a lot.

My experiences are atypical and intense. I am sensitive to it, and it took a while to figure out where the right dosage was for me. Every person's experience and work is going to be unique to them, even if it might fall into broad, general patterns.

I'm currently on hiatus, and will probably be getting back into it... well, when the time is right again. In the meantime, I've been keeping up with my daily practices of meditation and sometimes chanting, getting into the darker spaces of my being, when necessary. If anything, my experiences in the ceremonies taught me to have courage to look. And although the hiatus was due to external circumstances, I'm training to access these visionary states without taking the medicine directly.

Where's gwern to give us a writeup?

IIRC, gwern tends to focus on cognitive enhancers, or psychoactive drugs that could theoretically be used for that purpose (like the LSD microdosing experiment). I don't think he takes hallucinogens recreationally (or if he does, he doesn't write about it)

Throwaway account; this stuff is of dubious legality and I like being employable.

I participated in a Yagé ceremony -- locally, though led by a Columbian shaman and apprentice -- about a month ago on recommendation of my individual therapist. This was my first experience with psychedelics (or anything stronger than marajuana), and I went in with a set of expectations: powerful wakeful hallucinations, ego death, and a total emotional asskicking. (This latter expectation in particular is almost a manifestation of my own personal issues; ymmv.)

The description of the plant as having her own agenda and laughing at your plans is quite accurate; much as I tried to find a way to use the experience to reveal all of my own deep emotional flaws, I felt a presence just laughing and saying-without-saying to choose to love myself as an action, not just a concept and a feeling -- and to take the active step of choosing not to beat myself up so damn much, and all would be okay.

Also as written, this experience was deeply personal; for me to go into much greater description of my own interactions and experience would require you, dear reader, to both know and care about all of the issues that I carry. Suffice to say that if you were to try this, you would likely find your experience also to be both profound and incredibly difficult to communicate satisfactorily.

To follow on the description as personal: it was also incredibly isolating while _in situ_. You may be sitting with a dozen or with fifty people, but (aside from the sounds of retching and of guidance from the shaman, apprentice, and/or assistants) you are very much alone with whatever is going on inside of you.

* * *

For contrast, my wife had a less typical and more powerful experience with ayahuasca about ten years back while traveling in Peru. She and a friend participated in a ceremony in a much more intimate environment (just the two of them, a shaman, and a female bystander for safety) without as much of the physical preparation; they did it practically on a whim, so while my wife was fairly prepared emotionally and spiritually from her own work, she hadn't, say, avoided pork or alcohol for the week before. She downed two or three cups of the vile stuff over the course of their ceremony, to little obvious effect that evening. It was on the travel back out of the jungle that everything hit: the most intense projectile vomiting of her life to date, followed by extremely intense daytime hallucinations, and a strong sense of spiritual connectedness and openness that she carries to this day.

Having asked around, this significantly delayed and highly intense experience is very uncommon.

* * *

Finally, as a quick followup on the original article discussing the anthropomorphization of the leaf as grandmother/_abuela_ -- it's worth noting, for context, that frequent medicinal users, devotes, psychonauts, etc. refer also to peyote as grandfather/_abuelo_. I have no personal experience, but have been given to understand that peyote gives a very different but complimentary experience: communal and reassuring rather than individual and truth-revealing.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

I suspect I will never try to try it given the above.

Why is this community so uncomfortable around 'woo'?

Some of my ideas:

Woo multiplies entities beyond necessity.

Woo uses imagery (goddesses, grandmotherss, spirits, 'energy') that we find aesthetically displeasing?

Woo has an anything goes feel to it (whatever is true for you...)

But perhaps we should look at our own woo before criticizing others too much for theirs, after all the world of business is full of it's own sort of woo (synergize our two platforms to leverage our cloud based infrastructure going forward...)

To me when someone speaks woo, it's a sign that the person may be on to something that can't yet be expressed.

This can happen to techies, for example during that interval when you feel that you have solved a problem you have been working on, but can't quite express it clearly yet.

But woo is so open ended, that this is only true for the best cases. Often it's just nonsense, but so are scientific abstracts and press releases sometimes.

Short circuiting your brain is not the path to spirituality, therapy or enlightenment.

is that what you think it is? have you ever taken a psychedelic drug?

Or perhaps more importantly, surveyed the unfortunately scant literature to understand how they work as well as any potential for harm.

Regardless, you MIGHT get some non-mainstream academic agreement that there is the potential for therapeutic benefits; but not "Enlightenment" or anything spiritual.

Although, it seems to me that the burden of providing such literature is on you, not OP (no, erowid.com doesn't count).

erowid is a fine source for experiential reports and technical information on the botany and/or pharmacology of the substances involved.

let me ask you a question: is nothing true unless a credentialed academic writes a peer reviewed journal published paper about it?

In years of observation, I have no doubt that if the compound has some interesting properties, it will be exploited, outcry / moralizing will ensue, and legislation will be passed to criminialise any use. All it really takes is one precious snowflake to do something hurtful to themselves or others to kick-off a motivated response. Well, at least computer duster inhalants are still widely available (/sarcasm).

>legislation will be passed to criminialise any use

DMT was banned ages ago.

Honestly, just from reading this thread it sounds like it should be banned.

In my eyes the VERY FACT that psychedelics like N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) even exist in the FIRST place (and take you on the experiences that they take you) can NOT be some sort of coincidence. I am not suggesting that they are some special all-knowing tool, but the sheer potency of DMT and the other-worldly-dimension-changing-states-of-mind that it yields when consumed can not be shrugged off as just another recreational drug or "you're just high bro", at least not to me.

We have consciousness. We see. We feel... but existence remains a mystery. No one on Earth can properly put into words what THIS is. It's unexplainable, at least to me. You can perhaps say "we are in the Milky Way" or "we are located in the Universe" or "we are existing" but these are just vague primitive monkey explanations.

Substances like DMT can shed light on these questions from a different vantage point.

I'm confused. It cannot be a coincidence that substances exist on this earth that alter our consciousness? Why not? There are all kinds of substances found naturally that can change the way you feel, change the way your body acts, kill you, make you hallucinate, whatever.

Is it proof that there has to be a purpose behind them?

I forgot what the term is, but is this not like the fallacy of believing there must be a creator, because there is this wonderful planet for us to experience? But if we were not here to experience it, we would not know it was missing.

Possibly the argument from personal incredulity?[0] Or maybe the Anthropic Principle? [1] Little column A, little column B?

[0] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argument_from_incredulity#Perso...

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

Anthropic principle, yes, thank you!

I'm having trouble with your logic.

The very fact that poisons exist in the first place cannot be a coincidence.

The very fact that pointy sticks exist in the first place cannot be a coincidence.

The very fact that razor blades exist in the first place cannot be a coincidence.

That may be so, but that's no reason to ingest them.

I feel like the skeptic here but it sounds like you took them, and still have not answered the above questions, hence they don't answer those questions?

Maybe you should try meditation? It can do "other-worldly-dimension-changing-states-of-mind" without the colorful bells and whistles of drug trips.

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