Thursday, 26 May 2011

Robert Leihy's Trip Manual

Robert Leihy's Trip Manual
http://psychedelicpsychology.org/

I posted my review of 'Psychedelic Information Theory' on Amazon, and, having retrospectively bemoaned the lack of non-dogmatic trip manuals in that review, I was pointed at this one by Mr Leihy.

He has some very worthwhile things to say about the psychedelic experience. One of them is his contrasting of the rational mind with a 'spontaneous thought generator' that generates new content in psychedelic experience.

This is like a concretization of the functions Kent (Psychedelic Information Theory) ascribes to spontaneous self-organization of the subunits that make up top-down consciousness, after the top-down control has been disrupted by psychedelics.

He goes on to pull together the rational mind and the spontaneous thought generator into a single system, in which both new psychedelic content and rational thought are 'output from the spontaneous thought generator ... Rational thoughts pop up just like any other spontaneous thoughts.'

He has an admirably sane, anti-dogmatic approach to cosmic visions:
'In my own humble opinion, the overall cosmic concept that existence is a complete mystery releases a person from the controversy over which cosmic answers to consider as absolute truths.'

And:
'...all of the various sometimes-conflicting “answers” to cosmic questions are really improvable assumptions. The mysteries of spirit, causation, free will, and the nature of being remain completely intact even after a religious experience.'
Now that's what I call Chaos Magic.

He has an enlightened view of the current worst-of-all-worlds legal mess around drugs, and is convinced that engagement with psychedelics (in which he includes cannabis) is generally healing.
He has a lot of faith in people making use of the positive experiences they get on psychedelics in their everyday life, to make themselves 'smarter, stronger, and better people', but is realistic about psychedelics not necessarily 'curing' addictive patterns.

The advice for running psychedelic sessions is very good. For instance:
'Ground control can always talk to the user in a rational manner and help him to separate his inner experience from the outside world if necessary. Questions such as “What are you experiencing now? ”, “Is there much visual imagery? ”, “Can you interpret your experience?”, and “Does your experience seem to be leading toward a goal?” will help the user to activate the rational observer in his mind while at the same time still experiencing the psychedelic experience.'

I expected things to go downhill with the Religion chapter, like they usually do, but was refreshed by Leihy's non-dogmatic, sceptical approach to the (very real, subjectively) psychedelic experience of God.
'Huxley makes the assumption and believes that what he calls “Mind at Large”, is truly God, the knower of all things. I hang back one step and take the more cautious approach and consider the religious experience to be one of many different cosmic concepts that can be experienced fully but none of which can be absolutely proved or disproved.'

However, he does seem to slip into a starry-eyed view of the religion problem:
'Recognizing the awesome and miraculous nature of existence and its extreme complexity can take the place of worship.'
If only that were the case for the majority of people. The persistence of simple, dogmatic faith into adulthood is one of the most problematic features of human behaviour, and, as sad as it sounds, it looks like most people will never grow up enough to tolerate ambiguity or engage in real enquiry.

Still, he is not sunk in dumb newage faith, despite his quoting the highly dubious Deepak Chopra.

He advises something like a Chaos Magic approach to Invocation:
'If COEX systems symbolized by the serene sage, the loving Aphrodite, and the confident and honorable superhero were close to the surface of consciousness in a person’s daily life, his relationship with the outside world could be quite pleasant, productive, and satisfying.'

I was intrigued by his statement that 'One’s relation to an assumed or a real God is a basic and important personal COEX system, and the less conflict within it the better.'. He goes on to suggest we find 'comfortable assumptions and convictions to resolve conflicts within this domain of mystery'

This is a therapeutic resolution that is no doubt worthwhile for some people, but I'm not sure I want 'comfortable' assumptions or convictions, and he does say some very dubious things about this issue:

'There is even a cosmic resolution between the concepts of the creationists and the evolutionists. Assuming that existence is an ongoing process influenced by spirit, ... it would not be too much of a jump in logic to assume that God is creating existence in such a way to make it appear that evolution has and still is taking place. He could be creating even older bones in the ground for us to find in the future even as we speak ... Evolution could be taking place but God could be creating it.'

That's rubbish: the above isn't evolution, but a cynical facsimile of it, a lie. If we want to honour God, then please let's give him the good grace to make laws and, most of the time (apart from miracles) let things run according to those laws. The laws of Nature as the mind of God, and so on.

But Leihy is defending a very different kind of god here, a shyster who hides himself deliberately, an authoritarian father out to trick and hurt his children into dumb, terrified obedience, to paralyze their intellect. This is William Blake's sociopathic bully Nobadaddy, probably the most evil god ever invented, and there is no way I want to 'get right with' that thug.

Back to the good stuff; in the final Summary, he writes:
'I believe that the greatest long-term benefit of psychedelic experience is that it can help to reduce emotional, psychological, and philosophical tensions to the point where calmness, relaxation, clear thinking, and the basic appreciation of life can become more prevalent. Living in a more relaxed body and with a clearer mind if a great benefit in this turbulent and uncertain world. In addition, the universal need for “self transcendence”, as is sometimes pursued with dangerous drugs and extreme activities, can be fully satisfied with minimal risk and with absolutely no poisonous effects or aftereffects'

Well said, Mr L; these truths need arguing again and again, then maybe, just maybe one day things will start to change for the better.

Monday, 23 May 2011

More Energy Magic events plus a brief rant

In a couple of weeks I'm facilitating a workshop on practical energy magic, at the Hagazussa pagan festival in Austria (http://babajaga.hagazussa.tv/). This will be the other end of and hopefully a culmination of my first year of teaching energy magic, not to mention experimenting much more rigorously with it.

The weekend after that I'm leading a one-day breathwork intensive in my home town of Sheffield. You can book at:
http://m.facebook.com/event.php?eid=147839925288313&refid=25

Then the weekend after that, I'm back teaching energy magic again at the Pendle Witch Camp, my first visit to that festival. Looks like some good things happening, check it out at: http://www.pendlewitchcamp.co.uk/

While on the subject of 'subtle energies', I'll take the opportunity to resume my rant about parascience. Some of what science is doing to interface with 'subtle energies' is very good, like Chinese researchers making sense out of qigong in terms of physics. The decades-old work on the microwave aspect of qi/chi has already been used to design new and more effective healing procedures.
This is wonderful, but there's an important issue at stake every time we describe the physics correlate of some subtle experience: that we never to let the external, physical description of the experience, (which belongs to what Wilberian integralists would describe as Upper Right Quadrant) dominate, coarsen and defile the subjective (Upper Left Quadrant) dimensions of the experience.
This needs to be recognized as the core principle in combating the insidious, disastrous cultural toxin of parascience (Twitter #parascience, @dleeahp)