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Category Archives: Entheogens

The Return Trip: Psychedelics may come back from the abyss of illegality – Valley Advocate

Posted: November 23, 2019 at 11:49 am

When over the past several years states began to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes and then some of them for recreational use, many people from the Baby Boomer generation witnessed something they doubted they would ever see in their lifetimes. People who had long known or believed that marijuana was a far safer and beneficial alternative to alcohol had that conviction sanctioned by some state governments. Marijuana advocates finally had their hard-earned victory.

Yet if one now gazes out at the cultural horizon, there is a storm heading our way the impact of which would not only dwarf cannabis legalization, it may have a transformative effect on the entirety of our social fabric. As vividly detailed in Michael Pollans 2018 bestseller How to Change Your Mind (Penguin Books), momentum is building towards the legalization and mainstreaming, at least for medical use, of the class of substances known as psychedelics or entheogens. Yes, LSD, psilocybin (found in certain mushroom species), and mescaline (from the peyote cactus) are undergoing a resurgence being described as a renaissance.

Design by Jennifer Levesque

Unbeknownst to most people, research and clinical studies on psychedelics have been going on at universities and medical schools in the U.S. and Europe for much of the past two decades. Psilocybin has already been passed through Phase II clinical trials by the FDA, and if Phase III is successful it may be approved for psychiatric treatment early in the next decade. How psychedelics have returned from the abyss and reached this level of approval by the U.S. medical establishment is a story of how some scientists, believing that something of great value was lost when psychedelics were made illegal in the 1960s, made it a mission to regain and rehabilitate these substances for a new generation. But another surprising aspect of this renaissance is how this research has opened a window to the world of spirituality that most involved wouldnt have thought possible.

What makes psychedelics such a fascinating and important topic of interest is that their very existence, unlike anything else this writer can conceive of, has to be considered as being of deep philosophical significance. Here we have a naturally occurring molecule or chemical, that nature has placed in various plants and fungi, that users have insisted for centuries elevates their consciousness to an unmistakable level of spiritual awareness and realization. There is nothing else that allows for science and spirituality, those two supposedly irreconcilable realms of human endeavor, to be analyzed for their connectedness, not their distinctions and differences.

Encouraging news for legalization advocates occurred earlier this year, when Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado, passed measures to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms. Campaigns to place mushroom decriminalization referendum questions on 2020 election ballots have also begun in Oregon and California. But while these events represent progress for those hoping for legal sanction for personal use, the scope of these efforts are likely to be limited in size at least until there is widespread approval for medical use, much like what happened with cannabis. In fact, if there is an area of disagreement among advocates it is the types of usage psychedelics should be legalized for.

Peyote, ritual cactus with flower

Outright legalization for recreational use a la marijuana? While there are still those who hope for this level of social acceptance and government approval, the majority opinion is that might not be the best idea. While research has shown that psychedelics are remarkably safe, nontoxic, and completely nonaddictive, there is as with any substance the potential for misuse. They are not for drinking beer with and watching a Three Stooges marathon. Activists have a genuine reverence for psychedelics and dont want to see them being used frivolously.

Applications for psychedelics for which there is much more enthusiasm are in the medical/psychiatric and spiritual/religious fields the psychedelic movement has always been about more than just medical usage. The true believers from outside the medical profession have always envisioned broader applications for psychedelics, especially for their use in spiritual contexts. The phrase the betterment of well people is a mantra for those with this mindset. Activist Bob Jesse, founder of the Council on Spiritual Practices, would like to see trained and certified psychedelic guides administer entheogens (what psychedelics are more often called when describing their use in spiritual contexts) in contexts which to Pollan sounded a lot like churches. Others envision psychedelics being used in spa-like or religious retreat settings, again with trained guides present to take care of people having their experience and then helping them integrate it afterwards.

Before the 1960s there was no law restricting the use of entheogens and they have been in use for spiritual purposes by cultures around the world for centuries or millennia. In the Western Hemisphere evidence indicates widespread usage among indigenous cultures throughout the Americas, with usage in Latin and South America, and among Native Americans, continuing today.

Southern Oregon University Religious Studies Professor Martin W. Ball claimed that many of the worlds religious and spiritual traditions are rooted in ancient use of entheogens. In hunter-gatherer societies, the predominant form of spirituality was shamanism, and shamans have always made use of plants and fungi, including entheogens, that alter consciousness, he said.

The ancient Greeks used entheogens in their religions. So too did ancient Hindus, said Ball. Theres evidence for entheogen use in ancient Egyptian religion, Zoroastrianism, indigenous African and Native American traditions, to name just a few. Its important to understand that it was (and is) a global phenomenon and has not been limited to any particular time or place in the world.

Unfortunately, those centuries of prior spiritual or sacramental use became problematic when the U.S. started making all known entheogenic agents illegal in the 1960s, but in 2006 a slight legal opening for spiritual use appeared courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the UDV, a small religious sect founded in Brazil in 1961, could legally import ayahuasca, an entheogenic tea it uses as a sacrament, into the U.S. The Court based its decision on 1993s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which when enacted allowed the Native American Church to continue the peyote ceremonies that had been a part of the Churchs worship for decades. The UDV, which stands for Union of the Plants in English, expanded in the U.S. after the ruling, and had about 525 American members in nine church communities in 2018.

So, it seems as if a legal precedent has been established that sanctions entheogenic use in religious worship, but there are caveats. Part of the Courts decision included the recognition of the UDV as an already existing religion, so it remains to be seen how the government would respond if an American citizen wanted to establish a new church in which entheogens were part of its practice or worship.

Mark Hart of Deerfield was able to shed some light on why psychedelics have been used in spiritual practices or religious ceremonies for centuries. Hart has a psychotherapy practice in Amherst but also has a Ph.D. in theology from Boston College, so he is a person with a rare blend of psychological and religious knowledge and insight. In addition to his psychotherapy practice he is also a founder and leader of the Bodhisara Dharma Community in Amherst, which teaches insight meditation and other practices from the Buddhist tradition.

When asked about the spiritual experiences many people on entheogens report Hart said, People report insights on reality that are not unlike those of people in profound meditative states. I used to be somewhat of a Buddhist chauvinist, saying our way of meditation is the best but I would say in the last 10 years that has gone by the wayside. My suspicion is that people do have genuine spiritual experiences on these substances. And I think the proof is in the lasting effects of these experiences.

Martin Ball, the Oregon religious studies professor, has been an advocate for entheogenic spirituality for years and has written several books on the topic. Not all use of psychedelics results in a spiritual or mystical experience, but these experiences do show up quite unexpectedly and regularly and can also be intentionally sought after through conscious use of entheogens. Its very interesting that these kinds of experiences can happen whether one is seeking them out or not. In fact, one could make the argument that psychedelics and entheogens are the premier tool for having deep spiritual experiences simply because they are so reliably effective and potentially powerful.

The questions statements like this raise are as profound as they are obvious. What are we to make of the mushrooms, cactus, and other botanical forms of life that have this amazing power to profoundly alter our state of mind and raise our awareness from the physical to the spiritual realm of being?

What we do know is that the power of psychedelics to create or enable these shifts in consciousness is not a recent discovery. And what may be more impressive to some people is that it was not yogis, gurus or other New Agers first making these claims, but the scientists who have been researching psychedelics from when LSD was first synthesized in 1938 and continuing to the present day. Almost all of those who led psychedelic research programs from the 50s onward sampled psychedelics for themselves, and even those who were staunch atheists or materialists before their experience felt as if profound truths about the existence of a spiritual realm were being revealed to them. Most if not all of the research up until the 1966 prohibition led many of the scientists involved to feel strongly about the potential of psychedelics as a possible agent for human transformation and societal betterment.

Even in the pre-1960s much of the focus of psychedelic research changed from psychiatric treatment of the mentally ill to something much more encompassing: bringing peace, happiness, and spiritual understanding to all of humanity.

If one person stands out as the leading figure in the psychedelic renaissance, it is Roland Griffiths, who heads a team that restarted psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins in 1999. In fact, Pollan writes that if there is a date that the revival fully blossomed it was 2006, and the key event triggering it was the publication in the medical journal Psychopharmacology of Griffiths paper Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance. That the words spiritual and mystical could appear in a research papers title is remarkable enough, but even more so was the enthusiasm with which the paper was received by the scientific establishment. It was as if Griffiths had singlehandedly created a space allowing for the spiritual to be accepted as a subject of legitimate scientific inquiry.

Among the most recent and current psychedelic research programs is one at New York University. Here researchers are working to see if psychedelics can be helpful for people with very difficult to treat psychological conditions, most notably those who have been diagnosed with cancer and are facing a possible terminal prognosis. The NYU psilocybin cancer trial is trying to determine if psilocybin can help people facing the greatest personal crisis there is: the existential fear and dread that comes with knowing that you have only a short amount of time to live. And the results thus far have not only amazed researchers, theyve shown how spirituality has been thrust into the scientific paradigm.

Stephen Ross, part of the NYU research team, saw things in his patients he could hardly believe and said, People who had been palpably scared of death they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once could have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like that in the psychiatric field.

One case study Pollan described is that of Patrick Mettes, a New York man with bile duct cancer who volunteered for the NYU program and had his initial psilocybin session in January 2011. Mr. Mettes was able to speak in great detail about his experience even as he was having it, at one point sitting up and saying to his doctors Everyone deserves to have this experience, that if everyone did, no one could ever do harm to another again wars would be impossible to wage. He eventually added, The sheer joy, the bliss, the nirvana, was indescribable. I know Ive had no earthly pleasure thats ever come close to this feeling. No sensation, no image of beauty, nothing during my time on earth has felt as pure and joyful and glorious as the height of this journey.

Mettes lived another 17 months after his experience, and loved ones say he seemed to carry that bliss with him the entire time. From his hospital bed in his final days he was the one consoling his wife and friends, not the other way around. It was like he was a yogi. He put out so much love, his wife Lisa said.

One thing I was struck by upon reading these accounts is how similar they seem to those Ive read of people having near-death experiences in the now abundant literature on that topic. This is probably not a coincidence or misjudgment. Johns Hopkins researcher Katherine MacLean said, A high-dose psychedelic experience is death practice, or almost like a dress rehearsal for dying. But people experience the blissful realization that there is something on the other side, so the spiritual implications of this are easy to see.

While researchers in the U.S. have focused more on the subjective experience of psychedelics and its possible therapeutic applications, in the U.K. the focus has been on how they interact with the brain itself and its neurological functioning. At Imperial College in London, researcher Robin Carhart-Harris has discovered is that it is not the drug that the experience derives from. Instead, they are entirely the creation of the mind/brain.

Many people have heard by now the medical maxim that humans only use about 10% of their brains capacity. Modern brain imaging and scanning technologies used in neurological research have more or less confirmed this. But in addition to that, a 2001 discovery showed that most of that 10% is located in an area known as the default mode network, DMN for short. The DMN can be defined as the area in the brain where the concept of self and ego consciousness is constructed. And by the time a person reaches adulthood, the DMNs neurotransmitter pathways become so worn in by overuse that directing brain activity outside of the DMN becomes almost impossible. Researchers liken it to a pathway that has been cleared through fallen snow that people habitually gravitate towards. That is what gives people the sense that they are trapped in captivity of their ego/self-identity. Psychic walls are built that confine the persons subjective experience and create the impression that the self is forever a separate entity from the world perceived by the senses. And an overactive DMN is linked to numerous mental health problems, most notably anxiety, depression, and existential distress.

Returning to the snow analogy, what psychedelics do is add a fresh layer of snow to the brain and cover the DMN, allowing mental activity to take place along neurotransmitter connections the person has likely never used before. Another way it has been described is that psychedelics reboot a persons neural activity into a state of consciousness where the usual distinctions between self and world, subject and object, dissolve. This further convinces those having the experience that consciousness continues after the self no longer exists, with the resulting effect being the perception that a transcendent spiritual realization has been achieved.

One more feature of the research that is of vital importance is how the brain scans of people having psychedelic experiences and those having mystical experiences through deep, advanced meditation are remarkably similar. Judson Brewer, now at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School in Worcester, has reported that scans show in both instances brain activity in the DMN is significantly reduced.

An interesting paradox is at work here. Research involving psychedelics has been applied with the highest standards of the scientific method, yet the success of this research seems to depend on the prevalence of mystical experiences that take subjects into places science is unable to venture. It may have been the great religious scholar and theologian Huston Smith who expressed the situation best. In a letter to Bob Jesse after the publication of Roland Griffiths 2006 paper that got this Renaissance started, he wrote, The Johns Hopkins experiment shows proves that under controlled experimental conditions, psilocybin can occasion genuine mystical experiences. It uses science, which modernity trusts, to undermine modernitys secularism. In doing so it offers hope of nothing less than a re-sacralization of the natural and social world, a spiritual revival that is our best defense against not only soullessness, but against religious fanaticism. And it does so in the very teeth of the unscientific prejudices built into our current drug laws.

Science has taught us that all forms of life evolve and adapt over the course of eons, and that they naturally develop attributes to better ensure their long-term survival. But what would be the reason that certain plant species developed psilocybin and mescaline over the course of their evolution? Botanical research has shown psilocybin and mescaline provide little if any benefit to their host organisms, but they do astounding things for the people who use them. Its not a defense mechanism or something to strengthen an organisms long-term survival prospects if it makes it more likely that humans will want to consume it.

Something is going on here. A person doesnt have to be anti-science to believe that organisms that contain these incredible properties to enlighten minds to the spiritual realm of being couldnt possibly have evolved on this planet by accident. Is the natural world we share this planet with trying to share secrets with us about life that its known all along? Is the immanent and transcendent God, in which we live and breathe and share our being, trying to speak to us through these amazing plants?

Most importantly, are we listening?

One of the things I loved about Michael Pollans book were its numerous references to something very dear to me and that is William James masterpiece The Varieties of Religious Experience, which is still thought to be one of the greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century even though it was published in 1902. James study of mysticism led him to believe that our everyday waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.

Amen.

Peter Stilla is an editor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and an ordained Christian Universalist minister. He lives in Deerfield with his wife and two daughters. Reach him at pstilla@gazettenet.com.

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How San Francisco’s Summer of Love sparked religious movements – The Oakland Press

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 4:17 am

SAN FRANCISCO In the past few months, the Bay Area has waxed nostalgic at the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in 1967, when hippies and thousands of seekers, drifters and runaways poured into the citys suddenly chaotic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

To many Americans, the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, which the Summer of Love came to represent, may seem like an irrelevant little experiment involving LSD, tie-dyes, free love, shaggy hairstyles and rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

It was all of that, but the mind-blowing revolution that rocked the streets of San Francisco that summer may also be seen as a new religious movement that shaped the spiritual expression of millions of Americans who never dropped acid, grew beards, burned bras or set foot in a commune.

Anyone who has ever participated in yoga classes, practiced mindfulness meditation, looked into alternative medicine, or referred to oneself as spiritual but not religious, may want to thank a 70-year-old hippie this summer.

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San Francisco had drawn adventure seekers and freethinkers since the 1849 Gold Rush, but the immediate roots of the Summer of Love date from the 1950s and Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac (On the Road, 1957) and poet Allen Ginsberg (Howl, 1956).

The psychedelic experimentation in San Francisco took off in 1965, when novelist Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest) gathered a Dionysian band of artists, musicians and drug enthusiasts known as the Merry Pranksters and held a series of LSD-fueled happenings in the Bay Area. Their story was immortalized by Tom Wolfes 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Those in the middle of the San Francisco scene in the mid-60s say the best of times were over by the summer of 67, when the drugs got harder and the unconditional love got conditional.

It was all downhill, they say, following the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in January 1967, when former Harvard University psychologist and LSD guru Timothy Leary took the stage and told the stoned multitudes to turn on, tune in, drop out.

To Carolyn Mountain Girl Garcia, the Summer of Love was very much a media distortion.

It drove people in vast numbers with expectations that were never met, she said. It was kind of a sociological disaster. But it was really wonderful when it was working.

Garcia, now 71, was only 17 when she arrived with her older brother from New York in 1963. Within a year, she met Neal Cassady, the real-life, charismatic character of On the Road.

Cassady introduced Garcia to Kesey, who fathered her first daughter, Sunshine. Within a few years, Garcia was living with Sunshine and Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead.

She later co-founded the Womens Visionary Congress, a community of adventurers from generations and traditions united to explore a more vivid and profound awareness of our inner and outer worlds.

Carolyn Garcia sees psychedelic drugs and plants as a major inspiration for much of the broader spiritual experimentation of the 1960s-70s, and beyond.

It got people into a spiritual dimension without the religion attached. It was personal contact with the realm of spiritual energy, with an unseen force that connects everybody to life itself, to nature, she said. Many spiritual communities have evolved from the hippie times, including people taking on Buddhism and other Asian religions and re-creating them as modern movements. If you want to find out about spirituality and psychedelics, just talk to your yoga teacher.

Some former psychedelic enthusiasts question whether the consciousness-raising counterculture was effective in transforming American society.

One is Robert Forte, who studied the history and psychology of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He sees the psychedelic counterculture as a microcosm of the best and worst of religion.

Religion is a very complex subject, spanning the whole spectrum of human behavior. It can be an ethical, exalted expression, but religion can also be a mind-control technique to subjugate the masses, said Forte, who edited two collections of essays in the late 1990s, Timothy Leary Outside Looking In, and Entheogens and the Future of Religion.

A lot of people in the 1960s had unitive experiences that informed their life in important ways.

Yet we also see all this fake New Ageism, he added. You hear a lot of cheerleading about the value of these drugs. ... But where is our anti-war movement today? Where are the visions we had in the 1960s about transforming the world in more ecologically sustainable ways? Weve failed.

Yet there are these people who think that by taking drugs and putting feathers in your hair and going to Burning Man you are somehow furthering this alternative culture.

For visual artist Bill Ham, the man who more or less invented the psychedelic light show, it was a magical time of creative freedom. Ham is now 84 and still living in San Francisco, not far from Haight Street. He arrived as an art student in 1958 and began hanging out with the Beats, who gathered in coffeehouses and poetry venues in the citys North Beach neighborhood.

Ham was among a small band of San Francisco beatniks and hippies who spent the summer of 1965 at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nev., a old mining town about five hours east of San Francisco, on the other side of the Sierras.

Some fledgling musicians, including Dan Hicks, formed the Charlatans and became the Red Dog house band. Ham had just developed an art form he calls light painting, a kinetic abstract expressionism that used an overhead projector, layers of glass, oils, pigments and other liquids to project pulsating amoeba-like patterns of color onto walls and ceilings.

According to some rock historians, the Charlatans were the first psychedelic rock band. They returned to San Francisco and began performing with other fledgling groups in small clubs and dance halls and for free in Golden Gate Park. In the early years, there was little separation between the performers and audience, a connection that was intensified by psychedelic plants like marijuana and peyote, and later with powerful mind-altering drugs like LSD, which at high doses have the ability to blur the boundary between self and other.

In the early 1960s, Ham said, there was this whole city of creative people, including jazz musicians, artists, writers, dancers, avant-garde actors, and the early electronic music creators. Then it got overwhelmed by the rock n roll scene, he said, because it turned out that was where the money was.

Americas music critics discovered the San Francisco sound at the Monterey Pop Festival in the spring of 1967, a concert where the imported Texas blues singer Janis Joplin, the new frontwoman for Big Brother and the Holding Company, blew everyone away. That spring also saw the release of the hit pop song, San Francisco, with its famous lyric, If youre going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair.

But the most influential musical release that spring was the Beatles classic psychedelic album, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Those songs inspired millions of people around the world to experiment with psychedelic drugs and explore the mystical promises of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism.

This was all two years before the Woodstock nation gathered on Max Yasgurs dairy farm in upstate New York.

All of the media attention focused on San Francisco and the 1967 Summer of Love attracted throngs of baby boomers to the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It was not all peace and love.

Among the waves of psychedelic immigrants were hordes of troubled, runaway kids. Many found freedom, while others fell into drug addiction, sexual exploitation, and the worsening of pre-existing mental illness caused by the careless use of psychoactive drugs. There were definitely casualties, Ham said, but when you compare it to Vietnam, we dont have too much to apologize for.

Photographer Gene Anthony, author of a richly illustrated book, The Summer of Love Haight-Ashbury at its Highest, captured many magical moments during the Acid Tests and early gatherings of the tribe from which the soon-to-be-famous San Francisco rock bands would emerge.

In some ways it did seem like a religious movement, but more in the communal and political sense. There wasnt one charismatic leader, Anthony said. There were groups of people like the Mime Troupe and The Diggers, who were feeding the kids and trying to do something positive. There was the Free Clinic and a store where everything was free.

Anything could happen. One Sunday in the summer of 1967, Anthony was standing at the corner of Haight and Masonic streets when a black limo pulled up and out popped Beatle George Harrison with his wife, Pattie Boyd, both of them in fashionable hippie garb.

Harrison later revealed he was not impressed with the scene in the Haight. I expected it to be a brilliant place with groovy gypsy people, he said, but it was full of horrible spotty dropout kids.

Starting in fall 1966 and continuing into the 1980s, laws were passed banning and increasing penalties for drugs like LSD and MDMA, known as Ecstasy or Molly. Scientific research into beneficial uses of these compounds, which date back to the 1950s, was shut down in the 1970s and 1980s. Richard Nixon declared his war on drugs, and the Just Say No mantra of Nancy Reagan became the federal drug policy.

Today, however, there is a growing appreciation of the potentially beneficial medical uses of still-banned, mind-altering compounds like MDMA and psilocybin, the drug that puts the magic in magic mushrooms. Government-approved clinical trials are underway at UCLA, New York University and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in which these drugs, alongside psychotherapy, are used to help people suffering from depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Summer of Love exhibits have opened in San Francisco at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and at the Mission Street offices of the California Historical Society.

Don Lattin is the author of Changing Our Mind Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy, donlattin.com.

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Outside the Box – HuffPost

Posted: August 13, 2017 at 2:24 am

My wife, a painter, was lying on the couch. The five blades of the ceiling fan are each a different color, she said musingly. Different? Yes, she continued, depending on which window the surface of the blade is lit by, or which lamp in the room, and the colors of the nearby walls.

Most of us perhaps see the fan s as off-white and are most concerned with how fast it will cool the room. It occurred to me that ordinary reality is so helpful, and so limited, because it sees things mainly in terms of the obvious use or dangers they suggest. A painters vision would then be analogous to what we call expanded consciousness, which is not better or worse than our usual vision, but which offers different information.

Because ordinary consciousness is so useful, many of us cling tightly to it. Any deviation from it may being forth prejudicial terms. Expanded visions are often dismissed as hallucinations, maybe caused by drugs. The world is divided strictly between material reality and a catch-all category called the spiritual. The former is studied by scientists; the latter, by priests and, may the Lord help us, by psychonauts. Stephen jay Gould called these realms magisteria. This division kept peace between the church and the men in lab coats, but it has confused the category of spiritual.

As a result of the distinction, anything outside of ordinary reality is consigned either to mental illness or to a transcendental realm. In the reaction to drugs after WWII and especially during the 1960s, the classic psychedelics were said to be psychotomimetic or hallucinogenic. In other words, the visions they occasioned were regarded as similar to mental illness. What else could there be, other than ordinary reality and distortions of it?

Except theology. So, as a new name for the hippies psychedelics, people who knew awe is the most important effect concocted the name entheogens, meaning they awaken the god within. The name was ambiguous about whether this god was transcendental or immanent, was a God familiar from the old-time religions with their temples, churches, and mosques or the sort of being who is prayed to or suggested by the increasingly popular phrase, spiritual but not religious.

The classic psychedelics are only one way to get beyond the limitations of ordinary reality, and they don't always effect a change. Even when revelatory on the personal level, the experience may remain trivial socially. Many of us have met guides who say, you dont always get the trip you wanted, but you do get the trip you need. If only this were the case! But at least there is a chance, as with any of the other techniques catalogued so usefully by groups such as the Council on Spiritual Practices (CSP).

(Disclosure: I had the honor to serve on the CSP board for a while starting in the 1990s.)

A friend in touch with a high Google executive tells me that in that firm its a firing offense to shoot down a new idea before it has an opportunity to be thoroughly explored, before it may suggest yet other ideas, one of which may lead to a product. In the non-profit world, too, things that eventually lead to a revolution are often said to be impossible, ridiculous, or in the contemptuous phrase of a physicist, not even wrong. In retrospect, everybody knows that a certain concept is right, even obvious, but not when it was nearly dismissed.

In his influential history of science, Thomas Kuhn advanced the useful hypothesis that after people do normal science for a while, anomalies pile up, and a new paradigm appears that takes account of what did not fit within the old paradigm. Brilliant, except where does the new paradigm come from? To conjure up an intuitive leap is indisputably true, but doesn't tell how it happens. Most ideas that are outside the box will not prove to be true, but one may, and in order to obtain the one its necessary to generate and at least briefly tolerate all the others. The kind of mind that thinks outside the box is not necessarily the same mind that frames and conducts careful experiments to test an idea.

A realist painter has to see what is actually there in order to reproduce it, even when that perception adds little or nothing to our sense of the usefulness (or danger) of an object, such as a ceiling fan. In a similar way, what we call expanded consciousness may help us to get beyond narrow pragmatism.

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Outside the Box - HuffPost

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‘Summer of Love’ shaped American lives, spiritual expression – Houston Chronicle

Posted: July 29, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Photo: Amy Osborne, Freelance

The Conservatory of Flowers light display, a part of the Citywide Summer of Love 50th anniversary, is tested before it's Wednesday night debut on Monday, June 19, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif.

The Conservatory of Flowers light display, a part of the Citywide Summer of Love 50th anniversary, is tested before it's Wednesday night debut on Monday, June 19, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif.

Starting June 21, the first day of summer, San Francisco'slandmark Conservatory of Flowers will be lit up at night with imagery inspired by the Summer of Love.

Starting June 21, the first day of summer, San Francisco'slandmark Conservatory of Flowers will be lit up at night with imagery inspired by the Summer of Love.

The Conservatory of Flowers light display, a part of the Citywide Summer of Love 50th anniversary, is tested before it's Wednesday night debut on Monday, June 19, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif.

The Conservatory of Flowers light display, a part of the Citywide Summer of Love 50th anniversary, is tested before it's Wednesday night debut on Monday, June 19, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif.

Hippies parade the streets of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in 1967.

Hippies parade the streets of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in 1967.

'Summer of Love' shaped American lives, spiritual expression

Over the past few months, the Bay Area has been waxing nostalgic over the 50th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," the 1967 season when "hippies" and tens of thousands of seekers, drifters and runaways poured into the city's suddenly chaotic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

To many Americans, the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, which the Summer of Love came to represent, may seem like an irrelevant little experiment involving LSD, tie-dyes, free love, shaggy hairstyles and rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

It was all of that, but the mind-blowing revolution that rocked the streets of San Francisco that summer also may be seen as a new religious movement that profoundly shaped the lives and spiritual expression of millions of Americans who never dropped acid, grew a beard, burned their bras or set foot in a hippie commune.

Anyone who has ever participated in yoga classes, practiced "mindfulness" meditation, looked into alternative medicine, or referred to oneself as "spiritual but not religious," may want to find a 70-year-old hippie this summer and simply say, "Thank you."

'A media distortion'

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San Francisco had been drawing adventure seekers and freethinkers since the 1849 Gold Rush, but the immediate roots of the Summer of Love date back to the 1950s and the influential work of the Beat writers like Jack Kerouac ("On the Road," 1957) and poet Allen Ginsberg ("Howl," 1956).

The psychedelic experimentation in San Francisco took off in 1965, when novelist Ken Kesey ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1962) gathered a Dionysian band of artists, musicians and drug enthusiasts known as the Merry Pranksters and held a series of LSD-fueled happenings around the Bay Area. Their story was immortalized by Tom Wolfe's 1968 nonfiction book, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."

Those who were in the middle of the San Francisco scene in the mid-1960s say the best of times were over by the summer of 1967, when the drugs got harder and the unconditional love got conditional.

It was all downhill, they say, following the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in January of 1967, when Timothy Leary, the former Harvard University psychologist and LSD guru, took the stage and told the stoned multitudes to "turn on, tune in, drop out."

To Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, the 1967 Summer of Love "was very much a media distortion."

"It drove people in vast numbers with expectations that were never met," she said. "It was kind of a sociological disaster. But it was really wonderful when it was working."

Garcia, now 71, was only 17 years old when she arrived in the Bay Area with her older brother from New York in the summer of 1963. Within a year, she met Neal Cassady, the real-life version of a charismatic character in Kerouac's "On the Road."

Cassady introduced Garcia to Ken Kesey who christened her "Mountain Girl" and fathered Garcia's first daughter, Sunshine. Within a few years, Garcia was living with Sunshine and Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead.

She later co-founded an organization called the Women's Visionary Congress, "a community of adventurers from generations and traditions united to explore a more vivid and profound awareness of our inner and outer worlds."

Carolyn Garcia sees psychedelic drugs and plants as a major inspiration for much of the broader spiritual experimentation in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond.

"It got people into a spiritual dimension without the religion attached. It was personal contact with the realm of spiritual energy, with an unseen force that connects everybody to life itself, to nature," she said. "Many spiritual communities have evolved from the hippie times, including people taking on Buddhism and other Asian religions and recreating them as modern movements. If you want to find out about spirituality and psychedelics, just talk to your yoga teacher."

Best, worst of religion

Some former psychedelic enthusiasts question whether the consciousness-raising counterculture was all that effective in transforming American society.

One of them is Robert Forte, who studied the history and psychology of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He sees the psychedelic counterculture as a "microcosm of the best and worst of religion."

"Religion is a very complex subject, spanning the whole spectrum of human behavior. It can be an ethical, exalted expression, but religion can also be a mind-control technique to subjugate the masses," said Forte, who edited two collections of essays in the late 1990s, "Timothy Leary - Outside Looking In," and "Entheogens and the Future of Religion."

"A lot of people in the 1960s had unitive experiences that informed their life in important ways."

"Yet we also see all this fake New Ageism," he said. "You hear a lot of cheerleading about the value of these drugs. ... But where is our anti-war movement today? Where are the visions we had in the 1960s about transforming the world in more ecologically, sustainable ways? We've failed. Yet there are these people who think that by taking drugs and putting feathers in your hair and going to Burning Man you are somehow furthering this alternative culture."

Wear your flowers

For visual artist Bill Ham, the man who more-or-less invented the psychedelic light show, it was a magical time of creative freedom. Ham is now 84 and still living in San Francisco, not far from Haight Street. He arrived as an art student in 1958 and began hanging out with the Beats, who gathered in coffeehouses and poetry venues in the city's North Beach neighborhood.

Ham was among a small band of San Francisco beatniks and hippies who spent the summer of 1965 at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nev., an old mining town about 250 miles east of San Francisco, on the other side of the Sierras.

Some fledgling musicians, including Dan Hicks, formed the Charlatans and became the Red Dog house band. Ham had just developed an art form he calls "light painting," a kinetic abstract expressionism that used an overhead projector, layers of glass, oils, pigments and other liquids to project pulsating amoeba-like patterns of color onto walls and ceilings.

According to some rock historians, the Charlatans were the first psychedelic rock band. They returned to San Francisco and began performing with other fledgling groups in small clubs and dance halls and for free in Golden Gate Park.

In the early 1960s, Ham said, there was "this whole city of creative people," including jazz musicians, artists, writers, dancers, avant-garde actors and the early electronic music creators. "Then it got overwhelmed by the rock and roll scene," he said, "because it turned out that was where the money was."

America's music critics discovered "the San Francisco sound" at the Monterey Pop Festival in the spring of 1967, a concert where the imported Texas blues singer Janis Joplin, the new frontwoman for Big Brother and the Holding Company, blew everyone away. That spring also saw the release of the hit pop song, "San Francisco," with its famous lyric, "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair."

But the most influential musical release that spring was the Beatles classic psychedelic album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Those songs inspired millions of people around the world to experiment with psychedelic drugs and explore the mystical promises of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism.

The Acid Tests

All of the media attention focused on San Francisco and the 1967 Summer of Love attracted throngs of baby boomers to the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It was not all peace and love.

Among the waves of psychedelic immigrants were hordes of troubled, runaway kids. Many found freedom, while others fell into drug addiction, sexual exploitation and the worsening of pre-existing mental illness caused by the careless use of psychoactive drugs. "There were definitely casualties," Ham said, "but when you compare it to Vietnam, we don't have too much to apologize for."

Photographer Gene Anthony, the author of a richly illustrated book, "The Summer of Love - Haight-Ashbury at its Highest," captured many of the magical moments during the "Acid Tests" and the early gatherings of the tribe from which the soon-to-be-famous San Francisco rock bands would emerge.

"In some ways it did seem like a religious movement, but more in the communal and political sense. There wasn't one charismatic leader," Anthony said. "There were groups of people like the Mime Troupe and The Diggers, who were feeding the kids and trying to do something positive. There was the Free Clinic and a store where everything was free."

Anything could happen. One Sunday in the summer of 1967, Anthony was standing at the corner of Haight and Masonic streets when a black limo pulled up and out popped George Harrison, the famous Beatle, with his wife, Pattie Boyd, both of them decked out in fashionable hippie garb.

Starting in the fall of 1966, and continuing into the 1980s, laws were passed banning and increasing penalties for drugs like LSD and MDMA, known on the street as Ecstasy or Molly. Scientific research into beneficial uses of these compounds, which date back to the 1950s, was shut down in the 1970s and 1980s. Richard Nixon declared his "war on drugs," and the "Just Say No" mantra of Nancy Reagan became the official federal drug policy.

Today, however, there is a growing appreciation of the potentially beneficial medical uses of still-banned, mind-altering compounds like, MDMA and psilocybin, the drug that puts the magic in magic mushrooms. Government-approved clinical trials are underway at UCLA, New York University and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in which these drugs, alongside psychotherapy, are used to help people suffering from depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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'Summer of Love' shaped American lives, spiritual expression - Houston Chronicle

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The Summer of Love was more than hippies and LSD it was the start of modern individualism – The Independent

Posted: July 24, 2017 at 8:23 am

Something remarkable happened to the youth of the Western world 50 years ago. In the summer of 1967 a huge number of American teenagers nobody knows exactly how many, but some estimate between 100,000 and 200,000 escaped what they saw as their suburban prisons and made for the city district of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco.

We now look back on the Summer of Love the name originated at a meeting of counter-cultural leaders in the spring as a lost golden age of bliss, excitement and adventure; a paradise which can never be recreated. But in actual fact, this centre-piece of the Sixtiesstill looms large over popular culture and social mores today.

Drawing on utopian traditions which date back to the founding fathers, and fuelled by the euphoric and hallucinatory powers of marijuana and LSD, the summer of 1967 saw an extraordinary culture rise in a remarkably short space of time.

There was a creative explosion in the arts, music and fashion combined with a belief that the world could be born anew. Characterised by the vivid, flowing colours of psychedelic art, and a belief that love was the solution to all problems, hippy culture set out to transform the world by rejecting every social, political, economic and aesthetic feature of mainstream Western society.

This hippy revolution became a media sensation with the release of Scott Mackenzies song, San Francisco, in May 1967, which was a huge hit in the US and much of Europe.

The story goes that a paradise of peace and love prevailed in San Francisco for much of the year, but came sadly unstuck very soon after. This new Garden of Eden was destroyed progressively by the sheer numbers of teenagers who descended on Haight-Ashbury. One leading figure described the resulting chaos as a zoo.

Commercialisation of the hippie dream compounded the problem and disillusion set in. The twin shock of the Manson murders in August 1969, and the brutal killing by Hells Angels of an audience member at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont a few months later, provided the epitaph to an era.

According to this version, the survivors renounced psychedelia, abandoned the vain belief that love would solve everything and knuckled down to political action gay liberation, second wave feminism and environmentalism. Or they found gurus and became new agers. The Sixties were sealed off, preserved in aspic as a lost golden age, a time of innocence. It was over, finished, forbidden to anyone who wasnt there.

However, like all golden age stories, this narrative is largely bogus.

Happy together

Criticism of the Summer of Love mythology dates back to 1967 itself, to the Diggers named after the English radicals of 1649-50. This guerrilla street theatre group regarded the hippy phenomenon as a media creation, a distraction from the true attempt to build a new and more just society. They denounced the irresponsible preaching of psychedelic guru Timothy Leary, who urged teenagers to take LSD and renounce work and education, and attacked the catchy nonsense of MacKenzies song as a marketing ploy.

The truth is that like all apparently simple cultural phenomena, the Summer of Love was complex. There was a deep tension between the Diggers back-to-basics idealistic communism, the commercialism of hippy capitalists selling bells and beads, the advocates of psychedelic transformation, and the politicos of the new left based in Berkeley, California.

The single issue all these groups opposed was American involvement in Vietnam. When the war came to an end with the Paris peace accord in 1973, there was no longer a binding external enemy. The illusion of a single, principled counterculture vanished.

Flowers in your hair

In reality, there was no single Sixties, no golden age, and nothing to come to an end. Instead there were three taste cultures that all coincided, and started to change societys values.

The first of these cultures was based in fashion and music. Peacock styles for men long hair and bright colours and women in mini-skirts or flowing hippy garb. The second group were political revolutionaries, post and neo-Marxists for whom the transformation of socio-economic conditions was the pressing priority. The third group believed in inner transformation and liberation achieved through marijuana and LSD.

Though the three groups priorities were fundamentally different, they shared a belief that the past was old and stale, along with a commitment to unfettered individualism. There were, of course, still significant overlaps, and when psychedelic culture met the radical left, notions of protest as play and performance took centre stage.

Half a century on from the height of the Summer of Love, all three taste cultures have survived, but with a different relevance. Individuality and self-expression in fashion and music has continued unhindered. Traditions of political protest flourish as new targets are found in environmental activism and sexual politics. And new generations of spiritual seekers find inspiration in psychedelic drugs, now also known as entheogens.

Defining the Sixties as a single unique period, a lost golden age, seals it off from contemporary experience. The sun may have set on the Summer of Love, but the warmth of its rays are still being felt today.

Nicholas Campion is anassociate professor in cosmology and culture, principal lecturer in the faculty of humanities and the performing arts at The University of Wales Trinity Saint David. This article was originally published on The Conversation (www.theconversation.com)

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How San Francisco’s Summer of Love sparked today’s religious movements – Religion News Service

Posted: July 22, 2017 at 8:20 am

50th anniversary By Don Lattin | 12 hours ago

Guests view the Bill Ham Light Painting Room/Light Show during the opening night of TheSummer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco on April 8, 2017. Photo courtesy of BillHamLights.com

SAN FRANCISCO (RNS) Over the past few months, the Bay Area has been waxing nostalgic over the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the 1967 season when hippies and tens of thousands of seekers, drifters and runaways poured into the citys suddenly chaotic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

To many Americans, the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, which the Summer of Love came to represent, may seem like an irrelevant little experiment involving LSD, tie-dyes, free love, shaggy hairstyles and rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

A crowd keeps a large ball, painted to represent a world globe, in the air during a gathering at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, to celebrate the summer solstice on June 21, 1967, day one of Summer of Love. (AP Photo)

It was all of that, but the mind-blowing revolution that rocked the streets of San Francisco that summer may also be seen as a new religious movement that profoundly shaped the lives and spiritual expression of millions of Americans who never dropped acid, grew a beard, burned their bra, or set foot in a hippie commune.

Anyone who has ever participated in yoga classes, practiced mindfulness meditation, looked into alternative medicine, or referred to oneself as spiritual but not religious, may want to find a 70-year-old hippie this summer and simply say, Thank you.

The Cosmic Car on a San Francisco street in 1967. Photo by Gene Anthony

San Francisco had been drawing adventure seekers and freethinkers since the 1849 Gold Rush, but the immediate roots of the Summer of Love date back to the 1950s and the influential work of the Beat writers like Jack Kerouac (On the Road, 1957) and poet Allen Ginsberg (Howl, 1956).

The psychedelic experimentation in San Francisco took off in 1965, when novelist Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, 1962) gathered a Dionysian band of artists, musicians and drug enthusiasts known as the Merry Pranksters and held a series of LSD-fueled happenings around the Bay Area. Their story was immortalized by Tom Wolfes 1968 nonfiction book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Those who were in the middle of the San Francisco scene in the mid-1960s say the best of times were over by the summer of 1967, when the drugs got harder and the unconditional love got conditional.

Timothy Leary addresses a crowd of hippies at the Human Be-In that he helped organize in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco on Jan. 14, 1967. Leary told the crowd to turn on, tune in, drop out.(AP Photo/Bob Klein)

It was all downhill, they say, following the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in January of 1967, when Timothy Leary, the former Harvard University psychologist and LSD guru, took the stage and told the stoned multitudes to turn on, tune in, drop out.

To Carolyn Mountain Girl Garcia, the 1967 Summer of Love was very much a media distortion.

It drove people in vast numbers with expectations that were never met, she said. It was kind of a sociological disaster. But it was really wonderful when it was working.

Garcia, now 71, was only 17 years old when she arrived in the Bay Area with her older brother from New York in the summer of 1963. Within a year, she met Neal Cassady, the real-life version of a charismatic character in Kerouacs On the Road.

Judy Smith, wearing face paint and flowers in her hair as she and others gather at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on June 21, 1967. Fifty years ago, throngs of American youth descended on San Francisco to join a cultural revolution. (AP Photo/Robert W. Klein)

Cassady introduced Garcia to Ken Kesey who christened her Mountain Girl and fathered Garcias first daughter, Sunshine. Within a few years, Garcia was living with Sunshine and Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead.

She later co-founded an organization called the Womens Visionary Congress, a community of adventurers from generations and traditions united to explore a more vivid and profound awareness of our inner and outer worlds.

Carolyn Garcia sees psychedelic drugs and plants as a major inspiration for much of the broader spiritual experimentation in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond.

It got people into a spiritual dimension without the religion attached. It was personal contact with the realm of spiritual energy, with an unseen force that connects everybody to life itself, to nature, she said. Many spiritual communities have evolved from the hippie times, including people taking on Buddhism and other Asian religions and recreating them as modern movements. If you want to find out about spirituality and psychedelics, just talk to your yoga teacher.

Some former psychedelic enthusiasts question whether the consciousness-raising counterculture was all that effective in transforming American society.

One of them is Robert Forte, who studied the history and psychology of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He sees the psychedelic counterculture as a microcosm of the best and worst of religion.

Religion is a very complex subject, spanning the whole spectrum of human behavior. It can be an ethical, exalted expression, but religion can also be a mind-control technique to subjugate the masses, said Forte, who edited two collections of essays in the late 1990s, Timothy Leary Outside Looking In,and Entheogens and the Future of Religion.

A lot of people in the 1960s had unitive experiences that informed their life in important ways.

Yet we also see all this fake New Ageism, he added. You hear a lot of cheerleading about the value of these drugs. But where is our anti-war movement today? Where are the visions we had in the 1960s about transforming the world in more ecologically, sustainable ways? Weve failed. Yet there are these people who think that by taking drugs and putting feathers in your hair and going to Burning Man you are somehow furthering this alternative culture.

For visual artist Bill Ham, the man who more-or-less invented the psychedelic light show, it was a magical time of creative freedom. Ham is now 84 and still living in San Francisco, not far from Haight Street. He arrived as an art student in 1958 and began hanging out with the Beats, who gathered in coffeehouses and poetry venues in the citys North Beach neighborhood.

Artist Bill Ham performs a light painting. Photo courtesy ofBillhamlights.com

Ham was among a small band of San Francisco beatniks and hippies who spent the summer of 1965 at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nev., a old mining town about five hours east of San Francisco, on the other side of the Sierras.

Some fledgling musicians, including Dan Hicks, formed the Charlatans and became the Red Dog house band. Ham had just developed an art form he calls light painting, a kinetic abstract expressionism that used an overhead projector, layers of glass, oils, pigments and other liquids to project pulsating amoeba-like patterns of color onto walls and ceilings.

According to some rock historians, the Charlatans were the first psychedelic rock band. They returned to San Francisco and began performing with other fledgling groups in small clubs and dance halls and for free in Golden Gate Park. In the early years, there was little separation between the performers and audience, a connection that was intensified by psychedelic plants like marijuana and peyote, and later with powerful mind-altering drugs like LSD, which at high doses have the ability to blur the boundary between self and other.

In the early 1960s, Ham said, there was this whole city of creative people, including jazz musicians, artists, writers, dancers, avant-garde actors, and the early electronic music creators. Then it got overwhelmed by the rock and roll scene, he said, because it turned out that was where the money was.

Americas music critics discovered the San Francisco sound at the Monterey Pop Festival in the spring of 1967, a concert where the imported Texas blues singer Janis Joplin, the new frontwoman for Big Brother and the Holding Company, blew everyone away. That spring also saw the release of the hit pop song, San Francisco, with its famous lyric, If youre going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair.

But the most influential musical release that spring was the Beatles classic psychedelic album, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Those songs inspired millions of people around the world to experiment with psychedelic drugs and explore the mystical promises of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism.

Peace demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967, during a five-mile march through the city. The march ended at Kezar Stadium, where a peace rally was held. Groups came from Los Angeles and the Northwest to join in the march and rally. San Francisco City Hall is in the background. (AP Photo/Robert W. Klein)

This was all two years before the Woodstock nation gathered on Max Yasgurs dairy farm in upstate New York.

All of the media attention focused on San Francisco and the 1967 Summer of Love attracted throngs of baby boomers to the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It was not all peace and love.

Among the waves of psychedelic immigrants were hordes of troubled, runaway kids. Many found freedom, while others fell into drug addiction, sexual exploitation, and the worsening of pre-existing mental illness caused by the careless use of psychoactive drugs. There were definitely casualties, Ham said, but when you compare it to Vietnam, we dont have too much to apologize for.

Photographer Gene Anthony, the author of a richly illustrated book, The Summer of Love Haight-Ashbury at its Highest, captured many of the magical moments during the Acid Tests and the early gatherings of the tribe from which the soon-to-be-famous San Francisco rock bands would emerge.

In some ways it did seem like a religious movement, but more in the communal and political sense. There wasnt one charismatic leader, Anthony said. There were groups of people like the Mime Troupe and The Diggers, who were feeding the kids and trying to do something positive. There was the Free Clinic and a store where everything was free.

A young San Francisco resident, far right, came out of his apartment across the street to welcome three new visitors arriving from Ohio for the 1967 Summer of Love. Photo by Herb Greene

Anything could happen. One Sunday in the summer of 1967, Anthony was standing at the corner of Haight and Masonic streets when a black limo pulled up and out popped George Harrison, the famous Beatle, with his wife, Pattie Boyd, both of them decked out in fashionable hippie garb.

Harrison would later reveal that he was not impressed with the scene in the Haight. I expected it to be a brilliant place with groovy gypsy people, he said, but it was full of horrible spotty dropout kids.

Starting in the fall of 1966, and continuing into the 1980s, laws were passed banning and increasing penalties for drugs like LSD and MDMA, known on the street as Ecstasy or Molly. Scientific research into beneficial uses of these compounds, which date back to the 1950s, was shut down in the 1970s and 1980s. Richard Nixon declared his war on drugs, and the Just Say No mantra of Nancy Reagan became the official federal drug policy.

Today, however, there is a growing appreciation of the potentially beneficial medical uses of still-banned, mind-altering compounds like, MDMA and psilocybin, the drug that puts the magic in magic mushrooms. Government-approved clinical trials are underway at UCLA, New York University and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in which these drugs, alongside psychotherapy, are used to help people suffering from depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Summer of Love exhibits have opened in San Francisco at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and at the Mission Street offices of the California Historical Society.

(Don Lattin is the author of Changing Our Mind Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy, published this spring. Find him at http://www.donlattin.com)

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How San Francisco's Summer of Love sparked today's religious movements - Religion News Service

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The Poisoner: Pharmakos and Veneficus-Poisoner’s Apothecary – Patheos (blog)

Posted: July 19, 2017 at 4:20 am

Forest Pathway. Photographer Carey E. Ward.

Walking the Crooked Path

There are few words to adequately describe my nature as a practitioner of the Nameless Arte. There is not one single title that I identify with on a regular basis, but a collection of diverse practices that contribute to my identity. I am often hesitant to call myself anything when it comes to magical titles. Many of the words used to describe ourselves today originated during a time when people like us were feared. Many of the cultural terms for witch used in European vernacular during the Medieval Period were also associated with malevolent supernatural entities. If I had to choose a term that most closely describes what and who I am; it would have to be one of the old names used in the ancient world to describe sorcerous practitioners with the knowledge of botanical poisons and powers. The Greeks called them Pharmakos because of their knowledge of the powers of plants. In the Roman Empire they became known by the Latinized version of the earlier Greek title. The Veneficus of Rome specialized, not only in plant medicine, but also in botanical toxins. Assassination was a common occurrence in Roman political society, and the apothecary played a central role in the turning of political tides. With their knowledge of plant poisons and antidotes, a practitioner of the Venefic Arts could be an invaluable tool. Witchcraft was synonymous with the venefic arts in ancient times, and has remained a tool of the politically and socially oppressed.

In modern terms of religion I consider myself aPagan since I have never felt entirely comfortable using the termNeo-Pagan to describe myself or my practices. I dont see anything wrong with those who identify with this term, and I recognize it as a legitimate academic term. Just like other major religions, there are many diverse traditions under the umbrella of Paganism, Neo-Paganism included. Both titles are able to coexist simultaneously as they refer to different ends of the spectrum. The concept of religion as an institution based on specific doctrine is a relatively modern idea. Pagan spirituality as a whole does not fit into this compartment. I think as fellow Pagans we all follow a similar path when it comes to our reverence for nature and our relationship with the spirit world. There are many branches off of the path of paganism, each with its own unique cosmology.

Photographer Carey E. Ward.

The Path of Poisons and Witchlore

ThePoison PathorVeneficium as it has become known is a facet of traditional witch lore based on the ancient arte of plant magic. The story of the Fall, in which divine luminaries descended from the heavens is a central pillar of traditional witchcraft lore. The Fallen Ones brought knowledge of the arts to mankind, including the art of wortcunning. In addition to this knowledge, they made wives of the daughters of man, and through this union brought the legendary witchfire or Mark of Cain into the human gene pool. This ancient myth with its pre-Christian origins has been shared throughout human history preserved in occult lore. The Poison Path is just one of the ways in which we can unlock the secrets of the spirit world through communion and partnership with the spirits of nature.

Part of our practice on the verdant way is the collection and preservation of traditional plant lore. What we do not obtain from written sources we are able to learn directly from the plants themselves. Spending a lot of time in direct communion with plant-spirit allies is a great advantage to any practitioner of green witchcraft. Whether it be sitting with a single special plant of your own cultivation or immersing yourself in the forest surrounded by its collective spirit. One of the most effective devotional practices for building a strong bond with the green current is meditative walking in the forest, and cultivating traditional witch herbs. So much can be learned about the hidden nature of any plant by tending to it every day and watching it go through its life cycle.

Photographer Carey E. Ward. Lindenwood Nature Preserve.

Plants of Tradition

There are certain plants that are more associated with witchcraft and sorcery than any other. These are the herbs of traditional witch lore. The Nightshades are amongst some of the most infamous witchs herbs, including well known names like Belladonna and Mandrake. Other banes like Wolfsbane are associated with shapeshifting, sorcery and the Underworld. The infamous Fly Agaric Mushroom found across cultures has been used by shamanic practitioners to part the way between the worlds and travel back with newfound knowledge. All of these well-documented botanicals have been associated with magical practice and occult secrets over the centuries. I believe that these plants allied themselves with ancient men and women who were the first keepers of esoteric lore.

The plants within this category make powerful allies for any magical practitioner, and are not limited to those containing large amounts of toxins. Like many powerful plant spirits, just their presence and proximity is enough to bring one into a trance. Regular meditation with the living plant spirit is one of the best ways to develop a spiritual bond with the plant. Harvesting these plants is a sacrament in itself, and one of the primary practices of the green witch. The harvest ritual can be as simple or complex as the practitioner desires, and offerings are made to the spirit of the land. The plants retain their power within their bones long after their waters have left them.

Poisoners Accoutrement. Photographer Coby Michael Ward.

Underworld and Harvest

As plants of life, death and resurrection their bodies are transformed by their harvest-death returning from the Underworld as powerful spirit fetishes for artifice. Artificium is the creation of magical tools, objects and artifacts using sacred mineralogical and botanical materials, and is one of the artes of the path. Strangely enough the Nightshade plants of the Witchs Garden have roots that are perfect for the making of altar totems and ritually prepared homunculi. The berries, leaves and seed pods of these plants also produce natural amulets and tokens.

While different methods of ingestion and absorption have been utilized ritually and medicinally, it is imperative to gain ones own experience and understanding of the plants before any ritual ingestion is attempted of any kind. Any such ritual should be treated with reverence and rarity of occasion to maintain potency.

Green Witchcraft, or plant magic in general has associations with the Underworld via direct connection through the earth. The plants of the Poison Path draw nutrients up through their root systems, taking in energy from subterranean realms. While most plants draw their energy from the Sun, these shade loving denizens of the night draw their power directly from the Underworld. Their additional Saturnian correspondences further connect them to the Underworld. These witch allies nourish themselves with the dark and verdant light below, occasionally descending to its depths for protection. Because of their time spent in the Underworld during the winter months they are able to return more powerful or more numerous than before. Like a witch returning from a night at the Sabbath they bring with them new powers and lore.

The Underworld is a place of ancestral knowledge and where the hidden powers of nature reside. It is the repository for the Mysteries, where through initiatory experiences one returns with new understanding having communed with Elder Gods. The chthonic powers of the underworld are presided over by the Witch Queen or Queen of Elphame, whose consort and spirit retinue comprise the courts of the Fair Folk. It is the resting place of that divine fire that fell to Earth many millennia ago, still casting its dim green glow over the landscapes of the world below.

Plant-Based Magical Practices

The Poison Path or Crooked Way not only emphasizes the baneful herbs of medieval witchlore, but all plants with potent relationships with mankind. Understanding the balms and antidotes is the other side of the path as it weaves crookedly through the forest. Throughout history there have been certain plants that seem to have a special affinity towards humanity, plants like Ladys Mantle and Vervain are known for their powers as catalysts for magical operations. Such plants are also known for aiding practitioners in the practice of plant alchemy. There is a rich history of botanical lore that preserves medieval folk practices, and complex herbal preparations recorded in handwritten grimoires.

The historic relevancy and emphasis on academic research is another aspect that attracted me to classical witchcraft and the Poison Path. Part of my practice is piecing together bits and pieces of botanical folklore to create my own compendium of sorcerous allies. I am very interested in any documented historical use of the traditional plants of European witchcraft, and also any modern pharmacological research available on botanical entheogens. This path weaves together many facets of witchcraft mythos, including the Witches Sabbath and the infamous Flying Ointments of the Medieval Period. Interestingly we find many obscure pieces of magical practices hidden within the botanical folklore of the world. Many of the lost practices of antiquity can be regained through our direct communion with these elder spirits.

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The Poisoner: Pharmakos and Veneficus-Poisoner's Apothecary - Patheos (blog)

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The Summer of Love was more than hippies and LSD it was the start of modern individualism – Metro Newspaper UK

Posted: July 8, 2017 at 4:23 am

Nicholas Campion, Associate Professor in Cosmology and Culture, Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and the Performing Arts, The University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Something remarkable happened to the youth of the Western world 50 years ago. In the summer of 1967 a huge number of American teenagers nobody knows exactly how many, but some estimate between 100,000 and 200,000 escaped what they saw as their suburban prisons and made for the city district of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco.

We now look back on the Summer of Love the name originated at a meeting of counter-cultural leaders in the spring as a lost golden age of bliss, excitement and adventure; a paradise which can never be recreated. But in actual fact, this centre-piece of the 60s still looms large over popular culture and social mores today.

Drawing on utopian traditions which date back to the founding fathers, and fuelled by the euphoric and hallucinatory powers of marijuana and LSD, the summer of 1967 saw an extraordinary culture rise in a remarkably short space of time.

There was a creative explosion in the arts, music and fashion combined with a belief that the world could be born anew. Characterised by the vivid, flowing colours of psychedelic art, and a belief that love was the solution to all problems, hippy culture set out to transform the world by rejecting every social, political, economic and aesthetic feature of mainstream Western society.

This hippy revolution became a media sensation with the release of Scott Mackenzies song, San Francisco, in May 1967, which was a huge hit in the US and much of Europe.

The story goes that a paradise of peace and love prevailed in San Francisco for much of the year, but came sadly unstuck very soon after. This new Garden of Eden was destroyed progressively by the sheer numbers of teenagers who descended on Haight-Ashbury. One leading figure described the resulting chaos as a zoo.

Commercialisation of the hippie dream compounded the problem and disillusion set in. The twin shock of the Manson murders in August 1969, and the brutal killing by Hells Angels of an audience member at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont a few months later, provided the epitaph to an era.

According to this version, the survivors renounced psychedelia, abandoned the vain belief that love would solve everything and knuckled down to political action gay liberation, second wave feminism and environmentalism. Or they found gurus and became new agers. The 60s were sealed off, preserved in aspic as a lost golden age, a time of innocence. It was over, finished, forbidden to anyone who wasnt there.

However, like all golden age stories, this narrative is largely bogus.

Criticism of the Summer of Love mythology dates back to 1967 itself, to the Diggers named after the English radicals of 1649-50. This guerrilla street theatre group regarded the hippy phenomenon as a media creation, a distraction from the true attempt to build a new and more just society. They denounced the irresponsible preaching of psychedelic guru Timothy Leary, who urged teenagers to take LSD and renounce work and education, and attacked the catchy nonsense of MacKenzies song as a marketing ploy.

The truth is that like all apparently simple cultural phenomena, the Summer of Love was complex. There was a deep tension between the Diggers back-to-basics idealistic communism, the commercialism of hippy capitalists selling bells and beads, the advocates of psychedelic transformation, and the politicos of the new left based in Berkeley, California.

The single issue all these groups opposed was American involvement in Vietnam. When the war came to an end with the Paris peace accord in 1973, there was no longer a binding external enemy. The illusion of a single, principled counterculture vanished.

In reality, there was no single 60s, no golden age, and nothing to come to an end. Instead there were three taste cultures that all coincided, and started to change societys values.

The first of these cultures was based in fashion and music. Peacock styles for men long hair and bright colours and women in mini-skirts or flowing hippy garb. The second group were political revolutionaries, post and neo-Marxists for whom the transformation of socio-economic conditions was the pressing priority. The third group believed in inner transformation and liberation achieved through marijuana and LSD.

Though the three groups priorities were fundamentally different, they shared a belief that the past was old and stale, along with a commitment to unfettered individualism. There were, of course, still significant overlaps, and when psychedelic culture met the radical left, notions of protest as play and performance took centre stage.

Half a century on from the height of the Summer of Love, all three taste cultures have survived, but with a different relevance. Individuality and self-expression in fashion and music has continued unhindered. Traditions of political protest flourish as new targets are found in environmental activism and sexual politics. And new generations of spiritual seekers find inspiration in psychedelic drugs, now also known as entheogens.

Defining the 60s as a single unique period, a lost golden age, seals it off from contemporary experience. The sun may have set on the Summer of Love, but the warmth of its rays are still being felt today.

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The Summer of Love was more than hippies and LSD it was the start of modern individualism - Metro Newspaper UK

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The Summer of Love was more than hippies and LSD it was the … – The Conversation UK

Posted: July 7, 2017 at 2:22 am

Heading to San Francisco.

Something remarkable happened to the youth of the Western world 50 years ago. In the summer of 1967 a huge number of American teenagers nobody knows exactly how many, but some estimate between 100,000 and 200,000 escaped what they saw as their suburban prisons and made for the city district of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco.

We now look back on the Summer of Love the name originated at a meeting of counter-cultural leaders in the spring as a lost golden age of bliss, excitement and adventure; a paradise which can never be recreated. But in actual fact, this centre-piece of the 60s still looms large over popular culture and social mores today.

Drawing on utopian traditions which date back to the founding fathers, and fuelled by the euphoric and hallucinatory powers of marijuana and LSD, the summer of 1967 saw an extraordinary culture rise in a remarkably short space of time.

There was a creative explosion in the arts, music and fashion combined with a belief that the world could be born anew. Characterised by the vivid, flowing colours of psychedelic art, and a belief that love was the solution to all problems, hippy culture set out to transform the world by rejecting every social, political, economic and aesthetic feature of mainstream Western society.

This hippy revolution became a media sensation with the release of Scott Mackenzies song, San Francisco, in May 1967, which was a huge hit in the US and much of Europe.

The story goes that a paradise of peace and love prevailed in San Francisco for much of the year, but came sadly unstuck very soon after. This new Garden of Eden was destroyed progressively by the sheer numbers of teenagers who descended on Haight-Ashbury. One leading figure described the resulting chaos as a zoo.

Commercialisation of the hippie dream compounded the problem and disillusion set in. The twin shock of the Manson murders in August 1969, and the brutal killing by Hells Angels of an audience member at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont a few months later, provided the epitaph to an era.

According to this version, the survivors renounced psychedelia, abandoned the vain belief that love would solve everything and knuckled down to political action gay liberation, second wave feminism and environmentalism. Or they found gurus and became new agers. The 60s were sealed off, preserved in aspic as a lost golden age, a time of innocence. It was over, finished, forbidden to anyone who wasnt there.

However, like all golden age stories, this narrative is largely bogus.

Criticism of the Summer of Love mythology dates back to 1967 itself, to the Diggers named after the English radicals of 1649-50. This guerrilla street theatre group regarded the hippy phenomenon as a media creation, a distraction from the true attempt to build a new and more just society. They denounced the irresponsible preaching of psychedelic guru Timothy Leary, who urged teenagers to take LSD and renounce work and education, and attacked the catchy nonsense of MacKenzies song as a marketing ploy.

The truth is that like all apparently simple cultural phenomena, the Summer of Love was complex. There was a deep tension between the Diggers back-to-basics idealistic communism, the commercialism of hippy capitalists selling bells and beads, the advocates of psychedelic transformation, and the politicos of the new left based in Berkeley, California.

The single issue all these groups opposed was American involvement in Vietnam. When the war came to an end with the Paris peace accord in 1973, there was no longer a binding external enemy. The illusion of a single, principled counterculture vanished.

In reality, there was no single 60s, no golden age, and nothing to come to an end. Instead there were three taste cultures that all coincided, and started to change societys values.

The first of these cultures was based in fashion and music. Peacock styles for men long hair and bright colours and women in mini-skirts or flowing hippy garb. The second group were political revolutionaries, post and neo-Marxists for whom the transformation of socio-economic conditions was the pressing priority. The third group believed in inner transformation and liberation achieved through marijuana and LSD.

Though the three groups priorities were fundamentally different, they shared a belief that the past was old and stale, along with a commitment to unfettered individualism. There were, of course, still significant overlaps, and when psychedelic culture met the radical left, notions of protest as play and performance took centre stage.

Half a century on from the height of the Summer of Love, all three taste cultures have survived, but with a different relevance. Individuality and self-expression in fashion and music has continued unhindered. Traditions of political protest flourish as new targets are found in environmental activism and sexual politics. And new generations of spiritual seekers find inspiration in psychedelic drugs, now also known as entheogens.

Defining the 60s as a single unique period, a lost golden age, seals it off from contemporary experience. The sun may have set on the Summer of Love, but the warmth of its rays are still being felt today.

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The Summer of Love was more than hippies and LSD it was the ... - The Conversation UK

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Entheogen – PsychonautWiki

Posted: July 1, 2017 at 9:26 am

An entheogen ("generating the divine within")[2] is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context[3] that may be synthesized or obtained from natural sources. The chemical induces altered states of consciousness. Jonathan Ott helped coin the term "entheogen".[4]

Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years; their religious significance is well established with anthropological and modern evidence. Examples of traditional entheogens include psychedelics like peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga; atypical hallucinogens like salvia and Amanita muscaria; quasi-psychedelics like cannabis; and deliriants like datura.

With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic drugs with similar psychoactive properties, with many derived from these plants. Many pure active compounds with psychoactive properties have been isolated from these respective organisms and chemically synthesized including mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, salvinorin A, ibogaine, ergine, and muscimol. Semi-synthetic (e.g., LSD used by the New American Church) and synthetic drugs (e.g., DPT used by the Temple of the True Inner Light and 2C-B used by the Sangoma) have also been developed.[5]

More broadly, the term entheogen is used to refer to any psychoactive drug when used for its religious or spiritual effects, whether or not in a formal religious or traditional structure. This terminology is often chosen to contrast with the recreational use of the same drugs. Studies such as the Marsh Chapel Experiment have documented reports of spiritual experiences from participants who were administered psychoactive drugs in controlled trials.[6] Ongoing research is limited due to widespread drug prohibition; however, some countries have legislation that allows for traditional entheogen use.

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Entheogen - PsychonautWiki

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