Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Dawn of Faith-based Pharmaceuticals

"Faith is believing what you know ain't so."--Mark Twain

In his landmark book on the meaning of the psychedelic experience "Doors of Perception", Aldous Huxley wonders whether it might be possible for a person through hypnotic induction to re-experience a previous psychedelic state and thereby gain access to a drug-like experience without ingesting a drug. Hypnosis is able to achieve anesthesia, positive hallucination (seeing something that isn't there), negative hallucination (blindness to something that is obvious to others), anomalous bodily changes including rigidity, compulsive actions, burning sensations with accompanying blisters. With a track record for creating so many unusual sensory/motor phenomena, the production of drug states though hypnosis would not seem out of the question.

If a hypnotist can fool Homer's body/mind into believing that his hand has been burned by a toothpick, it should not be difficult, using similar procedures, to convince Homer that his coffee has been dosed with LSD.

And indeed, some experts on mental suggestion have been doing just that. Practitioners of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) call this procedure "Drug of Choice" and claim to be able to induce in a few minutes an experience indistinguishable from, say, a marijuana high, without the use of marijuana. Here Jonathan Altfeld, a prominent NLP spokesman, outlines a basic induction procedure for accomplishing "Drug of Choice". Here, Richard Bandler, one of the founders of NLP, offers for sale an English/German audio CD called "All the Way Down", which showcases one of his own "Drug of Choice" induction procedures.

The Internet was developed by scientists for the purpose of speeding up their research by efficiently sharing large quantities of scientific data in graphical form. The Internet (plus inexpensive video cameras) has been a real boon for hypnosis research because for the first time hypnotists from all over the world can video their induction techniques and share their procedures with other hypnotists without having to meet in person.

One of the prime movers among web-savvy hypnotists is Brian David Phillips who runs the blog "Life of Brian". Brian is the founder of the Society of Experiential Trance, an organization which, among other things, helps share information among fellow hypnotists, largely though the exchange of video clips. Each month or so, a new hypno-theme is announced and hypnotists are encouraged to contribute videos related to that theme. Past themes of Brian's "Hypnotic Video Challenge" have included "handshake induction", "sticky hypnosis", "voodoo hypnosis" and "hypnotic triggers". The theme for July 2007 was "Psychedelic Trance" and Brian has posted a few videos related to this psychedelic challenge on his blogsite.

Whether under the NLP guise of "Drug of Choice" or SET's "Psychedelic Trance", it seems that we are witnessing here the first humble beginnings of an imminent "dawn of faith-based pharmaceuticals", ushering in a new era in which real drugs will be used only once (for familiarization with the target state) and as a last resort for those who lack the sort of vivid imagination necessary to achieve psychedelic states without the aid of molecular crutches. Further advantages of this drug-free mental tech include the elimination of unpleasant chemical side effects and the possible production of entirely new psychedelic experiences unattainable via purely chemical pathways.

One of the advantages of a brand new science is that an amateur can hope to make important discoveries before the big guys move in and hog all the action. Particle accelerators and large telescopes are essentially closed to the man in the street, but everyone does possess the necessary machinery--one sensitive conscious mind--to do pioneer research in psychedelic suggestibility.

Luckily I was able to purchase at the Boulder Creek Drugstore what I needed for my research without a lab license or filling out a Federal form. The girl at the register was completely unaware that she was selling Nick the physical ingredients for home-brewing a WOMPP.

What is a WOMPP? you might ask. "WOrld's Most Powerful Placebo" I would reply.

WOrld's Most Powerful Placebo

With the proper props and patter
demonstrates what "psychedelic" means
Melts in your mind, not in your hand
In der Seele schmeltzen, nicht in der Hand
Now how's that said in Japanese?

Back at the quantum tantra ashram, I sorted the potentially mind-altering tablets into three categories, distinguishing them by color: the RED ONES will produce an empathy-expansive experience like MDMA (or "ecstasy"); the ORANGE ONES produce an ego-dissolving experience like LSD ("orange sunshine"); the GREEN ONES produce a overwhelming sexual arousal comparable to the potent fictional aphrodisiac that so captivated Uncle Oswald (see previous post). The potency of these pills is specified by the lower-case "m" which stands for "megadose". Meaning that the stuff I get from the Boulder Creek Drugstore is exceptionally strong. Beginners beware.

Timothy Leary, PhD, experimenting with "real drugs" at Harvard and elsewhere, emphasized the importance of "set and setting" for orchestrating a beneficial psychedelic trip. S&S are probably even more important in this new faith-based context for successfully attaining a powerful yet safe drug-free psychedelic state.

A good psychological set, I imagine, would be curious, non-judgemental, exploratory and flexible. Watching how my cat moves is good training in this regard. Taking a long relaxing bath would be good preparation as well as examining my purposes in initiating this excursion into an altered state using a colored m-pill as springboard. These tablets work best on an empty stomach so fasting for 8 hours or so would not be a bad idea.

Darkness rather than light, I prefer. And some kind of water present, either a bathtub, a hot tub, swimming pool or ocean. Sensuous, safe and surrounded by living things. A place free from interruptions: turn off the phone and the computer. Comfortable loose clothing, or naked, as the circumstances dictate. The presence of good friends is particularly welcome (especially with the red and green pills), or alone with the orange pill. Lotion for massage. Media for taking notes. Coffee and fruit drinks in case of thirst. And perhaps a bit of marijuana to amplify my native gullibility.

For a WOMPP to work effectively the ability to willfully entertain a state of colossal gullibility (also called vivid imagination) is absolutely essential. Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman once said that the key to doing science well is not to fool yourself. For conventional science that's certainly good advice. But faith-based science, Professor Feynman, works by different rules. The more you can fool yourself the better these pills work. In the right hands (and inside the right minds) powerful placebos will take you places that drugs cannot even dream of. The yellow m-pills, for instance, initiate telepathic contact with animals and tree spirits. Experienced placebo trippers are calling these yellow megadose tablets "Disneys".


Anonymous said...

Nice read! Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed it. Check out Richard Strassman's work on DMT along the lines of your blog post:

Visit my blog, Heterodoxies, if you get a chance:

Here's a read you might enjoy on The Quantum Surrender of Science:

Anonymous said...

You can do something like this via lucid dreaming. Best are the drugs you've never done, your imagination fills the gaps in miraculous ways.

fluxion said...

There's a paper from the 60s by Fogel and Hoffer where using hypnosis they first interrupted an LSD-induced psychedelic state in a subject and then in a second session they reproduced it without drugs. In case anyone's interested here is a link to the full text:

Helix said...

Great experiment! A guy I used to know once told me how he and his friends gave grape juice to another friend, telling him it was booze, and he got quite drunk off that grape juice!

I've had some very pleasant sensations occur while swimming or snorkeling in the ocean, I think it has to do partly with the waves passing through me in repetition. Or maybe I just love the beach!

Anonymous said...

I gave a fellow student in high school placebo LSD in the 60s and watched her notes gets progressively 'stoned' as her handwriting disintegrated. She believed and she got high.

linus r. said...

there is obviously an underlying faith or "mysticism" in the Frisco "psychedelic underground" underlying LSD that has nothing to do with actually taking the drug.... when Marshall McLuhan suggested that Leary invent a snappy motto for the "promotion of LSD" (e.g. "turn on, tune in, drop out"), this was by no means limited to actually taking LSD, or even taking the drug in the first place....

jennyn said...



Anonymous said...

I am very excited to see you blogging AND venturing into this realm. I am a big fan of your books, and have used hypno as a way to try to alter my own 'quantum state' and was able to vanish pain and return to walking shortly after rupturing my disc left me mostly paralyzed.
I studied psych in school and had a strong interest in the seemingly 'supernatural' effects of hypnosis on physiology, but it wasn't till I discovered you're writings, that I realized I could perhaps explore where the academicians fear to tread.
To date, I have hypnotized a number of friends, who have previously used psychedelics of many varieties, and have been able to reproduce for them both the internal sensation, experience, but also the physiological sensations as well through deep trance. e.g., high on pot produces VERY bloodshot slightly swollen eyes, acid with very dialated pupils, etc.
however there ARE a few OTHER states I'd like to ask you about, doc. I'd very much love to hear from you,
best wishes,

Anonymous said...

also forgot to mention, I've been developing a hypnosis file to reproduce the psycho-physiological effects of marijuana. if you know anyone who may be interested in testing and giving feedback... ???
perhaps once it's appropriately 'tuned' we can send it around freely and call the file WOMP in your honor... hahaha... :D