Drugs and Generations: Drug Effects, LSD and “My Generation”
Drugs and Generations
The preeminent researcher on the effects of LSD on consciousness is, without question, Stanislav Grof. In his many works, he concurs with Masters and Houston’s early work that the initial phases of psychedelic experience are predominantly enhanced sensory awareness. It is this type of experience that is usually related to the use of LSD as when the experience is expressed in colorful and swirling images, which has been called psychedelic art. And for many people who used LSD, the experience remained on this level of surface, enhanced sensory awareness. Thus they could use it for “recreational” purposes.
But more often with LSD people accessed deeper levels of the mind, so that the recollective-analytic (Grof calls it the biographical or psychodynamic level) is reached, as well as levels beyond it. These levels were accessed even when the drug was used “recreationally,” because of the relative potency of the drug as compared with marijuana.
So it was that while Grof and other researchers like Masters and Houston were studying the drugs effects in controlled settings and with sessions guided by researchers who had experience with accessing deeper levels of the experience (as, for example, Grof himself), there was some degree of access of the deeper levels of the experience even by people using it in uncontrolled situations and with no guidance. It if for this reason that there were some calamities that occurred under the influence of the drug, which gave it the bad reputation that caused it to be banned. Yet for every disaster, there were many more whose experience of LSD was transformative, simply due to the fact that, even without a guide, the psyche’s normal tendency is toward growth and resolution; so, many people were able to flow with and be taken to deeper, more transformative levels of the experience.
For example, Stanislav Grof terms the third level of psychedelic experience the perinatal, meaning “surrounding birth.” It is equivalent to what Masters and Houston termed the symbolic level—the difference being due to the fact that perinatal material is initially experienced in highly symbolic ways, and it is only in later sessions with the drug that the birth material becomes more apparent. Since Masters and Houston’s research method was to study the effects of one session of the drug on over two hundred subjects and Grof’s method included its use with some individuals over a number of sessions, it is understandable why Masters and Houston did not discover the birth material laced through the encounters with their “symbolic” level. But beyond the symbolic level the researchers concur once again, with Masters and Houston calling the deepest level integral, and describing a number and variety of spiritual experiences that can happen at that level, and Grof terming the same level the transpersonal , and presenting in exquisite detail in his works a vast array of “spiritual” type experiences at that level.
With this in mind, I wish to point out that the Sixties Generation did not know of these levels and, for the most part, were totally unaware of the research that was coming up with these typographies or architectures of the psyche, or of at least the drug experience. Nevertheless, those of us who lived through that period and either participated in LSD use or heard the stories of psychedelic experiencers can attest that transformative spiritual experiences were quite common, even when the drug was used just for the “fun” sensory part, and people also described experiences of curling up in fetal position and reliving their births, long before anyone even heard the term perinatal. As concerns the spiritual level, it was not uncommon to hear of people who saw Jesus, or who went to a place they could only describe as “heaven,” and this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the varieties of spiritual experiences that were had.
For our purposes here, however, it is important to keep in mind that LSD had the capacity to take one to deeper realities than the horrifying recollective-analytic one. One might say that the recollective-analytic perception is a cognitive view, an intellectual view, or an existential view, and it is certainly an alienated one; but that most of all it lacks the aspect of “the heart.” In other words, it is only when one goes deeper into the psyche and “feels” the Pain of that estrangement, or in psychedelic terms goes deeper into the actual reliving of the traumas that caused the creation of those alienating scripts (as happens on LSD when the biographical or psychodynamic level is reached; and even more so when the perinatal level is worked through, relived), that one can go beyond the horrifying reality of estrangement to a reality in which one’s “heart” is opened and one can catch a glimpse of a reality beyond the normal one—one in which we are all spiritually connected, in Love.
It is significant to point out that LSD has this capacity beyond the use of pot so we might understand the differences between the Beat Generation’s reaction to their perception of the unreality of existence, obtained in their use of marijuana, and the Sixties Generation’s quite different reaction to that perception of social phoniness, who were influenced by the use of both marijuana and LSD.
Vietnam-Era Generation–“Wow, Man!” “Just Do It” “Go With the Flow”
The Vietnam-War, or Baby-Boomer, Generation was noted for their use of a number of drugs. Marijuana, wine, “speed” (amphetamines), “downers” (e.g., “ludes” or qualudes, also “reds”—i.e., barbiturates), LSD, other hallucinogens such as mescaline, “magic mushrooms,” psilocybin, and peyote were all in use. It was a culture of experimentation in all areas, including drugs, which grew out of beliefs (following in the footsteps of the Beat Generation) that normal life/people were characterized by phoniness (plastic was the Vietnam-era Generation’s word for it), alienation, conformism, robotism, and lack of feelingness…and hypocrisy.
Though the Sixties Generation (another term used for this generation) experimented widely with drugs, their predominant drugs of choice were “pot” (marijuana) and LSD. Alongside this sort of drug use were attitudes of activism, free love, love as the ultimate value and/or as equivalent to God, pacifism in regards to the war, the valuing of openness, authenticity, “real” communication, and passion and/or feelingness, including sensory awareness or heightened perception of the physical world.
It is easy to make the connection between the spiritual access capable with LSD and the emphasis on feeling, community, communication (‘rapping”), transcendence, and sensory enhancement that characterized the Sixties Generation. On the negative side, there was sometimes apathy and defeatism, like the Beat Generation, associated with marijuana use.
“Culture War, Class War Chapter Three:
Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Opposing Worlds”
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