Use Of Lsd In The Development Of Paranormal Abilities

Much historical and anthropological evidence and numerous anecdotal observations from clinical research suggest that psychedelic substances can occasionally facilitate extrasensory perception. In many cultures visionary plants were administered in the context of spiritual healing ceremonies as means to diagnose and cure diseases. Equally frequent was their use for other magical purposes, such as locating lost objects or persons, astral projection, perception of remote events, precognition, and clairvoyance. Most of the drugs used for these purposes have been mentioned earlier in connection with religious rituals. They include the resin or leaves of hemp (Cannabis iridica or sativa) in Africa and Asia; fly-agaric mushrooms among various Siberian tribes and North American Indians; the plant

Tabertiatithe iboga among certain African ethnic groups; the snuffs cohoba (Anadenanthera peregrina) and epend (Virola theidora) of South America and the Caribbean; and the three basic psychedelics of the Pre-Columbian cultures—the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsU), the sacred mushrooms teonanacatl (Psilo-cybe tncxicana) and ololiuqui or morning glory seeds (Ipomoea violacea). Of special interest seems to he yagâ, a brew prepared from the jungle creeper Batii-slcriopsis caapi and other "vines of the dead" used by South American Indians in the Amazon valley. Harmin, also called yageine or banisterine, one of the active alkaloids isolated from the Banisteriopsis plant, has actually been referred to as lelepathine. The psychedelic states induced by the extracts of these plants seem to be especially powerful enhancers of paranormal phenomena. The most famous example of the unusual properties of yagé can be found in the reports of McGovern, (69) one of the anthropologists who described this plant. According to his description, a local medicine man saw in remarkable detail the death of the chief of a faraway tribe at the time when it was happening; the accuracy of his account was verified many weeks later. A similar experience was reported by Manuel Cordova-Rios (53) who accurately saw the death of his mother in his yagé session and was later able to verify all the details. All psychedelic cultures seem to share the belief that not only is extrasensory perception enhanced during the actual intoxication by sacred plants, but the systematic use of these substances facilitates development of paranormal abilities in everyday life.

Much anecdotal material collected over the years by psychedelic researchers supports the above beliefs. Masters and Houston (65) have described the case of a housewife who in her LSD session saw her daughter in the kitchen of their home looking for the cookie jar. She further reported seeing the child knock a sugar bowl from a shelf and spill sugar on the floor. This episode was later confirmed by her husband. The same authors also reported an LSD subject who saw "a ship caught in ice floes, somewhere in the northern seas." According to the subject, the ship had on its bow the name "France." It was later confirmed that the France had indeed been trapped in ice near Greenland at the time of the subject's LSD session. The famous psychologist and parapsychologieal researcher Stanley Krippner (49) visualized, during a psilocybin session in 1962, the assassination of John F. Kennedy which took place a year later. Similar observations were reported by Humphrey Osmond, Duncan Blewett, Abram Hoffer, and other researchers. The literature on the subject has been critically reviewed in a synoptic paper by Krippner and Davidson. (50)

In my own clinical experience, various phenomena suggesting extrasensory perception are relatively frequent in LSD psychotherapy, particularly in advanced sessions. They range from a more-or-less vague anticipation of future events or an awareness of remote happenings to complex and detailed scenes in the form of vivid clairvoyant visions. This may be associated with appropriate sounds, such as spoken words and sentences, noises produced by motor vehicles, sounds of fire engines and ambulances, or the blowing of horns. Some of these experiences can later be shown to correspond in varying degrees with actual events. Objective verification in this area can be particularly difficult. Unless these instances are reported and clearly documented during the actual psychedelic sessions there is a great danger of contamination of the data. Loose interpretation of events, distortions of memory, and the possibility of déjà vu phenomena during the perception of later occurrences are a few of the major pitfalls involved.

The most interesting paranormal phenomena occurring in psychedelic sessions are out-of-the-body experiences and the instances of traveling clairvoyance and clairaudience. The sensation of leaving one's body is quite common in drug-induced states and can have various forms and degrees. Some persons experience themselves as completely detachcd from their physical bodies, hovering above them or observing them from another part of the room. Occasionally, the subjects can lose the awareness of the actual physical setting altogether and their consciousness moves into experiential realms and subjective realities that appear to be entirely independent of the material world. They may then identify entirely with the body images of the protagonists of these scenes, be they persons, animals, or archetypal entities. In exceptional cases the individual may have a complex and vivid experience of moving to a specific place in the physical world, and give a detailed description of a remote locale or event. Attempts to verify such extrasensory perceptions can sometimes result in amazing corroborations. In rare instances, the subject can actively control such a process and "travel" at will to any location or point in time he or she chooses. A detailed description of an experience of this kind illustrating the nature and complexity of the problems involved has been published in my book Realms of the Human Uticonseiotis, p. 187. (32)

Objective testing by the standard laboratory techniques used in parapsycho-logical research has generally been quite disappointing and has failed to demonstrate an increase of extrasensory perception as a predictable and constant aspect of the LSD effect. Masters and Houston (65) tested LSD subjects with the use of a special card deck developed in the parapsychology laboratory at Duke University. The deck contains twenty-five cards, each of which has a geometrical symbol: a star, circle, cross, square, or wavy lines. The results of the experiments in which LSD subjects attempted to guess the identity of these cards were statistically nonsignificant. A similar study conducted by Whittlesey (102) and a card-guessing experiment with psilocybin subjects reported by van Asperen de Boer, Barkema and Kappers (6) were equally disappointing, though an interesting finding in the first of these studies was a striking decrease of variance; the subjects actually guessed closer to mean chance expectation than predicted mathematically. Unpublished findings of Walter Pahnke's parapsychological research at the Maryland Psychiatric Besearch Center suggest that the statistical approach to this problem might be misleading. In this project, Walter Pahnke used a modified version of the Duke University cards in the form of electronic keyboard panels. The LSD subject had to guess the key that had been lit on a panel in an adjacent room either manually or by a computer. Although the results for the entire group of LSD subjects were not statistically significant, certain individuals achieved strikingly high scores in some of the measurements.

Some researchers voiced objections to the uninteresting and unimaginative approach to the study of parapsychological phenomena represented by repetitive card guessing. In general, such a procedure does not have much chance in the competition for the subject's attention as compared to some of the exciting subjective experiences that characterize the psychedelic state. In an attempt to make the task more appealing, Cavanna and Servadio (19) used emotionally-loaded materials rather than cards; photographic color prints of incongruous paintings were prepared for the experient. Although one subject did remarkably well, the overall results were nonsignificant. Karlis Osis (73) administered LSD to a number of "mediums" who were given objects and asked to describe the owners. One medium was unusually successful, but most of the others became so interested in the aesthetic and philosophical aspects of the experience, or so caught up in their personal problems, that they found it difficult to maintain concentration on the task.

By far the most interesting data emerged from a pilot study designed by Masters and Houston (65) who used emotionally charged images with sixty-two LSD subjects. The experiments were conducted in the termination periods of the sessions, when it is relatively easy to focus on specific tasks. Forty-eight of the individuals tested approximated the target image at least two times out of ten, while five subjects made successful guesses at least seven times out of ten. For example, one subject visualized "tossed seas" when the correct image was a Viking ship in a storm. The same subject guessed "lush vegetation" when the image was rain forests in the Amazon, "a camel" when the image was an Arab on a camel, "the Alps" when the picture was the Himalayas, and "a Negro picking cotton in a field" when the target was a plantation in the South.

The study of paranormal phenomena in psychedelic sessions presents many technical problems. In addition to the problems of getting the subject interested and keeping his or her attention on the task, Blewett (12) also emphasized the rapid flow of eidetic imagery that interferes with the ability of the subject to stabilize and choose the response that might have been triggered by the target. The methodological difficulties in studying the effect of psychedelic drugs on extrasensory perception or other paranormal abilities and the lack of evidence in the existing studies cannot, however, invalidate some quite extraordinary observations in this area. Every LSD therapist with sufficient clinical experience has collected enough challenging observations to take this problem seriously. I myself have no doubt that psychedelics can occasionally induce elements of genuine extrasensory perception at the time of their pharmacological effect. On occasion, the occurrence of certain paranormal abilities and phenomena can extend beyond the day of the session. A fascinating observation that is closely related and deserves attention in this context is the frequent accumulation of extraordinary coincidences in the lives of persons who had experienced transpersonal phenomena in their psychedelic sessions. Such coincidences are objective facts, not just subjective interpretations of perceptual data; they are similar to the observations that Carl Gustav Jung described in his essay on synchronicity. (44)

The discrepancy between the occurrence of parapsychological phenomena in LSD sessions and the negative results of specific laboratory studies seems to reflect the fact that an increase in ESP is not a standard and constant aspect of the LSD effect. Psychological states conducive to various paranormal phenomena and characterized by an unusually high incidence of ESP are among the many alternative mental conditions that can be facilitated by this drug; in other types of LSD experiences the ESP abilities seem to be on the same level as they are in the everyday state of consciousness, or even further reduced. Future research will have to assess if the otherwise unpredictable and elemental incidence of paranormal abilities in psychedelic states can be harnessed and systematically cultivated, as it is indicated in shamanic literature.

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