Chapter IV EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN
The purpose of the experiment in which psychedelic drugs were administered in a religious context was to gather empirical data about the state of consciousness experienced. These data form the basis for a comparison with the typology of the mystical state of consciousness which has been presented above. Tape recordings, written accounts, questionnaires, and personal interviews were used to collect the data.
Although descriptions in the psychopharmacological literature of the effects of these substances (LSD, mescaline and psilocybin) vary from "model psychosis" to "transcendental experience", investigators seem to agree that an alteration in the usual state of consciousness is produced. Researchers who report "transcendental" experiences in their subjects claim that set and setting are important factors.1
Î-For a general statement of this position see T. Leary's article, "How to Change Behavior," in Clinical Psychology, ed. G.S. Nielsen (Proceedings of the XIV International Congress of Applied Psychology, Vol. IV; Copenhagen! Munksgaard, 1962), pp.62-64. A more detailed account of the application and' implications of this approach from the work of Leary's group is given by R. Hetzner, G. Litwin, and G. Weil in The Relation of Expectation and Setting to Experience wltï) Psilocybin» A Questionnaire study (Dittoed by Harvard
Set is defined as the personal expectation, mood, mental attitude and past experience of the subject; setting is the external environment and atmosphere and includes the expectations of the investigator. Trust and confidence in both the administrator and the situation are emphasized as crucial. In this view, the drug is seen as the necessary means by which this kind of potential experience may be actualized in a person who is properly handled and prepared.
The kinds of experiences reported by those who have studied the use of these substances in religious ceremonies
seem to support this theory. Both the setting and psychological expectation are conducive to en experience of great positive significance for the participant. The participant knows what the procedure of the ceremony will be, and feels
University Department of Social Relations) pp. 1-30. The method pioneered by A.M. Hubbard and used by the Canadian investigators, N. Chwelos, D.B. Blewett, C.M. Smith, A. Hoffer, H. Osmond, J.R. MacLean, D.C. MacDonald and U.P. Byrne, is explained in detail in Chwelos and Blewett's Handbook for the Therapeutic Use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide 2 5 (to be published), pp. 15-48. Sherwood, Stolaroff, and Harman have come to similar conclusions (o£. cit. p. 69).
As was mentioned in Chapter II, the following have been participant-observers in Indian ceremonies in which eacred mushrooms or peyote were eaten» Wasson and Wasson (o£. cit. pp. 287-316), Slotkin (Tomorrow Magazine. Vol. IV, No. 3/, pp. 64-70), and Osmond (Tomorrow Magazine. Vol. IX, No. 2, pp. 105-125).
at ease as part of a group which undergoes the experience together.
The effects of set and setting were planned to maximize the possibility that mystical phenomena would occur. The assumption was made that for experiences most useful for comparison with the typology of mysticism, the atmosphere should be broadly comparable to that achieved by tribes who actually use natural psychedelic substances in religious ceremonies. The particular content and procedure of the ceremony had to be made applicable (i.e., familiar and meaningful) for the participants. Attitude toward the experience, both before and during, was taken into serious consideration in the experimental design. Preparation was meant to maximize positive expectation, trust, confidence, and reduction of fear. Setting was planned to utilize this preparation through group support and rapport, friendship, an open and trusting atmosphere, and previous acquaintance with the procedure of the experiment in order to eliminate, if possible, feelings of manipulation which might arise. The physical environment was a private chapel. There, on Good Friday, a two-and-one-half-hour religious service which consisted of organ music, four solos, readings, prayers, and personal meditation was attended by twenty Christian theological students, some of whom had taken psilocybin prior to the service.
Choice of Drug Psilocybin was chosen because its duration of action is only four to five hours, compared to eight to ten for LSD and ten to twelve for mescaline, in doses equivalent in potency. The practical problem of the time needed to supervise experimental subjects dictated that the use of psilocybin was more feasible. Claims of various differences in the effects of these three drugs have not been conclusively demonstrated, e.g., greater color and visual imagery with mescaline, or more unpleasant reactions with LSD. Any apparent advantage of psilocybin in terms of less preoccupation with imagery or generally more pleasant reaction is perhaps because psilocybin is newer and has not yet been researched as thoroughly. Also, because of the greater potency per
3Unger summarizes the evidence (o£. clt., pp. 2-3 of his manuscript copy). The similarity between LSD and mescaline is stated by P. Hoch, H. Pennes, J. Cattell, Chemical Concepts of Psychosis, ed. M. Rinkel (New York» McDowell, 1958), p. 143. H. Ishell found similar effects produced by LSD and psilocybin ("Comparison of the reactions induced by psilocybin and LSD-25 in man," Psychopharmologja. Vol. I 1959 , p> 37). He also reported cross-tolerance which indicates the probability of a coit\mon pathway for LSD and psilocybin (H. Isbell et. al., "CroBB-tolerance between LSD and poilocybin," PBychopharmologla. Vol, II 1961 , pp. 147-159).
unit weight of LSD, comparisons are not always between dosage effects of equivalent potencies. Higher doses of the same drug usually produce more intense effects, whether positive or negative. The oral dosage of psilocybin used was 30 mg. This dosage corresponds roughly to 150-200 micrograms of LSD or 500-750 mg. of mescaline. The controls received 200 mg. of nicotinic acid in identical capsules. This control substance produces transient vasodilation of blood vessels in the skin, especially of the face, and general relaxation.4 This was used to potentiate suggestion in the control subjects, all of whom knew that psilocybin produced various somatic effects, but none of whom had ever had psilocybin or any related substance before the experiment.
Subjects were student volunteers from a local theological seminary. They were recruited through a lecture on rehabilitation-experiments in which psilocybin was given to convicts at the Concord State Prison. Those students who wanted a personal experience with psilocybin met with the experimenter. At this meeting it was explained that psilocybin would be administered during a private Good Friday wor-
Was this article helpful?