Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Psychedelics, Jung, and Reich

Before talking about the connections between psychedelics and Jung, and Wilhelm Reich, I'd like to say a little bit about their responsible use.

Psychedelics, while not as dangerous as drug warriors say there are, can both create very pleasant experiences and lead people off psychic cliffs, into very negative states that can have effects that are long lasting and sometimes lifelong. People have in fact had their lives ruined by psychedelics through becoming psychologically crippled by them. Let's not sugarcoat the dangers or mince words.

However, there are ways to reduce the possibility that bad trips into hell leading to serious damage will happen. One way is honestly taking a look at yourself and your psychology, and honestly assessing whether or not you're a fairly stable, well grounded, person, at least at the time, before making the personal decision to use them. Do you have major psychological issues? If so it might be better to try experimenting with psychedelics when your issues are either resolved or under very good control, and if they're serious enough, not using them at all. Are you taking medications and if so are there known interactions between them and psychedelics? Think carefully about how your brain works and how you respond to stress. If you're on anti-depressants, know that psychedelics deplete serotonin and often lead to a temporary depression in the days afterwards.

Of course, part of being safe is using basic skills in evaluating what you're taking and what you do while you're on a trip. Know what you're taking and don't too much of it. Do it in a safe and quiet environment. Tell people that you're going to take psychedelics and keep the numbers of a few friends handy so that you can call them if something starts to go wrong. For that matter, try to have people near. Know that after the trip ends your brain will still be processing the experience for several days, and that there's the possibility that in that period of time unexpected emotions will come up, some due to the experience itself and some due to the chemical change in your brain.

But, for all of the potential doom and gloom, the most important thing is to go into the trip with a positive attitude and a sense of happiness, having the expectation that something really good will be able to happen.

Taking, buying, and possessing psychedelic drugs of many kinds is currently illegal in the United States and elsewhere, and I'm not advocating breaking these laws. Instead, I'm making information available. I'm also not a therapist, a counselor, or a psychologist, and am certainly not a psychiatrist. The following writing is not intended as medical advice, just as personal interpretation and reflection.

With that out of the way, let's look at Jung and Reich.

The psychedelic experience is an interesting way to access the mythic substratum of the unconscious mind, the collective unconscious that Jung writes about. The mind enters what could be called a mythic or epic consciousness, where conventional thought processes change into thought processes that work with the logic of myth and symbols, the same logic that often accompanies both fairy tales and epics that blend real action with that of heroes and gods. The archetypes and myths living in the collective unconscious come alive and interact with you during the psychedelic experience. Psychedelics open the door to that level of meaning and logic, allowing a kind of deep therapy between the conscious and the deep unconscious mind, acting in dialogue, to take place.

Reich's ideas intersect with the psychedelic experience through the apparent link between the collective unconscious and Reich's orgonomic core, or core being. The orgonomic core is the core person who exists beyond the layer of repressions and neuroses, Reich's secondary layer, that in turn lives behind the surface consciousness. The secondary layer is made up of our character armor, of the tensions, neuroses, and traumas recorded in both our minds and embodied in our muscles. The experience of the core self is often gotten through different states of sensual and sexual ecstasy, and orgone, Reich's life energy, is thought to be fully appreciated at peak experiences following the moment of orgasm.

Taking psychedelics appears to let us go down beyond the secondary layer to experience a fresh, less restricted, self, in a way that allows the normal self to see the core that's been hidden and bring back some of that perspective with it when it surfaces again. Whether that is due to mental reprogramming or to some other change is beside the point. Bringing the core back to the surface, integrating core self with surface self, often brings a fresh perspective embodied by "The Byrds" immortal phrase "I was so much older then I'm younger than that now". The consensus, however,is that it's very hard to keep the consciousness of the core self at the front of the mind constantly, and that eventually the overwhelming sensations of core self following the experience will subside back into a somewhat changed constant state. This suggests that more work, of a non-substance related kind, has to be done after the experience in order to make the most of what's brought up. Incidentally, experience of core self, which is beyond the negativity of repressions, appears to be sexually liberating as well in a positive way. Nature itself is thought to be sexual.

Through Jung's collective unconscious we can go even beyond our personal issues and archetypes and go into dialogue with the archetypes of the collective unconscious, bringing up mythic material that comes from unclear sources, perhaps primal cultural material that we're not even aware of that lives in our unconscious mind, perhaps in some case from somewhere else. Through communing with our energetic core selves it may be possible to commune also with the greater positive field of life force surrounding us at all times in nature, which provides a divine substratum to mythic existence, as well as a sexually charged one, whether sublimated or not. Reich alludes to universal sea of energy, a positive correlation to the 'oceanic experience' of Freud, in his later writings, where he suggests among other things that Jesus was a martyr to free simple living with the life force, thought to encourage a more generous perspective as well, and that his mysticism was the mysticism of the life that was out the around him and within his body, existing in a guilt free, natural, way. In my opinion, the compassion part is up for grabs, although many people have reported becoming more compassionate after using psychedelics.

It should also be possible to use mythic texts to understand or program your experience, as Leary did with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, making a differentiation between possible religious contents and the core ecstatic experience. Although the Book of the Dead has been recommended many times, I think that the more positive mythic texts, like those making up the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, have more potential, in that they're not personal journeys but raw, core, experience of the world. In my opinion, and I know that many people will object to it, the chapter "Frogs" from the Rig Veda is a direct reference to the psychedelic experience, and not a criticism of certain Brahmins as is usually thought to be. The stories of the Gods and Goddesses, epic supernatural adventures as well as creation hymns can also be used. But be sure to moderate everything so that you don't get into a mythic tunnel and never come out of it. It's essential to ground back to reality, although reality is not as hard a stone as some people think it is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

psychedelics deplete serotonin?