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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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This careful preparation means that a certain expectancy effect is probably unavoidable. After all, the researchers are preparing people for a major experience, involving death and rebirth and holding the potential for transformation. “It would be irresponsible not to warn volunteers these things could happen,” Griffiths pointed out when I asked if his volunteers were being “primed” for a certain kind of experience. One volunteer—the physicist—told me that the “mystical experience questionnaire” he filled out after every session also planted expectations. “I long to see some of the stuff hinted at in the questionnaire,” he wrote after an underwhelming session—perhaps on the placebo. “Seeing everything as alive and connected, meeting the void, or some embodiment of deities and things like that.” In this and so many other ways, it seems, the Hopkins psilocybin experience is the artifact not only of this powerful molecule but also of the preparation and expectations of the volunteer, the skills and worldviews of the sitters, Bill Richards’s flight instructions, the decor of the room, the inward focus encouraged by the eyeshades and the music (and the music itself, much of which to my ears sounds notably religious), and, though they might not be pleased to hear it, the minds of the designers of the experiments.

The sheer suggestibility of psychedelics is one of their defining characteristics, so in one sense it is no wonder that so many of the first cohort of volunteers at Hopkins had powerful mystical experiences: the experiment was designed by three men intensely interested in mystical states of consciousness. (And it is likewise no wonder that the European researchers I interviewed all failed to see as many instances of mystical experience in their subjects as the Americans did in theirs.) And yet, for all the priming going on, the fact remains that the people who received a placebo simply didn’t have the kinds of experiences that volunteer after volunteer described to me as the most meaningful or significant in their lives.

Soon after a volunteer takes her pill from the little chalice, but before she feels any effects, Roland Griffiths will usually drop by the session room to wish her bon voyage. Griffiths often uses a particular metaphor that made an impression on many of the volunteers I spoke to. “Think of yourself as an astronaut being blasted into outer space,” Richard Boothby recalled him saying. Boothby is a philosophy professor who was in his early fifties when he volunteered at Hopkins. “You’re going way out there to take it all in and engage with whatever you find there, but you can be confident that we’ll be here keeping an eye on things. Think of us as ground control. We’ve got you covered.”

For the astronaut being blasted into space, the shudder of liftoff and strain of escaping Earth’s gravitational field can be wrenching—even terrifying. Several volunteers describe trying to hold on for dear life as they felt their sense of self rapidly disintegrating. Brian Turner, who at the time of his journey was a forty-four-year-old physicist working for a military contractor (with a security clearance), put it this way:

I could feel my body dissolving, beginning with my feet, until it all disappeared but the left side of my jaw. It was really unpleasant; I could count only a few teeth left and the bottom part of my jaw. I knew that if that went away I would be gone. Then I remembered what they told me, that whenever you encounter anything scary, go toward it. So instead of being afraid of dying I got curious about what was going on. I was no longer trying to avoid dying. Instead of recoiling from the experience, I began to interrogate it. And with that, the whole situation dissolved into this pleasant floaty feeling, and I became the music for a while.

Soon after, he found himself “in a large cave where all my past relationships were hanging down as icicles: the person who sat next to me in second grade, high school friends, my first girlfriend, all of them were there, encased in ice. It was very cool. I thought about each of them in turn, remembering everything about our relationship. It was a review—something about the trajectory of my life. All these people had made me what I had become.”

Amy Charnay, a nutritionist and herbalist in her thirties, came to Hopkins after a crisis. An avid runner, she had been studying forest ecology when she fell from a tree and shattered her ankle, ending both her running and her forestry careers. In the early moments of her journey, Amy was overcome by waves of guilt and fear.

“The visual I had was from the 1800s and I was up on this stage. Two people next to me were slipping a noose around my neck while a crowd of people watched, cheering for my death. I felt drenched with guilt, just terrified. I was in a hell realm. And I remember Bill asking, ‘What’s going on?’

“‘I’m experiencing a lot of guilt.’ Bill replied, ‘That’s a very common human experience,’ and with that, the whole image of being hanged pixilated and then just disappeared, to be replaced by this tremendous sensation of freedom and interconnectedness. This was huge for me. I saw that if I can name and admit a feeling, confess it to someone, it would let go. A little older and wiser, now I can do this for myself.”

Some time later, Charnay found herself flying around the world and through time perched on the back of a bird. “I was aware enough to know my body was on the couch, but I was leaving my body and experiencing these things firsthand. I found myself in a drumming circle with an indigenous tribe somewhere, and I was being healed but was also being the healer. This was very profound for me. Not having that traditional lineage [of a healer], I had always felt like I was a phony doing plant medicine, but this made me see I was connected to the plants and to people who use plants, whether for rituals or psychedelics or salad!”

During a subsequent session, Charnay reconnected with a boyfriend from her youth who had died in a car accident at nineteen. “All of a sudden there is a piece of Phil living in my left shoulder. I’ve never had an experience like that, but it was so real. I don’t know why he’s yellow and lives in my left shoulder—what does that even mean?—but I don’t care. He’s back with me.” Such reconnections with the dead are not uncommon. Richard Boothby, whose twenty-three-year-old son had committed suicide a year earlier after years of drug addiction, told me, “Oliver was more present to me now than he had ever been before.”

The supreme importance of surrendering to the experience, however frightening or bizarre, is stressed in the preparatory sessions and figures largely in many people’s journeys, and beyond. Boothby, the philosopher, took the advice to heart and found that he could use the idea as a kind of tool to shape the experience in real time. He wrote:

Early on I began to perceive that the effects of the drug respond strikingly to my own subjective determination. If, in response to the swelling intensity of the whole experience, I began to tense up with anxiety, the whole scene appears to tighten in some way. But if I then consciously remind myself to relax, to let myself go into the experience, the effect is dramatic. The space in which I seem to find myself, already enormous, suddenly yawns open even further and the shapes that undulate before my eyes appear to explode with new and even more extravagant patterns. Over and over again I had the overwhelming sense of infinity being multiplied by another infinity. I joked to my wife as she drove me home that I felt as if I had been repeatedly sucked into the asshole of God.

Boothby had what sounds very much like a classic mystical experience, though he may be the first in the long line of Western mystics to enter the divine realm through that particular aperture.

At the depths of this delirium I conceived that I was either dying or, most bizarrely, I was already dead. All points of secure attachment to a trustworthy sense of reality had fallen away. Why not think that I am dead? And if this is dying, I thought, then so be it. How can I say no to this?

At this point, at the greatest depth of the experience, I felt all my organizing categories of opposition—dreaming and wakefulness, life and death, inside and outside, self and other—collapse into each other . . . Reality appeared to fold in on itself, to implode in a kind of ecstatic catastrophe of logic. Yet in the midst of this hallucinatory hurricane I was having a weird experience of ultra-sublimity. And I remember repeating to myself again and again, “Nothing matters, nothing matters any more. I see the point! Nothing matters at all.”

And then it was over.

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