بخش 42کتاب: چگونه ذهنیت خود را تغییر دهید / فصل 42
- زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
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The name for this new approach, and the name for this class of drugs that would finally stick—psychedelics—emerged from a 1956 exchange of letters between Humphry Osmond and Aldous Huxley. The two had first met in 1953, after Huxley wrote to Osmond expressing interest in trying mescaline; he had read a journal article by Osmond describing the drug’s effects on the mind. Huxley had long harbored a lively interest in drugs and consciousness—the plot of his most famous novel, Brave New World (1932), turns on a mind-control drug he called soma—as well as mysticism, paranormal perception, reincarnation, UFOs, and so on.
So in the spring of 1953, Humphry Osmond traveled to Los Angeles to administer mescaline to Aldous Huxley, though not without some trepidation. In advance of the session, he confided to a colleague that he did not “relish the possibility, however remote, of finding a small but discreditable niche in literary history as the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad.”
He need not have worried. Huxley had a splendid trip, one that would change forever the culture’s understanding of these drugs when, the following year, he published his account of his experience in The Doors of Perception.
“It was without question the most extraordinary and significant experience this side of the Beatific Vision,” Huxley wrote in a letter to his editor shortly after it happened. For Huxley, there was no question but that the drugs gave him access not to the mind of the madman but to a spiritual realm of ineffable beauty. The most mundane objects glowed with the light of a divinity he called “the Mind at Large.” Even “the folds of my gray flannel trousers were charged with ‘is-ness,’” he tells us, before dilating on the beauty of the draperies in Botticelli’s paintings and the “Allness and Infinity of folded cloth.” When he gazed upon a small vase of flowers, he saw “what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation—the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence . . . flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged.”
“Words like ‘grace’ and ‘transfiguration’ came to my mind.” For Huxley, the drug gave him unmediated access to realms of existence usually known only to mystics and a handful of history’s great visionary artists. This other world is always present but in ordinary moments is kept from our awareness by the “reducing valve” of everyday waking consciousness, a kind of mental filter that admits only “a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness” we need in order to survive. The rest was a gorgeous superfluity, which, like poetry, men die every day for the lack thereof. Mescaline flung open what William Blake had called “the doors of perception,” admitting to our conscious awareness a glimpse of the infinite, which is always present all around us—even in the creases in our trousers!—if only we could just see.
Like every psychedelic experience before or since, Huxley’s did not unfold on a blank slate, de novo, the pure product of the chemical, but rather was shaped in important ways by his reading and the philosophical and spiritual inclinations he brought to the experience. (It was only when I typed his line about flowers “shining with their own inner light” and “all but quivering under the pressure” of their significance that I realized just how strongly Huxley had inflected my own perception of plants under the influence of psilocybin.) The idea of a mental reducing valve that constrains our perceptions, for instance, comes from the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Bergson believed that consciousness was not generated by human brains but rather exists in a field outside us, something like electromagnetic waves; our brains, which he likened to radio receivers, can tune in to different frequencies of consciousness. Huxley also believed that at the base of all the world’s religions there lies a common core of mystical experience he called “the Perennial Philosophy.” Naturally, Huxley’s morning on mescaline confirmed him in all these ideas; as one reviewer of The Doors of Perception put it, rather snidely, the book contained “99 percent Aldous Huxley and only one half gram mescaline.” But it didn’t matter: great writers stamp the world with their minds, and the psychedelic experience will forevermore bear Huxley’s indelible imprint.
Whatever else it impressed on the culture, Huxley’s experience left no doubt in his mind or Osmond’s that the “model psychosis” didn’t begin to describe the mind on mescaline or LSD, which Huxley would try for the first time two years later. One person’s “depersonalization” could be another’s “sense of oneness”; it was all a matter of perspective and vocabulary.
“It will give that elixir a bad name if it continues to be associated, in the public mind, with schizophrenia symptoms,” Huxley wrote to Osmond in 1955. “People will think they are going mad, when in fact they are beginning, when they take it, to go sane.”
Clearly a new name for this class of drugs was called for, and in a 1956 exchange of letters the psychiatrist and the writer came up with a couple of candidates. Surprisingly, however, it was the psychiatrist, not the writer, who had the winning idea. Huxley’s proposal came in a couplet:
To make this mundane world sublime
Just half a gram of phanerothyme.
His coinage combined the Greek words for “spirit” and “manifesting.”
Perhaps wary of adopting such an overtly spiritual term, the scientist replied with his own rhyme:
To fall in hell or soar Angelic
You’ll need a pinch of psychedelic.
Osmond’s neologism married two Greek words that together mean “mind manifesting.” Though by now the word has taken on the Day-Glo coloring of the 1960s, at the time it was the very neutrality of “psychedelic” that commended it to him: the word “had no particular connotation of madness, craziness or ecstasy, but suggested an enlargement and expansion of mind.” It also had the virtue of being “uncontaminated by other associations,” though that would not remain the case for long.
“Psychedelic therapy,” as Osmond and his colleagues practiced it beginning in the mid-1950s, typically involved a single, high-dose session, usually of LSD, that took place in comfortable surroundings, the subject stretched out on a couch, with a therapist (or two) in attendance who says very little, allowing the journey to unfold according to its own logic. To eliminate distractions and encourage an inward journey, music is played and the subject usually wears eyeshades. The goal was to create the conditions for a spiritual epiphany—what amounted to a conversion experience.
But though this mode of therapy would become closely identified with Osmond and Hoffer, they themselves credited someone else for critical elements of its design, a man of considerable mystery with no formal training as a scientist or therapist: Al Hubbard. A treatment space decorated to feel more like a home than a hospital came to be known as a Hubbard Room, and at least one early psychedelic researcher told me that this whole therapeutic regime, which is now the norm, should by all rights be known as “the Hubbard method.” Yet Al Hubbard, a.k.a. “Captain Trips” and “the Johnny Appleseed of LSD,” is not the kind of intellectual forebear anyone doing serious psychedelic science today is eager to acknowledge, much less celebrate.
• • • AL HUBBARD IS SURELY the most improbable, intriguing, and elusive figure to grace the history of psychedelics, and that’s saying a lot. There is much we don’t know about him, and many key facts about his life are impossible to confirm, contradictory, or just plain fishy. To cite one small example, his FBI file puts his height at five feet eleven, but in photographs and videos Hubbard appears short and stocky, with a big round head topped with a crew cut; for reasons known only to himself, he often wore a paramilitary uniform and carried a Colt .45 revolver, giving the impression of a small-town sheriff. But based on his extensive correspondence with colleagues and a handful of accounts in the Canadian press and books about the period,* as well as interviews with a handful of people who knew him well, it’s possible to assemble a rough portrait of the man, even if it does leave some important areas blurry or blank.
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