The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys

The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys

by James Fadiman

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“The publication of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide could not be more timely; it coincides with a major renaissance of interest in psychedelic research worldwide. The information that it provides will thus be useful not only for the hundreds of thousands of people involved in self-experimentation but also forSee more details below



“The publication of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide could not be more timely; it coincides with a major renaissance of interest in psychedelic research worldwide. The information that it provides will thus be useful not only for the hundreds of thousands of people involved in self-experimentation but also for the new generation of psychedelic researchers.”
--Stanislov Grof, M.D., author of LSD: Doorway to the Numinous

Called “America’s wisest and most respected authority on psychedelics and their use,” James Fadiman has been involved with psychedelic research since the 1960s. In this guide to the immediate and long-term effects of psychedelic use for spiritual (high dose), therapeutic (moderate dose), and problem-solving (low dose) purposes, Fadiman outlines best practices for safe, sacred entheogenic voyages learned through his more than 40 years of experience--from the benefits of having a sensitive guide during a session (and how to be one) to the importance of the setting and pre-session intention.

Fadiman reviews the newest as well as the neglected research into the psychotherapeutic value of visionary drug use for increased personal awareness and a host of serious medical conditions, including his recent study of the reasons for and results of psychedelic use among hundreds of students and professionals. He reveals new uses for LSD and other psychedelics, including extremely low doses for improved cognitive functioning and emotional balance. Cautioning that psychedelics are not for everyone, he dispels the myths and misperceptions about psychedelics circulating in textbooks and clinics as well as on the Internet. Exploring the life-changing experiences of Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, and Huston Smith as well as Francis Crick and Steve Jobs, Fadiman shows how psychedelics, used wisely, can lead not only to healing but also to scientific breakthroughs and spiritual epiphanies.

JAMES FADIMAN, Ph.D., did his undergraduate work at Harvard and his graduate work at Stanford, doing research with the Harvard Group, the West Coast Research Group in Menlo Park, and Ken Kesey. A former president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a professor of psychology, he teaches at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, which he helped found in 1975. An international conference presenter, workshop leader, management consultant, and author of several books and textbooks, he lives in Menlo Park, California, with his filmmaker wife, Dorothy.

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Meeting the Divine Within

Part One of a Road Map for Voyagers and Guides

It cannot be emphasized enough that this book is not a manual to “the drug experience,” but about how to best open your own inner worlds and make use of the vast range of experiences possible after taking psychedelics. In the words of one guide, discussing the role of psychedelics in relation to other practices, “It enhances mind states also accessible from intense practice and focused attention discoverable through yoga, meditation, fasting, and other disciplines.” Seemingly universal, this opening is often experienced as reuniting one’s self with an eternal flow of energies and understandings.

Author and philosopher Aldous Huxley, writing about his first psychedelic experiences, talks about “the heightened significance of things.” Objects he had seen countless times but rarely noticed fascinated him as if for the first time. The psychedelics gave his mind freer play to see myriad connections, linking formerly mundane items to an ocean of ideas, memories, feelings, and attitudes. Huxley also described vibrant visions and ancient archetypal constellations that he felt had been present but unnoticed in his mind.

Albert Hofmann, who first discovered LSD’s effect, said this about it:

The first planned LSD experiment was . . . so deeply moving and alarming, because everyday reality and the ego experiencing it, which I had until then considered to be the only reality, dissolved, and an unfamiliar ego experienced another unfamiliar reality.

Suggestions for the Voyager

If possible, approach a voyage as a three-day process. Ideally, the first day, stay quiet and unhurried. Reserve time for self-reflection, spending a portion of the day in nature. Set aside the second day, all day, for the session. The third day should be devoted entirely to integrating the session and recording your discoveries and insights.

Prior to the session, it’s wise to clarify your personal preconceptions about psychedelic experiences, sacred plants, and entheogens in general. In addition, consider and reflect on your understanding of mystical experiences and cosmic consciousness. Share your expectations, concerns, and hopes with the person or people who are holding sacred space for you--your guide or guides. This will help you stay attuned with one another during the session.

Discussing the range of possible experiences in advance enables the session itself to go more smoothly. Whether you are a novice or an experienced voyager, internal experiences that may be entirely novel for you may occur. These might include:

- Cascading geometric forms and colors (usually early in the session);
- An alteration of felt time (expansion and/or contraction of “clock time”);
- Finding yourself in a different reality, as if you had lived or are living in another time or place;
- Being in a different body of either sex;
- Becoming an animal, plant, or microorganism;
- Experiencing your own birth.

As a session progresses, it is not uncommon to find yourself encountering entities that some refer to as “the presence of spirits.” In most cases, these meetings are positive. However, if you become upset or frightened, let your guide know.

In order to maximize the usefulness of realizations that may occur during your psychedelic voyage, it is invaluable to write out what you hope to learn, experience, understand, or resolve prior to the session. Whatever you’ve written should be available to you and your guide during and after the session. Some experienced guides have observed that a voyager can, in fact, direct their own journey by choosing a small number of questions beforehand, in order to organize the session’s direction. One can use this opportunity as a focused inquiry into very specific psychological, spiritual, or social concerns. At the same time, one can be open to engaging with whatever arises from a new encounter.

In addition to clarifying questions, for some people, it is helpful to identify your goals. Your goals may be psychological--insight into neurotic patterns, phobias, or unresolved anger or grief. Your goals may be social--improved relationships with your spouse, children, siblings, parents, colleagues, friends, and spiritual and secular institutions.

Your goals may be spiritual--to have direct experience with aspects of your tradition or another, to transcend prior beliefs, even to transcend belief itself. You may hope to have what is called a “unity experience” in which there is no separation between your identity and all else.

After reviewing many different spiritual breakthroughs, the psychologist and philosopher William James came to the following conclusion, especially true of the entheogenic experience.

One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness. Whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves those other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.

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