This is an introduction to “Food for Thought,” a cyber-column I intend to write on a regular basis and post to my site. In these entries, I intend to share ideas and perspectives on issues relating to consciousness, psychedelic drugs, spirituality, and kindred topics. I may review a scientific paper or finding, comment on developments in the field, summarize and critique what I’m currently reading, and address questions from readers.
My latest book, DMT and the Soul of Prophecy, is on track for a September release date and in this introduction to “Food for Thought,” I’d like to address questions that are bound to come up once the book appears. By doing so, I will also be explaining why many future columns will cover issues that don’t appear especially related to the psychedelic drug experience; for example, theology and Hebrew Bible-related topics.
The most difficult issue regarding my current work that most people will face is the relationship between the psychedelic drug experience and the Hebrew Bible. What has one got to do with the other? Let me begin by taking the perspective of the psychedelic drug experience, because most of my readers have hailed from that demographic rather than from those who study the Hebrew Bible.
People take psychedelic drugs for at least one of several reasons. The vast majority use them for their hedonic and aesthetic purposes—they are “fun” and add an extra level of sensation, emotion, and significance to things we are doing. A smaller number use them for self-exploration, and this can take either a psychotherapeutic or spiritual orientation. The difference between these two may turn on the latter taking into account things and processes that do not originate or reside in the self, whereas the former focuses on solely personal processes and objects.
While my current work may optimize the experiences of those who use psychedelics for hedonic/aesthetic purposes, it is mostly directed towards those who use them for psychotherapeutic or spiritual reasons. In fact, the entire thrust of this current project can be summarized by the question: How do we get the most out of the psychedelic drug experience?
At the most basic level, people take psychedelic drugs for the experience; that is, the psychedelic drug state. This is particularly so when one takes fully psychedelic doses, rather than minimally active or inactive lower doses. What, then, are the contents of this psychedelic state? When considering the DMT effect, full doses reliably occasion a highly visual experience, taking place in a seeming parallel, ongoing, objective alternate level of reality. One enters into a world of light containing a plethora of highly articulated objects. More often than not, in a typical high-dose DMT experience, these highly articulated objects take the form of “beings.” These beings are aware, sentient, powerful, interact with us by teaching through various modalities, act upon us physically, and may possess either negative, positive, or ambiguous intentions toward us.
The greatest difficulty most of us have with the DMT experience in particular, and with the psychedelic drug state in general, is how to interpret the content of the visions. What information do they contain? How do we understand what we see, hear, and feel? And how do we integrate that information within ourselves and communicate it to other people?
For those who have sought pre-existing models to answer these questions, the two most common are the East Asian religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and more recently Latin American shamanism. In DMT and the Soul of Prophecy, I suggest a model that may possibly be more resonant with the Western mind-body from cultural, psychological, and perhaps even biological perspectives: the Hebrew Bible prophetic experience. In addition to this model possessing greater resonance with Western sensibilities, it also is more congruent with the actual DMT experience itself.
I define Hebrew Biblical prophecy or prophetic consciousness as any experience of visions, voices, extreme emotional states, novel insights and inspiration, and other extraordinary subjective experience undergone by any figure in the Hebrew Bible. It is the paradigmatic spiritual experience of the text. Prediction or foretelling may occur in prophecy, but it is not a necessary criterion. While we usually associate prophecy with particular figures such as Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, this broader definition includes dozens of additional individuals who did not have a distinct mission nor leave behind canonical writings.
Using this broader definition, we can compare the phenomenology of the DMT and prophetic experiences. The contents of the two states are highly congruent, as I exhaustively detail in my new book. Visual, auditory, cognitive, emotional, volitional, and physical effects are strikingly similar. It is also critical to note how both sets of experients appraise the reality bases of what they behold. After a fully psychedelic dose of DMT and in the full-blown prophetic experience, one is absolutely convinced of the reality of what he or she is perceiving and interacting with. In fact, the sense of reality in the “altered” state is at least as or more real than everyday reality. In addition, the world that one is now beholds is felt as objective, external to one’s own mind; that is, it is perceived rather than generated.
In DMT and the Soul of Prophecy, I demonstrate that the phenomenological contents of the two sets of experiences are undeniably similar. However, this congruence breaks down when comparing their informational content. Whereas the message of the prophetic experience is highly articulated, full of ethical, moral, psychological, theological, scientific, legal, and other notions, that of the DMT state is much less impressive. It is certainly common in the DMT and other psychedelic drug state that one receives the distinct impression of gaining novel and important information. On the other hand, explicating the nature of that information is another matter. The prophetic message, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible, has exerted thousands of years of influence throughout the world, undergirding the legal, economic, scientific, ethical/moral, theological, and other bulwarks of civilization. As of yet, the psychedelic state has not exerted anywhere near the same degree of influence. Why is this?
My guide to bridging Hebrew prophetic consciousness to the psychedelic state is the work of the medieval Jewish philosophers. These were a group of men writing between the 9th and 15th centuries in Europe and the Middle East. These authors suggest that prophecy is the coming together of a highly developed “imaginative faculty” and “rational faculty” providing the optimal receptivity to God’s bestowing His message to society. In this model, they would describe the DMT state as reflecting a powerful effect on the imagination. By “imagination,” they mean the “space” in the mind which contains elements of a “physical” nature. These include emotion, perception, and physical sensations. This differs from the conventional use of “imagination” as referring to something “made up” or “imaginary.”
They also would describe the DMT state as being much less effective in enhancing the function of the “intellect” or “rational faculty.” The rational faculty, as they define it, is the area of the mind containing abstract, non-physical ideas. In their model of prophecy, a highly developed rational faculty is capable of interpreting and communicating the contents of the imaginative one, contents that result from God’s influence upon one experiencing prophecy.
Using the medieval Jewish philosophers’ model, we can frame the “problem” of the psychedelic drug experience—that is, how to interpret, integrate, communicate, and share the information it contains— as one that may be soluble by enhancing the rational faculty in a manner commensurate with psychedelic drug-induced enhancement of the imaginative one.
Put another way, we need a guidebook, a map, a means of deciphering the contents of the DMT experience. This guidebook, or map, or psychic Rosetta stone would reside in our rational faculty, our intellect, our intelligence. In other words, it is something we can learn and then utilize when necessary. We would be prepared for what we behold in the psychedelic drug state. We would recognize it when we saw it, we could maneuver and negotiate with the contents of that space, and upon returning would be able to describe what we had found during our travels to this usually invisible world.
The purpose of my new book is to demonstrate the utility of the Hebrew Bible’s notion of prophecy to serve as that roadmap. And this is the purpose behind the cyber-column, “Food for Thought.” I wish to share the map provided by the Hebrew Bible in order to provide a new way to interpret the psychedelic drug state. It is a cognitive map which provides novel approaches to an experience whose significance and relevance has yet to be adequately mined. While some may take the default position that the essence of the psychedelic drug experience is nonverbal, this is not my belief. Or, perhaps more accurately, I don’t believe that the psychedelic drug experience is inaccessible to verbal and cognitive approaches. We are thinking and speaking organisms. If we abandon those uniquely human gifts when attempting to optimize our relationship with an experience as momentous as the psychedelic drug state, we are abandoning the most powerful tools we have been given in creatively interacting with both our subjective and objective worlds.
Therefore, in the material that follows, I will be introducing ideas contained in the Hebrew Bible, usually as explicated by the medieval Jewish philosophers, that I believe are important in developing a new, Western roadmap for the spiritual properties of the psychedelic drug state. While this material may often times seem irrelevant for the psychedelic drug experience, my intention is to demonstrate just that relevance. So, whenever reading any of the following material, and that relevance eludes you, please imagine yourself in the psychedelic drug state confronting some of the issues that I raise. These issues include, for example, the nature of God, why good people suffer and bad people thrive, the afterlife, the nature of the soul, the relationship between the laws of nature and the laws of morality, and so on. And feel free to email me with any questions or comments.