MindSpace and TimeStream – Understanding and Navigating Your States of Consciousness – Talk at IONS in Tuscon, October 2

Ralph_300I will be giving a presentation at IONS in Tuscon, on October 2, 2015.

Title: Understanding and Navigating Your States of Consciousness
Date: Friday, October 2, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Open to the Public
Suggested Donation: $5

Unity of Tucson, 3617 N. Camino Blanco off River between Swan & Craycroft

MindSpace and TimeStream – Understanding and Navigating Your States of Consciousness

Each state of consciousness that we experience, ranging from the familiar states of waking, sleeping, dreaming and meditating, to the expansive spiritual states of psychedelic explorers, meditators, mystics and mediums, has its own distinctly different mind-space and time-stream. We need to learn how to use expansive, positive states and intentionally focused states of concentration for spiritual growth, self-healing and creative expression.  And we need to learn how to navigate, with therapeutic and meditative help,  out of the contractive, unhealthy states of fear and rage, addictions and compulsions, into healthier, life-affirming states.

Bio statement:
Ralph Metzner, Ph.D. is a recognized pioneer in psychological, philosophical and cross-cultural studies of consciousness and its transformations. He collaborated with Leary and Alpert in classic studies of psychedelics at Harvard University in the 1960s, co-authored The Psychedelic Experience and was editor of The Psychedelic Review. He is a psychotherapist and Professor Emeritus at the California Institute
of Integral Studies, where he was also the Academic Dean for ten years in the 1980s. His books include The Unfolding Self, The Well of Remembrance, Green Psychology, The Expansion of Consciousness, Alchemical Divination and Mind Space and Time Stream. He co-authored, with Ram Dass, a memoir of the 1960s,  Birth of a Psychedelic Culture. He is the editor of two collections of essays on the pharmacology, anthropology and phenomenology of ayahuasca and of psilocybin mushrooms. He is also the president and co-founder of the Green Earth Foundation, dedicated to healing and harmonizing the relations between humanity and the Earth.

Website: Green Earth Foundation Website.

Interview by Lorene Mills for “Report from Santa Fe”

Ralph Metzner interviewed by Lorene Mills on Report From Santa Fe

ralph pbs

In this video interview, Ralph discusses: What it means to be a “consciousness researcher,” the concept of “consciousness expansion” (compared to “psychedelic,” which has become an overloaded term), the cultural context of the 60s (how “mind expansion” was a completely new idea), normalizing the concept of consciousness expansion and contraction (focus, concentration, as in performing a skilled set of actions, surgery etc.), states of fear and rage, and how these states trigger fight or flight behavior (internal or external), normal and usual every day consciousness changes, triggers of changes in consciousness, and more.


My Essay Honoring Sasha Shulgin: MDMA, Empathy and Ecstasy

Here’s MDMA, Empathy and Ecstasy, my essay for the upcoming Commemorative Edition of PIHKAL and TIHKAL, due out in fall of 2014. Printed with permission by Joshua Marker, Editor.

From the essay:

The research with psychedelic drugs carried out during the 1960’s by the Harvard group around Leary, Alpert, myself and others, led to the hypothesis, now widely accepted by all researchers in the field,  that psychedelics (hallucinogens, entheogens) are nonspecific awareness amplifiers. Unlike all other mood- or mind-altering drugs, including stimulants, depressants, tranquilizers and opiates, the actual content of a psychedelic experience can only be understood and/or explained by considering the “set” (intention, preparation, attitude, and personality) and the “setting” (physical and social context, presence and attitude of others , such as friend, guide or therapist). The actual drug (whether synthesized chemical, or plant or fungal preparation) functions as a kind of catalyst for perceptual and mental changes that can lead to insight, healing,
learning, visions and delight – or confusion, anxiety, paranoia, delusion and depression.

Impeccable scientist that he is,  Alexander Shulgin understood this immediately after his first self-experiment with mescaline and incorporated that understanding into his two monumental contributions to the scientific study of consciousness, PIHKAL and TIHKAL. Recognizing that animal studies of new pharmaceuticals provide zero useful information of their action in humans, he opted instead for the time-honored method of self-experimentation. In the introduction to PIHKAL, he wrote “psychedelic drugs provide access to the parts of us which have answers. They can, but again, they need not and probably will not, unless that is the purpose for which they are being used.” He forcefully states the case against doing so-called “double-blind” studies, which in the case of psychoactive drugs, where the effects can only be observed in one’s own sensorium and state of consciousness,  “verges upon the unethical.”

MDMA recognized as most promising treatment of PTSD

In the 1980s, before it was made illegal, MDMA (which later became popularized as the rave drug Ecstasy) acquired a reputation among psychotherapists as being one of the most effective, fast and safe ways of helping people heal from severe trauma, as well as opening up interpersonal communication in couples. I was one of a couple of dozen therapists who were initiated into this healing modality by the late Leo Zeff, whose work has been described in the book The Secret Chief, by Myron Stolaroff, available from the MAPS website. A useful compilation of essays on MDMA research and applications is Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, by Julie Holland MD. [Read online]

Unlike most psychiatric drugs, such as anti-depressants or sedatives, but like other psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin, the use of MDMA as an adjunct to therapy requires an experienced guide and a protective setting for its benefits to be realized.  Also like these other drugs, this first and ideal use in individual or small group settings, with a healing and spiritual orientation,  did not prevent the spread of MDMA into the street-drug culture – where it morphed into Ecstasy, consumed by thousands at rave clubs and gatherings around the world.

Unlike the classical psychedelics however, MDMA is distinctive in that the main effect is a heightening of positive interpersonal feeling awareness, or empathy, with a reduction of fear, while perception is not altered at all and there are no hallucinations or visual distortions.  As one client of mine observed when first experiencing this, “everything looks just the same, but I feel completely differently about it.”  That’s why I suggested the term empathogenic – generating a state of empathy – for this class of substances (though some European researchers prefer to use the term entactogen).

In my book MindSpace and TimeStream, I speculate about the possible neurochemical basis of the MDMA effect.

In the case of MDMA, for which I coined the term empathogenic (“empathy-generating”) in its subjective effects, the serotonin enhancing effect may be the basis of the calm, non-anxious, emotional balance that is particularly valuable in the therapeutic treatment of interpersonal conflict, trauma and PTSD. The dopamine releasing effect, which the other amphetamines also have, probably accounts for its role as Ecstasy, the drug of choice at hours-long dance parties with pulsing music, known as “raves.”  In addition, the presence of MDMA in the body triggers the release of prolactin – the hormone released during mother-infant bonding and breast-feeding – perhaps the paradigmatic example of empathic, non-striving, relaxed empathic mergence of two beings. (page 134)

In my 1985 book Through the Gateway of the Heart, which is now out of print (though copies maybe available from some libraries)  I collected accounts of therapeutic experiences with MDMA (and other empathogenic substances) and offered guidelines for its use in that context. I concluded then and still believe that, because of the reduction of fear (which can be greatly magnified with the classical psychedelics), the three most promising applications of MDMA in psychotherapy would be (1) in heightening empathic communication – e.g. in couples relationships; (2) in the training of psychotherapists, for whom conscious empathic understanding (not unconscious sympathy, and not mere verbal expressions of understanding) is core to the process; and (3) in the treatment of trauma (PTSD), where the person is locked into a limbic system emotional stress reaction that can be triggered by a chance stimulus.

Officially sanctioned research on using MDMA in the treatment of war trauma has recently been gaining some attention. The MAPS organization has sponsored the research of Michael Mithoefer, MD who is conducting protocol studies on the use of MDMA with veterans. http://www.alternet.org/health/151263

According to some estimates there are something like 350,000 US veterans suffering from wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The suicide rate among returning veterans is disturbingly high (as much as 15 per week, according to some reports). The only approved treatments, psychotherapy with anti-depressant drugs like Prozac, provide maintenance only at best, while underlying trauma patterns are not resolved or healed.

MAPS and Mithoefer’s major breakthrough showed that over 80 percent of the subjects in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, as compared to 25 percent in the placebo group,” he told AlterNet. “An even more important breakthrough, which we are currently working to write up in a scientific paper, is from the results of our long-term follow-up evaluations of the subjects, administered at an average of 41 months post-treatment. We found that, on average, the subjects have actually gotten a bit better over time, demonstrating that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has lasting benefits.”

In the 1980s, before MDMA was illegalized, I did a successful one-session MDMA therapy with a traumatized vet from Vietnam, who went on to found a group called Veterans for Peace, which conducted educational sessions in LA area high schools, informing potential recruits for America’s war system of the real personal costs of war.

This story was recently written up in the form of a dialog and published in the MAPS Bulletin. From Traumatized Vet to Peacemaker Activist by Ed Ellis and Ralph Metzner (maps bulletin, vol XXI, No. 1)

Sad to say, officially VA-approved PTSD-MDMA treatments are still a long way away, despite the promising research. As Rick Doblin writes:

We’ve been trying for 15 years to motivate the VA to explore MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in veterans, and this was the first time we were told the research is important and somebody, but not the VA at this time, should be doing it. Such is the progress in our field!

While discussing this depressing situation recently with a friend and colleague familiar with the drug culture in both Israel and the US, he informed me that the news that MDMA (or Ecstasy) can be demonstrably helpful in dealing with war trauma has permeated the culture to such a degree that veterans familiar with the drug have, on their own initiative, started to provide self-help empathogenic therapy for their comrades. This was news that gladdened my heart and gave me hope!