Hallucinogenics in Eastern Spirituality	

		The psychedelic experience and the deep
meditational or spiritual experience can be paralleled with
startling ease.  The first similarities can be found in
lifestyles of people who have psychedelic experiences with
those who are spiritual practitioners.  The hippies and
beatniks of the 60’s counter-culture in America were
rebelling against the establishment.  As the mantra of
Timothy Leary says, “Tune in, Turn on, Drop out.”  They were
dropping out of society, dropping acid, and tuning into
themselves and the spiritual world.  The shramana “...like
the hippie, has rejected worldly values, renounced the
social structure of his country, and is leading the life of
a wandering beggar, in which the use of drugs occasionally
plays a part.”1  Note the outer similarities of the two,
long hair, conspicuously different clothing, and inwardly a
spiritual thirst for prajna.
	Drugs may or may not have played a part in Shramana
movements depending on the individual values of the
renunciant, as is true with the hippies and beatniks. 
However, it seems probable that drugs were used in very
early Hindu rituals and spiritual practices.
	The Rig Veda, a main ritual Hindu text sites a plant
called Soma.  Of its 1,028 hymns, about 120 are devoted to
praising soma and the preparation of soma.2  It was called
King Soma; it was sacrificed into the fire, and its juices
were drunk.  The plant was praised as a mind-altering
substance; its identity was lost thousands of years ago.
	In 1968 R. Gordon Wasson claimed to discover the
identity of Soma, the Amanita muscaria mushroom.  “Some of
the strongest evidence...is that the Rig Veda makes no
mention of the divine plant having any roots, leaves,
blossoms, or seeds.”3
	Amanita muscaria probably grows in high elevations. 
Directly translated from the Rig Veda, Mandala V 43 Soma is
a “plant from the mountain” and Mandala IX 46 says soma is
“seated on the mountaintop.”  These texts seem to make it
clear that the plant grew high above us in the mountains.
	One question that arises is why are all the “King Soma”
used in sacrifices agreed upon as being substitutions,
rather than this real live plant that they are talking
about.  One explanation that goes with the mushroom theory
is that when the Aryans migrated from the northern highlands
into valleys and lowlands, they had no way to bring it with
them because the only trees the Amanita muscaria will grow
with grow only in the highlands.
	This is actually an argument to prove the identity of
Soma as Amanita muscaria, rather than to answer why the
Aryans didn’t bring it with them.  For any regular plant
could be transported, and replanted.  The Amanita muscaria,
however has a special mycorrhizalin4 relationship  with
certain trees that grow only in the highlands such as pines,
firs, and mostly birches.
	The proposed Soma, Amanita muscaria, is bright red with
woolly spots on it.  Another indication in the Rig Vedas
that Soma might be the Amanita is from Mandala IX 17 “He
(Soma) has clothed himself with the fire bursts of the sun,”
much resembling the cap of the spotted red mushroom.	
	Also interesting is the fact that soma’s mild is
described as a “tawny yellow color” which sounds closer to
cows mild or Amanita juice than anything extracted from a
green chlorophyll plant.
	More evidence begins with this quote from the Rig Veda,
Mandala IX 66 “with those two forms which stand facing us, O
Soma, though reignest over all things.”  There are two forms
of Amanita which Wasson came across which can be drunk with
hallucinogenic effects, the direct juice extracted from the
mushroom, or the urine of a person who has consumed the
mushroom or its juices, “since the Amanita’s psychoactive
principle are altered very little by passing through the
human body.”5 Mandala IX 74 “Soma, storm cloud imbued with
ghee...the swollen men piss the flowing Soma.”  
	Another Hindu belief that can be linked to psychedelics
is the concept of the kundalini.  Kundalini is “shakti” or
“divine power incarnated in our body and inextricably
involved in its destiny.”6  In order to define kundalini in
understandable terms, sybolism is largely used.  Usually the
kundalini is depicted as a female snake coiled up inside the
“cave” at the base of the spine.  The snake is sleeping, but
gives off enough energy for the individual to remain alive. 
However, when the practicioner seeking to awake her does so,
she rears up and makes her way up the chakras (energy
centers corresponding to ascending locations from the
tailbone to the cranium) all the way to the head “where she
opens a hole through which the atman (soul or self) can
escape.”7  Awakening the kundalini is achieved by Hindu
yogis through various methods of yogic practices, mainly
meditations and austerities.
	The effects of LSD have recently been compared to those
of awakening the kundalini.  People, mostly between the ages
of 19 and 25, 85 percent male and 15 percent female, were
surveyed about the effects of psychedelics.  In the survey
nothing was mentioned about the kundalini.  No people were
surveyed about effects of kundalini because experience of
this is so limited.  Rather the author of the study cited
books to reference the effects experienced by kundalini
practitioners whom had already recorded their experiences. 
The correlations are as follows:

Spontaneously twisting and/or revolving of the body and
limbs, dance-like gestures
Trembling of the body
Spontaneous laughter, tears of joy. 
Automatic/involuntary laughing or crying
Alterations in sexual desire
Sensory hallucinations: audio, visual, gustatory, and
Audio hallucinations: humming, rushing water, tinkling
bell sounds, etc.
Closed eye perceptions: dots, lights, flames, geometrical
shapes, and pure white lights.  These may be perceived as
visions of saints or deities
Creeping sensations in the spine
Tingling sensations through the body.  Itching or
crawling sensations under the skin
Sensations of heat or cold
Extreme feeling of ecstasy and divine bliss
Extreme feelings of fear
Enhanced sense of empathy
Loss or disassociation of emotions
Recall past lives
Enhanced intuition and psychic powers
Feelings of unseen guidance and protection
Emptying of the mind
There is an experience of being a witness in the body
Questions may arise in the mind and be spontaneously
answered (revelation or enhanced insight)
The hidden meaning behind the (Indian) Scriptures are
Mystical experience
	Of the subjects that he questions by email survey many
answered with experiences strikingly similar to kundalini
accounts.  One such account says “...but there was a sound
that I heard and I know that that sound was the universe.” 
Another was “I have experienced unity with the universe. I
have been led on mystical voyages through the spirit
world...” and various others all paralleling some sort of
enlightenment, or kundalini experiences.  (see Appendix)
	The author of this study concluded that if psychedelic
experience and kundalini were related then possibly the
psychedelic experience could be used as a model for
kundalini awakening and in this way the physiological
effects for psychedelics and kundalini would be similar. 
This would show that since LSD is a chemically induced state
then maybe kundalini is, too, and the “biological correlates
of the siddhis” could be discovered.  That seems to imply
the attempt to physically induce the phenomena of siddhis,
rather than through the accepted practice of mind exercises,
although the author did not state this.8
	Similarly, Rick Strassman, M.D. sees the Pineal gland
as being a possible source of the brain’s very own
“home-grown” [my term] hallucinogens.  His contention is
that these “home-growns” might be produced under certain
specific mental and/or physical conditions, including: near
death, birth, high fever, prolonged meditation, starvation,
and sensory deprivation.  He calls the pineal gland the
“seat of the soul” or the infamous “third eye” and
postulates that under these circumstances and because of
chemical alterations of melatonin and seratonin caused by
these circumstances it might produce DMT (N,
N-dimethyltryptamine, a very strong hallucinogenic drug) on
its own, and that this chemical may be responsible for
spiritual realities experienced under the aforementioned
	He continues to theorize about the pineal gland, but
starting with facts.  It first becomes visible in the human
fetus at forty nine days after conception, at the same time
the gender becomes distinguishable.  Coincidentally,
according to several Buddhist texts, “forty nine days is how
long it takes the life-force of one who has died to enter
its next incarnation.”9  These two separate facts together
could be used to infer that “the life-force of a human
enters the fetus at forty-nine days through the pineal.”10 
This would also suggest that the force leaves the body at
death in the same way, and entry and exit of the soul or
“life-force” into the pineal gland would be indicated by a
release of DMT.  Tripping on “acid” naturally during birth
and death?  An interesting concept, to say the least.
	This all appears to be wild speculation, but seems to
fit well with other studies and speculations, fulfilling the
hypothesis that psychedelic experience and eastern mystical
experience are closely related and may be physiologically
very similar.
	In his book “Be Here Now,” Richard Alpert recounts his
trip to India.  He went to meet holy men “and I’d give them
LSD and they’d tell me what LSD was.  Maybe I’d learn the
missing clue.” [my italics]  He finds such a man, Maharaji
who displays yogic siddhis, such as mind reading.  Maharaji
reads his mind and demands the LSD from Ram Dass.  Ram Dass
gives him a fairly large dose, but the guru demands more,
until he is taking 915 micrograms of LSD, which Ram Dass
explains is more than 10 times what a “first timer” could
take comfortably.  After Maharaji took the LSD, Ram Dass
says, “All day long I’m there and every now and then he
twinkles at me and nothing--nothing happens!  That was the
answer to my question.  Now you have the data I have.”11 
They psychedelic state was nothing new for the guru, maybe
something he had experienced daily while practicing his
spiritual meditations.  The religious implications of this
are astounding.
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