Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Ketamine: Dreams and Realities
Jansen, Karl (2001)
Sarasota, FL: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Description: Paperback, 360pages.
Contents: Introduction by Emanuel Sferios, Prologue, 10 chapters in 3 parts: 1. The Light Within, 2. The Dark Side, 3. Unity, references, index.
The potential benefits of psychoactive compounds to the individual and society are recognized by many. Indigenous cultures integrated the use of psychoactive plants within their spiritual or religious institutions, and modern users of psychedelic or entheogenic compounds often report spiritual, therapeutic, and recreational benefits from their use. The interdisciplinary field of "consciousness studies" also recognizes that the investigation of drug-induced altered states allows for a better understanding of human consciousness. (page 9)
Chapter 1: K Waves and K Raves
The Spiritual Quest
In quieter spaces, use of ketamine may reflect the growing drive for spiritual experiences in what some observers have seen as a materialistic and spiritually empty era. However, some of these spiritual seekers have specifically avoided ketamine because it is totally artificial. These groups prefer to take drugs in plant form, or to take substances such as LSD and MDMA that are perceived as having close relatives in the Earth's vegetation.
... Regardless of one's opinions concerning this philosophy, it is highly likely that substances with ketamine-like actions will eventually be found in plants, and this has probably taken place already. Ibogaine, extracted from the roots of the African tree Tabernanthe iboga, has some very similar actions in the brain to ketamine and high doses may produce a state resembling dissociative anesthesia. (pages 30 - 31)
The term "near death experience" (NDE) describes reports of perceptions that awareness has left the physical body, and (much less often) of going through a tunnel towards a source of light. A smaller number report going into the light, and even fewer having some form of communication with the light that may be seen as a simulation of God. In the same way, those who have experienced ketamine doses in the 100-150 mg range (by injection) may become convinced that they are dead, or that they are having a telepathic communion with God. They may see visions, and describe leaving their bodies, dying, and entering other realities and alternate universes. Old memories may emerge to the point of being re-experienced, sometimes leading to a life review that is occasionally perceived as having moral, spiritual, and therapeutic value. The loss of contact with the external reality and the sense of being part of other, "much more real" and "fundamental" realities may be very strong. Some people find this interesting while others may become disturbed. A NDE does not necessarily mean that the person is physically near death. This is usually not the case. Ketamine does not stop the heart and produce a situation like that on the Flatliners. (The heart rate actually rises.) (pages 43 - 44)
Chapter 3: Dreams and Realities
Apparent insights into the Nature of Existence and the Self
Many people who never thought about spirituality or the meaning of life reported having experiences that one might read about only in spiritual texts or Eastern teachings ...For many it is a profound insight that they can exist without their bodies as pure consciousness or pure spirit. Many of them said that as a result of their experience, they understand the Christian notion of the separation of the soul and the body, and that they now believe some part of them will continue to exist after death. There were several cases where people reported contact with God. They describe an ocean of brilliant while light, which is filled with love, bliss, and energy.
Igor Kungurtsev, M.D.
Chapter 4. Ketamine, Near-Death, and Near-Birth Experiences
describing ketamine psychedelic therapy (page 78)
Ketamine-induced Near-death Experiences
Ketamine can reproduce all features of the NDE, including buzzing/ringing/whistling sounds at the beginning, travel through a dark tunnel into light at high speed, the conviction that one is dead, apparent telepathic communication with God, intense visions, life reviews, out-of-boby experiences, and mystical states. Prior to Moody's Life After Life popularized the term "near-death experience," an anestheist noted:
Ketamine allows some patients to reason that ... the strange, unexpected intensity and the unfamiliar dimension of the experience means they must have died.
Barbara B. Collier
There are also accounts of ketamine journeys in which "the entity" becomes personified in the form of a religious figure such as Christ, a feature Moody believed to be reported only by those who had "real" near-death experiences. Those who deny that a NDE can be induced argue that people who have had a NDE often insist on the reality of the experience. However, those who have experienced ketamine are often just as insistent that they have not been dreaming or hallucinating, but that the events really happened. The fact that near-death experiences can be artificially induced does not imply that the spontaneously occurring NDE is "unreal" in some way. It has been suggested that both may involve a "retuning" of the brain to allow the experience of a different reality from the everyday world. (page 107)
"Ketamine and the Conscious Mind," Anesthesia (page 98)
Chapter 5: The Metaphorical Mental Modem
The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience
This was the title of a book published in 1967 by Jungian analysts Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, based on studies of hundreds of people whom they "guided" through LSD experiences. Their model of the deep self, derived from these studies, involves four layers. The first is the sensory realm, a storehouse of images. Below this is the recollective-analytic level of personal biography. Next is the symbolic dimension, containing Jungian archetypes and symbols with historical, legendary, mythical, or ritualistic meanings. The person at this level experiences a deep sense of being part of evolutionary and historical processes, and may take part in myths, legends, institutions, and rituals that appear to be consistent with their psychic needs. Finally there is the integral level, described as a meeting with the "ground of being," "God," or "fundamental reality." Ketamine has produced reports consistent with all these levels. (pages 151-152)
Chapter 6: Ketamine Dependence (Addiction)
Spiritual Starvation and Spiritual Excess
Some addictions have been said to arise from a lack of spiritual sustenance, and to be a maladaptive attempt to re-connect with this aspect of being. The view that drug use is now at high levels because God is dead and we live in a meaningless, mechanical universe tends to source this "pathology" to the 17th century, when the ideas of Descartes are alleged to have alienated humanity from nature by stating that the mind was separate from the body and not actually a part of nature. From this perspective, before Descartes the cosmos was more likely to be seen as alive and possessed of its own soul, as were plants, planets, and most other things. There appeared to be meaning, purpose, Gods, and the "love of God" interacting with human lives. The Newtonian-Cartesian tick-tock system eventually led some influential thinkers to view humans, consciousness, and life itself as meaningless accidents, adding to what Bertrand Russell called the "unyielding despair" of modern times. ... (page 186)
Rather than spiritual starvation, there are some persons who are drawn to ketamine through their extensive involvement with spiritual ideas and beliefs. They may seek, at some level, to become spirit and depart this mortal coil prematurely, either by conscious or unconscious acts. For example, Moore was immersed in spiritual thinking for decades, and very focused upon "the higher self," before she ever took ketamine. ...
Moore believed that ketamine put her in touch with her higher self, and yet she was dependent on it when she died. Ketamine psychedelic therapy has been used with over 1,000 people who were alcohol-dependent, sometimes for the purpose of putting them in touch with their "higher selves" in an attempt to prevent their premature deaths. Once again, the issue seems to be one of balance. (pages 188 - 189)
Chapter 7: The Escape from Planet K: The Treatment of Ketamine Dependence
A spiritual quest is sometimes about transcendence of the everyday in search of something within that is always there, although our egos may have lost sight of it. problems may arise when a person becomes enslaved by the method use to seek transcendence, such as certain religions, or when he or she uses potentially harmful methods to transcend. Many ketamine users will already believe that the further into their minds they go, the more space there appears to be, until a perception of infinity is reached in the innermost regions. There are other ways of making this "inward journey," such as the meditation described above. Floatation tanks are another possibility, and are now widely available. Some ideas for drug-free exploring can be found in: Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space by Masters and Houston. (page 223)
Chapter 10: Psychedelic Healing, E Pluribus Unam
In countries where there is a separation of church and state, there is an understandable reluctance to use research funds to support religious conversions. Underground LSD chemist Augustus Owsley once remarked that "psychedelic chemistry is applied theology." Those committed to the Newtonian-Cartesian-Dawkins vision do not wish to support research that declares this world to be an illusion, and argue that starting your own religion (as recommended by Leary in The Politics of Ecstasy) does not help people who hear voices telling them to kill themselves or others, or those with Alzheimer's disease for example. Most governments have little enthusiasm for studies that tell them that all boundaries are an illusion and we are all manifestations of the Brahma energy. Some become wary of psychedelic drug research because investigators who took the drugs themselves often "went native" and became more spiritual and less scientific in their approach. These investigators were seen as being even more inclined to present psychedelic drugs as a universal panacea than others with a new treatment. (page 298)
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This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2002 CSP