Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on November 6, 2014

Part 2: LSD


As I mentioned in Part-1 of this blog, my discussion of drugs upsets some readers, especially drugs like LSD. I am sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. That is not my intention. My intention here is to give justice to the advent of hallucinogenics in the 1960s. I am not advocating taking LSD today or, for that matter, any other mind-altering substance, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and so on.

Anyway, when it comes to drugs, LSD is a whole different story IMO from drugs like marijuana, which I consider more as entertainment, even though I know that some consider it sacred. For me marijuana was never sacred, even though I did my best to consider it so. First time for every drug for me was something sacred. After that, it depended on what it did for me. So please know that I consider LSD as the most sacred drug I have even ingested, regardless of how others may have abused it.

Let me preface my remarks by pointing out that LSD in my opinion was a generational thing, something that had its place in time and, although I am sure they still make it, I doubt that the experience could be quite the same today as it was in the early 1960s when we needed a way out of the ultra-straight 1950s. And before I jump into LSD, let me say a few words about prescription drugs.

If illegal drugs are the tip of the iceberg, then prescription drugs make up the rest of it. For all of the hullabaloo about pot and LSD, almost nothing is said or written about the effects of prescription drugs, although they are ubiquitous. This is gradually changing, I know. I am not one for any kind of prescription drugs if they can be avoided, and I seldom take even aspirin or Ibuprofen. Tylenol in more than a single dose makes me sick and so do things like Vicodin. I can’t use them.

When I see the endless cabinets of pills and drugs that many people use, I cannot help but feel compassion for these folks. Drug after drug, day after day, pill after pill, these drugs may relieve symptoms or be even more useful than that, but I also imagine that they (layer on layer) obscure the crystal-like clarity of the mind we were born with, that same mind that is the one key to any awareness that we have. Drugs, for all their value, can cloud, obscure, and put on hold any opportunity to wake up. Some of you reading this with more experience with prescription drugs than I have should tell this story. I would listen.That being said, back to my own account. Of the drugs I have had, the only ones that I must honestly say actually led to greater understanding of life and myself are the hallucinogens, the psychedelics, in particular LSD.

I have tried several kinds of hallucinogens, including Peyote, plus soaking and chewing up Morning Glory seeds (the ‘Heavenly Blue’ variety), letting them do their thing in my stomach, then throwing it all up, and lastly, getting high. For obvious reasons I did not do this that often, and for obvious reasons.

I would really need an entire blog or three to go into detail about LSD, its effects, and its residue in the mind stream. Suffice it to say here that of all the drugs I have experimented with (not really that many), LSD is the only one that made me think, that actually expanded my mental horizons in any permanent way. I only took it a few times, and only two of those trips were worthwhile in my opinion, but they were doozies. I will try to explain.

First, a few words about the advent of LSD back in the early 1960s. Before any of us ever tried LSD, we had heard about it. Like all new "highs" and drugs, coming events cast their shadow, and the shadow of LSD was formidable and scary. Everyone agreed that it was not simply another “high” but, as science claims to have documented, it is a “mind-altering” drug. That alone gave us pause, because we had no idea of what “mind-altering” meant in this context. We thought pot and any old other drugs were already mind-altering, so this brought us up short, but only for a while. An inner urge to get out of the mental straight-jacket of the 1950s overcame any resistance that we had and we didn’t really know what the mind itself was, much less what it would be like if you altered it, so I took LSD on May 5, 1964 in Berkeley, California. I have written about that trip in articles that can be found on my site:


And sure enough, LSD "was" mind-altering, and for many of us not just for a day or part of a day, but for all time, and for a reason. And here I am pointing out a very important concept, so please, those of you interested, take note. LSD was not powerful just because it was a chemical concoction that somehow altered the mind, which it did appear to do, but mostly because none of us back then knew anything about what the mind was in the first place, and this fact is key. It is said that the great Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche took acid and reported that nothing happened. That should tell us something right there. He certainly knew the mind, so there apparently were no surprises when he dropped acid. This was not true for the rest of us.

It has taken me some thirty-five years of practicing meditation to know enough about the mind itself to get under and beyond the imprint left by LSD way back then, because LSD imprints deep! But I have done that, and can report from my own experience that the mind cannot be altered by drugs or anything else, not in its essence or truth. However, LSD experiences can dig deeper than we can otherwise reach in our day-to-day life experience, and unless we can get back to and beyond (get our arms around) where the drugs imprinted, we may never know the difference, and be forced to live with life-experience boundaries set by drugs, rather than know the true mind itself. This is indeed sad. Be sure you are clear about this point, please.

Therefore, at least in my case, no amount of psychologizing solved the disturbance that LSD wrought on how I saw the world. With LSD, there is no going back, not because it is an "evil" drug, but because we see true things on it that require a true change in attitude on our parts. And change means a real change of mind, permanently. And this is true because I had realizations on acid, and realizations (as the Tibetan Buddhists tell us) are permanent. That is what LSD can permanently change us. In other words, when you see something that was crooked, straight, you will never see it crooked again. That is what realizations do.

These psychedelic drugs can change our perception, and radically, but they cannot change the nature of our mind itself. They can provide a glimpse of that nature that can require years of adjustment to come to grips with. In truth, LSD opened my eyes and meditation practice eventually stabilized what I saw. However, we have to actually recognize the true nature of our mind, and meditation is the only method I have found that can do that. I have pointed something important out here, but this topic deserves more discussion. For now I will return to the effects of LSD.

What LSD did back then was to remove the separation of subject and object in my mind, at least temporarily. It let me clearly see (once and for all) that what I saw out there in the outer world is a direct reflection of my biases and prejudices in here within my own psychology and mind and that, as I change my mind internally, what I see out there in the ‘real’ world changes accordingly. What a mind bender that realization was! This is the good or wonderful part of LSD, and it amounted to a huge life lesson for me.

The bad part or downside of LSD is that the experience can be so disruptive and unsettling that it can take years to reestablish any kind of mental stability (put all the puzzle pieces back together again), not because you become crazy, but because the concept of a “Self” you once had is so shattered by the LSD experience (and rightly so) that it takes that long to reassemble itself again. Let me very briefly clarify, if I can, and this is not simple.

As the Buddhists point out, what we call our “Self” has (according to them) no true or permanent existence. This is not to say there is no self or that you ever can somehow lose your self. That is a pure misunderstanding of the teachings. The self will always be there, if only as a narrator and the organizer of our lives, the little voice that says “you have a dentist appointment tomorrow.” I like myself, but not "that" much and I used to joke about my self, that is was just "not my kind of people." In other words, I was not THAT crazy about myself.

What is not so understood (IMO) is that the self is not a permanent thing, but rather a composite, an ephemeral collection or montage of things we have gathered around us over time (like a warm blanket) to make us feel like we really are someone, in other words, just another habit. Actually, what we call our Self changes yearly, monthly, and daily, as we forget about this thing or other and identify with some new thing. The idea of a permanent self is a convenient illusion, a comfort blanket that seemingly promises continuity and (by inference) some sort of personal immortality, as in: the immortality of our particular persona. Even a cursory look at our history will show how much the idea of our self changes over time. What was central to our self image when a kid (a new bike) might well be totally different later in life (a new wife, husband, or child), and so on. The self remains, but what we consider important to our self-image is more like a kaleidoscope, ever changing. We could have ten blogs on this.

My point here is that LSD (and other hallucinogens) shatters the concept of a self into a million pieces, forcing us to face the actual reality of our true nature, which we may perhaps just glimpse. However, this self-shattering experience is so profound that it takes us days, months, and years to put our Humpty-Dumpty Self back together again, if only to cover up our nakedness or emptiness. In my own case, it took years to stabilize myself after LSD, which is not something most folks can afford. And lastly, an air-tight self-image (like most of us try to maintain) is not something that is even helpful. Humpty Dumpty, no matter how carefully rearranged is still: Humpty Dumpty. Of course, I could go on.

In summary, while most drugs I have known are at best a pleasant waste of time, entertaining, and some are addictive and vicious, only the mind-expanding hallucinogens gave me anything I would consider at all valuable in the long term, and even the useful effects of LSD and its kin are better (and more safely) attained today through the various forms of meditation, the true mind-expanding practice. But, as mentioned, this is my opinion, just me. You will have your own story and objects may appear larger in your rear-view mirror than they in fact are.

Knowing what I know now, I would never consider using drugs of any kind, but rather I concentrate on learning to know and use my mind. I have more detailed articles on LSD on my website, if you would care to look for them: