Exploring the uncharted territories of the mind and soul, Psychonautics simply relates the experience users feel during altered states of consciousness. One reaches this mindset through a myriad of tools which range from drug-free techniques to full blown psychedelics and hallucinogens. It doesn't matter whether the ritual is shamanistic involving mystical mushrooms, or you're dropped into a sensory deprivation tank, the overall goal is to gain deeper insights into the human psyche and utilize their altered state of mind for greater perspective.
To try to understand why someone would take the time, not to mention the risks involved with experimenting with mind-altering substances, we've interviewed Robert (last name withheld for privacy) to share his insights into this intriguing topic.
What caused you to get into the world of Psychonautics?
I was really young at the time, early 20s, and I had overwhelming anxiety and depression which ultimately led me to go to my doctor. He offered Xanax, but I've tried them before, so I declined. I knew exactly it did to some people, since I've seen it first hand with many of my friends who take it everyday. It was difficult to talk with them because half the time they would just be gone mentally, and I realized there must be another way.
What was the the first thing you tried?
Meditation actually, of course I've dabbled in marijuana in my younger years, so I wanted to stick with safe and natural methods. I focused on purely meditation, with no mind-altering substances for almost a year, and the experiences I received were eye-opening to say the least. I think it was really essential to building a maturity and respect of my own thoughts, and it definitely allowed me to navigate my mind much more freely than if I were to jump out the gate taking all sorts of weird chemicals.
So you don't recommend jumping into hallucinogens and mind-altering substances?
It's not that I don't recommend it, but I think knowledge and respect about these topics is important so you know what to expect and know how to treat it as well. Quite often when using substances to reach different states of consciousness, you can sometimes get stuck or forced into a bad trip. By exploring the limits of your mind through meditation or research, you can choose the best solutions for the answers you seek, rather than just "blindly" going in without being grounded. The ability to navigate difficult thoughts can't be reached by taking these tools too lightly, since many of these substances can be abused recreationally which also leads to a wasted experience.
So you don't take drugs recreationally?
Well, I don't know many people who don't, but I think the main difference between someone who just takes drugs for fun, and a psychonaught, is what we gain from the experience. Instead of being passed out, unaware of anything that happened, a psychonaut will have greater memory of the event, and utilize the perspective they gain to expand their own perception on certain answers in life.
So...what types of chemicals have you taken to reach these states?
Well, after meditation for a year, I wanted to experiment with proven methods. I was pretty confident in my ability to navigate out of a bad trip, that I thought it was time to explore my mind even further. I tried Salvia Divinorum, Ayuascaha (DMT), MDMA, Mescaline, and occasionally Marijuana. I've also dabbled in spice and other research chemicals, but they gave absolutely no benefits outside of recreational use in my experience. With each substance, I spread out the event so I could recover each time and allow my mind to really comprehend and appreciate each trip. It was kind of like taking your consciousness on a vacation, but after a tiresome journey, all you want to do is sit and reflect on everything you witnessed.
Which chemicals do you think benefited you the most?
DMT and MDMA without a doubt. Although Salvia and Mescaline are extremely visual and interesting in their own rights, they can also be incredibly intense and overwhelming. With Salvia, I've experienced the room folding in on itself, similar to the visuals in the movie Inception, and the way it bends your awareness of time and space is pretty frightening at times. It's almost like being stuck in a box of pure thought and emotion, which manifests itself in crazy geometric patterns within your brain. You also have no control over your entire face or body during the entire 5-10 minute trip, so being able to leave "ego" at the door was essential to not freaking out. Mescaline is a whole different beast, you had much more awareness of yourself than Salvia, and the body is much easier to control, but the visuals were just as vivid, if not more at times. Colors look absolutely amazing on it, or just anything in general to be honest, when the full blown hallucinations kick in, it's a real treat. As for DMT and MDMA, these were helpful in that it actually improved my minds ability to handle stress and anxiety much easier, months after you take it even. The intensity differs with the dosage, but they are definitely more enjoyable than most other drugs you take. I've completed at least 2-3 sessions with each chemical, except for marijuana, of which I've lost count...
Why do you think these helped you?
After taking these, your brain is completely flooded with pure energy and emotion, you start to feel again, all sorts of memories and thoughts surface which you never would've remembered, including the bad ones. I think a lot of people may have things they can't get over, like a book or a movie you only got halfway through, it can be annoying to let these regrets cause anxiety about things that haven't happened yet. I think that's where most of my fear stemmed from at least, and what the chemicals allowed was a greater appreciation of life, since it definitely kicked my ass mentally more than a few times. It's like a therapist you hands you truth instead of bullshit. Nothing can bruise your ego more than having no motor function whatsoever as your entire environment folds in on itself. If you try to control what happens during these trips, then you can get stuck with that thought, and just be constantly afraid. By just letting these states to take over, it makes the journey a lot more tolerable. instead of getting angry or frustrated at things that happen in life, you can sort of just watch and enjoy it, learn from it, instead of getting anxious or upset.
What would you consider trying next?
I'm pretty content with the way things have gone so far, but I wouldn't mind trying a sensory deprivation tank sometime. I tried most of these things just to "see" if they could help, I don't regret my decisions, but it's sort of like a one time thing. Once you've taken some of these chemicals, you don't really have an urge to do it again. It was kind of like meditation where once you've learned how to do it correctly, then it became an tool that you can pick up whenever you feel like, instead of relying on it everyday to get by.