May 7, 201307:39 AMAfter Hours
with Jody Glynn Patrick
Lucy in the Sky With Science
(page 1 of 2)
LSD … Once you get past the mental image of psychedelic walls melting into rainbows, ask yourself if a controlled dose of lysergic acid diethylamide might somehow serve the greater good. That’s what the audience was asked to consider at Promega’s March 2013 bioethics conference, “Further Studies in Human Consciousness: Creative Insight,” where cultural critics, philosophers, and scientists came together to discuss the latest research into the mystical workings of human minds.
As part of the eclectic offerings, LSD researcher Dr. James Fadiman maintained that acid can enhance problem solving and should be approved for use in more widespread controlled scientific exploration.
Following a 40-year ban, LSD experimentation is going mainstream, leaving some with an awakened wonderment of acid. A couple of UW Hospital doctors have expressed interest in using LSD as part of a palliative care treatment regimen, as it has been shown to significantly reduce death anxiety. It also helps alleviate cluster headaches. Micro-doses or small maintenance doses of acid may actually enhance cognitive functions and focus concentration without visual or spiritual “tripping.”
My brother grew magic mushrooms, as I discovered when clearing out his apartment. I never sampled his stash because I am terrified of the possibility of a paranoia-inducing “bad trip.” I’m already cursed with psychic sensibilities, so upon discovery of the gallon baggie of dried mushrooms (next to a snack-sized baggie of weed), I knee-jerk flushed the shrooms down the toilet. As the last of the brown bits swirled away, I worried that maybe the city’s population would inexplicably go barking mad in the next week. But no, Dr. Fadiman’s lecture suggested that at the most, everyone would have gotten an invisible, tasteless micro-dose with a sip of kitchen tap water. I’m responsible, at worst, for elevating Columbia, Mo.’s collective IQ for a day or so.
During the two-day Promega conference, I also greatly enjoyed lectures by Lynda Barry; Erik Davis; Rex E. Jung, Ph.D.; Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.; David Krakauer, D. Phil.; Alfonso Montuori, Ph.D.; and Matthieu Ricard, an author and Buddhist monk from Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery, near Kathmandu, Nepal. Along with others in the audience, I learned of The Dream Project in a New York high school, where students are assigned a dream director (versus a guidance counselor). The DD helps each young adult articulate, plan for, and realize a future dream with the help of professionally trained dream coaches. Students are given assistance to research goal prerequisites and obstacles and to strategize how to neutralize barriers and achieve the dream.
Personal high points also included meeting Krakauer, director of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at the UW. As an add-on cost, I could dine at a table hosted by a speaker at the close of the first day’s lectures. Lynda Barry was undoubtedly the most entertaining option, but I chose Krakauer’s group. I’m a fan of Socratic debate; who better to question about the philosophy of creativity than a learned philosopher? The man is absolutely brilliant, and the table talk was as enjoyable as the elegant dinner and dessert.
Another high point was meeting Ricard, who is close to the Dalai Lama and who shared stories of day-to-day existence in the most remote settings. During his lecture on creativity and the soul, he reminded us all of the beauty and splendor to be found in the expression of gratitude for all of life’s teachings and gifts.
I’d like to close with a tale of my most memorable encounter. I asked Dr. Fadiman, while he was setting up for his lecture in the empty auditorium, if I might take his picture for a blog. He asked who I was blogging for and then wondered aloud why a conservative business audience would be interested in LSD research. I reminded him that (1) he was in Madison, Wis. and (2) long-haired hippie radicals have matured into conservative, balding CEOs who secretly hope that pot and acid will be legalized in their lifetime because dying from cancer (straight/sober) can be a bitch.
After further chitchat, we found many areas of common philosophical ground, and he said I should meet his wife, whom he felt I’d love for her advocacy work, and I said he would have enjoyed my brother. We came to the idea that our meeting served a higher purpose – which likely would be revealed later rather than sooner – because we both felt a “click” that was borderline weird.
Minutes later, my buddy Jim opened his lecture acknowledging he was going to talk about LSD and the use of psychedelic drugs to transcend conscious abilities, but he wanted first to make a bold statement. He announced that “using only words” and no drugs, someone could change the way we actually think. Not the way we thing about something, but the actual way we think. He then explained that the words would be a hypnotic suggestion that would change our perception of time, to which our brain would respond by changing the speed at which it processed thoughts or solved problems. Research published in the 1970s, he added, had long ago confirmed that hypothesis.
I smiled, writing Jim a note that I would hand him on my way out of the auditorium after his speech: “I think I uncovered the synchronicity of our meeting. The time distortion study you mentioned, I believe, was research presented at the annual meeting of the APA in Chicago in 1977-78. I conducted that experiment under the supervision of Dr. Benjamin Wallace and Dr. James Garret, with the assistance of co-hypnotist Edward Bloom. We researched time distortion, manipulated perception, and measured problem solving under hypnosis. The clinical experimentation was at Western Illinois University. Check and see if that’s your source!”