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LSD and the Quantum Brain: Where Science and Spirituality Come Together

Today, the debate between the secular and the religious, as well as the scientific and the spiritual, is alive and well. It is common to hear one side attempt to discredit the other. However, as with most cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many wonder if there is enough scientific research to support various religious or spiritual concepts. It appears that as science continues to progress, more and more evidence is revealed suggesting that, indeed, there is far more beyond the physical world that we know. One “quantum brain” theory (supported by famous physicist Sir Roger Penrose) gives a scientifically plausible explanation for some kind of life after death. The video below (narrated by Morgan Freeman) explains:

One book that offers a plethora of solid scientific evidence supporting spiritual phenomena is Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe. In chapter 3, after discussing Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’, research showing how one person’s thoughts and impact another’s dreams, and the possibility of parallel universes, Talbot goes into detailing various experiments with the psychedelic drug LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide. The following is an eye-opening excerpt from the book:

Hitching a Ride on the Infinite Subway

The idea that we are able to access images from the collective unconscious, or even visit parallel dream universes, pales beside the conclusions of another prominent researcher who has been influenced by the holographic model. He is Stanislav Grof, chief of psychiatric research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After more than thirty years of studying nonordinary states of consciousness, Grof has concluded that the avenues of exploration available to our psyches via holographic interconnectedness are more than vast. They are virtually endless.

Grof first became interested in nonordinary states of consciousness in the 1950s while investigating the clinical uses of the hallucinogen LSD at the Psychiatric Research Institute in his native Prague, Czechoslovakia. The purpose of his research was to determine whether LSD had any therapeutic applications. When Grof began his research, most scientists viewed the LSD experience as little more than a stress reaction, the brain’s way of responding to a noxious chemical. But when Grof studied the records of his patient’s experiences he did not find evidence of any recurring stress reaction. Instead, there was a definite continuity running through each of the patient’s sessions. “Rather than being unrelated and random, the experiential content seemed to represent a successive unfolding of deeper and deeper levels of the unconscious,” says Grof. This suggested that repeated LSD sessions had important ramifications for the practice and theory of psychotherapy, and provided Grof and his colleagues with the impetus they needed to continue the research. The results were striking. It quickly became clear that serial LSD sessions were able to expedite the psychotherapeutic process and shorten the time necessary for the treatment of many disorders. Traumatic memories that had haunted individuals for years were unearthed and dealt with, and sometimes even serious conditions, such as schizophrenia, were cured. But what was even more startling was that many of the patients rapidly moved beyond issues involving their illnesses and into areas that were uncharted by Western psychology.

One common experience was the reliving of what it was like to be in the womb. At first Grof thought these were just imagined experiences, but as the evidence continued to amass he realized that the knowledge of embryology inherent in the descriptions was often far superior to the patients’ previous education in the area. Patients accurately described certain characteristics of the heart sounds of their mother, the nature of acoustic phenomena in the peritoneal cavity, specific details concerning blood circulation in the placenta, and even details about the various cellular and biochemical processes taking place. They also described important thoughts and feelings their mother had had during pregnancy and events such as physical traumas she had experienced.

Whenever possible Grof investigated these assertions, and on several occasions was able to verify them by questioning the mother and other individuals involved. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and biologists who experienced prebirth memories during their training for the program (all the therapists who participated in the study also had to undergo several sessions of LSD psychotherapy) expressed similar astonishment at the apparent authenticity of the experiences.

Most disconcerting of all were those experiences in which the patient’s consciousness appeared to expand beyond the usual boundaries of the ego and explore what it was like to be other living things and even other objects. For example, Grof had one female patient who suddenly became convinced she had assumed the identity of a female prehistoric reptile. She not only gave a richly detailed description of what it felt like to be encapsuled in such a form, but noted that the portion of the male of the species’ anatomy she found most sexually arousing was a patch of colored scales on the side of its head. Although the woman had no prior knowledge of such things, a conversation Grof had with a zoologist later confirmed that in certain species of reptiles, colored areas on the head do indeed play an important role as triggers of sexual arousal.

Patients were also able to tap into the consciousness of their relatives and ancestors. One woman experienced what it was like to be her mother at the age of three and accurately described a frightening event that had befallen her mother at the time. The woman also gave a precise description of the house her mother had lived in as well as the white pinafore she had been wearing—all details her mother later confirmed and admitted she had never talked about before. Other patients gave equally accurate descriptions of events that had befallen ancestors who had lived decades and even centuries before.

Other experiences included the accessing of racial and collective memories. Individuals of Slavic origin experienced what it was like to participate in the conquests of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian hordes, to dance in trance with the Kalahari bushmen, to undergo the initiation rites of the Australian aborigines, and to die as sacrificial victims of the Aztecs. And again the descriptions frequently contained obscure historical facts and a degree of knowledge that was often completely at odds with the patient’s education, race, and previous exposure to the subject. For instance, one uneducated patient gave a richly detailed account of the techniques involved in the Egyptian practice of embalming and mummification, including the form and meaning of various amulets and sepulchral boxes, a list of the materials used in the fixing of the mummy cloth, the size and shape of the mummy bandages, and other esoteric facets of Egyptian funeral services. Other individuals tuned into the cultures of the Far East and not only gave impressive descriptions of what it was like to have a Japanese, Chinese, or Tibetan psyche, but also related various Taoist or Buddhist teachings.

In fact, there did not seem to be any limit to what Grof’s LSD subjects could tap into. They seemed capable of knowing what it was like to be every animal, and even plant, on the tree of evolution. They could experience what it was like to be a blood cell, an atom, a thermonuclear process inside the sun, the consciousness of the entire planet, and even the consciousness of the entire cosmos. More than that, they displayed the ability to transcend space and time, and occasionally they related uncannily accurate precognitive information. In an even stranger vein they sometimes encountered nonhuman intelligences during their cerebral travels, discarnate beings, spirit guides from “higher planes of consciousness,” and other suprahuman entities.

On occasion subjects also traveled to what appeared to be other universes and other levels of reality. In one particularly unnerving session a young man suffering from depression found himself in what seemed to be another dimension. It had an eerie luminescence, and although he could not see anyone he sensed that it was crowded with discarnate beings. Suddenly he sensed a presence very close to him, and to his surprise it began to communicate with him telepathically. It asked him to please contact a couple who lived in the Moravian city of Kromeriz and let them know that their son Ladislav was well taken care of and doing all right. It then gave him the couple’s name, street address, and telephone number.

The information meant nothing to either Grof or the young man and seemed totally unrelated to the young man’s problems and treatment. Still, Grof could not put it out of his mind. “After some hesitation and with mixed feelings, I finally decided to do what certainly would have made me the target of my colleagues’ jokes, had they found out,” says Grof. “I went to the telephone, dialed the number in Kromeriz, and asked if I could speak with Ladislav. To my astonishment, the woman on the other side of the line started to cry. When she calmed down, she told me with a broken voice: ‘Our son is not with us anymore; he passed away, we lost him three weeks ago. ‘”

In the 1960s Grof was offered a position at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and moved to the United States. The center was also doing controlled studies of the psychotherapeutic applications of LSD, and this allowed Grof to continue his research. In addition to examining the effects of repeated LSD sessions on individuals with various mental disorders, the center also studied its effects on “normal” volunteers—doctors, nurses, painters, musicians, philosophers, scientists, priests, and theologians. Again Grof found the same kind of phenomena occurring again and again. It was almost as if LSD provided the human consciousness with access to a kind of infinite subway system, a labyrinth of tunnels and byways that existed in the subterranean reaches of the unconscious, and one that literally connected everything in the universe with everything else.

After personally guiding over three thousand LSD sessions (each lasting at least five hours) and studying the records of more than two thousand sessions conducted by colleagues, Grof became unalterably convinced that something extraordinary was going on. “After years of conceptual struggle and confusion, I have concluded that the data from LSD research indicate an urgent need for a drastic revision of the existing paradigms for psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and possibly science in general,” he states. “There is at present little doubt in my mind that our current understanding of the universe, of the nature of reality, and particularly of human beings, is superficial, incorrect, and incomplete.”

Grof coined the term transpersonal to describe such phenomena, experiences in which the consciousness transcends the customary boundaries of the personality, and in the late 1960s he joined with several other like-minded professionals, including the psychologist and educator Abraham Maslow, to found a new branch of psychology called transpersonal psychology

(The Holographic Universe, pgs. 66-70)

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