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The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide
Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys
Table of Contents
About The Book
• Presents practices for safe and successful psychedelic voyages, including the benefits of having a guide and how to be a guide
• Reviews the value of psychedelics for healing and self-discovery as well as how LSD has facilitated scientific and technical problem-solving
• Reveals how microdosing (ultr-low doeses) improve cognitive functioning, emotional balance, and physical stamina
• This year 600,000 people in the U.S. alone will try LSD for the the first time, joining the 23 million who have already experimented with this substance
Called “America’s wisest and most respected authority on psychedelics and their use,” James Fadiman has been involved with psychedelic research since the 1960s. In this guide to the immediate and long-term effects of psychedelic use for spiritual (high dose), therapeutic (moderate dose), and problem-solving (low dose and microdose) purposes, Fadiman outlines best practices for safe, sacred entheogenic voyages learned through his more than 40 years of experience--from the benefits of having a sensitive guide during a session (and how to be one) to the importance of the setting and pre-session intention.
Fadiman reviews the newest as well as the neglected research into the psychotherapeutic value of visionary drug use for increased personal awareness and a host of serious medical conditions, including his recent study of the reasons for and results of psychedelic use among hundreds of students and professionals. He reveals new uses for LSD and other psychedelics, including microdosing, extremely low doses, for improved cognitive functioning and emotional balance. Cautioning that psychedelics are not for everyone, he dispels the myths and misperceptions about psychedelics circulating in textbooks and clinics as well as on the internet. Exploring the life-changing experiences of Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, and Huston Smith as well as Francis Crick and Steve Jobs, Fadiman shows how psychedelics, used wisely, can lead not only to healing but also to scientific breakthroughs and spiritual epiphanies.
Part One of a Road Map for Voyagers and Guides
It cannot be emphasized enough that this book is not a manual to “the drug experience,” but about how to best open your own inner worlds and make use of the vast range of experiences possible after taking psychedelics. In the words of one guide, discussing the role of psychedelics in relation to other practices, “It enhances mind states also accessible from intense practice and focused attention discoverable through yoga, meditation, fasting, and other disciplines.” Seemingly universal, this opening is often experienced as reuniting one’s self with an eternal flow of energies and understandings.
Author and philosopher Aldous Huxley, writing about his first psychedelic experiences, talks about “the heightened significance of things.” Objects he had seen countless times but rarely noticed fascinated him as if for the first time. The psychedelics gave his mind freer play to see myriad connections, linking formerly mundane items to an ocean of ideas, memories, feelings, and attitudes. Huxley also described vibrant visions and ancient archetypal constellations that he felt had been present but unnoticed in his mind.
Albert Hofmann, who first discovered LSD’s effect, said this about it:
The first planned LSD experiment was . . . so deeply moving and alarming, because everyday reality and the ego experiencing it, which I had until then considered to be the only reality, dissolved, and an unfamiliar ego experienced another unfamiliar reality.
Suggestions for the Voyager
If possible, approach a voyage as a three-day process. Ideally, the first day, stay quiet and unhurried. Reserve time for self-reflection, spending a portion of the day in nature. Set aside the second day, all day, for the session. The third day should be devoted entirely to integrating the session and recording your discoveries and insights.
Prior to the session, it’s wise to clarify your personal preconceptions about psychedelic experiences, sacred plants, and entheogens in general. In addition, consider and reflect on your understanding of mystical experiences and cosmic consciousness. Share your expectations, concerns, and hopes with the person or people who are holding sacred space for you--your guide or guides. This will help you stay attuned with one another during the session.
Discussing the range of possible experiences in advance enables the session itself to go more smoothly. Whether you are a novice or an experienced voyager, internal experiences that may be entirely novel for you may occur. These might include:
- Cascading geometric forms and colors (usually early in the session);
- An alteration of felt time (expansion and/or contraction of “clock time”);
- Finding yourself in a different reality, as if you had lived or are living in another time or place;
- Being in a different body of either sex;
- Becoming an animal, plant, or microorganism;
- Experiencing your own birth.
As a session progresses, it is not uncommon to find yourself encountering entities that some refer to as “the presence of spirits.” In most cases, these meetings are positive. However, if you become upset or frightened, let your guide know.
In order to maximize the usefulness of realizations that may occur during your psychedelic voyage, it is invaluable to write out what you hope to learn, experience, understand, or resolve prior to the session. Whatever you’ve written should be available to you and your guide during and after the session. Some experienced guides have observed that a voyager can, in fact, direct their own journey by choosing a small number of questions beforehand, in order to organize the session’s direction. One can use this opportunity as a focused inquiry into very specific psychological, spiritual, or social concerns. At the same time, one can be open to engaging with whatever arises from a new encounter.
In addition to clarifying questions, for some people, it is helpful to identify your goals. Your goals may be psychological--insight into neurotic patterns, phobias, or unresolved anger or grief. Your goals may be social--improved relationships with your spouse, children, siblings, parents, colleagues, friends, and spiritual and secular institutions.
Your goals may be spiritual--to have direct experience with aspects of your tradition or another, to transcend prior beliefs, even to transcend belief itself. You may hope to have what is called a “unity experience” in which there is no separation between your identity and all else.
After reviewing many different spiritual breakthroughs, the psychologist and philosopher William James came to the following conclusion, especially true of the entheogenic experience.
One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness. Whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves those other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.
- Publisher: Park Street Press (May 18, 2011)
- Length: 352 pages
- ISBN13: 9781594779367
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Raves and Reviews
“James Fadiman, one of the foremost pioneers of scientific research of the potential of psychedelic substances for therapy, self-discovery, spiritual quests, and creative problem-solving, has written an invaluable guide for safe and productive sessions. Based on more than forty years of the author’s experience in the field and presented in a clear, easily understandable style, this book is a breath of fresh air, dispelling the mis-information that has been disseminated over many decades by sensation-hunting journalists and fear-based antidrug propaganda. The publication of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide could not be more timely; it coincides with a major renaissance of interest in psychedelic research worldwide. The information that it provides will thus be useful not only for the hundreds of thousands of people involved in self-experimentation but also for the new generation of psychedelic researchers.”
– Stanislav Grof, M.D., author of LSD: Doorway to the Numinous
“James Fadiman was the Forrest Gump of the psychedelic sixties. He witnessed the first flowerings of that amazing era of mindexpansion, then kept popping up for cameo appearances whenever the action got particularly interesting and enlightening. Now, riding a new wave of scientific research into the beneficial use of these misunderstood substances, Fadiman is back with a practical and at the same time inspiring guidebook for the next generation of entheogenic explorers.”
– Don Lattin, author of the bestselling The Harvard Psychedelic Club
“Approaching his subject from intimately historical, psychological-cultural, and accessibly authoritative perspectives, Fadiman’s psychedelic magnum opus establishes the benchmark reference for anyone interested in understanding, experiencing, or supervising the effects of this unique family of psychoactive substances.”
– Rick Strassman, M.D., author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule
“At last, there’s a practical, commonsense manual for mindful therapeutic sessions using psychedelics, one that’s informed by the latest science and unfettered by arcane platitudes. It will be a boon to personal transformation and a road map for avoiding trouble along the way for all who use it. Bon voyage!”
– Charles Hayes, author of Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures
“Finally! A comprehensive guide not only to psychedelic use in a therapeutic setting but also, even more bravely, to psychospiritual exploration and cognitive enhancement. We are fortunate to reap the benefits of Professor Fadiman’s years of cumulative knowledge and experience as well as to hear from a cadre of ‘who’s who’ in the psychedelic cognoscenti.”
– Julie Holland, M.D., editor of The Pot Book and Ecstasy
“Psychedelics have been part of native cultures for centuries and remain so in many areas of the world. Properly used, they offer a one-step guide to enlightenment and connection with intuition as well as the soul and the Divine. Dr. Fadiman’s book offers the best information and guidance available today. Everyone interested in exploring the world of inner consciousness will find this work indispensable.”
– Norm Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., founder of the American Holistic Health Association
“The prohibition of psychedelic drugs in the twentieth century unfortunately restricted a most promising and profound inquiry into the religious mysteries of consciousness. This brave and encouraging book goes a long way toward restoring our constitutional right to explore these mysteries. By encouraging individual responsibility and intelligence in this era of purported health care reform, James Fadiman takes a bold and refreshing step toward reclaiming our freedom of religion, which is the very essence of democracy and the American dream.”
– Robert Forte, editor of Entheogens and the Future of Religion
“The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide is a brave and uniquely valuable book. Written by one of the most highly respected and innovative researchers from the 1960s, this extraordinary book covers topics not found in any other book on the subject. Fadiman offers us a beautifully written, insightful summation of important early research on creativity, problem solving, and psychospiritual development, tragically cut off by government edict, as well as new research on the use of sub-threshold doses of LSD to enhance normal functioning, in the process creating a road map for the future of psychedelic research. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide wisely focuses not on pathology but on human potential for health and, as such, shows us how these transformative substances can improve the future of psychology--and the future of society. Throughout this radical yet evidence-based volume, Fadiman uses a combination of the research and his own broad personal experiences working with Leary, Alpert (Ram Dass), Kesey, and other seminal figures in psychedelic research and practice to make the convincing case that psychedelics offer the power to transform society and reintegrate unitary spirituality into Western civilization. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide is written with a wry humor that brings Fadiman’s sincere, soulful intentionality immediately to the reader, integrating and transforming from the moment one opens this important, mature, and absolutely essential book. If you are interested in the safe, effective, and transformative use of psychedelics to improve our lives and our society, you will devour this book. Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide is the finest book ever written on the topic--a must read.”
– Neal Goldsmith, Ph.D., author of Psychedelic Healing
“. . . this book is a breath of fresh air, dispelling the mis-information that has been disseminated over many decades by sensation-hunting journalists and fear-based antidrug propaganda.”
– GaiaMedia.org, May 2011
“James Fadiman’s manual offers helpful and well-informed guidance for those who seek ‘the divine within’ through sacred plants and psychedelic substances.”
– Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl
“Any interested in using psychedelics receives cautionary exploration of pros, cons, and discussions of myths and realities about them.”
– Midwest Book Review, August 2011
“A checklist for voyagers and their guides as well as an extensive resource section make this a truly invaluable and definitive guide for everyone interested in psychedelics and their potential to make us wiser, smarter, healthier, and more compassionate.”
– Seattle Post Intelligencer, September 2011
“Truly destined to be a classic. Don’t leave everyday reality without it.”
– Erowid, October 2011
“. . . The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys, in which he [James Fadiman] clears up current myths and misperceptions about psychedelics, and presents findings from both long-neglected and recent clinical studies, research experiments, and surveys showing a surprising range of benefits from safe, supervised psychedelic use.”
– Blogcritics.org, October 2011
“This comprehensive resource offers a wealth of practical information for therapists and health-care professionals, researchers and scientists, psychedelic voyagers and their guides, and even policy makers.”
– Gail Bradney, Carolyn Howard Johnson’s New Book Review, November 2011
“I highly recommend that everyone read this book so they can hold informed opinions about this very strange and much maligned substance.”
– Linda McDonell, November 2011
“Psychedelic practice...might have the ability to transform the very mechanisms of control and give birth to a society where the lessons of a transpersonal experience are known without the therapeutic aid of psychedelics. With any luck, time will tell and this book is certainly a step in the right direction.”
– Psychedelic Press, December 2011
“This is some of the most thoughtful, wise, heartfelt, and essential instruction for the use of sacred medicine.”
– Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
“Fadiman knows what he is talking about. This is the book we have needed.”
– Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religion
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