The following case history is included because it highlights many of the points
This patient was a forty-year old married physics professor with no practicing
religion. Though he had been brought up as a reformed Jew, he had estranged
his parents by marrying a gentile. He complained of uncontrollable hostility
over minor infringements of his rights, inability to relate to his wife and
children, and job dissatisfaction. He was fearful of killing people. He had
scant sense of personal worth. His hostility was usually triggered by driving
on the highway and was often directed at the highway police. This was only
part of his repressed resentment against all authority. He also complained of
a thought disorder. "My mind always seems to be going a mile a minute in every
direction except the one I command." On psychiatric examination he seemed
quite narcissistic and infantile. He was so oblivious of the needs and
feelings of other people as to appear almost solipsistic. Symptoms included
mild anxiety, moderate emotional withdrawal, moderate guilt feelings, and
oderate tension. His diagnosis was compulsive personality. He interpreted his
LSD experience as follows:
" I interpret the dream as enlightenment to me of God and all creation,
and of my place within the Universe. I see the cosmic countdown being presented
as a time sequence only so I could comprehend the "All in One" aspect
of the Universe. (Here he refers to Gamow's theory of creation known as
"the big bang.") One could stop the dream sequence at any point and
still call it a presentation of all Creation. When I see myself on the surface
of the bubble, along with all the others like me, this tells me that all that
is made up of elements like me. In the final scene when I see God, I interpret
this to mean that I am an integral, although infinitesimal part of God.
The day after this session, it was noted, "He is staggered by the quality
of his 'universal encounter.' States that so much was revealed! He went back to
the 'big bang' (beginning of creation). Found its explanation and meaning all
around in shapes and music. Appeared relaxed and freer.
Seems to have by-passed the personal, yet shows signs of latent integration on
that level." |
Two months later he requested a second LSD session. ...
Two years after his first session he felt he had no serious personal problems
left, although he still expressed some concern about the meaning of life and
his personal worth. ...
The psychiatrist's final judgment was best stated non-psychiatrically.
"This man has come alive. He is fun to be with." This judgment still
seems valid two years and six months after his first LSD session.
This patient was a model of someone who does well with LSD. The change seems
directly related to the transcendental experience. Chandler and Hartman have
suggested that the
transcendental experience is a defense against the person's hostility. The
available data neither support nor deny this view. But if true, it was a good
defense and more ego-syntonic than his previous defense structure.
The transcendental experience, so common in psychedelic therapy, while most
easily described in religious metaphors, has not in our sample occasioned any
substantial change in religious practices. In the case above the subject did
not look upon his experience as a conversion and he is no more religious than
before. Often, however, the transcendental experience is viewed by the subject
and the therapist as pivotal to his subsequent behavior and attitude changes.
The experience seems to give subjects a different view of themselves rather
than a different view of their religious system. (Pages 523-524)
In the present study, differences in thematic content of the experience were
found among subjects with diverse cultural backgrounds. As a case in point,
wide individual differences were demonstrated with respect to content in the
frequent experience of unity. However, the fact that the majority of subjects
experienced a sense of unity, or oneness, seems far more significant than
whether the unity was felt with self, nature, the universe, God, or some
combination of these. With regard to variations in content, it must be added
that content was inferred primarily from observation and the verbal report of
the subject. Needless to say, to the degree that he can verbalize the experience,
the subject drew on his own particular semantic
framework and belief system. One can only speculate on the discrepancy between
this communicated account of the experience and the experience itself. (Page