The planet and with it human life are in crisis. We are living at a time of intense environmental changes that appear to be happening much faster than our ability to adapt. Many of us are still in denial, others are fatalistic, while others still think the current crisis is the precursor to a profound transformation of humanity. Whatever the future may hold, this is a time that is calling us to take real responsibility for our actions in the present, and challenges us all to grow as human beings. There need to be changes to the way we show up in the world, in particular the level of consciousness we bring to our interaction with the planet and all its life forms. Our CO2 emissions are just a small part of the picture. The changes to our footprint in the world actually need to be much more systemic and profound than that, because the balance of the ecosystem is much finer and more tender than simply a question of carbon in the atmosphere.
Indigenous people have warned of an environmental crisis ever since they first saw how the European colonisers interacted with the natural world. The indigenous perspective is highly localised, identifying complex minutia in the local environmental system rather than at a global level. But this network of localised expertise traverses (or at least once traversed) the entire planet. On innumerable localised occasions indigenous people have pleaded that certain trees not be chopped down, certain rocks not be moved, a certain mountain not be mined, or certain swamps or waterholes not be disturbed. Each time they warned that if those things happen, the system would be out of balance and negative consequences such as sickness, drought or catastrophe would follow. And each time Europeans dismissed these concerns as superstitions, and proceeded as they wished. In my work with Australian Aboriginal People I have lost count of the times I have been taken to places and told things like: “there used to be an important waterhole here, but it’s all dried up now”, “there used to be a sacred tree here but they chopped it down to build a house”, “there used to be an ancestral rock but they used it as road base”, and so on. And this is just one person working with a few groups of indigenous people in Australia.
Across the world these kind of events have happened literally thousands of times. Again and again the pleas for protection have been ignored. For hundreds of years. And much longer if we count the same kinds of actions occurring in Europe since the Roman Empire imposed Christianity on the tribal groups of that continent. And it continues to this day, either without any attention paid at all to the indigenous voice, or more recently in some countries after a scientific study establishes that the “environmental impact” feared by the indigenous people could be mitigated. But such environmental impact assessments are always looking at a very narrow picture, not the bigger system with which waterhole X, tree Y or rock Z are connected. And in any event, the indigenous people aren’t simply talking about “environmental impacts”. They are talking about impacts on the delicate multidimensional (ie energetic and spiritual) ecosystem of the planet.
So indigenous people have been telling us for a long time that our actions will have major repercussions, and yet today, despite clear evidence that we are living amidst such repercussions, we refuse to examine the connection to our actions. As such we can’t even start to consider whether what we are dealing with in terms of climate change could in fact be one of these repercussions.
So what can the vast majority of us, who have become disconnected from the intimate relationship with our immediate environment and its fine energetic subtleties and interrelationships do to restore the balance? There are many ways in which we can reconnect, re-learn and become more at home in our environment. This includes learning about our local ecosystem. Do we even know the trees and animals that surround us, those that are ancestral and those that are introduced? Do we know where our rain water goes, what creeks and brooks surround us and how they are related? Do we know how the lay of the land was before roads and houses were put on top of it? These are all questions that can improve our awareness and thus relationship with our environment. But they are still far from the depth of connection indigenous people have with the land.
One way to get closer to that, even if we are living in fully urban environments, is to re-learn how to tune into the energetic nature of the world. Indigenous people have long known that all of life is energetic. All plants, animals and different locations in our environment have their own energies that connect them with each other and with us. This is an ancient understanding, that we have lost and now need re-acquire and incorporate into our new, modern perspective. To develop our awareness of these subtle energetic connections we need to start by becoming familiar with our own energy body. There are many ways to do this, be it Tai Chi, Qui Gong or a range of mindfulness practices focused on connecting with our own energy meridians and points (“chakras”). Once we can feel our own energy, we can extend our awareness to the energies of the plants and animals around us. Then we can take it to the next level by connecting with the non-physical consciousnesses that surround us, including in the natural world.
When we do this we will discover that it is not only the physical world that is in trouble, but that in fact there is a lot of suffering and illness among the extraphysical inhabitants of our planet. Healing this is intimately linked to us healing the planet. So learning about how we can use our energies to support and heal sick extraphysical consciousnesses has never been more important. It is one of many small but incredibly significant contributions every one of us can make to healing our planet and ensuring a viable future for humanity. Relating to non-physical consciousness used to be common practice among indigenous communities, but has been marginalised and ridiculed, first by Christianity and then by science. Yet it is an important aspect of our humanity and a crucial piece in our collective and planetary healing. And this is great news, because it is something we can all learn, which means every one of us can make an empowered contribution to this healing and to addressing the environmental crisis we are facing.
I had some hesitation publishing this account because I feel ambiguously about the use of drugs to explore our consciousness. On the one hand I do not want to advocate the use of drugs as tools for the exploration, let alone the evolution of consciousness. On the other, I do not want to be too critical of substances that do have the potential to greatly enhance a person’s connection with themselves and with the world around them, including especially the natural world. I firmly believe that the world crisis we are currently living in requires a dramatic shift of consciousness to be addressed, and if projectiogenic drugs can accelerate such a shift then their conscious and responsible use should not be discouraged.
Although I consider the experience I describe below, facilitated by psilocybin mushrooms, to have been paradigm expanding in a fundamentally healing way, I am wary of the use of such drugs as a core tool for spiritual development as advocated for example by Timothy Leary or envisaged by Aldous Huxley. I know that many people have had deeply and positively life altering experiences with psilocybin and similar projectiogenic drugs, i.e. drugs that induce projections of consciousness. But I also know of people who have been traumatised by the use of these substances and lived for years with intense psychological and energetic struggles as a result. In other cases, the impact is less dramatic but occurs over time. This is when initially positive experiences encourage ongoing, repeated use of these drugs. There may never be a “bad trip” or traumatic experience, but there occurs a gradual numbing of the senses, as something that had the potential to awaken us to a deeper understanding of life ends up cutting us off from the very reality it had originally opened up to us.
From a multidimensional perspective of life, substances like psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, iboga and so on, do indeed “open the doors of perception” as Aldous Huxley put it. They all have the potential to give us glimpses of the multi-layered, interconnected dimensions of life, teeming with intelligence and purpose. Such glimpses can fill us with extasy, a certainty of our creative potential, an inner knowing of our connection with all of life, and from that a sense of meaning and purpose for our existence. These are fundamental needs and it can be profoundly uplifting to experience them as being met. We can be filled with compassion and deep empathy for the life we now truly appreciate and feel connected to. After all, disconnection from life is one of the primary dis-eases of our era and the source of so much personal, societal and planetary suffering.
But we all have the potential to access those very same states through other means. Through the use of breathing techniques, energy work and different forms of meditation. And from an energetic perspective, accessing them that way is much less likely to cause long term difficulties. Because rather than deplete and overextend our energetic system, which ultimately is the foundation for altered states of consciousness, long term energy work builds up our energetic system so that we can gradually contact expansive states of consciousness more and more consistently and in a way that allows their integration with our everyday life, rather than being limited to occasional peak experiences.
In the end, I decided to share the experience, because it contained a number of elements that gave me experiential insights about the nature of our multidimensional reality that I think are relevant to our understanding of the nature of consciousness.
The account is based on notes I made in 1996, the day after ingesting psychedelic mushrooms with a friend in Germany. We had picked the mushrooms in a field, briefly boiled them in water and then drunk a cup each. We had no understanding of measures and I have no idea of the dose that we consumed that day, but it did not seem like an excessive amount. After consuming the tea we left the house and went into a near-by field
At the time I was already deeply immersed in meditation practices and through them regularly experienced altered states of consciousness without any use of drugs. I believe that predisposed me to the profound experience induced by the mushrooms.
Ten minutes after drinking the mushroom tea the physical effects are undeniable. My stomach is feeling slightly upset and I can feel intense tingling around my pituitary gland, as if it is being stimulated. The air seems to become active as I begin to perceive "energies".
My friend and I sit down in a field with the intention of looking at the moon. There is a lunar eclipse tonight that we want to watch, but that event was quickly overtaken in significance by the unfolding experience induced by the mushrooms. I feel detached from my body, which seems to me like an external attachment. Then I stop perceiving either of us as physical beings. We are simply two floating voices in space, very wise ancient beings. Suddenly I am back in the body awareness and am surprised to see how small my friend’s body is compared to the eternity which is all around us and of which we are a part.
The sky appears like a domed screen in one of the old style 3D cinemas. The actual sky is invisible to me. It simply provides the screen for the show of dimensions that is unfolding before my eyes. I am in complete awe as I look into infinity!
I take my body away to do a pee and need to check repeatedly that everything is working as it should and that I am not peeing my pants, as I am highly disassociated from the body. I feel like I am walking my body around like a puppet. A walking guest house, moving through the grass, through other beings and other dimensions that are all present at different frequencies in the same space where I am walking. A light sometimes red sometimes white seems to shine from behind me, alternating from either side, and I feel as if I am part of an experiment. I feel an "alien" presence, black, mechanic, beyond time, beyond good or bad, ultimately powerful. I am briefly scared.
We walk around and I experience that my friend and I are very old, walking in a mystical country where all the creatures ever mentioned in myth live.
After a while we decide to go inside. As we approach the house I wonder how the magnitude that I am part of can possibly fit inside, but I still enter. Once inside I lie down on my bed with my eyes closed giving myself over to the experience. I see myself as if cut down the middle, observe the functioning of every cell, the breath descending down the windpipe. I die and experience the body decomposing underground and being re-absorbed by the plants. It feels beautiful, my body as part of this cycle of life. Again I am surprised that "everything" we had outside fits into the room, all that infinity. But it is all here and it is all energy. The body and my thoughts are all energy and fully interwoven. I look at my friend and her face is covered in flowers.
I, Kim, die, disappear, dissolve, but I am still here and freer than ever. I recall spending much of this time grinning from ear to ear. My friend described it as a mad grin. At some point there was some sadness at the thought that all this will end with the drugs - so many dimensions, infinity, I will no longer see them. Eventually I fall asleep.
The following day I am ravenous. I interpret this as indicating that a lot of energy was burned during that experience and so my body craves food to replenish it. It may also reflect a desire by the physical body to reassert its importance after being so completely relegated during the experience, where it had become this weird apparatus that I needed to manage. In that state life was unfolding at another level, well removed from the body.
As stated in the introduction, I interpret the perceptions I had during the experience as relating to an objective reality. The experience itself was of course subjective, in the sense that another person taking the same drugs (my friend in this case) did not perceive the world in the same way as I did during our “trip”. The psychological filters and state of the energetic system of the experimenter will have a significant impact on the way the experience unfolds. But as I interpret what occurred, both of us were perceiving different slices of a complex, multidimensional reality. So from a multidimensional, i.e. multi-frequency or multi-vibratory perspective, the fact that our perceptions were subjective does not mean that the objects of my perception were created by my mind. Rather it means that the psilocybin affected my energetic system in such a way, that my perceptions were temporarily tuned to a multitude of frequencies we do not normally register. The drug had shifted my consciousness from the physical body, its usual point of focus during the waking state, to my more subtle extraphysical bodies, which meant my perceptions included and on brief occasions were confined to, the energetic frequencies of those bodies. The effect of these drugs to shift consciousness in this way, is why they are appropriately called projectiogens, i.e. substances that induce projections of consciousness from the physical to other dimensions of existence.
Such projections or shifts of consciousness require energy; the kind of energy referred to as chi / qui in Asian cultures and as bioenergy in conscientiology. Expansions of consciousness in the mentalsoma often involve the intense energetic rush described as a kundalini experience. The less dramatic shift of awareness to our psychosoma are often accompanied by vibrational sensations referred to as the vibrational state. In ways we do not yet understand, projectiogenic drugs like psilocybin seem to alter our energetic system and thereby shift our consciousness very rapidly from its usual focus on the physical dimension, to our more subtle bodies of manifestation.
The activation of the pineal gland early on after consuming the mushrooms is indicative of the so-called kundalini energy. I have elsewhere written about a mentalsomatic projection and cosmic consciousness experience I enjoyed without the use of drugs. That also involved intense activation of the pineal gland. Parts of this mushroom induced experience also took place in the mentalsoma. This included the experience of being a disembodied ancient being and the perception of an indescribable infinity to existence with which I and my friend (and all living beings) were intrinsically connected. These are classic mentalsomatic experiences.
At other times the awareness seemed to shift back to the psychosoma, such as when I was moving my body about and probably also the visionary experience of seeing and feeling my body die, disintegrate and being reabsorbed by a tree. A vision that brought with it a deep sense of peace regarding my mortality as I felt myself truly a part of the cycle of life.
At all times, though, my perception was firmly resting outside of the physical body, which seemed like a mere appendage. As such the materialist suggestion that the body creates consciousness seems completely implausible.
The intensity with which these drugs can propel us beyond our body to me is both the beauty and the danger of such experience. It was beautiful and uplifting to know myself so clearly as a timeless being beyond the confines of this life. This has not been my only experience of this nature, and paradoxically each time this sense further motivates and inspire me to make the most out of the very life it seems to be transcending. With the transcendence of the ego-identity comes the inner knowing that there is a deep purpose to everybody’s existence and that my and everybody else’s ego-identity are precious expressions of life. This means, this kind of expansion has filled me with a feeling of responsibility towards myself and this life. And from that perspective I can understand why some people are advocating the conscious use of these projectiogens – to help us reconnect with ourselves and the world and inspire us to express our purpose.
On the other hand, for some time after the experience I was very tempted to repeat it. I longed to recreate the dissolution of the ego and return to that state of transcendent bliss. I have seen this urge in other experimenters. I feel lucky that part of me knew that such an attempt would have been unsuccessful and that the desire was motivated by a wish to escape the more challenging aspects of my life, my inner pains and unresolved psychological issues. Whether achieved through meditation or the use of drugs, transcendent experience always carry the risk of alienating us from our current life and leading us down the spiritual by-pass route. In other words, they can simply end up as yet another form of escapism, albeit disguised as a meritorious spiritual endeavour and truth seeking. Transcendence is only one side to the evolutionary coin. The other is to address our unresolved psychological material. By doing both we will truly grow as multidimensional beings, with our feet firmly planted on the ground while keeping the mentalsoma connected to the cosmos.
The key to both is energy. It is through bringing energy into our body and our emotional body that we start integrating our traumas and hidden emotional content and it is through energy that we access the cosmic consciousness expansions of the mentalsoma. Projectiogenic drugs, used respectfully and in the right frame of mind and energy, may play a role in our healing and in giving us a glimpse of our wider reality. But to integrate ourselves, psychologically and holosomatically, we need to bring energy gradually and consistently under our own steam, using tools such as breath-work, movement-based practices, deep psychological inquiry and developing a conscious relationship with our energy body.
Kim McCaul is an anthropologist with a long term interest in understanding consciousness and personal transformation.
About this blog
This blog is about my interests in consciousness, energy, evolution and personal growth. My understanding of consciousness is strongly influenced by the discipline of conscientiology and I have a deep interest in exploring the relationship between culture and consciousness.
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