What is “Psychedelic Exploration”?
In his book LSD and the Mind of the Universe, philosophy professor and extreme psychonaut Christopher Bache shares his journey of cosmic discovery through an extended series of high dose LSD sessions over the course of two decades. In this book he talks about a psychedelic protocol which he unintentionally developed on his path: Psychedelic exploration.
Psychedelic exploration, as Bache calls this new protocol, is distinct from the two therapeutic modalities currently used widely in the West today: psycholytic therapy, and psychedelic therapy.
Before talking about psychedelic exploration I will give an outline of these first terms.
- Low dose (75–300 mcg LSD, typically 200 mcg)
- Sessions typically at one-week or two-week intervals
- 15–100 sessions in a course (on average ~40 sessions)
Therapeutic processes, such as emotional abreaction and catharsis, are intensified in a psycholytic therapy session. This calls for a flexible and dynamic relationship between the therapist and the patient. The lower dose, as compared to psychedelic therapy, allows for a more gentle opening of the psyche allowing the work to be done in layers and gradually over a longer time frame.
- High dose (300–500 mcg LSD)
- Sessions typically at one-week or two-week intervals
- 1–3 sessions in a course
- Sometimes known as the “single overwhelming dose” approach
Awareness is much more powerfully magnified than in psycholytic therapy. The high dose is intended to blast the journeyer straight past the psychodynamic level of consciousness to a spiritual experience of ego dissolution. This gives them a new viewpoint, and therefore a novel perspective on their personal problems.
There is little to no verbal interaction between the patient and therapist (or sitter/guide). The patient typically wears an eye shade and headphones, and their focus is on looking inside, connecting to their inner healing wisdom. This is the standard in psychedelic research today, and its fast track means that it could be thought of as something like ‘the lightning path’ of psychedelics.
- High dose (500–600 mcg LSD)
- Extended series of sessions over many years
“This is what happens if you push psychedelic therapy as far as you can take it”
When he set out on his journey, Bache intended to do an extended course of psychedelic therapy. His approach thus incorporated practices and procedures of psychedelic therapy such as physical isolation, minimal verbal interaction, and intensely evocative music.
However, when he looked back on his path, he realised that the high number of sessions made it quite distinct from psychedelic therapy. An extended course like this brings with it different experiential opportunities as well as unique challenges that go beyond those encountered in a single or shorter run of sessions. Each session becomes a chapter in its own right of a larger psychedelic journey, as opposed to the chapters being sections of a single session (or trilogy of).
Bache’s course was 73 sessions over 20 years, and he describes it as more of an intense cosmic exploration than a therapeutic enterprise. Rather than a single experience of transcendence, psychedelic exploration is, as he puts it, “an ever-deepening spiral of initiation into the universe.”
Words of caution
Bache gives his words of warning, saying that anyone considering embarking on a path of psychedelic exploration should think long and hard before doing so. He advises that additional precautions should be taken and that one’s life circumstances and support systems must be stable and strong enough to undertake such a journey.
He shares his challenges in the book, and it is essential reading for anyone considering this route.
The future of psychedelic exploration
I imagine psychedelic research centers like those of Imperial and Johns Hopkins will incorporate this type of work into their research when the time is right. Though there have been a few studies to date exploring the spiritual experience of psychedelics, such as the Marsh Chapel experiment, at present, research is mostly focused on clinical use and therapeutic application. I understand this to be a good entry point for psychedelics into the mainstream, and perhaps a strategic one by some forces in the movement, but I am very excited to see the scope of work broadened to the areas of philosophy and spirituality. Opening up research to these areas will deepen our understanding of these substances and their applications.
The experiences shared by Bache and the frontiers he has crossed both fascinate and excite the adventurer inside me. I believe psychedelic exploration will be adopted by more and more people over the coming decades, and those explorers will be at the forefront of cosmic exploration. Rather than space travel, this is where the far more interesting investigation into the frontiers of exploration and discovery lie for humanity.
This is the path for the true cosmonauts of tomorrow. The information they bring back will greatly add to our understanding of humanity, and beyond that, consciousness and spiritual reality. If those travellers bring back maps of the terrain, and share their findings as systematically and comprehensively as Bache has done, they will greatly contribute to the sum of knowledge, ushering humanity into a new era and the next stage of our evolution.
I wonder what lies beyond humanity. We were not always humans and we won’t always be. On our journey to becoming human we have descended from nothingness to pass through existence as stardust, bacteria, and apes. What is next? I believe psychedelic exploration is a essential catalyst in our journey of learning and evolution.
I am tweeting my highlights from the book in a thread on twitter here, which includes quotes on the psychedelic ego and spiritual bypassing.