psychedelic experience five 5 level scale

The Graeme Carl Scale is a five level scale for measuring the effects of a psychedelic experience.

I first came across the scale whilst doing dosing research for the New Moon psychedelic retreat project. Myself and co-founder Tuk needed a way to collect data on the strength of people’s experiences with psilocybin truffles, and we found Graeme Carl’s on Erowid.

We were aware of the Shulgin Rating Scale too, and to be honest thought that would be really cool to use, but it just wasn’t as practical and useable as this one.

We adapted a version for ourselves, making some small changes and additions, and splitting up the effects described at each level into cognitive, physical, and visual effects. It’s not a flawless categorisation of effects, but it has proven to be very useable.

Here is the adapted Graeme Carl Psychedelic Experience Scale:

Level 1

Visual

  • Brighter or clearer colours
  • Environment becomes more tangible

Cognitive

  • Some short term memory anomalies
  • Music and sounds become ‘wider’
  • Mild ‘stoning’ effect

Physical

  • No notable physical effects

Level 2

Visual

  • Things start to move and breathe
  • Some 2 dimensional patterns become apparent upon shutting eyes
  • You can control OEVs i.e. they only appear if you look carefully for them

Cognitive

  • Increase in abstract, novel, or creative thought becomes apparent
  • Confused or reminiscent thoughts
  • Continual distractive thought patterns, alternated with periods of focus

Physical

  • Body can feel heavy making standing up more difficult
  • Movement at times more difficult and balance can be off

Level 3

Visual

  • Very obvious visuals, everything looking curved and/or warped patterns and kaleidoscopes seen on walls, faces etc.
  • Some mild hallucinations such as rivers flowing in wood grained or ‘mother of pearl’ surfaces
  • Closed eye hallucinations become 3 dimensional
  • OEVs appear everywhere without any effort

Cognitive

  • Losing track of time concerning how long you have been tripping
  • Time distortions and ‘moments of eternity’

Physical

  • Movement at times becomes extremely difficult

Level 4

Visual

  • Strong hallucinations, i.e. objects morphing into other objects

Cognitive

  • Some loss of reality
  • Destruction or multiple splitting of the ego. (Things start talking to you, or you find that you are feeling contradictory things simultaneously)
  • Time becomes meaningless
  • ESP type phenomena
  • Blending of the senses: synaesthesia

Physical

  • Out of body experiences

Level 5

Visual

  • Total loss of visual connection with reality

Cognitive

  • The senses cease to function in the normal way
  • Total loss of ego
  • The actual universe within which things are normally perceived, ceases to exist

Physical

  • Merging with space, other objects or the universe
psychedelic experience five 5 level scale

The levels of the psychedelic experience scale are non-linear compared to dose, illustrated on Erowid.

Using the scale

Writing up a report after your experience can help to track your level of experience at different doses. This can give you useful data for future explorations. These reports can be kept in a journey log, AKA a drug journal.

Bear in mind that being on one level for one domain does not mean that it will be the same on another. For example, an experience could show level 2 effects on the cognitive, and level 3 on the visual. You can rate each level a different score, and then an overall, and this allows you to get a snapshot of the intensity at a glance. For example:

Cognitive: 2
Visual: 3
Physical 2
Emotional: 2

Overall: 2.3

Emotional effects aren’t included in the scale, so you can just do that one just based on your feeling. 😉

It may be that effects of more than one level can be felt. If that’s the case, score the highest domain at which effects were felt. For example, if you felt an increase in abstract thoughts (level 2) and were losing track of time (level 3), then score the cognitive level a 3.

You can read more about Graeme Carl’s Scale on Erowid here.

lilly psychonautic center

The Lilly Psychonautic Centre was a remarkable place. There was a special atmosphere in the air. There was a feeling of comradeship, of brotherhood and sisterhood in our shared vision and passion. We were explorers on the far reaches of consciousness, pushing the boundaries of the known, and dedicated in our mission of contributing to the sum of human knowledge.

The centre was first established in 2033. I was one of the founding members and eventually, a lead explorer. When we started out some people compared the centre to early experimental hippie communes, like Millbrook. In reality, it was much closer to places like the Kennedy Space Centre, or Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center: the facilities where astronauts did their training. We journeyed under tightly controlled conditions. We were systematic in our approach. Aside from a few experimental missions, we conducted all explorations under precise controls. 

Psychonauts were sent off in mission rooms; padded, soundproofed, insulated, zero gravity containers. We’d essentially removed all variables from the physical plane. We were linked up by intercom to talk to ground control, when relaying information or needing guidance.

Explorations began at precise times. Doses were administered into the bloodstream on the second. Before taking off, we had checklists we ran through that were spoken out loud, like the old airplane pilots.

Around the camp you could feel a deep sense of belonging. Though each of us journeyed alone, we were all part the same team. Everyone there was supportive and encouraging of each other. Sure, there were some rivalries, especially at the top level, between those who wanted assignments for the missions furthest and deepest into the verse, but mostly it was healthy and playful competition. We pushed each other on in ways that were conducive to our shared goals.

At the camp all of the psychonauts were on training regimes. We focused on all the aspects that were fundamental to being explorers. Physical conditioning was key. We underwent specific physical regimes and consulted with the best nutrition experts in the world. This kept our bodies primed to handle the vibrational changes and recalibration that deep journeying required.

Mindset training was core to our programme. We conducted various training sessions in pods and VR simulations. The simulations were useful, but they never compared to the actual journeys. The best preparatory work was actually done in the test runs that were run on lower doses. If not in sensory intensity, they were closer to the real missions in terms of headspace. The VR states could never quite capture that sense of expanded consciousness.

We had flotation pods around the camp for recovery. The type of sensory deprivation tanks that Lilly, our namesake and one of our forerunners, had invented. Upon returning from missions, it was obligatory to spend time in the pods to aid our bodies in recovery and to mentally decompress. Some of those conditions in the deeper spaces were bewildering, and psychonauts often came back confused and shellshocked. We tried to incrementally increase doses and account for safety, but when you are pushing on the furthest reaches of awareness, you can’t account for the unknowns you’ll encounter. The undiscovered terrain was precisely what we were intent on exploring.

To assuage the the worst of it, we had reorientation processes in place, and teams of therapists to help crews’ mental health. Everyone felt supported, and that was important. That sense of support emboldened some of our bravest explorers to keep going further, no matter how crazy it seemed.

We had teams of psyche-cartographers, who would aid in the creation of the reports once psychonauts got back. And we also had dedicated teams whose work it was to bridge the gap between individuals’ experiences. At first it was difficult, because we psychonauts were from all around the world, and the difference in our native languages made it almost impossible to translate into a single unified theory and map of the terrains we were uncovering. So we experimented with various forms of relaying and mapping the information once explorers returned.

In time, we developed our own vocabulary, our own terms, and eventually our own language. Looking back, some of those early terms were so primitive that they are laughable now, like the ‘quasi-quantum loop jumps’, ‘arche-psyche-spirals’, or the ‘nothing-beyond-nothingness field’. Early on we often borrowed words from old spiritual traditions and wove them in, where states of being seemed to overlap. But in time we found that we had to create new methods based on our own base vocabulary. In that way we even made advances in linguistics.

We had our skeptics early on. We started out before psychedelics had been uncovered as the next great tools for discovery, able to unravel key information that would help us to understand spiritual matters that science hadn’t yet been able to touch. At the time psychedelics were mostly used for personal therapy, there was a mental health epidemic and it was through that lens that they were rediscovered.

But when the findings that we brought back continued to hold up, it came harder and harder for people to deny the value of our work. We made significant contributions to breakthroughs in multiple other fields. We unlocked problems in quantum physics and mathematics. Some of our protocols were even adopted by NASA, as our funding overtook theirs.

By the very nature of our field, we were obliged to incorporate epistemology, and eventually we created a whole new field of knowledge. We had discovered our next great frontier as a species, and in doing so, we made the largest strides in the evolution of consciousness that life had undergone in millennia.

It was as much a scientific endeavour as it was spiritual. They were so deeply intertwined that it was impossible to say one was more important than the other. In time it became known that they were one and the same.

It was the most incredible time. We had some of the most curious minds and courageous souls in the world in that centre, and we all knew it. For all of us on site, there was nowhere else we wanted to be. We woke up every day with a sense of inspiration, adventure, and belonging. It was the time of our lives.

Looking back, I feel truly blessed to have been part of such an incredible, pioneering and revolutionary venture of our species, which ultimately lead us beyond our previous conceptions of what we thought it was to be human.

How little we knew.

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This retrospective report was transformed into old perception and translated into the English of 2021 to be sent back there as a vision of the future.

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Inspired by all the great explorers. Especially John C. Lilly, Kilindi Iyi and Christopher Bache.

Featured for day 24 PSYJuly 2021.

nitrous oxide gas c9 music connoisseur

Welcome to day 23 PSYJuly! Today’s guest post is fun romp through the wonders of nitrous oxide from my long time friend and main man Kieron Ramsay. I can personally attest that this is a man writing from hard won experience on the subject, and have had my share of explorations alongside him. Without further ado, over to Kieron…

Mindful Use of Nitrous Oxide

C9s have the power to transform your reality inside out in the blink of an eye. In a short space of time, everything you know disappears. You surrender your connection to the real world to embark on a rocket ship that takes you to the brink of consciousness and back again.

You will not return empty-handed. You will have a gift, a souvenir, a revelation that you will feel compelled to share. However, when you try to talk about your new life-changing discovery, the words that feel like they are on the tip of your tongue desert you.

We call them C9s because they make you feel like you are floating on cloud 9.

It is a cruel trick of Nitrous Oxide (N2O); revelations do not come back from the other side with you. Stopped by the minds inability to express the abstract nature of the experience. When you attempt to describe it, the meaning gets lost like a hazy dream. In other words, it cannot be explained; it must be experienced first hand.

Welcome to the world of N2O

This is a celebration of the fun and fleeting world of Nitrous Oxide. I want to share with you some tricks and tips that have taken my laughing gas enjoyment to the next level. Over the years I have done my fair share of playful experiments, and hopefully, I can open your mind to the potential within those little canisters.

What is in those canisters?

Nitrous Oxide (N2O), also called Dinitrogen Monoxide, laughing gas, or nitrous, a colourless gas with a pleasant, sweetish odour and taste, which when inhaled produces insensibility to pain preceded by mild hysteria, sometimes laughter. (Because inhalation of small amounts provides a brief euphoric effect and nitrous oxide is not illegal to possess, the substance has been used as a recreational drug.)*

Misconceptions

Nitrous oxide has a negative reputation for many people. The general view of N2O is that it is a childish endeavour, where the users are dangerously having a good time at the expense of the environment. I hold nothing against anybody that wants to have a good time, but it does break my heart to see these little metal canisters all around towns, cities and the country.

However, I would beg for you not to let the behaviour of those youngsters cast judgement on these little canisters. Likely, those young whippersnappers are also consuming alcohol with the same disregard.

Without being snobby, there are levels of appreciation and respect that we give to our drugs, poisons and drinks that we use to alter our minds. N2O has the ability to transform my reality and alter my perception of the universe. Therefore, I should be treating this psychoactive experience with my utmost.

Do you think a connoisseur of whiskey lets some spotty adolescent dictate how they drink? I don’t think so.

So why would you do the same when it comes to the N2O? Most people will try it a few times, feel a little dizzy and enjoy that feeling. I am here to tell you that there is way more to it than that.

Mindless vs. the connoisseur

People enjoy alcohol in different ways and the same goes for Nitrous. One way is a means to an end; mindlessly getting as drunk as possible, as quick as possible. It is similar to thoughts of someone huffing a balloon, surrounded by a group cheering them on.

Compare this to the refined whiskey drinker who sips their poison with a sense of purpose. They take time to savour the experience because they appreciate its value.

A connoisseur of C9s would have a private, comfortable space. Ideally, with friends and a pre-loaded piece of music to enjoy. They would be high enough that their mind is lucid and feeling relaxed. Once everyone has a swollen balloon to the tune of 2 canisters, they say cheers by bashing their balloons together with a knowing smile. The person who picked the music informs everyone of the optimum time to start inhaling. (Read below to find out why).

What happens when you inhale a gas

From my non-scientific, anecdotal knowledge, as you inhale the gas over and over again, it short term displaces a certain amount of oxygen and replaces it with N2O. This combines with the breathing in and out of a balloon which causes you to hyperventilate. It seems like there is then a moment where all reality is out the window.

This moment is fleeting and probably lasts no more than 30 seconds. That might seem short to the sober mind, but to someone who is under the spell of N2O, it is everything.

You are somewhere between a dream world and the conscious world. In this space, your mind is trying to interpret how you feel and what is going on around you (that is why music is so powerful in this scenario. Imagine if you could clear your thoughts and let the track of your choice dictate your mood).

Music

If we are going to talk about how to get the most from your gassy enjoyment, then we need to talk about when you add listening to music at the same time.

I think music and N2O work so well together because music is a powerful tool that can work wonders on the mind.  Music has the power to stimulate many different areas of the brain, and while under the influence of nitrous they combine to produce an intense feeling that can teleport you into a different time and place.

It gives your mind an anchor from which you can build thoughts or emotions. When you consider that you are coming back from the brink of consciousness, it can have a powerful effect on your thoughts.

Different genres, rhythms, instruments all have their place and are worth experimenting with. However, one thing that is consistent, is volume. Best served loud; there is normal volume and then there is gas volume.

Having the music louder creates an immersive feeling. Although you must be mindful that it isn’t too loud. The last thing you want is to crank it up so loud that the neighbours are banging on the door asking you to turn it down. That is no way to come back to reality.

5 of my favourite tracks to have a gas to are;

The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
Heroes And Villains – The Beach Boys
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill -The Beatles
Ice Cream – Battles
Spanish Sahara – Foals

Something else to consider is that there may be some sections of a track that have more optimum time for tripping. If a track builds up to a particular crescendo, breakdown or satisfying bridge that you enjoy, you should start inhaling 30 seconds before that starts. E.g. The Chain, by Fleetwood Mac has a tempo change at 2:48 (when to start inhaling), which is roughly 30 seconds before the famous bassline brings the rest of the band into a solo.

A rough how-to guide

As a minimum, you will need a gas gun, a balloon (bigger the better as it is less likely to burst) and at least 1 N2O canister (my preference is having two canisters in one balloon). Place the balloon over the top of the nozzle, ensuring that you create an airtight seal with your hand. Once everything is in place, pull the trigger until the canister has emptied and the balloon is full.

Then lie back or make sure you are seated in a comfortable position. Once you are ready and the music is cranked up to gas volume, put the balloon to your lips (I like to pinch my nose to maximise the effect of the gas). Then start inhaling from the balloon, then exhale into the balloon (you can experiment with rhythm and different breathing techniques). Repeat this until you are done. How will you know if you are done? That’s easy – if you come round feeling that you have had your mind blown, it is safe to say that it worked.

Experiment

I have found the C9s to be a mixer that every serious drug taker should consider having in their arsenal. Like Coca-Cola, it is tasty on its own. But you can also mix it with other delicious things to make a more interesting experience. It is the same with gas. Try it when you are stoned! Try it on acid!! Then try it stoned and on acid!!!

There is a whole world of endless possibilities ready for you to explore. Forrest Gump said, Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are gonna get. If Forrest had found nitrous oxide, he probably would have said, Life is like a gas; you never know what you are gonna get, but I am glad I had a gas. Load the next one up.

I encourage you to try and experiment with different scenarios to see what works best for you. Play around and have fun with it, I guarantee it will leave you curious and thirsty for more. So go on and explore with a dash of finesse – the balloon is your oyster.

References

*Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Nitrous oxide”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Aug. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/science/nitrous-oxide. Accessed 21 July 2021.

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About Kieron

Kieron Ramsay is a writer, adventurer and explorer. Read more of his adventures at www.kiramusu.com or follow him on Instagram.

psychedelic menus options activities session

Welcome to PSYJuly day 22! 🙂

Yesterday I wrote about psychedelic sessions that are focused on one specific theme. However, sometimes it’s nice to be more flexible and take an open-ended approach, without any fixed plans for the session.

That said, it can still be nice to have some options available to us, rather than going in completely empty handed. That’s when a session menu can be helpful.

What is a session menu?

A session menu is a list of activities that are available to you during your session. At a glance, it gives you options for things you might like to do.

Remembering things can be hard when high. A menu is useful in that you don’t have to remember your options during the session. It holds them all in one place for you. The menu can act like a butler, who asks you ‘what would you like to do now? Do any of these options interest you?’.

Depending on your tastes and the day, menus might look very different to different people. 

Here is an example of a menu:

  • consult I Ching
  • Listen to new Tame Impala album (I often save first album listens for sessions)
  • meditate
  • brainstorm dreams and goals
  • draw
  • guitar

Other items I have seen on friends menus have included: take photos, dance, have sex, watch documentary.

Really, you can include anything. I have a friend who likes to look at profound quotes during his trips. Another likes to draw a tarot card. In both these cases, they find that they are able to connect more deeply to the meaning and message .

Creating a Menu

Writing up a menu can take as little as two minutes before starting a session, and you then have it there for your reference throughout. Depending on the items on your menu, you might need a little extra time to ready any necessary materials before the session starts. Once settled into your session, you can take a glance at the menu and see if anything takes your fancy. 

You might also have menus for different purposes. Here is an example of a chill out menu I made in the form of a deck of cards. I have it around in case I or others feel uncomfortable or agitated.

chill out deck menu

My Experience

I use menus on various kinds of sessions: both solo and with friends, introspective and recreational. I find them to be very useful and a nice reminder to check in and think: ‘what would I like to do now? Where do I want to go next?’. 

On one session with a friend, after riding the stormy come up and settling into an LSD and MDMA session, we gathered ourselves, then sat down and looked at our menu together. We had a list of fun activities for us to explore together before our eyes. I looked at him and said;

‘Is there anything here you’d like to do? We have the whole day ahead of us’.

Smiling, he took a moment, ‘you know, this is actually quite a nice situation to be in.’

Free time, with a friend, enjoying the wonders of life, and a beautiful psychedelic menu in front of us. All that was left to do was pick one and enjoy!

mushrooms how often should i trip psilocybin

‘How often should I take psychedelics?’

This is a question I am often asked. And of course, there is no single right answer. So instead of trying to give one, I’ll share my thoughts on the topic.

What is the right amount?

You can’t really put a number such as ‘x times per year or month’ and say ‘that’s the right amount’, because it totally depends on the person and their circumstances. It’s like asking ‘what’s the right dose?’. It can’t simply be answered in any meaningful way. It depends.

It depends on you, your intentions, and your current circumstances. Why are you taking psychedelics? Where are you at in your journey, and where do you want to go next?

If using psychedelics for recreation or leisure, it’s like asking ‘how often should I watch a movie?’. With the intention of using psychedelics for healing or growth, there still isn’t a set answer. For many people, it seems like once or twice a year is enough to gain valuable insights and allow time in between to integrate the lessons. For others, a more frequent pattern may be most beneficial. I’ve also heard of people saying that once in their lifetime was enough.

Frequency varies depending on culture

There is a variety of frequencies in different cultures and types of use around the world. This ranges from modern clinical use to more traditional shamanistic use.

Within the field of modern research and clinical trials, there is variation. In a study with people who suffered treatment resistant depression at Imperial College London, participants received two doses a week apart. From just two doses, most participants saw statistically significant improvement in their wellbeing. That said, many patients saw depressive symptoms beginning to return after six months, so it seems they could’ve benefitted from another session or two around this mark.

In various smoking cessation studies at Johns Hopkins University there have been between one and three doses given. People have successfully quit with one session, whilst others had three. It is noteable that quit rates were higher for people who had more than one than one session.

With shaman of various Amazonian traditions, people drink ayahuasca on multiple consecutive nights, or on alternating nights. So it might be three or four nights of drinking ayahuasca in a row, or six nights of drinking over twelve nights total. There are also variations between. In some religious communities or churches that use psychedelic plants, groups drink monthly or weekly.

Philosophy professor Christopher Bache did 73 high dose sessions over 20 years, and as far as I know, no one in the psychedelic community has said it’s too much. In fact, he is seen by many as a courageous explorer and his work an incredible contribution to the field. He is a special case and was extremely conscientious in his use, I should add.

This variety shows that there is not really any standard which could be said ‘this is the right way’.

Can you take psychedelics too often?

When I would say taking psychedelics is too much is, the same as any other activity, when it starts interfering with one’s life in a negative way. When the downsides outweigh the upsides.

Gabor Mate’s view of an addiction can be useful here:

A behaviour which provides temporary pleasure or relief in the short term but has negative outcomes in the long term.

For some, psychedelics might be used as an escape from reality, or to avoid dealing with one’s problems. This can be known as spiritual bypassing. If one is re-entering journey space before or instead of integrating the lessons from the last journey, this could be seen as too soon.

However, I’d say that one’s problems can be shoved back in one’s face on a journey, so it’s not always an easy escape. In fact, for that reason, not taking psychedelics could be seen as an escape.

Is there a minimum frequency?

No one can say that someone should be taking psychedelics at least x amount of times per month or year. Although with medicalisation on the way, perhaps doctors or pharmacists will in fact be prescribing them in this way.

‘Go for three psilocybin journeys per month over the next 12 months and then we’ll meet back and reassess your treatment plan. If you feel you need a recalibration of your dose just give me a call and we’ll set up another consultation.”

I can see it already. But anyway, I digress.

Psychedelics can show us things that we are afraid to see and therefore unconsciously avoiding. Avoidance is no long term tactic to resolution, so for those that psychedelics have shown to be a useful tool for inner exploration and therapeutic shadow work, then there could be cases where it could be argued that someone should take them more often than they currently are.

The best amount and frequency is one that will bring the most healing over the long term. Knowing exactly what that is is difficult. We like to have answers or steady plans we can follow, but in the case of psychedelics, it can’t be pinned down as such. It needs our own continued consideration and adjustment, as well as our honesty. It also depends on the doses we are taking.

When should I pick up the phone again?

You’ve probably heard the Alan Watts quote, ’When you get the message, hang up the phone’. This has been commonly interpreted to mean ‘don’t trip too often’. Once you have some useful information, act on it before seeking more. What I would add to that is, feel free to pick up the phone again to get a reminder of the message.

Oftentimes a psychedelic journey will make absolutely clear an insight to be acted on. Good progress can be made on integrating that insight in the weeks directly after whilst the insight is fresh. As time passes, however, the clarity and raw obviousness of that insight may fade. And though the insight may not have been 100% integrated yet, touching back in with ourselves on a journey can be a refreshing reminder. If meaningful change has been made, space will have been cleared in our psyche for other useful messages, insights, and ideas to pour in. Integration is a life long journey and our lives are imperfect, so aiming to have integration of an experience totally complete before journeying again can be unrealistic.

The common interpretation of Watts’ quote also doesn’t consider the question of what ‘the message’ is, or if there are different levels of understanding the message. Or even, if there are multiple messages to be received.

Final Thoughts

I see the advice that ‘one should not journey too often’ commonly put out there, yet most of the people I know in the psychedelic community have ample experience and have journeyed dozens of times themselves.

In general I think there are many people could stand to benefit from more psychedelics sessions, rather than fewer. This is almost something of a faux-pas to say these days, but it’s what I believe, so I’m saying it. That is why the thoughts I have shared here have leaned towards illustrating this viewpoint, and not going into the dangers of overuse, which of course absolutely do exist. I should also make clear that I am talking about respectful, intentional, and careful use, done with the intention of learning or growth. And also that if insights are revealed, one should invest ample time and energy in to integrating them as best they can.

If we consider psychedelics to be teachers that allow us to access wisdom, what is wrong with visiting that teacher? Sure, you do not want to spend your whole life with that teacher, never stepping out of the classroom to practice your lessons. But likewise, you’d want to attend lessons to make the most of the wisdom they have to offer.

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This post was day 20 of PSYJuly 2021.