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psychedelics meaning

What is the meaning of psychedelics?

Literal Meaning

Well the word ‘psychedelic’, as most psychonauts know by now, was invented by the British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond. Osmond first coined the term in his correspondence with famous psychedelic enthusiast and scholar Aldous Huxley. He derived the word from the Greek words, psyche, meaning soul or spirit, and delos, meaning reveal or manifest. So the literal translation is ‘mind manifesting’, or ‘soul revealing’. In this original form it was used strictly to describe drugs which gave particular effects, those which have now been discovered to act on specific serotonin receptors in the brain (5-HT1A and 5-HT2A) such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and DMT.

Other Meanings

Of course the word has grown and broadened in terms of its use and psychedelic has gone on to be used to describe not only drugs but also music, arts, films, and literature. The word can be used to describe pieces of art which have been inspired by the use of psychedelic drugs.

Visual artworks may resemble visual attributes typical to the experiences, such as bright colors and kaleidoscopic patterns. Another interpretation, notable in films and literature, is that the piece demonstrates or exemplifies a type of mental or cognitive experience, such as non-linearity, or circular themes or narrative. It may also be that it is simply confusing and hard to follow. This meaning of the word converges with the word ‘trippy’, which is often used as a synonym for the word psychedelic.

It could also be that the way in which the artwork is viewed or perceived is not necessarily fixed, that it is open to multiple interpretations. This meaning reflects an aspect of psychedelic states, in which users may be able to see things from different angles or various perspectives. The offering of new perspectives is often what is appealing to many people. 

Anton Newcombe’s Definition

I also like Anton Newcombe’s definition of the word psychedelic. Newcomb, from the band The Brian Jonestown Massacre, has had his share of experience, and I once read on wikipedia that his understanding of psychedelic is that it simply means ‘mind expanding’. This broadens its potential use, and really anything could potentially be considered psychedelic. This could refer to travel or other such mind opening experiences.

Psychedelics and Profound Meaning

Psychedelics can induce induce profound alterations of human consciousness, emotion, and cognition. This can result in incredibly deep and profound experiences. These experiences bring up questions about the fundamental nature of reality. And these questions ultimately turn into matters of spirituality. Because of this I often think the term psychedelic can be used to describe anything which brings up those deep philosophical questions. Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Any type of deep experience which brings up those questions, be it a near death experience or a film, could also be described as psychedelic.

I find it very interesting that people discuss the meaning of the word psychedelics when psychedelic substances themselves bring up questions of meaning. Experiences can be tremendously meaningful to individuals. They can help us assign meaning to events in our lives, and our entire journeys as humans, individually and collectively. They can create meaning, or push us to ponder if there is any meaning. 

Final Thoughts

There’s not really any strict definition on what the term psychedelic means and I think it’s very fitting for the word to be open to many interpretations. Even the category of substances is debated, and these days it is also sometimes used to describe other substances such as MDMA and ketamine, which are also known as non-classic psychedelics, or now even a new term, ‘clinical psychedelic’, recently coined by Ben Sessa, on Twitter.

What does psychedelic mean to you? Let me know!

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lsd acid psychedelic trippy meaning

lsd lysergic acid psychedelic trippy meaning
Nihilism & Loss of Meaning

LSD is clearly not a drug for everyone, it is unwieldy and requires a certain mental attitude at the outset of ingestion to enjoy its properties fully. However, when I first took it, I didn’t really have any idea what it would do (!). My research prior to taking acid was zero. Of course I had a cultural history of it in my head, knowing major figures in the drug’s subculture; The Beatles, Aldous Huxley, 1960s groups etc. I was also aware of the stereotypical stories about its effects and all the ‘hippy’ and ‘spiritual’ connections applied to it. Having said this, it’s only now that I’m beginning to understand the drug properly, which is exciting but also worrying.

So, why isn’t everyone taking or discussing LSD if people like myself feel the need to document the experience, am I wildly different to others? No, I believe this is partly down to ingrained social attitudes and drugs laws, as well as a lack of education about the drug and research in to it. Being such a limitless and bizarre place, the human mind is not always an attractive area of study for scientists or governments, not as appealing as something physical, easy, like strength for example. What I’m saying is, even if society were to test and investigate the many positive applications LSD has and could have, it would require labyrinthine research and time and investment because its effect on the human mind is so sprawling and subjective. Sure, governments invest in mind-control (which they’ve unsuccessfully tried with LSD), but that is subtly different, and means treating the drug and the test subject like a means to an end, rather than a being of potential. Regardless of the status-quo’s stance against the drug and laws against it, I genuinely believe that more research is not done on LSD because ultimately it is a mystery. Even the great thinkers who have taken it and written on it draw conclusions that although insightful always seem to shine the torch on one element, thus leaving others in the dark. Put simply, depending on who you ask, an LSD conversation could really end up on any topic.

My friend John who created this page was telling me about John Lennon’s comment that at the height of his LSD use, he began to feel a complete death of ego. Further to this, Lennon said that after a few years of not taking the drug so extensively he began to feel like himself again, replete with all the idiosyncrasies and cantankerous qualities that had made him an individual in the first place. Moreover, my friend mentioned some veteran trippers he had spoken to, who seemed to have suffered a sort of ego-death also. He said they seemed fairly aloof and vague when answering questions on their LSD experiences, nowhere near the level of philosophical debate the experience had sparked in my friend and I. Obviously this is just speculation, but this could suggest that the liberation acid provides from self-consciousness could boil over into losing a sense of one’s self, which I have already alluded to in this memoir previously. If these vets have nothing to say, why are they doing acid so often? Why do they like it? What do they think about? This really intrigues me because acid is not like beer, you don’t take it merely to get inebriated – when tripping you can’t help but think, although perhaps a trip can become more pedestrian and beer like after taking many tabs. For me personally, at times my relationships have been skewed by acid thinking. I have felt very distant and lonely in my outlook, distant from my parents and old friends. Something has changed – become less real and simultaneously more real – e.g. the everyday conversations about the weather take on new disturbing meanings because I’m analysing the human interaction taking place rather than just going with the flow. Obviously, I have talked to some people about the experience explicitly in a relaxed way, but at the end of the conversation (although they’ve been attentive) the listener seems to switch back to auto-pilot while I’m left still reeling with concepts in my head. Again though, perhaps this existential gulf in human empathy has always been in our communication, regardless of drugs, and it’s just perception. This time though, it feels more lonely, like what I’m dealing with will forever be a source of personal madness and not alleviated by love or understanding. However, we must remember that this is all perception and acid is not a mind in itself but a reflection of our own. Basically, I feel there is a level of mundane social interaction I barely tolerated before, but now I’ll only meet with grunts.

Personally I’ve had to talk about it because I’ve been ready to explode at times. I myself have definitely felt I have partly forgotten older ways of being and have seen myself in a more pluralistic manner, but I have also tried to remember the things I enjoy, specific things I like. Put simply, if you look at everything in an objective unbiased manner, it can create a feeling of meaninglessness; nothing is above anything else in importance or differentiation. For me personally, this has turned into nihilism at times. Again, this could be blamed on a number of other factors in my life specifically, not just acid philosophy, but this kind of thinking has felt tripish. For example, I have increasingly started to have moments in conversation when interest seems to leave my mind immediately, and the context I’m existing in seems hollow or ridiculous – without gravity or importance. Of course, if this slips into ones’ perception of everything it can become debilitating, for example; reading any book or watching any film or doing anything and thinking there’s no point because it represents a mere fragment of existence and will in time be forgotten absolutely like myself. Now, this isn’t necessarily untrue, but that doesn’t mean thinking that way will make you happy either.

Recently, my friends and I played golf, I hadn’t played for years and neither had they. As we ambled around the pitch-and-putt course it really felt good to be focused on something so human, so eccentric – the clubs, the little balls and scorecards, the terms -bogey, over-par, birdie etc. something that represented the micro, not the macro – staring down at the tee, not up at the clouds for once. This reminded me that to get through life I couldn’t just expand my mind indefinitely, we can only comprehend so much and we must still live in the physical world. Sure, I could have questioned the meaning of the golf, putting the ball in the hole will change nothing for example, but I never even thought about it – I just enjoyed it. Acid reminds us to enjoy the simple pleasures also and this is the balance we must strike. My enjoyment of golf does not mean I advocate submitting to every micro-element of conventional society to be happy either, indeed, I still smoked a couple of joints before I picked up a club. I see the two extremes of this area manifested at the one end with a Big Brother contestant (ultra-reality) and at the other with an acid veteran (dead-reality) similar to the ones John talked to. The BB contestant reacts with OTT, caricatured, predictable emotional reactions to the slightest social or atmospheric happenings, whereas the LSD vet reacts to nothing because nothing is meaningful, no emotions are conjured, as if the top has been blown off the marquee and nothing is big enough to fill the hole. I think common LSD fuelled themes like circularity and seeing two sides to everything certainly seem to support the idea of balance, which is difficult to achieve.

Considering how much more there is left to learn about LSD, I feel the need to do a lot more of it, discover, learn to control it and try and apply it in different ways to expanding my mind further as a method of self-development. However, I do not want to turn into a soulless veteran, not even knowing or being able to articulate what they experience anymore as the drug has become so all-encompassing.