In the first chapter of Supernatural, Graham Hancock recounts his early experimentation with psychadelic plants, under the guidance of indigenous shamans. Of his use of the healing plant Iboga he writes:
Was it really a supernatural realm that the ibogaine took me into, or just a crazy hallucination? As I've emphasized, this was not something I was yet in a position to judge; nor was it easy to disentangle cause from effect. But what was miraculous nonetheless was the dramatic turnaround in my mood that I benefited from after my ibogaine session. For months beforehand I had been intensely depressed and irritable, filled with morbid thoughts and gloomy anxiety. My guilt at what I perceived as my dismal failure of my father, and my grief at his loss, had been compounded by feelings of worthlessness and anguish so deep that I frequently saw no point in taking any further initiatives in life. It was better by far, I had persuaded myself, to withdraw from the world, abandon research, and avoid all new intellectual challenges -- which, anyway, I would certainly fail.
I hadn't expected ibogaine to make a difference, but it did. From the moment I woke up with my strength recovered, I knew that it had flipped some sort of switch in me, because I was no longer able to see anything in the world in the same negative and nihilistic way as I had done before. From time to time a morbid thought would still stray across my mind and try to drag my mood down; previously I would have dwelt on it obsessively until it made me miserable; now I found it easy to dismiss it and move on. I didn't feel so bad about my father either. I'd not been at his bedside, and I couldn't change that. But somehow, now, I no longer ached so much.
Whether this healing was achieved through contact with the spirit world, or whether it was just a beneficial side-effect of shaking up my brain chemistry, I felt grateful to ibogaine. Regardless of the explanation, or the mechanism, it had put me through something I would never forget -- something very much like a religious experience. It had swept away the cobwebs of ingrained bad habits and moods. And it had most persuasively demonstrated the worth of a hitherto neglected line of research into the spiritual life of the ancients.
A recent New York Times article explains that some researchers are taking another look at the use of psychotropic drugs for the treatment of depression. Early results are at least as promising as Hancock's healing from depression and grief.
Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.
After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.
“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”
Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.
Hancock, no stranger to controversy, has become a vociferous advocate for the legalization of drugs that allow us to explore our own consciousness. In addition to healing from depression, Hancock has found tremendous value in the responsible use of sacred plants. As he explains in the interviews posted below, his reinvention as a fiction author was facilitated by the use of ayahuasca. The plot structure of his new novel Entangled was effectively dictated to him over the course of five ayahuasca journeys. (The book is currently only available in England and will pub in the US and elsewhere in October. Yes, I know. I'm frustrated and impatient over this, too.)
In a curious synchronicity, as I was compiling information for this post, my husband noticed a woodchuck running around our backyard. So I googled woodchuck (aka groundhog) medicine to see what that particular reflection could mean. As per the first page to come up... wait for it... altered states of consciousness.
A very difficult and powerful totem to have,
Groundhog is the symbol of opening fully to the dreamtime.
Of exploring altered states of consciousness more deeply and fully.
Dreams will have great significance.
Lessons associated with death, dying and revelations about its processes will begin to surface. Groundhog can teach its people metabolic control.
How to go into the great unconscious without harm.
. . .
This is often the totem of Shamans and Mystics.