Reading from The Psychedelic Experience: A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead
by Timothy Leary Ph.D, Ralph Metzner Ph.D and Richard Alpert Ph.D.

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Track 1

What are psychedelic drugs? The first thing to be said is that they're no new arrival on the human historical scene. Sacred plants and vegetables have been used for thousands of years back to the dawn of human history by wise men, medicine men, prophets, to expand man's mind. Today in our technological society we have produced dozens of chemicals which perform the same function. LSD, mescaline, dimethyltryptamine, psilocybin; there's a long litany of psychedelic chemicals, all of which, interestingly enough, are based on organic or botanical chemicals, and the powerful drugs which we now have to expand human consciousness are not the end. Each few months the biochemists come up with a new molecule which talks directly, eloquently and powerfully to the human nervous system, opens it up and changes it.

What do these ancient plant and modern drugs do to the human mind? They expand consciousness. What is consciousness? Consciousness is energy which is received and decoded by a physiological structure. There are as many level of consciousness available to the human being as there are structures, anatomical organs, inside the body for decoding different sorts of energies. Specifically and statistically there are hundreds of levels of consciousness whirling around inside your nervous system and your cellular systems. Each one a universe unto itself with its own meaning, its own dialect, its own politics, its own ecstasies, its own terrors, its own concepts of union and dissolution.

There are hundreds of universes of intelligent energy inside your body.

For the beginning student in this new and bewildering science of consciousness expansion it's useful I think to consider 5 broad levels of consciousness, and anyone who wishes to think about or learn about the psychedelic drugs must keep something like this 5 point scale in mind because each drug and each drug experience energizes and triggers off different levels of consciousness.

The 5 levels of consciousness that I suggest your learn and eventually learn to use are: sleep; symbolic consciousness; consciousness of the senses, directly energized; the consciousness of cell; and the consciousness of pre-cellular energy, molecular or atomic in nature.

  1. Sleep
  2. Symbol
  3. Sense
  4. Cell
  5. Molecule

All of you know what normal symbolic consciousness is. We think of ourselves as human beings with tangible organs such as ears and fingers and eyes and feet. Actually the human body is a collection of trillions of cells. Each cell in your body is a network of communication and intelligent energy much more complicated than the City of New York. Each cell in your body is performing tasks of communication, transportation, ingestion, elimination, defense, memory, and learning; tasks which are millions or hundreds of millions of years old and which have not changed in many cycles of evolution.

Within the nucleus of every cell in your body is contained a chain of protein molecules which is called the DNA code. This is the blueprint of life. The DNA code is a biochemical-electrical architect's office which designs and constructs every cell in your body and the overall patterning of your organs and tissues. Your DNA code was created by the codes of your mother and your father. You contain within every cell in your body a living chain of molecules which is literally the chain of life and which traces back in unbroken sequence to the beginning of life on this planet some 2 billion years ago. If one link in this chain of life had been broken in over 2 billion years you and I would not be here today.

During psychedelic sessions with drugs such as peyote, mescaline, psilocybin and LSD, consciousness can contact the evolutionary wisdom which resides inside your cells and make connections with a living time machine which pulsates inside each cell. During the typical psychedelic drug session the subject reports being tumbled through a compressed history of second you lie pulsating as a single cell, and the next second ancient memories of mammalian existence sweep over your consciousness, and the next second a hundred file-card memories of other human lives spin through your projector. In one instant you're an old man, a young baby, a beautiful woman...It's as though God has taken you by the hand and led you through the door of sleep, through the door of symbol, through the door of senses, into the heart of his workshop, relentless, timeless, tissue machinery clicking, unfolding, changing, spinning out organic forms, constantly evolving.

The most powerful of the psychedelic lenses presently available to us and the most powerful experience which has been described in human history is the 5th level of consciousness. The universe of pure energy, vibrations, pulsating rhythms far older, far more powerful, far wiser than the cell are those energies, molecular and atomic, which lay at the far outskirts of human awareness. During any one second of an LSD session consciousness can whirl through all 5 levels: Sleep, Symbol, Sense, Cell and Soul. A thousand microscopes, a thousand telescopes, a thousand blindfolds, a thousand symbols, spinning through awareness at each instant.

The LSD experience cannot be understood as anything but a philosophic confrontation. What is real in this spinning universe of realities of varying space and time dimensions and what is the effect of this rocket voyage through the nervous system and the cellular terrain? Terror, reverence, cosmic laughter, awe, ecstasy, but mainly confusion. The average American is no more equipped to confront and understand the energies which reside inside his body than a week-old baby is able to understand and use a computer.

You are the week-old baby and the computer is your brain.

Drugs the terror word of the 20th century; but let's face this issue of drugs bluntly and factually. The embarrassing truth is that consciousness is a chemical phenomenon. Everything that you have ever experienced you experienced because of a chemical reaction in your nervous system.

The language of your body is the language of molecules. The retina of your eye, the delicate membrane of your ear, your nerve cells, your tissue cells, do not speak English nor Latin nor French. They've been designed by a 2 billion year old process of trial and error to receive, decode, and send out language, which is chemical.