The Cognitive Components of a Psychedelic Experience
NOTE: I AM CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF ORGANIZING AND REWRITING THIS PAGE - it will be finished
over the next few days eventually
The second section to my three part guide is going to cover the mental and cognitive effects that psychedelics consistently produce across all people. I’ve tried to keep this as accurate and well worded as I possibly can but these are all based on mine and friends personal experiences which may be completely different from your own. Although this section may not have as many pretty pictures as the first, all of these effects are equally as important and profound as any of the visual hallucinations.
Enhancement of current mind state:
Unlike most recreational substances, psychedelics do not consistently induce positive and euphoric states regardless of a persons current state of mind and mental stability. Instead they work by amplifying and enhancing a persons current state of mind as it is already, making it equally capable of going in both a positive and a negative direction.
This is why people seem to react to psychedelics in completely different ways and is by far the biggest contributor to the experience of a bad trip. The unprepared, the negative and the mentally unstable who undergo a psychedelic experience consistently become overwhelmed with negative emotions, paranoia and confusion. Something that is caused by the persons current negative state becoming greatly amplified above normal levels. On the opposite end the spectrum however, positive, prepared and mentally stable people who undergo a psychedelic experience consistently find themselves overwhelmed with states of ecstatic bliss and profound mental revelations.
There is a very clear distinction between chemically induced happiness and genuine happiness. Psychedelics do not induce any emotion, they merely deepen and enhance genuine emotions that are already felt separate from the drug.
Acceleration of thought:
Rapid fire thoughts are an effect that are possible on every psychedelic but are consistently felt on stimulating and energetic psychedelics such as LSD and the 2Cx family. The sensation of this effect can be described as the mental process of thought being sped up significantly. When experiencing this effect it literally feels as if one rapid thought after the other is being generated in incredibly quick succession. Not only is the speed of thought increased, but the sharpness of a persons mental clarity seems to increase along side it, resulting in an abundance of new and insightful ideas.
Increased connectivity of thought:
This effect occurs on every psychedelic to a certain extent but is consistently felt on sedating and stoning psychedelics such as mushrooms, LSA and harmine. The sensation of this effect can be described as a persons thought patterns becoming characterized by an abstract fluid association of ideas and extremely wandering thoughts which connect deeply into each other. Often feeling like a series of tenuously connected daydreams that connect into each other through an abstract game of subconscious word association, allowing the mind to cover all areas of life, including not just the big things, but the small things as well. Leading onto large amounts of introspection and greatly enhanced levels of creative and artistic abilities in people. Essentially removing creative block by allowing the thoughts to flow free.
Feelings of fascination, importance and awe:
One of the defining features of a psychedelic experience is an overwhelming feeling of fascination, importance and awe attributed to the external environment and everything within it. This can manifest itself in a number of ways but can be described as a new found childlike sense of wonder which gives the overwhelming impression that everything around you is profound and important, be it nature, the universe or everyday household objects.
It’s this effect that directs trippers to ponder and appreciate the things around them in a profound level of detail which will forever remain unparalleled by any experiences throughout normal sober living.
At its highest level, the sensations become so intense and profound that it begins to feel as if the present moment is so overwhelmingly important that your entire life has been building up to this instant and nothing will ever be the same again. This is commonly described by people as feeling that “you have been waiting on a train your entire life and only now are you finally getting off of it.” It is a truly overwhelming perspective and consistently induced during positive states of level 7A visual geometry, described in the previous section of this guide.
Time distortion is an effect that makes the passage of time difficult to keep track of and wildly distorted.
It can be felt in two different forms. The most common of these, can be referred to as time expansion. Which can be described as the feeling that time has completely slowed down. This generally seems to stem from the fact that during a psychedelic experience, abnormally large amounts of experience are felt in very short periods of time, creating the illusion that more time has passed than it really has.
At time expansions highest level it can feel as if the passage of time has stopped completely, which is known as a moment of eternity.
The second form, which can be called time compression is significantly rarer but entirely possible and can be described as the experience of time speeding up and passing much quicker than it generally should.
Deep and life changing states of introspection are commonly found within the psychedelic experience. It’s these states which are considered by the scientific community to be the most important real world application for psychedelics. A claim that is gaining increasing support with a large and ever growing collection of peer reviewed studies supporting the use of psychedelics in the treatment of depression, general therapy and the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
Psychedelics force a person to face and deal with their personal problems and inner demons by changing a persons thought processes to that of an extremely introspective nature. This gives people the ability to dissect and rationally analyse these problems. Allowing a person to either resolve the problems or at least come to terms with them.
The external release of pent-up or repressed stress through emotional outburst is also extremely common. Taking both joyful forms, like spontaneous dancing and singing, or taking distraught forms, like crying, sobbing and emotional breakdowns. Once over however, these leave the tripper feeling as if an enormous weight has been lifted from their chest.
Not everybody is willing to face, resolve and move on from their problems however, some people preferring to ignore and repress them. It’s a persons willingness to face the truth of their own life that is a huge factor in determining whether or not a person is capable of enjoying the psychedelic experience. This is because psychedelics bring our insecurities, past regrets and repressed traumas into the very forefront of our consciousness. Fighting these revelations through denial is a very common cause of bad trips, leading to deeply negative states that could be otherwise avoided. Every last one of us has their own emotional baggage and tragic little back story. It’s moving past this that psychedelics are extremely efficient in solving, but this is only true when they are used with the right intent and and a total sense of willingness.
Feelings of extreme refreshment are an almost universal experience in the days or weeks after a positive trip. The psychedelic experience can be both mentally and physically invigorating, something that can be described as a lasting feeling of mental clarity, increased motivation, calmness and an appreciation for the very sensation of being.
This feels to me as if the connections within the brain have been somehow restored, with the biases of a persons perspective becoming reset to base level. As if the mind has been rebooted and reorganized in a way that fully grounds the revelations of the trip into a persons world view.
At it’s highest level the feelings of rejuvenation can become so intense that they begin to manifest themselves as the profound sensation of being reborn. Lasting anywhere from weeks to a lifetime after the experience itself.
Feelings of Deja-Vu:
Deja vu is a common phrase from the French language which translates literally into “already seen”. This is a well documented phenomenon which can commonly occur throughout both sober living and psychedelic experiences. It can be described as having the strong sensation that the current event or situation has already been experienced at some point within the past, when in fact it hasn’t.
Psychedelic drugs are commonly capable of inducing spontaneous and often prolonged states of mild to intense senses of Deja vu. This provides trippers with an overwhelming sense that they have “been here before”. Which is accompanied by an obviously false feeling of familiarity with the psychedelic experience itself, the current location or setting, the current physical actions being performed and the situation as a whole. Something which becomes triggered and felt by the tripper despite the fact that they are rationally aware that the circumstances of the “previous” experience (when, where, and how the earlier experience occurred) are uncertain or believed to be impossible.
Removal of cultural filter:
The cultural filter is a geographically determined bias that human beings look through in their everyday life. Affecting our ability to evaluate the world around us in ways that are much more powerful than most people are willing to admit.
It seems to me that a human beings perspective on the world is built up out of a complex set of filters that are based on pre-existing beliefs, past experiences, fears, prejudices, stereotypes and cultural symbols. Giving us a powerfully consistent, unconscious tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirm existing cultural beliefs, while filtering out and rationalizing observations that do not fit with prior beliefs and expectations. Forcing us to look at the world, not as a human being but as a false version of our true selves. Be it a conservative Christian mother, a Muslim housewife, an aboriginal tribesman or an materialistic white middle class male with a European Christian heritage and atheistic beliefs.
It’s said that we don’t look at things as they are but instead look at things as we are. Psychedelics however seem to completely obliterate and remove this filter, showing people that culture is merely a delusional perspective attributing importance to abstract symbols and not an objective reality. Creating profound changes in perspective that can last a lifetime, making people become who they really are and not what they were raised to be.
Feelings of predeterminism:
Predeterminism is defined as the belief that all events, including human actions, are established or decided in advance.
This is a perspective that can become spontaneously triggered and felt through an undeniable change in thought processes and an intense set of physical sensations during a psychedelic experience.
In terms of how it feels experientially, this can be described as the sensation of the ego or internal narrative as an independent decision making agent being lifted from your perception of the world and revealed to be illusory. This creates an undeniable sensation that your physical actions, current situational perspective and the very subject matter of your thought stream have always been completely predetermined and out of your control. Meaning that they are not reached through a conscious choice or planning of the ego and genuinely never were. Instead they are revealed to have always been a vast and complex set of internally stored, instantly decided, preprogrammed and completely autonomous responses to received sensory stimuli.
Along side of this, there is also a powerful physical sensation that makes the precise arrangement of the external environment and objects within it become felt to be the true deciding force in regards to the way in which you physically interact with it. This is done by instantly triggering your responses and decisions towards them through the simple sensory perception of them. Something which leads onto the feeling that for example, you are not deciding to reach out and grab a relevant object, but the object is triggering you to reach out and grab it regardless of whether or not you have put any thought into it.
This experience as a whole is consistently interpreted by anybody who undergoes it as a profound revelation or insight into the illusory nature of freewill.
It lifts the tripper above the culturally ingrained illusion of being an independent decision making agent that is somehow intrinsically separate from external physical systems, allowing them to see themselves as what they really are. Which is nothing more than the suddenly undeniable reality of living organisms as nothing more than complex electrochemical systems, walking around and responding to prior causes and sensory stimuli in a completely predetermined and mechanical fashion.
The emancipation of our internal narrative from the limitations of exclusively linguistic content:
This particular component can be described as a forced change in perspective which frees the ego’s conscious thought stream from remaining strictly limited to words and labels. This allows it to think not just in descriptions, but directly in the internally stored concepts that lay behind our linguistic and descriptive knowledge base.
In terms of how this feels experientially, it can be described as the sensation of the concepts behind the words of our internal narrative becoming somehow cognitively felt at every point across themselves in a very high level of detail. Along side this they are also perceived through a simultaneous partially to fully animated visual manifestation that differs from that of an ordinary hallucination through the fact that it exclusively occurs within the minds eye, always remaining completely separate from the trippers direct line of sight.
The experience of directly experiencing the internally stored concepts which lay just behind human description results in the perceived ability of being able to clearly feel in a profound and emotionally intuitive format, the precise consequences, limitations and position within this universe of any singular concept. These feelings are consistently interpreted as a “higher level of understanding” which seems to stem from the way in which this perspective reveals human language to be intrinsically self limited. This intrinsic self limitation is shown by integrating previously held knowledge into a persons felt perspective, transcending our intellectually understood knowledge and showing that words can only act as mere shortcuts to the concepts which they exist to describe.
At lower levels, these integrations of previously held knowledge into the trippers felt perspective can be described as thought stream specific. This means that the concepts which are being felt and seen are exclusively relevant to the words which you are currently thinking. These will feel identical in stylistic behavior whether the concept is arrived at by a simple wandering of thoughts or triggered through the experience of a concept or object perceived within the external environment.
Perhaps the most common example of this which those within the psychedelic community could relate to would be the experience of looking at a plant of any sort and internally feeling as well as visually perceiving, everything that you happen to know about photosynthesis and the evolution of plants no matter how vague or abstract this knowledge might be.
At higher levels, these integrations of previously held knowledge into the trippers felt perspective stop being specific to the words contained within your current thought stream and start becoming all encompassing towards every last internally stored piece of knowledge the tripper has ever known.
This leads onto feelings which are consistently interpreted as a new found level of “total and complete understanding” as the consequences, limitations and position within this universe of every single concept which the tripper previously only knew in terms of its description, becomes felt through a very real and undeniable perspective.
Perhaps the most common examples of these which those within the psychedelic community will relate to, that I have experienced myself and observed through others, would be the experience of a total and profound understanding regarding but not limited to, the themes and archetypes listed below.
- General scientific principles.
- Taking care of your personal health.
- Your position within nature and higher systems of order.
- The consequences of your actions and your responsibility towards them.
- Human civilization as the literal cutting edge of physical complexity.
- Living in balance with nature to the best of your abilities.
- The inevitability of death.
- The sheer unlikeliness of personal existence.
It’s through the direct experience of the concepts behind our knowledge that new life changing perspectives are suddenly felt in an obvious way. These new found viewpoints are rarely considered by the tripper to be the creation of a single new idea or creative insight. Instead they are nothing more than the integration of previously held knowledge which was already understood intellectually into a system which directly feels them in an undeniable, clearly understandable and emotionally felt format which lies within a level of detail far beyond normal human language and description.
At lower levels, these integrations of knowledge are felt to be temporary and consistently subside along with the effects of the substance which has been consumed. At higher levels however, specific or all encompassing pieces of knowledge can become permanently integrated into a trippers felt perspective for weeks, months, years and even a lifetime after the experience itself.
This component allows psychedelic users to gain access to a profound and very literal expansion of their consciousness, resulting in extremely therapeutic changes in their perception of the world.
Induced spiritual or religious perspectives:
Ego suppression, loss and death:
To make things as clear as possible however, I should first define for people what exactly the ego is and what purpose it serves before I go into breaking down the base components that comprise these two states Put simply, the ego is a human being’s sense of self or “I” as intrinsically separate from and somehow more important than the external environment. It is essentially a person’s consciousness or ability to be self aware, as fueled by the constant internal dialogue that we call our thoughts.
Ego death is defined by the psychedelic community as any total suppression or loss of a person’s sense of self. It is something that occurs at both high dose dissociative and psychedelic experiences, as well as in every day life; since natural sleep, passing out drunk, general unconsciousness or death can all technically be classed as forms of ego death. However, the clear cut distinction between hallucinogen induced ego death and other more commonly experienced forms is that sensory input is not maintained through deep sleep or normal unconsciousness. Psychedelics and dissociatives on the other hand, both offer differing versions of the same experience that universally becomes triggered during these states and is perceived through all of the senses.
In terms of the thought patterns and general mental processes, dissociative and psychedelic ego death are very similar in a number of ways. Both capable of being broken down into 3 basic levels.
- Ego suppression - Partial failure of a persons short term memory. Something that can be described as a general increase in distractibility, loss of focus and an increasing inability to process anything outside of the present moment.
- Ego loss - Complete failure of a persons short term memory. Something that can be described as a person becoming being completely incapable of remembering any specific details regarding the present situation for more than a second or two. Resulting in disorientation, thought loops and confusion for the inexperienced. Long term memory however remains almost entirely intact, with people still being perfectly capable of recollecting their name, date of birth, childhood school, etc.
- Ego death - Complete failure of a persons long term memory. Something that can be described as a person becoming completely incapable of remembering any basic fundamental human concept that is stored within the long term memory. Including your name, who you are, the fact that you are on drugs, what human beings are, what life is, what existence is or what anything is. Giving the profound experience that there is no longer an “I” experiencing the intensity of the trip anymore, there is just the trip as it is and by itself.
Feelings of unity and interconnectedness:
The feeling of this mental component can be triggered at any level of psychedelic experience but is most common during states of ego death. In terms of how this state subjectively feels, it begins by stemming from what feels like an awakening or the lifting of a great illusion that is deeply embedded within the human psyche. An illusion that feels as if it is in place to keep human beings feeling as if they are intrinsically separate from and more significant or important than, the external environment. It feels as if it exists due to the strong evolutionary need to keep a person’s perspective on the world as one that prioritizes the needs of the self over the needs of the external, as a means of ensuring the motivation for survival.
The psychedelic disintegration of this apparent illusion is commonly described as a loss of perceived boundaries between the physical body and the external environment, giving the profound sensation that you can no longer understand where your physical body ends and the external environment begins. Our central centre of self with which we identify as “ourselves” is at this point, revealed to be illusory and not any single component of our being, such as the ego, the brain as a whole or even the body in its entirety. Instead, the central centre of self with which we identify with becomes no single component of existence but all of it in its entirety, creating the sudden undeniable perspective that you are literally the entire universe experiencing itself and performing actions onto itself through the very specific point of space and time which your ego happens to reside in. The ego or self as separate from external systems of behaviour is felt to be an elaborate fabrication, that the skin is not what separates us from the universe but what connects us to it. This is a feeling that when experienced is immediately and universally understood to be an undeniable truth by anybody who undergoes it.
I am honestly still trying to wrap my head around this specific mental component and do not feel that I have come close to understanding it or processing its consequences. My current level of experience only allows me to describe the feeling of it and not in anyway the logic behind it.
Similar notions of unity seem to be discussed heavily in Buddhism, Eastern mysticism, Gnosticism, Monism, Non-duality and Alan Watts lectures, as well as basic molecular biology and physics, not to mention various trip reports across the internet that all describe sensations of “becoming one with the universe”.
I somehow feel that this will one day become the default perspective through which humans beings look at the world. In my opinion, this is by far the most profound mental component of the psychedelic experience.
Once a tripper begins to sober up and come down the sensation is usually shown to be non permanent and reduced to something that is understood through logic, but not felt. On rare occasions however, it does seem to become a fully grounded and uncontrollable perspective that can last anywhere from weeks to a lifetime after the trip. This creates obvious and powerful changes in personality that result in a completely selfless perspective which values the well being of the external as on par with the importance of the ego.
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