Saturday, December 29, 2018

HIGH IRONY, DIRE PORTENT

In my December 3, 2018, comments preceding the publication on this blog of the second appendix to my 1998 history thesis, which contains the full text of Nathan Kline’s 1961 New York Times review of Adelle Davis’ gushing promotion of LSD as the breakthrough route to world peace and human salvation, I mentioned Jeffrey Lieberman.

As if to prove my prescience, Lieberman has now (on December 26th) published a review of Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.

Pollan’s book and Lieberman’s review are so eerily reminiscent of Davis’ book and Kline’s review, respectively, as to suggest that we have passed through a time warp and landed back in 1961, perhaps to enter once again upon a decade of violent and phenomenal political, social and cultural upheaval.

Both Pollan, in How to Change..., and Davis (as Jane Dunlap), in Exploring Inner Space..., did their level best to overtly profess the proper obeisance to scientific authority, while covertly pushing the psychedelic experience as a holy grail for all humanity. Both Kline, in 1961, and Lieberman, in 2018, condescended to praise the books they reviewed with the serious caveat that their own elite class is alone qualified to evaluate and control the experience and utility of psychedelics.

The parallels extend to some finer details. Both Adelle Davis and Michael Pollan had previously been well known for writing on the subject of nutrition. Both Nathan Kline and Jeffrey Lieberman were leading voices for the psychiatric guild of their time, and they both professed to be authorities who were under-recognized in the popular books.

Above all else, everyone (both authors, both reviewers) seem to implicitly believe that such ultimate human issues as consciousness, dying, addiction, depression and transcendence can be logically explored and eventually resolved through Western science and technological medicine. This is the fundamental error of our culture. It is an error, as the experience of Thomas Insel at the National Institute of Mental Health rather tragically highlights, that continues to waste much treasure and many lives.

Alienating the study of the mind and the healing of mentally caused ills from religion enabled the Twentieth Century’s construction of a high road to a black gate and a hot mushroom cloud. We should not let 1945 happen again, and even the flowers and music of 1967 didn’t make it worthwhile.

Monday, December 3, 2018

SLOUCHING, part 13

(Comment on the article below: Nathan S. Kline was one of the most important and respected psychiatrists of the Twentieth Century, whose work is said to have revolutionized the treatment of mental illnesses. He may have been the original psychopharmacologist. He explicitly classified LSD as a drug within the class of “psychopharmaceuticals”. His well-written, immensely reasonable but slightly arrogant and ostentatiously “Educated!” tone, in this 1961 review of Adelle Davis’ little known book, reminds me very much of one of our modern day thought leaders and propagandists for the bad guys, none other than Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman... Lieberman has been extensively quoted by The NY Times and others, in recent articles about the supposed promise of Ketamine therapy; and Ketamine, of course, is another psychedelic drug which people pushed since the late sixties for chemical spiritual revelation, in the guise of the “K-hole”, aka “God”.  RK.)
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APPENDIX 2: TEXT OF THE NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF EXPLORING INNER SPACE BY JANE DUNLAP (MAY 14, 1961)

The Mind on the Wing by Nathan S. Kline

Man is far from comfortable with his incompletely and faultily developed self-awareness. The search for identification will become intensified now that within a few hundred years the problems of food and shelter may be solved. One path of identification is toward increasing differentiation, self-consciousness and individual responsibility.

An alternative is to escape from our sweaty selves by dissolving our sense of individual being. Drugs have traditionally been used to assist in the process of achieving such states. We of the West have placed the higher value on good works in the form of accomplishments that will improve the physical well being of our fellow man. I recall the shocked surprise I felt in Bombay when a superb, flashing-eyed white turbaned Sikh agreed that this really was a great motivating force of people in the United States — and that was just what the East meant when it held that we were materialistic: one should be more concerned about one’s spiritual state of being.

In Exploring Inner Space, “a nationally known writer chose to use the pseudonym Jane Dunlap” for the purpose of relating her “personal experiences under LSD-25,” lysergic acid diethylamide, a drug that induces psychotic-like reactions. “When filling out a questionnaire which asked, ‘Why do you wish to take lysergic acid?’ I wrote, ‘In hope of overcoming spiritual poverty.’ Another time I filled in the blank with, ‘To get chemical Christianity’.” Miss Dunlap believes she was successful after discovering that not only does the embryo repeat the history of evolution but so does LSD, since Chapter 2 is entitled “I lived billions of years in eight hours.” The cathedral may soon be replaced by the laboratory: “These convictions have served to formulate and strengthen a new faith in God, a faith so satisfying and rewarding that my lasting gratitude goes to the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Laboratories which not only discovered, and produced LSD-25 but are spending millions of dollars on its research.”

The use of LSD and other psychopharmaceuticals provides valuable research tools and some of them have brought about a major revolution in the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Drugs can certainly induce states of exaltation, but these states do not arise from any integrated, consistent or meaningful development of the personality. “My mommie has gone to take the drug which makes her terribly nice for a whole month,” Miss Dunlap’s 9-year-old daughter remarks. Compare this to the visions of St. Theresa or the exaltations of Blake.

As Ludwig von Bertalanffy puts it, “In supranormal experience of the genius, and mystic, precisely parallel ‘symptoms’ may appear, but they are embedded in an organized universe of the self...” For the same reason, mescaline or LSD intoxication is unproductive even though it may open a field of unprecedented experience and beauty. It is not a general elevation of personality, but only provides an array of paranormal manifestations. It is therefore easy to understand that, for example, artistic production deteriorates in hallucinogen-produced states.

Finally, Miss Dunlap states, “The colossal egotism of anyone who thinks he can write an LSD report! It can’t be done, not with all the languages in the world.” Miss Dunlap is wrong: Baudilaire, DeQuincey, Clautier and Coleridge among others have conveyed some of the drug-induced ecstatic intoxication — in the phrase of Baudilaire “drunken, in love with drunkenness, I plunge and drown.” Miss Dunlap mistakes a travelogue for the esthetic creation of an experience.

Her report appears accurate enough and gives some picture of the flight and range of ideas and moods that the drug caused in her. She does not enable us to share fantasies and feelings which are kaleidoscopic and confusing when described externally. It is not sufficient to be told that it is really just wonderful. Reports of between-drug activities soon come as a welcome relief. The contents of the hallucinations themselves may be of some interest to the researchers (or her psychotherapist) but are not likely to provide the vicarious experience that is promised.