| Link to my new book: Preparation for a Sacred, Psychedelic Journey |
Link to my recent talk at the Gay Buddhist Fellowship: “Psychedelics on the Spiritual Path”
“Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” These are the core questions that focus attention on the spiritual path. I would add that the following questions are also worth asking, even though one could say they are essentially included in the above: “What is all this that appears outside of me?” and “What is my relationship with all that?” The latter questions bring the focus to our relatedness and responsibility to the world in which we live.
I think that if anyone sincerely asks and meditates with these questions, they will find themselves moved to take part in shifting the direction of humanity towards creating a more just and peaceful world, one in which we live in harmony with all life on Earth. In other words, there will be a shift in consciousness such that their thoughts, feelings and motivations
to act will involve a wider and more loving embrace of themselves and everyone and everything. They will care more about creating a loving, global community.
The above thoughts come from the fact that every time I experience (or even get close to) the reality of my own true nature, and tune to the essence of all that is around me, I experience compassion and goodwill. I am moved to help bring about a better world. I don’t, and can’t, arrive at that through just thinking about these questions. It is an experience that comes through spiritual practices that take me beyond my thinking mind and that I feel in my heart and body.
For many years I have believed that it is only through the wider dissemination of experientially based spiritual teachings that we will avert human caused catastrophe and create a better world. As the Dalai Lama and others have proposed, we need a spiritual or consciousness revolution. I still believe that, and it seems to me more urgent than ever.
In this light I am heartened to see that one long suppressed, even demonized, approach to spiritual awakening is surfacing in a positive way in mainstream discourse: psychedelics. This is coming about partly through carefully-worded statements from scientific researchers at university hospitals proving the effectiveness of psychedelic therapies for people with treatment resistant depression, addictions, PTSD, and other clinical problems/disorders. But contained in these reports, somewhat hidden in plain sight, is that the most successful outcomes of these treatments come primarily when the participant has what they deem to be a “spiritual or mystical experience.”
While these relatively recent government approved research findings are being reported in mainstream media, the “underground” network of guides, who have been performing psychedelic ceremonies and rituals for groups and individuals for decades, has grown to where they can no longer be ignored. Knowledge of – and participation in – these ceremonies is bursting into the mainstream and some forms of legalization are imminent. An aspect of this is the willingness of many participants, including very well respected thought leaders, to share their experiences past and present.
Among people I know, including numerous clients I see as a psychotherapist, many are exploring psychedelics with experienced guides with intentions for psychological healing and spiritual growth. I have witnessed very positive results, often breakthroughs that would involve years of therapy or meditation practice. Because of my own fairly extensive participation in similar ceremonial circles over the past 40-plus years, I am able to support their preparation for these experiences and their integration afterwards.
As the lid is lifted off of prohibition, it will be messy. There will likely be a great deal of misuse and abuse of these very powerful substances. People with very limited experience will set themselves up as guides for others. People will take what are potentially life-transforming sacred medicines and use them in recreational settings, and while some will have fun, others will have problems as a result. And there may be damaging consequences for some people for whom psychedelics are not appropriate. Corporations, especially the pharmaceutical industry, are already seeking to capitalize and control the “psychedelic renaissance.” The dominant culture will tend to desacralize, co-opt and make into a fad what could otherwise be a catalyst for a global shift towards a loving community seeking to protect and sustain all life.
Psychedelics have great promise and yet are not a panacea. They can help bring about experiences that speak deeply to the questions posed at the beginning of this writing. Yet, those benefits come only when the internal intentionality and the surrounding environment (the set and setting) are supportive of psychological and spiritual growth. Lasting change tends to come when the altered-state journey is seen as one part of a lifelong path of inner work, not a single event expected to solve one’s problems.
In light of all of the above, I’ve written and self-published a short book, Preparation for a Sacred Psychedelic Journey. In it I offer a series of suggestions for steps and practices that help one to prepare for a safe and fruitful experience. I draw from what I’ve learned over the last 40-plus years of my own explorations. If you or anyone you know is interested in embarking on such a journey, or is already actively working with these substances, I hope this book will be of value. I’ve kept the price as low as possible.
You may also be interested in the podcast recording of a talk I recently gave at the Gay Buddhist Fellowship on this theme: https://gaybuddhist.org/podcast/
Please feel free to pass this invitation on and write a review on Amazon if you like the book.
I offer my blessings for a world that honors the spiritual journey and moves towards harmony amongst humans and all life,
Here’s comments from several folks who’ve read the book:
“In the tradition and lineage of James Fadiman and Ralph Metzner, transpersonal psychotherapist Alan Levin has brought forth an indispensable guidebook for using psychotropic medicines as a vehicle for awakening.”
–Joseph Tieger – author of Lately It Occurs To Me: A Memoir of The Civil Rights Movement & The Open Road
“The entheogenic journey can help us access elemental aspects of our being and can assist us in growth. It is with proper preparation and guidance that these profound (aspects) are examined. In this book, Alan Levin shares key concepts that are necessary to get ready for the journey. A must read for those who are seeking these essential truths and deep healing.”
“I highly recommend Alan Levin’s Preparation for a Sacred Psychedelic Journey book to anyone who is planning on embarking on an altered state journey. Alan’s guidance is invaluable in helping to prepare for a safe and sacred experience. The book is well-organized and covers everything from setting intentions to creating a safe and supportive environment for your journey.
“Alan’s expertise and compassionate approach make this book an essential resource for anyone seeking to explore the potential benefits of psychedelics in a responsible and mindful way. His teachings are rooted in decades of personal experience and research, and he provides practical tools and techniques to help you navigate the journey with confidence and ease.….”
“Alan Levin provides a thorough, thoughtful, and clear guide for preparing oneself for embarking on an altered state journey. Levin’s guidance for intention setting, preparatory activities, and practices for navigating consciousness were very helpful and well-articulated.”
“This is a small but powerful book? My personal work with Alan Levin has changed my life in a safe and most profound way. I highly recommend it to anyone yearning for deeper love and peace.”
–Celeste Simone, Voice Teacher/Performance Coach/Director
Tag Archives: psychedelics and spirituality
Neo-Hasidic Visionary – Art Green
“Tradition is a profound echo chamber
of the countless generations of its faithful
reaching into antiquity.”
“We are creatures of a natural world
that is itself a multi-colored garbing of divine glory.”
“I have learned to express the universal truth
in the language of Jewish tradition.”
Arthur Green went from being raised in a
secular (in this case, atheist) Jewish home to become one of the leading
lights among those re-infusing Judaism with a deep mystical experience
that is universal in nature and devoid of the rigidity commonly
associated with Orthodoxy.
He refers to his path as Neo-Hasidic, drawing on the mystical teachings of the great masters of the early Hasidic tradition and bringing them into alignment with life in the modern and post-modern world. Arthur has a voice of authenticity and makes no pretense of being a guru (or even rebbe) but rather teaches and shares from his own study, practice and experience.
He was a founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at Hebrew College in Boston, where he still teaches and he has authored over seventeen books. I read Judaism for the World -Reflections on God, Life, and Love preparing for my conversation with him. There is something so real and honest and deep about the Judaism he describes that I can honestly say I am drawn to look again at the study and practices of the Jewish lineage.
We spoke of the very common phenomenon of Jews seeking deep spiritual experience through other spiritual/religious paths such as those I interviewed for my own book, Crossing the Boundary – Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths. We also spoke of his early experiences with psychedelic substances through which he found, along with his friend and mentor, Zalman Schachter, an experiential confirmation of the mystical teachings of Judaism and all world religions. You can view a full half-hour interview with Arthur and Rabbi Zak Kamenetz on this subject which took place at the “Jewish Psychedelic Summit” in April of 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHZqwQiuO0A
My conversation with Art ranged along many lines including ideas about Jewish identity, the Soul, the role of tradition and ritual, the perennial philosophy, Israel/Palestine, and the One and the many. It is part of a series of Crossing the Boundary interviews I am doing with people who have crossed boundaries for their own good and the good of all life. You can see the the full list of them here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBTcFhpF_7838Ckgn-8rf508QrjEqc9GA
And here is my interview with Art Green. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did talking with him.
Tribute to Ralph Metzner
(Painting by Susan Wright)
“The introduction of LSD and psychedelics into the culture
produced a transformation of the entire culture,
the consciousness of the culture.”
“For years I’ve followed a principle:
Read anything Ralph Metzner writes.”
“You have pulled the whole thing together
in a truly illuminated and illuminating way.”
–Joseph Campbell (about The Unfolding Self)
“…….When I asked him how to experience this teaching, he closed his eyes and his body seemed to de-materialize. Part of him went up and up in stages and then slowly came back down. …When he came back down, he told me to follow him to his cabin and he led me through an experience in which I felt all the negativity, doubt, fear, shame and pain that I’d been carrying for my whole life cleansed from my body, cell by cell, cleansed by a stream of white light. I felt clearer than I’d ever felt, confident and certain that this was the path for me to follow. Ralph (Metzner) had initiated me into the spiritual lineage of Agni Yoga and what would be a 45 year relationship with him as well as a meditation practice I use to this day.”
Ralph Metzner died two years ago and his birthday was last week, May 18th. The experience I recount above is part of an article for a Festschrift (tribute book) for Ralph that is being lovingly edited by his wife, Cathy Coleman. The piece above is about my first encounter with him in 1969 where he led a retreat on “Maps of Consciousness” and introduced me to the Western esoteric practices of Agni Yoga. I can honestly say that two years after his death I think of him every day. No one has been as important in my spiritual journey.
Ralph was a scholar, a prolific writer of books and articles, lecturer, teacher and ceremonial leader of inner experiences which were participated in by perhaps thousands. His influence in the fields of transpersonal and eco-psychology was profound. But to many of those of us who worked with him, nothing compared to his unique and innovative approach to guiding altered-state experiences with sacred medicines. Ralph was the teacher of teachers, the guide for guides, the shaman for shamans in the underground movement of entheogenic (psychedelic) experiences.
Ralph was the third, much lesser known of the three men from Harvard renowned for blowing the lid off the secret study of psychedelics. Tim Leary went on to be an icon of the wild side of the counter-culture while Richard Alpert became Ram Dass and brought Eastern spirituality to millions. Ralph took a quieter road and became deeply involved in disciplines of esoteric practices and finally integrated those with psychedelics bringing about his unique form of teachings and guidance. His legacy includes books which are filled with both scientific information and instructions for the use of: MDMA (Through the Gateway of the Heart), Ayahuasca (Ayuhasca-Sacred Vine of Spirit), Mushrooms (Teonanacatl-Sacred Mushroom of Visions), DMT and 5-Meo-DMT (The Toad and the Jaguar) as well as an all-inclusive manual (Allies for Awakening – Guidelines for productive and safe experiences with entheogen).
A master of shape-shifting and consciousness, he could also maintain his work as a psychologist, a teacher and dean at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and beloved husband and father. His books and articles took in-depth looks at consciousness studies, the roots of war and violence and the meanings of many of the world’s mythologies, metaphors and symbols.
The depth of his insights makes for more dense reading than most popular spiritual books. But my guess is that many of them will become classics for those seeking to penetrate beyond the superficial understandings of consciousness and spirit. For Ralph, the alchemical work was not an intellectual exercise. He practiced what he preached and transformed himself decade by decade. I miss him and yet know and feel he is still here.
For more information about Ralph and for many of his books, visit the website he developed for Green Earth Foundation: https://www.greenearthfound.org/.
As celebration of his birthday, Green Earth Foundation announced that what I think is his most comprehensive work, The Unfolding Self, has been made into an audio book. You can see more and order it here: https://www.pipewellstudios.uk/.
Crossing the Blood/Brain Barrier – Psychedelics and Spirituality
THIS IS A REQUEST FOR HELP: If you already know the value of my book, Crossing the Boundary: Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths, please help me spread the message to more people. If you have already read it, you know that it offers, through the lens of Jewish boundary-crossers, universal wisdom teachings that move us towards a more compassionate sense of who we are and what we are doing here. At this time of intensifying fear-based tribalism, I am hopeful this book is good medicine.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would please forward this message to two or three friends with a word about the value of the book. If you’d like to buy a copy for yourself or a gift for a friend, that would be wonderful. Please note the discount rate through the end of the year. Signed copies of the book can be purchased at www.CrossingTheBoundary.org. Great gift for Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice or just for a plain gift of love.
I continue to expand on the theme of crossing boundaries through this blog and I hope you enjoy and find value in the post below.
Special offer through the end of the year –
$20 plus shipping.
Purchase Book here: www.CrossingTheBoundary.org
Peace and blessings,
It came as a surprise to some, (but certainly not all) readers of Crossing the Boundary to find that most of the fourteen spiritual teachers in the book (plus myself) had significant experiences with psychedelics that began or enhanced their spiritual journey. Several speak of their ongoing use of such substances in sacramental ways as part of their spiritual practice.
Nothing in this message is meant to encourage anyone to take psychedelics. They are, after all, illegal. I write this only to open the discussion to what stands out so strongly to many readers of Crossing the Boundary and yet is something I chose not to emphasize in previous publicity descriptions of the book. I confess this may have been due to my own shyness with the controversial nature of the subject. But, it seems the cat is coming out of the bag, or a better way to say it is: the mushroom is popping up out of its hidden underground mycelial web.
So many books and articles have been written about psychedelics that it amazes me that most Americans are still unaware of them as serious tools for consciousness expansion and spiritual development. Recent articles in the New York Times and Scientific American are reporting on the very promising research being done with psychedelic substances for treatments of PTSD, depression, addiction, and quality of life for people with cancer. Often overlooked, though hiding in plain sight, is the fact that accompanying the positive therapeutic results of any of these treatments, there is the frequent, (if not close to universal) report of spiritual, religious or mystical experiences in the treatment sessions. Many report that it is that experience that provided the force of the therapy.
Indeed, while many people continue to take psychedelics for recreational purposes, enjoying the many sensory and emotional pleasures of the experience, a strong subset have continued the deeper, psychologically mind-expanding and spiritual explorations that psychedelics can enhance. Folks involved in this work now generally refer to the substances themselves as “medicines” and use the term entheogen (bringing forth the divine from within) rather than the often demonized or trivialized term, psychedelic (suggesting for many people that you see groovy patterns of color moving around). It’s quite clear from some of the accounts of those I interviewed for Crossing the Boundary, that entheogens often provide, in the right setting, the deepest of openings to whatever it is we call higher consciousness, Oneness, Spirit, the Divine, or God.
Some will still argue that the experience people have with psychedelics/entheogens is not a “valid” spiritual experience because it is induced by a drug. This notion runs counter to the statements of the many spiritual teachers and students who have had experiences of transcendant and mystical states with both entheogens and long periods of meditation or prayer and testify to their being essentially equivalent.
There is also the very interesting study that followed up on what is known as the Harvard “Good Friday Experiment” of 1962. For his PhD in Religion, Walter Pahnke led a controlled experiment to determine whether psilocybin generated genuine mystical experiences. Briefly, Pahnke administered both psilocybin and a placebo to a group of 20 divinity students and recorded their reports. The findings were that most of those who took the psilocybin reported religious or mystical experiences whereas there were none in the control group. The follow-up study, headed by Rick Doblin of MAPS, (The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) was done 40 years later. Doblin was able to find many of the original “Good Friday” participants (many having become religious leaders) who all reported the 1962 experience was their first true religious experience and was as “valid” as any later experience. For a fascinating detailed account of this study, see: here.
An even more significant validation of the link between spirituality and entheogenic plants and substances is the testimony of the many spiritual teachers who acknowledge with deep respect the positive effects such experiences had on their journey. Among these are Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Huston Smith, Ram Dass, Stanislav Grof, Ralph Metzner, Jack Kornfield, Bill Wilson (founder of A.A.), and a very long list could follow. See Zig Zag Zen for some excellent discussion about this from a wide range of teachers as well as art by Alex and Allyson Grey (Allyson is featured in Crossing the Boundary). As mentioned above, almost every one of the well respected teachers in Crossing the Boundary attribute entheogenic experiences as a primary key to their opening to deep spiritual practice.
The depiction in the alchemical drawing used as a basis for the cover of my book can easily be seen as the dissolving or peaking through the boundary of one’s cultural conditioning to a larger universe, the expansion of consciousness. (The original is above and the one adapted by artist, Michael Green, for the “Jewish” version is below.) We all may ask, what lies beyond the current boundaries of our belief systems and mind-habits and how can we open our hearts and minds to a larger sense of ourselves.
It certainly seems clear that we are at a critical time in the evolution of human consciousness. If, as so much evidence indicates, people are moved to greater states of compassion, unity, joy and transcendence through ingestion of these substances in carefully prepared settings, then shouldn’t getting them out of the locked vaults of government prohibition be a primary goal for us. It behooves us to support research into the appropriate uses and potential dangers and learn from the indigenous societies that have incorporated their use into their sacred ceremonies.
I offer the links below to offer just a few of the many significant books and resources for understanding the subject of psycho-spiritual growth, healing and entheogens:
Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals by Huston Smith .
10 minute video of Stan Grof describing his first LSD experience Dr. Grof, it is safe to say, is the most respected researcher of psychedelics and consciousness studies.
Green Earth Foundation: Here you can find Ralph Metzner’s many books on the subject which are a treasure trove of information about the different substances used for psycho-spiritual growth and include his razor sharp insights into these experiences and their meaning.
Psychedelic Gospels (research on the use of psychedelics in early Christianity).
The Ketamine Papers (accounts of the use of ketamine for healing and transformation).