LSD and Kashmir Shaivism
This article is a follow-up to the previous one, and only makes sense if you have read that.
Following on from the first exchange between Grof and Muktananda, they then started talking about psychedelic substances. Grof asked about Soma, the Vedic sacrament containing a psychoactive substance taken in ancient India. It is widely believed that the botanical secret has been lost, so that we don’t know what the plant or the chemical agents were. Muktananda said that, on the contrary, the secret is still known, and that there are still Soma ceremonies. He then suddenly reached behind himself, and brought out a big can of almond roca. He fished out two pieces, which he put into Grof’s mouth, then started hitting him quite hard with his hands, and then kicking him in the shin (these are frequent practices in such sessions, no physical harm is intended). The meeting was then over, Muktananda having invited Grof and his wife to two forthcoming weekend intensives on Kashmir Shaivism, which he said Grof would find interesting.
Grof says that he thought that what he had been given was Shaktipat, which is the transference of spiritual energy rather than a substance, and didn’t believe that something like that could have an impact upon him as powerful as the effects of LSD. When he closed his eyes, however, he had an experience of cosmic emptiness, the primordial nothingness out of which all creation comes, as if he were in interstellar space, a place of incredible peace “where all questions are answered”. When he opened his eyes he found out that two and a half hours had passed. One wonders what the almond roca contained! Or was this merely Shaktipat, the transference from Muktananda of spiritual energy?
Grof and his wife later went to the seminars on Kashmir Shaivism. The first session was opened by one of Muktananda’s swamis, who told them about the movement’s history. It was a system that started in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, in the 8th century A.D. A Kashmiri sage had had some visions which directed him to some rocks on the outskirts of Srinagar, where he found some ancient carvings which today are known as the Shiva Sutras, the basic spiritual manual of Kashmir Shaivism.
Then the swami started to talk about some of the basic ideas and principles. As he talked Grof became increasingly paranoid, because it seemed that a paper he had written a couple of years earlier, on the mystical experiences that people had in psychedelic sessions, was being stolen. (The swami was even using a variety of similes and metaphors that Grof had himself used in his paper.) He had found that his patients were experiencing different aspects of one overarching vision of reality, and that there was a fundamental agreement among these people about the content of such experiences. It took Grof a while to realise that his paper was not being stolen, but that there were astonishing parallels between Kashmir Shaivism and the vision of reality that emerged from psychedelic sessions. He found this peculiar, because one system was based upon some ancient carvings found in Kashmir in the 8th century, and the other was based on accounts of peoples’ experiences with a substance that was accidentally discovered in a Swiss pharmaceutical laboratory in the 20th century. He wondered how was this possible, and what the common denominator was. The only answer he could come up with was that both were coming from the deep levels of the human psyche, but with different triggers.
The source for the above is The Cosmic Game, tape 5 of a series of audiocassettes called The Transpersonal Vision, issued by Sounds True.
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