Aldous–This Timeless Moment. It was something that gave me a larger view. Psychedelics open our hearts and minds. Sometimes we open on the aesthetic level, sometimes on the level of compassion–the feeling of compassion, and the beauty of the world, as well as the gigantic suffering in the world. This is the way in which they affected me. Probably a psychedelic emphasizes what is in an individual and amplifies it. But we are a crowd, and which one of the crowd will be amplified? We don’t know.
DJB: That leads to the mistake a lot of people made when they first started experimenting with psychedelics. Because they saw their own positive qualities get amplified, they assumed that anyone who did a psychedelic would become more creative, more compassionate, more loving, and it just doesn’t work that way. It takes whatever is there and amplifies it.
LAURA Yes. I remember very well when we realized that. Aldous and I were very, very surprised when we heard from Boston that there were many negative experiences. We always prepared very carefully, which makes a great difference. In general, if you take a psychedelic without preparation, it’s risky. I know many kids do it, and sometimes it’s okay, but then comes a time when it’s not okay any more, and it’s difficult for many reasons, one being that what is ingested can be any chemical mix.
RMN: Of the people who know about the benefits of psychedelics, some believe that it should be made legal and everyone should have access to it. Other people think there should be some kind of restriction imposed. What do you think?
LAURA I think that if we had it all completely free again, abuse and damage would happen. That is why Oscar Janiger founded the Albert Hofmann Foundation, which I am a part of–so that there is some beginning, at least, in being able to use and guard from misuse. If there is a beginning, even with strict rules, then little by little, one can enlarge them. But I think that if everybody can get everything that would not be a just way of doing it.
RMN: If it were restricted to begin with, who should decide who can take the substance and who cannot? What are the qualities and qualifications such a person should possess?
LAURA That is the question. First of all, one would have to have experienced it oneself, and one should not try to get any gain from this at all. One’s own opinions and personality should be put aside, at least as much as possible. It is difficult to put them aside all together, but one can try to put them aside as much as possible. If you are asking about the role of the guide, probably it is easier to say what the guide must not do: not patronize, not preach, not impose, not do nothing, not come to quick conclusions, not deny intuition, not believe intuition as if it were God dictated, not deny common sense, not deny evidence, not accept evidence only, not be intensely personal, not be intensely impersonal, not be only masculine, not be only feminine.
DJB: Is that not the same as the role of any guide or teacher?
LAURA Yes. However, if you refer to a period of therapy in general rather than one single psychedelic experience, I would add that, in the beginning, the guide dances with the student, imperceptibly, now and then, exchanging leadership. After a while, the guide dances the student’s dance, but adds to it an higher octave and a rock-strong basso continuo. Dovetailed between the two, the student is supported and inspired in leading his own dance. Finally, strong and free, the student soars alone to new heights. Let me immediately add that all this is easier said than done, but I followed that famous quote of Browning even before I knew it: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?” It’s a bit tiring at times to stretch like that, but it gives life a fascinating flavor.
DJB: What role do you see psychedelics playing in the future?
LAURA That is almost like asking: what do you see for the future of this planet? We are at a point where just about anything can happen. If the negative happens, the psychedelics will have a bad role to play because many people will get sick on it. If what we tried to do-to encourage consciousness and responsibility-begins to happen, then psychedelics would be a help. Finally, it is the interplay between the outer stimuli which continuously effect us and our reaction to them–and to what extent are we responsible for our reactions? We can say I am 100% responsible, and that is a lovely thought.
But how much of the 100% is our destiny and how much is our personal will? And when do we follow our destiny and when do we follow our personal will? I think it is lucky that such a