in many places, but in my experience, group sessions at Millbrook appeared quite sedate. I remember a video crew from a major TV station filming a small group on acid, and all they saw were some people sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting “Om, Om, Om”
RMN: In the sixties, many individuals experimented with mind-altering substances like LSD and marijuana, and yet, as you mention in your book, you observed very few negative effects. Why do you think that was?
NINA: There were some negative effects, but the great majority of experimenters before psychedelics were made illegal had predominantly positive experiences. Some of the negative effects can be traced to the disinformation put out by the government and the sensation-hungry media, but in most cases, those who were pushed over the edge had been close to it before. It is unfortunate that there is no way to screen out people who are at risk, as there would be if these substances were legally controlled instead of criminalized.
RMN: Could you tell us about the dangers involved in taking psychedelics and can you specify who should and who shouldn’t use them?
NINA: I don’t believe psychedelics are for everybody. People who are already pretty spaced out need first to get grounded. Others with rigid belief systems may find themselves shaken to the core by the collapse of their valued beliefs. Then there are those with weak egos. I define the body as a spacesuit and the ego as the survival kit that contains the instructions that ensure survival on this planet. The weak ego has not developed its survival skills. It can also get inflated and believe that it needs lots of money and power and possessions to survive. Before we approach psychedelics we should understand that we are not what we think we are ···e are more! We are more than our bodies. Out-of-body experiences may occur in a psychedelic session, and the unprepared person can have a profound panic reaction. Psychedelics can be used as a therapeutic tool, to go deeper into oneself; this may best be done in the presence of a therapist. They can also be used as an aid to creativity and to problem solving. But their noblest and most ancient use is as a bridge to the ineffable–the Higher Self. The most dangerous and wasteful use is to take them simply for kicks.
DJB: How have your experiences with psychedelics affected your perspective of yourself and the life process?
NINA: One of my first discoveries when I entered the psychedelic consciousness was, “It’s all upside down!” The absurdity of the things on which the world places the greatest value came home to me in Day Glo colors. I had seen it before, when I lived among the wealthy suburbanites, but now the willingness with which people enslaved themselves to a life of producing unnecessary services and consumer goods so they could buy more unnecessary services and consumer goods struck me with great force. In one of my LSD sessions, the words real estate came into my mind, and I laughed hysterically for half an hour. The idea of owning a piece of the planet! Do you see how ludicrous it is? On LSD, I had flashes of the cosmic consciousness of which the saints and yogis speak. I had had brief hints of it in my solitary meditations, but they didn’t come close to the actual mystical experience. To know, not just to believe, that we are part of the stream of being and that we exist, even apart from our bodies–inevitably, this must affect every aspect of our lives. Like thousands of others, I “dropped out” of a lifestyle that seemed meaningless to live with the hippies who shared my quest and my ideas.
RMN: Of all the major religions you relate to Hinduism the most. What is it about this religious philosophy that attracts you?
NINA: What I find particularly attractive is the lack of dogmatism in eastern philosophy. It is very broad in its acceptance of all forms of worship and all kinds of manifestations of God. Most people need to relate to a personal divinity before they can see that all is God. Hinduism has a variety of divinities and spiritual disciplines to choose from–a brilliant approach to psychology that has no equal in the West. And then there is the impressive fact that only Buddhism, of all the world religions, has never been responsible for a Holy War. There is also their approach to desire; they say that it is caused by ignorance–the ignorance of our own true nature which is no other than the Atman or Buddha nature –the in-dwelling God. In my pre-psychedelic meditations, I was shocked to discover that my mind is a chattering monkey, as the Hindus and Buddhists say. To still it even for a minute is no easy task. Today, millions know the benefits of meditation, but before the sixties, yoga was widely assumed to be no more than a set of physical exercises.
DJB: What do you think happens to human consciousness after death?
NINA: I know nothing about that except that my consciousness, when it is liberated from the