"So you think you know where madness lies?"
My answer was a convinced and heartfelt, "Yes."
"And you couldn't control it?"
"No I couldn't control it. If one began with fear and hate as the major
premise, one would have to go on the conclusion."
"Would you be able," my wife asked, " to fix your attention on what The
Tibetan Book of the Dead calls the Clear Light?"
I was doubtful.
"Would it keep the evil away, if you could hold it? Or would you not be able
to hold it?"
I considered the question for some time. "Perhaps," I answered at last,
"perhaps I could — but only if there were somebody there to tell me about
the Clear Light. One couldn't do it by oneself. That's the point, I suppose, of
the Tibetan ritual — somebody sitting there all the time and telling you
(DOORS OF PERCEPTION, 57-58)
A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The
scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic
features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time
dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Such experiences of enlarged
consciousness can occur in a variety of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga
exercises, disciplined meditation, religious or aesthetic ecstasies, or
spontaneously. Most recently they have become available to anyone through
the ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT,
etc. [This is the statement of an ideal, not an actual situation, in 1964. The
psychedelic drugs are in the United States classified as "experimental"
drugs. That is, they are not available on a prescription basis, but only to
"qualified investigators." The Federal Food and Drug Administration has
defined "qualified investigators" to mean psychiatrists working in a mental
hospital setting, whose research is sponsored by either state or federal
Of course, the drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience. It
merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system
of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends
almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the
individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time.
Setting is physical — the weather, the room's atmosphere; social — feelings
of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as
to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide-books are
necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new
realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new
interior territories which modern science has made accessible.
Different explorers draw different maps. Other manuals are to be written
based on different models — scientific, aesthetic, therapeutic. The Tibetan
model, on which this manual is based, is designed to teach the person to
direct and control awareness in such a way as to reach that level of
understanding variously called liberation, illumination, or enlightenment. If
the manual is read several times before a session is attempted, and if a
trusted person is there to remind and refresh the memory of the voyager
during the experience, the consciousness will be freed from the games
which comprise "personality" and from positive-negative hallucinations
which often accompany states of expanded awareness. The Tibetan Book of