My Quest and LSD

Neo slimed

 

I don’t remember it, of course, but I was baptized when just a baby. My parents were Baptists: or at least my father was – I think my mother (being Japanese and raised Buddhist) was just along for the ride. They weren’t very religious; attending church only on occasion. I always hated the sheer boredom of church services and was lucky I didn’t have to attend very often.

When I was in 5th grade, our family moved into an apartment across the alley from a church in Lawton, Oklahoma; to stay while my Dad served the Army in Viet Nam. The front of our apartment building faced the back of the church. I awoke every Sunday morning to the God-awful, off-pitch, singing of hymns. It was while living there that the powerful ideas of Christianity first grabbed hold of me. Not because of that church or its tone-deaf congregation but because of a group of older boys I happened to run across in the neighborhood. They were passionately discussing Jesus and salvation. The concepts involved were a thunderbolt to my young mind. It was my first intellectual awakening: powerful, exciting and moving.

The following Sunday, I decide to attend the sermon at the church next door. I dragged my younger brother (a year younger, in the 4th grade) along with me. The preacher was charismatic. He was much more interesting than the stuffy preachers I’d experienced before. He got everybody excited. The interaction between the preacher and the congregation had an energy of its own. As he neared the end of his sermon, he invited all sinners who wanted redemption to come forward.

That’s when I noticed the tears in my brother’s eyes. He got up. I grabbed his arm but he jerked it away and headed down the aisle to join the others gathering in front of the preacher. I was shocked. How come my younger brother was so moved when he had never shown the least interest in, or awareness of, God? And how come I was not moved despite having been so powerfully moved just a few days earlier with those older neighborhood boys?

And that’s how it was for me all the years afterward until finally turning, slowly, to disbelief. I always wanted desperately to embrace faith: I just couldn’t make the leap! I believed up to the brink of faith but could never runneth over my cup.

In the years that followed, my interest in God and religion waxed and waned. Sometimes I would explore the Bible and, if I had friends who attended a local church, I might go to services with them. I could have remained in this spiritual limbo, indefinitely, were it not for LSD.

At the age of 17, I had already been smoking pot for over a year, when a friend offered me some ‘Orange Barrel’ acid (LSD). I took it and proceeded to receive my second intellectual thunderbolt.

‘Experience’ is the word to use to describe something we can’t describe. There is no way to convey the experience of tripping on acid. Entire worlds opened up before me in quick succession. I saw things in ways I had never imagined and had ideas that never would have otherwise occurred to me. It’s as if the barrier between my conscious and subconscious came crashing down and the two were allowed to intermingle until homogenous, making me super-aware of everything.

And I saw God. Listened to Him. Felt Him. Feared Him.

The experience was so intense, so real, my young, teen-aged, mind was powerless to deny it. That is, until I awoke the following day. Then I realized that I’d better not tell anybody I had seen God while tripping on acid. Obviously, I had seen no such thing . . . and I couldn’t wait to repeat the delusion: it was great!

That initial acid trip changed me permanently. I became obsessed with my quest for the truth. I knew that acid could never provide real answers but, at least, it opened my mind to the questions. Before that first acid trip, I always skipped classes to go smoke pot with the other pot-heads at school. I wasn’t very curious. I was just focused on fun and partying.

Afterwards, I wanted to understand myself and humanity. I read a lot about Greek mythology, and read many literary classics; especially those by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I wanted a deeper understanding of the human condition. I read the Bible cover to cover. I read about Buddhism and Islam. I read all of Ayn Rand’s books. I subscribed to Psychology Today. I began collecting short, insightful, quotes. Then science grabbed a hold of me, especially cosmology and physics. I may have been a poor, unskilled young man from a poor family but, by God, I was voraciously curious. I couldn’t afford to go to college but, fortunately, the library was free.

I gained confidence as I gained knowledge. Religion was the last thing on my mind. I was beginning to realize that, if I applied myself, I could learn whatever I wanted: do whatever I wanted. But I knew I was disadvantaged in the job market because of my lack of a college degree. I figured the thing to do was to plumb a new professional field in high demand so that employers would overlook my lack of a degree. In those days, computer programming was very much in demand. It was at this time when, finally, my parents lucked into a modest fortune. I borrowed money from them to go to I.T.T. Technical Institute, in Seattle, to get certified in computer programming. It was a half-year course and I was tops in my class. I was recruited, at the school, by Nordstrom (the high-end department store), before graduating and began employment with them upon receiving my computer programming certification.

After that, I never looked back. Whenever my profession became less ‘hot’, I studied and got certified in a new, high-demand, specialty. By staying reasonably close to the bleeding edge of computer technology, I was able to contract my services and make a much higher salary (though, without benefit plans) than I could as an employee. My wife held a regular job as an executive secretary, so her health insurance compensated for my lack of the same. And as we secured our family and home, my thoughts turned, once again, to God. After all, He had blessed me with many blessings: a great career, my wife and children, our home and all the modern amenities of suburban life.

But wait. Where was He when my family and I were poor? Were my parent’s blessings, and my own, the whim of God? Well, he may not have pulled strings for us but he did give us our talents. Right?

Not!

In the grand scheme of things, our talents were not exceptional. It was determination and hard work and, yes, a little luck, that improved our circumstances. But wait . . . isn’t it hubris to think that? To think we control our own fate is arrogance. Isn’t it? God is in control. Right?

I looked back on my life. I saw how God and the Bible always had a depressing effect on me. But life was engaging and rewarding whenever I focused on myself and my family. The correlation was undeniable: God was no good for me. But dare I trust only in myself?

Well, relying on myself had worked pretty well thus far. I couldn’t argue with success, could I?

Nonetheless, I couldn’t give up on God just yet. Instead, I blamed religion. I became anti-religious. I convinced myself that religions were an unnecessary and corrupting intermediary between God and me. I had the Bible as my guide, surely there was no higher authority than the word of God Himself!

I read the Bible again. This time, it seemed like a completely different book. I felt tempted to go buy another Bible in case the one I had was a mocked-up forgery. What’s up with this God guy? He’s got serious problems! The more I read, the more I wondered what those stories of incest, vengeance and scorched-earth battlefield atrocities were doing in a ‘holy’ book – and why I didn’t notice how perverse they were the first time I read them. Is this really God’s idea of right and wrong? Of morality? Surely these are the words of uncivilized, ancient, ignorant, men . . . not a timeless and perfect God!?!

For me, that was the last nail in God’s coffin. Throughout history, the Bible has created more atheists than any other book. It takes an intentional act of self-deception to ignore the immorality and impossible claims of a tribe of uncivilized, ancient, ignorant, men and pretend it’s some sort of glorious, immutable, truth. Faith is the suspension of disbelief. What, exactly, would require me to suspend disbelief? The obvious answer is: a lie.

If I trust myself and face facts, the biblical God becomes a joke. A very sad, sick, painful, joke. Religion is its predictable punchline. I just hope, in the end, humanity has the last laugh.

 


© Copyright 2013 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


 

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TLE Syndrome: The God Module, OOBEs, NDEs and Spiritual Experiences

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I was wondering if the Out of Body Experiences, Near Death Experiences and Spiritual Experiences associated with the God Module might also happen in our sleep: particularly while dreaming. I found a great article called, “Fear & Loathing in the Temporal Lobes“, by Iona Miller. The following excerpt was especially interesting. Please check out the original article and read the whole thing.

Without further ado, here’s the fascinating excerpt . . .

Rapture of the Neurological Deep

 How do we get from existential anxieties about death to intensely personal spiritual experience?  Many of our spiritual notions come from the reports of the dying, or those with near-death experiences (NDEs).  When the brain begins to shut down certain typical experiences appear as each of the major areas of the brain crash and billions of functional neurons heave their last gasp (McKinney).

Deeply embedded neurons in the brainstem are among the last to go.  Unless the brain is physically destroyed, dying is a process.  It doesn’t instantly collapse, but degrades in a somewhat predictable manner with associated characteristic phenomena.

Meanwhile, there is a regression toward the oceanic feelings of life in the womb as the process of birth gets played in reverse and we return to eternity.  We journey back through earlier forms of consciousness, in a dreamy haze once the frontal lobes cease their rationalizing and abstractions.

As in dreams there are irregular bursts of neural static and discharge (Hobson) that affect the visual, affective, motor, orientation, time, and memory areas.  There is no more chronological sequencing of events.  Our experience of dying is synthesized holistically from the confabulation of all these elements.  We may be unconscious and yet still somewhat aware with scintillating electrical surges creating their last faltering messages as they fail.

We dissociate from the body.  As in deep meditation, attention is withdrawn from the extremities and external senses.  We return to a simpler mode of being, the undifferentiated mind, where time seems endless, if it exists at all.  As oxygen levels drop, and opiate-like endorphins are dumped into the system, the sense of peace and contentment may rise along with our spirits. Phantasmogorical images flood our awareness.

Between the dissociation from the body and the last glimpse of light, we may experience a culturally conditioned transcendence. Some might say the soul leaves the body as it journeys into the Light.  Bright white light may be the melding of all colors of the visual spectrum once the visual cortex is disinhibited.

Perhaps as many as 1/3 of those coming close to death report a characeristic group of experiences.  Bruce Greyson, in a paper in Varieties of Anomalous Experience (Cardena et al), lists the common elements of adult near-death experiences and aftereffects:

  • Ineffability
  • Hearing oneself pronounced dead
  • Feelings of peace and quiet
  • Hearing unusual noises
  • Seeing a dark tunnel
  • Being “out of the body”
  • Meeting “spiritual beings”
  • Experiencing a bright light as a “being of light”
  • Panoramic life review
  • Experiencing a realm in which all knowledge exists
  • Experiencing cities of light
  • Experiencing a realm of bewildered spirits
  • Experiencing a “supernatural rescue”
  • Sensing a border or limit
  • Coming back “into the body”
  • Frustration relating experiences to others
  • Subtle “broadening and deepening” of life
  • Elimination of fear of death
  • Corroboration of events witnessed while “out of the body”

The reports of those with near-death experiences moving through a tunnel toward the light, accompanied by ancestors, deceased friends and their cultural divinities are now well known (Ring; Moody; Sabom).  A minority experience emotional problems requiring psychosocial rehabilitation following NDEs, including anger and depression at having been “returned” perhaps unwillingly, broken relationships, disrupted career, alienation, post-traumatic stress disorder, “social death” (Greyson).

Gradual death is often gentle, creating its own palliative.  Heavens and hells are fully immersive virtual reality constructions of our dying neural networks.  But when the brain comes close to an irreversible coma on the journey towards death, the great endarkening comes before any great enlightenment.  Hence many with NDEs do not report seeing the Light and may even focus on their experiences as being intensely negative in content and tone.

Unable to calm their disoriented mind, their dismal experience is largely one of panic, pain, and terror.  This may be the result of toxins in the blood including carbon dioxide buildup.  If we die a sudden violent death, we may miss heaven, but mercifully we will never know that.

The whole process may be greatly compounded by the release of powerful endogenous hallucinogenic DMT from the pineal gland (Strassman).  In highly stressful situations, such as birth, sexual ecstasy, extreme physical distress, childbirth, near-death and death, the normal inhibitions against the production and circulation of this potent mind-bending “spirit molecule” are over-ridden. Massive DMT dumps may also create intense visions of blinding white light, ecstatic emotions, timelessness, and powerful presence.

A neurobiological model proposed by Saavedra-Aguilar and Gomez-Jeria suggests temporal-lobe dysfunction, hypoxia, psychophysical stress, and neurotransmitter changes combine to induce epileptiform discharges in the hippocampus and amygdala.  They contribute to life review and and complex visual hallucinations.

When the visual cortex begins to crash (Blackmore), there is a cascade of distorted imagery, then a shift down the color spectrum toward primeval redness and impenetrable black.  Maybe there is still a dull glow or scintillating pinpoints of light, like stars in some inner universe.

As the reticular activating system dies there may be a final burst of distant light, somehow familiar from the very dawn of our existence.  As our last cells die, the mind is finally unwound.  We have closed the circle of life and entered the Great Beyond.

 


© Copyright 2013 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com