Posted by: Jack | January 18, 2011

I wish I could talk in Technicolor

Above is some amusing archive footage of the days when it was still possible for scientists to basically give people a bunch of acid and see what happens. It’s from a TV documentary about mental health from 1956.

The scientist doing the experiment, Dr. Sidney Cohen, was trying to ascertain the possibility of using LSD as a mental health treatment, and also worked on it as a way of dealing with alcoholism. He was part of a group of people who believed in the potential of LSD to help people, which also included the philosopher Gerald Heard who’s interviewed at the end of the video.

Directly inspired by the book ‘The Doors of Perception‘, and his contact with the author Aldous Huxley, Heard had begun experimenting with LSD in the 50s. His 1960s writings perhaps can be said to show a sign of its influence (from Wikipedia):

“In 1963, what some consider to be Heard’s magnum opus, a book titled The Five Ages of Man, was published. According to Heard, the prevalent developmental stage among humans in today’s well-industrialized societies (especially in the West) should be regarded as the fourth: the “humanic stage” of the “total individual,” who is mentally dominated, feeling him- or herself to be autonomous, separate from other persons. Heard writes (p. 226) this stage is characterized by “the basic humanic concept of a mankind that is completely self-seeking because it is completely individualized into separate physiques that can have direct knowledge of only their own private pain and pleasure, inferring but faintly the feelings of others. Such a race of ingenious animals, each able to see and to seek his own advantage, must be kept in combination with each other by appealing to their separate interests.”

In modern industrial societies, a person, especially if educated, has the opportunity to begin entering the “first maturity” of the humanic “total individual” in his or her mid teens. However, according to Heard — based on his decades of studies, his intuition, and his many years of reflection — a fifth stage is in the process of emerging: a post-individual psychological phase of persons and therefore of culture. According to Heard, the second maturity can be one that lies beyond “personal success, economic mastery, and the psychophysical capacity to enjoy life” (p. 240)

Heard termed this phase ‘Leptoid Man’ (from the Greek word lepsis: “to leap”) because humans increasingly face the opportunity to ‘take a leap’ into a considerably expanded consciousness, in which the various aspects of the psyche will be integrated, without any aspects being repressed or seeming foreign. A society that recognizes this stage of development will honor and support individuals in a “second maturity” who wish to resolve their inner conflicts and dissolve their inner blockages and become the sages of the modern world. Further, instead of simply enjoying biological and psychological health, as Freud and other important psychiatric or psychological philosophers of the “total-individual” phase conceived, Leptoid man will not only have entered a meaningful “second maturity” recognized by his or her society, but can then become a human of developed spirituality, similar to the mystics of the past; and a person of wisdom.

But collectively and culturally we are still in the transitional phase, not really recognizing an identity beyond the super-individualistic fourth, “humanic” phase. Heard’s views were cautionary about developments in society that were not balanced, about inappropriate aims of our use of technological power. He wrote: “we are aware of our precarious imbalance: of our persistent and ever-increasing production of power and our inadequacy of purpose; of our critical analytic ability and our creative paucity; of our triumphantly efficient technical education and our ineffective, irrelevant education for values, for meaning, for the training of the will, the lifting of the heart, and the illumination of the mind.””

Official Gerald Heard website.

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