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A Conversation with George Greer and Myron Stolaroff
November 13, 1998
Interviewed by Neal Goldsmith
v1.1 - Jan 31, 2013
Neal Goldsmith: Thank you Myron and George for joining us today. Perhaps the best way to get started would be for each of you to take a turn just telling us about your personal and professional backgrounds and how you got interested in this area.

George Greer: You go ahead, Myron.

Myron Stolaroff: All right. I was trained as an electrical engineer. But rather early in life--around the age of 30 or so--I got involved in activities that began to unfold the overriding importance of the spiritual aspect of reality. I'd come through readings--and maybe just some inherent understanding--to have an appreciation for divinity. So I was very fortunate in my life to make contact with Gerald Heard, and I used to visit him from time to time in Los Angeles. He's the person who told me about LSD. What he had to say was remarkable. This led me to eventually look up Al Hubbard and I became absolutely fascinated with him and his tales. That led me to Canada and my first LSD experience.

Goldsmith: Approximately when?

Stolaroff: That was in 1956. That was a remarkable opening for me--a tremendous opening. I relived a very painful birth experience, that had determined almost all my personality features. But I also experienced the oneness of mankind, and the reality of God. I knew that from then on, that I would be totally committed to this work.

I relived a very painful birth experience, that had determined almost all my personality features. But I also experienced the oneness of mankind, and the reality of God. I knew that from then on, that I would be totally committed to this work.
A few years later, in 1960, I resigned from Ampex and set up the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park. We were fortunate to get Dr. Charles Savage as our medical director, and we gathered a research team--Willis Harman at Stanford University, Bob Mogar from San Francisco State College, and Jim Fadiman, a graduate student in psychology at Stanford. While we carried on our work, we also carried on research.

Over about three and a half years we processed some 350 people. I not only was able to witness how these people learned great skills and improved their lives--improved their relationships and well-being--but also how some of them changed in profound and fundamental ways.

That work went on until the FDA began closing this research down in 1965. Of course, that was a crushing blow. But fortunately, in 1970, another door opened. I discovered that there were many new compounds that were not illegal. My wife and I spent the next approximately 20 years or so investigating these new compounds and how different people would react to them.

So I accumulated experience. And the more I saw, and the more I gained from my own personal experiences, I came to realize that these substances were probably the most powerful learning tools that we have available to us. This is provided we strive to use them properly: with intention, honesty, and a sincere desire to learn.

I think that about sums it up.

Greer: My involvement began when I was a sophomore in college and my roommate said that he'd learned things from taking mescaline. I had some experiences then, and we learned quite a bit. In one experience, like Myron, I came to an appreciation of the reality of spirit and God. That was a definite, permanent life change for me, in terms of what's real and what's important.

Then, in 1980, I'd finished my psychiatry training and learned about MDMA being used for therapy and to help in relationships. So my wife and I had an experience that was very profound for us in terms of talking about issues in our relationship--forgiving each other for things that we had done--and sped up our decision to get married. We've been together--gosh, almost 20 years, at this point.

I did some regulatory research in California, where I was living, and found out that it was legal for me, as a physician, to prescribe and administer a medication if I manufactured it myself. So I met with Dr. Alexander Shulgin--Sasha Shulgin--and we manufactured MDMA in his laboratory. I also had to have peer review and informed consent to do these experimental sessions, all of which I had. We gave MDMA to about 80 people and about 15 couples, over about five years, until it was scheduled in 1985.

One of the most unique effects we found was the enhancement of deep, intimate, emotional communication among couples. That seemed very different from other psychedelic drugs. Because MDMA didn't distort thinking or perception--you know, no hallucinations or visual distortions--the mind is very clear; the ego is present.

The people we gave it to were not people who came because they were having a serious relationship problem--they were highly functional people who wanted to have a different perspective and explore their relationships. They got a lot of benefit out of it at the time, and also by the time when we did our follow-up, up to two years later. They said that a lot of communication skills they learned with MDMA had persisted at least for that long.

One of the reasons we didn't work with people with serious problems is that we really were not set up to do any kind of inpatient treatment, if the session triggered deep conflict. So we screened out anyone who had ever been incapacitated by mental illness. I never recommended MDMA to any of the psychiatric patients who I was seeing in my practice. People only came to have a session if they heard about it, word of mouth, through their friends. It was very separate from my practice. I didn't feel that it was appropriate to recommend an experimental drug to my patients. That's part of the reason that we didn't see people with more serious problems.

Goldsmith: I got the outline for successful work with couples that you developed together for today's conversation and I thought I'd take a minute or two to read it. There are two parts to the recommendations you make. The first set of factors apply to individual self-realization, in order to make one a better partner in a relationship. The second part describes the parameters of the actual conduct of a psychedelic session, held to permit a couple to enhance their relationship.


OUTLINE FOR SUCCESSFUL PSYCHEDELIC WORK WITH COUPLES

    Factors for Developing One's Individual Potential

  • Become aware of the vast potential available to the human being.
  • Discover the inherent nature of Reality and Mind, and their spiritual basis.
  • Become one with all of creation.
  • Discover love is the bottom line. One must first learn to love oneself.
  • We create our life, so we must become fully responsible.
  • Honor the cosmic gift of free will, in self and others.
  • Learn how to learn. Involves being open, setting aside all preconditions, trusting, listening carefully.
  • Confront restrictions and obstacles.
  • Ask for the help that the Universe provides.
  • Live what we learn.
    Factors for the Couple's Session

  • Sharing an explicitly expressed common goal/purpose for the relationship, and psychedelic session is required before the session.
  • Participants make a list of issues they wish to resolve, both joint and personal.
  • Being explicit about agreements is also required. When will it be over? Don't make phone calls, other agreements about the structure, etc.
  • Making sure that both people have checked into themselves, emotionally and intuitively, and are sure that having a session at this time is the right thing for them to do for themselves.
  • No attachment to outcome or changes expected in the other person. This is a particularly deadly one if not at least mutually attempted.
  • No personal sacrifice is expected, or given, if there is a possibility that it could lead to later resentment. No care giving from the other can be expected, while--at the same time--people can be present and as available as possible for each other.
  • It is best to have a trained therapist or sitter available (at least the first time) to take care of practical things, as well as hold hands, etc. (if needed), so that the partner is not called upon to do caregiving. Not having a sitter places more demands and can prevent a deep letting go if the person feels he or she has to be on duty for someone else.
  • Use the non-defensiveness provided by MDMA to clear up differences.

Myron, I think you were going to take us through the first set.

Stolaroff: Very good. We were asked to talk about work with couples; and I had mentioned that I'm not a therapist, so I haven't conducted couples therapy. But my experience using these substances in my own relationships and assisting others work through relationship issues--and the experience of many, many others who are familiar with these substances--indicates that the best way to be in a relationship is to be all the person that you can be. So what I would like to do is run through a number of aspects that contribute to our discovering and realizing our full potential.

Regarding the first factor, "Become aware of the vast potential available to the human being", most people are unaware of the absolutely vast potential that we have in being a human being. This potential becomes apparent the first time anybody takes one of the stronger psychedelics, like LSD. One of the amazing things is the way barriers to perception fall away and you become aware of more and more that you've never perceived before; these compounds allow for a remarkable opening. As you continue to use psychedelics, these openings can continue and grow, until you become convinced that the process is practically limitless. As long as you're willing to explore with integrity--and I might also say with courage, because sometimes it takes a lot of courage--you can continue to grow in almost any area. There seems to be no end to learning. It would seem that we truly are infinite, and that there's no end to the amount that we can learn and grow.

Greer: As you're talking Myron, I'm having the image of someone living in a box, and of all the sides of the box begin falling away. They discover that they're a completely different sort of being than they thought they were and that all of the decisions they've made about how to live their lives--including: "What can I do in a relationship?" and "What's possible in a relationship?"--all those have to be considered again, because all the rules have changed.

Stolaroff: That's so true and it's just wonderful finding people discover that. How great they feel when they're able to do that. I think a very important part of this is discovering the inherent nature of reality, the inherent nature of time--and the fact that it is a spiritual thing. I think that's one of the reasons there's a lot of misunderstanding in the world, especially with scientists. Whereas the polls show that about 90% of the people believe in God, according to a Newsweek article about scientists and God, only about 40% of scientists do. I think scientists are appalled by the discovery of the transpersonal aspect of ourselves, even though, as you continue to discover, this aspect becomes the most real part, because it is so satisfying and so vast.

Greer: In my early experience, I struggled with that duality--between the scientific model of the Universe--including scientific human psychology--and the realization that we, as human beings, have a tremendously greater degrees of freedom than would be the case if we think of ourselves as simply personalities, with the familiar structures and forms. It's important to understand the different levels of reality that the natural scientists apply to physical things--you need to have that--but it doesn't work to apply those to yourself.

Goldsmith: I might add that this paradigm battle going on between traditional psychology and transpersonal psychology is very similar to the paradigm shift earlier in the century that took place in physics. It seems to be the way we get this new world view. Each discipline goes through it, at its own historical stage, but the transformation is quite similar. In each case, it is toward certain ways of thinking about reality that don't jibe with a more deterministic or mechanistic perspective.

Greer: I think that captures it nicely.

Stolaroff: I like to think that this essence within us is really a core of wisdom, almost like an embryo that wants to grow and get out. I think there is an essential drive within us to expand, learn, and grow; so that, hopefully, these kinds of discoveries and insights will continue to permeate throughout all of society in due time. Especially if we're willing to accept and allow it to happen in other people.

Greer: Yes. And if both members of the couple have that kind of core life goal, they'll both be headed in the same direction. Having that common purpose is going to resolve lots of relationship conflicts.

Goldsmith: You've been talking here about the inherent nature of reality and mind, and of their spiritual basis, which is the second factor. Could you tell us about how the third factor--"Become one with all of creation"--influences the relationship? Do we even need a relationship if we're one with all of creation?

Stolaroff: What this is saying is that when you become one with all of creation, all the barriers that we have created and all the defense mechanisms--all the attachments and judgments that keep us from relating effectively with everything around us--all of these things are somehow dissolved and out of the way. What we discover is this absolutely remarkable, indescribable state of oneness with everything in creation. It's a state of supreme bliss.

Goldsmith: How does one even relate to the concept of "relationship" in that state?

Stolaroff: Although I might have experienced this oneness at times, I am very quickly pulled back into my body and my habits and expressions. In a real, meaningful relationship--if a couple can open up to the essential cores of each other and share that--it's one of the most satisfying things that we can do; and that, then, can become a model for extending that connection to other people and to everything else.

Greer: For me, becoming one with creation is a state of mind experienced briefly in deep meditation or in a psychedelic experience. Being in a relationship can be a reminder of the psychedelic state in every day life. Being one with a partner in a spiritual way can remind us of this connection with all creation.

That, for me, leads to the next point--"Love is the bottom line"--and loving oneself. If you have an experience of being one with creation and you completely love yourself, that type of peak experience--that type of deep, emotional belief--can stay with you. Then you can begin to come from a place of basic love when approaching your partner.

Goldsmith: Maybe this would be a good point to explain what MDMA does and why it is therapeutic.

Greer: It really has to do more with what MDMA doesn't do, in that it doesn't distort perception; it doesn't distort thinking; it doesn't make a person feel dissociated from the physical world around them, from people around them. Since it's so close to the normal state of mind, it seems that there can be more carryover of insights after the experience.

What MDMA does that allows the connection--that experience of love--to happen is it blocks the neurophysiology of the fear response. If your nervous system isn't responding with fear, out of survival instincts, then this feeling of connection--or in some, even of becoming one with creation, certainly with a partner--can be experienced.

Stolaroff: Well said! I have the feeling that MDMA takes you right down to the core of your being, into your essence, and you're able to live in that place for a while. It allows you to bypass all the other stuff in the unconscious, which the more powerful psychedelics uncover and can result in discomfort until it has been dealt with and resolved. It's remarkable that MDMA can take you right into your center--where you feel the oneness, where you feel so completely at peace with yourself and others--and it allows you to function from there. That's why, I think, early on Sasha Shulgin coined the word "window" for it--because it's like looking out of the window onto creation the way it really is.

Greer: I agree. I don't think the MDMA creates anything--it just removes the blocks to our perceiving what is there all the time. Our essence is, by definition, always present. if we just had the ability to attain that perspective. So it helps one discover that such a thing is even possible.

Goldsmith: This, then, leads into numbers five and six. Myron, maybe you can help us understand individual responsibility and free will in the face of this all-encompassing cosmic oneness.

Stolaroff: One of the discoveries that I have found to be really important is that the bottom line for our functioning is intent. Most of us, in the condition we find ourselves in the world, are a composite of a lot of different aspects of character and being. Often, many of these are conflicting things. For example, maybe we'd like to lose weight; however, at the same time, we love to eat rich desserts. So, we're filled with a lot of conflicting desires.

But if our intent is deep enough, it will actually pull all of these conflicting areas into alignment. In other words, our deepest intent will override other considerations and become the source of our behavior. I think we can discover that the life that happens to us--in the way that we function, respond, and so on--really comes out of this very, very deep intent, whether it be conscious or unconscious. With proper use of psychedelics we can discover that our deepest intent, down where our essence is, is number four: it is love. So the best thing that we can do, then, is to come out of that place of love.

Greer: I'm relating this to this number five, here, because I feel like an intention and willingness are the two main things that are required to have a good psychedelic session. To form a clear intention of the highest order. Having the intention to create your life--that's a very great purpose to have. The responsibility comes in with the willingness to experience whatever happens to you on the way to fulfilling that intention or that purpose. If our intention is to be the best human being we can be, we need to be willing to experience pain, suffering, confusion--everything on that path. The responsibility is: I'm responsible for what I create, and I'm willing to experience the consequences of it.

Goldsmith: So it's the mind-set of that intentionality that brings us to a point where we can experience number four: that deep love. Which is then the healing factor, Myron, that you were talking about, which brings the two disparate sides together in this fearless state; the state where you don't have the psychological fear response.

Stolaroff: Yes, that's right. But another aspect is that we can develop inner strength. Because once we recognize that what is being carried out in our life comes from our intention, by deepening our intention, we can then make choices. And we'll find that, with intent, those choices become fulfilled. Which is the same as saying that we've created our life.

But, along with this--and I've had a chance to observe this over a number of decades now--there is such a thing as just becoming our essence. I think, as humans, we're expected to do more. We do have faculties, and we do have muscles; we can develop and train these faculties and muscles so that, as we choose to live with intent, we can develop the characteristics for carrying out that intent, and therefore live more and more successfully.

Greer: You mention, in your number six, the cosmic gift of free will. It really is a gift. Because from one perspective, there's no reason that we should necessarily have free will. But free will makes it possible to have our own intention, to actually accomplish it and carry it out.

Stolaroff: If you look at the world, you see that a tremendous amount of the harm in the world is caused by people being unwilling to let others have free will. There's a desire to control and manipulate, to assert one's own position. I love a phrase that's in The Power of Unconditional Love by Ken Keyes, Jr., where he says: We have the right to state our preferences, but we don't have the right to make demands on our partners or other people.

Greer: And it won't work, anyway.

Stolaroff: [ laughs ] Well, as a matter of fact, it usually makes things worse, doesn't it?

Greer: Especially in a psychedelic session, where the sensitivity is turned up maybe ten- or a hundred-fold. Any attempts to have the other person's life or experience fit in your own agenda is a setup for wasting a lot of time and energy that you will have to recover from all over again. We'll get into that more later, I believe.

Goldsmith: You both seem to be alluding to these nested levels; first, being inside the self; and then taking that out to the dyad, the relationship; then out to everyone else, the larger community; and ultimately to the Universe as a whole. At each of those levels, you're talking about the same two things: love, and free will or responsibility. So, responsibility at the level of the individual has a certain form; and responsibility at the level of a couple has another character; as does responsibility as part of the community, or as part of the Universe. Each has its responsibility, call it "self-will" or "free will." The more nested--the more you look at it in its larger perspective--the more free will and responsibility turns into something bigger. Call it love.

Greer: I think these principles of love and free will and responsibility actually do apply; both to deep, mystical experience, as well as to getting along with your co-workers. They apply no matter what we're doing.

Stolaroff: Yes.

Goldsmith: So how do we get there? How do we learn to learn and confront the restrictions and obstacles that so many of us find in our way and encounter professionally?

Stolaroff: This next item--"Learning how to learn"--is very essential. George mentioned earlier a number of the factors involved, such as being willing to keep open. In using the psychedelics, one of the hardest things to learn is to simply be open to what's happening, and just allow it to happen.

A problem, as I see it, is that there are a lot of things that we've made unconscious that are uncomfortable and we really are not too keen to experience. If you let go to the experience, these things want to come up, and we have a tendency to put the brakes on..
A problem, as I see it, is that there are a lot of things that we've made unconscious that are uncomfortable and we really are not too keen to experience. If you let go to the experience, these things want to come up, and we have a tendency to put the brakes on. There's a dynamic described in Buddhism that I think is quite appropriate and widespread, and I find that I've done it a lot. It's called "grasping." This is trying to make reality what you want it to be, instead of simply allowing it to be what it is.

Learning requires this kind of openness; the willingness not to grasp, not to prevent things from happening. As a matter of fact, once you're open to the normal flow, it almost immediately becomes more comfortable. It's in this state that you learn really important things; that the unconscious really does become conscious.

Another very important issue in being willing to allow things to emerge is fear. Fear is probably what holds us back the most. But once you experience this larger realm, or have an experience with divinity, then you begin to trust it. And the more you trust, the more willing you are to open yourself to whatever it is that happens. So you become more willing to set aside your preconditions, your judgments, your attachments, and so on, and pay careful attention to what's happening. This leads to the most effective kind of learning.

I like to think of it in another sense, also: that the surface mind is in partnership with the inner self. An excellent way to learn is to consciously focus on an object or issue. Then let go so completely that your inner self--which is the source of wisdom and understanding--can manifest and show you what you've asked for.

At this point I'd like to introduce another Buddhist term: "aversion." When something painful or objectionable wants to come up, we often avoid it or shut it down. This is aversion. It is a principal reason we don't experience what we ask for. We have to be willing to experience whatever is involved in receiving our answer.

Goldsmith: There is a standard frustration or paradox. You're an engineer, Myron, so you know what bootstrapping means. Lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps is impossible in terms of gravity. And in self-exploration and psychotherapy, it likewise seems that we are hobbled by the paradox that we need to get past our defenses, but our defenses won't let us do that very thing.

Stolaroff: Yes.

Goldsmith: So it speaks, then, to the value of this sort of chemical intervention, which enables one to peer through the window that you were describing earlier.

Greer: That's exactly right. Particularly with MDMA, the reduction in fear enables us to be aware of our preconceptions; to just be aware that they're there, but not to then grasp them out of fear. Because we form personalities, and beliefs, and psychological "assumptions", to protect us from feeling fear and anxiety. That's what defense mechanisms are for. And they're very functional, but they're not helpful to learning new perspectives. You're right, Neal. To bootstrap yourself, you must either have a traumatic life experience that forces you out of a preconception about reality, some other sort of life confrontation, an experience of grace, or a psychedelic experience that you go into with this kind of intention and willingness.

Under those conditions, all your mistakes and limited, illusory preconceptions are shown to you. So then, through free will, you can make choices to maintain that belief or to let it go. Especially with MDMA--without the fear--you can listen to your partner do the same thing and help each other gain an enhanced perspective.

Stolaroff: Fear is a hard thing to learn to experience on psychedelics. Of course, this isn't true with MDMA; because the specific function of MDMA, as you mentioned earlier George, is to somehow nullify or shut off fear. But with other psychedelics, fear can become very present. Just being willing to be afraid is one of the really important things to learn; being willing to be afraid and trust, so that the basis of the fear can reveal itself, which most always is a wonderful accomplishment.

Greer: Right. That's right.

Goldsmith: It's difficult to see the distortions that fear and defensiveness make. That's so prominent in relationships, when your partner says something and you respond from your own personal issues and don't really hear what your partner is actually trying to say, which many times will be coming from their own personal issues. Fear distorts seeing the partner; so when the fear is removed in an MDMA session, being able to see the partner more clearly is a powerful experience.

Greer: Right. And the reduction of fear also enables you to be more honest with yourself and with your partner. During my first experience with my wife, at a certain point she asked if I minded something that she had done. In a normal state--being a nice person, I like to be liked--I would have said, "Oh, no. That's okay." But at that moment I said, "Yes, I really didn't like that. And I can forgive you for it." That was a novel experience for me at that time. It's not that people need MDMA or psychedelics to do this--or, really, any of the things we've been talking about--but they certainly can help tremendously if life doesn't provide the opportunity to resolve these issues.

Stolaroff: In watching couples under MDMA, one of the things I've been amazed at is that this kind of judgmental defensiveness is so subdued that a person can bring up something that before might have been a very loaded topic about which each partner would have immediately established their position against each other. Under MDMA it's remarkable how they can really listen to each other--maybe for the first time.

Greer: Yes, and I would only add the issue of intention. If one has the intention to reach the goal, then, when you meet a restriction or an obstacle, you simply refuse to give into it, in order to maintain that intention. If it's just fear, you can sit there and watch it and your attention can outlast the fear; especially if, like in an MDMA or psychedelic state, there's a lot more energy available. It's like calling the bluff of your fears and obstacles.

Stolaroff: Oh, that's wonderful. Yes.

Goldsmith: Which kind of leads us, in a way, to the next factor. If I may. I want to confront you, Myron, with a particular angle on this one. I know that you've talked about asking for and receiving help from the Universe and from God. Speaking specifically to our readership of students, scientists, and scholars, as an engineer, tell us in concrete terms, how to ask for the help that the Universe provides.

Stolaroff: [ laughs ] Well, gosh, it's really simple. First of all, my own dynamic is that I've always felt totally responsible. As a matter of fact, one can get thrown off base because sometimes people, very early in their experience, have a profound experience of being God and therefore of being in control of the Universe, which makes you feel very responsible for everything. So I always felt that I had to do everything myself: that I had to figure it out, or had to be willing to look and take responsibility. Then it's quite astonishing that sometimes, all of a sudden you say, "My gosh, I can't find my way through this. I don't know what's happening or what these feelings are. Please help." Sometimes the answer comes almost instantaneously, miraculously. For so long--and I've seen other people operate this way, too--I've had such a sense that I alone have to accomplish it, that it doesn't occur to me to lay back and ask for help.

This can also include asking others for help. I had to learn that my companions oftentimes had answers I was looking for. I've learned to be much more willing to ask others for help and be open to what they have to say.

But I do feel that our essence is the container of practically infinite wisdom; that we have almost all knowledge and all wisdom. Of course, all this isn't accessible to us, because of various conditions we've created. But one of the ways of overcoming those conditions is recognizing that that information is there, and asking for it, and being open to its coming.

Goldsmith: Isn't that why people sometimes use these substances? To get in touch with the external, the vastness of the Universe; and at other times to get in touch with the vastness of the internal Universe; that both are a source of the same resonance or truth?

Greer: Yes, the same continuum.

Stolaroff: Yes. I like word "continuum," George, because I really don't see any kind of separation.

Greer: Right. In terms of me, asking for help the Universe provides, it is the ego opening the door to something outside itself.

Stolaroff: Oh, yes, very good.

Greer: If the ego is in a bind and can't move forward, it can't answer its own questions. I had an experience like this, where I discovered my mind was trying to answer its own question; and it, by definition, didn't know the answer. But by asking for help outside... It can be God, the Universe, it doesn't really matter what you call it--all of the twelve-step programs relate to this, the "Higher Power"--it's all the same thing. But it is critical for the transformation of the personality for the ego to open to input from outside of itself--from intuition. That's when the magic happens, if you will.

Stolaroff: I'd like to quote Jesus on this point. Early in a search, it may not seem so; but with pursuit and intention, I believe we do find this statement to be true: "Seek and ye shall find; knock and ye shall enter; ask and it shall be given unto you."

Greer: This reminds me of the whole concept of prayer. In my earlier adulthood I thought of myself more as a Buddhist, into meditation, and prayer really wasn't something real to me. But later, I came to see the whole concept of prayer and praying as directly addressing this issue. Because prayer is a method of asking for help from outside oneself, from outside the ego. I don't think it really matters what you pray to; it's the process of praying--psychologically, at least--that opens one up for this kind of transformation.

Stolaroff: Yes, I think that's very, very true, and I'm glad you brought it up. I think prayer is important. As you say, you don't have to have any specific kind of understanding; except one, I think, and that is to have confidence that the answer is out there somewhere.

Greer: Right.

Stolaroff: Of course, if you try this and you get the answer, that convinces you that it's there and you get to trust it more. That continues to make it more effective.

Goldsmith: So this method of bootstrapping--not the chemical one--for transforming one's life, seems to result from a kind of focused intentionality, through prayer or even meditation. Applying this, then, to our factor number ten: live what we learn--which is, of course, the hard part--it seems like there can be a personal bootstrapping effect that comes from this kind of focus or intentionality. Would that be a fair statement?

Greer: I think so. The bootstrapping results from asking and getting help from outside of one's ego. Living what we learn. What's the point of any of this unless it manifests in your life? If you just have these great experiences of insight but you don't express this in the world of nature and human beings, then it might be nice for you, but it's really no good to society or culture.

Goldsmith: Yes, and can it really be good for you, if it's cut off from society?

Greer: True. I think a lot of the skills that one learns in a psychedelic experience can carry over to living what you learn, or practicing what you preach. These inner skills can lead to outer skills, but that's a whole other place. And so your most intimate interpersonal relationship is the first place that this externalization of skill will manifest.

Stolaroff: That's very well put. Really that's the essence. [ laughs ] It's great to have these wonderful experiences; but if we don't put them into effect in our lives, we're throwing away so much.

I'd like to further comment on one aspect of this issue. I think a lot of people get fooled by their psychedelic experiences, because they are so wonderful, they've had such openings and such increases in understanding, that they feel that they can rest on their laurels. On the contrary, what I have found--and, in fact, have been quite surprised at--is how easy it is to regress to old habits. What has surprised me is the amount of effort and intention I've had to muster to actually live these things in life. I don't know whether it's true with others or not; it is something I'd like to bring up at the psychedelic elders conference [Michigan, November 1998] we're going to.

Greer: I've never had anybody tell me it was easy.

Stolaroff: Oh, well, thank you. [ laughs ]

Goldsmith: There were some who said it was easy; people like Leary, in the early days.

Greer: Yes.

Goldsmith: There's always this sort of undercurrent--especially, perhaps, in the public perception--that psychedelics are a magic pill; you know, instant enlightenment, chemical Satori. Those are all old terms that were used in the early '60s, by the press, mostly. But it's a very interesting comment you make, Myron, about your own personal experience and how easy it is to fall back. It will be interesting to see what the elders have to say. One would like to think that people who were active in the use of psychedelics would become wise old Buddhas. To be frank, I wonder how these tools help us? By providing insight? Or rather, by helping to focus us on the path, which is what then provides the insights? Are these tools more effective in changing one's life, than someone else might be, using intentionality and focus, but without these substances?

Stolaroff: Now that we're on this subject, I must say that there are some experiences that are so profound and have such deep impact, that there is instant change. There are some things that happen that you just can't retreat from.

Goldsmith: Like your early experience you mentioned at the beginning.

Stolaroff: Yes. If the experience isn't retained, perhaps we haven't experienced deeply enough, or we require deeper processing. If you want to play the violin or the piano, you have to fit in many hours of practicing and developing skills, making the appropriate nerve connections and movements until it becomes spontaneous. I think there is part of our organism that simply has to be trained to search effectively for these great truths.

Greer: What you've raised here, Neal, touches on a couple of things for me. One, the abuse of psychedelics and two, to segue into our next set of factors, the actual conduct of a session. I've seen a lot of patients who abuse lots of drugs--including LSD and MDMA--and don't learn much of anything. I believe the reason they don't is the whole issue of set and setting. Abusers don't have the intention to learn from the experience; they're using it for the intention of escaping.

You know, when I was in college having those early experiences, I didn't take it until my roommate said you can learn something. So that was always my basic intention. In fact, I found it a very poor tool for escaping anything, since all your unconscious problems are right in your face. But I do know people who would go out and take LSD, drink beer, drive around and look at the pretty lights; and they never got anything out of it, except for a few hours of entertainment.

Goldsmith: Contrariwise, there are individuals who have such skillful focus and intentionality that they make wonderful progress without the substances. But the substances do provide, however, a spur or intervention, window, opportunity, a temporary suspension of defenses--effects of that nature--that can help jump-start or intervene, or even give, as Myron suggested, a profound, long-lasting change in your world view.

Greer: Yes. For example, confronting death is a real wake-up call and can shift one's consciousness. So you can do something really dangerous to confront death--like mountain climbing, or getting involved in a risky relationship--but that can have a lot of negative consequences. I believe that a psychedelic session in a controlled setting is a much safer way to confront death, to confront oneself with all these things and, ultimately, to facilitate a transformation.

Stolaroff: One of the tragedies of our drug laws is that with the prohibition and the lack of research, this kind of understanding isn't widespread; where it could readily help a lot of people who are fooling around with these things and not knowing what they're doing.

Goldsmith: This is a wonderful segue to talking about the psychedelic session itself, because that type of research and practice is the kind of self-conscious, careful, professional approach that is impossible today. Practically speaking, the only avenue of exploration, is clearly illicit in societal terms.

So, George, I think you were primarily responsible for putting together the eight factors on conducting a psychedelic session with couples. Why don't you just introduce it as you see fit.

Greer: Sure. Just as an aside here, the whole procedure that I used for conducting sessions with MDMA is published in an article in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Regarding our current list of factors involved in the conduct of a session, my first thought goes back to something we've talked about, which is that sharing an explicitly expressed common goal or purpose--for the relationship and for the session and to have done this before the session--sets it up for success. Because if the participants have different goals--say, one person wants to explore their childhood and the other person wants to explore the relationship--well, that's not a common purpose for the session, and it's not going to work out. The common goal needs to be explicitly expressed in words, so that everybody--including the therapist or sitter--knows what everybody else knows: Why are we doing this? This sets you out with the shared intention that we talked about earlier.

Goldsmith: Is that your second factor, "Participants make a list of issues they wish to resolve, both joint and personal"?

Greer: The list of issues would derive from the common singular purpose. Like if our purpose is to know ourselves, then you might have a list of issues and ways in which you want to know yourself more. If our purpose is to know each other better--you know, the purpose is something very general and abstract and that really has to be almost the same for the participants, or a least well aligned. Otherwise, I think it's probably not a good idea to do a session, without a common purpose. The list of issues are the specific goals within that larger purpose.

Stolaroff: Good.

Greer: Any special comments on that, Myron?

Stolaroff: Gosh, it's a real basic part of undertaking a session. I've seen it violated so much and I think it's a shame. Because, without this, I think you miss the opportunity to clear up a lot, learn a lot, and understand a lot. So, I think these requirements are very well put, George.

Greer: It can take a while to even come to a common purpose, and that's great. If it takes days or weeks to agree on why you're going to do the session, that's really good for the relationship.

Stolaroff: Absolutely.

Goldsmith: Myron, let me ask you about the methodology you used at the International Foundation for Advanced Studies in the '50s and '60s. Did you have an explicit way of doing this... with lists, for example?

Stolaroff: Oh, yes, yes. First of all, we didn't have MDMA. So we're talking about an in-depth, overwhelming-dose experience with LSD.

Goldsmith: What dosage was it?

Stolaroff: It depended on the individual. Charles Savage, our psychiatrist, usually came up with a recommended dose. There used to be a lot of talk about body weight. But we found that what was really important was the psychic armor that a person had. The more armor, the higher the dose. Of course, you always have the possibility of supplementing. So if you didn't get it right at first, you could add more during the experience.

Goldsmith: Could you give us a general idea of the microgram range?

Stolaroff: I think a good guide is what "Jacob" used. [Note: "Jacob" was the pseudonym for the influential psychologist Leo Zeff, who practiced psychedelic psychotherapy clandestinely for many years. "Jacob" was profiled in the book The Secret Chief (MAPS, 1997), written by Myron Stolaroff.] He generally started off with a couple hundred micrograms of LSD. Then, after an hour or so, if the person felt that he wasn't into it as much as he wanted to be, he would add a 125-microgram booster. He'd ask every thirty minutes or so whether the person was really as deeply into the experience as he'd like to be and he would keep adding in those increments. I think that's as good a guide as we have.

Goldsmith: Thank you.

Greer: For the MDMA, we would vary between 75 and 150 milligrams, generally giving more to men; and I'm not sure if it was body weight, because men are heavier, or other factors. Then we would let the person decide if they subjectively wanted a low, medium, or high dose, so that they had some control over it and we could advise them of the range.

Goldsmith: I would point out at this juncture, that there's been some research showing neurotoxicity with MDMA at high doses in rats. However, the researcher who has done much of this research--George Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins--also gave a normal therapeutic dose similar to what you indicate, George--and on a weekly basis--and found no detectable neurotoxic effects at all.

Greer: That's correct. And those normal doses were administered to primates, which are more similar to us than the rats. We're in the middle of a huge controversy over this entire issue and we don't need to get into it in any detail, but the people I've known who have given MDMA therapeutically--even in underground settings--for many, many years, have not noticed any problems, anecdotally. That's all we can say, really.

Goldsmith: Again, even among those who have done the research on neurotoxicity, no one claims to have found any ill effects of any sort in normal therapeutic doses.

Greer: Right. Most of the human toxicity studies are done with recreational users, who are generally abusing other drugs and are using huge and frequent amounts of MDMA--hundreds of milligrams, often every week--adding up to hundreds of total experiences. So it's just a completely different world from providing a therapeutic dose maybe every few months.

Goldsmith: I also wanted to ask you if you could generalize about the kinds of people or conditions that are most amenable to MDMA in relationship work.

Greer: I think the general criteria would be the same for couples therapy as for couples therapy with MDMA. First, they both have a genuine goal to have the relationship continue, to work hard and to be good to each other. They share that intention.

The second criteria would be in the screening out of people who have severe personality disorders, which could be exaggerated or just get into even greater denial in the fear-free state of MDMA. Someone with a serious personality disorder or another kind of psychiatric disorder that removes insight, like a psychotic, manic, or dissociative type of problem, may feel the freedom to project even more. It's a continuum. If people with more severe problems need to do it, the therapist needs to have spent much more time with them beforehand, and maybe start them with a lower dose. Fifty milligrams or even 25 milligrams of MDMA probably wouldn't bother almost anybody.

The core though, is just sharing a common goal to have the relationship work. Beyond that, it can be sexual incompatibilities, work style, lifestyle, bad breath, you name it. An MDMA session could really help any couples therapy in those areas.

Goldsmith: Because they're really generalized tools, I guess, that operate on a deeper level and enable the relationship work to be effective.

Greer: Yes. It really enables the couple to solve their own problems. It might end up where one or both of them say, "Gee, I really need to do my own individual therapy on this sort of thing. To deal with the baggage I'm bringing into the relationship, and stop the projecting and expectations."

Shall we go on with the session factors? In the framework I laid out here, first you agree on a general purpose for the session. In Leary's framework, we would call this the "set" for the session, or the mind-set of the participant. Once that's done, you then need to establish the setting--the context or situation--and develop explicit agreements about the structure of the session setting. Things like when the session is going to be over; that we're not going to make phone calls; that we're not going to be violent; that the therapist will be here. We commit to keeping these agreements, until we both agree that the session's over.

It's very important to make these explicit agreements, because they allow the ego to take a break. If you take care of all the ego-survival concerns beforehand, in the normal state of mind, you then have this sacred time and space to explore your relationship and consciousness in yourself, without worrying about the details of life.
It's very important to make these explicit agreements, because they allow the ego to take a break. If you take care of all the ego-survival concerns beforehand, in the normal state of mind, you then have this sacred time and space to explore your relationship and consciousness in yourself, without worrying about the details of life. Worrying about the details during a session calls up a whole set of fear-based, survival-based instincts to the ego. So, it's important to be very concrete about those agreements in advance.

In Myron's book, The Secret Chief, the sets of agreements are very good. With a couple, there are some special issues. For example, there can be sexuality in a session with a couple; and that's really up to that couple, but it can be very positive. Sex certainly should not occur with people who are not a couple and certainly not with any sitter or therapist. So, a no-sex agreement in that regard is critical. And no violence, no destructive behavior, and an agreement on not communicating with people outside the session. Those are all excellent and, as Myron relates in the book, "Jacob" used those agreements for many years and felt they were very effective.

Anything that you want to say about that, Myron, on agreements?

Stolaroff: Gee, George, I think you've covered it beautifully. I have nothing to add. I just want to reinforce that these things are very important to agree to.

Greer: Yes. Stan Grof was really one of the first people to discover how to make LSD work. A number of psychiatrists did a lot of LSD therapy and published on it, but Grof really developed an effective therapeutic method and wrote books on it. I know others learned how to make it work; for example, I don't know a lot about the work of Al Hubbard--just what I've heard from you and people that had contact with him--but it definitely sounds like he knew, too. These are hard-won methods and I certainly don't want to claim that "this is the only method". But it is a method that's been generally used and tried over about thirty years, and it's a good place for any therapist or psychiatrist to start in doing further research; or even in taking things a next step further, which certainly you'd do.

We've now covered the shared purpose, the setting, and the agreement. So the couple is ready to have a session. And I think it's good one more time just to have the participants look into themselves, to check inside, emotionally and intuitively, at that moment and make sure that having a session is still the right thing for them to do in that time frame. This is because we know things can change. Emotions in life change. Once the person and the couple put themselves on this launching pad, when the external world and intellectual purpose, as well as the inner emotional world and intuition all say we're go for a liftoff, then that really sets one up to have the best possible session that one can have.

Goldsmith: So, these agreements and lists are most valuable for how they can tune the mind-set before a session.

Greer: Exactly. In fact, if you have a strong urge to call your old partner or a relative--and that's not the agreed structure--then confronting that urge is the same as confronting any other urge in yourself that is not going to lead somewhere and so lots of learning can happen. Some people, particularly with MDMA, just feel open and released and can have strong attractions to someone in the session--such as a therapist through strong transference--and want to be intimate or sexual. Just sitting with that desire, and not acting out in that way, can also be a tremendous learning experience and an opportunity to heal sexual issues from the past.

A lot of these factors are beliefs that are simply offered to the person. A therapist can't tell a person what to believe. But these factors act as suggestions of beliefs to have for a particular therapeutic mind-set. In this context, our next important factor or belief is that there should be no attachment, no grasping, or expectation about what the outcome of the session will be. Especially about how the other person is going to change: "Gee, if we just do this MDMA session, then my husband will be the kind of person I know that he really wants to be, and that's really good for him and will be good for me, too." That's an expectation that can be deadly to the relationship, because generally neither person in the couple knows what the deepest unknown core or direction of the other is.

Earlier, we were talking about being open--setting aside all preconditions--and this is very critical to overcoming projections in relationships. People can definitely project on each other while on psychedelics. Maybe a little less so with MDMA, because it doesn't distort cognition. But I have heard of people having sessions with MDMA, having a wonderful experience of each other and resolving all their differences during the session. And this is even more likely with high doses. Then, two weeks later, the relationship is a mess. So they're really only relating well while on MDMA; but it's not a panacea. In fact, lower doses of MDMA are probably better for relating and communicating and high doses are better for more being alone and getting in touch with one's spiritual essence.

Generally, the way we did the sessions, the people would start out by themselves. They'd have an experience of themselves in that state, and grounded themselves spiritually and emotionally. Then, when they felt ready to talk--when both individuals are ready to talk--then they would start relating, maybe after an hour-and-a-half or a couple of hours.

Goldsmith: Oh, that's very interesting. The entire experience is relatively short, as well. So is that past the peak of the experience?

Greer: Yes. The peak of MDMA is usually between one and two hours. So either during the peak, or as the peak is subsiding, is generally when people would come together and start to talk. And you encourage them to just completely ground themselves in that fearless and loving state, before they try to engage in any explicit "therapy". This is because when you try to act and do something--to work your cognitive capacity--it takes vital attention away from your core. So it's important for each participant to really fill up on that primary focus--to just drink from that essence and feel completely satisfied--then they can come into the relating from the best possible place and more easily work through the difficulties.

As people begin to come down from the MDMA, that's when the difficult part--and the learning--happens. That's when the therapeutic changes take place. At about three to six hours, during the coming-down phase, people can feel bad; they can feel waves of depression, or even despair or hopelessness, or just a lack of energy. For the couple, being with each other during the peaks and the valleys--"in sickness and in health"--that's what relationships are about. Having a couple experience each other in the whole range of experience is really a wonderful way to expand the capacity of the relationship.

Goldsmith: So, what we were talking about earlier with Myron--about the more individual side of personal development as a grounding for the couples work--applies here. The benefit in the actual session comes, in part, because each party establishes an individual, psychospiritual grounding first.

Greer: That's exactly right.

Goldsmith: That's interesting. Myron, a question about couples work. When you had the International Foundation for Advanced Studies and were doing treatment and research, did you ever work either with couples, or with both members of a couple separately?

Stolaroff: We did have a lot of couples go through, but they went through individually. They learned enough so that they became much better as a couple. So we didn't actually work with couples. If we did, it was rare, but we did follow many of the procedures that George mentioned. We had each person write out a complete autobiography and an outline; this procedure was actually developed by Al Hubbard and Ross MacLean at the Hollywood Hospital near Vancouver.

The questions we asked in preparation were of a nature to point out all their relationships and problem areas, beliefs, and the like. Then they saw a therapist several times and went through these factors, to discuss and get a better understanding of the individual's key issues. Then, before the session, they were asked to write a list of all the things they wanted to accomplish during the session.

Basically, that was our preparation. You have to remember, this is quite a while ago, and we were just kind of feeling our way into these things.

Goldsmith: I imagine seeing both members of a couple, even in series, would have beneficial effects on the relationship similar to a joint session.

Stolaroff: It had very beneficial effects. Because each one got a better view--both of themselves, how they were functioning, and if they were doing anything to disrupt the relationship--and of the other person. For example, when there was a lot of resentment, very often they found that deep down they truly loved the other person and could see ways of expressing that love and overcoming some of the issues that caused dissension between them. So, when both members of the couple had that as individual experiences, then when they came together, they were very much better off as a couple as well.

Greer: Also, we should point out here that you were working with LSD, which has tremendous cognitive distortion, compared to MDMA. I wouldn't say that LSD is an enhancer of coherent verbal communication between couples. It's just a whole different type of experience.

Goldsmith: Can you tell us a little bit about your later research, when you worked with couples and sometimes groups and moved more to MDMA?

Stolaroff: Well, this point hasn't been made and I think this is important: in a group--even in a small group, as small as a couple--there is a group energy that develops. There is an energy field or a mind field that develops as the day goes on, in that each person comes to terms with his own individual issues and releases material from the unconscious that has been in the way. This always leads to a jump in awareness--a heightened energy and heightened joy--and it begins to move through the whole group. So at the end of the day, everybody is quite in love with each other. [ laughs ] Everything is so wonderful; it's pretty hard to find anything wrong, anywhere. I believe that happened lots of times.

Greer: That's a great experience to have with a group of people. And then it comes to be more your normal state. I think there can be a lot of carryover from that kind of group bonding. People actually can get along and live together.

Stolaroff: Right. And also, when you have a group like that, individual differences show up and you find yourself confronting people with characteristics and dynamics that you haven't experienced before. It may take a little while to resolve those, but it expands your own experience and understanding. I think "Jacob" was very wise in moving from the individual to the group experiences. Because the way that he did it, you still had your individual experience, and then toward the end of the experience you retain the emotion to relate with others. You could do this on a personal-choice basis, and sometimes maybe several people would get together. It offers a lot of dimensions for deepening relationships and understanding.

Greer: On the other hand, factor six is that neither member of the couple should be expected to make personal sacrifices for the other--or expect them--if it could lead to later resentment. What I'm talking about here is, if one member in the couple is going through a difficult experience, there can be a felt obligation to hold that person's hand, to hug them, to focus on what's happening with them instead of with oneself. For example, if the wife is having a difficult time, the husband might focus his attention on her, as opposed to his own process, because, "She needs my help now." That's fine to do if the husband checks into himself and says, "Okay, yes I really do want to do this. I'm not going to resent it later. And if I do, I'm willing to deal with that." Basically, if he can just release himself from the obligation of guilt, he'll have a healthier relationship. Because, it's not really necessary to help each other. We're all here in the world, and the Universe will provide, according to or not according to our expectations. So whether you get help from or are comforted by your partner or not, it still can be a great learning experience.

Stolaroff: In a stressful situation, people can become more aware of the potential that they have. If they can get into the position of committing themselves to achieving that potential, they will need to learn how to do it all on their own.

Greer: Exactly.

Stolaroff: Sometimes, in fact, I see this with my grandkids--if the parents are over-solicitous, if they want to help too much--they can prevent the child from growing in areas that require challenge.

Greer: Yes, exactly. I understand that "Jacob" went through many stages, doing various kinds of therapy and work during sessions, but ended up where people just lie down and have their experience. Even if the person doesn't get help--and this is true for traditional psychotherapy, as well--they still have the experience of, "I did this myself and so I can handle anything in life myself." If a person is self-sufficient, he or she is much better equipped to be in a relationship than if they depend on the other person to fulfill something about their life that they can't fill themselves.

This takes us into the next session factor, the importance of having a trained and experienced therapist or sitter, who has taken MDMA before with a similar set and setting, available to take care of practical things and do the care-giving that might be needed: holding hands; bringing a glass of water; helping you to the bathroom; talking to you to release your partner from having to do that all the time. It's a lot more work and effort, but it really is worthwhile to have that third person there who is not taking the drug, at least the first time the couple has a session.

Stolaroff: Someone who is qualified as a guide.

Greer: A guide, yes.

Stolaroff: I'd like to emphasize this point even more strongly: one of the real problems often encountered in undergoing these experiences is the fear and resistance to having deep-seated psychological issues come up. So, if you have a sitter who is genuinely and effectively supportive and is really doing everything possible for you to be safe--so you can do whatever you wish--then you can begin to experience "whatever you wish" without judgment or criticism. That's what opens the door to allowing yourself to have a deeper experience.

Greer: Right. Now, a lot of people obviously have had wonderful and valuable experiences without a third person present. And generally I feel those people are more experienced and have already done a lot of work, or therapy, in this format, and know themselves very well. So, it's not that it can't work unless there's someone else there. But I think it really takes a person more experienced with these states to have a session work well without the third person.

Goldsmith: This is very intriguing--just to drop back a bit for a moment and talk on the policy level--what you describe is not what you would consider the AMA approach to the use of pharmaceuticals in psychiatric practice. We're talking about how valuable these substances can be to experienced people with right intentionality; even alone under certain circumstances. It needs to be acknowledged that ultimately there's a policy issue here. George, you said that for a number of reasons, your work had been primarily with people without serious problems.

Greer: Right.

Goldsmith: That raises the issue of using drugs with normal people to make them even better, and to do so in a context that while not recreational, also isn't fully medicalized. I wonder if you both could comment on this. It's especially relevant, in light of all the underground work that's been undertaken over the past twenty-five years or so.

Greer: There is a tremendous amount of underground work that goes on. And, hopefully, people who do that will read this and benefit whatever from what we're saying here. When I was doing the MDMA work, people would have the session with me and/or my wife, Requa Tolbert, a Master's psychiatric nurse, present. Once I became confident that they could do this on their own, I would give them a dose--either for that individual or for that couple--for them to take on their own, without one of us there. That was only after I had worked with them and knew them well and so had screened them. Most people had one or two sessions, maybe three, where sometimes a second or third would be without me or my wife there. That worked out very well, but only after careful screening and preparation.

In essence, I would prescribe a dose. I wouldn't prescribe a bottle of 30: "Here, take 'em when you want." It was more like the couple would say, "We want to plan this one session. This is our intention for this session." And we would go through a lot of these things beforehand over the phone, and maybe in person. So they would be given the medication, the MDMA, for one session, and then they would report back to me. That's the extent of it.

That was our medical model of treatment. It was perhaps a little unorthodox, but it wasn't simply, "Oh, here's some MDMA for you to have around when you feel like it." None of that.

Goldsmith: Nor was it just a methodology arrived at willy-nilly; but, rather, after consideration of the character of not just the individuals, but of the drug itself. Someone might suggest a similar progression enabling people to take the classic hallucinogens--LSD, for example--on their own.

Greer: Sure. Obviously, millions of people do this on their own all the time and they don't have a problem with it. So what I'm describing is just another approach. Even so, as a physician there is another level of responsibility in the doctor-patient relationship. People who get the drugs underground don't have that relationship. It's another level of responsibility. Any comments on this, Myron?

I think you know that one of the things that I really want to get across--and I use every opportunity in publication to set this forth--is the concept of the trained user. I consider these substances to be amazing and powerful learning tools. And if we're learning, then we should be able to learn how to use them better and better.
Stolaroff: Yes, I have a couple things to add. First, I think you know that one of the things that I really want to get across--and I use every opportunity in publication to set this forth--is the concept of the trained user. I consider these substances to be amazing and powerful learning tools. And if we're learning, then we should be able to learn how to use them better and better.

In general, I think the movement into being a trained user and being able to use these substances more and more on your own, requires that the really difficult areas in the unconscious--places of repressed pain and anger, judgment, all these things--have been pretty well worked through. If you take something like LSD, in the early stages, it's almost impossible to try to hold your focus on any particular thing--because the pressure of the unconscious wants to release itself, so that there's an intense flow of imagery.

I think the flow of all this material, sort of like dreams, is relieving the unconscious and exposing and resolving a lot of the things that we keep there. Then, as this material gets cleared out of the way, we find that we have more and more volition and that we can focus more on where we want to focus and learn in specific areas. So this would come into play in developing the ability to work more independently.

At the same time, I also want to point out that there is a potential trap there, too, that one should always be aware of with a powerful psychedelic, in that you never know when some subconscious door isn't going to open that you never suspected. And then you would be very, very glad to have another person around.

So, in general, I think there are times one can benefit from doing these substances alone. But I think it's well to have a safety precaution. If anything develops, there should be somebody you can call, bring to the scene. I've had rather powerful experiences that indicate that this might be a wise idea.

Greer: I would agree with that, Myron, and I was certainly available when people were having these experiences.

I guess there's only one more factor here, but we may have completely covered it: Using the non-defensiveness of MDMA to clear up differences. That's the lack of fear. You can communicate, directly and honestly, positive and negative things and then remember how to do that.

There's one more point to make here. I'm reminded of Stephen Levine, a meditation teacher who writes and speaks on the topics of death-and-dying issues and meditation. His point about relationships is that if the goal of the relationship is truth, anything is workable. If the purpose of your relationship--and your session--is to know the truth in its most basic way, and you share that goal, then any differences the two of you have about reaching that goal can be cleared up.

Stolaroff: Isn't that the truth!

Greer: It may take a while--it may not feel good--but you're not putting anything in the way of eventually getting there.

Goldsmith: That's a beautiful way to sort of round out those issues. Are there any other thoughts or issues I've left out?

Greer: Not me. I feel very satisfied. I'm surprised that we covered the meaning of life in the Universe--and how to do therapy--in an hour-and-a-half. [ laughs ] I'm sure there's always more to say, but I feel we've laid down the basics. I just thank you for this opportunity to get it out there more.

Stolaroff: I feel very good about the coverage. And, George, I really want to thank you. I've learned a great deal from you, and really appreciate the experience and wisdom that you have.

Greer: Thanks for saying that, Myron. I feel like I'm standing on the shoulders of you and other people, who had to learn the hard way--in the '50s and '60s and '70s--to get to where we were when I started in 1980.

Goldsmith: I would like to close by saying how thoroughly charmed and fascinated and educated I've been by hearing you two speak. It's been a real honor and a privilege for me to participate, and I thank you both very much for your time and wisdom.




George Greer, MD is the Medical Director of the Heffter Research Institute, and a psychiatrist in private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1992 to 1998, he was the Clinical Director of Mental Health Services for the New Mexico Corrections Department. From 1980 to 1985, he and his wife, Requa Tolbert, a psychiatric nurse, conducted over 100 therapeutic sessions with MDMA for 80 individuals. Their review of this work remains the largest published study of the therapeutic use of MDMA as of 2004. Dr. Greer was involved in hearings with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1985 to keep MDMA available for medical research and coordinated a lobbying campaign in Congress to prevent restrictions on research with new psychedelic drugs. Dr. Greer is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Past President of the Psychiatric Medical Association of New Mexico.

Myron Stolaroff (Aug 20, 1920 - Jan 6, 2013) held a master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. In industry, Stolaroff reached the position of assistant to the president in charge of long-range planning at Ampex Corporation. From this perspective of the technical world, he declared--after his first experience with LSD in 1956--that LSD was the most important discovery of mankind. In 1961, he founded the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, California, where research with LSD and mescaline was conducted for 3.5 years, processing some 350 participants and resulting in six professional papers. Additional work continued after 1970 with a variety of unscheduled phenethylamine compounds until the federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of of 1986 made such work illegal. Stolaroff was especially interested in how appropriate knowledge of psychedelics could enhance meditation practice. He was the author of two books and several papers on psychedelics.

Neal M. Goldsmith, PhD is a psychotherapist specializing in psychospiritual development--seeing "neurosis" as the natural unfolding of human maturation. Dr. Goldsmith is also an applied research psychologist, working with companies such as AT&T, American Express and Gartner to study--and facilitate--innovation and change. Dr. Goldsmith holds an MA in counseling from New York University and a PhD in Psychology (specializing in field research methods) from Claremont Graduate School. He conducted his dissertation research, on the utilization of mental health policy research, as a federally funded doctoral research assistant at Princeton University. Author of dozens of popular and scholarly articles, Dr. Goldsmith is a frequent speaker on transpersonal psychology, spiritual emergence, resistance to change, drug policy reform and the post-modern future of society.

Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Published on MAPS.org.
  • v1.1 - Jan 31, 2013 - Edited for publication on Erowid.org after permission granted by Neil Goldsmith and George Greer.