Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Drawing It Out: Befriending the Unconscious.
(A Contemporary Woman's Psychedelic Journey)
Frances, Sherana Harriette (2001)
Sarasota, FL: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Description: paperback, 128 pages, 28 cm x 21.8 cm x 1 cm
Contents: Introduction by Stanislav Grof, Prologue by Tanya Wilkinson, 5 sections including 6 series of drawings, Afterword by Tanya Wilkinson, back matter about MAPS.
About the author:
Her transformative experience while participating in research with LSD at the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, Ca., in the early sixties, and the life-changing events that it set in motion, was the inspiration for the drawings in this book. Dr. Stanislav Grof has used Frances' dramatic artwork for many years in his training sessions and workshops in Holotropic Breathwork around the world, noting that her expressive drawings are among "the best visionary art I know of anywhere in the world." (page 6)
This book originated as a wordless visual dialogue between my conscious and unconscious mind, catalyzed by my experience with LSD, for which my drawings served as a tool for bringing deep underlying issues to my awareness. Without the encouragement and help of many friends and supporters who believed I had an important story to tell, I would not have attempted to put words to the experiences related in this book. (page 9)
The spiritual experiences frequently observed in LSD sessions offered a radically new understanding of a wide variety of phenomena from the world of religions including shamanism, the rites of passage, the ancient mysteries of death and rebirth, the Eastern spiritual philosophies and the mystical traditions of the world.
LSD research seemed to be well on its way to fulfilling all of the above promises and expectations when it was suddenly interrupted by unsupervised mass experimentation of the young generation and the ensuing repressive measures of a legal, administrative, and political nature. At present, the future of psychedelics as clinical and research tools does not look very bright, in spite of the fact that a few researchers have been granted permission to resume some limited experimentation with these substances. However, the two decades during which this research flourished in many countries of the world amassed revolutionary new information about the psyche that is of lasting value. It is, therefore, important to preserve as many documents of these pioneering efforts as possible. ( page 14)
Although the immediate impulse for the opening of her individual and collective unconscious was her psychedelic session at Menlo Park in the early 1960s, the treasure trove of her psyche remained open and available to her during the subsequent years of her work with hypnosis and drug-free psychotherapy. This shows that a single psychedelic experience can initiate an ongoing, possibly lifelong, process of self-exploration. During her ongoing adventure of self-discovery that has extended over a period of several decades, Harriette Frances has brought convincing evidence that the human psyche reaches far beyond the narrow limits outlined by traditional psychology and psychiatry. (page 15)
Section One: The Decent
The Trip Begins…
It was in this frame of mind that I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the modest building housing the International Foundation for Advanced Study, at the time of my first appointment in 1962. I was immediately assailed by the subtle yet distinctive odor that I later came to associate with the Foundation. It was a "hospital" kind of smell, permeating the hallway and greeting me on each of my many visits over the ensuing months. I later identified it as the slight but discernible odor of "carbogen", a mixture of 70% carbon dioxide and 30% oxygen - this mixture was administered as an inhalant to the participants in the research program, for periods of approximately six weeks before the ingestion of LSD, as "simulation training" for the feeling of surrender to an altered state. [The correct mixture should have been the opposite - 30% carbon dioxide and 70% oxygen. - Publisher's correction.] (pages 24 - 25)
The time came when all of us were satisfied that I was sufficiently prepared, and my date with LSD was finally scheduled. It was to be on a March morning in 1963.
I was on my way to the fateful meeting, with my two paintings and an overnight bag. I drove to the Foundation and climbed the stairs, each step with a rising excitement, in anticipation of the leap into hidden and unexplored territory I was about to take. Just as an artist feels when confronting an empty canvas, I was about to jump into the unknown. At 8:00 a.m., I was led into a quiet, beautifully furnished room with a serene golden Buddha at one end; a small portrait of Christ was elsewhere in the room. I propped up my two paintings, and the photos of my family, so I could see them from the comfortable sofa where I had settled down. At 8:36 a.m., I was given the premeasured dose of LSD; the "Grand Canyon Suite" and other music of my choice was on my headphones. My guides, Mary A. Hughes (a medical doctor) and Bob Leihy (then a research analyst), settled in for the duration of my journey. They were there to provide guidance and emotional support, as needed, and otherwise did not intrude on my experience. Throughout the day they stayed with me, and towards evening another guide accompanied me to a nearby motel, to monitor and support me as the effects of the drug waned and eventually wore off, in the late hours of that night. (page 28)
This had been called a "dream drug" - and I had found terrifying nightmares. It had been touted as the doorway to ecstatic life - and I had been wandering in the graveyards of death. That it was capable of "mind-quakes" was more than abundantly true. I had been shaken down to my bones, my core turned inside out, I was not the same woman driving home. Nor could I guess at the nature of the resynthesis, and its drastic consequences that stretched ahead. (page 29)
I knew the Foundation deserved a better description of my experience than the report I had sent; but still I was stymied for words. How could I describe the worlds in which, for a space of unreal time, my eyes had seen the visible behind the invisible, the vibrating kaleidoscopic dance beneath it all? I could tell them that the world of my LSD experience was dark and radiant, cold and hot, fearful and ecstatic, hellish and heavenly. But these were only everyday words and far too poor to accurately describe a place where colors were sounds and sounds were colors, where music danced, becoming strands of colored energy in the air - a place where all my senses were insanely transposed, where the function of my ear became the function of my eye; where images became texture and texture became sound; where I became part of the geometrically patterned spiraling dance; where I plunged into the dark and freezing bone yards of my own death, watched the strange disintegration of my own body; where shimmering strands repaired it; and where hieroglyphics danced on the tip of a body where its head should have been. (page 31)
Section Two: Drawing Back the Veil
Describing the Indescribable
The paintings I had taken with me to the Foundation also became a part of the experience.
Looking at them in a drug-induced state was another kind of revelation. My own art works became, at different points in the LSD experience, both threatening and nurturing, things that could kill me as well as things that could save me. In one drawing, I have depicted a corridor of canvas, where tears fall from the colors and shapes of my paintings. In the next , the tears have hardened into icy masses, a cold menace in their hard, jagged and sharp edges but beautiful in their composition. My own paintings overwhelmed me, holding both the promise of fulfillment and the threat of annihilation. They were deceptive surfaces holding my mesmerized attention while they closed in to crush me.
I had never experienced, in quite this visceral way, the unique power of art, or more accurately, its powerful effect in my own life.
My journey, burdened with questions for which I sought answers and illumination in the LSD experience, is depicted in these drawings as culminating in a rapture of ecstasy. My arms are outstretched in the embrace of a serenely radiant universe, in a posture that implies an imminent step into its welcoming arms. (page 54)
Section Five: Seeing Through the Drawings
The Healing Dialogue
The speck of psychoactive chemical that, in 1963, had blasted the sensory centers of my mind, had also blasted open the doors to my growth, healing and spiritual awareness, which I believe is in the record of these drawings. They remain for me the best record of how the creative force reveals, illuminates, transforms and integrates the workings of the subconscious mind. They affirm the validity of the use of the unconscious as a way of making sense of our behavior and our personal worlds. And they are a visual witness to that inner voice that, over the years, I have better attuned my ear to hear - the primitive, creative intelligence that I believe intuitively directs us to the healthiest expression of our most authentic selves.
These drawings are the visible record of my own path towards a still-evolving Self. They have been my most potent healers, my truest guides and greatest teachers on this constantly unfolding path. (page 115).
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