The misgivings expressed by Jung and Thomas Mann are certainly justified when one considers the misuse of these drugs by immature, labile persons craving for new sensations. Yet it should not be overlooked that LSD and its affiliates are an important tool in the hands of responsible psychological researchers. They have an immense value for the further investigation of the unconscious and its phenomena; they facilitate for the so-called normal, ordinary man a progressively deeper descent into the unconscious and are therefore a sort of chemical key that might carry the exploration of the unconscious to levels completely unknown at present.
The drugs are not only a scientific tool, they also open new – or age-old – ways to a type of experience which, for want of a better word, those who have known it are impelled to describe as “religious” or “mystical”. A 52-year-old engineer, apparently a quite simple man with no religious inclinations, gives the following account of his experience with LSD:
“Although consciousness of self seemed extinguished, I knew that the boundaries of my being had been dissolved and that all other boundaries were also dissolved. All, including what had been myself, was an ever more rapid molecular whirling that then became something else, a pure and seething energy that was the whole of being. This energy, neither hot nor cold, was experienced as a white and radiant fire … The flux of Being streamed inexorably, unswervingly towards the One.
“At what I can only call the ‘core’ of this flux was God, and I cannot explain how it was that I, who seemed to have no identity at all, yet experienced myself as filled with God, and then as (whatever this may mean), passing through God and into a Oneness wherein it seemed God, Being, and a mysterious unnameable One constituted together what I can only designate the All. What ‘I’ experienced in this All so far transcends my powers of description that to speak, as I must, of an ineffably rapturous Sweetness is an approximation not less feeble than if I were to describe a candle and hope to capture with my words all the blazing glory of the sun.”
Here we have a genuine experience of the numinous such as Jung was also concerned with. One dare not dismiss out of hand any instrument that makes a unio mystica of this kind possible. It goes without saying, however, that from the psychotherapeutic standpoint in particular, and also that of individuation, the man who is conscious of his responsibilities cannot stop at ecstatic visionary experiences but must complete and deepen them through sober reflection and assimilate their meaning into his life. In this way the danger of losing contact with his own reality and with his environment is neutralised or at least reduced to a minimum, and also the danger of hankering for repetitions of the experience for its own sake.