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Interview with James Fadiman: The Daemon and the Doors of Perception

Dr. James Fadiman

Just published and now available here at The Teeming Brain: my interview/conversation with Dr. James Fadiman, one of the pioneers of transpersonal psychology and modern research into the spiritual and therapeutic applications of psychedelics. This has been a long time in coming, for reasons that I explain in the interview’s introduction.

The interview is ten thousand words, so be prepared to settle in. A lot of what we talk about focuses on the practical and philosophical inadequacies of dogmatic scientific materialism in dealing with things like anomalous and paranormal experiences such as inspiration and perceived communication or encounters with supernatural entities. Here’s a key excerpt:

JAMES FADIMAN: The reductionists eventually paint themselves into a corner. Consider the people who talk about the neurophysiology of dreams. They say, “Look, here’s this little part of the brain that turns on when you’re dreaming, and therefore dreams are psychophysiological in nature.” Then we ask, well, what generates a sex dream, a dream where a dead person appears with information, and a dream where you’re seated before a large pizza? And of course they say, “Why don’t you just go away.”

MATT CARDIN: I think you’re raising the basic question of phenomenology as it relates to ontology.

JAMES FADIMAN: But if you take the position that the brain is the place through which consciousness moves, so that it acts kind of like a radio, then all of those different dreams are much more understandable, because we can say they’re coming from different channels, different stations, different gods, different muses. And that makes much more sense. . . . Science’s fundamental error is a religious sort. Science says, “Certain data (since we know it does not exist) you shall not look upon.” Science holds up the story of the church and Galileo to emphasize how dogmatic the church was in its refusal to look at evidence. But if you say to scientists, “What do you know about telepathy? What do you know about clairvoyance? What do you know about near-death experiences?” they say, “Those don’t exist, and I’ve never spent a moment looking at the evidence, because they can’t exist” . . . . Scientism — science as a religion — and science are quite far apart. You see, I think I’m a scientist. That means that anything that happens, whether subjective, objective, sensory or whatever, I look at it. That may be due to my psychedelic experiences, which reminded me that, “Whatever you think the world is made of, James, you have a very limited view.” My muse chimes in and says, “Obviously, if you look at the size of the universe and contrast it with the size of your brain, the chances of your being able to know everything are statistically almost non-existent.”

MORE: “Interview with James Fadiman: The Daemon and the Doors of Perception


James Fadiman, psychedelic heretic

James Fadiman

James Fadiman

Several weeks ago I talked on the phone for an hour and a half with Dr. James Fadiman, one of the central figures in the history of psychedelic research and a co-founder of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. I’ll be publishing the conversation as a Teeming Brain interview in the near future, but for now be advised that this feature article from The Morning News is one of the best, most detailed, most thorough, and most thoroughly fascinating journalistic accounts you’re likely to find about the deep history and current global renaissance of serious research into psychedelics, and of Jim’s important place in the history of the field.

N.B. the piece includes information that can come as a revelation to those who aren’t already turned on (sorry, couldn’t resist) to the subject, including the central fact that many of the most prominent and world-defining changes in technology and culture that have occurred over the past 40 and 50 years have come from people who were directly involved as research subjects in the early days of psychedelic studies, and who, as today’s titans of business and tech culture, keep mostly quiet about this fact, although many of them privately attribute their achievements to the enhanced creativity and mental/emotional acuity they received from psychedelics. For more on this, you can see Jim’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide (2010), which has occasioned the new burst of interest in and awareness of his work and person.

For decades, the U.S. government banned medical studies of the effects of LSD. But for one longtime, elite researcher, the promise of mind-blowing revelations was just too tempting … That research centers once were permitted to explore the further frontiers of consciousness seems surprising to those of us who came of age when a strongly enforced psychedelic prohibition was the norm … When the FDA’s edict arrived [in the summer of1966 to ban all research on psychedelics], James Fadiman was 27 years old, IFAS’s youngest researcher. He’d been a true believer in the gospel of psychedelics since 1961, when his old Harvard professor Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass) dosed him with psilocybin, the magic in the mushroom, at a Paris café. That day, his narrow, self-absorbed thinking had fallen away like old skin. People would live more harmoniously, he’d thought, if they could access this cosmic consciousness.

… The 26 men [who served as subjects for the Institute for Advanced Study’s research into the effect of psychedelics on creativity] unleashed a slew of widely embraced innovations shortly after their LSD experiences, including a mathematical theorem for NOR gate circuits, a conceptual model of a photon, a linear electron accelerator beam-steering device, a new design for the vibratory microtome, a technical improvement of the magnetic tape recorder, blueprints for a private residency and an arts-and-crafts shopping plaza, and a space probe experiment designed to measure solar properties. Fadiman and his colleagues published these jaw-dropping results and closed shop.

… [Fadiman went on to become] Co-founder of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. Course instructor at San Francisco State, Brandeis, and Stanford. Writer. Member of various corporate boards … [His] influence transcends counterculture … It might even stretch through the very medium through which you’re reading these words. In What the Dormouse Said, John Markoff reports that Fadiman had dosed and counseled numerous “heads” as they were attempting to amplify consciousness through silicon chips and virtual reality. The personal computer revolution, Markoff argues, flourished on the Left Coast precisely because of a peculiar confluence of scientists, dreamers, and drop-outs.

— Tim Doody, “The Heretic,” The Morning News, July 26, 2012

The secret to working with a daemonic muse: Get out of the way

I just published a new post at Demon Muse about the proper way of working with your invisible daemonic partner. Here’s an excerpt:

The central point or insight of daemonic creativity can be stated in various ways, but one of the most potent is to say that when we’re pursuing creative work — whether that means planning and executing a specific artistic project or divining a large-scale, whole-life direction — we have to get out of the way of the creative energy itself. Encoded in this way of framing it is the entire universe of spiritual/psychological realities and their subtle relationships that constitute the experience of living and working in deep, conscious collaboration with a daemon muse. Read the rest of this entry