Sam here talks about his experience of taking MDMA. First thing to say here is that these drugs can be really harmful also to some people so if you’re thinking of doing them you should first learn about what the risks are.
Sam says taking MDMA was one of the most transformational and important thing in his life. It had the biggest impact on his life.
I’ll copy paste part which I found to be most important:
My first experience with psychedelics that was important, that actually shifted my view of human possibility was with MDMA which I took before it became a club drug. I think this was in 1987 I took it. And no one I knew, no one of my generation had taken it. And although the drug obviously goes back many decades before that. And it had not been adopted by popular culture as a party drug. So this was coming pretty much coming out of the therapeutic community. People were doing in a closeted way psychotherapy with it. And I took it as a means of discovering something about the nature of my mind. It was not a social situation. I was just – a friend and I were alone and we took it together and just had a conversation on this drug. And what was revelatory about it was that it was an experience of absolute sobriety. It was not – there was no druggy component to it. We just became clearer and clearer and clearer in our thinking and feeling. And the crucial component of this was a loss of any feeling of self-concern.
I was no longer looking at myself through my friend’s eyes. I was no longer worried about what he was thinking about me. I was no longer subtly correcting course based on changes I saw in how he was perceiving what I was saying. It was a whole veneer of fear frankly that I didn’t know was there that got stripped away. And there was just kind of naked awareness of the present moment and what came into that void was a very clear understanding that I loved him, that I – here I was, you know, 18 or 19 and I was not in the habit of, you know, thinking about how much I loved the men in my life. And here’s one of my best friends and I just realized with a, you know, it sounds absolutely pedestrian to say it but I realized that I wanted him to be happy in a way that was just – it was like, you know, a lightning bolt. And the – what was truly revolutionary about this insight was that the feeling that came crashing down to that point was just, you know, boundless love for one of my best friends and absolutely no egoic self-concern, no possibility for feeling envy, for feeling any kind of petty emotion that separated myself from him. But then I realized in the next moment that I would feel this way for anyone who walked through the door.
There was nothing contingent on our relationship about this feeling. It was not a – it was not justified by my friendship with him. This was the way I felt for every other conscious being. So this is the way I would feel for the postman if he walked through the door. And that suddenly opened my mind to the possibility of being like Jesus, whoever he was, you know. That these icons of traditional religion were not all epileptics and schizophrenics and frauds. These were people who – and again we can be skeptical about any specific individual, you know, some of them could have been schizophrenic. Some of them could have had temporal lobe epilepsy but some people historically – and even in the present have borne witness to this experience where you can just quite literally lose yourself concern in a way that makes you love people unconditionally. And so, you know, that was the experience I had on MDMA. It, you know, frankly blew my mind and it took me years for me to integrate this understanding of this possibility into my intellectual life. And it prompted me to seek to have this experience in other ways, you know, for many, many years.
My goal with writing this post is explaining my understanding of this stuff that Sam is talking about and seek feedback and criticisms of these ideas. Do you guys agree with this? Do you think such a transformational change can be possible? If it is true do you think it makes to try to have such an experience to get a similar change in perspective to get the benefits that follow from such change in perspective? I thought of a possible argument against this which is that such a transformational change is shouldn’t be possible because improvements are evolutionary and this change is revolutionary. I think this argument is wrong because the change of seeing through the illusion could itself a small change. It has revolutionary implications. But the change in itself is small.
I was earlier dismissive of Sam’s claims but after seeing Elliot recommending self help books I’m not dismissing them anymore without having a criticism for why I think they are false. I don’t have any yet.
I haven’t had the experience of losing the sense of ‘self’ but there are some things about it that make sense to me. In one sense we are attached to our identities very deeply. The idea of ego is another way to think about ‘self’. I think Sam would agree that losing the sense of self is similar to overcoming ego. Having a big ego is considered as a bad thing culturally. I point this out to connect this idea to a common sense cultural idea. The losing of self is an even more powerful thing than intellectually removing the bias of ego from ones mind. Having the experience of losing the sense of self is like seeing through an illusion. It’s like seeing through a magician’s trick. You don’t have to use your reasoning to understand that the magic trick cannot happen. The illusion just falls away. Things become so obvious that you don’t need explanation. That’s probably not entirely correct because explanations/understandings aren’t completely in words. A demonstration can make you understand things or atleast make things clear for you.
Those are all my thoughts on this idea for now. What do you think? Do you think losing the sense of self is a good self help idea to pursue? Can it lead to deeper form of well being? A direct implication is that it helps you be more open to criticism. That is because you aren’t identified with your ideas as deeply as compared to a person who hasn’t lost the sense of self. You are thus more open to change and not hurt by criticisms. Sam says (I quoted it above) it helped him develop deeply positive emotions towards others like wanting their happiness and flourish without and sense of competition, envy jealousy etc. which improved his quality of life. I too think having such positive feelings towards other can make life deeply fulfilling.