Soma (Bliss, Psychedelics)
'We have drunk the soma; we have become immortal; we have gone to the light; we have found the gods.' -Rig.
Soma is a god, a principle, and a psychedelic. The Rigveda's Soma hymns consider Soma the power to make us into Rishis or seers.
In the Rigveda, Soma was the milky fermented liquor produced from the soma plant, which was an integral part of Vedic sacrifices, where it was drunk by priests in token of its acceptance by the gods. Like the sap in trees and the blood in animals, soma juice was considered to be the vital fluid in all beings, just as Agni was their vital spark. Soma was often called amrita or ambrosia. We do not know for sure what the soma plant was, but we know it was not wine, beer, brandy, marijuana, or opium. It may have been the mushroom Amanita muscaria. It produces the effect of a psychedelic or entheogen. Entheogens means ‘the divine within’, and psychedelic means it’s ‘mind manifesting’. Rigveda poets and other yogis drink soma in the controlled context of ritual.
Its powers were soon personified in the god Soma. To some degree, Soma was Indra. Without Soma, Indra had no strength. Thus, Soma became known as a primeval deity, all-powerful, healing all diseases, bestower of riches, and even the supreme god.
Soma is also the bliss principle in Vedic knowledge. Soma is related to the lila play of life. In life, we unfold our inner bliss and bring happiness to the world.
The Vedic ritual reaches its climax in the Soma offering to the sacred fire (Agni) as the drink of the Gods. Soma pervades the outer world as water and even the vibratory field of space. Soma exists inside as a psychological feeling of love and creativity. Soma is also a key to immortality. In meditation, the brain secretes Soma of peace, contentment, and bliss.
Agni is the fire, light, or energy principle, the counterpart to Soma. Lord Shiva is Agni-Somatmakam, or both Agni and Soma in nature. His right side is Agni in nature—fiery, fierce, and masculine. His left side is Soma—watery, gentle and feminine. Agni is the fire of consciousness that is reflected in the Soma of bliss: Agni and Soma are ultimately the same, two complementary aspects of Brahman.
It's the principle of water and nourishment. Agni is fire, purification, detoxification, and knowledge. Agni is the sun and Soma is the Moon. Agni is the digestive fire in Ayurveda, prana and meditation. Agni is the cosmic power of light, perception, and transformation. Soma is both the fuel for the fire and the fruit of Agni's activity. Agni is the Kundalini fire that ascends from the root chakra and Soma is the nectar of immortality that descends from the crown chakra. The hridaya heart is the meeting place of Agni and Soma. Everything is contained in the dahara akasha (small space) within the heart—the entire universe and all planes of experience. In the supreme place, God is the inextinguishable fire and the entire universe is the unending Soma offering.
Soma is the calm mind with the ability to heal and rejuvenate body and mind. It's essential for the body to withstand external stress, disease, infections, and address issues of indifference, motivation, depression, and apathy. It facilitates feelings of contentment, kindness, love, peacefulness, emotional and intellectual stability, zeal, memory, and knowledge. Cultivating Soma is cultivating receptivity, love, surrender, and the power to feel, dissolve, merge, and become one with all. Cultivating Agni is cultivating awareness, concentration, and discrimination and the power of mind to inquire and transform.
Mantra is the main tool for working on the mind to develop our inner Soma-bliss. Our minds go into a state of singularity beyond space-time and karma, in unity consciousness, connected with the entire universe and the unitary prana . This single-pointed awareness is the bindu focus point. Ayurveda also takes us to the supreme bliss of Soma-Ananda.
Gradually the ritual use of soma as an intoxicant died out, explained by a myth which related that Brahma cursed intoxicants after drunkenly committing incest with his daughter. The new belief is that power is to be obtained not through drinking of soma, but from the performance of sacrifices or austerities to propitiate the supreme triad (Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer).
Generally, people should stay free from intoxicants, especially drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and opioids. Drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and coffee should also be avoided by yogis. Drugs such as LSD and other psychedelics may fool people into thinking they're having a spiritual experience but it's usually an illusion and simply another level of material reality.
A direct legacy of Rigveda Yoga was the Ancient Roman Empire’s Soma rituals, which is the seed of Western Civilization and the Mystery Ceremonies (c.1500 BC). This was suppressed around 400 CE. The sanctuaries were closed by the Roman Emperor’s decree during the Christians’ persecution of pagans.
There was a spike of awareness about its power in the early 1960s in the US, but without fully understanding how powerful it is. These inner technologies of soma- and siddhi-consciousness were coming online just as the collective consciousness was becoming aware of the climate crisis. Significant changes were needed to create a new trajectory for humanity, and soma and siddhis were the key.
Climate Yoga picks up these keys to unlock these powers, to carry on this ancient tradition, to provide an important cultural container for channeling and benefiting from this energy. Yoga describes the journey and the terrain of this non-ordinary reality. Soma helps us get there, to be illuminated about our powers of meditation on love and light, and to have focused concentration on climate priorities, to merge with the object of concentration, and the pranayama and rebalancing of pranic energies around the world. Soma is an amplifier of mental processes: it can make your climate yoga practice significantly more effective.
Soma yoga can be a 3-day ritual, a ceremonial experience of expanded consciousness. Soma rituals are guided by a Yogi or Guru. Climate Yoga adds a unified focus on climate priorities, for powerful effects, to concentrate the energy. Yogis develop the ability to control their mind and to control the forces of nature. This can help create a greatly improved society and politics according to the collective desires. Climate Yoga can awaken the sleepwalking public and be the cultural container for harnessing these Eleusinian and Yogic powers.
LSD was synthesized in 1957 from an ergot mushroom from Oaxaca, Mexico. It could treat anxiety, addiction, and depression. This miracle drug was also a rite of passage in the 1960s with big changes in consciousness and disruptions in culture, science, and technologies. However, there was misinformation about LSD being a cause of—when it was really a cure for—suicide and psychic breaks with reality. (How to Change Your Mind (2018), Michael Pollan, describing psychedelics from a secular perspective).
There’s now a renaissance of inspired scientists using LSD for treatments of depression, anxiety, trauma (childhood, PTSD), and addictions. With brain imaging, we’re unraveling mysteries of consciousness. Dissolving the structures of the self and the mystical experience is objectified with imaging of the changes in brain activity and patterns of connections. This provides insight into the neural correlates of the sense of self, the spiritual experience, and for expanding consciousness.
In the 1960s, psychedelics went from psychiatric wonder drug, to counterculture sacrament. It’s a very important experience of the numinous—the presence of divinity. People fail to recognize the potential for understanding the mind and changing it. It's not just about creating a wonderfully italicized version of the familiar reality. It can magnify whatever's going on both inside and outside one's head. It can also cause a full-flow ego-disintegration.
Transcend your primary identification with the body and experience the ego-free state. The journey is a reconception of disease, the prospect of dying, and the lost fear of death completely. You return with a new perspective and profound acceptance. It can restore childhood immediacy and sense of wonder. Many people see Reality for the first time. Psilocybin can occasion the mystical type experiences in having significant and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. It’s a frontier research that straddles two worlds of science and spirituality.
To the opening eyes of a child, the whole world is a golden vision, thinking their will is supreme. However, nature stands as a wall barring farther progress. This is maya. We are born slaves of nature, in body, in mind, in all our thoughts, in all our feelings. This is maya. Nature never had power over you. Like a frightened child you were dreaming that it was throttling you. The release from this fear is the goal. Difficulties and delusions vanish. Maya shifts from a horrible, hopeless dream to become a beautiful Earth playground, with suffering deified, and seeing the substance behind everything. The Lord/Christ/Krishna/Brahma/Shiva/Shakti is our own real Self. The veil drops away and the purity of the soul manifests itself as infinite freedom, love, and power. This can be realized by any person in any condition of life.
It’s a safe and reliable mystical experience, to dissolve the ego, to merge with nature or the universe. This isn’t news if your one of the 500,000, perhaps millions of people who have done it. For one-third to two-thirds of people, the psychedelic experience is the most significant experience of their lives. There are significant improvements in well-being, life-situation, and positive behaviors.
You are given access to an alternative reality, a ‘beyond’ where the usual physical laws don’t apply and various manifestations of cosmic consciousness or divinity present themselves as unmistakably real. Nature and the human mind hold deep mysteries, where science seems arrogant and unjustifiably dismissive. It changes one’s worldview, thinking, morality, and neurobiology. It creates a new way of being, just on the other side.
There’s a universal desire to change consciousness, with all cultures using plants to change their state of consciousness, for healing, spiritual practice, desires for nourishment, beauty, sex, and with elaborate rituals. Soma is a long and wide used tool for healing the mind, rites of passage, and for supernatural communication with the spirit worlds and realms. It enriches collective imagination and culture with novel ideas and visions. A few people bring back something from wherever they go. It’s ancient and venerable in many cultures.
There’s huge potential benefits, few risks, and it’s very safe. Bad trips are the most challenging experiences of a lifetime. But with attention to mindset and setting, it’s a controlled experience. Suddenly you wake up. Life starts over! People’s default consciousness is not the best and only way through life. The benefits of psychedelics are that it’s healing, therapeutic, spiritual, and creative. No account for reality can be final with disregarding these other forms of consciousness.
LSD was the most joyous invention in the 20th century, a synthetic alkaloid from ergot of rye/grain, creating extraordinary experiences. It inspired the discovery of serotonin and launched brain science in the 1950s. Experience ‘objects’ coming to life and the world as if newly created to restore society’s connection to nature and spirituality. Directly experience the sacred. Once mediated by priests, now, anyone anytime, anywhere, can have access to the primary religious experience.
However, this was heart of the LSD crisis: it should be mediated by priests or shamans or yogis who can optimize people's mindset and setting; and it is not for anyone who has not prepared for the journey. It's problematic that there are thousands of 'recreational' uses of psychedelics every day outside the ceremonial context, without a guide. When a ceremonial container to focus these energies becomes widespread, then the collective crisis of consciousness at the heart of the climate crisis can be resolved.
The UDV ayahuasca religion can import and use DMT. They’re a Christian spiritual sect, founded in 1960 in Brazil, with 17,000 members in six countries. The psychedelic is a religious sacrament, with the legal concept of ‘cognitive liberty’ established.
Psychedelics are mind expanding and field expanding. It’s very useful, with remarkable, beneficial, mystical, therapeutic, anti-addiction benefits. It was deserving of further study, in the search for universal truths and enlightenment, an abiding element of our humanity, with insights and claims of ultimate reality outside the purview of science. The psychedelic experience has potential to heal individuals and humankind. Some rebels sent MDMA to spiritual and political leaders. The goal was to incorporate psychedelics into American society and culture towards general public acceptance.
Mysticism is the antidote to fundamentalism. Idea that brain creates consciousness is a metaphysical assumption, not scientific fact. With the conviction that a profound objective truth has been disclosed and the mystical experience, the noetic quality erases the distinction between inside and outside our heads. It makes the spiritual experience of the sacred available to people. It’s the direct personal encounter with God.
LSD became political by the 1970s. Things like the Merry Pranksters and the CIA's MK Ultra mind control project made it taboo and research shut down for decades (about 22 years), unprecedented in modern science. So too the amount of scientific knowledge erased. Research began again in 2006 at John Hopkins.
Mystical consciousness is awareness flooded with love, beauty, peace beyond anything imagined possible, awe, glory, gratitude, and compassion for the infancy of science. Mystical consciousness is the primal basis of religion. Psilocybin can elicit transcendental experience. People who take LSD have big stories to tell: it’s the most meaningful experience in life.
Science and spirituality inform each other. John Hopkins experiments proves that under controlled conditions, psilocybin occasions genuine mystical experiences. It’s science that undermines modernity’s secularism. It’s a sacralization of the natural and social world. A spiritual revival is our best defense against soullessness and religious fanaticism. Consciousness is a property of the universe.
The Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ, 1963, 1991) is 43 items in reference to a mystical or profound experience they had had after ingesting psilocybin. There are four factors of the classic mystical experience: (1) unity, noetic quality, sacredness; (2) positive mood; (3) transcendence of time/space; and (4) ineffability. MEQ factor scores show good reliability.
The person has a new conviction that there’s a reality beneath the reality of ordinary perceptions. It transforms and changes lives. People quit jobs and study yoga and Zen. There are long-lasting improvements of well-being and new openness to experience. Atheists have mysterious experiences. Christians get evangelical fervor. One has pity for people’s psychedelic naivety and with respect for all that science does not know. It’s an intra-psychic movie, with unprecedented and mind-blowing results. It's incredibly meaningful.
The veracity of the mystical state is authoritative for the individual. Conflict and contradictions melt into unity, reconciled. Unity is no mere delusion. It addresses final questions and existential truths. Testing mystical consciousness with tools of science, researchers find that over 70% of people rate the psychedelic experience as one of the most meaningful experiences of life. This is incredible for science and is a new frontier to explore. And, there’s about 80% success with addiction, unprecedented, and similar success with existential distress with terminal diagnoses and cancer: the fear of death disappears.
Mushrooms are Earth’s Internet, connecting the forests’ immune system and neurobiological networks. Feel the curiosity and attitude of utter benevolence of the plants and the trees, infused with spirit. Feel the personhood of other being, an opening of the heart, towards others and plants, trees, birds, and bugs—the immanence and numinous. Access a spiritual dimension, supernatural. Faith need not figure. There are other forms of consciousness available to us that forbids a premature closing of our accounts with reality.
Symptoms of psychedelics include depersonalization, loss of ego-boundaries, and synesthesia. Its phenomenology (an analysis of subjective experiences) includes effects that are incredibly positive: to see oneself objectively, having profound understandings in philosophy and religion and science; and experiencing transcendence, epiphanies, ecstasy, and mystical union.
The key is presence of an engaged and empathic therapist, and the result is reliable spiritual awakenings with 70% success with reducing anxiety, 62% depression, and other impressive results. It’s incredibly useful for treating PTSD, addiction, and to deal with the three things people are afraid of: death, other people, and their own minds. This is applied mysticism.
In the Brave New World, Huxley’s fictional soma was a mind-control drug, to effect the mental filter that reduces consciousness. Real soma is to glimpse infinity, to ‘mind-manifest’, and to have an enlargement and expansion of consciousness. Huxley said, ‘it’s total awareness of Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact.’
At the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, the elite gathered at night for sacred kykeon-soma, and democratized the experience, available to everyone, c.1600 BC to 400 CE. Roman Emperor Cicero said that out of all the wonderful things Rome created, the Mystery Ceremonies were the greatest. Now, it’s used to heal and to help individual’s realize their full potential. Silicon Valley managers do microdosing Fridays. 83% get glimpses of higher powers or ultimate reality and lasting benefits. The paradox is that ego dissolving-enlightenment can create a massive ego inflation with identification with the powers of God.
Spiritual mass tourism is a civil liberty for internal freedom, for the control and expansion of consciousness. From science game to Cultural Revolution game, the LSD leaders in the 1960s were Leary and Alpert/Ram Das. However, they did not provide proper guidance or use any method to measure the effects and changes, to do the hard science. The Acid Test with the Merry Pranksters also used a single large dose to blur religion and science. There was an irrational exuberance about its potential.
It can be carefully handled to put to use as a tool for important change. The container has been from the 1960s to now, medical, religious, and scientific, with their own guided, rituals, rules, and protocols governing their use. The Climate Yoga container uses different (Vedic) guidance, rituals, and protocols. Everything is up for grabs: culture (art, music, design, social relations), politics, and starting the world over again from scratch. It’s a disruptive technology with power to change the world. It transforms our concept of human nature and potentials of existence. It’s a force that washes away duality, distinctions, and subject-object duality.
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide Wiki, has copies of the Agreements, and a Charter to support profound experiences—the unitive and nondual consciousness is a potent spiritual catalyst. The Psychedelic Wiki also has a Legal Release, medical questionnaires, and other tools. The Protocols, rules, and rituals, are the cultural vessel, to contain and channel the Yogic and Elusinean Forces of Soma. Most every guide has a shrine with Buddha, crystals, sage, and clients are asked to contribute an item of personal significance. The California Institute of Integral Studies uses transpersonal psychology (Jung, Maslow) and wisdom traditions (Native American, shamanism). ‘You may not get what you want, but you’ll get what you need.’
MDMA, an empathogen, can quickly build a client-therapist relationship, to establish trust before the psychedelic journey. The technology of consciousness often costs nearly $1,000 including room and board for three days for an LSD experience with a guide. As of 2016, the only legal way to experience sacramental peyote in the US is in AZ, NM, CO, NV, and OR with the Peyote Way Church of God; and to experience ayahuasca, it’s a $1500 retreat in Washington, with the Native American Church. (In Peru, it’s about $100 to $500.)
Soma is part of a sacred tradition, lineage of all the tribes and people down through time and around the world who used such medicines in their rites of initiation. It’s a transcendent, non-dual, mystical experience without psychological noise, a novel mode of cognition, between intellection and feeling wonderful release. The Tibetan Buddhist vow of the initiate is ‘to assist all beings in their awakening to enlightenment.’
Ego dissolution is calm, content, mind at large, universal, unbounded totality, with equanimity (even with death, there’s acceptance), beyond the reach of suffering. To put words to the ineffable experience and share it into sentences and story is to do it a kind of violence. But the alternative is, literally, unthinkable. DMT (eg, ayahuasca) is the Everest of psychedelics, with knowledge that everything is love, is made of love. Rushed back 14 billion years, experiencing dimensions of reality collapse until there’s nothing left not even being, to reconstitute as a self and body, cosmic relief, gratitude for being.
Experience unity with ultimate reality: it’s profoundly sacred and holy. As Emerson says in Nature: ‘Currents of the Universal Being circulate through me. I am part or particle of God.’ Walt Whitman says in Leaves of Grass: ‘Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and joy and knowledge that pass all the art and argument of the earth.’ Lord Tennyson says, ‘the individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade into boundless being…where death was an almost laughable impossibility.’
Bayesian Inferences traps us in preconceived images of reality that are simply false. The ego, the inner neurotic who insists on running the show, says, ‘it’s risky!’ (despite the facts).
Neuroscience: Your Brain on Psychedelics
Brain imaging and psychedelics is the foundation of hard science of psychoanalysis. There’s decreased blood flow and oxygen in default mode network (DMN), linked with memory and emotion and self-reflection, and mental time-travel. It’s the conductor for complex cacophony. DMN creates the ego. The price is a sense of separation from others and nature.
Image: The Brain's neural connections: (a) Default Mode Network (DMN), and (b) Soma.
The DMN reflects our sense of self, and prevents meditation, non-dual oneness, and ecstasy. The soma-effect is also produced by fasting, breathing exercises, drumming, near-death experiences (NDEs), extreme sports, and so on. Transcending the DMN leads to increased blood flow and activity of limbic regions, disinhibition, and to access the unconscious (including childhood traumas. The brain creates new connections and processes a lot more information.
The Entropic Brain (2014, Harris) is about how we pay a price for order and selfhood: realism, foresight, and reflection, constrains cognition and exerts a limiting, narrowing influence on consciousness. Low-entropy is ego, rigid thinking, addiction, depression, and coma. High-entropy is the infant, child, magical thinking, and creativity. Disruptions in the brain’s oscillations and alpha frequency, desynchronized, can yield a lot of fool’s gold and genuine gold. Ego closes the mind to information and alternative points of view. Psychedelics changes the user’s attitude towards authority, with political effects. It changes one’s attitude towards nature and connectedness. The brain as a whole becomes more integrated, with new connections. Long term changes include openness and establishing new neural circuits, with stronger effects with exercise: with meditation the brain and mind expands due to life-long neuroplasticity.
The moment is ripe for psychotherapy to entertain a completely new paradigm, because mental health is broken: the national institute of mental health director reports over 43,000 suicides per year (2005). And, suicide rates, depression, and other mental illnesses go up with increases in temperature.
Science is used to validate an experience that appears to undermine the scientific perspective. Few, if any, psychiatric interventions of any kind have demonstrated such dramatic sustained results, with 80% reductions in anxiety and depression, with enduring effects. It can create a powerful connection to loved ones, interconnectedness, joy-bliss-love, surrender, and acceptance. Fear falls away. You gain insight about yourself and existence. It can charge a world from which the gods long ago departed, with the pulse of meaning, immanence, with which they once fused it.
There’s huge success with addictions because there’s an overview effect on one’s life, a shift in worldview and priorities, and a letting go of old habits. The addiction becomes irrelevant, so you stop, with 80% success and about 70% after one year. Killing yourself with drugs and toxins is stupid and dumb. Knowing the habit’s unhealthy, expensive, unnecessary, something one feels in their gut and heart, more compelling, with mindfulness. Thoughts are made visible, concrete, vivid, memorable, and sticky. With vivid overview, it’s possible to change behaviors, to reboot the system, to let go of the mental models we use to organize reality. The addiction to patterns of thinking, with self at the center. It’s a placebo on rocket booster to alter deeply rooted patterns of behavior. People know they’re harming themselves, their health, careers, social well-being, but often fail to see the damages their behavior is doing to others. It can help re-weave social and family relations that addiction reliable frays.
There’s Comfort and conscious contact with God. People rethink their life story. Don’t take things personally. Self-acceptance. Awe is a fundamental emotion. Altruistic behavior becomes natural. You feel part of something much larger (‘part and parcel of God’), a part of the social collective, which overpowers and dwarfs our narrow self-interest to direct our attention away from the individual to the greater good. Awe is an excellent antidote for egotism. There’s motivation to change, to stop harming loved ones. There’s a renewed sense of connection, responsibility, and positive feelings of being a small self in the presence of something greater. Awe has the power to change our minds.
There’s an enormous need yet limited available therapies for depression. About 350 million people in the world—including 16 million people in the US—are depressed and millions have treatment-resistant depression. (And there's a suicide epidemic in India.) Depression is a state of disconnection from people, earlier selves, senses, feelings, core beliefs, spiritual values, and/or nature; a mental prison, stuck with endless cycles of ruminations, gridlock. A veil drops from the eyes, things are suddenly clear, glowing, and bright.
Depression, addiction, anxiety and OCD are learned habits of negative thinking that hijacks our attention, trapped in a loop of self-reflection. It’s a prison of the self, spirals of obsessive introspection. The ego working as it should is to realize goals, to provide for needs, survival, and reproduction—and for higher need of self-actualization. A paradoxical ego-goal to dissolve the ego!
The dissolution of the ego is by far the most important and therapeutic effect. Loss of ego, a ‘psychic death’, is a spiritual education for materialists. It’s a regression to magical thinking and also access to transpersonal realms (eg, the Mind at Large). The brains of experienced meditators look like the brains of people on psilocybin. With insight into the Posterior Cingulate Cortex, attachment is found to be the root of all suffering, the ‘taking it personally’ thought.
Is soma too disruptive for our institutions to embrace? Yoga includes the framework for an ancient ritual and a culture that can contain and harness the powerful energies. Climate Yoga can channel these energies into solving the climate crisis. Soma reanimates the world. We underestimate consciousness. Quantum physicists conclude: matter might not exist as such in the absence of a perceiving subject. There are tricky questions for materialists. It lends scientific authority to otherwise lunatic speculations for cooling the Earth. For yoga, soma continues to hold the possibility for connecting people to their inner divinity and the gods of the climate.