Luminous: Can you have too much transcendence?

can you have too much transcendance
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November 18, 2023

Some people dabble in psychedelics, others are more serious psychonauts. And then there’s Chris Bache. Over the course of 20 years, he had 73 high-dose LSD experiences — doses so high that the human body couldn’t tolerate anything more. For Bache, who was a religion professor, these were journeys into deeper dimensions of reality. These were grueling experiences — at times terrifying and other times ecstatic. He believes he transcended every aspect of personal identity and ultimately encountered the Divine – what he calls “the infinite creative intelligence of the universe.” And he ended up in a really interesting place, wondering if it’s possible to have too much transcendence.

It’s an extraordinary story – one that Bache later wrote about in his book “LSD and the Mind of the Universe." In this conversation, he reflects on the years when he was going on these intense LSD journeys, which he did in secret, on weekends, while carrying on his work as a college professor during the week.

Just to be clear, what Chris Bache did was extremely risky. His story is fascinating, but it’s not something anyone else should do.


Show Details 📻
November 18, 2023
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- [Steve] Hey, it's Steve and this is, "Luminous," a podcast series about the science and philosophy of psychedelics from, "To the Best of Our Knowledge." I've done a lot of interviews about psychedelics over the last few years, and every so often, I come across a story that's so extraordinary, in every sense of the word, astonishing, extraordinary, even kind of unbelievable, that I don't really know what to make of it, and this is one of those stories, which you probably wouldn't guess from the mild manner of my guest.

- [Chris] Well, I'm Chris Bache, I'm a retired professor of religious studies. I'm also a psychedelicist.

- [Steve] A psychedelicist, I'm not sure I've heard that word before.

- [Chris] Yeah. Well, I'm psychonaut.

- [Steve] Uh-huh.

- [Chris] I mean, I've written, I'm an author. I think psychedelics are just extraordinarily important, and they represent a true revolution in Western thought. My life has been lived around that premise.

- [Steve] A few years ago, Chris Bache wrote a book, called, "LSD and the Mind of the Universe." It's the story of his 73 high-dose LSD experiences over 20 years. It's truly mind-blowing. Now, I don't usually like to attach warnings to my interviews about psychedelics. I think we all know these drugs are still nearly always illegal, and they can be risky, but, in this case, I just have to say, don't do what Chris did. It's just too extreme, but what he has to say about his LSD experiences is absolutely fascinating and provocative. He's making a number of truth claims about the nature of reality, about his ability to transcend every aspect of his personal identity, about entering into the divine, what he calls, "The infinite creative intelligence of the universe." For a lot of people, this is gonna be hard to swallow, but that's for you to decide, and there's one more thing. After his long psychedelic journey with all these high doses of LSD, Chris ends up in a really interesting place, and there's a question he asks, "Can you have too much transcendence?" I hope you enjoy the conversation. Where were you in your life at that time, when you first started these sessions? I mean, why did you wanna do this?

- [Chris] I was a brand new faculty member in a department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, I had just finished my graduate work from Brown, I was trained in philosophy of religion, and I was just looking for where to go next, and I found Stan Grof's work, and I thought, as soon as I found it, I thought, "That's my life's work. "I mean, that just has to be what I'm gonna do." It turned out, it took much more time, not only to have the sessions, but to digest the sessions. I spent, shortly after I finished my work, my 20-year journey, a spirit said to me in my meditation, "20 years in, 20 years out."

- [Steve] Hmm, and it's worth pointing out me, I mean, you did this years ago, I mean, you started,

- [Chris] I started in '79.

- [Steve] '79, ended in 1999.

- [Chris] Yes, so I was between 30 and 50 years old.

- [Steve] Yeah.

- [Chris] And then, I spent between 50 and 70 digesting those experiences, and I'm 70, I'm about to turn 74 now.

- [Steve] Mm-hmm. So, to state the obvious here, this was all illegal.

- [Chris] It was all illegal.

- [Steve] It still is, I mean, you still wouldn't be able to do this now.

- [Chris] No.

- [Steve] But it was especially then, I mean, there was no psychedelic renaissance then, and you say that you couldn't tell anyone about this. I mean, you're teaching philosophy and religion, but you can't talk to your students, you can't talk to your colleagues about this.

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] You had to do this kind of off on your own,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] I mean, your wife, at the time, of course, knew all about this. I mean, she was not only a therapist, but your sitter, but,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] That's kind of extraordinary, that you had to do all of this so secretively.

- [Chris] I accepted that silence was the toll that would allow me to do the work. I did not realize when I made that decision how severe a toll it would be. What I found over the years was that, when you stop yourself from talking about things that are important or things you know, you create fissures that begin to reach from the surface of your conversation, deeper, and deeper into your psyche, that living in a psychedelic closet is just as damaging as living in any other closet, where we have to deny parts of our being. Later in the process, years down the road, I began to experience a kind of a sickness of silence. It's kind of a malaise that comes from having to be silent about things that I have things to talk about, and that's partly why I retired early, to allow me to begin talking about these things.

- [Steve] Hmm, but I'm just trying to get a sense of how you would do this. You'd go off during the day, and you'd teach, and, you know, interact with your students and your colleagues.

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] And then, how did you fit in these very intense experiences into your life?

- [Chris] Wherever I was on Saturday morning, however deep into the universe that I was, on Monday morning, I was with my students, and I was doing my job. I had intellectual companions in the psychedelic community, you know, in the work of Stan Grof, and some of the early generation of people. I had a, kind of an intellectual dialogue with them, always going on in the background of my mind, and then, eventually into, you know, actual dialogue, and working with Stan, and things like this. I just learned to live in two worlds, and, actually, I found that my students, and the responsibilities to my students, and family, and children, they really, those are very grounding experiences. They helped me stay grounded. The greatest danger of working with psychedelics is psychic inflation.

- [Steve] Hmm.

- [Chris] You can think, 'cause you've had an extraordinary experience, you must be an extraordinary person, which is, of course, ridiculous, but is being grounded in the day-to-day responsibilities. It helps you hold your form and to allow those changes to soak into your being, so you don't have to grow a beard, you don't change how you look, all those are just exterior, superficial manifestations. You hold your form. You just internalize these experiences. Fortunately, the work I was doing as a teacher, I got to talk about a lot of the things indirectly.

- [Steve] Religious experiences, spiritual experiences, but you never actually talked about your own,

- [Chris] My experiences.

- [Steve] Psychedelic experiences.

- [Chris] Correct.

- [Steve] Right.

- [Chris] But I did get to talk about many of the experiences in an indirect manner, and many of the derivative principles and insights, like sunyata, or oneness with the divine, or the primal void, any number of things, but indirectly.

- [Steve] Now, you've said these were high-dose LSD experiences.

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] We should give some sense of how high a dose.

- [Chris] 500 to 600 micrograms, which is right at the body's maximum. You can take more, but you don't get higher there, at maximum dose, and please, do not do, I really, really implore people not to do what I did. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't do it that way, and I wouldn't do it that way again. It's a lot of wear and tear on the system, going in and out of such extreme levels of consciousness, and to so violently tear apart the structure of your mind, and to dissolve into the universe's mind, and then consolidate back. I have a constitution. I mean, astrologically, I can see it, but I have a constitution that allows me to become very fluid, and liquid, and then congeal. I don't have problems congealing, not everybody has that facility, so I really advise people to go slower, in smaller doses.

- [Steve] Yeah, and, I mean, just to put this in perspective, this is a much higher dose than what we would consider a high dose in psychedelic therapy, right? I mean, if people were taking,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] You know, a high dose of psilocybin for treating depression,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] Not at this level, that you were doing it.

- [Chris] No, and every psychedelic has a different, a certain quality about it, a certain texture. It impacts consciousness differently, psilocybin, ibogaine, MDMA, and LSD. Psilocybin is very, kind of body-grounded and emotional grounding. LSD tends to push the cosmological ceiling, especially at these high doses, so if you were working with psilocybin in a therapeutic context, first of all, you'd be moderating in the dose, but even if you were doing a higher dose of psilocybin, it would not necessarily take you to the same place that a high dose of LSD would, just because each of these substances have a different way of impacting consciousness.

- [Steve] So, before we get into the actual experiences themselves, can you just describe the set and setting that you had? I mean, how, so, you were doing this in your home, your wife at the time was acting as your sitter, but,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] What was your protocol for these experiences?

- [Chris] My protocol, it was in home, and then later, when we started having children, I was in my wife's office or professional office. I'd bring in all my equipment the night before, I'd lay a mattress down on the floor, have surrounded with cushions, I had carefully calibrated music, so that she would have a whole series of music that would pace the opening and closing of the session. I'd be wearing eye shades, I'd have my puke bucket and a towel next to me, 'cause you, you throw up a lot, when you're shifting consciousness that extremely, just the shift itself is very demanding on your body, and one of the ways your body manages the stress is to throw up, so I create a very safe container, physically safe, with my sitter, I'm psychologically safe, and I don't have much contact with her during the session.

- [Steve] But she checks in on you periodically.

- [Chris] She's right there, she's with me the whole time, she's watching me, she's pacing me with the music, she catches me, she gets the puke bowl under me when I'm gonna throw up, and she's will check in with me at different times, to sort of make sure everything's okay, and where I'm going, and what I need, but I, she's not guiding the session. I'm usually in a state of consciousness that I'm not even aware of what's going on in the room.

- [Steve] Hmm. How long do these sessions tend to last?

- [Chris] All day. My ritual, I'd start in the morning, as soon as I could get cleared. We'd usually start about eight o'clock in the morning, and I would be finished around six o'clock, and then, then I'd go out and get something to eat with, a friend would pick me up, but it's pretty much a 10, 12-hour day.

- [Steve] Now, you were teaching religion, I mean, that's your background,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] As a, you know, studying theology, were you religious, yourself, at the time?

- [Chris] I'm one of these oddities. I'm a professor of religious studies who doesn't go into religions. Now, I'll back that up. I was raised Catholic. I was actually studying for the Catholic priesthood, but I decided celibacy wasn't for me. I'm very friendly to my religious background, I don't feel like I've ever rejected it, I just grew larger. To me, actually, the study of the historical Jesus was my way out of Christianity,

- [Steve] Mm-hmm.

- [Chris] Because I found that being here was larger than theology. I practiced within Vajrayana Buddhism. I followed my wife into Vajrayana Buddhism, and received teachings from a number of teachers, still do those practices, but I do them in a way which is, first, integrating my psychedelic experiences, and I also do them with a fundamental universalist orientation. I've gone into so many places, so deeply, that my core is, in essence, universalist, and I relate to the religions from that perspective.

- [Steve] Hmm. So, tell me about your first few experiences with these high doses of LSD, what were they like?

- Well, in the early years, it took me about two and a half years to work through what Stan Grof calls, "The perinatal level of consciousness," so you're really going through some really hard, intense purification processes, emotional purifications, physical purifications, existential purifications, I was dealing with deep despair of the potential meaningfulness of life.

- [Steve] When you say purifications, what do you mean?

- [Chris] I mean, you have to confront everything about you which is keeping you small, so you have to confront the limits of the identity that you had built for yourself, which is basically based upon your body's experience. So, we have a story that we tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from, what we're doing, and basically, if you're going to go deeper into the universe, if you're going to step away from time and space, into spiritual states of consciousness, that identity has to be shattered or melted, and usually, since we're attached to our identities, that's not an easy thing to do, but eventually, you learn that it's just easier to let go, and let things take you where it wants to take you.

- [Steve] When you say, "It's not easy," you mean, "It can be really scary."

- [Chris] It's scary.

- [Steve] I mean, it can be terrifying, actually.

- [Chris] Yeah. Part of my ego-death experience is that I suddenly found myself trapped in the experiences of women, and women who were very different from my type of being a human being. They were women of color, women who were poor, women who weren't interested in education or in philosophical, or, you know, meaning, existential discourse, and yet, that's who I was, that's what I was, and it scared the bejesus out of me.

- [Steve] Well, at one point in your book, you say that this was the nightmare for an Ivy,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] Ivy League educated, white college professor.

- [Chris] It was the perfect, yeah, it was perfect, and eventually, when I let go it, it just snapped me, and then I transitioned into the ecstasy of being, of having the experience of thousands of women's lives, in the positive side, under the guidance of the Great Mother, and just this tremendous journey into femininity, and I like being a man, and when I came back to being a man, I'm comfortable being a man, but the question was, "Well, my masculinity would never define me to the degree "that it had defined me before," and it just, you're opening into a different dimension.

- [Steve] So, explain that a little bit, I mean, when you say that, sort of, you entered into this world of femininity, I mean, you sort of became these thousands of women. What does that mean?

- [Chris] It means I gave birth, I had sex, I experienced, with my sisters, laughing at our husbands, I took care of children. I was, it was like a condensed, hyper-concentrated, in a way that only happens in psychedelic experience, a hyper-concentrated experience of being women, and not imaginatively or projecting my psychological projections of what a woman is, but being drawn into, dissolved into the lives of hundreds, hundreds of thousands of women, and knowing that is kind of the warp and whoof of my being, and then, very slowly, after hours, when the LSD is wearing off, slowly shrinking back, and as I shrink back, I slowly come back into my masculinity, but what do you do with this, an experience like that? How do you hold that? I'm very comfortable being a man, I like being a man, but, my goodness, what a wonderful world I was taken into there after that. Gender was never an issue. I mean, the really, the, what the teaching was, was not that you need to integrate your femininity, I'm reasonably well integrated in those ways, the issue was where you were going, gender does not exist. It's not about male or female, it's beyond that, because I was kind of fixed on my male identity, that had to be snapped before I was able to go beyond.

- [Steve] Hmm. Now, you say, I mean, the way you, you write about this, is that over these years, your psychedelic journey changed, it went through different phases.

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] And what happened after that, what was the next phase?

- [Chris] The next phase, I went into, in the purifying part of the session, the ocean of suffering, and I just started experiencing terrible, terrible legions of suffering, pain, violence, and every session, it got deeper, and deeper. Sometimes, eventually, it became so intense and so extreme, I literally kind of passed out from the extreme suffering.

- [Steve] Whose suffering were you experiencing?

- [Chris] Thousands of people. First, it was like I was being surrounded by a circle of thousands of beings. It was like entering into, "Dante's Inferno," and in the beginning, it was like I was experiencing something going on around me, but then, slowly, it began to get into my edges, and then eventually there was no me left separate from it, I became, "Dante's Inferno," I became this terrible, terrible suffering. What I found over two years, that, I did a year of this, in the ocean of suffering, I stopped for six years, I started again, and the ocean of suffering picked up exactly then, super intensified me for another year, came to this crescendo, and it was along that way, I learned that really, what was happening was not about my personal transformation, because this went on too long, there were too many people involved, too many centuries of time. It wasn't about my personal transformation, it was about the transformation of my species, and I began to understand that I was being invited to heal some aspect of the human psyche. On the positive side, when I would submit to this process, I don't think I could have endured it if the entire session was this, but you would go through several hours of this, go into the ecstatic portion, and the first year of the ecstatics portion, I had this series of experiences, where I experienced my entire life beginning to end, done. I mean, the whole life, simultaneously, and, of course, if you do that, you have some insights into what your life is about. I mean, you just, I had a deeper understanding of why my life was structured the way it was, who the people were in my life, and what was the trajectory, what was the purpose and project of my life. After my six year hiatus, while the ocean of suffering continued, when I would be spun into ecstasy, I was taken into this deep exercise and cosmology, being taken back to the beginning of creation, being given experiences of what creation feels like from within a spiritual perspective, being given a series of teaching, being taken into oneness, just, I mean, a philosopher's dream come true.

- [Steve] When you say you were given these experiences, I mean, are you tapping into some kind of intelligence, some kind of larger consciousness? Where are you in these experiences?

- [Chris] I don't know whether I could answer the question, "Where am I?" But I can describe that I always experienced myself in dialogue with, or engaging a massive intelligence that was clearly kind of responsible for organizing the sessions, which I wouldn't always understand while I was having it, or even after the day, but over the period of months and years, I could see that there was a clear plan in this process. This intelligence never took a definitive form. It never took a deity form or a spirit guide form, and the deeper I went into the universe, the quality of this intelligence changed, and what I came to understand was that consciousness is an infinite ocean of potential, just an infinite ocean of potential, and the mind, you drop into that ocean, access a seed catalyst, and it crystallizes a set of experiences out of that ocean, and as you absorb those experiences, and you let them change you, then the mind that you drop into the next session is a different mind, which elicits a different set of experiences from the infinite ocean. The infinite ocean is a living presence. You know, some people would call it, "God, the divine," because I have reservations about some of that theological language. I call it, "the divine," but I call it, "the mind of the universe," I call it, "the infinite creative intelligence of the existence," never took a form, but was always there, and, I mean, on the one hand, was very hard on me,

- [Steve] Mm-hmm.

- [Chris] But, on the other hand, never pushed me farther than I was able to go, and it always blessed me, it always received me, and it thanked me.

- [Steve] I'm talking with Chris Bache, a retired religion professor, and the author of, "LSD and the Mind of the Universe." You're listening to, "Luminous," a series about the philosophy and science of psychedelics. To what extent do you think these experiences, these other dimensions of consciousness that you entered, were some aspect of yourself?

- [Chris] No, myself is not that deep.

- [Steve] Well, I mean, you are a religious scholar, you bring all of this learning of spiritual traditions. Presumably, that shaped these experiences in some way.

- [Chris] I think it shapes the interpretation of the experience, and that which interests me about religion is the existential questions of, "Why is life the way it is? "Why is there so much suffering? "Why is it so hard? "Where is it going, what's it about? "What's existence about?" Those questions are the seed catalyst that I took into the infinite intelligence, but there was so many things that happened that I completely wasn't expecting, I didn't even think were possible. There were ideas that were poured into my mind that just had no precedent to, and there was nothing in the literature. All the visions that I had of the birth of the future human, and where humanity's going, that wasn't in my awareness at all.

- [Steve] You're saying you cannot reduce that to your brain?

- [Chris] No, I can't reduce it to my brain, I can't reduce it to my personal unconscious, and I can't reduce it to my soul consciousness. All those are actual, you know, living entities, which I'm comfortable with, but the communion, or the dialogue, that I was engaged in, in this journey, took me into territory, I mean, there's an experiential quality. When you go outside of space and time, it has a quality which is just immediately, intensely obvious that you are in a reality that's far beyond anything that you've known inside earth's experience, and if my personal unconscious is somehow conditioned by my physical experience, and my fantasy, and whatnot, all those fantasies, all those teachings, those have to be purified. You know, as, "The Cloud of Unknowing," the authors said, "If you want to know the divine, "you must first lose everything "you've ever been taught about God."

- [Steve] Mm-hmm.

- [Chris] "All of our perceptions, all of our concepts, "they have to be scrubbed out of you, "if you're going to be able to take in the reality, "which is bigger than we've ever imagined," "larger, deeper, with an intention "beyond what we've imagined," and this just doesn't make sense, for me to understand it.

- [Steve] Hmm, you mentioned that you went beyond space and time, and then, the way that you write about this is there was this whole period of, probably going for a number of sessions, maybe some years, where you entered what you call, "deep time."

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] Can you explain what that is?

- [Chris] Well, usually, people often talk about, "Well, there's linear time, and then, outside of that, "there is eternity, or timelessness," and that's kind of what I had walked in with, but the experience of timelessness or eternity is a distinct experience, but between linear time and timelessness, I found that there are many modalities of temporal consciousness. You can experience, as I did, my entire life, say 100 years, as a simultaneously moment in time, all those time moments simultaneously present. Later, when I went in the evolution of the species, I was fed experiences of tens of thousands of years that took place over a half an hour.

- [Steve] You're saying, sort of past, present, and future are all there simultaneously?

- [Chris] You know, I've thought about this a lot. I'm not sure what the metaphysics of it would be. The way I think of it is that the universe is a multidimensional phenomenon, and that time, linear time, only exists within a certain level of that, and there are multiple modalities of time, and I became convinced that I was experiencing time from the way that the universe experiences time within itself, that it is not bound by linear time. It has an awareness of what's unfolding over tens of thousands or millions of years, and it relates to time in a way that's different than we do within linear time, and this happens to people who have near death experiences. They go into radical states of consciousness. Time is very, very plural, it's very porous, and it becomes so natural for me to go into deep time. In fact, I would say most of my experiences, after the first three years, were spent in some modality of time, deep time.

- [Steve] Hmm, do you think our waking experience of time, what we would call linear time, do you think that's an illusion? I mean, do you think, I don't know, the meaning of time is actually something else than this linear time,

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] That we know day-to-day.

- [Chris] You know, I think the religious traditions have often said that time space is an illusion. It's, "maya," you know, and I've never been comfortable with that. Linear time and time and space is not absolute, but itself is a manifestation of a deeper force in the universe, but now, this is not a big deal, right? We know dark energy, dark matter comprise 96% of reality, but we don't know what it is. So, we know that physical matter is rioting a flow of energy that's coming through it, and keeping it in existence, but that doesn't mean that physical reality isn't real, and it was only after coming out of timelessness, or out of deep time many times, that I began to understand the beauty and the value of space time. Space time allows us to have differentiated experiences. It allows us to experience edges. It allows, and, you know, it accelerates our growth, when edges meet. Time and space actually accelerate our spiritual development. So, illusion, yes, in a way, but not valuable? No, not at all. Before the Big Bang, when the divine or whatever is behind the creation, was in a state of seamless oneness within itself, it chose to manifest the differentiated world of space time, knowing how hard it was going to be, the creation of galaxies, the creation of planets, the creation of ecosystems, the creation of living forms, the creation of self-aware life forms that would be evolving and evolving for thousands of years. It knew how much suffering it was unleashing on the world, and yet, it did it in absolute sheer love, and when you experience the love that's behind creation, you know, to understand what's going on, you have to think very, very deep to see the compassion in existence, to see the wisdom, to see the genius of it. You have to look way, way beyond 100 years, 1,000 years, you have to look very, very deep, and my experience is, if you make yourself available, the universe will take you in, and it will show you what's going on. It will initiate you into the love and into its project, so that you can become a more conscious participant in the evolutionary process. It is interested in sharing its knowledge with us.

- [Steve] You know, Chris, I mean this is, this is extraordinary, I mean, what you're describing. I mean, this whole psychedelic journey that, I mean, over 20 years and 73 high-dose sessions. I mean, wow. There is another piece of this. As I was reading your book, it sounded so difficult. I mean, the intensity of these experiences, I mean, I sort of had a couple of reactions, I mean, especially when things were so difficult, when you went through that period of the ocean of suffering.

- [Chris] Yeah.

- [Steve] Why did you wanna do this? Why didn't you just stop? And I guess the other thing that I would, maybe if it were me, I would sort of think, you know, "Is my brain gonna get fried, "taking these really high doses of LSD?" I mean, did you ever think about that stuff?

- [Chris] I thought about it, but this is where I really trusted Stan Grof. I trusted his scholarship, I met him, I trusted his person. I mean he, you know, he's really the pioneering work in bringing psychedelics into psychotherapy in those early years. He taught me some really critical principles. One is the art of complete surrender and the trustworthiness of the consciousness that you're engaging. If it had been all pain and suffering, I probably wouldn't have been able to withstand it, but what happens is you go through a cycle. There's a purification pain process, then you go through a death and rebirth process, and you're spun into ecstasy. Now, you put up with the pain and suffering, not because I'm a masochist, not because I like to suffer, you put up with it, because, "I want the insights, "I want the ecstasy, "I want the bliss that follows on the other side." Eventually, once you realize that it is a cycle, then you not only are not afraid of the pain, you actually create conditions to augment pain, 'cause what you're really doing is you're creating conditions to augment purification. You climb into the kiva, you don't distract yourself, you really allow anything that wants to come out of your system, whether it's personal or collective, wherever it's coming from, you let it come, because the universe is willing to work with you in this way, and the universe always catches you at the end. It always catches you and always rewards you. Now, knowing how severe this can be, you have to take real safeguards for your, not only for yourself, but in talking to other people. It's like, there are some people who should never get near psychedelics.

- [Steve] Yeah.

- [Chris] And they should work very slowly or cautiously. It's very, very important to be very careful in working with these states, but what allows you to keep coming back to it is, this was a philosopher's dream come true. This was an opportunity to have direct downloads of what the purpose and project of life is, and I often wished I had a PhD in physics and astronomy, 'cause then it could have showed me so much more in those areas that I would like to know, but it's only able to show me what I'm able to understand and what it wants me to know.

- [Steve] Why did you stop after your 73 high-dose sessions of LSD, after 20 years?

- [Chris] I stopped for two reasons. First, I stopped, primarily, because the consciousness that I was engaging basically drew our work to a close. It sort of showed me that the time was come to stop. From my side, I stopped for two reasons. One was pain. My subtle energy system, my chief system was running so hot, I was running so much energy in the sessions that I wasn't calming down as I used to, in the earlier years. I was always running this enormous energy.

- [Steve] So, you're saying, I mean, it's not as if, you know, just, you take one of these sessions, and then, like, a couple days later, you're back to normal. You're saying,

- [Chris] No.

- [Steve] Eventually, it took you years, actually, to regain your equilibrium of energy.

- [Chris] A new equilibrium, because you open yourself to massive tidal waves of subtle energy, of energy, that's moving through your system, purifies your system, but when it's all over, when your system shrinks back down again, it can leave your system kind of achy and stretched, but you're also running energy. Once you make contact with a level of reality, it's like a filament of that reality is connected to you 24/7, for the rest of your life, and as I made contact with more and more levels of reality, this little drops of energy, this flow of energy was coming into me, and eventually, it got more than I was able to dissipate with the spiritual practices. So, I was doing Vajrayana practice, and that was helping me channel this energy and move it through, but eventually, the sessions were so intense, and the energy was so intense, that it, I was always uncomfortable in my body, and I knew it was time to let the system calm down.

- [Steve] And you said there was a second reason.

- [Chris] The second reason was sadness. It was the sadness of coming out of deep immersion into the crystalline body of the divine, 'cause once you dissolve into light, once you can know the joy, and the freedom, and the ecstasy of being light, then, when you come back out of that, there's a sadness there. After going in and out of those experiences multiple times, it got, just, so hard to come back into time and space. So, eventually, I made a deal with the mother, that she would not take me back into those domains until I could stay. It was just too lonely to come back out of them. Now, there are some great beings. They can live in these realities, and, you know, truly, all honor to them, but I wasn't one of those beings.

- [Steve] The way you write about this is you realized in the end you had too much transcendence.

- [Chris] Yeah, I mean, it, it led me to ask the question, "Is it possible to have too much God?" You know, that's like an oxymoron. It is never possible to have too much God, but it is possible, I think, to have too much transcendence. It's a delicate balancing act. I kind of had so much transcendence that I lost my rooting on the earth, and I needed to sort of stop entering non-ordinary states, if the energy that I had accessed in those states was actually gonna come into me and penetrate my physical body. So, I had to sit still on my cushion, in my life, and let those memories and the energies that I accessed, in those hours, soak into my physical being.

- [Steve] Well, I can imagine you must have felt like, when you were coming back from these extraordinary experiences, that ordinary, waking life was kind of pale, by comparison.

- [Chris] Pale, it does pale in comparison. It took me years to be comfortable inside, and also to, I live with an awareness that everything around me, when I just kinda shift my attention to it, you live in the body of the divine. Everything around you is a manifestation of the divine, and there are some beings who live in that condition much more intensely and radically than I do, but if you just take a moment to remember, you can remember that everything around you, every being, every plant is actually a manifestation of this unified energy. Yeah, that's worth working for.

- [Steve] Do you miss it? Do you miss those encounters with the divine, if that's what they were?

- [Chris] In some ways, yes. In some ways, no, because I know it's waiting for me as soon as I die, and so I got, you know, what's a few years, not important, you know, a few years. I know where I'm going when I die, I've died many times, I know it's waiting for me, I know I'm loved, we're all loved infinitely by this being, by this intelligence. Truly, I miss it, and there is a longing that never goes away, but it's a longing that I've learned to live with. You know, what makes, what reduces the longing, what truly gives me joy, is being able to talk about it and share it, because I'm wired as a teacher. I'm supposed to teach, and not being able to teach about this stuff was kind of driving me crazy, but the more I'm able to share and talk with other people about their experiences, and share these things, the more comfortable I am within my own being, and it actually allows those experiences to sort of take up more permanent residents inside my being.

- [Steve] Hmm. That is a wonderful place to leave it, thank you.

- [Chris] Thank you very much, Steve.

- [Steve] Chris Bache is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University, where he taught for more than 30 years. His book is called, "LSD and the Mind of the Universe." You're listening to, "Luminous," our series about psychedelics from, "To the Best of Our Knowledge." You'll find more interviews on the science and philosophy of psychedelics on our website at, and I hope you're subscribing to the podcast feed. "To the Best of Our Knowledge," is produced in Madison, Wisconsin. Joe Hardtke is our technical director, Sarah Hopeful did the sound design for this episode, and Mark Riechers is our digital producer. I'm Steve Paulson, thanks for listening.

- [Narrator] PRX.

Last modified: 
November 20, 2023