Diamonds from Heaven
An interview with philosopher Christopher Bache
This interview with author and philosopher Christopher Bache first appeared in Psychedelic Press XXXI. Bache is professor emeritus in the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University and author of LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven (2019).
Hi Chris! In LSD and the Mind of the Universe (2019) you describe 73 LSD experiences you undertook between 1979 and 1999. In some respects this is seen as the ‘dark period’ for LSD and other psychedelics. A time when research largely ground to a halt, and mostly subcultures continued to use them.
Did you have much of a sense of the wider psychedelic community through these years? One assumes that there must have been some contact in order to get hold of the substance in the first place. And why have you chosen to publicly discuss your experiences now?
For most of my 20-year journey, my contact with the larger psychedelic community was limited to books and articles, though I was fortunate to get access to near pharmaceutical grade LSD early on. This isolation began to change when I was invited to present at an International Transpersonal Association conference in 1994, and then to teach a seminar at the California Institute of Integral Studies in 1997. My exposure to the consciousness community expanded when I was the Director of Transformative Learning at the Institute of Noetic Sciences from 2000–2002, but after my return to Ohio in 2002, it has largely been restricted to conferences and online conversations. For the most part, I’ve lived as a psychedelic hermit.
Because of the legal issues surrounding LSD, I felt that I had to wait until after I retired from my university before I could write about my psychedelic experiences openly. I retired from YSU [Youngstown State University, OH] in 2011, but continued to teach there part time until 2015. It took me years to map the structure of my sessions and then to figure out how to write about them in a way that might make them useful to others. When I stopped my sessions in 1999, Spirit said to me, ‘Twenty years in, twenty years out’, meaning that it would take 20 years for me to fully assimilate my 20-year journey. As things turned out, LSD and the Mind of the Universe was published 20 years after I stopped my sessions, though I think it will take me the rest of my life to integrate them completely.
I wanted to ask about the writing process. Many people find even putting one experience to paper a very difficult process, while you’ve achieved the very remarkable feat of narrativizing over 70—and beautifully done, I might add. Could you tell us a little bit more about, firstly, how you went about originally annotating the experiences, and secondly, what you found some of the difficulties were in the writing process of the book?
Well, attention to detail and thinking critically are part of my personality make-up, and these tendencies were reinforced by my academic training. But capturing my psychedelic experiences in words stretched these skills to their limit and taught me many things. I learned that the first step to creating a clear account is to write up your session within 24 hours. The deeper the experience, the harder it is to hold on to all of it. If you don’t write it down quickly, it tends to fade and your account will suffer.
The second part to creating an accurate account is cultivating a receptive state of recall when you try to capture them. I developed a strategy for doing this that I call ‘standing at the edge of the well.’ The day after a session, you are still porous around the edges, but your linguistic functions are back. In this condition, I listen to the music that was used in the session in the same order in which it was played inside the session. Using headphones to deepen the immersion, I relax into the music and write down the memories as they come to me. I play each piece of music over and over until I feel that I have captured the experience I had with this music, then I move on to the next piece. I go through the entire session, laying out the sequence, describing what happened as clearly as I can, without making judgments.
Writing in this way often required me to write at the very edges of my understanding, stretching language to describe experiences that I could not fully comprehend at the time. I learned to trust that what I could not grasp now would become clearer later. When I would break through to a new level of consciousness, for example, there would be gaps in the narrative, but I learned that those gaps would be filled in with more sessions. Repeated immersion is essential to clear perception. Until clarity emerges, you have to be comfortable writing into the unknown. For this reason, I did not strive for closure with every session. Each session is a stage in a longer journey. My goal was to create as accurate a report as I could, trusting that the larger understanding would come later. And it did.
Perhaps the most important factor in creating a clear session account is how you conduct the session itself. The goal is clean contact with the deep psyche—no external distractions, a sustained inner focus, and a commitment to engaging whatever arises and following it to the very end. A clean session makes for strong recall. Then strong and robust recall lays the foundation for your next session to be focused and clear.
Our sessions are a dialogue with the universe, and the universe pays attention to how we use what we have been given. It’s like keeping a dream journal. The more you pay attention to your dreams, the stronger and more articulate they become. Similarly, the more conscientiously we record and digest the psychedelic experiences we have been given, the deeper the communion with the universe becomes. At least that’s how it unfolded in my experience.
When I wrote LSD and the Mind of the Universe, I had pondered my experiences for many years. The understanding I brought to the writing, therefore, reflected what I had learned over the course of my entire journey. I used this understanding to create as clear a narrative as I could, selecting passages that reflected the emerging insights in their more complete form and leaving aside passages where the insights were more fragmented and partial. If I had written the book in the middle of my journey, it would not have been nearly as clear.
I was really fascinated by your subtitle, ‘Diamonds from Heaven’, which you describe in the book as ‘the infinite clear light of Diamond Luminosity’ and as being the ‘inner title’. Could you elaborate on this please? Particularly in regard to how the diamond relates to the experience.
Diamonds from Heaven was my name for the book all the years I was working on it, and it will always be my preferred title. It came to me in a meditation in which I was advised to give the reader a hint in the title of where the book would be going. ‘Start at the end’, it said. Diamonds from Heaven is the story of a journey that culminated in the supremely luminous condition that I call Diamond Luminosity. Buddhism calls it Dharmakaya, the ‘Clear Light of Absolute Reality’. Vajrayana is one of the three schools of Buddhism; it means the ‘Diamond Vehicle’, so there is a long history of associating this particular state of awareness with diamonds.
As I experienced it, Diamond Luminosity is an extremely clear, deeply ecstatic, luminous state of awareness that exists outside samsara, beyond space-time and beyond the bardo (the intermediate planes we enter in-between our incarnations). My publisher, however, wanted a more descriptive title for the book, hence LSD and the Mind of the Universe, which is a good title except that it emphasizes LSD too much, at least to my ear.
Stanislav Grof, and perhaps to a slightly lesser extent Carl Jung, appear to have been very formative influencers on not only your approach to the LSD experience, but also in the way you’ve conceptualized certain aspects of it in your writing. You obviously begin to describe a much wider territory of experience in your book, but to what extent do you think their theories inform your work? And in what aspects?
Both of these thinkers were important to how I interpreted the states of consciousness that opened in my sessions, but so were the great sages of the world’s mystical traditions and developments in contemporary science such as quantum theory, morphogenetic field theory, holographic theory, and chaos theory. Among these thinkers, Stan Grof played a central role. His powerful synthesis of the psychedelic experiences of so many people, his compelling integration of so many fields of learning, and his pioneering work exploring his own consciousness made him the primary figure I felt myself to be in dialogue with as my work deepened.
The most important thing I received from Stan was an absolute trust in the wisdom of the psychedelic process. This helped me find the courage to let the process take me wherever it wanted to go, no matter how terrifying or incomprehensible it was at the time. This was a great gift. Because of this gift, I never felt confined to Stan’s formulations, nor did he ask me to be. My psychedelic experiences led me to push the edges of Stan’s paradigm in several areas. This is also true for Carl Jung and the spiritual traditions I mentioned. The proposals I set out in LSD and the Mind of the Universe go beyond these traditions in several ways.
While I think these thinkers helped me be receptive to the experiences that opened in my psychedelic work and influenced my interpretation of them, I don’t think they structured or created the experiences themselves. When you work with high doses of LSD in a therapeutic setting (for me, 500–600 mics), your mind is shattered so deeply and ground to dust so many times that what you know intellectually becomes almost irrelevant to what opens on your journey. I say ‘almost’ because all psychedelic experience is participatory, Jorge Ferrer’s term.
What you know and what you are acts as a seed crystal that catalyzes your experiences out of the infinite potential of consciousness. But then as you are healed and transformed by these experiences, the seed crystal of your mind is changed, allowing even deeper experiences to emerge from this infinite potential in future sessions. In the end, it is this infinite consciousness that becomes the primary source of your experience, much more than what you believe or know going into these states.
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There appears to be a psychological pathway into the mystical traditions, which Jung obviously picked up, but which you manage to quite seamlessly navigate for the reader. Do you think there are specific traditions that have tapped into this type of journey more than others? And to what extent do you think that a perennial philosophy is in some respects informing cultures from around the world?
In psychedelic experience, we discover that our earthly being is an expression of our spiritual being, and our spiritual being is an expression of the infinite being of the cosmos. This perennial truth shows up in all the mystical traditions of the world’s major religions and in the shamanic traditions of indigenous cultures. Some may emphasize it more than others and different lineages have devised different strategies for actualizing it, but this core insight is widely distributed. In these traditions, life is seen as a journey of awakening to our divine identity and then to living in continuous communion with it. Psychedelic practitioners can learn a great deal from these traditions, especially about integrating our psychedelic experiences into our daily lives.
I want to add that just as there are ‘perennial truths’ that show up around the globe, there are also ‘perennial mistakes’. The two major mistakes that I see centre on women and nature. They consistently fail to value women as highly as men, and they fail to value physical reality as highly as spiritual reality. I think that culturally and individually, we are in the process of correcting both these imbalances.
Your previous writings, notably Lifecycles (1990), have dealt with questions of reincarnation and rebirth, and this area also informs LSD and the Mind of the Universe. Do you think reading your latest book will cast fresh light on your previous work?
Yes, I think it does in two important respects. First, when I wrote Lifecycles, I was still under the influence of the up-and-out cosmologies of the religions of the Axial Age, which see life culminating in some off-planet heavenly paradise—Heaven, the Garden, or the Pure Land. In this view, reincarnation culminates in a spiritual awakening that frees us from physical existence, which is not our ‘true home’ anyway. So the story of reincarnation I told in Lifecycles culminates in transcendence. I did not see then what has become glaringly obvious to me now, that these religions fail to grasp the purpose and role of physical existence in creation, and therefore they misconceive how reincarnation works and what the ultimate goal of reincarnation is.
In LSD and the Mind of the Universe, I offer an expanded view of rebirth. In one of my sessions, I experienced all of my former lives coming together, like winding kite string around a spool. At one point they hit a critical mass and fused into one. When they fused, a brilliant diamond light exploded from my chest, and my consciousness was catapulted into a completely new condition. It was both me and more than I had ever been. Composed of all my lifetimes, it was more than the sum of all their years. This was the birth of what I came to call the Diamond Soul—the emergence of the Soul inside history.
This experience and others taught me that reincarnation does not culminate in a spiritual awakening that liberates us from this planet but in the birth of a higher order of consciousness inside space-time. I believe the birth of the Diamond Soul is the next step in our collective evolution, one that will change life on this planet forever.
The second way in which LSD and the Mind of the Universe goes beyond Lifecycles is in expanding the story of reincarnation beyond the individual to the species as a whole. In Lifecycles I kept the story of reincarnation focused on the individual soul, as most writers do. As my sessions deepened, however, I had many experiences of our entire species reincarnating as a single being, pulsing in and out of space-time as an integrated collective being.
In these experiences, I saw that the challenges we face individually are fractal aspects of larger challenges that our entire species is facing. Personal karma and collective karma became transparent to each other. In time I came to see that the human species is giving birth to a higher form of itself through the relentless accumulation of capacities generated by reincarnation—the birth of the Diamond Soul in history, the birth of the Future Human.
You discuss a purification process taking place at both a personal and collective level in your sessions. In regards to the former, how does this process function in relation to delving into deeper levels of consciousness? And outside of the psychedelic experience, how did it affect your everyday life?
You’re asking really good questions, but questions that are hard to answer briefly. I’ll do my best.
As I experienced it, every step into a deeper, purer form of consciousness is a step into a higher level of energy. In order to stabilize awareness at each deeper level, we have to acclimate to its higher energy. To do this, we must undergo a purification process in which we are emptied of those beliefs, habits, and emotional constrictions that keep us stuck at our lower level of consciousness. If we don’t do this, our experience at this deeper level will tend to be fragmented, and we won’t be able to bring back much of value.
When the purification process reaches particularly deep, it becomes purification-unto-death, a process that shatters life as we have known it up to this point. This is the cycle of death and rebirth that all psychonauts encounter. My experience was that as I entered successively deeper levels of consciousness, this death-rebirth purification process repeated itself many times and in different forms. In the early stages, it took the form of ego-death. At deeper levels, it took other forms that reflected the distinctive patterns of these levels.
When I entered the subtle level of consciousness in a sustained fashion, for example, it triggered a purification process that was collective rather than personal. There I went through a series of collective ordeals that involved hundreds of thousands of people and vast tracts of human history. After two years of this, I began to understand that these ordeals were not aimed at my personal liberation but at the liberation of my species.
In some unanticipated way, my sessions had become a vehicle for engaging and releasing traumatic memories that had become lodged in the collective unconscious of humanity. If my earlier purification process had aimed at ego-death, these purifications were contributing to what we might call ‘species ego-death’.
As my work continued to deepen in the years that followed, this pattern of purification-unto-death followed by breakthroughs into new levels of consciousness kept repeating itself, taking forms too complex to summarize here. For similar reasons, it is very difficult to describe succinctly how these purifications affected my everyday life. These exercises allowed me to have temporary access to extremely deep, extremely pure states of consciousness. They showed me how the universe works at multiple levels and drew me deep into the crystalline body of the Divine. They changed me profoundly, not instantly and not as quickly as I had hoped, but gradually over many years. They are still changing me. Integrating these experiences has become a life-long undertaking.
In regard to Session 55, you wrote that the vision you received showed that humanity’s transformation ‘will come about through terrible suffering’ and that it will ‘be driven by a global systems crisis triggered by a global ecological crisis’. Bearing in mind the lack of LSD availability for most people, do you believe these crises will function as LSD has done for you? Will they initiate the change to bring about the ‘Future Human’, or does LSD itself have a larger role to play in this transformation?
The birth of the Future Human is so large a transformation that I think it can only be brought about by the collective forces of history, and these are many and complex. Psychedelics may play a role in facilitating this shift, but my visionary experience was that the primary driver will be a global systems crisis triggered by the worldwide ecological crisis. This combination of collapse and new potential will have a catalyzing effect on us that might be compared to an LSD session, I guess: more awareness suddenly present, confronting our past and collective shadow, mounting crises, breaking through resistances, opening to deeper horizons of understanding, meaning, and capacity. Above all, it may be the awakening of our heart to the pain of others that will carry us through to a new beginning. Whatever form it takes, this transition is too large and too complex for us to map beforehand, so I report only what I see: great crisis, great suffering, rapid transformation, and new beginnings.
Finally, what advice would you give to psychonauts who have, unwittingly or otherwise, found themselves on the path to the Diamond Soul? Particularly in regard to the ‘melancholy’ that can be experienced after such intense energetic work?
Well, I think all of us are already on the path of the Diamond Soul, because that’s what nature is doing through reincarnation. Working with psychedelics simply accelerates an evolutionary process that is already taking place more slowly in history.
That said, if you work with psychedelics, you may find that your personal evolution is speeding up. It may also broaden to include the collective evolution of others. Everyone must make their own choices at this point. My advice would be to ground yourself to the earth. If you are going to explore the universe using psychedelics, sink your roots deep into life, into your body and your relationships. Pace yourself. Understand that integrating your entire journey is a deeper task than integrating individual experiences.
Make sure you’ve milked a session for all it’s worth before going back for another drink. Create community, people with whom you can share your experiences and receive their experiences in turn, people with whom you can enact some measure of what you have seen collectively. And have courage. Measure your strength and your capacity, and if all is secure, trust the process and find the courage to let it take you where it will take you.
If after doing all these things, the Universe rewards you with hours spent enfolded in Her majestic beauty or caressed by Her infinite Love, watch your balance when you return. Receiving and absorbing the bliss of these initiations is harder than we sometimes imagine. I think we are only beginning to appreciate how entering this deeply into the Universe is affecting us, what carrying these kind of memories is doing to us. So proceed boldly but also with caution. Hold the joys of transcendence in one hand and the joys of our Earth in the other, and stay grounded.
Many thanks for your time Chris!
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