For a long time in western culture transcendent consciousness was tightly linked with characters on the spiritual fringe: visionary prophets – ascetic sages and ecstatic poets.
Mystical states were like lightning bolts in the days before Ben Franklin’s kite—fleeting – unpredictable and impossible to harness or measure.
They were divine bolts that hit during the frenzies of ecstatic creation and desert wanderings.
They were the ultimate mystery.
Then came psychedelics.
In the 1950s a small but significant coterie of researchers and artists used LSD – mescaline and psilocybin to achieve the states of consciousness described in the literature of ecstatic mysticism.
It was an incredible discovery.
By swallowing a pill in their living room they could reliably reproduce the once-exotic case studies collected in books like Richard Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness – William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience and Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy.