LSD and Female Identity

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My dear feminist friend and mentor, Elizabeth Debold, recently sent me this amazing video of a 1950s housewife taking LSD for the first time. The video was recorded as part of an experiment that was done just before the wave of LSD mania took hold in the 1960s. Elizabeth remarked how powerful the LSD trip must have been for this woman because her experience was so unmediated by any ideas of what to expect. Indeed, what this woman experienced looks nothing short of a satori.

While watching this video, I felt that I saw this woman go from being a passive, quiet feminine housewife to a much more autonomous, individuated expression of the Divine in her own right. I kept wondering what happened to this woman after she did the experiment. I imagine that a state experience like this would be quite destabilizing for a woman of her time, and it would likely be hard to go back to her complacent identity as a housewife after tasting the Oneness of all things. I kept wondering if she might have left her husband and become a wondering nun... or a wondering LSD junkie :).

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14 comments

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Thursday, 03 February 2011 18:00 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    I would suspect that the experience of liberation would haunt her for the rest of her life, and the inability to describe her experience to others would be very frustrating and sad. She would have gone on to live in that gap, between the actual world and the possibility of freedom she was lucky (or unlucky) to have seen.

    *** Or her egoic defense mechanisms, coupled with the ridicule received from her friends and family, along with the government's disinformation about LSD and drug-addicted hippies, would have created a happy-to-be-imprisoned persona she could wear daily, without even having to launder it.

  • Comment Link Liz Thursday, 03 February 2011 18:43 posted by Liz

    She might have liked being a housewife and loved her husband! Maybe she got him to be a test subject as well. ;)

  • Comment Link Chloe Thursday, 03 February 2011 22:20 posted by Chloe

    I love her last statement: "If you can't see it, then you'll just never know it".
    I'm sure we've all had experiences where we similarly cannot verbalize it to another.
    It appears that her taste of the infinite has left her in utter awe.

  • Comment Link Scott Friday, 04 February 2011 00:08 posted by Scott

    I expect she integrated the experience into her current worldview as best as she could. I did LSD a couple of times when I was an atheist (on a boat, in international waters, of course)... the experience simply got integrated as something within that worldview. The extent to which it had an effect on my eventual process of awakening is unknowable, of course, but I never walked around with a sense of despair over it.

  • Comment Link tricia Friday, 04 February 2011 03:15 posted by tricia

    She did not appear to have a more autonomous experience, definitely not a satori...
    More color similar to someone who can see auras and a more heightened awareness of subtle energies...

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Friday, 04 February 2011 05:38 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Great points everyone!

    @Tricia-- My sense is that she is having a very strong experience of Oneness (as well as increased subtle energy awareness), and I do get a strong sense of her shift in autonomy in the video, and her sense of empowerment from that shift. I feel she really shifted in how she related to the male psychologist that I felt was quite powerful... but that may just be my interpretation or projection :)

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Friday, 04 February 2011 07:03 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    @ Bonnitta & Scott

    I really appreciate your observations on this.
    My sense is that much of this has to do with individual circumstance. I think that one can definitely be destabilized from drugs like these in a way that does have quite a dramatic, frustrating and painful effect afterwards. Some people may struggle for years trying to integrate these kinds of experiences, or as Bonnitta says, they may just dissociate from them.

    For other people, integration of an experience like this into their current worldview may be easier and smoother.

    I tend to think it depends on ones own psychological makeup as well as the context, time and purpose that someone takes drugs like LSD.

  • Comment Link R. Michael Fisher Friday, 04 February 2011 18:43 posted by R. Michael Fisher

    Okay, all context and AQAL sensibility in mind (state is not a stage), proper support, etc., re: taking a little clear glass of 'acid', I have to say, I'm all for compulsory dosage to all humans 30 years old and over... at least once. I'd begin the the treatment with all political (and other kinds of) leaders.

  • Comment Link Sistertongue Thursday, 10 February 2011 00:53 posted by Sistertongue

    These entheogens are not meant for entertainment purposes. They are meant to be used in ritual for awakening one's self to something larger than the individual. They induce higher states of awareness. While I do not think it should be "compulsory" it is a highly opening experience. Took the Mother Mushroom only once in my life (in a foreign country, of course) at age 43. Still working with the spiritual material given at that time and have not felt a need to do this again - it was so rich and profound.
    LOVE the interview and really glad you posted this material at this time - useful for our culture at large.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Thursday, 10 February 2011 02:47 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Sistertongue. I definitely agree these experiences can be profoundly rich, especially when we are open and sensitive!

    I was also thinking about how I've had equally horrific and demonic trips from mushrooms and Xstacy and how those have also been spiritual experiences in their own ways--although not anything like a "good trip." The drugs offered me opportunities to see shadow material that was quite dark. Sometimes I was able to integrate it, other times not. It can really go either way, which is why it is good to go in these kinds of experiences consciously!

  • Comment Link Laura M Friday, 11 February 2011 04:07 posted by Laura M

    I suspect she went back to being a housewife with a bit of a different perspective on things. And then, when the 60s drug culture rolled into her neighborhood, she and the old man become hippies.

  • Comment Link H. Howard Friday, 18 February 2011 02:12 posted by H. Howard

    personally I find it interesting that it is sometimes automatically assumed that the feelings of oneness and clarity and realness felt when using LSD have any sort of implications or substance rather than being purely effect of the drug.It's the nature of the drug to make one feel a sense of significance about experience and apart from some sensual stimulation this seems to be the only effect of the drug. No real insigts are ever gained, no real revelations are ever found, the user just feels like these things have happend.
    Thats my view anyway, but perhaps I have taken too much LSD to sensibly comment.

  • Comment Link brian Wednesday, 02 March 2011 08:02 posted by brian

    To Bonnitta,
    I don't personally think she would have gone through life with a nagging feeling of frustration at having glimpsed The Infinite that one time. You only have to consider the late-stage cancer treatment with Psyclobin currently and discreetly going on, to realise the benefits of having an ego-losing psychedelic experience, even just once in your life.

  • Comment Link Gary Rudd Sunday, 06 March 2011 10:40 posted by Gary Rudd

    It's a chemical. She took it and it had certain perceptual effects on her. The question is; can this be achieved without drugs, and how?
    As for all of you who took drugs in a 'foreign country' you all seem trapped in a state of real fear. There is no enlightenment without uprising!

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