SET & SETTING: We All Thank Dr. Osmond
I want to formally thank the psychiatrist who taught me the primary process used in the MindfullyHigh programs for ensuring that your cannabis experiences will be optimally bright and rewarding. That psychiatrist was an Englishman named Dr. Humphry Osmond MD, During the 1950s through the 70s Dr. Osmond was the foremost expert on the proper use of psychedelics. Specifically, he developed a set of psychological tools that made sure people taking psychedelics (including hashish and the more-potent strains of cannabis) would have an optimum 'set and setting' during their experience.
The Mindfully High and High Together programs are dedicated to the memory of Humphry's guidance, insights, and compassion. He was a true mentor who deeply loved the human spirit - even in difficult times he remained true to his higher vision, and did all he could to help his students do the same.
I was serendipitously lucky to study with Humphry for two intense years in the late sixties - and was one of 7 research hypnotists certified through him in a Federal program to work as a research psychedelic-guide.
I learned the essentials of what Dr. Osmond had to teach - but then Washington suddenly put an end to clinical studies of LSD - and as we documented in Blowing America's Mind, my work with Dr. Osmond was cut short by undercover CIA-involvement. Then came the sudden termination of Humphry's research center at the New Jersey Neuro-psychiatric Institute, just outside of Princeton where I'd been studying psychology.
Humphry became somewhat famous when he guided the British philosopher Aldous Huxley on a mescaline trip in 1953 (described in Huxley's book Doors Of Perception). But even before, in the late 40s, Osmond had been formally experimenting in London with mescaline.
When he moved to Canada Humphry was funded by the government to do a series of intensive experiments with psychedelics, including research that documented how an LSD trip, when properly guided, could enable alcoholics to stop drinking (one of his patients in Saskatchewan was the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W.)
Around this same time (1956) Humphry coined the new term 'psychedelic' - meaning in Greek: 'mind manifesting'.
The Skillman Institute: On the surface, Dr. Osmond's new research setup, in New Jersey, begun in 1965 and funded supposedly by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was an ideal opportunity to discover the psychiatric potential of psychedelics - but behind the scenes, the CIA's MK-Ultra mind-manipulation project was also involved, looking to see if LSD could be used as a military mind-reprogramming weapon. I was a subject through several of those experiments, for a year, and then I was trained as a hypnotic researcher. This was when Humphry taught me the basics of making sure a person's 'set and setting' were managed so as to optimize a psychedelic session.
By the time I left the Institute, in the spring of 1968, I had decided that hypnosis and psychedelics were too manipulative and strong for my preferences. So I moved on under the tutelage of one of Humphry's colleagues, the philosopher Alan Watts, into many years of meditation studies.
But finally I realized I'd thrown the baby out with the bathwater in rejecting hypnosis and psychedelics as spiritually valuable. For the following twenty years or so, I've been working to merge the best of several worlds (meditation, hypnosis, and cannabis) into my therapy work and spiritual counseling.
Why hypnosis? Often, people react to the very notion that hypnosis and mind-altering drugs can be helpful in spiritual exploration - but I came to see, as did Humphry, how they can all work together in a process that carries great power to open the mind to new, expanded experience.
In fact, the induction process of hypnosis runs parallel to the mindfulness process, as Alan Watts often pointed out. What's dangerous in hypnosis isn't the induction (moving into a quiet mentally-calm receptive state) but the 'condition' that's often given while in that deep quiet receptive state.
With both hypnosis and psychedelics (including strong cannabis) we become highly receptive and impressionable - which means that our inner experience is strongly influenced by both our 'set' (our current mood, mental fixations, and mindset) and also our 'setting' (everything around us that's happening when we're high).
Anytime we light up and partake of the cannabis muse, we naturally become strongly influenced by our set and setting - and so, as Humphry insisted, we need to take responsibility for the quality of our set and setting, or perhaps ask someone with us to take that responsibility while we're high.
A supportive guide: The role of a psychedelic guide is to support a person on a trip so that their focus of attention doesn't fixate on any bothersome negatives that would lead them into an anxious, panicked, or depressed experience. Often, basic hypnotic methodologies are used to accomplish this intent - it's actually very simple to do this guiding, once you understand it, and a number of therapists are currently offering this type of support in states where it's legal.
What you'll find with our tech-driven but also heart-focused High Together App guidance, is a final expression of this 50-year exploration of making sure set and setting are regularly focused on and optimized while high.
Our guided programs help you aim your mind's attention in rewarding, safe and insightful directions. We absolutely never-ever interfere with your unique personal experience by introducing a 'condition' into our guidance - that's our underlying commitment to you. From my perspective, to do otherwise would be entirely unethical.
Where You Focus ... Is What You Get
At each new moment of our lives, we all have the choice to aim our all-powerful focus of attention wherever we want to - this is in fact our primary freedom! The High Together App offers the same kind of guidance that I would in person. But the app does a better job in most cases - because it's available 24/7.
The magic of tech provides instant access to a wide assortment of carefully-selected visual and auditory inputs (setting) while also encouraging you to focus in positive conceptual and emotional directions (set).
Your Challenge: Each time you decide to have a cannabis experience, even before you light up or take a drop of tincture or whatever you choose, I encourage you to think of Humphry's 'set and setting' theme, and do your best to ensure that both your mood, your mental focus, and your environment are optimum to induce a valuable grass exploration. And then ... use the free High Together App to further augment your experience.
We all emerge from the tradition we were born into, and we hopefully evolve our personal version of that tradition as we mature. The two years I spent with Humphry Osmond when I was in my early twenties fully immersed me in a philosophical tradition (sometimes called humanistic psychology) that insisted on seeing human consciousness as a vast new expanding frontier for us to explore.
The primary tools for this work include meditation, self-reflection, hypnosis, psychedelics and an emerging set of new therapeutic methods that actively encourage self-discovery.
Continuing The Tradition: With the High Together App and programs, my colleagues and I have developed a tech-psych tool to support you in this 'set and setting' realm. May such programs carry on with Humphry's early work - and also continue to spread the same bright loving spirit that he instilled in our hearts way back then. ...