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The Use of Music in Psychedelic (LSD) Psychotherapy
L. Bonny, RMT, MME, Maryland Psychiatric Research
of Music Therapy,
Vol. IX (1972) : 64-87 Copyright (c) 1972 by
The National Association for Music Therapy, Inc.
article at this link http://www.csp.org/practices/entheogens/docs/bonny-music.html
Selected Recordings for use in (LSD) Psychotherapy
Beethoven: Symphony #5 CS 6619,
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme
The group of research scientists at the Maryland Psychiatric
Research Center (MPRC)
who work with LSD and other psychedelic drugs as agents
of therapeutic intervention for patients with
alcoholism, narcotic addiction and psychological distress
associated with terminal cancer employ a specific
type of drug therapy called psychedelic peak psychotherapy
(Pahnke et a], 1970).
"Psychedelic peak" refers to the type of
transcendental or cosmic experience that can occur
during the session, and "psychotherapy"
refers to the human interaction that is prerequisite
to personal growth and session preparation.
Because of the all-pervasive qualities of music, statements
about its specific use can best be accepted in the
light of empirical evidence. An example is the use
of music in conjunction with ingestion of drugs in
primitive cultures (Nettl, 1956). A recent return
to similar use has occurred in the United States culture
with the introduction of psychedelic drugs and, more
particularly, as the use of these drugs relates to
The team of therapists at MPRC have experimented with
use of music in more than 600 drug sessions
during a period of several years and agree that music
is a very effective stimulus and complement to drug
action. A recent study by Gaston and Eagle (1970)
on the function of music in LSD therapy concluded
that the presence of music is much preferable to its
absence as rated by patient preference and treatment
results. Let us consider first why music is effective,
and second, what function it serves in the psychedelic
complements the therapeutic objectives in
five interrelated ways:
1) by helping the patient relinquish usual
controls and enter more fully into his inner
world of experience;
2) by facilitating the release of intense
3) by contributing toward a peak
4) by providing continuity in an experience
5) by directing and structuring the experience.
Six major psychological
characteristics of this experience are as
1. A sense of unity
or oneness with All
(positive ego transcendence, loss of usual
sense of self without loss of consciousness):
2. Transcendence of time and space:
3. Deeply felt positive mood (joy, peace,
4. Sense of awesomeness, reverence and wonder:
5. Meaningfulness of psychological and/or
6. Ineffability (sense of difficulty in communicating
the experience by verbal description)
Quotes from Patients.
Ex. 11. "The music was really taking me now .
. . the cycles (were) getting higher and deeper and
I was soaring and delving. The images were gothic
with vaulting arches and stone; and then I was thrust
to the very heights, into the presence of God."
Ex. 13. . . . that everything that has been in the
music, the deep chords represents eternity as a classical
composer must have experienced it and that there is
a grandeur of all of creation from its beginning to
its culmination of which we are all a part, and the
"I" is no longer important—the whole
heavenly host is joined in being swept up or lifted
up into the light
Ex. 23. I was aware that in ordinary musical listening
one only experiences a fleeting feeling response to
and it is all condensed and experienced quickly,
whereas under LSD, the experience was very drawn out
and its particular parts could be experienced.
Ex. 24. "The most beautiful array of fabrics
and trimmings in fantastic inter-weaving of designs
and in delicate colors of pastel to more intense in
hue followed the inter-weaving movements of the music—visualizations
of the voice timbre ever changing in complex and unusual
ways. . . I began to see in the fantastically beautiful
forms, so complex and rich, a value in the many intricacies
and complexities of life.
I came to appreciate both the simple and the complex
and to desire one and then the other. Realization
came that life would indeed be dull if one limited
one's appreciation to any one form of creation. In
truth, complexity leads eventually to simplicity,
and simplicity to complexity in a never ending cosmic
display of increasing delight and change. If one does
not limit or stop the process, one can be intimate
with dazzling creative newness, every day, endlessly."
..... (snippage) .......
7. It is conjecture on the part of those who work
with the peak-producing drugs that certain musical
selections have seemed to be written specifically
for that experience. The interesting question
arises as to whether the composer has indeed experienced
the altered or transcendent state as inspiration for,
or during the writing of, that particular composition.
Figure 2: Selected Recordings
for use in (LSD) Psychotherapy Sessions:
Beethoven: Symphony #5 CS 6619,
Coltrane: A Love Supreme LIP
H. Preferred records for use in LSD therapy. Unpublished
Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Baltimore, Maryland,
Colbert, J. On the musical effect. The Psychiatric
Quarterly, 1963, 37 (3), 429.
Copland, A. Music and imagination. New York: Mentor,
Gaston, E. T. Foundations of music in therapy. In
E. T. Gaston, ed., Music in
Therapy. New York: Macmillan, 1968.
Gaston, E. T. and Eagle, C. T., Jr. The function of
music in LSD therapy for
alcoholic patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 1970
VII (1) 3.
Grof, S. Agony and ecstacy in psychiatric treatment:
Theory and practice of
LSD psychotherapy. Palo Alto: Science and Behavior
Books (to be published, 1972).
Kris, E. Psychoanalytic explorations in art. New York:
Universities Press, 1962.
Kubie, S. and Margolin, S. The process of hypnotism
and the nature of the
hypnotic state. American Journal of Psychiatry, July
1943-May 1944, 100, 611.
Langer, S. K. Philosophy in a new key. Mentor Book,
The New American
Leuner, H. Guided affective imagery (GAI). American
Psychotherapy, January 1969, XXIII (1), 4.
Masserman, J. H. The practice of dynamic psychiatry.
Philadelphia; Saunders, 1955.
Nettl, B. Aspects of primitive and folk music relevant
to music therapy.
Music Therapy 1955. Lawrence, Kansas: AJ]en Press,
Noy, P. The Psychodynamic meaning of music-Part IV.
Journal of Music
Therapy, September 1967, IV (3), 81.
Pahnke, W. N. Psychedelic drugs and mystical experiences.
In E. M. Pattison,
ed., Clinical psychiatry and religion, International
Psychiatry Clinics, 5
(4), 149, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1969.
Pahnke, W. N.; Kurland, A. A.; Unger, S.; Savage,
C., and Grof, S. The
experimental use of psychedelic (LSD) psychotherapy,
Journal of the
American Medical Association, June 15, 1970, 212 (11),
Pratt, C. C. Music and the language of emotion. Washington,
D. C.: Library of Congress, 1952.
Taylor, 1. A. and Paperte, F. Current theory and research
in the effects of
music on human behavior. Journal of Aesthetics and
Art Criticism, 1958, 17, 251.
Teller, F. Musikgenuss and fahntasie. Imago, 1917,
McKenna notes that,
pro-psychedelic plant position is clearly an anti-drug
Drug dependencies are the result of habitual, unexamined
and obsessive behavior;
these are precisely the tendencies that the psychedelics
Another fact worth considering
is that reading Medical journals or even the DEA
website will disclose that Psychedelic compounds
and plants are all classified as Counter-Addictive,
(meaning that the effects of the drug itself discourage
repeated indiscriminate use.)
There is a huge difference between advocating responsible
psychedelic plant use for medical reasons, spiritual
reasons or for inspiration, and advocating uncontrolled
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