Does Superman Really Want To Know Himself?

Transhumanists seek enhancement in all aspects of existence. Or so they say. The average H+ers want better bodies, better and more deeply embedded tools for living, smarter brains and so on. But do the supermen and women want enhanced knowledge or awareness of themselves?

Ibogaine is a hallucinogenic compound containing Iboga, a substance largely found in the African Tabernanthe Iboga root. It’s safe to say it’s the world’s least popular psychedelic substance. An Ibogaine trip lasts 36 hours and is understood to launch the deepest probe into personal psychological material available to humans on planet earth. A couple of hours into the experience, the Ibogaine tripper experiences an irresistible need to lie down and close her eyes. After than, (s)he will usually receive information — often experienced as though watching scenes on a giant screen —about all the accumulated traumatic events and the other types of awkward, uncomfortable, pathetic elements of personality and experience that the vulnerable human organism represses — partially or entirely — in order to “grow up” and maintain the socialized ego required by a complicated and competitive civilization.

What seems to emerge from these experiences is not a shipwrecked husk of a human being (as occasionally happened with LSD). It’s more like the tripper has undergone a very positive “extreme makeover” — but not one of a superficial sort. Indeed, many of those in the West who have had the opportunity (and need) to experience Ibogaine arrived at the experience as shipwrecked husks — they were drug addicts.

In 1962, Howard Lotsof was a 19-year-old heroin addict who also enjoyed experimenting with a variety of mind-altering drugs. Knowing only that it was another exotic psychedelic to add to his list of heady adventures, he bought some Ibogaine from a dealer. A friend of his tried some and reported back enthusiastically, “That’s not a drug. It’s a food!” So Lotsof decided to take a dose. He underwent the sort of experience I described above. Then he slept. When he woke up, he no longer had a craving for heroin. In other words, aside from having an illuminating self-examination, somehow his body reset itself so that it would not experience a very difficult and very physical period of sickness.

From that day forward, Lotsof dedicated his life to organizing and legalizing experiments with this substance as a possible cure for addiction. Years of experimentation yielded positive results.  The drug didn’t work for everybody, but it worked for most. It wasn’t always a permanent cure, but it stopped or lessened the pains of withdrawal for most — and usually kept the opiate lover away from his or her favorite kick for at least a few years without the usual need for a replacement opiate like Methadone. And it turned out to not just be a cure for heroin withdrawal. Similar results were observed in experiments with habitual cocaine and methamphetamine users. One guy even used it because he was tired of feeling like he needed to smoke pot every day. It worked for him too.

My own fascination with Ibogaine came about as the result of picking up a book called The Ibogaine Story: Report of the Staten Island Project, written by Paul De Rienzo and Dana Beal. It was like the book was written just for me, since Beal was a NYC Yippie leader, and a narrative about underground life in the East Village and other parts of Gotham was woven throughout the book, which was organized much like a scrapbook. So it had Yippies and Black Panthers and High Times magazine and New York Dolls and Warhol acolytes — a variety of touchstones of my early adulthood. You might say I was hooked.

But once my curiosity about the in the ins and outs of these movements and social scenes was sated, something else emerged that has been with me ever since. In gathering together the reports of the experiences shared by the trippers (and aside from psychological content, most of the trips also seem to involve lessons from a severe African god), Beal found himself compelled to reread Valis by Philip K. Dick. And through the book, he weaved various threads about Ibogaine research, the psychedelic movement, the NYC counterculture with Dick’s strangest and most amazing exploration into Gnosticism and — if that wasn’t enough — a smattering of experiential and scientific discourses on the nature of reality (quantum physics, neurology…).

As I explored this brilliant mess, a promise beyond even the deepest psychological self-exploration and the cure for drug addiction began to emerge. It seemed that Ibogaine might not just be a cure — or at least a tool — against drug addiction. It may be a tool against addiction itself. In other words, it may be a cure — or at least a tool — for resolving overconsumption, neediness, and habitual behavior. It may be a counteragent against what William Burroughs (yet another reference point in the book) — in explaining how he saw heroin addiction as a metaphor for the functioning of our entire civilization — labeled “the geometry of need.”

So, superman… can you pass the Ibogaine test? I’ve trembled before it in trepidation myself for the last 14 years and haven’t yet worked up the nerve. But surely, some of you stout rugged individualists amongst us who insist on a relentless dispassionate pursuit of objective reality however harsh or cruel… certainly you will want to chance a plunge into deeply buried psychological materials and know thyself. Or maybe not. My sense is that most people would rather “work on themselves” for 40 years than be dragged in front of stark actuality — a terrifying something that we have no control over.

So… will you take the red pill? Or will you take the blue pill… “you wake up in bed and believe whatever you want to believe”… for a long, extended time?

R.U. Sirius is currently editor of Acceler8or at

15 Responses

  1. davidT says:

    interesting article. Culturally we still haven’t even caught up with the Ancient Greeks. Socrates in Plato and thus platonist’s themselves were rather clear on the Red pill of the Eleusinian Mysteries. What is rather startling is how the entire conceptual framework of modern scientific method evolved from what is basically acid tripping hippies who wrote and started the first university in ancient Greece. What they did, that we don’t do, is that they then turn and ask questions of depth, like what is logic? We generally just go “oh wow man deep” it’s beyond logic man wow groovy. , or spin into some other new age bullshit of wisdom geometry astrology and tarrot card interpretations. All of it so fucking Christian Uber-psyche it’s stupid, but that’s our time.

  2. AsylumSeaker says:

    Good article, though I dislike the way it seems to suggest that ibogaine is a magical substance that automatically gives beneficial experiences, where LSD for example is more likely to leave a “shipwrecked husk of a human being”. Iboga has as much potential for abuse and harm as any other psychedelic, and LSD has as much potential for beneficial experience as iboga does.

    Research into psychedelic substances is finally beginning to ramp up again, and I suspect a lot of convincing evidence will soon be challenging the old public image of LSD and other classical psychedelics being dangerous chemicals which warp your mind.

    There have also been some very positive results recently from research into the use of psilocybin mushrooms. From wiki:

    “61% of subjects reported a “complete mystical experience” after their psilocybin session, while only 13% reported such an outcome after their experience with methylphenidate. Two months after taking psilocybin, 79% of the participants reported moderately to greatly increased life satisfaction and sense of well-being. About 36% of participants also had a strong to extreme “experience of fear” or dysphoria (i.e., a “bad trip”) at some point during the psilocybin session (which was not reported by any subject during the methylphenidate session), with about one-third of these (13% of the total) reporting that this dysphoria dominated the entire session. These negative effects were reported to be easily managed by the researchers and did not have a lasting negative effect on the subject’s sense of well-being.[117] Further measures at 14 months after the psilocybin experience confirmed that participants continued to attribute deep personal meaning to the experience.”

    “Researchers including Griffiths performed further studies of psilocybin in 2011 in the attempts to learn more about optimum doses, as well as set and setting. This time when the researchers followed up 14 months later, they found that 94% of the volunteers rated their experiences with the drugs as one of the top 5 most spiritually significant of their lives (44% said it was the single most significant). Not one of the 90 sessions that took place throughout the study were rated as decreasing well-being or life satisfaction. Moreover, 89% reported positive changes in their behaviors as a result of the experiences.”

    Personally, I think a plan of technology-aided human evolution is bunk without the inclusion of the use of psychedelic substances.

  3. DopesickDatura says:

    I’m really glad this article was brought to light on H+ because I believe the transcendent realms of psychedelia can allow us to achieve a more intense comprehension of the transcendentalist patterns or tendencies of increasingly complex human lifestyle.

    I’ve never done Ibogaine but the one most familiar to me is Ayahuasca and it is definitely right next to Ibogaine in terms of healing and self-reflection/transformation. Not to mention that there are churches with thousands of attendants based on the gnostic history of humanity and the use of DMT(but gnosis is a whole other world of exploration involving the synchronicity of ascension and the Ætheric connectome of individual experience).

    This is the field of work that I take up as my individualist shamanist/transhumanist obsession. The experiences I’ve had with lucid dreams alone have changed my life for the better, dealing with deeply complex issues of self-realization, empathy and the collective conscience.

    Ayahuasca and Ibogaine, among other natural psychedelics undoubtedly have potential for innovative usage to further the advancement of the human species.

  4. Nice article. I’ve been working with iboga and ibogaine for the past two years with facilitators in Mexico, underground in the US, from the UK, etc. It’s definitely a strange and interesting medicine to say the least.

    Your metaphor of knowing yourself is astute. Ibogaine is, aside from the fact that it induces an altered state, very different from classic psychedelics. It’s better classified as an onierogen, which means it produces waking dreams. It basically holds you awake while you enter a-like REM state.

    My first experience was lying, watching the iboga thoroughly take each thought that I had, twist it around to the back of my head, show me the futility of thought’s ability to capture or improve the essence of any experience (I was just lying there after all). I spent a day lying looking up at the ceiling in the closest I’ve ever been to a zen state, crawling up onto my hands and knees every once in a while to nibble on some fruit.

    And that was it. the more amazing thing was watching how my entire life shifted in the month following. Work, shelter, relationships, every earthly situation in my life was shaken apart and put back together in the strangest ways. Maybe it just stilled the vibration of that geometry of need.

    Amazingly, I just watched a guy with tourette’s get treated for heroin dependence, and since then (two weeks) he hasn’t experienced a single tic. He’s been medicating with pot for the past 17 years to manage his symptoms, and he hasn’t needed anything else.

    • galarant says:

      Jonathan I’m curious about something. Above, Sirius makes a seemingly throwaway statement that “what seems to emerge from these experiences is not a shipwrecked husk of a human being (as occasionally happened with LSD)” but this seems like an extremely important point that bears more detailed discussion. In your experience, does Ibogaine have potential to cause damage to a person’s psyche? It seems that an experience as intense as the one described here must have some danger to it.

      • That doesn’t seem to happen. The difference is that rather than downregulating the 5-HT2A receptor, like most psychedelics, ibogaine is like the ultimate adaptogen, and seems to bring all of the main receptors into a really strong balance for a sustained period of time. Lots of people hear it like a hum. It also stimulates GDNF secretion, which is a hormone that catalyzes cell repair and new cell growth.

        Ibogaine is administered to some people who are already in a place that borders on what might be described as “a shipwrecked husk of a human being.” It seems to provide a vision or some hope for them about how they can start to live in a more healthy way. But, most of the detoxes that I watch though are also done in conjunction with bodywork, some form of transpersonal therapy, energy work, and high dose amino acid therapy.

        My experience was intense, and if I had have been really attached to the way I was living before then I might have had a totally different view of it.

        • galarant says:

          Would you consider it a worthwhile recreational drug? What you’re describing sounds like an entheogen to me, but the drug itself hasn’t seem to caught on for recreational use in the way that other entheogens have. And this in a world where even Salvia is considered recreational. I wonder what is different about Ibogaine that people don’t seem to be taking it much for fun.

          • Well I’m not trying to say that you can’t have the experience of ecstasy or fun while you’re with it, but there is a gaping lack of reports from people who have hedonistic experiences with iboga for a reason. It’s a proper plant spirit medicine if there is one.

            • Anonymous says:

              It is incredibly important to be ridiculously careful with this drug. While it healed my cluster headaches, the dose I was given was too high, and I spent hours barfing. The instructions were also wrong so I spent 2 days so dizzy I could not even sit up.

              At first, I will admit, the experience was wonderful, but too much REM experience while awake (overdose) causes violent reaction. For almost 2 months I was really weak, my heart could barely tolerate a couple flights of stairs.

              It changed everything, but I almost died. Be VERY careful.

  5. Nathaniel says:

    Wonderful article! I like how is it right out there on the edge of the socially acceptable (perhaps over it in some countries)! Maybe a second part could explore the drug a bit deeper? Maybe use the internet to find some willing test subjects, and document their experiences?

    Keep the posts coming, good job! =)

  6. Oak says:

    Unfortunately, there is a major barrier for those in the United States that would wish to use Ibogaine. This drug is Schedule I, meaning that it is extremely illegal. Possession carries a sentence of up to seven years, and if prosecutors can convince a jury that the possessor intended to traffic or export the substance, a life sentence can be given.

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