“Transcendence is conscious dissociation;

dissociation is unconscious transcendence.”

In the essay Full Release, I outline my position on how there is a final threshold that is met and breached that defines what a peak experience with 5 is. What I did not discuss in that text is how the approach to that encounter determines much of the quality of it. The quality of the experience has much to do with the value of what is taken away. This is the topic of this essay.

In his book, The Toad and the Jaguar, the late Ralph Metzner shares about his experimentations with 5. The result of those trials lead him to establish a format (using insufflation as a route of administration) that allowed for a variety of interventions to be made when participants were in sub-threshold states (pre-samadhic, or, not quite full release). His preference for ‘positioning’ participants anywhere prior to the threshold (which would demarcate the full release) seems to be for an aspect of “I” to be present/active. Having or maintaining an element of the conscious self as the ideal way to effectively process repressed material is a widely accepted belief in trauma-informed frameworks. I don’t hold that view in its entirety but I believe Metzner’s approach was congruent with his beliefs and teachings.


“Rather than a dissociated out-of-body trance state […], [pre-full release states are] absorptive trance states where awareness remains in the body but is simultaneously expanded into extra-dimensional and infra-somatic realms, and with full memory on returning. We have found also that having and holding the intention to remember the experience enhances the re-membering, thereby connecting the deeper realizations with everyday consciousness.”

With the Metzner methodology (and I daresay lineage), subjective experiencing is intended to remain intact. This means that it is preferred that the self is present enough to be able to have an experience, even if it’s self-experiencing. If I overlie his methodology onto Bentinho Massaro’s diagram (expanded on in Full Release), Metzner’s preferred sub-threshold zone is the same as Massaro’s depiction of a continuum of stages of the association between subject and object: from “subject-objects” (on the right-hand side) to “pure subject-no object” (towards the left-hand side). Only when a (supposedly final) threshold is crossed is there a full break of association between subject and object, since there results the complete absence of subjective experience (no subject).

In other words, crossing that line (the vertical line furthest to the left) from right to left on the Massaro diagram was what Metzner seemed to try to avoid. Left of that line is what Metzner refers to as “a dissociated out-of-body state” or “a transcendent, out-of-body or absorptive trance state that can be only partially remembered and described afterwards.” In terms of positioning the participant, that line experientially corresponds to a complete (psychological) dissociation. And if that line were a dose of 5 (such as 15mg), it would represent the dissociative dose (DD-50).

That’s a lot of variations of the same word! So let’s look a little closer:

Dissociation (dictionary)
1 the action of disconnecting or separating or the state of being disconnected
(psychiatry) separation of some aspects of mental functioning from conscious awareness, leading to a degree of mental dysfunction or to mental conditions including dissociative identity disorder

Psychological dissociation (Metzner)
Unconsciousness of one’s own bodily postures and gestures, vocalizations and verbalizations, as well as more or less total disconnect of awareness of one’s surroundings

Dissociative dose (DD) – 50 (Metzner)
The dosage at which about half the subjects, or half the experiences, involve some degree of dissociation

In the context of 5, the fullest degree of dissociation is a full release. Metzner refers to this as psychological dissociation: a complete separation from all sense of self (subject) and all objects of experience. In another word, unconsciousness.

unconscious (dictionary)
1 not awake and aware of and responding to one’s environment
2 done or existing without one realising
(unconscious of) unaware of

[noun] the unconscious
the part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behaviour and emotions: horrific apparitions surfaced out of the recesses of his unconscious.


For the purpose of this essay, when speaking of dissociation, I am not referring to the above psychiatric definition (separation of some aspects of mental functioning from conscious awareness). This is not to dismiss nor exclude the acknowledgement of a continuum of parts or divisions of personality that relate to trauma. Parts and other theories of structural dissociation in the personality are elaborated well elsewhere. For example, Bianca Sebben:

“Dissociation can be like a defense against realisation: an inability to grasp aspects of the external experience, and where there is profound non-realisation (phobia of internal experience), different avoided aspects of the trauma are held in various dissociative parts that have their own corresponding physiology—different somatic precursors such as sensations, gestures, and movements.”

Distinctions to be realised

“Transcendence is conscious dissociation;

dissociation is unconscious transcendence.”

In the dense phrase above is a very nuanced distinction between what it means to transcend and what it means to dissociate. The two actions are clearly similar and the variable is the state of consciousness. It’s the approach to unconsciousness I will unpack here, overlaying the frameworks of subject-object as well as surrender-submission relationships.

White-out or blackout experiences precede a temporary loss of consciousness. It is easy to judge a loss of consciousness as undesirable, especially if it is believed that the only way to heal is when the sense of self is aware of what is happening. However, the quality of how one experiences unconsciousness (a full release of the subject from its association with object) is important to consider as one may consent to that. Consenting to a full release is what leads to what may be deemed as transcendent. Not consenting to a full release is what leads to what may be deemed as dissociation.

In the essay With Surrender in Mind, the surrender-submission binary is explored at length. These two words are very similar and their meaning may vary from person to person.

I use the word submission to indicate a subject giving way to an overwhelming force/factor. To overwhelm is to render the subject incapable of conscious choice as well as effective resistance. Unconscious resistance is a mechanism of patterning, usually a strategic protective response such as: typical fight-flight-freeze-fawn actions, sabotage or other strategies to divert attention. These are unconscious means to dissociate . Furthermore, even if the subject is overwhelmed, it’s not wholly related to the quantity of the force. The subject may be overwhelmed because individual factors affect the intensity of the experience.

A submission experience with 5 is when the dose provides leverage for the nervous system to open but is unnecessarily excessive, resulting in a forcing. What is excessive is unique to that individual.

 I use the word surrender to indicate a subject giving way to a seemingly external element (object) that does not overwhelm. Surrender indicates either a choice or a capacity to not be overwhelmed but rather to give way to the external element consciously. Even if there is an acknowledgement of a potentially overwhelming force, surrender demonstrates a degree of agency.

A surrender experience with 5 is when the dose provides leverage for the nervous system to open as well as allows for the individual’s nervous system to stay open. The adequate leverage for a full release is unique to that individual.

 This means that the DD (dissociative dose) is not a stable factor. The point/line at which transcendence or dissociation occurs is different for each person and often different each time.

Returning to the focal sentence then:


“Transcendence is conscious dissociation” relates to surrender.

“Dissociation is unconscious transcendence” relates to submission.

After having taken the time to explore what is meant by dissociation in this context, what is transcendence then?

Transcendence (noun)
existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level

Transcend (verb)
be or go beyond the range or limits of (a field of activity or conceptual sphere)

Transcendent (adjective)
beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience
(of God) existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.

The absolute transcendent experience is also, just like dissociation, the complete separation (dissolution?) of subject from object (unconsciousness). However, it happens by way of the subject’s capacity to surrender to that “limitation”. The material universe, in the above definition of transcendent, is, in my view, the “realm” of objects of experience. Anything that can be experienced is object in relation to subject (which is the experiencer). And if the experiencer consciously lets go of experience, it is to transcend experience. In other words, complete transcendence isn’t actually an experience. Therefore, it can’t actually be remembered, since there was nothing to be aware of. With no subject to experience anything, there is no remembering.

Ritualised surrender: a medicinal pathway to unconsciousness

Metzner et al believe that arriving at a state of unconsciousness (complete psychological dissociation) is a disadvantageous route for healing. Positioning individual consciousness left of that line is not widely seen to be conducive to processing “…the deeper realizations with everyday consciousness.” I certainly agree with this if the pathway to unconsciousness has been dissociation. I don’t agree with this if the pathway to unconsciousness has been transcendent.

I argue here that not only is there nothing inherently wrong with arriving at unconsciousness, there is something extraordinarily beneficial with it. The pathway for that to be beneficial is for it to be arrived at through transcendence. This approach is made possible by a surrender to rather than a submission to. From a white-out or a blackout and every experience in between, the opportunity for a well-orchestrated “out” is a large part of what makes 5 atypical amongst psychedelics and a reliable ally on the direct path.

The surrender that allows an individual (subject) to transcend the confines (object) which define them. The release that fully liberates the primordial awareness (no subject) that has funnelled into manifestations of a sense of self (pure subject), and individuated shapes and forms (subject-objects) in order to experience something. The ritual of a safe, secure, solid, and sacred container that aims not to overwhelm but invites the individual to consciously say YES to going out their own mind—fully, completely.

Through ritualised surrender, the state (unconsciousness) that is like nothing I can imagine (because “I” is not there) is a salve. In the words of Jason Silva:

“…many people are afflicted with a pathological amount of anxiety and depression. It’s what Jamie Wheal calls “21st century normal”: this fibrillating anxious state from an overactive ego stemming from a misfiring default mode network which is the autobiographical mind which is essentially metastasized into something that is a kind of autoimmune disorder of the self and the excessive rumination and self-consciousness that characterizes depression and anxiety both come from a mind that has become too ordered, too rigid, too hyper-vigilant.

It’s like we’re all living with a perpetual micro-PTSD. And what the research tells us […] is that in safe containers and with the proper precautions deployed, the experience of ecstatic surrender, the experience of ego death—what Jamie Wheal calls the Bliss-fuck crucifixion— is actually where all the healing is done.”

It’s possible that healing with 5 is to transcend the limitations of being human.

Being is out of control, if we let it.

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