Over the years, my work with psychedelics has focused on what is genuinely happening, not just in terms of what these substances are doing to our brain chemistry, or their medicalization, but their profound spiritual components. Specifically, how they can reveal aspects of ourselves once we've moved beyond our traumas and their root causes, ultimately leading to a better connection with ourselves, each other, and the planet.
In the 1960s, psychedelics held the revolutionary promise of being disruptive technologies, not just altering our consciousness but changing how we perceive reality, and what we desire and dream of from it. Today, however, they're primarily used for micro-dosing and expensive therapy sessions. While there's nothing wrong with this, it seems that as psychedelics increasingly integrate into capitalist frameworks, capitalism is commodifying and diluting the revolutionary potential of these substances.
The issue isn't with the tools, but us. What are we doing with these substances? How are we addressing world crises and societal apathy? Psychedelics hold a revolutionary promise to refresh and reset our beings. But the conversation around the deeper use of these substances is not being had adequately. Psychedelics are being weaponized as tools of social control, not expansion.
My perspective attempts to bridge the medical Psychedelic Renaissance and what I call the Global Shamanic Resurgence. It considers the appropriate and potential uses of these substances that can transform society, not just individuals. It's not just about healing physical and psychological ailments – which these substances can indeed help with in the right context – it's about a broader spectrum of potential usage.
Full Spectrum Consciousness or Bust
In the digital world, there's control mechanisms that control available or acceptable conversations. Certain ideas rise to the surface through algorithms, promotions, and saturation of the marketplace. While ideas like the medical use of psychedelics are beneficial, they seem to monopolize the conversation, leaving little room for discussions about the vast spectrum of alternative potential usage exploring our true nature and relationship to the deeper reality.
Starting from the beginning with "Psychedelics 101," it's important to recognize that psychedelics have been used underground for generations and have been employed by indigenous cultures as psychoactive medicines for millennia. In these cultures, substances like Ayahuasca, secreted by the planet, are treated as medicine and a discrete plant intelligence.
There's been a disconnect over the centuries between the West's relationship with consciousness-altering substances and indigenous traditions. This disconnect has grown with the advent of technologies like electricity, which have changed our biology and biorhythms, taking us further away from our natural rhythms and relationship with the planet.
As civilization advanced, we moved away from nature and into a cultural framework. This shift fundamentally altered our relationship with the Earth and its resources, including psychoactive substances. The disconnect led to the resurgence of what we now call psychedelics in the 20th century.
The 20th century saw a significant shift with the introduction of mescaline, LSD, and other psychoactive substances, originally extracted or modelled from natural sources. Notable figures like Aldous Huxley and Albert Hofmann played a significant role in promoting the use of these substances, which were later infamously adopted by the CIA for experimentation through the 1950s.
The psychedelic revolution of the 60s saw LSD move from the intelligentsia to the streets, leading to a broader shift in cultural norms and perceptions. However, the establishment pushed back, declaring a War on Drugs and halting all research by 1971. This pushback has not stopped the use of psychoactive substances but rather driven it underground.
Despite these setbacks, it's worth noting that during the 60s, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, experienced what I call a "species activation," a moment of consciousness shift. The healing potential of psychoactives was recognized even back then.
How do psychedelics work?
The brain is a complex cluster of areas that together create our perception of reality. Psychoactive substances typically activate the 5-HT2A receptor sites, lowering the Default Mode Network and revealing a broader and more fluid perception of reality. It’s known that consciousness can traverse a vast spectrum of reality levels, or channels. Western culture, which is “monophasic,” focuses on just one channel of reality, primarily differentiating between wakefulness and sleep. This is in contrast to “polyphasic” indigenous cultures, which frequently transition between channels of reality, engaging with various levels of consciousness.
Science continues to grapple with defining consciousness. There are two prevalent theories: one, that consciousness arises from within our minds and beings, requiring our bodies to manifest; and two, that consciousness is broadcast and received, with the brain acting like a receiver. I lean toward the latter view, as do many advocates of psychedelic substances and indigenous cultures, which perceive consciousness in everything.
We must acknowledge the gap between indigenous and Western understandings of consciousness and the role of psychoactive substances. Western civilization has increasingly isolated itself from nature for at least the past 500 years, prioritizing protection over partnership. This approach has led to a planetary emergency, pushing us away from sustainable lifestyles.
Contemporary society has created a global system that leaves many dissatisfied due to the incessant rat race, systemic inequities, and the accumulation of wealth among a select few. These issues are rooted in structural capitalism and are becoming increasingly apparent. The world is in the midst of significant change and transformation in these revolutionary times and psychedelics can help clear and support consciousness to achieve that revolution – if we let them.
Gaia Secretes Psychoactives to Modulate her Species
Psychoactive substances are prevalent in nature and have been used by ancient cultures for purposes beyond treating mental illnesses, such as fostering connections with the earth. The late Terence McKenna, a well-known advocate for psychedelics, proposed that these substances are secreted by the planet, fitting seamlessly into our neural network as if they were intended for our use.
During the '60s, there was a belief that these substances had the potential to foster a vision of a sustainable world living in harmony with nature. Unfortunately, these ideals were not fully embraced, leading us to our current point of potential civilizational collapse and ecological crisis. The present "Psychedelic Renaissance" is largely focused on healing mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, and depression, which are often symptoms of living in an inequitable society.
Recently, there has been a renewed interest in psychedelics, driven by popular books and documentaries. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has spent 35 years advocating for the reintegration of psychedelics into the medical establishment. Their efforts are now beginning to bear fruit, with the use of substances like psilocybin and MDMA in treating conditions such as PTSD in war veterans.
However, the application of psychedelics in the West is still narrow and rigid, with a focus on therapeutic use. This contrasts with indigenous cultures, which use these substances to connect with nature and foster group harmony, regularly shifting their consciousness.
The Silicon Valley of the '50s was a hotbed for LSD experimentation. Many corporations saw the substance as a tool for creativity and "thinking outside the box". Therefore, the journey towards fully understanding and integrating psychedelics into our society is a continuation of past explorations, but now with hopefully a more mature and conscious approach.
Psychedelics as Creativity Expanders
This idea suggests that by stretching our creativity, psychedelics can help us in the current situations we face. We're now primarily considering a medical model for psychedelics, but there was a time when we thought of these substances as tools that could expand our minds. What's intriguing is that technology, too, expands our consciousness.
I recall the first time I used Microsoft Word around 1987. I was staring at a screen, asked to accomplish tasks, but I couldn't wrap my head around it. The document was hidden behind the interface of Word, and I couldn't see the reality behind the screen. This mirrors the concept of a single point of consciousness.
Then, suddenly, you click and realize there's something behind the screen. Your reality deepens, and you start doing multiple things, opening multiple tabs, using various programs, fragmenting your once linear consciousness into multiplicity.
Fast forward 20-30 years, and look at what we do today. We have Facebook open with thousands of people on our feed, Zoom meetings running, and countless other tasks. We've become distributed consciousnesses. We understand terms like 'upload,' 'download,' and 'cloud computing.' What I'm saying is that many fundamental technologies of the modern age—of the internet age—were partly the result of early technologists and scientists in Silicon Valley expanding their consciousness with LSD and psychedelics. Steve Jobs did it, and even though Bill Gates didn't do much of it, they both agreed it was beneficial.
Consider Kary Mullis, co-discoverer of DNA, and the scientists of old who used psychedelics, often improving their scientific research. Over the decades, our understanding of consciousness and our very identities have shifted, even for those who've never taken a psychedelic. Psychedelic influence on culture has altered the culture itself, opening up our consciousness to a broader spectrum of reality.
Reweaving our Relationships with Nature
I've spent the last 20 years experimenting with psychoactive substances like Ayahuasca, DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT. It's not just about the experience—it's about the relationship and the sense of reconnection. It's not just something happening in your head; for me, it's something I feel in my heart. I feel as if I'm rejoining, plugging back into the web of life.
For 500 years in the West, we eradicated our shamans, warlocks, witches, herbalists, and medicine women—those who had access to the plants and elements beyond the strict dogmas and structures of the church. This led to a disconnect from nature and the death of those who would have mediated respect for plants and psychoactives in our communities.
Over time, as civilization has grown, we've built up barriers, separated ourselves further and further, and our collective consciousness has become sick. We can see this in the increasing inhumanity in our societies. This illness, this disconnection, is mirrored in corporations' control over the population and the accumulation of power.
Our egos have had hundreds of years of isolation, separation, and fragmentation. This egoistic mindset encourages us to exploit the planet and hoard resources. It makes us indifferent to the suffering of others and promotes a culture of separation and indifference.
Learn more about Amazonian hallucinogenic shamanism
Back in the 60s, people rose against this system. They started anti-war movements, celebrated life, and experienced a sense of unity with each other and with reality through the use of psychedelics. We are fragmented, separated, and sick, and we're being humbled by the planet at the moment. Perhaps its not such an outlandish idea to again use psychedelics for healing and connection, and vision.
As technology and psychedelic use increases, so does the interest in other modalities that affect consciousness, like yogic traditions, breath work, mantras, and practices that help us be present and open our hearts.
The establishment would not let the psychedelic people into the power structure back in the 1960s because what psychedelics represented back then was societal change. What's happening now is psychedelics are being detourned to enable a societal commodification.
We need to repurpose their use, weaponizing consciousness for the greatest good – while we still can.
- We explore the journey of psychedelics from revolutionary instruments aimed at altering society to commodities restricted mainly to therapeutic or medical contexts within today's capitalist system.
- Psychedelics have the untapped potential to heal not just individuals but also to bring transformative changes to society by fostering a reconnection with nature and interpersonal relationships.
- There is a substantial influence of psychedelics on technological advancements and cultural shifts, to a point in which key technologies and collective mindset changes can be attributed to early psychedelic use.
- People need a reconsideration of current psychedelic applications, advocating for their broader use beyond merely medical or therapeutic contexts to become catalysts for societal renewal and healing.