The Default Mode Network (DMN) is by now a familiar name in popular psychedelic circles. It’s a collection of brain areas that talk loudly to each other when we’re not doing any focussed tasks – basically when we’re daydreaming, thinking about ourselves, or conceptualising the past or future.
We know two important things about the DMN: it’s overactive in depression, and psychedelics can help to reset it. Studies have shown that classic psychedelics LSD and psilocybin can dramatically reduce the chatter of the DMN during a psychedelic experience, and allow it to re-form itself into a more stable network afterwards – correlating with decreased depressive symptoms.
Salvinorin A, the main psychedelic component of Salvia divinorum, is not at all like these classic psychedelics. While LSD and psilocybin mainly activate 5-HT2A receptors in the brain, and produce highly visual and often introspective psychedelic experiences; Salvinorin A has barely any 5-HT2A activity, instead activating kappa-opioid receptors and sending users on bizarre and often horrifying trips.
I’ve written (and spoken) fairly extensively about the weirdness of Salvia, and what it means for consciousness. Salvia disrupts an area of the brain called the claustrum, and this is correlated with an almost complete dismantling of typical conscious experience. Our usually coherent and coordinated stream of sensory perceptions, understanding of selfhood, and grasp of the concept of time, dissolves into a barely comprehensible array of pure sensation. Existence is literally ripped apart, in a very fundamental and powerful way, which is not seen as often in classic psychedelics.
Now, new research has shown that Salvinorin A is also connected to the DMN. Twelve experienced psychonauts were given doses of Salvinorin A while in an MRI machine, which showed that the unique psychedelic reduced the connectivity of the DMN in a very similar way to LSD and psilocybin.
This was originally published on EntheoNation.
It’s been said in a number of different ways, perhaps for as long as psychedelics have been around: psychedelics make you more flexible.
Flexibility can mean different things. It could mean the personality trait of openness– a behavioral flexibility to new experiences and concepts – which has been shown to be increased after psychedelic trips… It could mean the increase of entropy, or disorder, seen in your brain while taking a psychedelic… Or it could mean the change towards more tolerant viewpoints that psychedelics are likely to induce.
In the language of psychologists and therapists, psychedelics can help us foster something called psychological flexibility. And this may be a crucial reason for why psychedelic-assisted therapy can be so powerfully transformative.
An important part of building a healthy psychedelic community is being fully aware of the risks of psychedelics.
This includes both being educated about the risk of trauma and injury from challenging psychedelic experiences, but also the potential physiological harm they can do to us.
It appears that occasional large doses of psychedelics don’t do much harm to healthy individuals, as long as they are properly looked after to prevent really damaging traumatic experiences (sometimes called “Bad Trips”). But we don’t have any evidence yet that regular microdosing is safe.
Madison Margolin opens her recent piece on queerness and psychedelics with the provocative phrase “To have a psychedelic experience is to have a queer experience.”
Her wonderfully engaging article dives into the expansive and revolutionary qualities shared between the psychedelic experience and the queering of sexuality.
As Bett Williams is quoted as saying, “Being queer means you can become everything.” And later; “When we are in our psychedelic selves, we are anything and everything.”
Although Williams seems to be saying that the psychedelic experience has the potential to open you up to queerness, Margolin takes it a step further and infers that every psychedelic experience is a queer experience.
This is a mistake, I think.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is anything substantial separating traditional shamanism from materialistic Western science.
Although it’s tempting to believe that Western scientists are bastions of objectivity – mechanically-precise observers of nature – they’re really no different from the shamans of animist traditions who journey into astral realms to bring back knowledge and wisdom.
Hello! If you’ve come here from my Breaking Convention talk looking for references and sources, you can find them in the list below. The talk itself is right here, and after the sources you can find the full-length article based on this talk.
I don’t usually do personal updates on this blog, but since most of my writing is scattered elsewhere throughout the psychedelic community, it makes sense for this to be a bit of a hub for my informal thoughts, in addition to my favourite pieces of writing.
The big news is that I’ll be presenting a small talk at Breaking Convention this year – the first time I’ll be discussing a psychedelic topic at a conference. I’m excited about it, especially because the topic is Salvia, the first psychedelic I ever experienced, and a truly special plant. Hopefully the talk will be online afterwards, and I’ll share it here.
This week, popular psychedelic website Chacruna.net decided it was time to open a frank and honest discussion about sexual misconduct in the psychedelic community.
Unfortunately, Chacruna felt that the best person to lead that discussion was known psychedelic abuser, Daniel Pinchbeck.
Pinchbeck’s abuses involved the use of substances as a “tool of seduction” (in his own words), and his victims include his own employees at Evolver.net.
It was Paul Austin of The Third Wave‘s refusal to cancel a event in which Pinchbeck was headlined as the sole guest, that catalysed a mass exodus of The Third Wave‘s team in protest.
It appears that the leaders of the psychedelic community are taking their sweet time to understand why people are consistently furious when abusers are handed a microphone while their victims are ignored.
A version of this article was first written for the Synthesis retreat. I have re-worked it to remove the advertising – now, this is a brief overview of the way that plant medicines are viewed in the indigenous cultures that are still intertwined with them.
The growing awareness of the medicinal benefits of psychedelics in the West has been dubbed the “psychedelic renaissance.” Unlike the counterculture movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, this psychedelic emergence is fuelled by contemporary science and the potential for psychedelics to treat the rising tide of mental health conditions in our societies.
But psychedelics have been familiar to humanity for much longer than the past few decades. Plant medicines have been a part of some cultures since their beginnings.
So is our view of the benefits of psychedelics somewhat narrow? What lessons can we learn from studying the history and culture of psychedelic use outside of our immediate awareness?
This is a modified excerpt from an article I co-wrote for Synthesis, the full version of which you can find here.
Mystical experiences have been the cornerstone of religious and spiritual practices for millennia. From early Christian mysticism to Zen Buddhism, almost every religious path allows space for experiences that give a more direct connection to the more mysterious aspects of reality.
Broadly speaking, a mystical experience is anything that is hard to comprehend or describe with rational or simple language. Generally, it is short-lasting, feels immensely meaningful or profound, and shatters some of your preconceptions. You may encounter paradoxical or alien concepts firsthand, such as non-duality; a realization that nothing in the universe is truly separate, or impermanence; an awareness that pretty much everything is temporary.