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 following list. If not, the article based on my talk is below that. I will put a video of my talk here when available.
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.
For the past two and a half years I’ve been working as the content manager for The Third Wave, an organisation that educates about psychedelics and promotes microdosing. Recent events have prompted the majority of the team to leave, including myself.
Here is the full statement from a few of us regarding the decision. It is followed by a personal statement from myself.
“See, Pat, the thing about me – I have a very masculine energy. I like building and creating. I’m good at opening doors but not so good at closing them after me.”
“So, I have a very feminine energy, Pat. I like organising, tidying, putting things in order.”
These were statements spoken to me a few days apart, both by colleagues who also work in the psychedelic community, and both times it surprised me.
I would not have expected these people to use gendered terms to describe their personalities, because it felt so thoroughly unnecessary. And it made me start thinking about why they had decided to use the terms masculine and feminine to describe their personality traits. It was one of a string of events that made me start to seriously reflect on the prevalence of gendered concepts in the psychedelic space.
This article was originally published under a different title on The Third Wave.
Psychedelic research has given us so much. Thanks to the revival of psychedelic science, we’ve (re)discovered that psychedelic therapy can benefit sufferers of severely debilitating conditions where current treatments fail. We’ve started to develop an understanding of what psychedelics do to the brain, and how psychedelics can have such transformative power…
But there’s still something missing.
The “physicalist” view of reality struggles to explain the phenomenological aspects of the psychedelic experience.
Why is the mystical or spiritual experience so valuable for healing? Why does our mindset matter so much in determining the effects of a psychedelic? Why, after all is known about the brain, can we still not explain the correlation between physical structures and subjective experience?