- A Treatise on Psychedelics Pt. 1/3: The Stigma
- A Treatise on Psychedelics Pt. 2/3: The Mystical Experience
- A Treatise on Psychedelics Pt. 3/3: The Implications
What are the larger implications of the mystical experience? One aspect of the mystical experience is what psychology calls “ego-death”. If we use the self as an anchor to base our world-view on and use incessant thought to keep a sense of control in the stream of experience we are blinded to see our interconnection with everything around us. This privatized perspective is utterly destructive to everything alien to it. A noösphere (above matter is the biosphere, a living stratum, and above the biosphere is the noösphere, the thinking stratum, the effect consciousness has on the physical world) based on this premise, the false subject-object divide, can only see ecosystems as separate from itself. The death of this structure, however, makes us aware that we are an a membrane of ecosystems, not separate from them. We can recognize larger structures than ourselves, hidden behind our everydayness, as ourselves. This is something mystics and yogis have been telling us for ages. Tat Tvam Asi! You are That! Through the ecodelic experience we can discover structures that are often inhabited by intelligences other than our own and have the distinct quality of Divineness.
What happens when large groups start to ingest psychedelics together in a spiritual way? Do they exhibit features that can lead to a massive ecological enlightenment? Are they able to be more conscious of the interconnection between themselves, others and the planet? Another fantastic talk was by Judith Sudhölter who investigated just that with remarkable results. She studied Dutch Santo Daime Church members (a syncretic church based on Folk Catholicism, Kardecist Spiritism, African animism and South American Shamanism). During the ritual, Santo Daime members ingest Ayahuasca (Daime) while singing and dancing.
Her main question was “How do Dutch Santo Daime members give meaning to the psychedelic experience?” As experienced users surely know, these experiences are often intense, mentally challenging and threaten the very identity of the user (which is at the same time part of the healing mechanism.) Since the revelations Ayahuasca often bring about are so out of the ordinary they often challenging to integrate in our daily lives. If we encounter ancestors, other dimensions, benevolent spirits or angels during an Ayahuasca ceremony, what do we do with them once we have both our feet back on the ground? One important aspect of integrating experiences is found in the human endeavor of narrative, the stories we tell ourselves and others on what has happened.
Sudhölter study found that there was a great variety between respondent’s stories. Not only did they all have different theories and interpretations and used different terminologies, they were logically inconsistent and multi-layered to one another. And sometimes this was even true in the same subject. And this was not the only paradox. The participants of Santo Daime had their beliefs deeper ingrained because of the use of Ayahuasca, but also at the same time their thought systems broke open and thus became more relative. She found there was an increased explicit awareness of the relativity of stories themselves. Psychedelics, by momentarily suspending thoughts, reminds us that the map is not the territory, that language shapes reality but should not be mistaken for reality itself. And is this not the first step towards stepping out of our normal self-focused world and into one inhabited by others around us? Don’t we need to wake up from our dualistic language that we take to be the world and start facing the world directly?
I, for instance, often feel complete and utter powerlessness when mass entertainment in any form consumes the attention of our whole species, distracting us from the destruction we all contribute to. I know that listening to nature, the intricate ecosystems on which we fundamentally depend, is the only medicine left to cure our incestuous self-glorification, the same nature that is drowning through technological intensification. Can we turn around the gaze of our attention before the ecological disaster will reach our living rooms and enter an ‘age of reunion’?
I think we can and psychedelics are the chemical messages from Gaia to remind us she is here. Let’s take the next step in our evolution, shall we?
Check out the Psychedelic Salon podcast and the book Darwin’s Pharmacy by Richard Doyle. Both sources have brought me many new ideas, without which this article would have never seen the light of day.
A Final Note on Safety
As we repeatedly stress on HighExistence, psychedelics must be approached with reverence and caution. We believe that in a loving context, psychedelics are powerful medicines with tremendous potential, but there are a number of physical and psychological safety concerns that one should consider before journeying with psychedelics. Please, please do plenty of research, and do not take psychedelics if you have reason to believe that they will not jibe with your personality or particular mental baggage. The Essential Psychedelic Guide on Erowid is an exceptional free resource, and we recommend reading it, especially the section on ‘Psychedelic Safety,’ before ever dabbling in these substances. Take care, and happy tripping. : )