Whilst this part of the process of change starts here, in truth the process of integrating psychedelic use into mainstream Western culture has been making steady process for a number of decades now.
Much of the work in this area has been done by the scientific/academic community who have painstakingly built a solid foundation of empirical evidence to support changes in attitudes to many of the currently banned substances. The work of such brave thinkers will be one of the areas explored in this blog.
Earlier in the year a great event took place that for me, and I think for many of the individuals who attended, cultivated a spirit of optimism and inspiration: The Breaking Convention at The University of Kent in Canterbury. One of the reasons I felt so inspired by this event was that I met so many intelligent and friendly people who were focussing their lives, mainly through the vehicle of academia, on this fascinating field. I had a keen sense that the academics there were laying the groundwork for a much larger project.
Further evidence that the integration of psychedelic culture into mainstream UK culture is underway can be seen in the growing culture of festivals. In the last decade the festival-culture of the UK has flourished, it is my experience that the widespread use of psychedelic compounds is present in this culture, and that the establishment, and law-enforcers, are increasingly tolerant of this fact (despite the party line they are obliged to put out!). Since psychedelics are a part of festival culture, and festival culture is becoming increasingly embraced by the wider UK mainstream, this can be seen as a natural growth of psychedelic culture in the UK.
One might suppose that the changes in attitudes to psychedelics that we see in mainstream culture can be accounted for by the different values that both the youth and the adult-working population have, and the different experiences they have been exposed to, when compared to those who came before.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past. Many people cite Tim Leary’s story as one which represents such a mistake: his passion for psychedelics, which found an outlet in militant, somewhat zealous attacks on the establishment, shocked the status quo into a heavy-handed response. It is, in a way, that response that we are currently concerned with unravelling.
I frequently defend Leary though: his heart was in the right place, his bravery and passion was quite remarkable, he took great risks and made great sacrifices for a cause he truly believed is for the good of humanity. I share his view that psychedelics can be used to benefit humanity: this is the sole reason I want to bring about change.
Achieving the integration of psychedelics with Western culture must be achieved slowly and harmoniously. It is my view that psychedelics can be instrumental in progressing the social, cultural and technological developement of our society, they can benefit the overall psychological welfare of our population, and perhaps show people a spiritual dimension to their lives, something beyond the narrow materialism that our consumer-economy demands.
As I understand it, when the US army tested LSD on its soldiers in the mid-twentieth century one of the things they found most troubling was that those soldiers who were given the stuff didn’t want to kill people any more. I feel this anecdote conveys the most significant challenge in integrating psychedelics with mainstream culture, I’ll let you think about what I mean by this, and what it means for our project.