What does a monkey typing aimlessly on a keyboard on the roof of a house have to do with curing depression? I had no idea how to answer this question at first. I was in the middle of my first ayahuasca ceremony and I suddenly was distracted by this typing monkey. As if the strange physical sensations from the South American plant mixture were not enough to deal with, now I had to entertain this monkey!
After spending a few hours under the healing influence of the plant, I began to recognize that this monkey was certainly there for a reason. He was trying to teach me something. Our modern lives are full of distraction. It often seems that distractions are inevitable and just part of the baggage that we accept with our busy lives, but choosing to focus our energy on distractions like television, negative stories on the news…
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There are thousands of plants with medicinal properties in the vast forests that surround the Amazon river system. Many of these plants have been used for centuries or even millenia to treat various ailments in people. One of the plants that has gained recent fame for its partner role with the ayahuasca vine is chacruna or Psychotria viridis. Chacruna is a small, unassuming plant that contains high levels of DMT, or dimethyltriptamine, a potent hallucinogen. It is precisely for its high DMT content that the plant is mixed with the ayahuasca vine. The MAOI compounds in the ayahuasca vine allow the DMT in the chacruna plant to become orally active, otherwise they would be broken down by digestive enzymes and would not enter the bloodstream. Chacruna is known as a helper plant for ayahuasca because it brings on strong effects such as visual hallucinations, which clarify and…
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The Psychedelic Community as a New Religious Movement:
The word psychedelic was coined by Humphry Osmond in 1957, its etymological root is meant to indicate the ‘spirit-revealing’ or ‘soul-manifesting’ nature of the chemicals concerned.
We know, beyond all doubt, that many of the users of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, DMT, Mescaline and Psilocin Mushrooms claim that these chemicals cause them to have experiences they describe as spiritually significant: usually in terms of allowing new spiritual insights about the nature of their being and its relationship to experience and the world, or in terms of some kind of spiritual healing effect.
Many, if not most, individuals who repeatedly use psychedelics do so with a primary motivation to explore the spiritual benefits of psychedelics: it is therefore, a part of their spiritual lives. Many of those individuals feel that the drugs themselves are sacred gifts, they use drugs like LSD to bring about experiences and states of being that are somehow “spiritual”, “mystical” and “divine”.
All around the world, right now, there are individuals who are using psychedelic drugs. Not just individuals though, there is an increasingly cohesive and open community of psychedelic users: all united by the shared belief that they have been benefited by, and will continue to benefit from, psychedelic drugs.
Is it not conceivable that this community of individuals, who use the same sacraments, share similar spiritual motivations, and hold similar core beliefs represent a new religious or spiritual movement?
- Illustrating the unique aesthetic of psychedelic art.
It is, essentially, a ‘New Religious Movement’ (NRM) that is not allowed to become an organised religion. It cannot be given a name, nor can its places of communal gathering be made to explicit. It includes a great variety of belief and practice: but then the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, even Christianity all show a great variety of forms and expressions also. It has it’s own set of texts, but none are adopted as dogma, there is no cannon: but then many of the historical forms of human spirituality did not have a cannon either. It even has its own unique forms of artistic expression and aesthetic style, rife with themes of transcendence and spiritual discovery.
In Europe, especially in the summer, there are certain festivals attended primarily by the psychedelic community. At these festivals, an obvious form of neo-shamanism manifests itself: complete with music, dancing, and mind-altering chemicals, components of many shamanic traditions from all over the world. In fact, these festivals are becoming increasingly popular all over the world.
One of the implications of the continued growth of psychedelic festival culture is that the community of psychedelic users is becoming, with the help of the internet, more organised and more cohesive. Furthermore, now this ‘spiritual movement’ has community meeting spaces, with their own rituals, traditions, codes and conventions. At these gatherings there is a very strong sense of this community – people care for one another and help one another to have an enjoyable time, there is a sense of shared purpose and unity that is enjoyed by many when the psychedelic community meet.
Some might say “this isn’t spirituality, it is just hedonism’. Verily there are some who attend psychedelic festivals ‘just to have fun’, but there are others who feel, nonetheless, that psychedelic chemicals are an important aspect of their spiritual lives. Furthermore, who is to say that spirituality cannot be fun? Mystical texts from all world religions, including the bible, speak of ecstatic and joyous experiences that are encountered on the spiritual path: the Old Testament even describes singing and dancing as a result of spiritual attainment.
When I walk down the street of Oxford on a Saturday night I see fighting, I see people throwing up, I hear glass smashing: people become rude, inconsiderate, violent. I have never seen a fight at a psychedelic music festival, I don’t see people stumbling around and throwing up, what I do see is people having the time of their lives and forming lasting bonds with people in the process.
Returning to the issue though, the psychedelic community needs to consider how it can go about becoming recognised for the legitimate spiritual movement that it is so that it can enjoy the same acceptance and according protections that are afforded to other religious communities.
In the mean time, psychedelic spiritualists will continue to be a persecuted and oppressed minority religious group. For walking their spiritual path, they face imprisonment, with all the hardships and consequences-on-life that are entailed by it. Let’s have a brief look at how this persecution came about.
Christian Puritanism & Moral Panics: ‘The War on Drugs’ as Hysteria
We must recognise that for the last thousand years (and then some) the population of Europe has had its native religious/spiritual practices oppressed by the ‘dominator religion’ that is Christianity. Wherever Christianity went it systematically destroyed any competing forms of spirituality: often through violence. In the background, that force is still an undercurrent of our society.
Think about it. The American political system is still so obviously fixated on the values of Puritanical Christianity: that kind of ‘good christian wholesomeness’ that is expected of any presidential candidate, the obsession with ‘sexual misconduct’ on the part those in the public sphere, and wariness of the many other things deemed viceful within the puritanical Christian tradition. Is it a coincidence that this moral panic, this ‘war on drugs’, has come from a country whose dominant spiritual power is a form Christian puritanism?
- Like the witch-trials, the ‘War on Drugs’ is another hysterical moral panic: something is judged as evil, all ‘the good people’ respond with unspeakable inhumanity.
A moral panic, and not the first. Can we think of some other examples from history where the Christian majority have deemed something to be ‘evil’ or ‘morally wrong’ and responded with unspeakable violence? The witch-hunts, for example, which also took on a distinctive ferocity midst the North American puritans. The Inquisition, a few hundred years of torture, persecution, inhumanity: based on a response to what is perceived to be an evil.
Perhaps you think the comparison extreme? It’s not like we’re burning people at the stake or torturing them, right? But we do lock people up: vast swathes of people (usually the most socially disadvantaged) all in response to the supposed ‘evil’ of drug-use. As in the inquisition, we interrogate people, we use fear and intimidation to make them betrays other human beings: is it not torture to go through a judicial system and be locked away for decades of your life?
- The ‘War on Drugs’ is just another inquisition. The ‘Holy/Good people’ exercising hegemonic domination over ‘the evil people’, and in the process performing unspeakable evils themselves.
Is it not an evil thing to do this to an individual? It is a harmful action after all, to lock them in a prison for years on end. Is the act of imprisoning some one for using psychedelics not, in fact, more evil than that individuals ‘offence’ of using psychedelics?
When an activity carries risks only to oneself, does that make it unethical? If so, are horse-riding and mountain climbing unethical to? Clearly then the idea that drug use is morally wrong cannot be based on the risks associated with their use. If it is not a moral wrong, then to punish people for it is not just, and is unethical.
The ‘War on Drugs’ will be viewed by historians as just another silly moral panic, a hysteria that got carried away with itself, but a hysteria like never before. A hysteria fueled by new mass-media technologies, a hysteria on an unprecedented scale, and one which does an unprecedented amount of harm.
It is interesting to consider the extent to which Puritanical Christianity has been embraced by, what some might consider to be ‘the new dominator religion’, Capitalism; and the extent to which spiritual movements which are perceived to be a threat to capitalism are marginalised, and in this case, forbidden.
The psychedelic community, as it stands, is a new religious/spiritual movement. Its members are subject to persecution and oppression, as they have been for the last fifty years.
Much of modern drug culture is simply an extension of much older spiritual traditions. Modern Britain has new sacraments now, and its tribal dances are to dubstep from massive sound-systems
This ‘war on drugs’ is just a part of a millenia-old pattern of ‘organised religion’ dominating more spontaneous & experiential forms of spirituality. It manifests the values of the puritanical religious fanaticism which has come to dominate American political culture.
If our Right to Religious & Spiritual Freedom is to mean anything, then it must accommodate entheogenic and psychedelic compounds , which are an important component to many forms of spirituality.
One source of hope is the increasing unity of the psychedelic community around the world.
“Psychedelics are not suppressed because they are dangerous to users; they’re suppressed because they provoke unconventional thought, which threatens any number of elites and institutions that would rather do our thinking for us.”
Some thoughts from Dennis McKenna, ethnopharmacologist and brother of the late Terence McKenna, bard of modern psychoactive literature and thought. This is from his interesting new book, “The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss,” detailing his life with his famous brother and how their adventures affected their lives and influenced many thousands more. Dennis goes on to say:
“Historically, those in power have always sought to suppress free thought, whether bluntly or subtly, because it poses an inherent challenge to their rule. That’s no less true today, in an age when corporate, political, and religious interests form a global bloc whose interests threaten all earthly life, including human life.”
[Dennis McKenna, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, North…
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Student: Rheachel Ferguson
This research is aimed at drawing a correlation between Ayahuasca (naturally occurring plant found in Ecuadorian region) and heightened states of awareness while dreaming (lucid dreaming). The presentation will demystify the ancient tribal psychedelic as well as explain what lucid dreaming is, share how the ceremonial substance is conducive to reaching lucidity in sleep, as well as explain the reasons for wanting to achieve such a state of dreaming.
By using personal accounts from people who have participated in the consumption of Ayahuasca, sharing the history and new findings concerning the use of the herbal brew, and bringing in the new age use of Ayahuasca, I hope to dispel common reservations about the use psychedelic plants that are naturally occuring, Southern American culture and the growing desire to heal through the use of dreams.
an excerpt from DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Dr. Rick Strassman (published by Inner Traditions)
“Do you think,” I offered, “that the pineal might produce psychedelic compounds? It seems to have the right ingredients. Maybe it somehow mediates spontaneous psychedelic types of states-psychosis for example.” I was hesitant to get much deeper than this and avoided mentioning my more controversial ideas about the pineal-that it played a role in more exotic states, such as near-death or mystical experiences. Dr. K stopped in his tracks and turned on his heels. His brow furrowed and he peered at me intently through his glasses. A palpable menace glinted from his eyes. “Oops,” I thought.
“Let me tell you this, Rick,” he said very slowly and firmly. “The pineal has nothing to do with psychedelic drugs.”
That was the last time that year I said the words pineal and psychedelic in…
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