– Terence McKenna
When it comes to the subject of legalizing psychedelics, it’s a political issue. It’s multiple dimensional also. The number one issue is their potential to be dangerous. Without the right guidance, the use of these substances can be downright catastrophic. Those who are advocates for the use of entheogens (the word for psychedelics used in a spiritual setting) tend to downplay this negative. The negative aspects are a side effect of their illegality. Human beings are born with an innate desire to explore different levels of consciousness, but there are no places in western society to experience that safely. It’s like outlawing sex, or food. People would do it anyway, but there would be no way to do so safely, as everyone would have to hide when engaging in such activities, and therefore, so would be the person who provided these activities. As a result, you get an entire underground society dedicated to these goods, and as underground societies go, you get a mix of some unsavory characters. So people who simply want to explore being human inevitably get involved with criminals. This has helped to paint a very negative picture of entheogens and their use. Every bit of this is due to the illegality. As we say good riddance to 2020, let us move into the future using the knowledge of our past mistakes to imagine a better future.
Firstly, it should be noted in what way entheogens are dangerous. It should also be specifically noted in the As Above column, when using the word entheogen, I will specifically be referring to naturally occurring psychedelics, with LSD being the exception. These substances include, but are not limited to mushrooms, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline containing cacti, and salvia. That being said, none of these substances are toxic or dangerous in their own right. An experienced user who knows how to evoke caution almost never encounters much difficulty. On the other hand, if those who are inexperienced use these powerful substances without guidance, there is definitely some level of risk that is not to be ignored. Let’s explore these risks, and see how they could be mitigated in a future of legality.
Many cultures in the past and present venerate the use of visionary plants. With the advancement of universal knowledge and technology we find to be the most defining characteristic of this age, it’s simply lazy that western society hasn’t found a way to integrate mystical experience. Due to this societal osctricision of entheogens and their users, people find themselves in a wild west scenario; where a user must depend on questionable sources of these substances, and cannot defer to law enforcement in any way to protect them.
In societies that incorporate entheogen use into the fabric of their lives, these risks were mitigated by teaching. People shared their experiences with their elders, and their elders had also had these experiences. They learn from their experiences, and integrate the lessons. The absence of this particular kind of structure in western society creates some risks.
The biggest risk first and foremost is the way these substances alter our facilities. They make everyday life tasks difficult to impossible. This is especially compounded by the issue of their legality. With there being no safe place to have these experiences, people are left to their own devices. In the historical shamanic setting, when one takes these substances, it is ALWAYS with an experienced guide to help the person with basically bodily needs such as food or drink, and to help them feel safe when the experience gets difficult. In a ceremony the use of the medicine is specifically the sole focus of that time. Food, water, and other amenities therefore should be anticipated, and compensated for beforehand, or by a sitter.
If western society had any sort of platform for these substances to be taken in a controlled atmosphere, the issue of not being able to complete everyday life tasks could easily be satisfied by an attendant. Or even a safe place where amenities were provided. The information people receive about these substances and what to expect as far the effects could be screened by a reliable media source.
Another situation that offers some contention is the idea of “bad trips.” A bad trip can be described as any undesirable effects on the user. This can be due to the experience being stronger than one had been ready for, or due to difficult subject matter, from either inside or outside the subject’s mind. It can be difficult for those less experienced to even be able to grasp something so vastly different from their own world view. Bad trips aren’t something that can be predictably avoided, therefore, there should be a guide always present to help one deal with anxiety during a difficult experience. Though a bad trip is difficult at the time, they’re usually due to the subject dealing with a healing of some sort of trauma, and so is, ultimately is still a beneficial experience.
The legal stigma of entheogens goes a long way in hindering society’s growth as a whole. Without offering speculation as to the origin or causality of this knowledge, there is archaeological evidence of a connection between psychedelic use, and vast mathematical and astronomical knowledge. From Stonehenge, to the Mayan calendar, we see that ancient cultures had some advanced knowledge that modern man finds inexplicable for the time. Evidence of the use of magic mushrooms alone can be traced far back as 9000 B.C. All of this is to say, our scientific understanding of these subjects could be greatly advanced if not for legal policy.
The reason any of these substances remain illegal is speculative, but these policies need to be reformed, as the use of entheogens seems to be a paramount part of the human experience.
The idea that these substances are illegal to protect us is now succinctly false. The hazards of alcohol and tobacco are as common sense as gravity, and likewise, the total non toxic nature of most entheogens. Yet the more dangerous and addictive substances remain illegal. It’s been proven now in study after study that the benefits of substances such as cannabis, psilocybe mushrooms, and ayahuasca are limitless, yet this has until recently barely been a topic relevant to lawmakers.
When it comes to the law, specifically in The United States, it is a civil and religious issue, not a legal one. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using entheogens, and therefore, any extrapolation of its perceived moral correctness is purely superficial. That is to say, if you can’t be arrested for what kind of music you like or what god you worship, then you shouldn’t be able to be arrested for tripping. The future takes imagination, and reformation. We have to imagine a future where, even if you yourself don’t take entheogens, or follow Catholicism, or whatever it may be, you don’t automatically condemn a person whose ideas and practices are different from your own. Ultimately, that’s what the law is. Since the law was created by those who don’t use entheogens, it’s expressing their opinion as law.
All of this is to preface the biggest issue with psychedelics. The law makes it impossible to connect with people who use them without fear of legal consequences. This leads to the user being isolated, and depressed. They also live with the constant fear of law enforcement, which in some can result in paranoia, especially while under the influence of these substances. When it comes to those who use this in religious practice, they must lie to their children. They must hide from their friends, their relatives, their jobs. They can’t build churches. They can’t have support groups. They can’t do experiments, and if they do, they can’t publish results. The law itself causes much of the negative issues with entheogens. It takes imagination and perspective, but let’s do a thought experiment. See if we could envision a different world.
Now, before we envision the future use of entheogens, some of you may be wondering. What’s the big deal anyway? Due to the stigma of entheogens, this can be seen by those who have never used them as a ploy to get high. Since they’re categorized alongside drugs such as crack and heroin, it can be difficult why a person would consider this a civil rights issue, however it is. These substances have many applications. They help relieve depression, anxiety, PTSD. They help one deal with their own mortality. And most importantly, they provide a vital connection to one’s spiritual center, whatever that may be. We’ll dive more into the endless applications of entheogens in a later issue. Those who use them find them to be integral to their lives for many subjective reasons, and whether or not agree with their use. So, if you disagree that entheogens should be legalized, I would specifically like you to engage in a different thought experiment before this. Take a moment to imagine that your favorite thing in life, your deepest passion for life was illegal. Not only illegal, but your parents would hate you if you told them about it. You can’t share it with any of your friends or they’ll reject you and call you insane and laugh at you. When you share it with your spiritual community, they compare you to a rapist. This is what it feels like to know the beauty of entheogens and not be able to share.
The Mayans integrated entheogens into their understanding of science and astronomy, so it clearly has the possibility to aid knowledge when used in a societally directed manner. With the power of the technology we have today, integration of entheogens into life in different manners could have profoundly positive effects on society as a whole.
If we incorporated entheogens into society, our politicians could be better by the gods themselves, and these substances provide divine as well as personal insight. The shamans of the Amazon used Ayahuasca to identify illness. In our society, Ayahuasca could be used in tandem with modem medicine by doctors to help with diagnoses. Every part of science, not just medicine would benefit from this change. If you look at Psychedelic art and music, you can see the effect entheogens can have on human creativity. Techs in Silicon Valley have been known to micro-dose LSD to increase cognitive power and creativity. Though it is not considered ‘mainstream’ in modern western society, entheogens have helped the human race develop as a whole, and as such we’re only holding our society back with the continued prohibition of entheogens.
What Would the Future Look Like?
There would be many ways this idea could manifest. The first and most obvious is medical, as most of the research that would lead to the future legalization would be based in pharmacology and biochemistry. The effects known by shamans and casual users could be expanded upon. These plants could start to be regulated. We could know exact information about each plant, it’s chemical content, and origin. We could learn medically how to mitigate risk, and how to best utilize the chemical contents. Expanding medical understanding could open the door for other types of use.
Shamanism is such a use, but there would be controversy. It would have to be separated by culture, as different cultures have different beliefs in what Shamanism is. Though some believe in integration, we are still some years from convincing the other side to agree with us. I’ve spoken in a previous article about the new wave of Shamanism sweeping western society. It is met with harsh criticism by those who feel that those who are rejecting western culture and diving deeper into native societies. A lot are accused of appropriation and similar insults, so though the ultimate go would be societal integration of entheogen users, it may take some time for western society to gain the respect from the cultures we have historically abused.
That being said, the western face of Shamanism features both Pagan and Christian integration. Church settings with the use of entheogens could be the future of western Shamanism. The festival and psychedelic music scene already offer a shamanic experience. Musical trance is a method of the Shaman to attain spiritual states. Psychedelic Festivals often have a very spiritually connected vibe, this could be another face of western Shamanism.
You have the spa and retreat atmosphere. Where you could go to a pristine setting, and be for the most part just left alone to enjoy life, only having assistance upon request, allowing the client to completely relax into the experience, and enjoy their favorite thing. The idea of any resort, but with a Psychedelic option. (Imagine checking into a hotel and being able to say. “I’m tripping tonight, what’s the help line?” Without fear.) While a conservative person may feel like that’s silly, on New Years Eve Ubers are cheaper because most people get drunk. The humans desire to change their own consciousness in some way is a right.
Of course there’s the therapeutic way. Entheogens have been proven to be good for psychotherapy. Small doses leave the person coherent enough to sort through their thoughts, and with the aid of a trained psychotherapist, can be helped to work through many mental and emotional issues. Of course there are many other ways to be discovered in the future, but what is important is for us to start imagining ways it could work out instead of just shutting the door. Here’s to our new earth vibe! Happy New Year!!!
About the Author:
Alexiel Raynes is a shaman, philosopher, and musician from Louisville, Ky. He has studied religion and science for over 20 years. His spiritual path focuses on self realization, the liberation of the constraints of the mind on consciousness. He also studies plant medicines and their use in indigenous cultures world wide. He is fascinated with exploring the world beyond the veil of mainstream western science, and postulates at what lies beyond general consensus reality. He, together with his business partner Hallie Walker are the owners of Saol Bandia, a holistic herbal apothecary based in their hometown. They are also very active in raising pagan awareness in their community, and helping give witches the courage to stand up to a world that has forgotten our ways.
You can visit their store at Saolbandia.com
For contact visit Facebook.com/AlexielRaynes2020
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