Psychedelic Medicine: Will it lead to reform in Australia

By Sam Douglas

Psychedelic Medicine: Will it lead to reform in Australia

 

It seems every day there’s another news story about researchers being given permission to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. Venture capitalists and investors are increasingly aware of the financial potential too as they seek to maximise returns through first mover advantage. Awesome! We’ll have legalised or at least decriminalised psychedelics in no time, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but, no. The medical-psychedelic movement, or I should say, the medical-psychedelic-business movement in Australia may not deliver non-medical legalisation or even decriminalisation.

In the US, medical cannabis undoubtedly helped smooth the way for recreational legalisation in the states where it has occurred. Depending on the state, the list of conditions that would allow a cannabis prescription was quite long, and the process of getting & filling that prescription was achievable for large numbers of people. Medical access has led to recreational access. It should be no surprise that psychedelic decriminalisation has the greatest support in places that have followed this path, such as Colorado (especially Denver) and California.

But medical cannabis in Australia is a very different beast. Here, despite estimates that up to 100,000 people are self-medicating with illicitly sourced product, and that up to 500,000 could benefit, the number of prescriptions written has been quite small (though growing rapidly). The barriers to patient access are so problematic that our Senate is undertaking an inquiry into this very issue.

Nor has it, thus far, led to many changes in the criminalised status of cannabis. The structure of medical cannabis access schemes in Australia seem to be as restrictive as possible. Cynically, I suspect this is so politicians can pose with the families of children suffering from otherwise untreatable epilepsy, but not have to entertain any serious change to the status quo. If, as some people think, cannabis law reform is a precondition for psychedelic law reform, then Australia is a very long way behind other jurisdictions.

Yes, there are some NGOs associated with psychedelic medicine doing great work supporting research and advocating for medical access. But it’s worth noting that some of the highest profile NGOs in this area publicly state that they do not support changing the law, except for medical use. Yes, some proponents may talk openly about medicalisation leading to legalisation. But if you pay attention, this happens a lot less than it used to. And yes, some of these people privately support law reform efforts. But talk is cheap, private conversations doubly so.

When anyone talks up the future of psychedelic medicine, we need to ask them what this future will actually look like, specific to where we are. Will it be like our medical cannabis situation, where the vast bulk of people who could make use of it can’t, where the product is often overpriced and inferior, and that non-medical possession and all cultivation (except in the ACT) is still a criminal offence?

Except it could be more restrictive than that. Even if you could get through all the hoops to access your standardised dose of synthetic medical psychedelic, restricting its use to supervised clinical settings might mean that you never even take the substance outside the building, let alone in an environment of your choosing.

Sure, if scientists are successful in removing the ‘trip’ from the beneficial effects of psychedelics, then it might be less restrictive. You’ll get your prescription and take the expensive patented drug that ‘fixes’ you – gets you back to being a good little worker/consumer who doesn’t make a fuss about why society is such a dumpster-fire of sadness, anger and dysfunction.

I hope you’ll excuse me if I find such scenarios underwhelming.

None of this is to say that these advances are inherently bad, and that the companies, NGOs and researchers pursuing them are not doing something worthwhile. In my experience talking to people interested in psychedelics, it’s clear that there are many people in the community who have a deep need for new approaches to mental health and want to access these therapies legally. As awareness grows, this will only increase. I have enough experience of anxiety and depression in myself and those close to me, that I am fully aware of the limitations of existing treatments and why sufferers are demanding something better.

But businesses will generally only seek to reform laws to the extent that they will profit from such changes. Companies responsible for the manufacture of codeine and fentanyl don’t, as far as I’m aware, lobby to decriminalise the cultivation of opium poppies. Nor is it clear that corporations seeking to profit from medical cannabis are particularly interested in governments letting people grow their own, even for medicinal purposes. If our government gives psychedelic businesses a choice between a highly restrictive regulatory regime or no access at all, we can reliably predict how they will react.

Here is the future we could be heading for in Australia, if we don’t step up:

Those who are sick enough, and can navigate the bureaucratic hurdles, might eventually be able to get into a clinic for psychedelic therapy. The companies who make and supply medical psychedelics to these facilities will make billions of dollars. Researchers who don’t say anything too radical in public will still get their grants. And well-connected NGOs and their political allies will pat each on the back, signalling their virtue by doing photo-ops with carefully selected patients.

You, however, will still face legal consequences and risk your career for growing or picking psilocybin mushrooms. You’ll be treated as a criminal for having some squares of paper that are vastly less likely to kill you than a bottle of spirits or a packet of paracetamol. If you buy a pill, you’ll never be 100% sure of the ingredients or potency. You’ll still run the gauntlet of unreliable sniffer dogs at festivals and train stations and be forced to endure the violation of being unlawfully strip-searched by police if one indicates on you. Every day will be a reminder that your autonomy, religious freedom and cognitive liberty matter less than corporate profit and social conformity.

I don’t know about you, but I want something more than that, for all of us.

If you want to openly use ayahuasca or huachuma because they’re integral to your spirituality or religion. If you want to be able to trip responsibly in a safe place with good friends & family. If you want to dance the night away with a pill that has a precise and appropriate amount of MDMA in it. If you want to see the world differently, and don’t want to beg a doctor for permission to do so. If you’d like our laws about what’s illegal to possess and grow to be informed by actual research on risk and harm, rather than historical prejudice and the moral cowardice of politicians. If you think the war on drugs has failed and want it to end.

If you want any of these things, then you need to understand that the businesses, organisations and researchers around psychedelic medicine are not automatically going to give them to you.

If any changes to how psychedelics are treated under the law are going to happen – or even have a chance of happening – it will be through political and social actions. Break stereotypes. Change the minds of those around you. Write to politicians and respond to parliamentary inquiries. Educate yourself about which political parties will really support change and vote accordingly. Find like-minded people and get organised to do all this and more.

This will be hard. Look at the effort it’s taken to get cannabis law reform this far in Australia. And I’d be lying if I said that this will definitely work – the reality is that sometimes truth and fairness don’t always win.
But we owe it to ourselves, and each other, to try.

Little Saints: The Sacred Healing History of ‘Magic Mushrooms’

By Anna Lutkajtis

Anna Lutkajtis is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on mysticism, psilocybin, the dark night of the soul, and the healing potential of altered states of consciousness.
[email protected]

Currently there is a renewed interest in psychedelics as potential medical treatments for a variety of mental health conditions. In particular, recent studies have suggested that the psychedelic compound psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient found in hallucinogenic ‘magic mushrooms’) has a promising role to play in the treatment of anxiety, depression and addiction (Garcia-Romeu and Richards 2018). In clinical trials, the positive healing effects of synthetic psilocybin are positively correlated with a psilocybin-induced mystical experience; that is, people who have a mystical experience tend to have better treatment outcomes. Given that in the modern West, mushrooms have been popularly viewed as a ‘recreational drug’ this finding may seem surprising. However, psilocybin mushrooms have a long and rich history of use as a sacred medicine. Hallucinogenic mushrooms have been used in indigenous healing ceremonies in Mesoamerica since at least the sixteenth century, and references to sacred mushroom use in Mexico are found in the very earliest written documents or codices produced in the Spanish New World (Guzmán 2008: 405). In these documents, mushrooms have been referred to as Teonanácatl, meaning “flesh of the gods.”

After the Spanish Conquest, mentions of ceremonial mushroom use completely disappeared for approximately four hundred years, a period scholar Benjamin Feinberg (2003: 127) refers to as “The Long Silence.” It has been suggested that during this time – from the colonial period to the early twentieth century – ceremonial mushroom use was suppressed by, or strategically hidden from, the Spaniards. While there is no official record of ceremonial mushroom practices during this period, some scholars argue that it is likely that sacred mushroom use continued in secret in remote mountainous villages (Guzmán 2008). Feinberg (2003: 71) argues that the mushroom tradition was likely preserved because of the stubbornness of the Mazatecs and their resistance to religious conversion, and the geographical remoteness of the region. The long silence was broken in the early twentieth century when a number of ethnobotanists, anthropologists, and linguists reported that Mazatec Indians in the town of Huautla de Jiménez (Huautla) in northern Oaxaca were using hallucinogenic mushrooms in indigenous healing ceremonies or veladas (Letcher 2008: 78-80). During a mushroom velada, the curandero or curandera (healer) uses the mushroom to diagnose and treat illness. Generally, both the healer and the patient ingest mushrooms, although there are documented instances of only the healer taking mushrooms. The healer then facilitates the passage of the mushroom’s ‘spirit’ to the patient’s afflicted area through prayers, chanting, massage, and other techniques (Duke 1996).

In 1938, anthropologist and linguist Jean Bassett Johnson (1916-1944) became one of the first Westerners to witness a mushroom velada. In describing the ceremony, he wrote:

“The curandero (healer), while under the influence of the hallucinogenic mushroom, divined the patient’s illness; and it was the mushroom that gave instructions on how the sick person should be cured” (cited in Letcher 2008: 79-80).

According to traditional healers, psilocybin mushrooms grant access to, or are literally seen as, spirits with whom the healers can form a relationship. The mushrooms reveal information, or speak through the healer in improvised, poetic chants believed to have healing power (Letcher 2008: 83-84). The names given to the mushrooms by the Huautecos—‘little saints’, ‘saint children’, ‘holy children’—are indicative of the spiritual significance this culture has attributed to psilocybin mushrooms.

Although the mushroom velada was known to Westerners at the beginning of the twentiethcentury, the rediscovery of psilocybin mushrooms is commonly attributed to R. Gordon Wasson (1898-1986), a banker, scholar, and amateur mycologist who made it his life’s work to investigate the relationship between hallucinogenic mushrooms and the origins of religion. Wasson was the first person to travel to Huautla specifically to study and experience the indigenous use of psilocybin mushrooms. In 1955 he met with renowned Mazatec curandera María Sabina (1894-1985) and convinced her to allow him to participate in a velada, making him one of the first Westerners to ever intentionally eat the sacred mushrooms. Awestruck by the resulting ecstatic mystical experience, Wasson claimed: “the mushroom holds the key to a mystical union with God” (Riedlinger 2005: 78). Wasson published his experience with psilocybin mushrooms in both Mushrooms, Russia and History, an expensive limited-edition volume aimed at private collectors and universities, and the popular weekly magazine Life. The Life article, titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom: A New York banker goes to Mexico’s mountains to participate in the age-old rituals of Indians who chew strange growths that produce visions” was published on 13 May 1957 and read by an audience of millions. The term ‘magic mushroom’ derives from this Life article.

Sacred Mushroom Use: María Sabina and Huautla de Jiménez Andy

Letcher (2008: 84) writes that when Wasson met Mazatec curandera María Sabina in the town of Huautla de Jiménez, he was immediately struck by her presence, describing her as “a woman of rare moral and spiritual power.” However, despite being a leading figure on topic of psilocybin mushrooms, relatively little has been written about Sabina’s life. Of the texts that do exist, María Sabina: Selections is of particular importance as it contains Sabina’s oral autobiography. Selections was compiled by Álvaro Estrada, a Huautla resident and Mazatec speaker who engaged Sabina in a series of recorded conversations, which he then translated into Spanish. The autobiography provides a first-person account of Sabina’s life as a curandera, her meeting with Wasson and her relationship with psilocybin mushrooms. It is clear from this text that the mushrooms – which she refers to primarily as “little saints,” “saint children,” or just “children,” – held great spiritual and religious significance for Sabina. She repeatedly describes the mushrooms as being “like God” (Estrada 2003: 14), stating “the mushrooms have power because they are the flesh of God” (Estrada 2003: 28) and “I take Little-One-Who-Springs-Forth [mushrooms] and I see God” (Estrada 2003: 29). Sabina notes that during the mushroom velada she speaks to the saints – “to Lord Santiago, to Saint Joseph, and to Mary” (Estrada 2003: 37) – and describes her devotion to being a healer as being partly due to her desire to be close to God:

“I gave myself up for always to wisdom, in order to cure the sicknesses of people and to be myself always close to God. One should respect the little mushrooms. At bottom I feel they are my family. As if they were my parents, my blood. In truth I was born with my destiny. To be a Wise Woman. To be a daughter of the saint children” (Estrada 2003: 14).
Interestingly, while the mushrooms hold a special spiritual significance, in her autobiography Sabina states that before Wasson arrived, no one took the mushrooms purely to “know God” (that is, for a ‘spiritual experience’) (Estrada 2003: 49). Rather they were always taken within the context of a healing ceremony – to cure the sick. Even today, for many Huautecos the mushroom velada is a ritual of particular importance as it is often viewed as a last resort for healing; people turn to psilocybin mushrooms to heal serious illnesses that have not responded to other treatments (Flores 2018).

Mushrooms in the West: From Sacrament to ‘Drug’

In the 1950s and 1960s psilocybin mushrooms made their way from Mexico into the Western counterculture, which had already embraced other psychedelics such as mescaline and LSD. In 1958, Albert Hoffman (1906-2008) – the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD – successfully synthesised psilocybin and psilocin, which initiated scientific research into the psychological effects of psilocybin. Shortly after in 1960, psychologist Timothy Leary (1920-1996) founded the Harvard Psilocybin Project. While this project was initially designed to test the effects of psilocybin on personality, it soon became apparent that research participants who took psilocybin were having religious and spiritual experiences (Letcher 2008: 201). The project’s most well-known study, The Marsh Chapel Experiment (also known as the ‘Good Friday Experiment’), supported the idea that psilocybin could reliably induce mystical experiences and that the compound had a definite sacramental quality. The creation of a number of countercultural ‘mushroom sects’ and new religious movements during this period (for example, The Fane of the PSILOCYBE Mushroom Association; The Church of the Golden Rule; Church of the One Sermon) also attests to the profound religious and spiritual effects that people found in both synthetic psilocybin and psilocybin mushrooms (Stuart 2002). Further, by 1973 the term ‘psychedelic’ had largely been replaced by ‘entheogen,’ meaning ‘that which engenders God within.’ This term was coined by a group of academic and amateur scholars (including Wasson) in order to emphasise the spiritual effects of psilocybin and to “distance their own practices from recreational and non-medical psychedelic mushroom use” (Letcher 2007: 84).

By the mid-1960s there was a moral panic and backlash regarding the use of psilocybin mushrooms in the West. This was driven partly by sensationalist and often exaggerated media stories about people who had allegedly ‘lost their minds’ or ‘gone mad’ after taking psychedelics, in particular LSD. However, Letcher (2008: 202) argues that the panic was likely less about personal health risks (in fact, a recent study by David Nutt, Leslie King, and Lawrence Phillips [2010] ranks mushrooms as the least harmful of illicit substances and LSD as the third least harmful) and more about a rising concern that an increasing number of people were taking psychedelics and losing their motivation to work. Regardless, in the United States a federal law that specifically banned psilocybin and psilocin was enacted on October 24, 1968; psilocybin-containing mushrooms were made illegal and their status was officially changed from sacrament to illicit drug.

Following this, the psychoactive compounds psilocybin and psilocin were listed as Schedule I drugs (defined as having a high potential for abuse and no recognised medical uses) under the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971). Scientific research into the psychological and medical effects of these compounds ended and those who wished to use psilocybin-containing mushrooms for spiritual or religious purposes were no longer legally able to do so. Scholars including Charlotte Walsh (2011; 2016) argue that the widespread restriction of psychedelics (many of which, like mushrooms, have a rich history of indigenous use) is a denial of spiritual rights, sacramental freedom and cognitive liberty. Others have argued that denying people access to effective antidepressant compounds such as psilocybin is a denial of human rights. Professor David Nutt has warned that patients are missing out on the potential benefits of such treatments and has said the restrictions amount to “the worst censorship in the history of science” (Campbell 2015).

The Future:

Acknowledging and understanding the traditional role of psilocybin mushrooms as a healing sacrament is vitally important for several reasons. First, it may help to remove the unnecessary and unfortunate stigma surrounding mushrooms, and encourage the acceptance of their use as powerful antidepressants and healing agents. Understanding the mushroom velada could also possibly provide more insight into how psilocybin has its therapeutic effect, and hence inform future medical studies and clinical trials. Finally, recognising the sacramental history of mushrooms helps to address the historical trauma that has occurred in indigenous communities in Mexico. The re-categorisation of psilocybin mushrooms from ‘sacred medicine’ to ‘drug’ has not only prevented spiritual and healing use of mushrooms in the West, it has also affected indigenous practicesin Mexico. For example, a study by Feinberg (2003: 96) includes a conversation with two Mazatec teachers who lamented that foreigners were destroying Mazatec indigenous culture and the velada by treating the mushrooms as drugs: “To us they are not drugs. They are sacred,” they repeated. Flores (2018) also argues that despite a history of forced religious conversion and desacralisation, the Mazatec people have continued to preserve the mushroom velada and consider it to be as sacred and significant as any other rituals that are found in the world’s major religions. Hence, it is important that both indigenous and non-indigenous people respect psilocybin mushrooms and the contexts in which they are consumed. Understanding that psilocybin mushrooms have held, and continue to hold, a significant place in the spiritual lives of many people is a critical step towards de-stigmatisation, sacred justice, and healing.

                                                                                   References:

 Campbell, Scott
2015 Legal Ban on LSD and Magic Mushrooms ‘Against Human Rights’, Say Scientists. Express, April. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/562399/drugs-ban-LSDmagic-mushrooms-psychedelic (accessed 16 February, 2020).

Duke, Michael R.
1996 Gordon Wasson’s Disembodied Eye: Genre, Representation and the Dialectics of Subjectivity in Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico. PhD. Diss. Texas: University of Texas. Estrada, Álvaro 2003 María Sabina: Selections, edited by Jerome Rothenberg, 1-79.

Berkeley, LA:
University of California Press. Feinberg, Benjamin 2003 The Devil’s Book of Culture: History, Mushrooms, and Caves in Southern Mexico. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Garcia-Romeu, Albert and William A. Richards 2018 Current Perspectives on Psychedelic Therapy: Use of Serotonergic Hallucinogens in Clinical Interventions. International Review of Psychiatry 30(4): 1-26.

Guzmán, Gastón
2008 Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Mexico: An Overview. Economic Botany 62(3): 404-412. Letcher, Andy 2007 Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms: Discourse and Power in the Study of Psychedelic Consciousness.

Anthropology of Consciousness 18(2):
74-97. Letcher, Andy 2008 Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. Nutt, David J., Leslie A. King, and Lawrence D. Phillips 2010 Drug Harms in the UK: a Multicriteria Decision Analysis.

The Lancet
376(9752): 1558-1565. Riedlinger, Thomas 2005 The “Wondrous Mushroom” Legacy of R. Gordon Wasson.

In Sacred Mushroom of Visions: Teonanácatl, edited by Ralph Metzner, 76-92. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.

Stuart, R.
2002 Entheogenic Sects and Psychedelic Religions. MAPS 12(1): 17-24. Flores, Inti García 2018 On Maria Sabina and the Mazatec Heritage with Inti and Paula. The Psychedologist, July.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/20fpWqUAORmdmaS58sDsK4 (accessed 24 January, 2020). Walsh, Charlotte 2011 Psychedelic Drugs and Human Rights: Sacramental Freedoms and Cognitive Liberty. YouTube, 7 May.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7jAxkaB0eY (accessed 24 January, 2020). Walsh, Charlotte 2016 Psychedelics and Cognitive Liberty: Reimagining Drug Policy through the Prism of Human Rights. International Journal of Drug Policy 29: 80-87.

In Review: Dr Bruce Damer- A Visionary Approach for Hope and Action in the Era of Climate Shock

Author: Marc Devitt
A Visionary Approach for Hope and Action in the Era of Climate Shock.

A sweltering Saturday afternoon in fire ravaged New South Wales; a modest cloud of witnesses
gently precipitates around the cool inner sanctuary of Rigpa’s ‘Temple on the Park’ in Sydney’s inner
west. Cups of cold water refresh us inside as we take our seats in front of the dais, for the proposed
‘audacious two-part romp’ through the liminal borderlands between materialist reductionism and visionary mysticism.

True To His Word: The heart of the human experience. 

Bruce Damer guided us through his unique technique of endogenous-tripping; a type of non-substance induced visionary journey, replete with colours, creatures and
worlds, embracing cosmic, biological and psychological origin narratives, a theory of almost
everything, and an optimistic prescience for the future of humanity (and all species of Gaia-kind) as
we prepare to launch into the cosmos toward the stars from which we’ve emerged.
Astoundingly,
Bruce managed to weave all of this upon the frame of the psychedelic experience, sharing intimate
recollections gleaned from his close friendship with Terence McKenna, and most impressively kept it
all bolted down onto an empirical, ‘dialled in’ foundation free of any woo-woo. Yet, the edifice
constructed upon that sure scientific foundation on that Saturday afternoon was a complex of
magical and alchemical wonder which evoked and drew out the very heart’s blood of the human
experience. The act left us deeply touched by the dimensionality and sincerity of Damer’s tender
compassion, in active application, to the task of healing human wounded-ness and evoking the
fulfilment of human potential in the face of climate crisis. I’ll try and sum it up in a brief sketch.

Part One: The Geeky Stuff

Part one involved the ‘geeky’ stuff as Bruce unassumingly displayed the rigour of his commitment to
the scientific method and moreover his drive, along with several other esteemed colleagues, to
combine laboratory experiments with experiments in the ‘raw field’ of nature. As such he explained
his work in recent years with UNSW (here in Australia) in the Pilbara and in Port Hedland where the
discovery of geyserite containing fossilised microbial substance and gas bubbles provided evidence
of hot springs on land, 3.48 billion years ago, now being theorised as providing the ‘warm little
ponds’ intuited by Darwin as the possible engines originating all life on Earth. Damer and his
colleague Deamer constructed series of artificial rock pools in the lab that replicated the wet-dry
cycles underpinning their theory and successfully produced the formation of DNA, RNA and other
proteins, without any mechanical interference beyond this natural wet-dry cycling. To the
astonishment of sceptics, they were able to produce the very same on location in the hot springs of
Yellowstone national park (the sceptics had not considered the function of ionic components in the
hot springs which allowed for stable protein formation).
Following our APS event in Sydney, Bruce flew to New Zealand to continue working with scientists there, at the renowned hot springs of Rotorua, where he continues to firm up the evidence backing this remarkable biogenesis theory. Bruce drew a delightful analogy between the dynamics of these hot spring rock pools and feeding
punch card programmes (polymers) into an Altair 8800 microcomputer (warm little cycling pools) to
convey how protocells (programs) would either pop their cell walls (crash) or else remain stable
(run) in order to be selected to be run again through the next cycle of growth. Bruce showed how
this understanding of the role of hot springs in biogenesis can be used to direct the search for
evidence of life on Mars and how he is currently working with the Japanese space agency to do just
that.
We then considered the origin story of the human species in particular: Bruce’s description of an
endo-trip in which he gained greater insight into the development of the visual cortex in prosimians.
This, he proposed, was a result of altered states of consciousness, gained by the more daring of the
species, who went out on a (tree) limb to get ‘lifted’ on tree sap, thus gaining visual acuity enabling
them to see through the mesmerising patterns of tree snakes which would have otherwise left them
transfixed and helpless prey. We’ve now evolved the ability to both recognise and create complex
hypnotising patterns; thus we can use this ability to create technological ‘snakes’ that can in turn be
used to wound or to heal, to either manipulate human weaknesses, transfix and exploit, or to
enhance human vision, break beguilement and help us to heal. Bruce contrasted the role of
manipulative media transfixing us to disempowering states of consciousness, that leave us open to
exploitation, with the very different liberating and empowering work of ‘trans-tech’ at Esalen
Institute, using techno-bio-logical interfacing to help us return to a state of communal synchronicity.
From the latter state of consciousness we can recognise dis-functional patterning and clear it out in
a group setting, to free up enormous amounts of energy for new creative and healthy endeavours.
Bruce called this ‘healing the inner kindergarden’ and pointed out that what so much of these
findings highlight is that the origin of life is in common community and not in separative
competition. He linked in Ram Dass’ philosophical point of contention with what he’d called the
myth of separateness and suggested that this scientific investigation could be for biologists in the
2020s what relativity was for physicists in the 1920s.

Part Two: Cosmological Exploration

Part two launched us into ontological and cosmological exploration, all the while grounded within
the appreciation of the rock pool dynamics as comparable computers processing randomly
generated polymer programmes and testing them to see if they boom or bust. Bruce proposed a
new Copernican cosmic centre – once again inspired by an endo-trip in which he was spurred to
consider the dynamics of these rock pools. It’s a triangular cycle which he calls ‘the progenote’
(pictured below):
In brief it shows how there is a kind of ‘Engine of Emergence’ at the heart of cosmos, which is conscious, recollective, interactive and actively shaping probability. Bruce proposes that it is this ‘field’ of consciousness which our limited primate brain samples and that this explains many of the other-worldly ecstatic and epiphanic perceptions of the psychedelic experience. ‘Life opens pathways to impossible events’ he asserted, relating several instances in which he had successfully interacted with this kind of triune engine of responsiveness and suggesting ways in which we might learn to do so with greater dexterity – including but not limited to the use of psychedelic substances.

In the end: “The trip is always made within” – Bruce Damer

Bruce concluded the talk by applying all of these findings to the current climate crisis and noted the urgency for climate change mitigation strategies, noting that whilst emissions reduction is surely a must, we are already inevitably going to experience some possibly cataclysmic shifts, even if the harm reduction is effective and we spare ourselves the worst case scenario. If we are able to preserve biological diversity here on Earth first, we can look toward navigating the stars and preserving Gaia’s greatest experiment beyond the inevitable ‘Venus terminator’ event 100 millennia from now, in which Earth will follow a similar fate to her sister planet on the inner orbital ring. Designs for spacecraft capable of harvesting asteroids were floated as a possible way for us to obtain the resources needed to launch into space and explore life on other planets. Such confidence was refreshing in what is so often a prevalent climate of almost apocalyptic gloom and frustration, nevertheless stressed along with the optimistic confidence was the urgency of a call to action.

Bruce encouraged optimistic and holistic effort (to which the efficient use of psychedelic tools of various sorts are undoubtedly a helpful supplement, if not an essential contingent!) in the war on stupefied inertia and stunned apathy which inevitably results from a vision too dull to recognise the predator behind the patented patterns of profit driven predators in the digital marketplace. Damer has certainly evoked from within us a confidence that, in such a struggle, the marriage of endo and exo tripping, of psychedelics and science, offers a greater probability of victory and an earnest reminder that, whatever cosmic journeys we may yet embark upon: ‘the trip is always made within’. 

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