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’. 

To find out more about The Australian Psychcedelic Society and the events we hold, visit us at our website, facebook and sign up to our newsletter to be made aware of events near you. 

Mind Medicine Australia Launch


Mind Medicine Australia Launch Event

INTERNATIONAL KEYNOTE: PROFESSOR DAVID NUTT
Psychedelic Therapy: A New Paradigm for Mental Health

The launch of Mind Medicine Australia will bring together a cross-section of Australian change makers who are seeking better solutions to our growing mental health. We look forward to welcoming you to this unique and meaningful event.

Wednesday, February 13
5:30pm arrival for 6pm start
Carrillo Gantner Theatre
Sidney Myer Asia Centre
The University Of Melbourne

Register Here

Just a Regular Mum… that Treated Her C-PTSD with Psychedelics…

By Antanika Holton
This article is republished here with full permissions.

I sit, tightly wound for a moment, I’ve waited for this day for about a year.
I’m having my mental health assessed for the trauma I endured as a child. So I can be signed off as being mentally healthy for the first time in my life.

I hear my name called and I cross the room to greet the Psychiatrist. I like to think I’m a little open minded but she was exactly what you’d expect; Mid 50’s, with smart clothes and sensible shoes. She leads me down a long hall, the doors off to the sides have other therapists practicing from them. All of them in the Psychology field.

The woman across from me smiles warmly as I take a seat, the room is older than I was expecting, with 8ft decorated ceilings with all the trimmings.
It was also…pretty….ugly.
Mrs. Psych (not her real name) is a Psychiatrist who practices Psychotherapy in a fancier part of town that I rarely visit.

“I’m Mrs. Psych-” she shakes her head to the side, moving her fringe out her eyes, her once blonde bob, is heavily scattered with grey.
Her eyes are kind and quite small as she squints over at me.
I’m a little nervous and my arm pits are soggy but I find myself behaving bright, bubbly and conversational with her. Her warm manner makes me feel as though I’ve met her before, perfect.
My thoughts wonder and I imagine sitting in an actual therapy session with her.

She bursts into my day dream with “So, you’re here for an mental health assessment…-”
She pauses and looks up “…and- he was not convicted due to a lack of evidence…is that correct?”
“Yes”
 I smile.
My mind races through my memories and I realise how much everything scatters under pressure. I realise that I can’t recall a thing for a moment; 6 years of sexual abuse at the hands of a step-father, need I say more.
Ya know, the norm.
She crosses her leg across her other, corrects her posture and jots a note on her notepad. I reach for my water bottle beside me and take a sip.

“I am sorry you had to endure that…” she offers, “…So, tell me what happened, from the beginning, I understand this might be difficult for you so take as long as you need, we can take breaks if you need to.”
She searches my face sympathetically for any strike of pain she might find in my eyes.

I don’t flinch.

I run her by the first main instances but I strain to recall the smaller details, making me worry that I come off as insincere, I apologise, “it’s been a while since I’ve had to recall them”.
So, she asks me specifics, “how old were you, how old were you when it ended and why”, I answered as best as I could.
I have told my story so many times and it was so fresh once but the less I live in it, the less and less I have it sitting in the front of my thoughts.
These days, it feels as though who I am now, and who I was then, are worlds apart.  I barely recognise myself  although I feel that’s a good thing.
For anyone who like me has suffered from the grips of C-PTSD, you’d understand just how great it is to be able to see a future past a few days.
I look forward to so much that I rarely look back anymore.

“How do you feel it affected your life as a child, at school, in friendships, relationships, etc?”, she asks carefully.
I find her overly apologetic for a psychiatrist.
I tell her; how normal anxiety was for me, of how my childhood involved family violence, financial struggles, addiction and sexual abuse, over all it was unstable. I told her how I always felt out of place within my family and within any social groups, I felt isolated and alone. We moved a lot which meant I struggled to make and keep friendships, resulting in both my brother and I being at the ass end of bulling at times. I was a painfully shy and introverted child, whom also happened to be hiding an awful secret, it was a shitty mix.
In short, it was a bit shit.

“How do you feel it affected you in high school and the years following?”

I spoke of my promiscuous attention seeking behaviours, my inability to make friends, my excessive drinking, my risky behaviours, teen pregnancy. I tell her of my struggles with anxiety and depression, which at times made It difficult to parent my young son, or work.
It hindered my ability to judge what a good relationship should be.

I told her “My idea of what I was, had been over the years painfully skewed.”

“Okay, So, how do you feel it influences your life now?”

I light up, I smile and I lean forward in my chair and I tell her as my heartbeats fast in my chest because I know I am about to disclose something to her that maybe I shouldn’t.

I take a breath and continue, “The last 10 months have been some of the best months of my life, I rarely experience anxiety, unless its PMS related, my depression is gone, my C-PTSD is gone and my belief in myself has improved tenfold.”

She smiles brightly, “Can I ask, this is the second time you’ve mentioned the improvement over the last 10 or so months, why now, why so dramatically? What changed?”.
Her brow furrows with curiosity.

My heart skips a beat as the words fall from my mouth before I can catch them, “I took LSD and magic mushrooms to treat myself… I’d tried everything else…”
I watch her face, waiting for a glimpse of disapproval.
But I see none.

The drugs Lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) and Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) are both a schedule 1 narcotic meaning they are highly illegal despite the benefits they’ve been seen to have on treatment resistant mental health conditions such as mine.
To have those drugs was a big risk some might say.
But when you’re desperate, and the other choice is death, it’s a risk that I found was absolutely worth taking.

I squirm in my seat slightly, ‘might I regret this later? Despite the research and personal outcome?’
Imagine that, having a new mental health assessment because you were abused as a kid, but end up in jail for treating said abuse with highly illegal yet beneficial substances whilst, your abuser walks free, forever.
It felt unlikely to me that i’d end up in trouble, so I let it go. And anyway, she asked and, so, I gave my honest answer. I am not a dishonest person and I pride myself on that.

Oh-”  she exclaims “-I’ve been reading some of the research recently, it is quite interesting and looks promising, I’ look forward to seeing the studies”.

I beam at her and my shoulders relax, excited to be discussing this with a mental health professional in a position I respect, “The benefits are quite incredible…Especially when integrated with therapy.”

I am very interested to see what else it can do” she says.

“I feel kind of like I am wasting my time here-” I tell her boldly, “-I believe that I am pretty good now, that I won’t go back to how I was, and that the drugs helped me find a new path, both with healing, within my body, and within my mind…” 

I shrug, some what surprised at my clear articulation under her slight pressure. She smiles and continues chatting with me as she tells me she has to make notes on my appearance, checking my clothing over as part of her physical assessment.

“You really should be proud of that-” She pauses,
“- it takes many people many years to get to the stage you’re at, but I can understand why you might feel that way now, but you did everything right, you got the help, and I am glad to hear about it.”

I don’t believe that without my experiences with psychedelics in my early 30s that my C-PSTD, and depression or anxiety would have subsided as soon as they did.

These experiences allowed me to ask questions only I knew the answers to but hadn’t found yet.

I also don’t believe that I would have even considered I was intelligent enough if it were not for one experience where I felt as though the walls that enslaved my intelligence were finally broken down. I felt them fall as I made new revelations about myself and the world around me and where my own trauma had been holding me back. I made connections in those few experiences that I can’t imagine I would ever have been able to have made in my regular state of mind.
It is these experiences that allowed me to see myself exactly as I was.
I could finally see through certain areas that were once so foggy and dense that I deemed myself as ‘naive or slow, dumb, and my no means intelligent.’

But it was merely trauma and my own ‘ego’ getting in the way.
The integration of psychedelics in my personal life has had significant benefits.
Not only on my personal life but also on the way I function within society.
I am friendlier, helpful, cleaner, I feel vastly more amounts of empathy for strangers. I have found myself on pathways that lead me to functioning better as a person, to always wanting to be better.
These drugs allowed me to see my potential for a moment, and then allowed me to make the changes I needed to make that transition easier, it allowed me to be more conscious of my behaviours leading to better choices for long term.

Mrs.Psych sits back in her chair and writes a few more notes, briefly pausing to apologise for the silence and when she’s done our session draws to a close.

She thanks me for my honesty, and commends my progress, she places her pen and paper down beside her chair.

She smiles warmly, “And what’s next for you she asks?”.

“All the things”.

And then we laugh.

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Disclaimer:  
I am not saying that everyone should use this method nor that I continue to do so. This is merely my own experience.
Always take precautions; Educate yourself, read the research thoroughly and ensure you are safe.
I do not encourage or recommend anyone take part in “illegal activities” if they don’t want to.
Before taking any approach to healing that is alternative to the social norms, be sure to look into the legalities of such things depending on where you live. Also, it is incredibly important to be aware that not all substances will help everyone, and some substances can have effects that are not desired.
Be sure to do all your research before partaking in anything different that alters your usual waking state. 

And of course, like all things, if you or someone you know is having issues with drugs of any kind, reach out and get support.