I had the recent pleasure of facilitating a roundtable discussion at Stillpoint London’s first year anniversary celebration. We talked about therapeutic uses of psychedelics, ego and boundary dissolution, and the loss of ritual in modern society:
The topic of psychedelics has recently gained mainstream attention by scholars, journalists, and psychedelic explorers from all walks of life. For the past 50 years information on the use of psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA has been misinformed and reactionary. Thankfully prohibition on research into psychedelics is ending, and researchers are now testing these substances for the treatment of psychological disorders such as addiction, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)… with promising results. But that’s only part of the story: what about the use of these substances outside a clinically controlled environment?
There’s a need in modern society for a tool that connects us with ourselves, each other and the planet, and psychedelics may be just the tool. Indigenous cultures have known this for millennia, and have incorporated psychedelic plants such as mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca experiences into their cultural practices. This included an emphasis on the set and setting, and involved a shaman or guide as well as community support together with music, singing and drumming to facilitate healing.
In Western society, healing community rituals are nowhere to be found. People are expected to deal with their problems quietly and on their own, or seek individualized professional help. A large number of us are also experiencing feelings of disconnection and isolation, and we now know that chronic loneliness can be as harmful as smoking cigarettes. So how can psychedelics potentially help?
What psychedelics seem to do is break down the ego-separated experience of the almighty ‘I’ which then gives way to connection with the ‘other’ and the transcendent. Non-ordinary states of consciousness help us realize that our place in the world is largely interconnected. In other words, there is no ‘I’ without the ‘other’ (to quote the British-American philosopher Alan Watts). But this can be a difficult concept to grasp without the assistance of psychedelics, meditation, yoga, or other consciousness-expanding activities.
It does seem like the recent revival of psychedelics may simply be a fad. But… there is a sneaking suspicion that we are collectively in a position to embrace potential new tools for therapy, and engage in a process of cultural and planetary healing. We are living in uncertain times, so perhaps in comparison to the looming existential threats of climate change, nuclear disaster, and artificial intelligence run amuck, psychedelics do not seem as ‘far out’ as they once did.
Ultimately, embracing the new scientific research on psychedelics will help us make decisions about their future use in society. Much work needs to be done if we are to boldly face our existential threats and generate solutions. Psychedelics may provide the insight needed to avert these disasters, and create an interconnected community-focused global society—here’s hoping.
Alan Bordeville is a member of the Stillpoint Spaces London community and in March he facilitated a roundtable discussion as part of our first year anniversary event 'Ourselves, Each Other, The World'. Alan currently runs his practice in London, and his Stillpoint profile can be found via the 'Counselling' tab up top. You can also follow him on twitter @AlanBordeville.
Artwork by www.kateholford.com.