Psychedemia; Exploring The World Behind The Trip


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“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.

Here’s Tom with the weather” ~ Bill Hicks

By Alex Grey 2006.

By Alex Grey 2006.

Today I was browsing Facebook and I came across a video about an academic conference on psychedelics, called Psychedemia. This video gives an hour long overview on the subjects which were discussed during the conference. To sum up in their own words:

Psychedemia is an academic conference hosted at the University of Pennsylvania from September 27-30, 2012. This conference will feature university scholars and researchers from across the country in the fields of medicine, psychology, neuroscience, ethics, rhetoric, and anthropology to discuss recent ideas and discoveries in psychedelic studies. Researchers will be brought together with clinicians and professionals in interdisciplinary symposia that will explore an array of culturally-pertinent subjects. Psychedemia

A lot of different speakers are shown in this documentary; the documentary was created to give an overview of the conference which lasted for 4 days. But although you see a lot of short clips, the overall result is very interesting to say the least. The medical, ethical and philosophical implications can be huge, if psychedelics were allowed back into the mainstream. And a lot of questions I have asked myself are raised at the end of the documentary.

Watch the documentary here:

Here’s a short summary of what caught my attention.

After a short introduction, ‘our’ psychedelic past – the history of the use of and the research on psychedelics in the west – is examined. Did you know that in the early 50´s and 60´s there was a lot of research on psychedelics? Even the CIA worked with LCD (read more in the book Acid Dreams). In some ten minutes a lot of research is shown with some famous names on the list; to name a few Albert Hoffman, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary and (from recent times) Rick Strassman. If you’re not familiar with these names, I suggest you search them if you’re interested in (the research on) psychedelics.

After the short lesson in history, the therapeutic applications are described. There is actually quite a bit of research on the application of psychedelics. This research is done in a controlled and scientific way, while providing a safe environment for the volunteers. Research suggests psychedelics (e.g. psylocibine mushrooms) can be used for relieving anxiety with cancer patients or used to deal with depressions. Shelley White wrote two articles on this subject recently on CE. You can read them here (Psychedelic Mushrooms for depression) and here (The healing power of psychedelic mushrooms).

The next part is called Primum non nocere which can be translated in ‘first, do no harm’ (Wikipedia). This part focuses on the ethical issue of withholding psychedelics and their potential healing applications from the public. Shouldn’t these psychedelics with this high potential be made available as a medicine? Isn’t a matter of human dignity to start acting honestly with natural substances? Like Lazyboy stated it in a clear and unmistakable way in their song Underwear goes outside the pants: “Why is marihuana not legal? It’s a natural plant that grows in the dirt. You know what’s not natural? Eighty year old dudes with hard-ons. But we’ve got pills for that”

Another topic of interest is the issue of taking tourists to the Amazon for ayahuasca ceremonies. Considering the tourist business, some good questions were asked by one of the attendants of the conference: Should we utilize ayahuasca without using the knowledge, experience and songs of traditional wisdom keepers (Curanderos) from indigenous tribes? Is there danger in taking ayahuasca without the guidance? Is their culture respected and protected? An important question, cause these tribes have world views which differ radically from ours; there is a lot to learn from their ancient knowledge, so we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Art is up next. I think most of you may know the work of Alex Grey, a famous artist who paints vivid imagery which has inspired millions – he worked with the band Tool a lot, take a look at the artwork of Tool’s album Lateralus if you’re interested. Next to Alex Grey, there is a whole culture of psychedelic inspired art. I like the idea of art as a means of trying to portrait the unspeakable, art as language without words. The main thread is that art is – just as science or religion – a way of expressing what consciousness is like. And I must say I like that point of view. It gives room to bring them all together in one whole, without the need of excluding one part or another.

The final part of the documentary is my favorite. It’s about philosophy. The implications of the use of psychedelics are discussed. What would it mean for human growth and potential, if we’re to start utilizing psychedelics instead of steroids and prescription drugs? It basically asks the same questions Graham Hancock asked in his controversial TED talk [see more here] (thank you TED for all the extra attention you’ve drawn to it, though the reason why is highly questionable). The question is whether the materialistic approach to consciousness is sufficient. Or is mind all and everything? At first psychedelics seem to be purely mind manifested, but if you look at it, it’s actually chemicals which influence the neurosystem of the brain – which is material. So it might be that we’ve been asking the wrong question or at least looking for the answer in the wrong direction. There might actually be no distinction between mind and matter, observer and the observed..

This hour long documentary has made me raise my eyebrows a lot and I can’t wait to see more of the speakers. Those who are just as me interested in more after seeing this and are looking for the full presentations; I’ve got some good news! The channel owner [Zaarc] who uploaded the video has the following to say: “Yes, we will begin regularly releasing the uncut talks and interviews to this channel on May 1st, 2013. “

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CE provides a space for free thinkers to explore and discuss new, alternative information and ideas. The goal? Question everything, think differently, spread love and live a joy filled life.

  1. James Greff

    Its’s called ethnobotany, it’s as old as humankind, and it works. Good job catching up there, Science.

  2. Thomas Lee Howell

    The frist time I took LSD at age 14 i was tricked into it. I took 4 times the normal dose. I was also an artist and loved creepy stuff like Vampirella etc. On acid every monster I ever drew or imagined came to life. Needless to say after the ER pumping my stomach I had xray vision for weeks afterwards and saw rats and bugs inside the walls of my house. But, I got over it. The brain is a parcular organ. IF you have the intelligence to handle a drug like LSD and KNOW you will come down and off of it, then you are fine. I did. I also expanded my artistic endeavors and had a 35 year music career after that as lyricist and composer. SO in eesence it woke up a sleeping genius. 13 novels 7 on Amazon.com 107 screenplays and 200 original songs and over 200 paintings. Was that already i \n my head and heart? Who knows? But LSD opened doors for me. Should it be legal? Not sure. People drive drunk and kill others. LSD is not to be an open and outside recreational drug. Under controlled conditions (for recreational uses or certain therapy) yes. Over 21 in almost all circumstances unless supervised by experienced adults. Period.

  3. wow.just use your mind in its natural state.thats it.nothing more.

  4. Mr. Joe

    My 1st experiment with LSD was on my 17th birthday back in 1976. I was in the Army, not by choice, and stationed in W.Germany. The experience was an eye opener. I was up all night experiencing life as I never had before. During the wee hours of the morning I started writing about our communion with nature. And how we should try supporting and nurturing the planet. I ended up writing 13 pages. It changed me, in that I have a more profound appreciation of everything around me. I didn’t abuse it and the few times I tried it later in my life ended up having the same affect. IMHO, for what it’s worth

  5. Pingback: Psychedemia: An interdisciplinary conference focused on meaning rather than medication | Exopermaculture

  6. Ian

    Humans have forgotten who they truly are. Psychedelics is a sad excuse to experience your higher self. Regardless of LSD being able to put you in your higher frequencies, it is however not natural at all. The individuals who do not know how to question everything they read will take this to heart and think that it is okay because so many other humans are doing it. Especially those who do NOT need the medical treatment, but just do it at their own leisure. I do understand that these substances may help or ease discomfort to a number of specific humans, but there are much better and healthier ways to experience your less dense non-physical vibrational frequency.

    • I totally agree Ian.. I dare not mess with these substances. At the same time I wonder why in our culture so many people are looking for ways to escape the daily reality.

      But i also think it’s important to have proper information on the matter. If it is all out in the open without any information, people will use the psychedelics because it’s ‘fun’ or ‘exciting’ without any background info.

      They used to have drug testing with information stands on festivals here in the Netherlands. Because of that, hardly anything bad ever happened. But due to the zero tolerance policy, these information stands have been sort of banned from the festivals and people caught with illegal drugs are punished. So what do party people do? They take the drugs before entering into the venue, thereby overdosing or tripping out.

      imo it should not be about proclaiming psychedelics to be just fun and ok to take as something recreational. It should be about proper education, to give people the opportunity to know what they’re doing.

      btw: i’d love to here some more on this: “there are much better and healthier ways to experience your less dense non-physical vibrational frequency”

    • I agree with you Ian. I have experienced both LSD and “the healthier way”. I must say that my experiences that came from being clear, healthy and through accessing higher planes of consciousness were far more vivid and potent than with mind altering drugs.

      We have become so far removed from nature and what is truly natural that we are only experiencing a mere percentage of what we believe is real.

      Also, accessing higher planes of consciousness and having these experiences is work and commitment to ones self.

      Taking (prescribed) mind altering drugs is the equivalent to taking prescription meds!
      As opposed to encouraging healing from within.

      I am interested in watching this video, there is always interesting information to be obtained!

    • Luke

      ‘Psychedelics is a sad excuse to experience your higher self.’ – Really? Then all those ancient ceremonies/shamanic rituals that have been adopted by many cultures around the world for thousands of years were just sad excuses? Id be shocked if you’ve had any real experience with psychedelic substances with that kind of negative attitude, so I’m just assuming you haven’t. Yes, you can explore consciousness through deep meditation/fasting/dreaming etc…but nature provides these substances for a very damn good reason.

      ‘there are much better and healthier ways to experience…’ – Psychedelics in their purest form have no physical side-effects. No amount of spiritual development or deep meditation can come close to a full-on psychedelic trip. Sorry, you need to stop handing out misinformation if you don’t have first-hand experience.

  7. Steven Thorpe

    Thank you Pieter, I love this kind of thing. It gives me hope for the day we win the war on consciousness when I see so many like minded people speaking up for humanities right to use natures bounty for soul healing.

  8. alice

    I did an extensive project in high school about the medicinal, religious and philosophical use of hallucinogens throughout history. Shame on or modern society for depending solely on pharmaceuticals to treat patients. There are many wonderful things about modern medicine however, we are overly dependent on them and they aren’t always the most effective approach to houruman illness and suffering. Unfortunately or economy depends on our dependence on medicine and medical treatment as well as the prosecution of those who possess “illegal”drugs.

  9. Nicely done.

  10. back that pre illegal day not only was there all that research, but there were therapists embracing psychocatives/psychedelics in therapeutic practice. There results were positive, but none of this was listened to because the agernda from the beginning was about control. what if people got insight to the reasons their lives were empty and meaningless in the context of how the dominant comsumer society was headed? oh dear, we could not have that could we. So it went underground with the result that we are where we would have been, but mmore divisively and with less trust in the powers that be, if that is even possible – to have less trust.compared to someother scenario that did not happen. Claudio Naranjo in South America wrote an interesting book that has stuck with me. It has much to say about recovered memory therapy and the issues of true/false of irrelevance of that mundane “reality check status.

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