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How Psychedelics Might Fuel a Paradigm Shift: Opinion

We're living in dire times—and we're in dire need of change.

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Updated September 1, 2022

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

“This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real.” – Ella Baker

I discovered this quote at the beginning of Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, and it echoes my sentiment in writing this piece. I believe that the current momentum for psychedelic medicines moving into the mainstream represents a global evolutionary opportunity. With the integration of psychedelics into our culture, we can also integrate psychedelic thinking into our social systems. But, in order to do so effectively, we need a major shift in our worldview.

Over the last 50 years, we have not seen any major innovation in the mental health field, and we now face a series of crises stemming from mental illness. At the same time, we are facing an incredible crisis of inequality. Among many startling statistics, the world’s richest 1% own 45.8% of the world’s wealth, according to a 2021 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. In The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson correlate economic inequality with mental illness, specifically “diseases of despair” like depression, substance dependence, and suicidal ideation. Psychedelic medicines may be the innovation we need to revolutionize mental health, but they also represent much more.

Today’s predominant economic patterns are designed to be extractive of our individual, collective, and natural resources. This outcome emerged from a belief system that humans are self-interested, separate from nature, serving the never-ending pursuits of growth, profit maximization, competition, and dominion.

This story lacks any inherent truth. Whether it be mirror neurons, horizontal gene transfer, group evolution, morphic fields, biofield science, or something further out, the emerging sciences illustrate a general principle of interconnection, maybe even oneness. As many who have had psychedelic experiences can attest, these compounds can give us a glimpse of this reality.

Read: Can Psychedelics Rekindle Ancient Animism in Modern Society?

I love the example of the Kogi tribe, which after colonization, now resides in the Sierra Nevada Region of Northern Colombia. According to the late German ethnobotanist Reichel Dolmotof, the Kogi believe that they have been charged with protecting the Earth and maintaining the balance of life through their prayers. They also believe that as we cut into the Earth, we (their “younger brothers and sisters”) are tearing at the heart of the Great Mother.

The Kogi also view every plant as a manifestation of the divine. The chewing of hayo, a variety of coca found only in the mountains of Colombia, represents their most profound expression of culture. Distance in the mountains is not measured in miles, but hayo chews. When two men meet, they exchange leaves. A sacred experience for them is to abstain from sex, eating, and sleeping while staying up all night, chewing hayo and chanting the names of the ancestors.” The Kogi illustrate a beautiful example of how external systems reflect a culture’s values and internal systems.

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Can you imagine what’s possible when we organize our social systems based on a worldview where our values and actions are directly responsible for maintaining the planet’s balance? Given the wisdom we can glean from psychedelic experiences, it doesn’t seem like a novel idea to shift the values of our collective organizations, communities, and society at large. I join many emerging voices who imagine a regenerative economy based on the wisdom of reciprocity, responsibility, reverence, and reconnection. I imagine technological development and industrial investment shifting course to restore and replenish the planet’s ecosystems by distributing goods and resources fairly. I imagine a system where humanity thrives in the balance of our collective organism, living in harmony and symbiosis with the planet.

Read: How Anti-Racism is a Form of Psychedelic Harm Reduction

For me, reciprocity, responsibility, reverence, and reconnection are at the root of this worldview. They are precursors for and functions of an evolved social body.

Reciprocity can be defined as an exchange that maintains balance and harmony between two or more beings. It is the recognition that we are here to be of service to each other.

Responsibility is a promise or a pledge in return for receiving something—like the gifts we often receive from psychedelic medicines. It also means answering to greater forces than ourselves, such as the Self/Soul, a community, a global ecology, or all of the above.

Reverence can be defined as the act of honoring those greater forces, perhaps in revering our planet, a river, a plant, each other, or the mundane task of washing the dishes (I particularly like washing dishes). It’s the recognition that we are participants in a sacred experience.

Reconnection is rejoining the parts of ourselves that have been separated. It recognizes our relational nature. It requires the dissolution of hierarchy, or power over, and leads directly to the heart. Reconnection makes something whole.

These four values work synergistically. When there is an exchange that maintains balance and harmony, a level of responsibility is inherent. With reciprocity, responsibility, and reverence centered in our psyches, we can’t help but reconnect to ourselves, to our communities, and our planet with hearts full of forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, and love.

Read: Conscious Capitalism is an Alibi and an Apology for Our Existing Paradigm

Our world needs to be radically transformed. We face an unprecedented mental illness crisis as too many unsustainable systemic challenges fester across the spectrum of business and finance, governments, ecological health, and global stability.

The emergence of psychedelics into our mainstream cultural awareness represents a global evolutionary opportunity. We forget that our abilities are extensions of what we have received from the natural world. The psychedelic awakening reconnects our internal systems with nature, inspires reciprocity, responsibility, and reverence within us, and could be exactly what we need to transform our collective systems and institutions. In fact, this may all be part of a much larger natural cycle—the evolution of society, the development of consciousness exquisitely timed and purposeful. Is it possible that psychedelic compounds making their way into mainstream acceptance and application are the chemical signals from our Earth Mother relaying to us the information necessary for our evolution?

As existing systems crumble, we can increasingly grasp the possibilities of a psychedelic awakening, worldview, and systemic redesign. With psychedelics at the nexus of this evolutionary moment, I believe it’s possible that we can end the war on drugs, catalyze mental healthcare, redefine the socio-economic hierarchy, and address ecological emergencies. The psychedelic community increasingly has access to enormous wells of human, social, financial, and spiritual resources and there are many inspiring movements underway to use them. What’s needed is a shared reality, a unifying worldview, a way of being in service to, dare I say, the balance of the universe. We are at the tipping point. It’s time to go further than short reprieves in the Peruvian jungle and once-a-year pilgrimages to Burning Man. We must overcome self-interest, so that we do not miss the opportunity to take our place within Earth’s ecology, to build the foundations of reciprocity, responsibility, reverence, and reconnection for ourselves and the future generations of this planet that depend on us.

This may only be my dream, but I think it can be made real.

*Please take none of this as truth, but only perspectives to be evolved.

If you’re looking for peer support during or after a psychedelic experience, contact Fireside Project by calling or texting 6-2FIRESIDE. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for support.
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