Magic potions, strange trips, and healing plants

Last week I paid tribute to Albert Hoffman at an event hosted by Reality Sandwich. I have been following the site for a while, and really enjoyed the screenings and the conversation (led by John Perry Barlow and Daniel Pinchbeck).

I was a bit startled to encounter a perspective that I hadn’t thought about for a while. There were psychedelic enthusiasts who faithfully imagined the world being a better place if we all took a little trip (slight caricature, but bear with me). After a few years working on the Icarus Project and immersed in academia I found this attitude slightly jarring. Talk about technological determinism – our salvation in the form of an external molecule?

I happen to think that a bit of psychedelic experimentation might certainly help make the world a better place, but for one thing, if society were truly tolerant of freaks and drugs, we wouldn’t need them so badly in first place. For another, psychedelics are arguably more available now than ever before, and they haven’t (yet) catalysed the transformation imagined.

But what really bugged me is how this counter-cultural rhetoric would play directly into the hands of Big Pharma. Their message for years is that happiness can be found at the bottom of a pill bottle. Try to vividly imagine what these drugs would look like in their hands – the clinical administration of extracted active ingredients, outside of the usual cultural sacred context. This wouldn’t accelerate the evolution of consciousness, just the flow of capital into Pharma’s coffers. I also found it interesting to trace the genealogy of LSD back to psychiatry.

To be completely fair, Reality Sandwich’s message isn’t so simple, but I do feel its important to imagine how these messages might be appropriated.

I’ll leave you with one of the shorts from Post Modern Times: Consciousness is the Key

One Response to “Magic potions, strange trips, and healing plants”

  1. Carolyn
    October 30th, 2009 | 8:43 pm

    I agree with you. I liked Pinchbeck’s two books but there is something extremely lazy about taking pills or bitwee root or whatever to have an experience or to communicate with spirit. Further more, he is ONLY interested in learning about dynamic experiences in this manner rather than, say, meditation or a sweat lodge or group work. People need to learn to calm down and tune into things on their own in order to realize how powerful they are.

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