Despite present displays of intolerance, ignorance and prejudice we witness brokenheartedly as the world convulses before our eyes, we are living an incredible moment in the evolution of consciousness. From a broader perspective, these are but birth pangs, and the widespread collective awakening to ecological, feminist, afrodescendant, LGBT, Islamic and indigenous causes, among many others, is here to testify.
The new generations are growing up immersed in this atmosphere of revolution. Other generations did it before, that’s true, but what is unique to our moment is the increasing understanding that the path for such goal is a nonviolent one, for it is no longer a revolution of class or custom, but a revolution of consciousness.
Part of our collective suffering ensues from the rift between mind and matter that has characterized the modern world, which led us to the present era of uncertainties, our postmodern times. In the center of this gulf lies the estrangement between science and spirituality.
If we really wish a more inclusive and restorative world, it is necessary first to dissolve the illusions that thrive on both sides of the contention. On one side lies the fundamentalism of positivistic science, which assumes that all that exists is matter, and realistic solutions to any kind of problem (or disease) must address the material aspect of existence alone.
On the other side we have those who are aware of the pitfalls of positivistic thinking. Apart from religious people bound to a particular doctrine, who are more susceptible of falling for the other side of the positivist coin (religious fundamentalism), there are those who are “spiritual” in a sense that Theodore Roszak aptly termed “the Aquarian frontier”, but which came to be popularly known as the New Age movement.
Most adherents of this front tend to dismiss science and allopathic medicine all along, weary of the shameless deceit purported by the advertising industry in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies and their unrelenting profit-seeking commitment. But by doing so, we miss and important piece of the story: evolution is an increase in complexity, and not the other way around, and a return to a pre-scientific or pre-technological state is not possible.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t fight for the right of aboriginal peoples to thrive according to their own customs (and in their own lands), or that we shouldn’t bother trying to learn how to walk this Earth with them. To the contrary, it means that, in our current stage of the evolution of consciousness, the recognition of diversity is an a priori condition for the evolution to follow its course, once every being in this planet has a unique gift to offer to the planetary community.
The evolution of consciousness, then, requires nothing less than the reintegration of mind and matter on a level that we haven’t achieved yet. This is the major challenge of our times, and one that can only be resolved if we are capable of taking the first steps towards the reintegration of these two distinct fields of knowledge: science and spirituality. A herculean task it is, but not an impossible one. It is the least we can do before the colossal challenges of the Anthropocene.
One first step we can take is to support psychedelic science, and you can do your part by donating to the crowdfunding campaign I am involved with, which aims to bring MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD to Brazil.
If you are a suitor of a more spiritual approach to life, like me, or if you have a strong ecological ethos like I do, forged by a deep appreciation for the natural medicines of the Earth and the traditions that ensued from their ritual use, you may find it a bit difficult sometimes to see where exactly your values converge with a project that seems to have such a “synthetic” flavor. You are not alone! Fortunately, I have done a lot of reflection on the subject in the past years of academic and spiritual pursuit, and, as my own gift, I offer here 7 reasons of why you should support psychedelic science:
It is my personal belief that traditional and syncretic ceremonies with ayahuasca and other entheogens are unmatched by any modern approach to healing. Still, the former won’t be regulated as legitimate practices by the medical system. Not within our current paradigm (and perhaps not during our lifetime). Plant medicine work exists under a nebulous condition within our western realities, obscured from the gaze of society due to its illegality.
Turns out it may even work better as such, as a lunar tradition that is not meant for the light of common day. But this makes it a selective practice, made available only to initiates who are answering an inner call for self-knowledge. The problem is that we don’t have the time to wait for everyone’s calling, as we become more and more aware that there’s no turning back from the challenges of the Anthropocene. If we really want a change of global magnitude and outreach, it is through the medical system that this paradigm shift will happen first.
For a global outreach to become possible, it is necessary to overcome the legal obstacles that are intrinsic to the larger medical system. In order to regulate the use of a substance for medical purposes, a series of rigorous stages must be successfully completed. The substance’s medical potential must be scientifically demonstrated, which requires experiments that can be reproduced with the same degree of success in different places and with different participants.
The scientific method relies on quantitative data (converted in numbers). This data can only be obtained if the scientist is capable of measuring all steps with sharp precision, having absolute control of the dosage and degree of purity of a substance, and drawing the same kind of precision from the results.
For entheogens such as ayahuasca, even the production of the brew is entirely comprised of qualitative variables (beginning with the ritualized preparation of the brew). Furthermore, the final concoction varies enormously from one preparation to another and from one place to another.
Conversely, MDMA, a synthetic molecule that had its patent expired, occupies the unique position in the world of being the ideal substance to overcome all demands for quantification and thus push the frontiers of the legislation that deals with the use of controlled substances for medical purposes.
3) PUBLIC HEALTH
Without being regulated or approved, entheogenic medicine will never be included in the health care and will always be perceived as suspicious or even dangerous by the medical system. Why does it matter? For people like you and I, perhaps it doesn’t matter that much. We have our contacts and we are part of this underground network of alternative medicine, even if it means walking in the threshold of legality. We are used to it and perhaps, like I said above, we even feel safer doing it like this, walking under the moonlight.
But for the majority of the population, people who have never and will never be initiated into this amazing discovery, or for those on whom the status quo has such a tight grip that they simply wouldn’t dare venturing in such a shady practice even if the opportunity was there, this will never be an option. If psychedelic medicine passes the regulatory system and is legalized for clinical use, it will eventually ingress in the health care, as acupuncture did, dissolving prejudices that pervade the thought of the majority of those who ignore what these medicines really do.
4) COGNITIVE FREEDOM
Even if the pharmaceutical industry tries to treat regulated psychedelic medication as they do with other prescription drugs, this profit-ridden dream will always be dissolved in the clinic, during the session with psychedelics. For the very fact of being so powerful, these substances are only used a couple of times in the therapeutic setting.
We know from experience that psychedelics facilitate the integration of fragmented aspects of the psyche. The integration process itself is the beginning of a Socratic path for knowing thyself, which invariably leads to cognitive autonomy.
Furthermore, since they are not remedies on which the patients must depend for the rest of their lives, we are also speaking of chemical freedom, freedom from the dependency on prescribed medication. This is why MAPS, our partner in this campaign, is a non-profit pharmaceutical company.
5) PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION
Here we may enter that moment of doubt. A certain cynicism may knock on your door. Why should I strive to regulate traditional practices or medicines that will never be accepted in the mainstream? We’ve seen this before in the 60s, and the backlash that ensued brought forth the horrors of the War on Drugs! The system is perverse and corrupt, and it will co-opt and destroy all the secrets the first nation peoples have harnessed and preserved with so much care and wisdom.
This kind of preoccupation is absolutely comprehensible, but mistaken. It reflects a dualistic logic that arises from the Manichean way of thinking that prevails in society at large, enforced by the media and taught at home, in schools and institutional religions. The idea that the system is perverse is both the foundational motif of the patriarchal condition we are all struggling hard to shed and the projection of our own shadows, the very existence of which most fail to fully acknowledge or even recognize. If we really want a better world, the worst we can do is to sabotage our capacity for dreaming it big time!
Moreover, the lesson from the 60s was well absorbed and digested by all the people committed with the battle for regulating these medicines today.
The approach is entirely different now. Out goes the metaphysical discourse and mystical overtones that we cherish, and the focus gets sharpened on the medicinal properties of these substances. The line of thought here is “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as an efficient way of treating people whose condition cannot be alleviated by conventional methods”, and not a panacea for humanity’s fallen state. The direction is positively reductionistic: from saving the world to helping those in pain. The revolution takes place one person at the time.
But here’s the wildcard. From personal transformation to collective transformation. A subtle shift in the regulatory process such as this has the potential to create a historical and political precedent that can initiate, in its due time, a domino effect on all the legal-medical paradigm (since, from that moment on, psychedelics will no longer be officially classified as “hallucinogens” with high potential for abuse and no medical use). MDMA wins, but its victory carries along every other entheogen and related practices.
In the long run, we are also talking about the end of the War on Drugs and all the horrors perpetrated under this flag. Therefore, contributing to MDMA for PTSD campaign in Brazil is not only a localized action, but a political one. Think globally act locally.
7) CULTURE OF PEACE
Finally, it is important to notice that clinical trials with MDMA for PTSD are advancing rapidly in countries where the history of warfare is almost inseparable from the nations’ history (USA and Israel), and that these patients are mostly veterans traumatized by their horrific experiences. Besides proved efficacy in providing relief for their suffering (the one thing that the FDA wants to know), this kind of psychedelic-assisted therapy has the potential to transform the entire foundation of values that compound the person’s identity. It is like sending a Trojan Horse into the lives of those who are most alienated from deep ecological and restorative values.
The individual who’s been conditioned and trained to become an agent of aggression and hypermasculine assertion is abiding to try out a feminine response to the world, opening up and subjecting himself to having his existential condition “penetrated” and turned inside out. This is a real act of courage, much more so than to going to war.
Eventually, these people won’t be able to carry on with the cycle of violence and trauma they have being reproducing for so long, first as victims and then as perpetrators. This, on its turn, will reflect on their attitude towards the environment and ecology. The transformation happens inside, and be it in the forest or in the clinic, the seed being planted is the same: that of the gradual shift from a culture of war and domination to a culture of peace and cultivation.
Please contribute to this campaign, visit our crowdfunding site: