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***See below for blog entry on this episode as well as a complete topic breakdown.***
Mental illness and psychedelics seem to go hand in hand in the common discourse.
Their capacity to impact positive change in the lives of those suffering from mental illness, and even their capacity to heal it entirely is the medicalized road to their modern legitimization, but what about the discussion around psychedelics causing mental illness; psychotic episodes, transient hypomania, and even full-blown psychosis?
Discussion on the risks of psychedelics is present in the reporting and research; indeed, most responsible and even quasi-responsible people will ensure you know this risk is real. Their capacity for risk, however, often feels obligatory and penciled-in for some sort of plausible deniability or perhaps to try and convince people not to jump on the psychedelic bandwagon and become a threat to the legitimization campaign.
We can’t have people going off the rail while we are working so hard to get this psychedelic ship birthed in Western society!
People do go off the rails though, a lot of people, some of the most famous psychedelic spokes-people have gone off the rail, has psychotic episodes, and some were never the same afterward. Terence McKenna, for a famous example, the psychedelic anti-guru of the modern underground, the man at the root of #5DGISD freaked out and stopped taking mushrooms for the rest of his life.
What about those people lost and confused and bewildered, those who did go offer the rails? Who do they have to talk to? Mostly no one as very few people are talking about this. Even the psychedelic underground (e.g. Reddit, Facebook groups, and YouTube) tends to shame, guilt and ostracize people who speak out or even try to claim psychedelics have harmed them. They are blamed for doing it to themselves and even told they are harming legitimization (harming all of us) by speaking out and to shut up and go away.
I know this is a real scenario as I have witnessed it happening, even directly. After I wrote about my off-the-rails (or as I like to call it “full-scale freak-out”) with Ayahuasca, I began getting emails from many people who had gone through similar issues and felt ostracized, alienated and victim-blamed by the psychedelic community when they reached out for help. I even had a friend tell me in private that others in our direct psychedelic community were attacking and shaming me for speaking out against “Mother Ayahuasca”.
This scenario is problematic, to say the least, and barely scratches the surface of the issues it represents. How do we expect to legitimize and integrate psychedelics into the modern world if we leave our wounded behind and pretend we didn’t see them?
Thankfully, this trend is starting to shift and more and more people are coming out and talking about this. One such person is the guest for this episode of the Adventures Through The Mind podcast, James Kent.
He has been studying psychedelics for over twenty-five years. He was the editor of Psychedelic Illuminations Magazine, publisher of Trip Magazine, and founder of DoseNation.com. His book, Psychedelic Information Theory, is an examination of the physical processes behind psychedelic hallucination. His latest project is the final ten episodes of the DoseNation podcast, where he explores the darker side of psychedelics and the psychedelic community.
His Final Ten Episodes Of DoseNation is an unapologetic and unbarred exploration of his questions criticisms, and exposures of the psychedelic culture from his 25 years of immersion and his first-hand experiences of psychosis, psychotic episodes, and even ketamine addiction.
I am happy to have him on the show to explore some of these themes as not only do I consider them essential for the ongoing psychedelic discourse but because they have been personally impactful and helpful for myself.
Welcome, James Kent, to Adventures Through The Mind.
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- Where these ideas came from and why, despite years of keeping them private, he has chosen to go public with them.
- The psychological implications of speaking out on unpopular ideas and perspectives.
- How do you know if you have a “fragile psyche”?
- Psychedelics, psychosis, psychotic episodes, and mania.
- The European intellectuals and the purpose of psychedelics
- Shamanism and delusional megalomania.
- Ayahuasca: a ritualistic poisoning?
- Similarities between ayahuasca dieta and cultural indoctrination or military brainwashing techniques.
- Heart Of Darkness (ayahuasca edition)
- Social displacement from psychedelic experiences.
- The challenges of living in western culture post-transpersonal awakening.
- Trying to change the world.
- Loneliness in the psychedelic community.
The Final Ten Episodes Of DoseNation
Here you will find the content-crux of our discussion, as well as other DoseNation podcasts all the way back to its inception.
Psychedelic Information Theory (Book)
This link provides multiple reading options for James’ book, including free downloadable e-versions.
Some other articles and content from James Kent
The Case Against DMT Elves (article by Kent)
PsyPressUK Written Interview With Kent.
Psychedelic Information Theory: A Talk with James Kent (written interview with Reality Sandwich)
James Kent’s Interview From ‘DMT: The Spirit Molecule’ Documentary (Video)
Before you go…
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Thank you. I found a lot of my own reservations towards actually “taking the plunge” with “Mother Ayahuasca” corroborated here, especially the often lack of good integration after having imbibed Ayahuasca or consumed other substances. I am aware that there are some other retreats now, particularly one sometimes co-hosted by Dr. Gabor Maté, which tries to bring in some Western school of therapy and communication. But many of the Peruvian or Amazon-type retreats and accounts about them that I’ve read and watched seem to kind of “skip” the post-trip integration phase. And I hope to have accurately understood the “meat” of this podcast as to saying that that’s where the real transformation occurs (the post-trip integration as well as coming back to your “habitat”). Correct me, if I’m wrong. In any case: Thanks.
Sounds like you have.
Works for me. 😉 Thx again.
Well, those issues are real. However we must contextualize them as a Western Problem, or to put that in perspective a Global Minorities problem. These issues are NOT reported in indigenous cultures. How do we know this? because indigenous cultures arguably have the longest standing recorded use of these compounds and indeed preserved and hid their use from Western Civilization , with good reason, for aeons. Imagine pulling off a deception that big that lasted here in the Americas for 500+ years…
Now that we have properly framed this discussion lets take a look at some of the issues by contrasting the differences in culture and how they use and integrate medicine. Foremost is the fact that these medicines are INTEGRATED into their CULTURE. We take these substances to create separation from our culture or our lives, to as TM said “triangulate on consciousness’ this POV is completely devoid of an integrated Animistic POV which is an all inclusive POV that allows for all the phenomena that one might encounter and whats more there exist specific cultural tools to contextualize the experience and safeguard the seeker.
For example psychedelics are specific to the Bio-Region and the culture has often Co-Evolved with the medicine as seen in the Native American Communities with the Peyote ceremony. In fact upon closer examination what we see is that these ceremonies are used to REINFORCE cosmologies which are derived from the Gnosis these plant spirits impart.. They are used as coming of age ceremonies for men and women as well as having a healing role for adults who have encountered problems after officially becoming an adult of the community.
Without even breaching the ontological question “is spirit real” the fact of the matter is that these cultures have already answered that question for themselves, indeed every cultures proto-religion is Animism.
I suggest dealing with these ontological implications BEFORE engaging is psychedelics.
In short the western approach to being a “psyconaught” is juvenile at best and dangerous at its worst and offers the participant none of the protections that a traditional culture does.
Perhaps these crisis are indicative of how sick the culture of the western seekers is that they seek to abandon their own culture in lieu of another. The Western Casualties are to be laid not at the feet of the ‘compound” but at the feet of the culture that birthed them.
The objectification of Plant Spirits combined with a lack of cultural context leaves individuals open to delusion,psychosis and perhaps even entities without the protection “real” or imagined “placebos” that a culture steeped in psychedelic usage provides.