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***See below for a complete topic breakdown.***
We are leaving behind something vital in our pursuit to medicalize and mainstream psychedelic medicine. We are leaving behind the wisdom of the underground.
We are not featuring the voices of those who have been actively working with psychedelics for decades, those journeying themselves and guiding others, or those who have apprenticed with others working with psychedelics even longer.
There are many reasons for this, some of which are fair (those working in the psychedelic underground are unlikely to go public due to legal issues) and others for more political (above-ground research needing to keep an image of legitimacy “unsullied” by any connection to any illegal psychedelic use) and others even murkier (slowing down to listen to wisdom cuts into the potential profits of getting a product to market ahead of the wave).
Nonetheless, these voices are left behind and in doing so the narrative landscape of psychedelics today is often hollowed out as it merely echoes back and forth between competitive profit interests, sensationalist headlines, and efforts to mainstream with a posturing palatable to powers and institutions that are in many ways antithetical to what psychedelic experiences often call us to learn.
Certainly, the underground is spoken of, but generally only in terms of its harms and risks. A truthful, but in many respects only half-truthful and a narrow window into the depth and richness of the work being done in the psychedelic underground since their emergence into the West 70 years ago.
Thankfully, someone was willing to find these voices (specifically women’s voices), listen, and share their wisdom into the public conversation in a way contextualized to the modern psychedelic research and medicine landscape. That person is Rachel Harris and she amplifies these voices of wisdom in her new book Swimming In The Sacred.
Rachel Harris, PhD is a psychologist who has been in private practice for 40 years, she spent 10 years in an academic research department where she published more than 40 scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals and received a National Institutes of Health New Investigator’s Award.
She is also the author of Listening to Ayahuasca and has been on the podcast twice precious. Once on the topic of her previous book, and the other as a part of a Psychedelic Cafe titled What Psychedelic Can Teach Us About Dealing With Crisis.
In this episode, we explore Simming In The Sacred; the various elements of what she learned from these underground guides and where it compliments and contrasts the prevailing narratives around psychedelic medicine presently at the forefront of our so-called psychedelic renaissance.
This includes discussion on the value of the wisdom of women guides, specifically; working with unseen worlds and unseen others; thin veils, absorption, and being accidentally overdosed by psychedelics; the uncanny connection between guide and journeyer during ceremony; and how psychedelic guiding work is NOT therapy and how therapy and guiding are two different skill sets.
Furthermore, we talk about the complexity of good dosing; the value of lower doses and the risks of putting larger doses on a pedestal; the strange emerging phenomenon of “competitive ego deathing”; and learning to work with life in a bigger way by learning to let our psychedelic insights work on us over time.
We talk about the risks of harm and abuse in both under- and above-ground psychedelic therapy; the difference between certification and qualification; how we lose our capacity to properly skill psychedelic guides in our rush to certify as many as possible to meet a massive demand; how to assess if a provider is trustworthy and skilled; and why psychedelic therapists NEED to experience psychedelics themselves.
As always, a full episode breakdown with timestamps is available wherever you listening, as well as on youtube if you are watching this episode in video. Extra materials Harris mentioned also linked below.
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Episode Breakdown and timestamps
- (7:55) Interview begins
- (10:08) The research behind Swimming In The Sacred
- (12:10) Focusing on the value of the wisdom of women guides, specifically
- (14:22) How women have been doubly silenced in psychedelic circles
- (21:11) These guides aren’t therapists; their work is not therapy
- (24:14) The capacity to work with unseen worlds is not necessarily available to all of us
- (29:21) Thin veils, absorption, and being accidentally overdosed by psychedelics
- (30:57) The complexity of good dosing | “Competitive Ego Deathing”
- (34:11) Therapists DO NOT need to dose with their client
- (34:44) Psychedelic therapists NEED to experience psychedelics | sitting and therapy are separate skills
- (41:47) The uncanny connection between guide and journeyer during ceremony
- (45:20) Modern psychedelic research is lacking collaboration with the wisdom of the underground
- (49:40) We lose capacity for skillfulness in psychedelic guidance when we rush to certify psychedelic therapists
- (53:18) The difference between certified and qualified
- (53:52) What to ask a psychedelic guide to determine if they are trustworthy
- (55:28) What is lost when psychedelics become a mainstream institution
- (56:14) Psychedelic guidance is not about symptom reductions
- (57:51) Addressing the risk of abuse in psychedelic therapy
- (1:07:27) Therapists, heal thyself | “Waking up” does not amount to “cleaning up”
- (1:08:51) Waking up, Cleaning up, Growing up, Looking around
- (1:11:13) Working with life in a bigger way
- (1:13:59) The value of lower doses and the risks of putting larger doses on a pedestal
- (1:24:29) The strange trend of overdosed microdosing supplements
- (1:25:40) Psychedelic insights work on you over time, if you support them in doing so
- (1:34:03) Be careful not to psychologize spiritual experiences
- (1:39:56) Discerning between a “message from the medicine” and ego projection
- (1:42:51) Psilocybin-assisted Therapy Vs Therapy-assisted Psilocybin
- (1:44:57) Advice for people who want to become psychedelic therapists
- (1:47:09) Advice for therapists who want to start providing psychedelic therapy
- (1:48:07) Ketamine Therapy is NOT Psychedelic Therapy
- (1:50:50) Advice for people who want to become psychedelic underground guides
- (1:52:43) Advice for finding a psychedelic guide you can trust
- (1:54:27) Advice for people who want to develop a life practice with psychedelic plants
- (1:56:41) “Swimming In The Sacred” comes from Maria Sabina
- (1:57:58) Follow-up links
- (1:58:55) Closing
- A Study of Ayahuasca Use in North America (research paper) – Rachel Harris Ph.D. & Lee Gurel Ph.D.
- Lower-dose psycholytic therapy – A neglected approach (research paper) – Torsten Passie1
- The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron J. Stolaroff (book recommendation, pdf)
- Chapter Excerpt from Psychedelics and Psychotherapy (suggested, PDF)
- Allan Schore (recommend author, website)
- Council On Spiritual Practices – Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides (online document)
Episode Art is a modified version of La Medicina Vive En Mi by the incredible Luis Tamani
Used with permission