The psychedelic space is peopled with those who share in common a penchant for progress, curiosity, and openness.
Now that the conversation is moving forward at a good clip, our attention will be focused more on the practical steps that need to be taken in order to bring our dreams to fruition.
Deliberately Inducing Mystical Experiences
One of the cornerstones of the psychedelic-assisted therapies (PATs) is the sense of the numinous—also known as the mystical experience. In his book, Michael Pollan surmises that the mystical experience could be a critical factor for successful psychedelic-assisted interventions. Total ego dissolution and sense of awe or oneness results in structural (neurobiological) changes, which are required for a permanent shift in attitude, belief, and self-concept.
The mystical experience allows for a sort of firmware upgrade, or at least an OS upgrade. More effective cognitive algorithms are used to make sense of the world. From the new vantage point, the individual becomes willing to change his or her values and beliefs. The change is not necessarily comfortable or smooth, but one thing’s for certain—there’s no going backwards.
To make PATs stick, we need to devise a framework whereby mystical experiences are deliberately cultivated and leveraged systematically. More research will be needed on how to do this precisely.
Not just clinical research, which can focus too much on the subjective phenomenology, but neuroscience data will help pinpoint the precise mechanisms and structures that need to be stimulated or suppressed.
A New Vision for Integration
Especially given the right support systems in the social ecosystem, an individual can leverage the psychedelic experience in several ways.
One is to become a more effective individual.
Another is to become a more effective part of the social system.
In fact, these are actually the same thing: a more effective individual is also more effective in the world. But that new and improved being needs a supportive social ecosystem or else the changes will be wasted, the value of PAT wasted.
As psychonauts, being evangelical can be helpful in creating the information cascades required for the 100th monkey effect. Once psychedelics are legal, then we will need to have more serious discussions about systems change.
The most important systems changes will be in the realms of education and healthcare. But corporate governance and public service are also sectors that will change as a result of applying psychedelic principles to leadership training.
The education system needs to change dramatically. But how?
Healthcare seems easier to tackle, as PAT falls within the healthcare system already. MAPS and other organizations are already laying the foundation for a healthcare system that more fully integrates PAT and related therapies.
Changing education will be a little tougher. It will require a slow and gradual change in educational leadership and policy, resulting in tangible changes in pedagogy, practice, school design, and more. Is it possible to incorporate evidence-based mental hygiene, ethical decision-making, communication, and social skills development into educational curricula?
Let’s form coalitions of like-minded leaders from diverse sectors, to plan systems changes in education, corporate governance, and public service as well as in healthcare.
The conversation doesn’t even have to be about psychedelics per se, because it’s not—it’s about changing what it means to be human.
If one good thing comes out of COVID, it’s that: changing what it means to be human.