Psychedelics: build bridges, not walls
In the recent week, I have watched two documentaries on using psychedelics to treat PTSD. One of the methods involved Ayahuasca and was illegal in the US while the other was a phase II clinical study of MDMA in the treatment of trauma (not only war trauma) in Israel. Their titles were respectively “From Shock to Awe” and “Trip of Compassion”. As it turns out, two so strong testimonies in such a short time are powerful and almost require heroism to watch! When I first watched how victims of traumatic experiences suffered and then how they entered the path to freedom, I almost felt as if I had PTSD myself! My empathy levels skyrocketed as if I had taken a oral entactogen myself! Watching the two documentaries should be an obligatory homework for every physician, politician and lawyer. We may no longer be indifferent to the unfairness of prohibiting these substances even for research and clinical purposes. I am constantly comparing this absurdity to bittersweet “Catch-22” war novel by Joseph Heller.
This experience is another piece of evidence that proves a thesis I came up with when preparing for a speech on the latest perspectives for therapeutic uses of psychedelics at the Art of Healing fair in Warsaw. The thesis is expressed in the title of this essay. I daresay the most important value of psychedelic substances is their ability to connect. They connect effectively. They connect strongly, spectacularly and gently. And they do it at a number of levels.
1. They connect nerve cells (neurogenesis and neural plasticity)
Not only contemporary neuroimaging scans discover how psychedelics activate connections between parts of brain that don’t usually communicate, which is very characteristic of the ‘extended consciousness’ effect, increased intuition, openness to experiences, cognitive elasticity, reduced criticism and enhanced creative abilities. Everyone who is interested in new studies on entheogens must have seen the famous pie chart that shows a network of connections created by psilocybin compared to placebo, a result of studies led by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris from London, which was widely disseminated by the Beckley Foundation. There is another, less known for now, part of this ‘neuroconnection’. It was the reason why a new category of psychedelics was called ‘psychoplastogens’. Research, conducted among others by Zeno Sanchez-Ramos, sponsored by the Beckley Foundation and MAPS, led scientists to believe that psychedelics may be used intentionally to generate growth of neurons. This brings a lot of hope for new therapies for the increasingly prevalent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s has been a Holy Grail of neuropharmacology for more than a decade. We have already seen psychoplastogenic properties of LSD, DMT, ketamine, psilocybin, Ayahuasca and noribogaine.
2. They connect people (individual and couples therapy)
Regardless of them being illegal, studies on psychotherapy using psychedelics have been conducted for the last 70 years, either at universities, or unofficially – on farms. Canadian addiction therapist, Humphrey Osmond, hoped for instance that the experience of a psychedelic would be so horrible, it would deter alcoholics from further abusing alcohol. Fortunately, in vain, at least for the less positive part. Instead, it turned out it was not the aversion that was therapeutic but exactly the opposite: the psychedelic effect that restored connection with the depth of one’s self led alcoholics to understand that their affair with C2H5OH was toxic and prevented them from growing, so they no longer wanted to drink. This is still true. Studies on the use of psychedelic psychotherapy involving psilocybin and ibogaine have already entered phase II.
“MDMA offers partners tender communication without feeling guilty and being defensive”
However, there is more to psychedelics than connecting an individual back to their mental core. This connecting principle also works well in couples therapy. Research on such applications is already explored or postulated by Passie, Oehen, Mithoefer, Grob, Griffiths, Doblin, Krupitsky, Anderson. There is nothing better for a couples therapist than to hear: “I felt in a safety bubble, surrounded by kindness and trust. I was where words don’t hurt, where memories don’t hurt…, in a bubble where you can say anything but you still love more…, I am isolated from fear, anger and anxiety. The bubble is so safe that I can face any difficult emotional challenges of closeness and intimacy. It enabled me to share with my wife what I had been unable to share before.”
And why wouldn’t we go further than trying to reconcile fighting married couples? We do go further than that. Israel is conducting a pilot study to use MDMA sessions to reconcile representatives of two feuding nations: Palestinians and Israelis. It’s true what they say: bridges instead of walls!
3. They connect people to problem solutions (creativity and productivity)
Not only the famous experiments by Harman, Fadiman, Stolaroff at Menlo Park, which were prematurely banned by the FDA, but also testimonies of dozens of thousands of users in the Silicone Valley, even if used so subtly as through microdosing, confirm that psychedelics are extremely effective in connecting us to our creative potential whether it is just below the surface or deeper still. If it wasn’t for psychedelics, a vast part of IT-related inventions would most probably never see the light or come up delayed.
In order to promote the use of psychedelics for research and therapeutic purposes more effectively, it was an inspiration from psychedelics (choose between: “I am certain” and “this cannot be ruled out”) led scientists and advocates to connect the problem with the solution, and establish organisations that support the legality of such research. MAPS was founded by R. Doblin in 1986, The Beckley Foundation started out of passion of countess Amanda Feilding in 1998; the Heffter Research Institute was established in 1993 thanks to a joint effort of David Nicols, Dennis McKenna and Charles Grob.
Let’s hope such inspirations never stop!
4. They connect people to nature (ecology)
Among an undoubtedly numerous group of people inspired by the entheogenic and mystic experiences to fight for the environment, one of the best known advocates in the psychedelic community are Daniel Pinchbeck and Jeremy Narby. I have referred many times to the transformation of the latter in my speeches and papers. The former, despite a number of serious slip-ups (with the recent scandal related to his admission to having sexually harassed interns; he also missed the date of the transformation/“end of the world”, like several others, including Terrence McKenna himself), is still worth to read. Check out his collection of essays: “Toward 2012: perspectives on the next age” where he gathered voices urging people to bring more harmony, combine old shamanic lifestyles and growth paradigms with new ones in order to reach better awareness and a more sustainable model of civilisational development.
But let’s allow the example of Mr. Brand speak for itself, as quoted by J. Fadiman in his “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide”. After an LSD session, Steward Brand undertook a mission to force NASA to publish pictures of the “small blue ball”, that is Earth as seen from space. When he finally succeeded, the picture – like no other – made many people feel so tender about the small, fragile, seemingly alone in the vast space but extremely beautiful planet Earth. Many sociologists say that if it weren’t for the picture published in 1970 on world’s first Earth Day, we would have never seen environmental movements and organisation grow so numerous and strong. We would have never understood that Mother Earth does not have endless resources to be used. We would have never woken up as the Children of the Earth.
5. They connect people to the sacrum (spirituality)
On 22 November 1963 at 5.20 a.m., a great philosopher, writer and one of the first great proponents of psychedelics, Aldous Huxley, died. A few hours before, Huxley had asked his wife to inject him with 100 micrograms of the Hoffman Potion, i.e. d-lysergic acid diethylamide. Which she did. You would do anything for your loved one suffering from cancer, wouldn’t you? Perhaps this gesture of love, care and mercy could become a cornerstone for the latest research on the use of psychedelics to relieve anxiety and pain related to terminal conditions. We’re not talking here about numbing yourself with a regular painkiller to feel relief. We have known for ages that psychedelic experience, which is indistinguishable from mystic experience offers you in your last weeks with cancer the opportunity to feel universal Love and Acceptance and thus be able to reconcile with yourself, others, fate, the world and sometimes even with God. Let me ask then: Do other, average patients have to be as famous or as dying as him to deserve the mercy and privilege to experience a psychedelic trip to relieve their fear of dying? Do you need to be a soldier suffering from PTSD and at risk of suicide to be treated with MDMA? Do you have to be addicted to alcohol or opiates in order to be able legally (in only some countries) support your psychotherapy with psilocybin or ibogaine? Obviously, there are people who can experience such healing states only by practicing yoga, vipassana, mindfulness, other transcendent meditation or the great ‘Letting Go’ technique developed by David Hawkins. However, the essence of life and the world is its Diversity, or ‘pluralism’, to quote an old political terms. I think that everyone should have the right to experience such states of consciousness thanks to psychedelics not only for therapeutic purposes but also for their transcendent desires. Yet, there’s still a long way before we get rid of our fears, prejudice and hypocrisy towards psychedelics. We are now witnessing actions even more radical that what we have so far could only see in sci-fi novels and film productions… (such as “Flatliners” or “Altered States”, “The OA” TV series and many more…)
6. They connect people to alien civilisations? (exploration of non-physical spaces)
Not only shamans conceptualise beings they meet in their entheogenic visions as actual beings present in universes that are higher or lower than our world of ordinary matter. Contemporary Western scientists hypothesise that with DMT, we could start a systematic and consistent dialogue with alien intelligent beings such as the “mechanical elves” often seen when “travelling into space”. As if we were to establish diplomatic relations immediately following the first contact with an alien civilisation. The main representative of this exploratory initiative is the uncanny investigator, Dr. Andrew Gallimore, whose way was paved by the famous Rick Strassman.
The initiative is called DMTx. The name comes from “Extended-State DMT Exploration”, which is obtained thanks to sequential intravenous dosing of DMT. In addition to therapeutic benefits, it is believed that such states, which can be up to five times more potent than Ayahuasca and last for up to 5 hours, can be used for exploring new dimensions and establishing contact with their inhabitants. The first candidate explorers were recruited in 2018 in collaboration with the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness in California and started their trainings. Should we be cheering for them like we did for astronauts in 1970s? I guess so. Even the logo of the initiative is based on the tags designed for space missions at NASA. Let’s make it a small step for may, one giant leap for mankind”. Amen.
Please visit our lectures on psychedelic substances at the Festiwal Wibracje on 18–21 June 2020. Check out our agenda.
Krzysztof Kolecki, PhD – speaker at the Festiwal Wibracje, Art of Healing fair. Psychologist, hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner, couples and sexology counselling specialist, he has a psychology, counselling and therapeutic practice at Poradnia Psychosomatyczna “Prohominis” in Poznań. He boasts a vast range of experiences: he used to dance at a theatre, monitor crop circles in Wylatowo, he worked at heights, was a head-hunter for a corporation, practiced Taijiquan for 20 years, he also practices Hatha and Kundalini yoga, tantra and oneoironautics. Enthusiast of a shamanic approach to natural and social reality. Since his teens, he has studied ufology, parapsychology and may esoteric doctrines.
Founding member of the Polish Therapeutic Society. Author of features in Czwarty Wymiar magazine. For the last 6 years, he has been involved in promoting knowledge of therapeutic and other beneficial properties of entheogens. In his private life, he is an ardent climber, mountaineer, sci-fi enthusiast, sailor and traveller of geographic and psychic territories.