David Nickles, Guest
The Boom festival is a shining example of the thriving psychedelic resurgence. The very notion of coming together in an autonomous space specifically designed to facilitate transformative experiences reflects a contemporary psychedelic ethos that is spreading worldwide and taking shape in exciting ways. A rich modern history—as well as deep ties to prehistoric practices—has brought this unprecedented resurgence to its thrilling present position, and the potential futures on the horizon are the stuff of dreams.
Humans have been surrounded by psychoactive plants and have explored altered states of consciousness since the dawn of history. The rediscovery and popularization of some of these plants, alongside modern synthesized compounds, played a significant role, both as cause and effect, in the social turmoil of the ‘60s and ‘70s, with governments, militaries, and countercultural psychonauts exploring the depth and breadth of psychedelic experiences. Though numerous people presented the synthesis of LSD as the “spiritual antidote” to the atomic bomb—because both were invented in the same year—their claims mask the sinister manners in which government agencies utilized LSD for their own ends and ignore the fact that LSD failed to bring about the change some of its most fervent proponents promised. Still, social and scientific psychedelic experimentation soared to new heights, and as a consequence, world governments used prohibition and criminalization to stifle psychedelic exploration.
Yet, we are now undeniably in the midst of what may be the most exciting moment in psychedelic history. University research teams are carrying out sanctioned studies of psychedelic experiences, advancing our understanding of the mechanisms of action and reliable medical applications of these compounds. Current sanctioned psychedelic research includes studies on MDMA for the treatment of PTSD, psilocybin for the treatment of depression in terminally-ill patients and for the treatment of cluster headaches, ayahuasca or ibogaine for the treatment of addiction, and examinations of the structure-activity relationships and pharmacodynamics of numerous psychedelic compounds. Additionally, pioneering neuroscientists are working towards understanding the complex relationships between consciousness, psychedelic compounds, and neural mechanisms and structures, including the default mode network and the claustrum.
Concurrently, underground researchers collaborating through websites like the DMT-Nexus have put psychedelic harm reduction, self-reliance, and sustainability in the spotlight. These researchers have presented the first known analyses of several plants used in ayahuasca, as well as analytical data for a whole host of other psychedelic plants and compounds. Underground efforts to refine extraction methodologies and propagate ecologically-threatened plants, such as T. iboga, are striving to create an unprecedented paradigm of safety and availability. Truly, psychedelic culture is in full swing.
The rise of visionary art, electronic music, transformative festivals, and psychedelic research, all amidst global prohibition, is exhilarating. Worldwide, people in societies that have demonized the use of psychedelics are undertaking profoundly mind-manifesting experiences and are sharing the bounty of those experiences with the world at large. The experiential nature of psychedelics means that this knowledge cannot be taken away. Despite repression and slander by governments and corporate media outlets, psychedelics and the experiences they facilitate are spreading like wildfire.
We find ourselves at a point in history where the social contract offers sanctuary to less and less of us; where promises of “better living through technology” are understood to incur dire ecological costs; where perpetual war and incarceration have become economic engines. It’s unsurprising, perhaps even fitting, that this psychedelic resurgence is occurring alongside revolutionary struggles, indigenous resistance, and social upheaval around the world. We are now presented with new opportunities to merge psychedelic perspectives with social struggles in unprecedented ways.
Psychedelics are amazing boundary dissolving agents. What better tools to realize our connection to all other life and to the very planet itself? What could these catalysts allow for, if we use them as lenses through which to engage with the social and environmental catastrophes we currently face and work to incorporate these perspectives into our daily lives? Not as lessons learned and vocalized, but as experiential understandings, embodied in the actions we take to create the worlds in which we wish to live.
The future is bright for psychedelic communities. The infrastructure of prohibition is crumbling around us. Fascinating insights into these compounds are emerging from both sanctioned and underground research. We are on the edge of a truly special time, a time in which we all bear responsibility for putting our understandings into practice. What does it mean to be psychedelically engaged human beings? How will this definition change as we partake in the shifting sociopolitical landscape around us and what will it look like? The answers to these questions are awakening inside of us. It is up to all of us to determine our futures in this psychedelic resurgence.
About the Author
David Nickles will be giving a talk entitled “Turn On, Tune In, Rise Up: DMT, Globalization, and Radical Psychedelic Engagement” in Liminal Village at Boom 2014.
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