Shayla Love champions the approach of marrying psychedelic therapy with philosophy in so far as the ethical implications resulting from psychedelic experiences with their often life long lasting effects aren’t addressed anywhere so far. Moreover, the experiences under the influence of psychoactive agents is being considered to ’cause’ the outcomes that ‘psychonauts’ often report from these experiences. She and a number of committed researchers question that conjecture or rather: They’re suggesting that it required scientific investigation whether or not or to what extent this is truly the case.
For quite some time now and from looking deeply into psychedelic experiences and their therapeutic benefits as well NDEs and their dramatic aftereffects, and in particular from looking at a potential intersection of both, an unease has grown in me about the reasons for these changes in people, which often have them change their lives in dramatic ways, abandon former career paths, relationships, even marriages and pursuing a continued journey of self exploration as well as coaching others with that. In particular, the ‘mystic experience’ type has many ‘psychonauts’ drop their former belief systems – if they had any -, converts atheists into staunch ‘believers’ and reaffirms those having walked the various spiritual traditions resulting in even increased fervor of doing so. Bluntly put, it’s become increasingly annoying to me to read the same narrative over and over: People undergo their psilocybin, DMT or Ayahuasca ‘trip’ with or without a sitter, in a clinical or indigenous people’s setting, alone or with others and they ‘come back’ forever changed! And the overlap with NDEs and the often dramatic accounts of having met deceased relatives or religious figures, “archangels” or whatnot were striking to me in so far as they sounded like a different flavor of the same “treat”. And because the experiences typically exceed anything we’d get to encounter on a day-to-day waking consciousness basis, are “ineffable” and “impossible to put into words” that do them justice – as particularly NDErs don’t tire to reiterate –, it is hardly ever questioned or even just systematically looked into exactly of what nature these experiences are: Are they indeed hints to an underlying or “supernatural”/transcendental reality that encompasses our physical existence, are they indeed “proof of an afterlife” as Prof. emeritus Dr. Bruce Greyson purports (who has been investigating NDEs for several decades in his career and who came up with a scale measuring the depth of the experience), do they allow a sneak peek into what’s “really real”? Or are NDEs simply a different type of illusion very akin to psychedelic experiences? So far, I have only seen studies done by Imperial College, London, and another one at the University of Virginia, who provides a neurochemical model of Near Death Experiences (feel free to fill me in should I have missed similar studies from different sources). Both sound very plausible to my ears, I must say.
Plausible or not: The point is that it is typically accepted as a ‘given’ that the nature of both NDEs as well as mystical type experiences during psychedelic ‘trips’ are being taken ipso facto as “realer than real” or some ultimate reality which surpasses and indeed contains our day-to-day experience of life, our Earth, the Cosmos etc. Seriously? Based on which criteria should that be so? Because every single person having had such an experience tells us so? (and others typically don’t or not often confront them knowing full well that we so far lack a commonly agreed on framework for these experiences which would help to identify their significance with regard to our understanding of our world or more specifically: The human condition, human consciousness; particularly the latter is still very poorly – if at all – understood with one camp suggesting it was an ‘epiphenomenon‘ and others insisting consciousness was the ‘base substrate’ that permeates the cosmos – and everything in it.) So long as we haven’t found at least some common ground even with more mundane issues like e.g. whether or not there was free will in humans to begin with, how could we possibly tackle the more complex questions arising from psychedelic experiences and what I’ve come to believe to be a subset of the former, i.e. NDEs? (Fairly convincing work has been done on the correlation of a near death experience and psychedelics and how it is that NDEs produce such vivid imagery and “spiritual” experiences – and it had been my personal hunch all along, I will say).
So, I guess after … all in all an amount of time comprising decades of personal research into these phenomena complete with a NDE–’like’ experience of my own at only age four, I’d have to place myself in the camp of sceptics denouncing the possibility of an afterlife or any kind of ‘transcendental’ reality that awaits us when we die. I am not seeing that it was easy for me to contend, there are some major ethical and other implications one is somehow prompted to come to terms with. On the other hand, the evidence we have is not convincing to me, albeit I’m well aware of the super rich body of anecdotal reports from ‘survivors’ of NDEs and the likes. (I’d have to counter that very wording by saying: If you survived it, you weren’t dead, as death is an irreversible condition).
But to each their own. I just linked above article, because I thought it to be valuable in terms of making serious attempts of finding a base set of criteria that might help to put such experiences, extraordinary as they may be, in context and perspective. (Oh, and b.t.w.: I had two psychedelic experiences in the context of a clinical trial last year, none of which produced hallucinations, so they might qualify as that type of experience that is transformative to an extent (and therapeutically viable in that regard) minus the psychoactive/hallucinatory/mystical content that so many report and which some scientists quoted in the article call for.
Free free to see for yourself, if so inclined (I mean, the article 😉 )