Category Archives: Altered States

There are no words for

There are no words for what my heart sings to be
There is not a name for the living, striving, growing
In my chest and from my guts and rising up from the curl of my toes in the dirt
Not shaman but like it
Not priest but not unholy
Just the greens and golden sun through trees and the wild taste of springtime breezes, and the dark colors of tree bark that are neither brown nor gray exactly

There isn’t anything even left of me
Nowhere to mark me out and find me
I am only the breeze and the branches gently swaying against the sky
I am the fresh green of the grass
Where there is no center, nothing at the core to say here I am
Only a boundless freedom of living growing moving dying

No words or even hope of other
And when the longing calls out in me it is not to somewhere or something else
A rejoicing almost homesickness for right here, right now

I want to eat mushrooms again
And hear the breathing of the whole world with me
As the hillside makes me real, in its living and dying rumbling chest, a breath in, and out

Nowhere has my foot ever stepped
But only flowers parted and twigs snapped under the weight
Of calloused flesh and pressure moving
Down long dusty trails beneath improbably tall pines
All hushed in awe and then uproarious, as only lowland scrub forest can be
With sweat rolling down dirty mosquito bitten shins

And standing there vows pour forth unbidden
To be exactly all of this in service to all of this forever
Life living life, Life giving life

I knelt down once in the middle of the woods
Near a tree that had fallen and was rotting easily, without pressure of schedule or what next to do or be
And I prayed to every gentle spirit that would hear me
That I offered my heart in service to exactly this
The whole of Life
Crying out with sometimes words and sometimes stillness
Unsure if this was dedication or rite
But without gap, the whole of me, poured out
And seamless as I stood there was a moment
Where the world bent in an unexpected way
My chest broke open
My vision shifted whether in my head or from my eyes
And there was something that I do not have a name for
Something more than localizable to places real or unreal
But she, and it was she, was green and brown and sky-blue and purple and bright and dark and sunlight and deep bottomless dark water
And I said yes


MA Thesis up online at NEIP

The Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP) just put my thesis up online! I’ve been a member of the group since 2011 – extremely active, vocal group full of rigorous academic work on the benefits, drawbacks, and remarkable distinctness of psychoactives and psychoactive experience. The group comes from a wide variety of national and disciplinary backgrounds, and I’m really happy to have the opportunity to get the thesis online with them!

New article on LSD at the Points blog

As part of their Freaky Friday series, the Points blog has put up a new article on how the cultural impact of LSD went far beyond those who were actually taking the substance, opening out into a broader social milieu where these experiences – in terms of art, trip reports, aesthetics, and new forms of rhetoric – provided a space to talk about personal kinds of spirituality, over and often against institutional religion, in a way that had not to that point existed in US society.

Give it a read!

From the DPA: Congress Set to Escalate War on Drugs, Despite Decades of Failure and Unaffordable Price Tag

This article makes me terrified and furious at the same time. My research could land me in jail. Legitimate and legal activities performed by researchers in other countries, if they violate US law, could land those researchers in jail.

It is fiscally, logistically – not to mention morally – implausible to continue fighting this so-called “war” on civil liberties and  cognitive-spiritual freedom. Certainly there are psychoactive substances that are dangerous. I have a significant amount of personal experience with members of my family and rehab. We need a lot more research and much better education at all levels about what different substances can do, and what they can’t, and where the lines are drawn. But criminalization and prohibition is the most ridiculous answer from a policy perspective that I can imagine. It costs more in raw dollars, lives, and time than it will ever merit back, and incarcerates people who simply need help and rehabilitation, and puts drastic limits on all the good that many of these substances could do. These kind of misguided laws amplify the social harm they seek to prevent through an unconscionable process of misinformation and criminalization.

To extend that kind of policy outward such that treatment facilities and healing centers working in other countries with different ideas about how psychoactive substances can or should be used now act as legal traps for US researchers and therapists working in these fields? Unconscionable.

Update [2011-12-09]: The bill is HR 313. A summary can be found here. To be clear, what I find frustrating is not the ostensible purposes of the bill. While I would argue (with anyone that will listen) that prohibition is an absurd policy stance, what I am frustrated with about the bill is not what I perceive to be the obvious attempt to stop those who are colluding to traffic narcotics outside of, and ultimately into, the US. I understand that the point of the bill is to give the government some kind of leverage so that people guilty of actions outside the country, explicitly designed to break laws in the US, are able to be put within the legal grasp of the justice machinery. I understand that. What I’m frustrated with is two-fold. First, it’s implausible to suspect that we can actually enforce laws like this. Making it a law, from the way I understand what I’ve read of it, seems unlikely to actually lead to a significant number of arrests, and even less actual stymying of the flow of illicit substances across US borders. Second, the way the law is structured (again, if I understand it correctly), it casts such a wide net that researchers working on cannabis in other countries, people working with substances banned in this country but that are being used for medical purposes in other countries (like ayahuasca and addiction, ayahuasca and depression, among many, many others) would be in serious danger of arrest. My own research, which I have intended to orient toward a study of ayahuasca tourism as a form of religious pilgrimage, could be construed as an active attempt to break US drug laws outside of the country. My frustration is that the law may very well cast a net so wide, or at least leave room open for this kind of interpretation, that legitimate research being done outside of the US will be impacted. Our own draconian drug laws are our own problem to fight and work through. But I need to understand this law better, and I very much hope that I’m misunderstanding the ways in which it could be applied.

You can find out more here at popvox, and you can send a letter to your representative about it here.

Ayahuasca and Addiction

The CBC will be airing this shortly, but it’s very much worth keeping an eye out for.  From what I understand it should be online relatively quickly after it airs live.

From the site:

Since the publication of his award-winning book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Mate has been one of Canada’s leading thinkers on addiction and its deeper causes.  The experience of making the film has had a profound impact on him: “As a physician all too aware of the limitations and narrowness of Western medicine, I have learned much from working with this plant.  The Jungle Prescription took me far physically, but even further in the spiritual realm where our deepest humanity resides.  The plant, and the experience with the plant, is no panacea. There are no panaceas. But as an opening to human possibility, even in the face of lifelong trauma and desperation, it offers much. Seeing people open to themselves, even temporarily, has been a teaching and an inspiration.”

Having experienced the way addiction can tear families apart first-hand, I’m very interested and excited to hear of newer, and better ways to work with those who have been hit hardest and most immediately by the disease.  I very much believe that there is something qualitatively different about ayahuasca and other “hallucinogens” (however antiquated the term) from other psychoactive substances.  Research in this direction has the ability to nuance our understanding of these differences, and hopefully make very real, lasting impacts for the better on people’s lives.

Joining NEIP

I’ve just joined NEIP!  To quote from their website:

“The NEIP – Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies – was founded in 2001 and is a center for study of psychoactive substances that brings together scholars in the Human Sciences affiliated with various institutions to promote joint reflection on the topic. The NEIP has functioned above all as a space for academic dialogue useful in developing our own research. “

It is headed up by Bia Labate who is one of the preeminent scholars, both in Brazil and internationally, on Ayahuasca.  I am extremely honored to be allowed to join, and am very excited about the opportunity.  My profile has been put up here, and a PDF of one of my essays on ayahuasca has been published over here!

Very, very exciting stuff!

Animistic Revival and Psychoactive Plants

In doing research for the new working group on psychoactive plants and religion, I came across an article by Ralph Metzner published in the Eleusis journal in 1997.  In it, he puts forward the premise that a revival of animistic worldviews is necessary to combat the exploitation and destruction of the ecosystems of which we are ourselves part, and that psychoactive plants and the shamanic systems of knowledge within which their use has been situated are very likely to play a distinct role in any such radical change.  Though the article was published in ’97, it’s no less relevant or timely now than it was then, and I found it distinctly inspiring.  Having written recently on animistic worldviews and their relationships to an embedded and immediate sense of ecology, it makes me downright enthusiastic to read other work like this!