Why — and how — we should legalize psychedelics
One reason for psychedelics to be legalized is to open the gates of consciousness to wider scientific and general investigation, and to get beyond the restrictive brain. The brain is not our ally in spiritual perception. In fact it is believed by some psychologists to block full access to mind. The brain’s relation to mind seems to be like that of a slightly porous membrane, letting in a little from inside and a little from outside, but blocking a lot of it.
Psychedelics seem to assist and enhance meditation on the realities of mind, including even questions of post-mortem survival. The problem is, we could get arrested. We live in an era of government interference, as everyone knows. We must end that. We have a chance to make spiritual questions less based on faith and more based on experiential evidence, if we’ll let it. The data cited below shows that our minds are much deeper, wider, and complicated than our busy brains will usually let us perceive, or even think about. One of the best sources of inquiry about this is the 2007 book, Irreducible Mind, by six authors led by Edward F. Kelly, Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatric Medicine, at the University of Virginia.
The book’s authors exhaustively document the development of scientific psychology, beginning with its early pioneers, especially Frederick W.H. Myers and William James, through to the present day Ian Stevenson and Michael Murphy, who the authors describe as contemporary intellectual descendants of Myers and James. These founders inspired Freud and Jung and many others, who gave them credit, yet until recently they have been practically forgotten, especially Myers.
Some sources, have excellent bibliographies, for further study. Then there’s Life After Life, by Raymond Moody, and the 1954 classic, The Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley (the origin of the band the The Doors’ name). Myers and James wrote very extensively, and for those interested in philosophical ways our access to an expanded consciousness might be envisioned, the authors of Irreducible Mind refer to many philosophers, especially Alfred North Whitehead. For those not put off by questions of its mythology, authorship, dates, etc. there is of course a lot about heaven in New Testament thought.
This is where psychedelics come into the picture. They are an aid to the kind of meditation that enables the large number of us, not adept at meditation, to go into those dimensions in our minds, breaking out of brain-imposed barriers to perception. The basic 125-year realization at the foundation of scientific psychology was that the mind and the brain are not the same thing, and can even be at odds. Psychedelics can help break the brain’s stranglehold on mind, and should be legalized.
How might legalization of psychedelics be implemented? I am not advocating indiscriminate consumer availability like alcohol. There should be some rules of the road so people can have safe, enjoyable, experiences. It’s just that, as in driving, you don’t just toss the keys to a kid and say, ‘Hey, go out there and have some fun!’ There is use, misuse, and abuse with psychedelics, same as with driving, drinking, or anything else. So…
Principles of legalization
Recognizing the need for controls, yet allowing for use, what might be a solution to the problem? Getting back to the rules of the road analogy:
1. Minimum age: 18.
2. Education: At least one coaching session from a trainer about the potential problems and opportunities connected with use, and what precautions are needed for different psychedelics so as to minimize the chance of bad trips. Training could be based on a standard instruction manual. The trainer, whoever it is, would sign an application for a license for the trainee.
3. Licensing: Following training, licenses may be issued by specified federal, state or local agencies for the purchase of psychedelics. To qualify, applicants would have to pass an appropriate written exam proving they had learned the prerequisite knowledge about safe psychedelic use.
4. Non sharing: Buyers may not legally share with any one under age, or outside of consenting licensed family or friends, nor may they resell what they buy to anyone.
Violation of these rules will be a violation of law and carry legal penalties.
This model, based on drivers’ licensing, has worked pretty well in most states for many years. There’s no reason it can’t work here. Car driver training is left pretty much up to parents, friends, or driving instructors and schools. But there’s a written test at the end of the process at state licensing bureaus, to be sure a candidate is qualified. Psychedelic licensing could be added to the duties of state motor vehicle bureaus.
Who may sell psychedelics? Perhaps pharmacies; just as they used to sell contraceptives. Buyers would have to show their licenses.
It must be recognized that no system is perfect, and scoundrels will always seek ways to circumvent anything. But on the whole these ideas do provide a blueprint to legalize psychedelics without rampant abuse, and access reduces the incentives to go around the law in the first place. Besides, anyone who has used psychedelics knows they are not like beer or pot. They are more demanding of a psychological commitment of the user’s attention, time and involvement, not as lightly undertaken. In that way their use is somewhat self-limiting, and may make addiction not easy. Its worth a try.
Consciousness, Mind, and Brain
Getting back to the reasons why legalization is important to the enhancement and enabling of mind discoveries, what did the early psychologists discover that was so important? Probably the independence of mind from brain, that consciousness is produced by the universe, like space; not produced by the brains which let it in and use some of it. It’s similar to how we drink water but do not make it, yet our share is still our own while we have it, and there’s lots more out there. Furthermore, Myers and others gave serious attention to the study of persons who claimed knowledge of survival, developing experiential evidence from their subjects that our shares of the universe’s consciousness may actually survive death. The authors present case histories of individuals who had near death experiences, out of body experiences, extra sensory perception, mystical experiences arising both spontaneously and as the result of meditation, exceptional productions of genius and divination in ours and other cultures, that much of modern psychology has mostly chosen to ignore, all showing in one way or another an independence of mind from brain.
Evidence that our consciousnesses, or spirit, has a self-sufficient reality, such as in out of the body experience, seems to contradict many of the views of reductive materialism. According to the authors, reductive materialism, or just physicalism, is the belief popular among most scientists that everything can, at bottom, be explained by atoms and physical forces. The problem with physicalism is that it is contradicted by the evidence, as above.
Psychedelics are for spiritual psychology tools as important to offer to experience as, say, the microscope and telescope are to biology and astronomy. As it is now, it is as if the government dictated that its fine to study biology, but microscopes are banned! Or, go ahead, gaze at the stars all you like, but you will be jailed if you dare use a telescope! So we are told in effect, meditate on dimensions of consciousness all you want, but if you are caught obtaining a psychedelic, like LSD, you are breaking the law. It’s still government intrusion, and a violation of our rights, even if it is only a minority that claim those rights.
That the spiritual realm of mind is a fact of the natural–some call it super-natural–world is attested to by the evidence in mystical experience in every culture throughout time. For just one recent example, an important discovery was the one made by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander about heaven, that place of the religious imagination, and certainly an actual spiritual place where one’s consciousness can go in spirit, if Alexander is correct. Why? Because he claims he did it, even met God. In his more than year-long New York Times best seller, Proof of Heaven, Alexander wrote about that and also in his follow-on book, The Map of Heaven. Myers and James used the psychedelic nitrous oxide as psychedelic aids which led them to some of the same conclusions. We ourselves would have our own access in LSD, Psilocybin, and the other psychedelics, if it weren’t for the heavy hand of government interference robbing us of our autonomy, our freedom, in this matter. Things need to change.
So its interesting to compare the threats to society between psychedelics and some legal substances. Take alcohol for example. Estimates vary, but you can’t be very far wrong to say 20,000 deaths a year in the U.S., and if you count in the murders and suicides and grave illnesses as a result of alcohol, maybe double that. Then take another legal thing, gun ownership. Without either condemning or condoning gun ownership the fact is undeniable that nearly as many murders, accidental deaths, and suicides, not to mention grave injuries, arise from gun ownership as alcohol, especially when combined with alcohol. Then there’s driving. No one wants to ban driving. That’s practically who we are; but still, 30,000 fatalities a year? What a tragedy.
Then we get to psychedelics. Surely there must have been many deaths from psychedelics to have them banned. But no. There have been no documented deaths from LSD.
The truth must be faced. Psychedelics were banned by Nixon and legislators then because of perceived social disorder, and they didn’t like the way Hippies explored unconventional lifestyles. Psychedelics were tagged with “war on drugs” hysteria promoted during the Reagan administration. But the emerging truth is that there is much of value in these substances. For example, with psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, and others we have tools to enhance our understanding of our place in the universe, and increased self-acceptance, which shows up in psychiatric studies using psychedelics with veterans with PTSD, with some good results. Also dying patients are reported gaining greater acceptance of death and dying in some experiments. The problem is getting good data about these experiments. Legalization should greatly improve that data gathering, and lead to a lot more use of psychedelics in treatment, if they are found to work.
Life and Death, Heaven and Earth
Evidence cited suggests we have dual citizenship on earth and heaven, both being part of reality, as Alexander has written in his Proof of Heaven. Religions have taught that truth going back thousands of years. The change now is the attempt to make it a matter of relying on science more; belief based on experience, as well as faith. And, just as thousands of years ago people discovered classes of psychedelic substances that helped them with meditation, so today we have the same need of assistance in expanding our meditation practices into consciousness and conscious awareness with psychedelics, just as some Indian tribes do with the psychedelic peyote.
We can improve our chances of seeing out the windows of our confining brains, and paradoxically see deeper into the mind as well; to go out, go in. Then we see, and learn, from the huge vistas that open to our larger spiritual selves. That is why every day that goes by that governments stand in the way of our legally obtaining psychedelics, they stand in the way of our rights to increasing access to our greater selves. The real crime is not the mere banning of psychedelics. It is the theft of our rights to try for more spiritual light in that way, if we choose! Who signed up for that?
Finally, do we learn anything about life after death? Judging from the many citations in the texts cited, reality, instead of just fading to dark as we die, begins to reveal vast new vistas of mind and light. As the brain dies, and so gets out of the way, there opens up, like Huxley’s Doors of Perception, or Eben Alexander’s Heaven, a new dawning reality to our mind that’s from the universe. We don’t know where things may go from there, since we only hear from people who come back. But indications are many that things likely just keep getting better. The hope is that psychedelics can jump start the process of discovery a little so we can gain a new confidence that everything is going to be okay. We might find it the better part of wisdom to make sure we live in such a way so as not to be disappointed, like working for social justice and the prospering of “the least of these my brethren” while we’re still here and able to do it.