Coming out of the Psychedelic Closet
It's time to add users of psychedelics to the list of minority groups that have been denied their basic rights in America. That list obviously includes Native Americans, women, and African Americans among others. More recently the homosexual community that we often associate with the phrase "coming out of the closet" has achieved major legal victories, and cannabis consumers are now able in some states to come out of their secret grow closets to openly buy a few grams down at the corner store. One thing I assume all of these groups had in common is that they were never going to make any progress hiding in a closet. The first step to earning a right must certainly be to stand up and say "I exist and I'm not afraid to admit it".
So why do we hide in the closet? Well the most obvious reason is because most governments have made the decision for adults to alter their consciousness illegal. At least with certain plants and substances since coffee, beer, wine, whiskey, sugar, and Prozac were all legal the last time I checked. It doesn't seem to matter that many legal mind altering substances have the potential to be very dangerous while most illegal mind altering substances such as Ayahuasca and Peyote have been safely used by indigenous communities for centuries. Regardless, we hide because we're afraid of the legal consequences, or because we don't want to lose our jobs, and most importantly we are afraid that others might think negatively of us.
States versus traits
Beyond the politicians, police officers and work supervisors there are some unexpected opponents to psychedelics. Oddly enough those in the spirituality / meditation / yoga communities sometimes criticize psychedelics. You might think the two communities are a perfect match but that is not always the case. A commonly heard criticism is that psychedelics offer a shortcut to enlightenment. At first glance this seems like a strange argument. Imagine there are two different routes to your destination, one is 1000 miles and the other 800. Would you choose the 1000 mile route because the 800 mile route is too easy? Probably not, unless it is more scenic. I believe the point they are trying to make is that there are permanent traits brought on by years of strict discipline and there are temporary states brought on by a strong dose of psychedelics. This is a valid point and it highlights the difference between getting high for a night versus staying high for a lifetime. However, we should consider that a temporary state may leave a strong impression on the user that influences them to make changes in their life that lead to a permanent trait. In other words, psychedelics will not bring you directly to enlightenment, but they will show you the obstacles that prevent you from getting there. Besides, wouldn't you at least want a 6 hour glimpse of enlightenment before you decide whether to sit in lotus posture chanting mantras for the next 50 years?
“Once you find psychedelics you’re not looking for the accelerator anymore. You’re looking for the brakes on your spiritual vehicle. You have suddenly found the means to achieve the stated goal, which is union with the divine, or oneness, or something like that”
-Interview with Terence McKenna on National Public Radio
So remind me again, what are we afraid of admitting? We're afraid to admit that we are interested in accelerating our spiritual vehicles down the path leading towards self improvement and enlightenment? People should be more afraid to admit they are not interested in that. Beyond the spiritual aspect of psychedelics there is the medicinal qualities they possess. When used responsibly under the guidance of an experienced facilitator or shaman, psychedelics can act as a previously missing key that unlocks the door to improved health. Users report ending addictions, facing fears, feeling suppressed emotions, recovering from traumas, releasing trapped energies, healing from disorders, and so on.
If you think the idea of psychedelic users coming out and demanding access to their medicine is just a fantasy of the 1960s then look to the Food and Drug Administration to see evidence of where this is heading. The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies estimates they are 5 years away from federal approval of the use of MDMA for therapeutic purposes. Of course there are no guarantees and some fearful politicians or corporations could interfere and derail the whole process, but that is the risk we take in coming out of the closet. There is a very fine line between being a thought pioneer and an outcast to society. It may seem safer to hide in the closet, but safety is an illusion when you face the possibility of being prosecuted by the authorities for responsibly consuming a plant or pill. Regardless of how the federal government responds to our requests we pave the way for those who come behind us just as pioneering researchers like Sasha Shulgin, Paul Stamets, Dennis McKenna, and Rick Strassman have done ahead of us.
"The number of people and cultures that have gone to maturity and then to death without an inkling of this is to me the most shocking thing about the human situation. Because you are not a fully matured human being in touch with the potential of reality unless you have had a psychedelic experience"
-From The Archaic Revival, written by Terence McKenna
This is a bold statement by McKenna, and perhaps not everybody is ready for psychedelics in this lifetime, but boldness is probably what we are lacking the most right now. How bold can you be hiding in a closet? People who are not ready for psychedelics definitely should not try them, but people who have tried them and have experienced life altering benefits need to be honest with the people close to them. An important question to consider is how open should we be about coming out? Each individual needs to discern when it is appropriate to share and the homosexual community could probably provide guidance on that topic.
Creativity and pleasure
I've identified a couple reasons why people choose to take psychedelics and have hopefully shown that there is nothing to be ashamed of. I often focus on the therapeutic, medicinal and spiritual benefits that psychedelics offer though there are other reasons why people decide to partake. Not every trip needs to be about facing dark childhood traumas, curing disease or attaining enlightenment. For example, the rumor that some of the engineers in Silicon Valley take psychedelics for solving complex problems and gaining a creative advantage over their peers. Other people may simply want to enhance their sensory experience at a concert, enjoy an intimate evening with their partner, or watch their favorite movie from a different perspective. Many of the psychedelic plants are considered sacred and should be taken with respect. All psychedelics should be taken responsibly, but the reality is not everybody sits in ceremony during their journey. Whether you consume these substances for creativity, pleasure, healing, or spirituality, now is the time to come out of the psychedelic closet and demand the rights that we deserve.