David Nickles – Radical Entheogenic Practice in the Age of Institutional Psychedelics

January 15, 2019

Psychedelics are becoming increasingly mainstream, as a host of other dire sociopolitical issues are reaching a global fever pitch. Much of the public discourse within the ‘Psychedelic Community’, as well as the cursory findings addressed to the ‘Straight Community’, tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum between outright psychedelic cheerleading and glowing exaltations of the therapeutic/medical merits of these compounds. However, there is little discussion about the social implications of these compounds and the current state-sanctioned research on them. Despite a robust history of psychedelics as catalysts for political (and personal) understandings and actions, the current discourse largely excludes cogent social critiques or calls to action, while proffering a plethora of ‘pay-to-play’ psychedelic self-help seminars, retreats, and organisations. The experiential nature of psychedelics, combined with the apparent social reverberations caused by their use, indicates that we are all stakeholders in the future(s) they are used to create. The current landscape, especially where it has been institutionalised and/or privatised, presents tremendous potential for isolating the majority of psychedelic users from influencing the current discourse around these compounds and their applications. In fact, much as with news media and other consumer products, the current paradigm risks framing psychedelic discourse in ways that omit some of the most important questions and considerations about their social applications and significance. What are the sociopolitical implications of mainstreaming psychedelics? Is it possible to engage in a more robust dialogue about the social potentials of psychedelics within a prohibitionist paradigm? Is it realistic to create space for a diversity of psychedelic tactics? Are psychedelics destined to be little more than the next chic consumer trend? There is a pressing need to grapple with these questions, and others, even if there are no easy answers.