When someone asks “Should I do psychedelics?” of course, it’s a complicated answer. Those of us who err on the side of responsibility and safety will often mention all of the cautions- contraindications, mental state, latent disorders, the need for testing, proper set and setting, experienced trip-sitting, and so forth. But on the other hand, one could be just as truthful pointing out that these are some of the safest substances out there in terms of toxicity, that they’ve been clinically proven to grant lasting, life-changing benefits, and that the expert consensus on the frontier of psychedelic science is that these substances will revolutionize the mental healthcare industry and our understanding of human consciousness.
When it comes to a personal decision for an individual, it depends on a huge number of factors and could be ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but when it comes to a cultural decision to study, integrate, and be beneficially transformed by what psychedelics have to offer, many would argue that it is both necessary and inevitable.
To explore these subjects of personal and cultural psychedelic imbibement, we spoke with Richard Haight, author of The Psychedelic Path. Richard offers a unique perspective grounded in ancient battlefield martial arts and decades of meditation teaching and practice.
Thanks for speaking with us again Richard. For someone who is starting to feel “the pull” towards a psychedelic experience but is intimidated and still unsure, what advice would you give to them?
Well first, do your reading. There are a number of great books on psychedelics. Read a book like Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman, or if you’re interested in understanding the possibilities of bad trips, my book The Psychedelic Path– it will open your eyes to some possibilities, and you will probably want to know what they are. Don’t go into this foolishly or lightheartedly; take it very seriously. Respect these plants, respect these substances. Respect them as potentially your greatest teacher and your deepest demon, and you will probably do it right.
The samurai have this meditation that many of them used to do before battle. They knew there was a good chance they were going to die, and so they would visualize all the ways they could possibly die, down to the most gruesome detail. They would intentionally cause a nervous system reaction when they visualized getting stabbed in the heart, having their guts sliced open, that sort of thing. They would visualize it until they became totally calm and at peace with everything. That way, when things are not going well, they are at least not reacting from anxiety, and they’re more likely to be able to be present and to succeed and protect their teammates.
In the same way with psychedelics, these are potentially the most intense experiences that a human being can have. There can be potentially more magnified suffering in these short periods of time, experiences that are horrific in ways that are impossible to explain. Become at peace with those possibilities. Become at peace with the possibility that you may die, that you may go insane, that you may never come back from this experience. It sounds horrific, but the great thing is that when you become at peace with all these horrific possibilities, you become at peace! This deep peace of the psychedelic experience is very powerful. Just preparing for the experience, in itself, is a spiritual path- in fact, a very powerful one.
Very well put. Is there anything else or any points that you wanted to make or any other topic that you wanted to share about that we haven’t covered already?
Yes, one of the things you are probably aware of is that there has been a lot of recent scientific research into psychedelics. Mostly it’s like preliminary studies and that sort of thing, but they have produced really exciting results. Because of these results, I know there are now already some ballot measures to legalize some of these substances.
Yes, like in Oregon and Colorado there are psilocybin initiatives.
Fantastic, yes. My point in bringing this up is that it’s only a matter of time before these substances are legalized. Whether you are a parent, you have friends who will be exposed to these, or if you are just a human being, we are going to be dealing with psychedelics as a society, and like it or not, you need to know about it. Don’t tell your kids to not do psychedelics because they are “bad for you”; that’s not going to work. Get yourself honestly educated about them, and have real conversations with your friends, your children, and your family, because this is going to revolutionize our understanding of consciousness.
There are millions of people out there who are using psychedelics, and many of them are not necessarily educated or going into it with the right intentions. That’s happening because we are not having those honest conversations. Hiding this information from your kids or from the public is not protecting them. Expose them. If you’re a human being on this planet, you’re going to be dealing with psychedelics. Read about them- and there are so many videos out there on YouTube, and information on great sites like Psychedelic Times and Erowid. There is so much information out there! Just start diving in and you might find out some astounding consciousness-altering information, even if you never use these substances. It will change your life just reading about them.
That’s a great message, I agree completely.
Yeah, once marijuana starts being legalized at the state level, it becomes almost impossible for it not to lead to these substances next. We know that there are many potential and undiscovered beneficial aspects just from cannabis, and the government has been hiding these facts for decades now. Once that comes out, this just opens the Pandora’s box where ordinary people say “Okay, what about these other substances that have gotten a bad rap? They need to be checked out too!” Once that box is opened it is not going to close, and it’s super clear that these substances need to be researched. I’m not advocating that everybody just goes out and does what I did, because it’s potentially dangerous. I mean, get yourself educated. And only do it if the pull is right.
We are very grateful to Richard for sharing his thoughts on our psychedelic future. Check out our first interview with Richard where he speaks about his background here, and our second interview on the spiritual value of a “bad trip” here.