Researchers Concerned About Whitewashing of Psychedelic-Assisted Mental Health Research

As psychedelic therapy trials approach FDA approval, researchers express the urgent need to ensure effectiveness and accessibility to communities of color.

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A new article published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy discusses the importance, and challenges, of racial equity within the resurgent field of psychedelic-assisted mental health treatment. The authors express concern about the systemic underrepresentation of minoritized groups in psychedelic research, discussing the ways in which poverty, psychedelic medicalization, and public health contribute to this disparity.

“From a social justice standpoint, the rapid commercialization of formerly illegal substances for which many BIPOC have faced criminal penalties, while wealthy investors come along to profiteer, will require careful policy and regulatory rollout to ensure appropriate parity. Finally, with decriminalization initiatives around psychedelics gathering momentum, it will be important not to create further disparities by deeming some psychoactive substances primarily used in white communities worthy of decriminalization, while keeping others illegal.”

photo of a black chess piece being painted white

Research has demonstrated promise in the field of psychedelic-assisted mental health treatment for a variety of mental health disorders, including the treatment of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol dependence, and even cancer-related existential crises. These promising results will likely lead to psychedelic-assisted mental health treatments becoming approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) upon completion of the ongoing clinical trials.

Recently, the first study of its kind focusing on psychedelic use outcomes addressing racial trauma for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) suggested that the naturalistic use of psychedelics or MDMA were associated with significant reductions in traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms related to experiences of racism.

The authors write,

“Findings suggest that the use of psychedelics has the potential to reduce symptoms of mental distress experienced due to racism. While these findings should give us some hope for the future, the research community has a responsibility to make sure that promising psychedelic therapies are equally effective and accessible to communities of color.”

Currently, clinical trials on psychedelics comprise predominately white samples (>80%), therefore lacking generalizability of the findings to communities of color, and calling into question the equity of access to such trials. The authors share,

“Given the promise of psychedelic-assisted treatments, and the growing commercial interest in developing them, it is imperative to consider how we as a field can ensure research on psychedelic-assisted therapies is conducted equitably in diverse samples, and if approved, that these treatments are accessible and beneficial to those communities most negatively impacted by structural inequities.”

Some of the systemic reasons for the lack of diversity and underrepresentation of BIPOC participants includes a lack of cultural inclusivity and racial diversity within the research community overall, stigma related to mental disorders, and recruitment methods that fail to emphasize recruitment to BIPOC communities. Additionally, there are larger historic and systemic factors as play, such as the history of racist and unethical research practices which have led to mistrust in biomedical institutions. For example, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, wherein Black men were deceived regarding their diagnosis and deprived appropriate treatment over the course of decades. Another high-profile case was that of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cells were taken without her consent while undergoing cancer treatment at John Hopkins Hospital in 1951. With these injustices, and many more, it is clear why many BIPOC might be disinterested in participating in such studies today.

An additional barrier to BIPOC participation lies in economic inequities. These trials are often time-intensive, and largely funded by non-profits that do not provide financial incentive for participation. Therefore, it is unrealistic to recruit individuals from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds who may be unable to take time away from work and family responsibilities, without compensation. With the median net worth of Black and Hispanic families being less than 15% that of white families, BIPOC face substantial barriers to research participation in psychedelic trials due to economic inequity.

While increasing diversity among psychedelic research remains a fundamental goal, it is important to note that these treatments will not solve all health disparities. The social determinants of health still hold a far greater impact than an individual-focused treatment approach, and dismantling systemic racism and social inequities remains of utmost importance. Further, should psychedelics reach FDA approval status, these treatments will almost certainly be expensive, difficult to access, and most easily available to those most economically well off.

Indigenous forms of healing have been utilizing psychedelics for centuries, and it is important that the medical adoption of psychedelics in the West not become yet another “discovery of America” by colonizing forces. Further, wealthy and predominately white investors have greatly profited off the rapid commercialization of formerly illegal substances for which many BIPOC have faced criminal penalties.

The recent decriminalization of cannabis in many states across the US is a relevant example of this, and the research community has a responsibility to make sure that promising psychedelic therapies are equally effective and accessible to communities of color.

In closing, the authors share:

“Considering the importance of the sense of unity or oneness that classic psychedelics can evoke in mediating their long-term benefits, the field should take this to heart in applying psychedelics constructively towards ensuring equity of access and reducing health disparities, and make this an urgent priority.”

 

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Thrul, J., & Garcia-Romeu, A. (2021). Whitewashing psychedelics: Racial equity in the emerging field of psychedelic-assisted mental health research and treatment. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 28(3), 211–214. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687637.2021.1897331 (Link)

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Madison Natarajan, MS
Madison Natarajan is a master’s level psychotherapist and current doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Boston. As a researcher, her focus is on the impact of religious trauma on female sexual development, specifically assessing the subculture of the evangelical purity movement. Madison has a family history that has been intertwined with psychiatric care, ranging from family members who were institutionalized to those practicing psychiatry, both in the US and India. Madison seeks to challenge the current structure of psychiatric care in the West and disseminate honest and empowering information to the community at large.

48 COMMENTS

  1. Racial equity in all research is important, but this article does not confront the major issue: Are drug companies, who will be aided and abetted by the FDA, promoting psychedelics as a way of coopting currently illegal substances in a blatant attempt to increase their obscenely high profits? I’ve already observed a lack of concern about the substantial bad effects of psychedelics on the part of advocates of this new treatment.

    I also feel legalization is coming because there’s so much money involved. But this concern about including people of color in the research seems to me to be just an additional way of attempting to legitimize a questionable endeavor. Making sure these “treatments” are available to marginalized communities is only fair, but let’s face it, it also increases the number of people the pharmaceutical industry will be able to profit from.

  2. Perhaps, when regards to psychadelic mental health research, we should be less concerned about “whitewashing the research” and be more concerned that we are even researching these drugs at all. Psychadelic drugs are just another arsenal of evil in the tool box of the devil psychiatrist. They are dangerous for everyone. They do not discriminate. It matters not your race, creed, color, sex, gender, ethnicity, educational background, economic status, etc. these drugs damage your brain… forever….. We knew that when I was growinp in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Why the change? Dollar signs, of course… But, I knew a young man of promise who took some of these psychadelic drugs and ended up not graduating from college because he was discovered trying to walk through walls. Yes, I know the argument. The psychiatrist, etc. will monitor the dosages, etc. for each patient and all will be hunky-dory. But, knowing the track record of these psychiatrists with the psych drugs they regularly prescribe and dispense, can you trust them? Let’s do practical things for all people; like help them find the right job, etc. and stop these psychadelic nonsense—because it is both deadly and dangerous. Thank you.

    • I agree with you. These drugs are dangerous, but the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t care. Why let drug pushers (the illegal ones of course) make all the money when the pharmaceutical industry can cash in. And deadly, dangerous drugs aren’t going to be any less so just because they’re monitored by psychiatrists.

    • You should probably head to the nearest Reservation in your neck of the woods, to see if the Native American Church has a congregation operative there. The practicing members don’t seem to be running around acting strangely- I’d much rather have a chapter in my home town than to have a Klan chapter within a hundred miles (actually 1,000 miles) of my residence.

      • The problem with both psychadelic type drugs (illegal, at present) and psychiatrically prescibed drugs (legal) is they do not discriminate. They are very dangerous to each person. They don’t care about the color or sex or race or gender or age, etc. of the person. They damage, kill, and maim indiscriminately. So, why do any kind of study to see how they assist people in “mental health/illness” issues; when all is a a lie, a deception, etc. The best thing to do is to keep these drugs illegal and make the psychiatric drugs illegal. So many people will be helped to a happier, longer, healthier life. Thank you.

    • The problem is that there are a whole phalanx (a military term, perhaps appropriate here) of experts, researchers and experiencers (most of whom I would describe as New Age) who are telling everyone they can think of that psychedelics are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      A lot of these people are a little uncomfortable about handing these drugs over to psychiatrists, but not as uncomfortable as they should be — most of them just aren’t a part of the world of institutionalized psychiatry. Their therapists are in private practice.

      The seemingly unstoppable trend on this planet at this time is to “decriminalize” street drugs (which is seen as ceasing to punish addicts with jail time), and then to “legalize” them, which means in most cases, turning them over to the medical industry. There are some drugs that are considered harmless enough or popular enough that they cannot be controlled by doctors (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, …).

      This whole issue is difficult for me. I was raised to be a Liberal. But my church (and me) is against drug use. Our approach has been to educate users and potential users about the actual effects of drugs and then let them make an informed choice. But many of my friends would prefer that many drugs remain illegal. It is seen as a deterrent to use. But is it? Or does criminalizing drugs just help ruin more people’s lives and give corrupt state actors another excuse to throw someone they don’t like in jail?

      A lot of it has to do with whether you trust your government to play by the rules. We do NOT have a good experience in that regard when it comes to the mental health system and the drugs that have been approved for use in it.

      In today’s society, anything you make illegal can be used by a bad actor (psychopath) to get rid of an enemy. And anything you make legal can be used similarly. So isn’t the big problem the psychopaths, and not the laws?

  3. I think equity by race is the least troubling issue as psychedelics go through the process of being commercialized.

    They “work” best in the hands of shamans and trained facilitators. Psychiatrists are about the furthest from that existing on this planet (except for a very few). NO treatment has been safe in the hands of psychiatrists! And the socioeconomic divide is baked into that problem.

    They will take any beauty and revelation to be gained from psychedelics or any other “medicine” and twist it or destroy it.

    There has always been a problem of getting ANY meaningful help to the “colonized” peoples of this planet. But at this point, we are a planet of colonized peoples!

    You have to be extremely well-informed and extremely smart with your money to escape the predations of psychiatry and their friends on this planet today. And it is true, psychedelics are much more readily available to the more “fortunate” among us. They can get good, clean product for almost anything they want on the Dark Web, and don’t have to rely on the street for things like that.

    One person recently interviewed about psychedelics asserted that everyone in the healing professions should be required to get psychedelic-assisted therapy. What they really meant is that these professions – in mental health in particular – are notorious for their lack of empathy, spirituality, and plain old ordinary love for their fellow human beings. This is the huge problem that the “woke” seem to overlook.

    This whole discussion does not even take into consideration various other problems related to legalizing dangerous drugs. These drugs inevitably bypass the medical system and find their ways into the medicine cabinets of adults and children they were never intended for. They will still be abused by addictive personalities, just as they are now. It is “nice” to decriminalize addiction, but that does not cure it.

    • They “work” best in the hands of shamans and trained facilitators. Psychiatrists are about the furthest from that existing on this planet (except for a very few).

      Charlie Manson and the CIA’s MKULTRA researchers come to mind (some of whom were psychiatrists, but not many). The Esalen Institute under Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead was a major hub for MKULTRA’s psychedelic-assisted brainwashing research and several California-based New Age cults were MKULTRA spin-offs (e.g. NLP, A Course in Miracles).

      Unfortunately there’s already some clueless opportunists in California (where else?) who are using the religious exemption loophole to offer psychedelic therapy without proper training, or medical support and with only the sham New Age ritualism you’d expect in the Eureka state in the place of centuries old shamanistic traditions.

      They’ve already killed a couple of people with convulsion and blood pressure related side-effects. Participants are expected to sign a long, complex form saying they don’t have any of a list of pre-extant conditions and waiving their right to civil redress if things go wrong, but last I heard they were presenting it as a technical formality and encouraging people to sign without thinking about it. The on-site guides have no formal medical training that would qualify them to recognise a medical emergency and in at least one fatal case they delayed calling an ambulance for fear of ‘bumming out’ the other paying participants.

      OTOH, the Synthesis Institute in the Netherlands, while a bit hippy-drippy, take the medical side of it very seriously, both in carefully screening participants and having properly trained emergency medics to hand.

      I suspect groups like the one in California will be used to justify the sort of expensive and mostly ineffective regulatory hurdles that will ensure only large, greedy corporations will be offering legal psychedelic therapy to the worried well (and well-off) in the US while an illegal underground scene will meet the excess demand without having proper access to medically trained backup.

      It’s not just shrinks who are the problem. It’s the entire top-down, profit-driven health system you have over there.

        • Well, the first thing to say is that the official records of MKULTRA were mostly destroyed by the CIA when the Church Committee investigation into it was announced. They missed the financial records, so we know who was paid, how much and the names and directors of the MKULTRA subprojects that received the money, but other than that, some supplementary documents FOIed by investigative journalists, the unreliable testimony MKULTRA operatives gave to the Church Committee and the claims of CIA whistleblowers there’s little in the way of direct evidence for anything.

          If you’re not familiar with the details of MKULTRA your first stop should be The Search for the Manchurian Candidate by the former intelligence analyst and State Department employee John Marks.

          What we do know is that MKULTRA ran from the early 50s to 1978 and researched interrogation, brainwashing and mind-control techniques – both individual and social – and was a direct successor to similar CIA programs dating back to the start of the Korean War. We know it had a huge budget which was used both directly by the CIA on often illegal projects using its own employees and other US citizens as guinea pigs and was also farmed out through various front organisations such as the Esalen Institute (where it often funded ‘New Age’ research) and the Center for Human Ecology at Cornell University (which focused on more mainstream psychological research),

          We know Gregory Bateson at Esalen knew he was getting CIA funds but many of the researchers he paid probably didn’t know who they were working for. We also know the co-founder of A Course in Miracles, William Thetford at Cornell, had been doing such work for the CIA since 1954 but the other co-founder, Helen Schucman, was probably an unwitting dupe.

          The MKULTRA funded groups and individuals who may or may not have known who their bosses were included the founders of NLP and the Findhorn Foundation, the Merry Pranksters (who followed The Grateful Dead around distributing LSD), Ken Kesey who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and a very large proportion of 1960-70s ‘respectable’ psychologists in the US, UK and Canada (as well as less respectable ones like Harold Wolff and Ewen Cameron).

          The encounter therapy sessions run by Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow and William Coulson that led to the break between the nuns of LA’s Sacred Heart of Mary convent and the Catholic hierarchy was MKULTRA funded, but it’s far from clear that anyone involved knew that.

          Most of my research has been into A Course in Miracles (ACIM) because I have relatives who have been sucked into it. I can provide references to the information I used and explain how I pulled it all together if you like, but there’s no single, simple summary. I’m quite satisfied that Thetford started ACIM as a ‘proof of concept’ that the Gittinger Personality Assessment System (PAS) could be ‘weaponised’ as a tool of mass ideological manipulation (Gittinger was the head psychologist for MKULTRA) but since the mid-80s when Thetford died ACIM has continued on with a life of its own without evidence of direct CIA involvement. Nonetheless its founding text and workbooks, which are still used by ACIM practitioners, were rooted firmly in the ideological manipulation methods pioneered by Thetford and his fellow MKULTRA subproject director David Saunders. Also the biographical details of Thetford and Schucman strongly suggest he manipulated her to the point of insanity using techniques developed by the CIA for breaking interrogation subjects and prompting enemy agents to defect (Thetford very likely worked on Projects Bluebird and/or Artichoke in the early-50s that pioneered what would eventually be the CIA’s KUBARK ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques and were later folded into MKULTRA).

          If you want more references you should be a bit more specific about what you’re interested in and I’ll try to help. There’s a heck of a lot of material out there but other than Marks’ work it’s almost never collated into a coherent narrative. I spent years pulling together the ACIM stuff, some of which involved personal correspondence between myself and some of the earliest ACIM acolytes at the Foundation for Inner Peace.

          • Thank you very much for this! I am confident that you have looked into this carefully. In some circles the CIA gets accused of having its fingers in everything! But if financial documents show the various funding pathways, this is a very solid indication of their involvement, even if it lacks completeness.

            The “New Age” movement in particular has always seemed a bit suspicious to me, not because of its claims, but because of its oversights and prejudices. It is an odd but strangely appealing quasi-religious movement that I have rubbed shoulders with on numerous occasions.

            I am acquainted with a guy who came out of the New Age, did a bunch of his own research, and now vehemently speaks against some of its more fantastical beliefs. I can only hope that more will follow him, or find other reasons to leave the New Age behind and pursue more workable systems.

          • Your research is very interesting. I have begun to see in the last few years how the “new age movement” is either a stepping-stone into the psychiatric world of drugs and therapy or another aspect of it; in that much of “new age” is as dangerous as the drugs and therapy. And, of course, all of this is related to the use of psychadelic drugs. They are all different eggs in the same disgustingly, evil basket powered only by satan himself. Thank you.

          • cabrogal, I have just recently commented on your research, but I was wondering, did any of this money find its way into “new thought churches” like unity or the new thought alliance? Additionally, did any of this money find its way into organizations like the Hayes foundation which publishes many books, has a great fan following and even has had its authors showcased on public tv? I was just wondering, if you know anything about that as many of the books, etc mentioned are closely related. There is also another church that comes to mind, the unitarian church. They promote a lot of “new age ideas.” Thank you.

          • I was wondering, did any of this money find its way into “new thought churches” like unity or the new thought alliance?

            Not that I know of specifically.

            I don’t think MKULTRA was about funding existing movements (it preferred to found its own) but a lot of knowing and unknowing MKULTRA researchers would have been linked to groups and belief systems rooted in New Thought; not because it’s particularly sinister but because it’s so ubiquitous in America, especially among psychologists. That’s probably because the famous US psychologist, philosopher and religious scholar, William James, gave New Thought such a good rap in his classic 1902 work The Varieties of Religious Experience.

            New Thought is generally considered to have been founded by Phineas Quimby and Mary Baker Eddy, the latter being the founder of the first New Thought church, Christian Science.

            The MKULTRA psychologist who co-founded A Course in Miracles, William Thetford, was a lapsed Christian Scientist.

            The other co-founder. Helen Schucman, who probably didn’t know who funded her work, was a non-practicing Jew and child psychologist who had once worked in her father’s esoteric bookshop.

            So as you can imagine ACIM shows strong New Thought influences. But so too do most US religions, cults and self-help movements developed since the late 19th century, so it’s hardly surprising MKULTRA was so tangled up in it.

            Schucman had a life-long obsession with Catholicism and she returned to it after renouncing ACIM. She was buried by the celebrity Franciscan priest, Father Benedict Groeschel, who had promoted ACIM in its early days but later condemned it as ‘demonic’.

            Helen thought the ACIM texts had been dictated to her by ‘Jesus’ – though ACIM is ambiguous about whether it’s the biblical Jesus, despite referring to him throughout as The Son.

            I don’t know how a trained priest could ever have gone for a ‘Jesus’ who sounded like a mixture of Theosophy, New Thought and 60s pop psychology and spoke in iambic pentameter, but there you go. Groeschel had studied psychology under Thetford so perhaps he got sucked in by his sophisticated manipulation techniques.

  4. l.e. cox There are many books and website that speak against the “new age movement” and bring out its faults and errors, etc. Many of these books and websites do speak from a more conservative biblical perspective. Some of the same groups also speak out against psychiatry and the psychiatric drugs. Unfortunately, many see the “new age movement” as not only an alternative to psychiatry, etc. but also a way out. However, more and more, I now see how the “new age movement” and its ideas actually make a person vulnerable and gullible to psychiatry, etc. The “new age movement” gives people all kinds of “tools” they are supposed to use to get what they want out of life; but, these “tools” try to by-pass any work, trial and error, etc. The idea of the “new age movement” is that what you want will magically come to you, if you meditate a certain way or say these certain affirmations or whatever. Well, what happens when it doesn’t? You get discouraged and depressed. You become disenchanted with the “new age philosophy” and before you know it you are sitting a therapist/psychiatrist’s office receiving therapy and a prescription and from there it escalates and escalates. There is one thing that the new age movement really left out is the old joke, “how do you get to carnegie hall? and the answer is practice, practice, practice.” which means if you want something you’ve got to work at it, not just say affirmations and meditate a certain way. Thank you.

    • I don’t think I have a religious agenda here.

      My mother has always been one of those fad-driven New Age fans, uncritically adopting whatever’s trendy and dropping it when it goes out of fashion, but I’ve always had a skeptical bent and her ever-changing pseudo-scientific belief systems have never held much appeal for me. The crass commercialism of some of them also turned me off, but there’s plenty of that in mainstream religions too. I still can’t work out why God needs so much money.

      When I started learning about other beliefs and cultures I got increasingly disenchanted with the way the New Age has appropriated and distorted them, especially the traditions of my own Australian Aboriginal forbears.

      I’d long known of the claims made by some social justice activists that much of the New Age was contrived by authorities as a way to fragment and individualise the mass movements of the 60s and turn them away from political engagement and inwards towards pseudo-spiritual development, but I hadn’t given them much credence until I started researching A Course in Miracles.

      But I do think psychedelic drugs have great potential, both as means of healing and as a way for some to gain true spiritual insights. I don’t subscribe to the Christian notion that any spirituality not spelled out in the Bible is the work of Satan. But like any other powerful tool psychedelics can be misused and abused, both through ignorance and ill-will, and I’m becoming increasingly worried that excessive enthusiasm for them is gonna produce a backlash that will spoil things for responsible users, just like it did in the 60s.

      I definitely think psychedelics should be kept out of the hands of psychiatrists. Unless they want to use them on themselves of course. Perhaps for some they can even ‘cure’ psychiatry.

      • I do appreciate what you say. And, I have really appreciated your research, which seems to be from a loving concern for your mother. That, to me, is, to be applauded. However, I do know that there are many books and websites from those have been in the new age movement but felt delivered from this movement through Jesus Christ. Their stories are very interesting and compelling, even if you do not feel drawn to their Christianity. I , personally, can not promote the use of psychadelics for any reason and of course, in the hands of psychiatrists, they are damaging and deadly. I, am, if you have read some of my posts and against most all drugs. I feel we have a “drug culture” and are in the process of “drugging America and the world” I do think letting loose psychadelics for any reason would only contribute to this and thus I am 100 million percent against these psychadelics for use for anyone for any reason. There is absolutely not a good reason for anybody to use a drug such as a psychadelic. Thank you.

        • which seems to be from a loving concern for your mother

          Actually my mother was never sucked in by A Course in Miracles, probably because by the time she saw it she’d been through several similar belief systems and could see how derivative it is.

          Her brother, OTOH, was a lifelong atheist going through a major life crisis when his new partner introduced him to ACIM. He’d never seen anything like it before and thought it was revolutionary. He’s also a perfect fit for the educational, socioeconomic and personality profile ACIM is aimed at.

          I’d always been close to my uncle and feel I owe him a lot for help he’s given me at crucial points of my own life but I saw through ACIM right from the start. I researched it so thoroughly so I could discuss it with him at his own level of expertise. But I sure wasn’t expecting it to be an MKULTRA subproject.

          As with most ACIM followers, my uncle knows one of its founders worked for the CIA, but ACIM has a well rehearsed apologia for both Thetford’s career in brainwashing and the criminal immorality of MKULTRA, so he’s not terribly disturbed by it. Thetford started his career in military intelligence psychology working for G2 screening Manhattan Project researchers and staff, BTW.

          We’ll have to agree to disagree about psychedelics. Many religious and healing traditions the world over have incorporated them since prehistoric times and I think they’re onto something. I’ve never been a Christian so I don’t feel compelled to condemn non-Christian belief systems as Satanic. Nor do I buy into Nixon’s war on drugs propaganda that started all the nonsense about psychedelics being addictive and neurotoxic, though as I said, they do have the potential to be quite harmful if you don’t know what you’re doing or don’t care. As with most illegal drugs, a lot of the harm is caused or aggravated by their legal status.

          • From what I have gathered from online information and experiencers, psychedelics are particularly effective at promoting an “out of body experience” which I know of as “going exterior.” This can indeed be highly therapeutic, but as Christianity definitely sets limits on what “spiritual” looks like, such experiences are generally seen as beyond the pale.

            It is safer to go exterior without drugs, and the effects of doing so will likely be more profound, but most people in this society are so used to using drugs for everything, that this consideration likely won’t make any difference to them.

            The whole realm of spiritual experience is woefully under-researched and under-reported on this planet. On top of that, there are huge and ponderous belief systems and rituals built upon the “mystery” of spiritual existence. It is no great mystery! But it is indeed ironic that those society has entrusted to study it (psychology) and heal it (psychiatry) are the most insistent that it does not exist!

          • I appreciate your responses. I think as far as the New Thought churches go, there probably needs to be further research as many of the authors and books, etc. mentioned are also found and discussed in New Thought like Bible Study groups in Traditional and Charismatic Christian Churches. As far as psychadelics go, it would be impossible for me to believe they are not “neurotoxic” in some manner, because like psychiatric drugs, they affect the brain first and foremost. The only difference is that a few of these psychadelics are naturally occurring, while almost all psychiatric drugs are synthetics. However, LSD, the most prominent well-known psychadelic drug is synthetically made in the laboratory. It was experimented on with both CIA and US troops in the 1950s and sadly there were those who committed suicide. However, just because something is naturally-forming does not make it non-toxic or non-poisonous. To me, only a fool would mess with these drugs. My mistake was that I didn’t realize that only a fool would mess with psychiatric drugs. There is a common demoninator that can not be denied. As far as the “war on drugs.” —We have had several variations on this especially in the last fifty or sixty years. Unfortunately, the problem with these wars, we have never fought to win them. When we make the decision that we will win this war, it will be won. But, one of the things that prohibit this is: dark money and other money in hands of those who would probably lose that money if we did really win this war. Sadly, money still talks and we still listen to our detriment. Thank you.

          • So is caffeine neurotoxic because it affects your brain?

            The good thing about the drug war is that it’s prompted loads of research into street drug toxicity to try to justify the hefty legal penalties against them. After decades of research there’s still no evidence LSD, mescaline or psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) kill brain cells and some (unverified) evidence they promote neuron growth.
            https://www.healthline.com/health/does-lsd-kill-brain-cells

            However there are newer synthetic psychedelics (such as 25I-NBOMe) that are quite toxic and they’re sometimes sold as LSD. That’s another reason to legalise them so people can be reasonably sure they’re taking what the label on the pack says they’re taking.

            There’s also certain magic mushrooms (such as fly agaric) that contain toxic chemicals as well as psilocybin. The traditional users have ways to neutralise them (the Sami people in Lapland feed fly agaric to their reindeers then drink the reindeer urine, which still contains lots of unmetabolised psilocybin) but a lot of people are pretty clueless when it comes to taking appropriate precautions when collecting and consuming mushrooms.

          • From what I have gathered from online information and experiencers, psychedelics are particularly effective at promoting an “out of body experience”

            Well, after about four decades of psychedelic use involving dozens of individual and group trips plus dozens more where I’ve acted as a non-using ‘sitter’ while others used them I can’t say I’ve ever experienced an out-of-body experience as a result or spoken to anyone who says they have.

            There’s loads of effects of psychedelics and they’re highly dependent on what’s called ‘set and setting’ (expectations and environment) but the most profoundly spiritual ones closely resemble the mystical experiences that seem common to many different religions, including Christianity.

            Religiously observant Christians who’ve tried them (including clerics) routinely describe it as the most profoundly spiritual experience of their lives and the deepest connection to God they’ve ever felt. People who start a trip as atheists often finish it believing in God and take up a spiritual practice – sometimes Christian, sometimes not.

          • Well, that’s all I’m talking about. What most people call “profoundly spiritual” I see as “out of body.” I realize that most “trippers” don’t have a clear idea of exactly what they have experienced, particularly if they have no prior spiritual training. And we could be talking about what I know of as a “release” in many of these cases, but my point is that the spiritual being finds itself in an experience that it often cannot even find words to describe.

            If they really like that experience, well, there’s your route to addiction. If you get such an experience without using drugs, at least you can’t get addicted to a drug as a result!

  5. l e cox I am not sure about “out of body experiences” but it seems to me if you want to have one, it would be much better without any drugs. It seems you would be less likely to have any sort of either short-term or long-term brain damage. Not only that, we really have no idea how psychadelic drugs affect other organs in the body. We barely know how psychiatric drugs affect other organs in the body. There is just no way, I think, that anyone with any sense can advocate for drug use for any reason; especially the spiritual as it can be a line to God. Of course, mental and emotional as psychiatric drugs do are also dangerous. Additionally, there are probabilities that psychiatric drugs are related in some way to psychadelic drugs and even alcohol. It is also nebulous and suspect chemistry. Life is not better with this kind of chemistry and biology. Thank you.

    • I think it is very worth becoming aware of the whole out-of-body-experience scene.

      But I agree with you about drugs.

      It’s just that a huge majority of people on this planet think drugs are very important to staying alive. So on that subject, we have a LONG way to go.

    • Of course it’s better if you can induce such experiences without drugs and some people do. My earliest experiences of that sort were spontaneous, years before I took any ‘recreational’ drugs (unless you count the passive nicotine intake from my early 60s parents) and I’ve since learned to (unreliably) induce them with various meditation techniques and breathwork, though it’s hard to sustain them that way.

      But basically if you’re OK with religious mysticism – especially modern Catholic mystics like Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Merton – then chances are you’d be OK with psychedelic use in a religious context. If you’re more of a biblical literalist who rejects the mystical aspects of spirituality then you’d probably either hate it or have your religious perspective profoundly changed by it.

      When used in a religious context psychedelics are called ‘entheogenic’, which means ‘to induce the divine’.

      • I think you must be very careful if you are using psychadelics to connect with the Divine (God). You could very well be connecting with the devil (satan). Satan is very devious and like the wolves in sheep’s clothing can pretend to be God for the most vulnerable. At the very least, these psychadelic drugs, like psychiatric drugs and therapies, and even new age practices, philosophies and rituals can lead you to very wide open to satan (or the devil) And this is not a pretty picture, but highly devastating to more than just the person who employs these various modalities. Thank you.

        • Yeah, I know many Christians think anything outside their own belief system is demonic, often even other Christians who don’t think, believe or worship the same way they do. A lot of Protestants think the Pope is the Antichrist and Catholics have a history of killing other Catholics over such arcane theological disputes as the ‘true’ nature of the Trinity.

          That sort of thinking has led Christians to do a lot of demonic things over the centuries. What they did to Native Americans and my own Australian Aboriginal forbears in the name of ‘driving the devil out’ are just two cases in point. The ‘One True God’ has always been a bit like that. He’d no sooner told the Children of Israel ‘thou shalt not kill’ than He had them off slaughtering the Midianites, down to women, children and farm animals. All except for the young virgins, who were enslaved with God taking a share of that booty for Himself.

          On the face of it, if there really is a Satan the Deceiver, maybe Christians should stop pointing their fingers at other people’s gods and start looking a lot closer to home.

          It’s that sort of thing that ensured I’d never be a Christian. So if failing to toe the ‘damn the disbelievers’ line is a ticket to hell then my berth is already booked.

      • cabrogal, I am impressed by how well-informed you are on these topics.

        Yes, the use of these substances will definitely be seen as bad by traditionalists, while the more mystically inclined might take a different view.

        We are bound to respect religious beliefs as matters of “faith” but recent research and events have shaken up this whole subject considerably. I feel lucky to have found a viewpoint which is tolerant and not too irrational, though precious few others would accept it as a valid viewpoint.

        • I respect your viewpoint as definitely valid, although we may disagree on some points and disagree on others. Yet, I fell there may be some who would not consider my viewpoint as valid. Perhaps, it is because I do seem to reflect a more traditionalist view. As far as my rejection of most all drugs, my concerns that we have a drug culture which is basically destroying us and my ultimate belief that most all drugs should eventually be eradicated; I did not come upon these ideas willy-nilly. These ideas came to me from my own personal experience as someone who spent more than twenty years taking these brain damaging psychiatric drugs. I am also well aware of the years of alcohol’s prohibition in that it probably prompted both a great depression and a major world war (WWII.) But, what I do know is that in our society, we think there must be a drug for every little thing and we must do what we can to make this idea less attractive. I don’t have a clue how to do it, but I just know this must be done to save humanity. We must absolutely stop relying on drugs as the answer. Thank you.

          • I respect most of your views and the main thrust of your points.

            There is indeed a major problem with the way everyone thinks there is a technical solution (often drugs) for every problem facing individuals, society, mankind and the planet and the trick is to find the right expert and make sure they have the power and resources to fix everything.

            Regarding Prohibition, I’d disagree it was a major factor in the Depression or WWII, but it certainly gave us the sort of organised crime and corrupt police forces we have today, which was perpetuated after alcohol prohibition was lifted and replaced with prohibition of other drugs. This was due largely to the efforts of law enforcement authorities (especially Harry Anslinger) to maintain the power and funding they gained from alcohol prohibition.

            The Prohibition also led to an increase in alcohol related deaths in the US due to unsafe bootleg liquor (often laced with methanol) and the inability of people to seek medical help for alcohol overdose for fear of criminal penalties. We still see exactly the same problem with black-market drugs and that’s a big reason the opioid epidemic has killed so many Americans (nearly twice as many as Covid).

            I am against current psychiatric drugs. Not because they’re drugs but because their risk:benefit ratio skews so heavily in the wrong direction. I would allow both that they can benefit some people if used in certain ways and that everyone should have the right to make an informed choice as to whether to use them. But I’d still like to see them banned from being prescribed as therapies because I think the business model of the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries ensures most people will make a misinformed choice.

            I’d also like to see free clinics authorised to dispense them while helping people to withdraw and allow that complete withdrawal may be impossible for some and they should be permitted to keep receiving them indefinitely (at the minimum feasible dose). This would be similar to a program in the UK which was originally set up to help morphine addicted ex-servicemen following WWII.

            But I think that even though the benefits of most legal drugs are overestimated and the harms underestimated (with the reverse usually true for illegal drugs) there really are a lot of vital drugs out there that are needed. Antibiotics, vaccines, insulin, etc, etc. In fact if it wasn’t for antibiotics, antivirals, bronchodilators and anesthetics I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be alive now. If it wasn’t for cortico-steroids I’d be blind.

            I also think – on the balance of probabilities – that my life would have been more spiritually impoverished and my mental health worse were it not for psychedelics.

  6. How do we know caffeine is not neurotoxic as it does have addictive properties? Nicotine is another drug that may have neurotoxic properties, too, but that is probably hidden in a vault somewhere by a tobacco company. As far as caffeine goes, it does sell soda pop, energy drinks, coffee, tea and even chocolate amongst other things. Not only did we have opium wars upon the opening of the Orient to the West, but, we also had tea wars. Part of the English’s desire to go to America and also go to places like India was in their desire for tea. I can’t remember the exact names but most of the American colonies were begun by people with stock in Tea Companies and they were started for this very purpose. It is probably impossible to not sustain some sort of brain damage throughout life; but, it is best to keep it a mininum so we should avoid all psychadelic drugs and all psychiatric. They are by far the most dangerous drugs on the planet. I also include the opiates in this list. Their danger is much greater than caffeine, maybe even nicotine, although nicotine is implicated in ling cancer, etc. so nicotine should probably be up there with the psychadelics, psychiatric drugs and the opiates. The problem with the psychadelics and the psychiatric drugs is how they do their damage. Which is why, I aks go through the trouble of using a psychadelic drug to have a “trip” when God gave you an imagination that literally take you to the stars? Unless, you might be a person for whom having an imagination might be a weakness or non-strength. If that is the case, why tempt fate with a “trip” from these psychadelic drugs and force what you are not meant to do? There are a million and one ethical questions here and the best thing we can do is de-emphasize drugs and help un-create the present drug culture. Thank you.

    • Here we get into the whole question of cultural traditions and the “popularity” of certain substances. One of the most quick-acting, dangerous, damaging and addictive substances we have is alcohol, yet any attempts to control its use have ended in disaster. There is the clearest example where we must fall back on educational programs and the problem of solving the addictive personality, as our legal system is totally unable to regulate the use of a drug that popular.

      Where substances can be derived from plants that are easily grown, we likewise have difficulty with regulation. Nicotine, caffeine and similar substances are not harmless, but too accessible and popular to be controlled beyond charging taxes on commercial sales.

      So again, education and pursuit of better “mental health” are key to preventing these and many similar drugs from wrecking too many lives.

      I did not decide to lead a no-drug life because I thought it would bring me closer to God, but there are many good arguments for doing so. However, in this world if I had a more addictive personality, I don’t know how I could have restrained myself from getting addicted to something, regardless of personal belief or faith.

      • I’ve been in and out of several addictions over my life – including heroin, though never nicotine or alcohol fortunately – but I think it would be very hard to get addicted to conventional psychedelics and the research backs me up on that.
        https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/is-lsd-addictive

        Firstly you don’t get cravings. Psychedelics don’t start working until around 30 minutes after you take them and if they cause euphoria (which is context dependent) it’s generally not until they’ve peaked at least an hour after that. So you’re not getting the Pavlovian association between dose and pleasure that causes cravings in quicker acting drugs.

        The tolerance curve for psychedelics is unique and amazing. After a trip it will be weeks until you can take another one and expect an effect. So you can’t use them frequently enough to develop habituation and you will always have completed physical withdrawal (which is mild and lasts only a day or so) by the time you use them again.

        If you use them socially as a party drug (which I never have) there’s always the risk you’ll become socially addicted to them (i.e. you won’t know what to do with yourself at gatherings unless you’re tripping). I’ve run across a handful of people like that at tourist places with a rave scene (Goa in India and Koh Phangan in Thailand) but I’m told it’s fairly common with non-conventional psychedelics such as ketamine, GHB and MDMA on the club circuit (which I’ve never been involved with).

        As I said, I’ve been using conventional psychedelics regularly for about 40 years now and in all that time I’ve never been tempted to use them more than 3-4 times a year, despite feeling more positively about them than I do any other mind altering substance or activity. I’ve sometimes gone for several years without them without feeling the need to seek them out. I figure when the time is right they’ll find me.

        The other advantage psychedelics have over all other drugs is the huge difference between an effective dose and a toxic one. People have accidentally taken many hundreds of times the normal dose of LSD and once it wore off about 24 hours later suffered no ill effects. That means LSD is less toxic than water (which can cause permanent brain damage in overdose).

        https://www.sciencealert.com/a-woman-accidentally-took-550-times-the-normal-dosage-of-lsd-case-report-details

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication

        However I’d emphasise again that even normal doses of LSD can induce seizures in epileptics and increase blood pressure by up to 30 points (though about 10 is more usual) and these things are potentially fatal. But coffee, sex or vigorous exercise can do that too. It’s also been linked to sustained psychotic breaks in people with histories of psychosis – though the stories of people thinking they can fly and leaping from buildings seem to be apocryphal.

        The biggest danger of taking psychedelics is that you’ll become so disoriented you’ll walk into traffic or behave so aberrantly that someone will call the cops and you’ll get shot (a particular danger if you’re young, male and non-white). That can be minimised with careful attention to set and setting.

        There’s also a case in which an elephant was killed with a deliberate megadose of LSD. No prizes for guessing the profession of the people who did it.
        https://www.theguardian.com/education/2002/aug/08/research.highereducation

        Also in 1953 a bioweapons researcher named Frank Olsen fell from a hotel window and died nine days after being unknowingly given a huge LSD as part of MKULTRA research. But the LSD would have worn off long before then. Some people speculate he committed suicide because he didn’t know he’d been drugged and thought he was going mad. Others claim he was murdered by the CIA because he’d threatened to blow the whistle on MKULTRA and/or the illegal chemical warfare research he was involved in.

        • Your experiencew with psychadelics may be positive, but these drugs, like ALL drugs are nothing to mess with… It all sounds nice and wonderful, but there are still millions of vulnerable people of all ages of which these drugs are highly dangerous. And yes, some of these drugs have been around year, but, I still doubt we really know what the long term effects are. I think those who have already been adversely impacted by psychiatric drugs are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of these drugs. If seems to me, that if the dosage is just a little off, it could put a person’s life in danger. And, we still don’t know if many of the properties of psychatric drugs could have come from these psychadelic drugs. As far as Pavlov goes, please leave him out of this. He and his dogs have already damaged many human beings. Pavlov, because he did his experiments on dogs, misrepresented the unique individuality of each person; the brain/mind and body. But, then he and his hubris misrepresented the uniqueness of dogs and damaged them, also. Discounting the pain and suffering of those who have been damaged by the psychiatric drugs in discussion of advocating for these psychadelic drugs is extremely hurtful to those of us who have now pledged to live a drug-free life. God created each one of us with a wonderful imagination. When we use it to His Glory; we do not need these psychadelic drugs which can damage and even kill. Thank you.

          • “If seems to me, that if the dosage is just a little off, it could put a person’s life in danger.”

            Psychedelics can put people’s lives in danger, not least because of the response law enforcement often has towards those who take them. But the dosage has very little to do with it.

            As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, the difference between an effective and a lethal dose of conventional psychedelics is huge. At least an order of magnitude more than the difference between slaking your thirst and dying of water toxicity.

            And there’s never been any evidence found for what could reasonably be described as ‘brain damage’ attributable to them, despite a lot of government funded research attempting to prove exactly that.

            If you have any references to the contrary I’d appreciate a link. I do advocate for legalisation and wider use of these drugs. I take my responsibility to inform myself of their potential dangers seriously.

    • Here’s an interesting article in which a Jungian therapist gives her interpretation of how psychedelics can benefit mental health and personal development.

      https://psyche.co/ideas/to-learn-from-a-psychedelic-trip-explore-the-dreams-that-follow

      Quote: “Research indicates that an essential healing mechanism of psychedelic use is the ‘mystical experience’: an encounter with the ineffable, with that-which-is-nothing-and-all, or that which you, as a discrete entity, are most certainly not. That is, psychedelics seem to heal by expanding people into something larger than they previously thought themselves to be.”

      I disagree somewhat with her article. Firstly I don’t think recalled dreams are particularly useful means of self-analysis whether or not psychedelics are involved. I think only fragments of dreams are recalled after waking – even if you immediately copy all you can remember into a dream diary – and a lot of the narrative gaps are filled in post-facto in an attempt to make a linear story from them. That’s why I think we can so easily follow movies with cuts and gaps in the story – because we already do that all the time to make sense of our dreams and incomplete memories.

      So basically, recalled dreams aren’t as ‘primal’ as the Jungians would have it. They’re already edited/processed/contaminated by our preconceptions, preferences and prejudices into something we can make sense of.

      Secondly, she assumes that because the language of symbolic representation is ‘older’ than the spoken word it’s somehow more suitable for capturing the ineffable nature of mystical experiences. I disagree.

      What makes transcendent, ego-dissolving mystical experiences unique, ineffable and impossible to imagine is their non-dual nature. All languages, including symbolic ones, communicate by dividing the universe into binaries.

      So the word “cat” also implies all that is not a cat, in the same way left implies right, up implies down, light implies darkness and right implies wrong. All languages, including symbolic ones, work the same way. Mystical experiences don’t.

      In a nondual state all such distinctions disappear. There is no separation between things, not even subject and object or self and other. So there is nothing separating you from anything in the universe, including God. It’s a sort of ephemeral return to a state before eating from the tree of knowledge brought about the Fall.

      The problems arise when you try to hang onto your mystical experience by fitting it into your narrative memory with language. Throwing words or symbols at it contaminates it. On the one hand, this may allow certain insights it offers to be preserved within your conceptual frameworks – as when you ‘fit it’ into your religious belief system – but on the other, it allows charismatic or powerful people to superimpose their own symbols and beliefs over your experience, as did Charles Manson and other ‘gurus’.

      If you already buy into Jungian symbology it’s probably not going to do any harm to use it to interpret your own mystical experiences. But if you’re allowing a Jungian to do that for you you’re running the risk of being brainwashed into their doctrine.

      In my experience, the trickiest and most important thing about guiding someone through a powerful psychedelic experience is to avoid doing it at all unless it’s absolutely necessary to avoid harm and, if you do, to be very aware of the temptations and dangers of imposing your own world view on someone else when they’re trying to find a way to make sense of something completely out of the realms of their prior experiences.

      But if we’re gonna turn this stuff over to shrinks I’d prefer it was the Jungians.

      • I do not believe all drugs should totally be gotten rid of, but we do need to make a genuine assessment of which drugs are useful and which are dangerous. One of the biggest problems is the idea that all drugs are good for all people; that is not paying attention to the individual and their needs, etc. I do know there are some speciific drugs out there that have saved lives and should be used when necessary. If possible, though, it is still the individual’s choice whether to be prescribed or use that drug. But, in life or death instances, when the person is unable to make a decision, I am not against it. I only pray the right drugs for the person are utilized. The main thing we do need to do is deemphasize this “drug culture” we now inhabit. Getting rid first of these psychiatric drugs which maim and kill daily people of all ages is the obvious first step. I do not know if the Prohibition era led to corrupt law enforcement. Personally, I do not think law enforcement is corrupt, but certain individuals and certain agencies might be. There is good evidence from reputable historians that the Prohibition at least contributed to the Depression and then the Depression contributed to WWII. And, yes, the Prohibition was a definite failed experiment, so we must put careful thought into ridding our society of any dangerous drugs, even the psychiatric drugs. As far as psychadelic drugs, as I said earlier, I can never ever in good conscience support their use for anyone for any reason. It always concerns me when people attribute their spiritual or mental well-being to any drug, but especially to psychadelics. We as humans are made to live as drug-free as possible. We as humans have within us all we need for our mental and spiritual well-being. Each one of us has been created in the image of God. We can speak to Him and hear His voice without drugs. In fact, He would prefer if that way because we are less likely to get His message messed up. I know there are many who might disagree with me. To restate my position, except for life-threatening instances, I think we should try to avoid drugs as much as possible. I can not see any psychadelic being necessary in a life-threatening situation for anyone. Thank you.

        • “There is good evidence from reputable historians that the Prohibition at least contributed to the Depression and then the Depression contributed to WWII”

          Well, I guess everything ultimately contributes to everything else. The butterfly wing-beat that contributes to a cyclone half the world away. Indra’s Net. That sort of thing.

          But if you can give me a reference as to how the US experiment with alcohol prohibition was a proximate cause of the worldwide Great Depression I’ll certainly take a look. I’ve heard the Depression attributed to many factors, mostly economic though not exclusively, and that one’s new to me.

          I do not know if the Prohibition era led to corrupt law enforcement. Personally, I do not think law enforcement is corrupt

          Well we definitely disagree there. But I’m non-white. I’ve also been involved in many court cases including several deaths in custody. It gives you a different perspective. I’d have thought you’d at least see the collusion between law enforcement and forced psychiatry as corrupt.

          • I am sorry, but I do not like anyone telling me how and what I should and should not see or think. Sadly, I feel demeaned by your very words. As far as the connection between Prohibition and the Depression, I became first aware of the connection on a Ken Burns special on Prohibition that I saw on PBS a few years ago. It does make perfect sense to me especially in regards to how I was taught in history classes in college which spent a lot of time on cause and effect in history. As far as law enforcement and psychiatry; psychiatry is by far the most corrupt. At times, law enforcement does take cues from psychiatry; but are not inherantly corrupt as psychiatry. Much gets blow out of proportion in regards to law enforcement because we have been made sensitive to them via the mass media and other sources. Unfortunately, mass media singles out law enforcement and totally ignores psychiatry’s corruption. Sometimes, much of what happens does occur because of judges at various levels in the system. As far as psychadelics, just because research seems to show that they do not cause brain damage does not mean it does not happen. Many times, true research is hidden for the more flamboyant or even the false kind that generates profits. I believe someone in another post to another article on this site mentioned how psychiatric drugs produce artificial trances. I believe psychadelic drugs do something similar. It would seem to me that just that fact, as we know psychiatric drugs do cause brain damage would indicate that psychadelic drugs could do the same and probably do. I was concerned about psychadelic drugs before my incursion in to psychiatric drugs, etc. but now I am more concerned. I just can not approve of the use of psychadelic drugs for anyone and hope that laws can be maintained in place to keep them illegal for the safety of each and every one. Thank you.

          • There is “corruption” (criminal insanity) in every sector of society. We would need a totally different approach to choosing personnel, executives, and politicians to change that.

            Many, probably the majority, of those who are “boots on the ground” are well intentioned, but often misled by “experts” with other ideas in mind.

          • Well, I don’t have a TV or radio. Not that it insulates me from the effects of the media. That permeates our whole society.

            But somehow I think my opinion of law enforcement is informed more by life experience than what the journos try to tell me.

            My earliest degree from the college of hard knocks came 40 years ago, when I was both a heroin addict and a dealer and the Australian media never questioned police narratives about anything.

            Twice I was caught by police. Both times I was bashed and had my money and drugs stolen. But I was never charged. That’s because I was listed as a police informant by a senior detective I’d never met or spoken to. So why was I down as his informant? Because he was on the payroll of the drug importer I worked for.

            I also attended numerous court cases involving my friends – including a murder trial. In every case the police gave false evidence and in every case the outcome was fixed. Usually, but not always, in favour of the defendant. Because the police and/or prosecutor and/or defence attorney and/or judge had been bribed. One time I accidentally fixed a case myself. Under cross examination I revealed the name of my employer in the IT industry (Not my other employer of course. I’m still alive.) The judge had attended the same exclusive school at the same time as my boss. You should have seen the prosecutor’s face when he realised his mistake.

            I lived near the then ‘sex capital’ of Australia – Kings Cross – and many of my friends – including all my flatmates – worked in the sex industry, which was then illegal in NSW. So I got to see close up how the dynamics of police corruption and the sex industry played out. Sex work has since been decriminalised in NSW and the element of police corruption in it has been vastly reduced, but not eliminated.

            Twenty years ago I was working for Justice Action and the Indigenous Social Justice Association on deaths in custody cases, wrongful convictions and sex offence resolution, restoration and rehabilitation. I often acted as a consultant on cases involving forensic DNA – which I lectured on and wrote cited papers and articles about. Though the NSW police had supposedly cleaned up their act following the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption concocting false evidence was (and remains) the rule rather than the exception. I was in close contact with several US Innocence Projects, so I know the US police follow similar ‘rules of evidence’ – including in capital cases.

            The OJ Simpson murder case was one in point. He was almost certainly guilty but the police still planted DNA evidence and gave false testimony. They were caught and OJ was acquitted. The whole world was watching so the judiciary couldn’t just sweep the corruption under the carpet.

            But the hardest lessons were the ones I learned supporting the families of those killed by police through the inquest and (occasionally) the trial.

            Mostly they were conservative, church-going folk who had no previous reason to think the police, coroners and judiciary were thoroughly bent. They then had to face police media blitzes that dishonestly defamed their dead loved one in an attempt to justify his/her death. Often that included retrospectively having them diagnosed with a psychotic illness, so their lives were worth less and they were ‘a danger to others’. This isn’t a case of police working with corrupt psychiatrists. It’s psychiatrists working with corrupt police. They then saw the coroner bend over backwards to exclude evidence of the obvious – that their loved one had been murdered by police for no lawful reason. If that was impossible (usually because of witnesses and media coverage) it was passed to a prosecutor who no-billed the case or to a judge who instructed the jury to return an innocent verdict.

            My job wasn’t to help families find justice. That’s impossible under the system we have. It was to plug them into what support services were available and try to manage their expectations so their irresolvable grief doesn’t tip over into the sort of hopeless despair that kills.

            I can’t do that sort of work any more, rebel. I burned out. As I write this the tears are pouring down my face with the memories it brings. But plenty of other people do that work day-in, day-out for decades on end. Please don’t tell them their views on police corruption come from the media.

      • Traditional psychiatry – even of the Jungian variety – is so ignorant on subjects like Spirit, mysticism and memory that this is one of the main reasons I would not trust them with these medicines, any more than I trust them with the drugs they are already using.

        I know psychiatry as one of the biggest roadblocks to the study of spiritual phenomena in academia (thank goodness non-academics did not stop studying it!)

        Jung was an academic and valued his reputation as one. I have read that this is one reason why he refused to dig deeper into the spiritual, even though this is where is work was leading him.

        Though there are some academics that did go ahead and work in the field of “parapsychology,” the only ones known well to me work for the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. This work was started by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson when he agreed to chair this department, which was endowed with funding from Chester Carlson (1906–1968, the inventor of xerography).

        If it weren’t for various non-academics interested in this subject, Dr. Stevenson would have never received the funding he needed to pursue his interests in the paranormal. I imagine this may be true of many academic psychologists and psychiatrists.

        But because of the attitude of traditional psychiatry towards this work, all the important work done in this field was done my non-academics using their own resources. It is that work, not Dr. Stevenson’s, that first convinced me that we are immortal spiritual beings, and that this is the first and necessary step to a better understanding of the human condition, as well as its solution.

        I have seen MANY hours of people talking about their experiences with psychedelics. And though this has made it obvious to me that people really are getting something out of using them in a controlled manner, it is also blatantly obvious how little they know about the spirit and the mind and how these are related to the body.

        Besides the fact that there exist non-drug methods that achieve superior results, I do not consider these people well enough educated to be trusted with these drugs.

        • I agree in principle with your critique of psychiatry from a spiritual perspective. As a pseudoscience psychiatry is very defensive of its bogus credentials and so will always seek to deny or explain away anything that can’t be objectified in accordance with its simplistic facsimile of the scientific method. And yes, there is much in Jungianism that’s guilty of that, though I’d argue less so than in most branches of psychiatry or in many non-psychiatric post-Enlightenment cults of objectivity. ‘Scientific’ parapsychology for example.

          What I disagree with is that there could be some kind of objective, one-size-fits all spiritual path that would enable us to judge which ones are ‘deeper’ or ‘more advanced’. IMHO you have to find your path from where you are and imagining all start and end in the same place or pass the same milestones is hubristic at the very least. Often it’s using spiritual ‘authority’ as a tool of authoritarianism.

          TBH, paranormal phenomena such as miracle healing, ESP, OOBEs, NDEs, witchcraft, meditative levitation, past life regression, etc, etc, are irrelevant to my own spiritual path. To me they’re just performative means people use to try to objectify their spirituality and give it social value, meaning and authority.

          I have neither subjective nor objective measures of the worth of my spirituality. It’s completely contained in and of itself. It doesn’t promise me salvation, certainty, redemption, psychic powers, understanding, personal growth, wealth, health, happiness, arcane knowledge, a better rebirth, the end of suffering or eternal life. There’s no gauge or exchange rate I could use to weigh it against anything else. And it’s not a matter of preference or personal choice any more than the fact of my own existence is. It simply is. As am I. That’s good enough for me.

          • I know many think as you do, and that I and “my people” are swimming against a strong current.

            But we see ways to combine the subjective with the objective that seem to work for most people who have tried them.

            A spiritual ability, like, say, going stably exterior, is subjective from the observer’s point of view, but not from the point of view of the person going exterior!

            That said, taking definite steps with definite end phenomena does not guarantee “equal results.” Just compare two people who both took all the same classes in college and got all-A’s. Will they have the same personalities, enjoy the same jobs, have the same friends and family? Of course not. So to me, saying that each person is unique is a lot different than saying you can follow a spiritual path through several definite steps and get a lot out of it that is meaningful to you.

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