Slavery was legal.
Apartheid was legal.
The inquisition was legal.
It is legal to poison children with sugar and fat.
Cutting down vast forests, eradicating whole species and threatening life on earth is legal.
Testing nukes, supplying dictatorships with weapons and bombing the shit out of people seems to be legal.
In some cultures it’s legal to stone homosexuals.
Where I live homosexuality used to be illegal.
Then for a long while it was ‘only’ considered to be a sickness.
Only recently has it become legal for homosexuals to marry here.
It is legal to make laws that discriminate and hinder people from living a full life.
And it is legal to use the laws to harass and persecute groups of people.
We don’t want to admit it, but we have plenty of laws that are racist, sexist and in other ways discriminating.
At the same time it is illegal to heal in ways that aren’t state approved.
It is illegal for you to smoke a joint for your pain or take LSD to release trauma.
And if your spiritual practice involves psychedelics you can still get in trouble in many countries.
The law does not grant you the right to your own body.
It does not grant you the right to your own healing and growth.
Your life is only yours within the limits of the law and if you deviate you can be fined, end up in prison for however long someone else thinks is reasonable or even be killed.
Do not confuse legal with moral. And do not imagine that you can claim a moral high ground because you follow the law. You can be immoral to the core, a liar, a cheat and an oppressor and still be a law abiding citizen. In fact, if you are a law abiding citizen your morals probably have quite a few weak spots. If you are high up enough in the political hierarchy you can legally get away with mass murder. The rest of us can wash our hands of blood and clear our conscience by simply voting for someone else to make the nasty decisions.
This is saying quite a lot about the legal system and our moral obligation to follow the law. If your moral compass is working you have no moral obligation to follow the law. Your obligation is to follow your conscience. The law is primarily for people who do not have a working moral compass.
If you put law before morals you are weak. If you are weak you should not try to claim the moral high ground, because it is not yours to claim. Lions like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr get to claim the moral high ground. You are a sheep. Your place is with the law abiding herd. Baa.
We are so used to avoiding anything unpleasant that many of us have forgotten what the difference is between unpleasant discomfort and harm. As soon as we come close to anything unpleasant we run in the opposite direction or sedate ourselves, which of course means that we never actually solve whatever it is that lies at the core of our discomfort.
To move on in life, go where the energy is the strongest. Greet your fears, meet your discomfort, heal and grow.
If you keep avoiding stuff you’ll be 12 for the rest of your life.
First of all it is important to point out that all words are made up. People have had a good think and come up with a word which in some cases has caught on. But understand this – they are all make-believe. Even the most precise of words with the clearest of definitions is made up by someone.
The meaning of a word is determined by the consensus people find around it. Some words have very precise meanings, such as the word centimetre. Other words have a general consensus, but can still be open to interpretation at some point, such as the word chair or forest. Yet other words are the cause of constant quarrel. What is art? Define love. Describe ego.
When it comes to words describing experiences and plants or substances with psychedelic properties there are many different words, but little actual consensus, in part because we are still in the process of trying to agree on them. There is often no exact right or wrong, but as with most things there are plenty of people with strong opinions on the subject. But just so that we are clear about this – those opinions are made up about words that are made up. In the end it is all make-believe.
Since there is still little consensus on these words it is important to ask the person using them what they mean by them, because what the words mean to them might be very different from what they mean to you. And if you are getting worked up about what they mean to you only to find out much later that they mean something totally different to them… well, it’s a whole lot of arguing about absolutely nothing.
It is also important to understand that the words and definitions we use are a reflection of what we need them for. A scientist needs very well-defined words, so the wording is very precise. This often leads to the words being quite complicated, because in the scientific world it is not a problem if a word is complicated, as long as it is well-defined.
I am not a scientist. My goal is not to be precise, but rather to be understandable. In order to help people I need them to understand what I am saying, which they won’t do if I use a scientific jargon. I need words that people at least have a clue about, and then we can take it from there.
So let’s talk about some of the words that are floating around out there.
Plants and substances
This is a distinction where there is much consensus, but which still causes confusion, especially for people who do not work with such things. A plant is something you will find growing in nature. It can be a cactus like the San Pedro or a vine like the Banisteriopsis caapi, which is used in the brew Ayahuasca. The psilocybin mushroom is by a biologist’s definition not a plant but a fungi, but for the sake of making this understandable I group it with the plants, because it is something that grows in nature.
A substance on the other hand is an isolated molecule or combination of molecules. It is something that a person has isolated, extracted or produced. Mescaline is a substance which one can get from San Pedro, DMT is a substance which can be found in Ayahuasca and psilocybin is a substance which can be found in certain mushrooms.
It is important, at least from a shamanic perspective, not to confuse these with each other. Eating a San Pedro cactus is not the same as eating mescaline. The San Pedro is a plant and as a plant it has a spirit connected to it. Or to put it in other words, it is alive and is able to communicate with us. Mescaline might give some similar effects, but there is no spirit there to communicate with.
Let’s take one of my favourite substances as an example. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a substance in the meaning that it is an isolated molecule which does not have a spirit attached to it, in the shamanic sense of things. It is a very powerful medicine to work with and many of the effects might seem similar to mushrooms or cacti, but when working with it one is not doing so with the help of a spirit which is attached to the substance.
While all this is perfectly clear for people who work with such things, it is often very confusing for people who for example make and enforce laws. They often name a substance and confuse it for the plant, or the other way around. In a shamanic setting it is a world of difference and it is well understood that a plant cannot be reduced to a certain substance contained within it, because it will be missing the spirit.
What are these plants/fungi being called?
When writing this I asked people for the words they use for such plants. One person simply replied Teacher. Short and to the point. This is a common perception and while it might be figuratively speaking for some, most who say it mean it literally. They see the plant as a spirit separate from themselves who teaches them things, and this is an understanding which has been around for thousands of years in the cultural settings in which such plants have been used. It is a term that not only conveys what the spirit does, but it is also a word which shows respect.
In that cultural setting it would be disrespectful to confuse for example the San Pedro cactus with the word mescaline. It would be disrespectful in the same manner as if you called your university professor Book. Your professor is as little a Book as San Pedro is Mescaline.
A similarly respectful and common expression is Master plant. It says with all clarity that this is no silly little spirit, but a spirit worth listening to carefully. It is also common to call the plants by what help they give, such as Medicine plant or Visionary plant. They are medicine. They give vision.
A few people called them Spirit helper or Spirit guide. It still conveys the sense of there being another intelligence, but for me those terms carry a different meaning that are not connected to a plant.
Other words that try to capture the essence of these plants and substances
The fact that we are dealing with both plants and substances which have similar properties does confuse the situation. While the plant spirits have been known in shamanic use for many millennia they are still quite new to us in the modern world. These things haven’t really been known to us for more than a century, and to a broader public only half that time.
One thing that we are very good at in this modern world is playing with words, so it comes as no surprise that there is a wealth of different words trying to describe these plants, substances and experiences. Some are quite good while others are awful. Many are catchy and accessible, while others confuse things even more. Here come some of the ones that I like better:
The best thing about the word psychedelic is that it is well-known. People at least have a vague idea what it is, and even though the ideas might be off, it is a starting ground.
The term means “mind revealing” and is derived from the Greek psyche (soul, mind) and delein (to manifest). It was coined by the British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1957. At the time he and Aldous Huxley were discussing what to call these wonderful plants and substances. Huxley sent Osmond a rhyme with the word he preferred: “To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme” (thymos meaning ‘spiritedness’ in Greek.) Osmond wrote back “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.”
I wanted to share that story with you to show the playfulness and ingenuity that bright minds have put into making these words up.
Personally I think it is a word which is very suitable and it can be used for plants and substances alike. They are truly soul and mind revealing. They put us in direct contact with our inner workings, with or without the help of a spirit.
It is also a word that is easy to connect with other words, such as psychedelic mushroom, psychedelic medicine or psychedelic therapy. In that way it is good for communicating, which suites me.
I have heard several negative remarks about the word. A shaman friend of mine dismisses the word because it somehow doesn’t take the plants spirit into account. It reduces the plant to a mere substance, is the argument. I do not agree. There is nothing inherent in the word which says that it refers to a substance or which excludes a spirit. Those restrictions are not in the word itself, but in the critics own head.
This is another word which I like, but which is often (mis)understood in ways that narrow it down to something it doesn’t inherently need to be. The word hallucination was coined by Sir Thomas Browne in 1646 from the Latin alucinari meaning “to wander in the mind”.
That word goes well together with the notion that a hallucination is a visual projection of what is going on in the mind, which many such experiences obviously are. But many visual effects on such plants and substances are not projections of what is going on in our mind, which leaves many feeling that the word is incorrect. Many visual effects are universal and people report similar geometrical patterns, energy trails and other visual experiences that seem to emanate outside themselves.
I find that the anthropologist Jeremy Narby explains this wonderfully in his book The Cosmic Serpent where he studies shamans of the Amazon and compares their knowledge to Western scientific knowledge. There he makes a difference between inner and outer hallucinations. Inner hallucinations are projections of what is going on in our own mind, while outer hallucinations are things that are really there, but which are normally hidden from us. These outer hallucinations can be things like auras, spirits, energetic patterns and the fabric of existence. It is all there even when we don’t see it and what the plants and substances do is open us up to being able to see.
If the word hallucination or hallucinogen is used to only mean “projections of your own mind” it is not a suitable word to describe these plants and substances, since it leads us to believe that what we are experiencing only originates from within. If the word is used to mean inner AND outer hallucinations, then I find it to be very accurate. The visual effects are projections of what is going on inside AND they also reveal other realities to us.
The word entheogen was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists who wanted to capture the spiritual aspect of the experience. This also comes from Greek and is made up of entheos (full of god, inspired) and genesthai (to come into being). An entheogen is a plant or substance which wakes the God within, which inspires us, especially in a spiritual way.
I like this word because it captures the spiritual aspect in a way that the other words don’t. These plants and substances are to a very high degree being used in spiritual settings and with spiritual intentions, so it is fitting to have a word which highlights this.
I once channelled information from the spirit world about how dangerous drugs are. After having a list of different plants and substances I noticed that some were obviously missing. There was no mention of mushrooms, LSD or DMT. When I asked why the answer was very clear. “Many people have completely misunderstood these plants and substances. They are not drugs. They are keys to speak to the Gods.”
I couldn’t agree more. That is the most common view among people who work with such plants and substances in a serious manner, and that is also why no amount of legislation can ever stop people from using them. It is simply ridiculous to think that people will obey laws that try to stop them from speaking to God or themselves.
Substances of essence
This is not an expression I have heard being used, but when I asked for words someone wrote this. I think it is a wonderful expression, because it shows that respect can be directed towards a substance too. While I have heard several in spiritual settings dismiss substances and molecules, they are also truly miraculous and hold as much healing power as many plants. I find such dismissal to be disrespectful and lacking in knowledge in the same way that others disrespect the plant spirits out of lack of knowledge.
A couple of words I think are really bad
Drugs/dope. No one who has the slightest knowledge on the subject would use such words about plants or substances with psychedelic properties. When you hear someone using these words it is a red flag clearly stating “I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about”. Unfortunately drug laws are often written and upheld by people who haven’t a clue.
Phanerothyme. I’m just using this as an example among many similar words. It translates into “producing visable feelings”. The person who created this might have put a lot of thought into it and the meaning might be quite true, but trying to communicate it is horrible. It is bulky, hard to pronounce, hard to combine with other words and nobody has the slightest idea what it means. It might work with a scientific intention, but in everyday communication I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.
There are a lot of good words out there and there are a few bad ones too. Use the good ones and let the bad ones die. But perhaps more importantly, there are good and bad interpretations of the words.
If you meet someone who uses the words in a way that you don’t think you agree with, don’t take for granted that you don’t agree with one another. Simply ask them what they mean and have a friendly talk about your different choices in words. In many cases we get tangled up in trying to say that something is right and something else is wrong. When we do so we are missing the crucial point – it is all made up. Our language is make-believe. We often confuse the use of different vocabulary with being of different opinions.
Another point that I see in all this is that although there are several very good words out there, these plants, substances and experiences are so diverse and complex that they are hard to capture in a single word. Any way you choose to describe them you will automatically be missing other crucial points. The plant is a teacher, but is that all it is? Yes, these plants and substances help us sort out our inner workings, but is that all they do? Yes, they cause inner and outer hallucinations, but is that what it is all about?
I don’t think that the solution to all this is to make up yet more words, trying to capture that which cannot be captured. I think a good lesson is to simply understand that language itself is a limitation.
Before you consider working with visionary plants or other psychedelic medicines it is helpful to ask yourself why you want to do so. Your purpose for using a plant or substance is very important for the outcome and you will want to create an environment for your experience that matches your purpose.
I have identified four reasons for using substances, but there are certainly many more.
Recreational use Many use plants or substances simply to have fun and explore. They take it at a party or for an adventure with friends. The altered states that psychedelics provide are often very pleasant and uplifting, and at the same time often feel very meaningful. Some plants and substances fit well in a social context, while others do not.
Medicinal use Visionary plants and psychedelics are powerful tools for healing emotionally and mentally, but sometimes also physically. They often bring clarity to the situation and give tools, which is a starting point for working with one’s self-healing. It is also common for them to lower mental barriers or defences you might have towards dealing with a situation. This makes them powerful tools for deep therapeutic work where breakthrough experiences are common, but working in that way takes courage, safety and it is advisable to have an experienced person by your side.
Spiritual use Visionary plants have been used in spiritual practice for many thousands of years and all over the globe. The plants themselves have spirits that communicate with us and are often respectfully referred to as teachers. Working from a spiritual understanding opens up possibilities to such things as being in contact with the spirit world, receiving messages from the other side or other entities, extracting intruding entities, working with past life issues, and so on. Here it is equally important to have courage, work in a safe environment and to have an experienced person by your side. For someone who works with visionary plants and psychedelics at this level there is often no strict division between medicinal use and spiritual use, since the spiritual work has healing effects.
AbUse Abuse is important to be aware about, but it is uncommon that people abuse visionary plants or certain psychedelics. They are well renowned for being anti-addictive and often break abusive cycles, which make them excellent for treating and even curing addiction.
Am I ready?
Why are you considering visionary plants or psychedelic medicines? Many who consciously seek such paths feel stuck in one way or another. They come looking for healing and insight and a way to get unstuck. In some cases people are so intrigued by the medicine that they forget to ask themselves if they actually need it. They can often do more good for themselves by simple means of working out, eating healthier, taking up a meditation practice, doing yoga, making other life style choices and such.
Visionary plants and psychedelics are very powerful tools for working with personal and spiritual development and should be treated with respect. They should not be confused with drugs. To work with visionary plants or psychedelics you need to be mentally prepared to meet whatever comes up. If you know that you are not prepared to see and work through that which you have stored away sub-consciously, you should definitely not use these tools.
If you on the other hand are committed to healing and growing and want to gain access to knowledge so that you can help yourself, then visionary plants and psychedelics might be the closest thing to a miracle that you can find.
There might be medical reasons for you not to use certain plants or substances. Check reliable sources for what might be relevant to you. Your shaman, guide or therapist should be able to help you out. In countries where such medicines are legal it might also be good also to ask your medical doctor.
It is not uncommon to be asked to hold a diet or do other lifestyle changes before or after working with visionary plants and psychedelics. If you do a one day fast before it is mainly to prepare your body and make the effect more powerful, but if you are asked to do a longer diet the diet is often also part of your healing.
It should be noted that the most popular visionary plants and psychedelic medicines are physically very safe to work with. Practically nobody dies from them. The potential risks are rather at the mental level, where people who are not willing to change can have very challenging and even terrifying experiences. The problem in that case is not the medicine, but the person’s unwillingness to work with what comes up. Such risks are greatly reduced when working under guidance with a therapeutic or spiritual intention.
There is a general caution when it comes to people who suffer from severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia. The fear is that the plants or substances might trigger the person to become even more sick. There are however other ways of understanding those illnesses. If the illness for example actually is a parasitic energy attached to the person, then visionary plants can be ideal to work with under the guidance of a shaman or such.
The clearer your intention, the easier it will often be for you to find answers, simply because it will focus you in that direction. Some intentions are very precise, such as finding the answer to a specific question. Other intentions can be very broad, but still not vague. Saying “Give me what I need and the strength to handle it” for example.
The mere fact that you are setting a conscious intention sends out the signal that you are open for receiving and working with yourself, which will make it easier to receive and work with yourself. Not setting an intention sends out an unconscious garbled signal possibly inviting things that you are not ready to work with.
I do however have the feeling that the plants consciously don’t give me what I want, but what I need. If my intention is in line with what is best for me, then the answers will be very clear. If my intentions are off, then they won’t be answered. If that happens it is important to be open to listen for what is really best for me.
Promise to yourself
One part to the intention and mental preparation that I find most helpful is to consciously and solemnly promise yourself to deal with whatever comes up. However challenging, hard or nasty it is, you will be courageous, face it and work through it. Having promised yourself to do so, you will be less likely to try to avoid unpleasant challenges, and meeting them head on you will surely solve them.
Set & setting
The concept of set and setting is a great tool for understanding some of the basic steps that lead you to have a certain experience.
Set, as in mindset Where are you mentally and emotionally right now? What is going on inside you? What is going on in your life? Your experience will in one way or another reflect what is going on with you and what you need in life right now. To be safe you should be in a mindset where you are prepared and capable to handle the challenges you face.
Someone who is unstable and unwilling to face themselves and make changes in their life should not take visionary plants or psychedelics. If one for example uncovers disturbing hidden memories and then tries to suppress them again, there is a risk of re-traumatizing oneself. The same mechanism that can make it a miracle plant or substance for some, can make it a hellish nightmare for others. When we use visionary plants and psychedelics we often delve into the subconscious and find new things to bring to the conscious level. From the conscious level we can then begin working with it in order to heal and grow. One needs to be ready to take that ride.
Setting Is simply the surroundings. Who are you with? Where are you? Do you feel safe? My best experiences have been by myself, with one other person or with a small group of friends that I like and feel safe with. It has always been understood that we take care of each other if anything happens. And above all, they have taken place in nature.
In your mind, place yourself in different places and with different people and feel the vibe of them and how well that reflects what you want to accomplish. A garden. A national park. In a cabin by a lake. In an art studio. At a rave party. In a pub. In a hospital. In a car. On a boat. In a ceremony. With a shaman. With friends. With bullies. With drunks. With your parents. In a messy dorm room. On a tropical beach. In a hut in the rainforest.
There are so many variations and some of them are obviously bad. Make yours good. Reports of bad trips almost always begin with the person not knowing about or ignoring to create the right set and setting.
Navigating the psychedelic experience
Go with the flow
The very best way to meet that which is challenging or even frightening is by accepting and diving right into it. Meet your fears head on by accepting and working through that which scares you. When you do so you will eventually resolve whatever is bothering you and come out on the other side, wiser and free of it. As long as you try to avoid whatever it is you will still in some way be trapped by it. Distracting yourself won’t solve your problem, but only add stress to it.
Unfortunately many are so used to avoiding discomfort that it seems counter-intuitive to face what is troubling you. Instead of meeting the discomfort it is common now-a-days to put a lid on things, distract ourselves or even sedate ourselves. That attitude can be very harmful when we work with plants or psychedelics, since they work in the opposite direction by raising our awareness and pointing us to the real issue.
While there are those who warn people to get in contact with their subconscious, that is the whole point of the exercise with visionary plants and psychedelics. So when you are faced by something, however awful it might seem, your best response is to accept it and go with the flow. Work through it and come out on the other side.
Acceptance is an important step
The first step in working with change is to bring awareness to the situation. We need to become aware that change is needed, but to be able to change we also need to accept how things are right now. It doesn’t mean that we need to approve of how things are, be ok with them, or anything like it. It just means that you need to accept the current situation as it really is in order to change it. Otherwise your actions will at best be misdirected, and at worst harmful for your growth.
Being aware and having accepted what is leads you on to be able to work with your change. The actual change might be quick like turning on a switch, or it might take much hard work. When you have worked through it all it is important also to acknowledge it by being grateful. Those who forget to be grateful often forget what they have to be grateful for.
One major aspect of plant teachers and psychedelics is to help us in that process. They help us bring awareness and often also show us how we need to change, but for the healing and growing to take place we need to accept how things are and put in the necessary work to change ourselves.
Changing the variables of setting
When you feel bad during a journey it can be because you actually have something that you need to deal with. In that case, accept it and dive right in. There are however times when people feel bad without being able to locate why. When the discomfort isn’t caused by something internal, it is caused by something external. When it is external simple changes in your environment can very quickly make you feel better. You can for example try this:
change your body position
look at your bodily needs. Do you need to go to the bathroom, drink something or are you hot/cold?
change the music, turn it off/on
change the lighting
change what you’re doing
change rooms or go outside/inside
Any one of these variables and many more like them can affect your wellbeing without you even noticing it. By deliberately changing them you can figure out where the problem lies. The setting you have chosen has its own map of possibilities that can be changed to change the way you feel, for good and bad.
Change is the only constant
Nothing lasts forever. The effects of the plant or substance that you have taken will eventually fade away. Whatever you are experiencing right now will soon be no more than a memory. This can be comforting to remember when things are especially challenging. If someone is having a hard time and needs comforting, remind them that this too will pass.
You should plan your journey so that this information is never needed, but if you really need to land from the experience you should eat. We raise our vibration when we work with visionary plants and psychedelics, so by eating we lower ourselves again. Food is earth and helps you find roots, but it can be quite a challenge to eat in that state since even a watermelon might taste like soil. Eating to land is a safe and natural way of landing, but it takes time and you will still feel some effects. It is also possible to cut the energy of some plants with lemon or chilli. I would definitely not recommend alcohol or other drugs or medicines to come down.
Calling the police/ambulance
A few people get the knee-jerk reaction to call the police if things get scary. In most cases it is a really bad idea to ask help from the police, since they really have no idea what they are dealing with. Their training does not include how to take care of tripping people and that insensitivity can be quite disrupting or even traumatizing. But of course, if there is a real emergency where the police or ambulance is needed – call them.
A spiritual perspective
The traditions that have worked with these visionary plants for many millennia are spiritual. They take into account such things as other realities, spirits, intrusive energies and past lives. The plants themselves are entities that can be communicated with and they are often honourably referred to as teachers. The plant teachers are naturally occurring and among others include San Pedro, Peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and Ayahuasca. These all have powerful entities connected to them who often heal and teach us things.
Chemical substances such as LSD do not have entities attached to them. LSD can give many of the same effects by unleashing the persons own potential, but without the support of a plant entity, what comes out of it is left up to the person who has taken the substance.
These traditions also work with the understanding that people have an energetic body where blockages can lead to physical illness later on.
Respecting the substance and yourself
If one understands that the plants are actually powerful entities who help us work with ourselves, it goes without saying that one should meet them in a respectful manner. In traditional settings that is reflected in the ceremony, but respectful should not be confused with tradition or ceremony. Being respectful means being of good intention, willing to better yourself and treating the plant as the teacher and helper that it is. Respectful is making the effort to integrate the insights you have gained. Respect can be seen in how we prepare ourselves for meeting the plant, in what setting we choose, what clothes we wear and how we treat and help those we journey with.
There are certainly many ways of being disrespectful, but some of the more common are using the plant as a drug, using it with bad intentions and mixing it with other plants or substances. If you want to mix the plant with something else, then first ask its permission.
Navigating alternative realities
Visionary plants and psychedelics open doors to realities that are often hidden to us. To put it plainly – there are such things as spirits, angels and demons. Many sicknesses, especially mental ones, are actually caused by parasitic energies.
Some people have a natural instinct on to how to handle other realities, while others can feel very lost and vulnerable. If you have no knowledge of how to navigate such realities it is good to have a guide who does.
As so often it is really only fear itself that you have to worry about. If you feel that you need protection, then you should absolutely call it in. If you feel that you don’t need protection, then most likely you are fine without it.
Integrate the experience, live the insight
Plants and substances are tools that will show you what you are doing wrong and what you need to do in order to get un-stuck, heal and so on. They will usually not heal you, but will rather leave that work for you to do. What you do following the ceremony is therefore of utmost importance. To heal you need to properly integrate and live the insights that you have found. As long as you do so you are still on your way.
If you on the other hand go back home and don’t bother taking care of the insights you have gained, then you will quickly find yourself in the same misery again. It might even be worse, because you have become conscious about what you should do. In that case you stagnate and stand still. A person who comes back for the same answers over and over is probably not genuinely interested in evolving, but is rather seeking thrills. If you come back for the same answers you will soon find that the plants get fed up with you, in the same way that any therapist would if you kept coming back with the exact same issue. If they do get angry with you, your journeys will rapidly become increasingly uncomfortable.
Some people are very able to work with themselves after the experience, while others need the support of others. When doing such journeying with friends one has a support group in each other, but if one takes help of a shaman or therapist for the experience it isn’t always obvious where you can get the support you need afterwards.
To make positive changes in your life you need to focus on integration. If it is all about the experience and not about the integration, you will find yourself going nowhere.
How all of this applies to life in general
If you take a step back and exclude all plants and substances from this text you will notice that most of what I have written is applicable to life in general. Let me take a few examples.
Setting Depressed people often unconsciously program themselves to be miserable. Everything around them is carefully rigged to keep their mood down. They are in a setting which is poison to them. If they applied the same technique of changing variables in their surroundings they could often solve their situation without medication. But instead of changing the music, changing clothes, relationships or jobs, many people medicate themselves. By doing so they are in many cases actually sedating themselves in order to continue functioning in an environment that is harmful to them.
Go with the flow Our society is obsessed with avoiding the uncomfortable, at the cost of never actually solving it. Instead of facing the discomfort we sedate or distract ourselves from problems. If people in general were given the tools and courage to face their pain, sorrow, shame, anxiety and whatever else is bothering them, we would see far more healing at the mental and emotional level than doctors, therapist, shamans and medications can ever hope to give us.
Integration is the key People are full of bright ideas and answers, but they are all quite pointless if you do not let them live. Insights that aren’t translated into action are only insights in theory. For them to have importance in your life you must do something with them.
A last note
Much of this text deals with the issue of challenging experiences with visionary plants and psychedelics, but I need to add that most of my experiences with psychedelic medicine have been joyful, marvellous, beautiful and eye-opening. There is so much love and wonder and I function so much better because of my experiences. So even if I believe in being prepared for challenges, leave the door wide open for your journey to be something totally other than challenging, because most of the time it will be.
Cannabis is a hot subject that people often ask my opinion on. Every plant in nature has a purpose. I try to never make statements about which plants are good or bad, because plants just are.
When working with people that smoke marihuana very often I can note a grey cloud similar to that of a person that chain smokes. It is over and around the head. This is one of the reasons why some healers don’t like too much marihuana.
Why does too much marihuana cause these kinds of blocks?
Well, by smoking it the energy itself doesn’t really have the strength necessary to detox the body. In others words one seldom vomits with marihuana. Therefore the energies that need to be released accumulate in the head chakra, since that is where the marihuana is most active.
Is it possible to develop higher consciousness with this plant?
I have met the spirit a few times and once I managed to reach the center of it. What I saw was that the spirit of this plant helps us to get in touch with the information and knowledge that we have already achieved in our lives, but it won’t give us anything new.
This explains why some people start to take drugs – they are looking for knowledge. But sooner or later these people have reached all they have inside and their hunger for knowledge will drive them to find more with other substances or in other ways. Sadly in our society’s way of thinking there is not much difference between drugs and plants, so people can easily get confused in their search.
You can also understand why some people like artist and writers like this plant, since it helps them to easily access their own information. But if they for example would start doing diets, their abilities would increase and develop much more, in the same way as it would if they worked with such plants like Ayahuasca and San Pedro.
What about healing properties?
Marihuana can heal certain kinds of diseases, but we must be aware that not all diseases can be healed with this plant. In some cases marihuana only covers the symptoms, which is exactly what many normal medicines do.
So in conclusion – marihuana helps you access information that you already have. It helps break down the filters of the normal state of mind. That is why you feel relaxed, but it won’t help you to develop a higher consciousness. Also remember that this plant helps with pain, but doesn’t heal the pain. It only covers the symptoms that are causing the pain. If you for example have emotional problems the marihuana might cover the problems, but it won’t heal them in the way that for example ayahuasca does. At some point you will have to stop covering things up and start facing them.
I’m a 25 year old student of anthropology, sociology and psychology. School is working out well, I take relatively good care of my health and keep the house relatively clean. I am also one of the broken souls that never feels really good. I suspect that I suffer from some emotional disturbance, because I have high peaks where I think I’m better than everyone else, and then I fall into a black hole where I find it very difficult to function normally. Right now I’m in one of those holes, and have been for approximately 4 months (with some bright days/hours). I have previously used antidepressant tablets on a daily basis to stabilize my mood and make life easier, but I stopped because it felt as if I lost a part of myself. And I wasn’t actually rid of my anxiety. I was just somewhat better at dealing with it when it arrived and my panic attacks were less turbulent. Now things are so bad that I am strongly considering going back to them. I have suicidal thoughts and isolate myself completely without external reasons. I absolutely don’t want to die, but I feel weak by the mere thought of life just continuing like this.
I have seen some documentaries and read a lot about how hallucinogens affect our brains and that there is reason to believe that it changes the way we think about the world in the same way as religious experiences might change people’s lives. I have tried it myself a few times, though in recreational context, and last year when I tried truffles I got an incredibly wonderful feeling of my actual place in the world which persisted for several weeks. Then after a while the negative thoughts came back again and with them doubts that these drugs actually help – maybe they just take me farther away from “reality”.
Now I have thought again, and you confirmed what I thought of. Maybe I’ll try to actually medicate myself and give it more than just once. Just the thought that perhaps it can help me stay of the antidepressants makes the world feel a little brighter. Do you think it can help with emotional instability, in the same way as it helps against depression? And if so, which kind of dose would be best?
Thanks in advance!
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thank you for an interesting email that raises many thoughts. As you can probably understand, I would have to have a private session with you to be able to give you specific personal advice, but I can discuss some of the issues you raise in a broad sense.
Since you mention suicide, I would like to start off by saying a few words on the subject. I had a friend who chose to commit suicide and several years later I managed to get in touch with him in spirit. He said that there are lives when one needs to experience suicide, but pointed out that it isn’t a choice like any else. If one ends one’s life without having finished one’s life lessons/challenges, you will need to do it all over again in the next life. To kill oneself to avoid a challenge is thus counterproductive, because you will need to redo the whole thing and will suffer in the same way for yet another life. With that in mind, I would like to say like my friend – dare to live.
With that said, let’s move on to your main question of whether hallucinogens can be good tools for working with your mood, and if so, how.
Hallucinogens are excellent tools for aiding in healing depression, emotional instability and such conditions. I have myself healed from severe depression with LSD and have seen many others do the same with mushrooms, San Pedro, Ayahuasca, and even Cannabis. I would however not recommend Cannabis initially, because it is the only one of the plants and substances that I have listed that I perceive has an actual addictive potential, and at the same time it is not as potent as the other plants/substances.
There are plenty of stories of miraculous healing with these plants and substances, but I want to discourage you from approaching them as some kind of quick fix. Sure, you might fix your emotional instability with a single trip, but it is much more likely that you need to put a lot of work into healing yourself. The plant or substance in that context is only a tool. You will need to do the work to heal yourself, so be prepared for that.
What to do first?
Without knowing much about your specific problems I would probably first advise you to clean out your life. Your mood originates from somewhere; possibly from old wounds and relationships. If there is too much other clutter, you will need to spend a lot of time cleaning it all out of the way, instead of diving into the core of things. Therefore, you should get rid of as much clutter as possible in advance, in your everyday life.
First off – promise yourself to recover and to do whatever you need to do so. Then examine your life and remove everything that is not favorable to you. They might include things, relationships, ways of seeing reality, and more. Remove anything that does not benefit you. There are certain things that you should really get rid of completely, because they disrupt your energy structure: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, drugs (here I do not count hallucinogens) and sex where you do not respect yourself. The first two are particularly important, as they clog the body’s energy structure and are in their very essence self-destructive.
Once you’ve done that, I would consider that you are ready to begin working with hallucinogens for healing.
How do I work with hallucinogens?
Once again I feel I should point out that you would need to book a private session with me for proper counseling. The answers I can give you here are general.
There are two questions that I think would be good for you to ask yourself initially:
1. Do I need a shaman/therapist/guide?
2. What plant or substance should I work with?
Based on what you have written, I think it would be wise for you to work with a shaman/therapist who not only knows hallucinogens, but who also understand the kind of mental states that you are struggling with. Someone like me could help with such things as:
● To help you prepare for your trip/trips
● To maintain a safe and secure place for you to meet and work with yourself
● During the trip to do things like clearing away blockages, parasitic energies, conveying messages from spirit helpers or channeling healing energy
● During and after the trip to be your mirror and discussion partner
● After the trip to help you structure your continued work and help you maintain your focus
Some people can do all this themselves, because they have an innate ability to work with their own development, but I feel that far from all can do so. Many instead risk going wrong, getting trapped, or even being frightened by the experience and taking several steps backwards. If you feel with you that you cannot do this by yourself, I would advise you to work with someone who can support you. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a shaman or therapist, but could also be a friend who has the knowledge and the abilities that I have described.
Plant/substance and dose
It is impossible for me to say in advance what kind of dose you should have. I always double check what dose a client should have before a session. Usually I do so with tarot cards, but I also use my common sense. I generally prefer high doses, because it will lower your defenses and allow to quickly go in depth with the actual problem. But what is an average dose for one person can be a high dose of another, so you need to determine the dose on an individual basis.
Which plant or substance is most appropriate in your case is in the same way hard for me to speculate. That is also something I would check in advance. Usually I find that it is clear which plant, substance and even who you should work with, because they tend to appear when you are ready. If you need LSD, LSD will come knocking at your door and if you are meant to work with a specific shaman/therapist, your attention will be directed to them.
Set reasonable expectations
Hallucinogens are surrounded by an almost magical aura. I have seen many miraculous events on hallucinogens, but to expect a miracle is not reasonable. If you are supposed to have a miracle, it will come to you, but it’s much more likely that you need to work devotedly to recover. Get ready to do so.
It is reasonable to expect that you will devote considerable attention to this for at least a year and during that time you might need to take several trips. Periodically you may even have to trip quite often. But tripping is not the thing. The trip shakes things up and loosens things, but it is between trips, in your sober state, that you will need to work actively to translate the insights that you got into your normal life.
For example, if you come to realize that you are making yourself ill through the relationships you have, with what you eat or how you behave, you will need to sort those things out. Although it can happen, it is not a reasonable expectation that the hallucinogens will collect all that is bothering you and remove it. You will need to do that work.
– What did you dream of becoming or doing when you were a teenager?
I thought back of what I expected from life and dreamed of, and eventually came to the conclusion that my expectations were not only way off, but that they were also set far too low.
My great desire for a long period was to be a journalist and work at the same newspaper as my mother. I eventually became a journalist and worked at several newspapers, but never at the one where my mother worked. After a few years I felt I was done. I had learnt what I was there for.
Then began a journey of personal and spiritual development.
I recovered from addiction.
I healed and got to know my true essence.
I got in touch with the spirit world and my children.
I found transition points between realities.
Got to know angels.
Explored my psyche and universe.
It is sometimes said that a psychedelic trip can be the same as ten years of therapy in one evening. I’m nowhere close to being finished, but I have by now had many lifetimes of therapy and in contact with others I can really notice the difference.
I connected upwards, downward, inside and out.
I ran to face my fears and to challenge my traumas.
Did found both the guru and the shaman in me.
My teenage dreams seem so small now. Journalist at a newspaper. So simple.
I am an explorer. I move between realities, times and levels of awareness. I am a father who takes care of his children. I am an expression of the highest divine. I am Daniel.
But I still wonder what I should be or do when I grow up.
Photo: Close Up of the Human Eye by Hugo A Quintero G on Flickr
In the gospel of Tomas, Jesus says “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” That quote has been very inspiring to me, because the truth is so very apparent. When we try to hide things we are ashamed of, we are actually holding onto those most toxic moments of our lives, thus hurting ourselves.
I use my writing as a tool for healing. When I find something that I feel that some part of me desperately wants to keep secret, I write about it. Then I often find myself doubting if I should really reveal that which I feel ashamed of. That feeling is the final sign that I need to let go, so I publish. Every time I manage to bring something out into the open and release it, a weight is lifted from my shoulders. I walk a little lighter, a little taller and breathe a little deeper.
Some might think that I do so because I am an exhibitionist thrill seeker. To be quite honest it often scares and even sickens me to reveal myself. My ego is many times violently opposed and tries to get me off the idea of being truthful and transparent. But I push forward anyway, because when I release something it eventually looses all power over me and I heal.
This blog mostly covers the last 10-15 years of my life. My life has changed dramatically during that time, which has led me on a path of spiritual and self discovery. From having been an atheist drunk I have woken up to realize that I am a shaman, a healer and teacher. I have opened up contact to the spirit world and work with angels. I’m a natural at working with psychedelics and often have clear sight. Most of the time I’m not learning things in the area of spirituality and shamanism, I’m just remembering them from the many past lives I have spent doing the same things.
I have also found several great gurus along the way. It is clear to me that everyone and everything has the potential of being a great teacher, if I only approach them/it with that understanding. So many people have helped me remember who I am and have added to my knowledge. I am truly grateful. Three teachers have been especially prominent – my two children and my wife.
This journey is most interesting and rewarding, even in the parts that have been filled with hardship. It has left my head filled with insights and learning experiences that I now feel an overwhelming need to document in order to bring structure into what I know. I am releasing my first book shortly and I have the feeling that there are a couple more waiting to be written, where much of the material on this blog will reappear.
So far I have worked very much on my own or with a small circle of friends. Lately I have been feeling a longing to expand and find new friends also outside Sweden. I hope that my openness attracts other people who are on similar paths of self exploration, and it seems to.
I am also happy to share what I have learnt with others.
Social commentary and a push for change
There is so much that is properly screwed up in this society that I cannot help myself from commenting on some of it. Especially when it comes to drug laws I find today’s system utterly offensive, but politics in common are a mess. So I can’t help getting involved from time to time.
What this blog isn’t about
This blog is not about having many readers, pleasing people, earning money, making a name for myself, satisfying my ego or hurting anyone. If any of that was a priority, this would have been a very different blog.
Substance abuse is part of the person, not the substance.
That people feel the need to numb themselves, to switch off and escape, is almost always a result of something within that is really uncomfortable and hard to handle. Some have been abused, lost someone they love, been bullied or otherwise traumatized. Others feel bad in less visible ways. They suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, they feel unimportant or unloved.
Many who flee into addiction have that in common that they lack other ways to cope. They stun themselves to escape. There are many ways to numbing oneself, many of which are legal but equally destructive as the illegal ways. The most obvious way is to numb oneself with drugs, where alcohol is the most common but also one of the most dangerous escape drugs. There are of course plenty of more or less dangerous substances, such as heroin, amphetamines and Spice. But if we really want to remedy abuse we need to understand that it is just as easy to abuse such things as gambling, sex, food and relationships.
The big problem with the Swedish drug policy is that it lacks this basic understanding. It chases symptoms (substances) instead of the root causes that drive people to flee from themselves. It is inherent in the very name – drug policy. It’s not an abuse policy. It’s not a policy of well-being. Everything prohibitionists have to say seems to focus almost solely on the substances.
The same backwards approach recurs in school drug education. The education essentially only tries to scare students from trying drugs. They are bombarded with terrible stories of drug abuse and a long list of negative effects that drugs can have. When I look back at my own education, I think it is remarkable that it never offered a single tool to take care of my mental health.
If we really want to reduce substance abuse we first need to help people to feel good. If we want people to feel good, we need to 1) not traumatize them, and 2) give them the tools to deal with the trauma that they will still be exposed to. If we really want to protect our young from abuse, we need to give them the tools to manage tough experiences in life, to process abuse, to handle losses and deal with bullying. They need to feel loved and important and included and given the opportunity to build a strong sense of self.
And those who still fall into addiction because they cannot find another way, we need to help. To help is something we do far too rarely today. Instead we pour our resources into chasing, controlling, forcing and punishing people. It is not only extremely costly for society, but it helps to perpetuate the problem. People do not recover by being systematically stigmatized, just as we cannot get children to stop fighting by beating sense into their heads.
Today’s drug policy is fundamentally flawed because it focuses on drugs, instead of focusing on people. Tear up the legislation and start over. Focus on people’s well-being. Redirect resources to not only help those stuck in addiction, but also to give everyone access to the tools to heal themselves from whatever they might want to flee from. In this way we will not only deal with abuse, but we will also put an end to a war that society wages against its own people and that it cannot possibly win.
Once upon a time I saw oppressive structures everywhere. I felt restricted, bullied and forced. By chance that feeling fit very well with my life as an alcoholic, which I lived back then. As an alcoholic it was always very convenient to have someone else to blame for my shortcomings and failures. I was angry and it was nice to know that it was someone else’s fault that I had no job, felt bad about myself or simply didn’t get things done. When I studied at university, I was a strong supporter of all theories that confirmed what I believed – that it was someone else’s fault.
Then came my awakening which made me stop drinking from one day to the next. The essence of that awakening was that everything begins within me. The ultimate power over my life lies in me and it is up to me to create that life. With that understanding I chose to remodel my life. I freed myself from alcohol abuse and began a journey of personal and spiritual development. I chose to heal and grow. Every single step on that path was taken with the conscious knowledge that I create my own life.
The past few months have not been comfortable for me. I have gone back to university and now I have once again been drowned in theories about the structures that oppress and bind us, but this time they feel like a lower vibration. Of course, I understand that there are actual oppressive structures, but it has also become clear to me that many, if not most, who embrace such theories ultimately do so to be angry, to have someone to blame or to be able to rest in their victim role. Even I started searching for ways that I am a victim and I managed so well that I soon understood how I was the most oppressed person in the room.
But there was something gigantic and for me very important missing – that which enables personal growth and recovery. Low feelings of oppression, anger and victimhood can certainly be channeled into action, but for many they mostly seem to be paralyzing. And let me clarify this and say that I do not see, for example, going to a demonstration or rally as an active action. In order to develop as a person or to heal, such seemingly active actions can on the contrary be very passive and even dulling, since they do not force us to question our roles or assumptions.
All this was very uncomfortable to me, because on the one hand I realize that there is a truth to this with structures, but on the other hand I know even stronger that all power in my life comes from within and this realization gives me the power to heal and grow.
Then came my third introduction to sociology in this lifetime and once again I had to wrestle Marx and the other guys. More specifically I became interested in the concepts of alienation and commodity fetishism. When we create something and put our heart into it, it can be felt that it has a soul. We have imbued it with our own energy and in many cases the process of making it has also developed us as human beings, even if it might only be technically. When the production moves into a factory, the process is fragmented and workers only perform a part of the whole, the soul is lost and the product is disconnected from those who created it. In short we become alienated from what we have produced. The item becomes a simple gadget without a soul, something outside of ourselves that has very little to do with us.
Then I found the sentence which released me from my discomfort. “The same dynamics characterize all sectors of […] society: people start to believe that social structures have their own life […]”. (Ritzer 2013, p. 231 – translated from Swedish) People create structures, but since we alienate ourselves from them we begin imagining that they are separate from us. When we want to change them we therefore approach them as something external to us. We attack them from the outside as something that needs to be solved or even fought.
Had we not been alienated from the social structures, we would have recognized them as reflections of our inner selves, which would have led us to seek the solution within ourselves. When we begin the process of reclaiming power over what we create, we soon see the truth that has been present throughout my journey – all power originates from within.
Once again humankinds less sympathetic traits shine through. We have the tendency to seek scapegoats outside ourselves. We want the problem to be somewhere else, with someone else or in something else. When we place blame we do so by pointing away from ourselves, but as the saying goes, three fingers are pointing back at us.
If you want to help others, start by helping yourself.
If you want to heal the world, heal yourself and you will heal everything around you.
If you want to destroy racism, begin by healing the racist within. When you do so, your whole appearance will shift so dramatically that you will plant love in the heart of others.
It all starts with you.
You are the Alpha and the Omega.
You are the universe expressing itself as a human.
When you change yourself, everything else changes.
Photo: Sam’s Organic Universe by Nicolas Raymond on Flickr