John Zachariah Newton
Track: Psychedelics – Science, Spirituality and Therapeutic Potential
Transparency of the Whole: A Gebserian approach understanding Psychedelic Culture
In recent years the scientific study of psychedelics has demonstrated their potential as an adjunct for psychotherapy, increased wellbeing, and for spiritual or mystical experience, leading to the popularity of various memes within psychedelic culture. As attendees of psychedelic conferences, to what extent are we responsibile for the wider cultural perception of psychedelics, and does this conflict with our desire for acceptance of psychedelics as a legitimate therapeutic, spiritual, and creative catalyst?
Using Jean Gebser's (1949) structures of consciousness, this presentation will look at the history of Western psychedelic culture to date, so as to develop an integral, pluralistic perspective, and to consider the challenges ahead that come with its growing popularity.
While often lacking in ethnic diversity, psychedelic culture contains and holds together a diverse array of views from a variety of backgrounds. Academically, psychedelics are increasingly studied from a range of epistemological perspectives, providing a unique platform whereby disciplines as diverse as molecular pharmacology and psychoanalysis contribute to the understanding of psychedelic consciousness (Cahart-Harris, 2014). At conferences, these perspectives collide with various cultural narratives that exist in psychedelic culture outside of academia. Often these are epistomologically conflicting, but generally never at odds with the consensus that psychedelics are worthy of study and use, hence its eligibility of the label 'culture'. These tensions and conflicts make for an interesting atmosphere, particularly as what Rick Doblin calls 'the celebratory culture of psychedelics' continues to be very much present at conferences. Yet as Jung (1969) repeatedly noted in his writings on mass psychology, groups grow larger often at the expense of one's individuality and personal moral stance. This presentation takes a critical look at these ideas and subsequent implications.
I am a young researcher and mental health support worker, with an interest in psychedelic, meditation and creativity research. My background in Transpersonal Psychology began in 2011 studying an undergraduate degree titled 'Psychology & Society', which involved a combination of transpersonal, psychoanalytic, and social/critical psychology. This course had a profound impact on my understanding of human psychology and society, both intellectually and experientially. I have published research on mindfulness and musical creativity in the International journal of Transpersonal studies (2015), and have worked in clinical psychedelic research studying the effects of LSD on creativity (2016). I have since continued to engage in the exciting research into psychedelics, volunteering for MAPS at conferences in Europe and the US. This summer I will partake in a mindfulness teacher training course that explores the relationship between leadership, social change and mindfulness through a variety of mindful dialogical methods. I am also working on a book project with Stanley Krippner on identity, and in September will begin a Masters degree in Clinical psychology.