“What would happen if everyone in the world took one dose of LSD?” she asked.
"Great question," I replied.
Up to this point, I had sat on the cusp of my chair, leaning into our conversation with body and mind.
But her question gave me pause.
I sat back, assumed the Rodin-esque position, and thought. What ‘would’ happen if everyone in the world took one hit of LSD?
I rolled off an acceptable answer - the entire global economy would collapse, and war would be a remnant of past civilizations - but such a response simplified the robust implications of widespread psychedelic use.
So, I did a little research, then wrote this article as a response to her question.
Three huge systematic changes would occur if everyone were to take one hit of LSD:
1. Diminished Desire for Material Items
2. More Meaningful Work
3. Taking Better Care of the Environment
Before I dive into the details about each of these three changes, I want to be clear about three assumptions I'm making in writing this article:
1. I don’t believe everyone in the world will, or even should take LSD. This post is only to extrapolate the associated benefits of psychedelics to a larger scale.
2. In this situation, I assume all individuals who consume one hit of LSD will have a guide, be in a relaxed state of being, and take it in a comfortable setting.
3. ‘Everyone’ does not refer to every individual on the planet. Instead, by ‘everyone,’ I'm talking about people who live in a Westernized country.
“I feel connected, man. Like, I want to hug that tree.”
Most of the benefits of taking psychedelics come from an internal shift in perspective. When under the influence of LSD or Magic Mushrooms or Mescaline, humans experience a visceral, emotional connection to the energy of seemingly separate life forms.
In viscerally understanding such a deep level of connection, our perspective shifts, giving us visions of an entirely new world.
Such ‘breakthroughs’ in personal understanding, when multiplied by millions of people, can cause an entire perspective change for society.
In fact, many historians theorize that the sweeping conservation movement of the 1970s stemmed from the 1960s countercultural movement. Through drugs like marijuana, LSD, and psilocybin, millions of people experienced a genuine connection to other energy and life forms.
Through this understanding, these ‘awakened’ humans made every effort possible to reduce the detrimental impact of modern industrial society on the natural world.
For karmic reasons. What comes around, goes around. In poisoning the Earth, we poison ourselves. For as much as humans want to believe we can conquer the natural world, it is Mother Earth who dictates everything we do. We are, in every sense, completely reliant on her natural resources.
But the widespread effects of the 'Psychedelic Sixties' have now been cast to the fringes of society. All psychedelics have been illegal for nearly 50 years now. And although millions of people use psychedelics every year, its use has remained a mostly underground scene.
Until the past few years.
With the loosening restrictions on marijuana use and the power of the Internet, more people are 'waking up' to the enchanting power of psychedelics. More people are questioning the government's intentions as to why these drugs are illegal. And more people are using psychedelics than ever before.
And what perfect timing! With the destruction of Planet Earth seeming more imminent with every passing day, humanity thirsts for the clairvoyant understanding of our unitive connection with all life forms around us.
Only by coming to a discerning, informed understanding of the power of psychedelics will humans re-awaken to the importance of these substances in the context of 21st-century civilization.
Developing this understanding on a widespread scale is only part of the larger push towards saving Planet Earth for future generations. The entire value system Western society operates on - materialism, greed, progress for the sake of progress, infinite GDP growth - is a broken system that will eventually bankrupt the most valuable resource for human life: the Natural World.
While there are myriads of ways for humans to understand our inextricable ties to Planet Earth, one guaranteed method is the responsible use of psychedelics.
Sam Harris, New York Times bestselling author, and a major proponent of responsible psychedelic use, highlights the difference between psychedelics and meditative disciplines like yoga:
“If someone gives you 100 micrograms [1 dose] of acid something is going to happen. Two hours later the significance of your existence will have just been borne down on you like an avalanche. And again this can be terrifying or it can be absolutely sublime depending on various causes and conditions [read: Set and Setting]. But the one thing it cannot be is boring. And that is you can’t say that about yoga or meditation or just going into solitude or anything else that – any other, you know, non-pharmacological means of inquiry.”
When such an experience occurs within appropriate boundaries, the experience is often sublime.
More importantly, however, it initiates a dramatic shift in life perspective.
If we multiply such a dramatic change in life perspective by 1.1 billion - the approximate population of Western countries - the global shift in how humans view our connection to the world would be tremendous.
What shifts would we likely see?
Diminished Desire for Material Items
In the 1960s, The International Foundation for Advanced Study carried out studies on the effects of LSD and Mescaline when consumed by creative professionals in California. Their job occupations ranged from engineer to writer to project manager. While not the typical definition of ‘creative type,’ all of these professions involve a high-level of problem-solving and require a certain degree of innovative thinking.
Six to nine months after the participants consumed a high dose, the researchers followed up with the participants. The researchers discovered some interesting behavioral changes in the participants, including a lower level of interest in external status, and an increased focus on internal purpose.
Much of the over consumption of material goods in today’s world is because Western society has lost touch with its roots of humanity. We don't understand, or know, our actual purpose as humans. Instead, our entire life purpose has been superficially constructed to meet the demands of a never-ending economic machine.
To quote the Fight Club character, Tyler Durden : “God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives.”
Amidst the distractions of 21st-century life, it has become nigh impossible to listen to our internal needs and desires. As such, humanity is left with a gaping black-hole of purpose, often filled in by unnecessary consumption.
Consumption distracts. And through mediums of constant distraction - shopping, social media, unfulfilling work - people avoid asking the most challenging questions they will ever ask of themselves:
Questions like: “What is my purpose? Where and how will I find fulfillment? What is my bliss?”
Taking LSD, or any psychedelic for that matter is an excellent chance to look inside and grapple with such questions.
By facing these issues directly, other 'truths' become evident.
One such truth is the uselessness of overabundant material consumption.
By inhaling commoditized goods - clothes from mid-level retailers, smartphones from the local tech shop, furniture from corporate behemoths - humans continue the cycle of a broken system.
After all, in our society, there is no negative stigma tied to mindless consumption. In fact, it is encouraged by Western cultural values because of the system's reliance on continuous GDP growth.
Oh, you're spending more money? Great! Our economy thanks you.
But after the head-splitting perspective shift of a psychedelic trip, there is little to no interest in the external expectations of society. Instead, an insatiable desire to create awesome shit dominates one's internal motives.
Creation is forever. Creation molds your world purpose from an inside-out manner. And when humanity acts on such creative desires - day in and day out - then humanity will understand the accessibility of joy in the context of everyday life.
Our western culture, and its worship of GDP and ‘consumer goods’, propagates a major fallacy: "that buying shit makes you happy"
Taking psychedelics creates an archaic revival, a harkening back to times before the advent of modern technology. Suddenly, the individual yearns for a simple life, without the burdens of an existence built on superficial meaning.
In understanding the value of this simplicity through a direct experience of joy, ecstasy, and, ultimately, transcendence, people re- awaken to the fact that much of what society claims we ‘need’ to be happy is utter shit.
As Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, "LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
Creation, not consumption.
But what happens, then, to a society built on materialism when nothing gets bought?
What happens when everyone yearns to create, eliminating mindless consumption in the process?
Pursue More Meaningful Work
Point #2 builds on Point #1:
Much of humanity remains cut-off from the field of consciousness on which we rely. In remaining in a state of separation, humanity experiences an internal state of loneliness.
This state of constant separation is what I refer to as a 'spiritual crisis.'
As I explained above, after taking one hit of LSD, material desires would drop off the table. And when you buy less shit, you need less money. When you are less concerned about the trappings of ’material success’ (commonly called ‘Keeping up with the Joneses,’), you need less money. You don’t need to buy a nice car. Or have a big house. Or wear designer clothes.
You come to a stark realization: In playing the ‘status game,’ you will not see an increase in your quality of life.
Which often leads to another hard-to-swallow conclusion:
Much of the work Western society keeps itself busy with is fucking useless.
What, after all, does an individual need if he or she wants to be 'happy'?
- Necessities of living: food, shelter, water, human interaction.
- Desire or purpose to improve the lives of other people
And once we have these basics covered?
Much of the 'extras' in life have no real effect on our capacity to be happy.
Dan Gilbert makes this point in his TED talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness, by showing the negligible difference between natural happiness and synthetic happiness.
"Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don't get what we wanted. And in our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.
Why do we have that belief? Well, it's very simple. What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it? With all apologies to my friend Matthieu Ricard, a shopping mall full of Zen monks is not going to be particularly profitable, because they don't want stuff enough."
So if happiness is just as 'real' when synthetically created, and if we don't need all that 'stuff' to be happy, then what's the point of working long, hard hours in pursuit of buying more shit?
In the same study I referred to in point #1, the participants came to a similar conclusion.
When discussing career ambitions, one of the participants said:
'Last week I demoted myself. I asked not to be boss. More inclined to study and read then to get ahead financially. Before, there was a compulsion to get somewhere, be a vice president. That feeling is gone.'
This aspect of the study came to one significant conclusion:
"This population may be less interested in materialism, but more interested in productive and satisfying work."
So if we don't NEED all this stuff to be truly happy, then much of the economic machine we invest our creative energy in would fall apart.
Amazon? Equally useless.
Your local shopping mall? Yeah, again, useless.
As a quick, off-the-top of my head number, western society could likely cut out 50%+ of our GDP without directly affecting the base quality of life for most individuals of Western society.
In fact, by cutting out the majority of the biggest corporations, our oligarchic model of fossil fueled destruction would cease to be an overwhelming force in the extinction of humanity.
Which leads to point #3:
Taking Better Care of the Environment
Step #1: LSD catalyzes an internal shift in perspective, so the individual feels no internal gratification from buying the majority of material goods.
Step #2: Gone with the desire to buy and buy and buy is also the motivation to work long hours for loads of money. Individuals start to invest more time in creative projects that may have no economic benefit.
Step #3: As the economic machine begins to unravel, so does the grip fossil fuel companies have on society's nutsack.
The connection, in this case, is quite simple:
1. Manufacturing requires loads of energy
2. Much of the world's energy production relies on fossil fuels
3. Fossil fuel companies use extractive techniques (like fracking, oil drilling, mountaintop removal), which cause severe damage to the Earth (side note: not to mention, when burning fossil fuels, toxins poison the Earth's atmosphere).
So, as the desire to buy material items dissipates, businesses make fewer goods.
When businesses produce fewer goods, they use less energy.
When companies use less energy, fossil fuel behemoths earn less money.
But even if we address point #3 as separate from point #1 and point #2, there is still a viable argument for why consuming psychedelics encourages stewardship of the Earth.
To sum up this discussion, I will directly quote from Alan Watts essay "Psychedelics and the Religious Experience," in which he writes about his experiences with psychedelics:
"I see that I am a link in an infinite hierarchy of processes and beings, ranging from molecules through bacteria and insects to human beings, and, maybe, to angels and gods - a hierarchy in which every level is in effect the same situation...
From this it is but a short step to the realization that all forms of life and being are simply variations on a single theme: we are all in fact one being doing the same thing in as many different ways as possible. As the French proverb goes, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose (the more it varies, the more it is one)...
But the intellectual jump that mystical and psychedelic experiences make here is in enabling you to see that all these myriad I-centers are yourself—not, indeed, your personal and superficially conscious ego, but what Hindus call the paramatman, the Self of all selves. As the retina enables us to see countless pulses of energy as a single light, so the mystical experience shows us innumerable individuals as a single Self."
Although Watts's observations are of a mystical nature, his experience speaks to the importance of psychedelics in helping humans feel as one with all energy and life forms.
When one directly experiences connection to the Godhead, it inspires an overwhelming desire to take care of all life forms which inhabit the Earth.
So, What Happens Next
As I said at the beginning of this article, I don't expect everyone in the world to take one hit of LSD. And, yes, I understand LSD can cause serious issues in those who are pre-disposed to mental illness.
However, imagine if only the foremost intellectuals, business leaders, and political elite were to take one hit of LSD. Imagine the 'trickle-down' effect such an experiment would have on the rest of Western society.
In talks with Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley expressed a similar sentiment. Huxley warned Leary of attempting to induce the masses into taking LSD.
Huxley's foresight went unheeded, and, largely as a result of Leary's irresponsible evangelizing, LSD is still illegal to this day.
We don't need a repeat of LSD use by those who are not prepared to respect and sanctify such powerful substances.
But we do need to change how we treat this Earth And LSD or any other psychedelic, will play a significant role in affecting this change for future generations.