The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Ecstatic Literacy: Integrating Psychedelics Into Culture
Paul F. Austin is joined by writer/historian/philosopher Jules Evans to explore the need for ecstatic literacy in the third wave of psychedelics. Through sharing research, philosophy, and his own work, Jules invites a thoughtful examination of both sides of psychedelics—the light and the shadow. He points to the need for more awareness and research of challenging psychedelic experiences and offers a roadmap to improved ecstatic literacy in today’s culture.
Jules Evans is the director of the Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project, the author of three books (Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations; The Art of Losing Control; Holiday from the Self) and the co-editor of Breaking Open: Finding a Way Through Spiritual Emergency. He is an honorary research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London.
- The need for a balance between stoicism and ecstatic experience.
- Inspirations from Aldous Huxley & other literary heroes.
- Integrating psychedelics into an “ecstatically naive” Western culture.
- Jules’s research on challenging psychedelic experiences.
- The dark side of ketamine: risks of dependency and harm in a booming industry.
- How culture can improve its ecstatic literacy.
- The Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project
- Jules’s Substack, Ecstatic Integration
- Jules’s book, The Art of Losing Control
- Book, The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche
- Book, The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
- Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences
- Book, The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley
- Book, Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond
- Jules’s paper, with Anna Lutkajtis on short term Psychedelic integration challenges
- Episode 51, Benjamin De Loenen - Avoiding A ‘Quick Fix’ Mentality With Ayahuasca
- ICEERS Global Ayahuasca Survey Results Published on Adverse Effects
- Business Insider article: “Ketamine is being sold as a depression wonder drug. For some, it's making everything worse.”
- Book, Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal
This episode is brought to you by Numinus, a mental health company bringing safe, evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapies to people in need. They have clinics in the US and Canada, providing mental health treatments such as: ketamine-assisted therapy, talk therapy and virtual mindfulness programs and practitioner training. Numinus is a leader in psychedelic-assisted therapy, both through research and in practice where approved by governing bodies. Learn more at www.numinus.com.
This episode is brought to you by Psyched Wellness. Their product, Calm, is an over-the-counter Amanita muscaria extract that may help to reduce stress, ease muscular tension and promote restorative sleep. Their team of leading scientists and wellness professionals has managed to successfully distill the restorative and healing elements from the Amanita muscaria mushroom. To be one of the first to try this breakthrough product, go to shop.psyched-wellness.com and use the code THIRDWAVE23 to get 15% off when ordering.
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0:00:00.2 Paul Austin: Welcome back to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave. Today I am speaking with Jules Evans, renowned author and director of the Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project.
0:00:12.1 Jules Evans: The field of psychedelics should not be freaked out by the fact that some people have challenging experiences and adverse experiences. There can be a temptation to like try to downplay it, minimize it, or silence it. That’s not, I think, the right way to think about it. From my point of view, the right way to think about it is psychedelics can change your life and have a massive positive impact. It seems to be the case that for maybe one in 10, it can also lead to difficulties. The best way to support the long-term viability of psychedelics to my mind is to learn about these difficulties and find out what helps people who have them.
0:00:56.7 Paul Austin: Welcome to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave. Audio mycelium connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance, and collective transformation.
0:01:35.6 Paul Austin: Hey listeners, we’re excited to announce Psyched Wellness as our newest podcast sponsor. Their product, Calm, has been developed by leading scientists and wellness professionals and is an over-the-counter Amanita muscaria extract that may help to reduce stress, ease muscular tension and promote restorative sleep. For the first time in history, they’ve managed to successfully distill the restorative and healing elements from the Amanita muscaria mushroom. Their lab tested Amanita muscaria extract is detoxified and safe for consumption. If you’d like to be one of the first to try this breakthrough product, you can go to shop.psyched-wellness.com, that’s shop.psyched-wellness.com and use the code THIRDWAVE23 to get 15% off when ordering. That’s shop.psyched, P-S-Y-C-H-E-D, psyched-wellness.com and use the code THIRDWAVE23 to get 15% off when ordering.
Third Wave is grateful to Numinus a mental health company, bringing safe evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapies to people in need.
0:02:53.8 Paul Austin: Numinus has joined us as a partner. They have clinics in the US and Canada where they provide mental health treatments such as Ketamine-assisted therapy, talk therapy, as well as virtual mindfulness programs and practitioner training. Numinus is a leader in psychedelic-assisted therapy, both through research and in practice where approved by governing bodies. They’ve also created a music as medicine program where they partner with leading ambient musicians to foster a community of individuals seeking mindfulness and alignment. Numinus has been advocating for greater access to psychedelic therapy for years, and we’re proud to partner with them as they continue to push the envelope. You can learn more at Numinus.com.
0:03:36.7 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, I am so excited to have Jules Evans on the podcast today. Jules is the director of the Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project, the author of three books, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, the Art of Losing Control and Holiday from the South, and the co-editor of Breaking Open, Finding a Way Through Spiritual Emergency. He is an honorary research fellow at the center for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. And as of late, Jules has been publishing a lot of great long form pieces on his Substack exploring some of the emerging trends in the psychedelic space, specifically around the shadow side of psychedelics. Some topics that he’s covered has been the potential for ketamine addiction, how there are a lot more people than we realize who have gone through and navigated difficult psychedelic experience.
0:04:30.1 Paul Austin: He recently published a post on the ethics of testimonies after psychedelic retreats. Jules is always very balanced, always very thoughtful, and we had a really engaging conversation for the podcast today. He’s someone that I’ve wanted to interview for many years, and it was really great to finally have him on the show to talk about this shadow side of psychedelics and how we need to bring awareness to challenging psychedelic experiences. Okay, without further ado, here’s my conversation with Jules Evans. Hey, listeners, we’re here with Jules Evans. Jules, whenever your name comes up in my head, I want to call you Jules Verne just because you know…
0:05:11.7 Jules Evans: That’s the other Jules you know.
0:05:13.6 Paul Austin: The other Jules that I know of. Yeah. And in some ways what you’re writing now in the 21st century, there could be some parallels between what Jules Verne wrote and what you’re now writing. I mean, he was a little more science fiction but…
0:05:27.0 Jules Evans: I mean, hang on, I think I come out best from that comparison. I’m not sure Jules Verne would be very happy with that. [laughter]
0:05:32.5 Paul Austin: Who have, I mean, I’m…
0:05:35.2 Jules Evans: Yeah, so I mean…
0:05:36.0 Paul Austin: Yeah, as a starter, like who have been some of your more influential authors that you have read and that you love and that you have gone really deep into?
0:05:44.2 Jules Evans: Well, I did English literature at university and back then I was very into people like DH Lawrence, and TS Elliot. So I was very into the modernists and Aldous Huxley. So, of them, Aldous Huxley’s been the most enduring influence on me, and that’s particularly on my thinking about like ecstatic experiences and their place in Western culture and their possible future in Western culture. You know, in the kind of brief potted history of my life is I was into psychedelics when I was a teenager. By the age of 18, I’d already done too many drugs and harmed myself. And you know, developed actually PTSD after a couple of bad trips.
0:06:30.2 Paul Austin: Like HPPD?
0:06:32.7 Jules Evans: No PTSD, like trauma. This happens sometimes. I had a couple of, well, one particularly scary trip and didn’t process it, didn’t integrate it, developed the symptoms of post traumatic stress and social anxiety lasting for a few years. And what helped me out of that was stoicism. So I love Marcus Aurelius’ meditations. I love Epictetus’ discourses. And my first book was on how people use ancient Greek philosophies today, particularly stoicism. So that came out 11 years ago. And I was part of that revival of stoicism and organized the first stoic gathering for like two millennia in 2010. It was only 10 of us in San Diego but they’ve organized…
0:07:24.0 Paul Austin: I’m in San Diego now.
0:07:27.6 Jules Evans: Aha. Okay. Yeah.
0:07:28.7 Paul Austin: That’s great. Okay. Yeah.
0:07:28.8 Jules Evans: It’s a beautiful place. Yeah. Like this philosophy and surfing. So, anyway…
0:07:35.2 Paul Austin: And new age. There’s some new age enlightenment. You got your crystal stores and like…
0:07:40.4 Jules Evans: You do. You got your Institute of Noetic Science, is that in San Diego?
0:07:44.8 Paul Austin: I believe so. Dean Radin, who talks about magic. And it’s interesting that the stoicism is coming up this early. Huxley does have a slightly stoic approach. And The Art of Losing Control, which is the second book that you wrote, is much more Dionysian. And the sort of what I think of you as is more of this writer around ecstatic states, which feels antithetical to all the stoic, you know, meditative.
0:08:12.9 Jules Evans: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, so that book did best, because stoicism is the easiest sell. And because you could, you’re writing a book with practical tips, right, that you can use immediately. So that book came out in 25 countries. And in a way, like, maybe I should have just stuck to the stoicism as a marketing strategy that either like Ryan Holiday, I could have been laughing all the way to the bank. But, yeah, exactly. I was aware at the end of that book, that this was not the whole story, in terms of how people heal and how they flourish. Stoicism is very rational. It’s quite individualistic. It’s very much about self control and self knowledge. But there is, as you say, this Dionysian side to life that sometimes people find healing in flourishing, not through self control, but through surrender, not through rationality, but through the non rational, through the ecstatic. Another of my favorite books is a book by Nietzsche called The Birth of Tragedy. And he talks about these two forces in culture, the Apollonian, which is all rational and self control, and the Dionysian.
0:09:23.9 Jules Evans: And I ended my first book, Philosophy for Life, saying there is this whole other tradition, the Dionysian. And that’s what I explored in The Art of Losing Control. I mean, and I researched it for five years, went and explored all kinds of different ecstatic experiences, converted to Christianity in the midst of it, because I had an ecstatic experience in a church. And I was like, yeah, I’m in. So I was… And then lost, first of all, lost loads of newsletter subscribers, because they were all these atheist stoics. And I suddenly came out and I was like, praise Jesus. So that was another odd career move and then lost some…
0:10:00.3 Paul Austin: Pentecostal, the Pentecostal Jewels. The Pentecostal Jewels. Right.
0:10:03.7 Jules Evans: Yeah, I mean, I was in a neo-pentecostal church. I mean, it was the Church of England. But I was all about the trance states. And then lost my faith after 18 months, because I couldn’t balance it with the rational side of me. But yeah, so, was very much exploring the kind of the ecstatic, the spiritual, and the different ways that people find it in Western culture today. And the message of that second book, The Art of Losing Control, was we need to find a place for the ecstatic. We can’t just marginalize it, we can’t pathologize it. This is a part of human experience, a part of human consciousness. And it can be harmful, but it can also be very healing. So I was again… The book on this topic is The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, who basically takes this position, we can’t know exactly what these experiences mean, or what they point to but we can look at how, whether they help or harm people. And as James argued, better than anyone before or since, often these experiences lead to greater flourishing. So, yeah.
0:11:21.7 Paul Austin: Well, and that was a couple kind of things that I want to touch back on. That hypothesis or assumption by James we could say was thus proven by Roland Griffith and John Hopkins when looking at this relationship between psilocybin, mystical type experiences and then their sort of long term benefit on specifically depression, alcoholism I think were the two core studies that came out of Johns Hopkins. So that’s like kind of one note. The other note that I want to emphasize for listeners is, you know, in talking about stoicism, one reflection, I love history and I’ve been going through Will Durant, he wrote this 11 series on the story of civilization.
0:12:07.2 Paul Austin: So I’ve been making my way through the first three so far about Oriental heritage, Greece and Rome, and he makes the point in the Ancient Greece book that stoicism actually has a lot of parallels with Calvinism. And so the reason stoicism has been maybe so easy for Ryan Holiday, for example, and for you to amplify is because there’s really, I mean, there are some differences, because it’s much more agnostic. But a lot of the same rationality, a lot of the same self control, a lot of the same sort of like keeping it tight is present. So it’s just a, it’s like an easy way for ex Christians to go and stay within their same relatively similar belief structure. And I think what you did with the static states is it’s like, I love the polarity that you set up with the Dionysian versus the Apollonian, because that Dionysian, we would argue, is so necessary for the healing of culture, community, almost as a balancing, right? Daoism, the Middle Way. We’ve been so Apollonian, we’ve been so rational, we’ve been so linear, we need to experience these states of mystery to bring us back to balance as a human society.
0:13:22.7 Jules Evans: Yeah, that’s right. And actually William James is a great example. He was very into stoicism. It helped him a lot, but he came to see the limits of it, the limits of self-help. And in a way he was all about these moments of surrender to something bigger. When you basically say, I’ve reached the limit of self-help. I can’t do this myself. I need like something, a higher power. And in that moment of surrender to something or other, that can be hugely healing. And it was his idea, which was one of the inspirations for Alcoholics Anonymous, which is all about surrender to something greater than you and how that can be healing. Whether that’s a placebo response or there is genuinely some higher power, we don’t know. But practically it works.
0:14:15.2 Paul Austin: Of Huxley’s books. I’m a huge Huxley fan as well. So I’ve read The Divine Within, I’ve read the Perennial Philosophy. I bought a first edition of I think it’s Point Counterpoint, one of the first novels that he published, Brave New World, Island, Heaven and Hell. What are the top three kind of books or things that you’ve read that have really been… ’cause the Vedantic Huxley is a more Apollonian Huxley compared to the sort of psychedelic Huxley, right, once he starts to do Mescalin.
0:14:47.6 Jules Evans: Yeah. No, there’s a great talk by Alan Watts on his friend Aldous Huxley, which you can find on YouTube, where he talks about him, Aldous Huxley’s journey from this rather dry aesthetic antibody, anti-sex, anti the world Vedanta follower to more of a kind of tantric, like both this world and the other world, both this body and whatever’s not the body, as partly as his second marriage as well to Laura Archera was, by all accounts a very romantic, sexually active, the old oldest really had a kind of sexual renaissance, and he got way more into his body when he was… Before his first wife Maria said, when he was younger, he was so out of his body, he was so in his head, he was so kind of shut off. And as he got older, and this might have been the second marriage, this might have been the psychedelics he was taking, he became much more open in relationships, much more connected to his body.
0:15:55.4 Jules Evans: Laura Huxley, his second wife, tells a story of, they were in a trip session in Los Angeles and someone started freaking out. And Aldous went and just quietly took this person’s foot and started kind of massaging her and calming her down. And the idea of the kind of Aldous from the 1940s doing that is, no way. He was so, he was a frigid, icy intellectual. So he really mellowed and warmed. But yeah, in terms of the books I love, I’ve got to tell you, I’m not a fan of his novels. I don’t think he’s a great novelist. And I know he was great friends with Christopher Isherwood, who also moved from the UK to Los Angeles and also joined the Vedanta Society of Southern California. Isherwood is this novelist who wrote the book that cabaret was based on. And Isherwood, and he also wrote a fantastic little book called The Single Man, which bizarrely I read at the Temple of The Way of Light. It was the only non hippy book in their bookshelf at this Ayahuasca Center in the Amazon. It’s a great book. So Christopher Isherwood is really worth reading. But he also said he loved Aldous, but he didn’t think Aldous was a natural novelist. He’s an ideas person. And his novels are really like, you have these walking ideas, ideas with legs. That’s what you get.
0:17:24.7 Jules Evans: But so for me, I love his nonfiction. I love, I actually do like the perennial philosophy. I’ve got a first edition of that, and that has meant a lot to me as a book over the years. I love his writings on psychedelics and ecstatic experiences. For me, his great gift is that he’s able… I read this book about ecstatic experiences and Aldous Huxley more than anyone else is able to think about ecstatic experiences on multiple levels. Political, historical, theological, psychological. And no one else has the capacity to think about ecstatic experiences at all those multiple levels. And in his talks and lectures, in the last kind of 10 years of his life, he was doing lectures on human potentialities, for example, which inspired Esalen. So the guys who founded Esalen were in the audience, and they wrote to him and he came and visited. And they set up Esalen in the center of which is Huxley Hall named after him. So he really launched the Human Potential Movement.
0:18:40.0 Jules Evans: And then there’s another great book of his letters with Humphry Osmond, huge book about four fifths of which is Humphry Osmond writing to Aldous. And he obviously idolized Aldous. And then you get these short replies back from Aldous. But what this friendship between this psychiatrist and this great writer, and they really, they coined the word Psychedelic together, and they’re thinking about the future of psychedelics. How this could be the… Is this medical or is this religious? And that book is wonderfully rich to read.
0:19:17.0 Paul Austin: So you mentioned Alan Watts. I’m gonna check that out. I have not read that yet. That’s probably one of the few Huxley things that I haven’t gotten into. So I’ll purchase that.
0:19:24.7 Jules Evans: Yeah. Yeah. It only came out a couple years ago. It’s called Psychedelic Profits.
0:19:28.4 Paul Austin: Oh, fantastic. Okay. Psychedelic profits. Not like Compass Pathways profits, but like.
0:19:33.5 Jules Evans: Yeah, no Compass… [laughter] They were terrible. Him and Alan Watts were terrible at profit spelt the Compass Way. I mean, can you imagine Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts kept on trying to get funding for a research project. They couldn’t get a dollar. Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley trying to get funding for a psychedelic project. They couldn’t a dollar. Can you imagine how much they’d raise today?
0:19:57.0 Paul Austin: Billions. [chuckle]
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0:21:49.8 Paul Austin: There’s a really fun anecdote about when Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley met and Timothy Leary was there as well. I think it was at Harvard, Aldous was giving some visiting. It was either Aldous or Alan was giving a visiting lecture. And Aldous Huxley had this quote that Alan Watts was like one part priest, one part racetrack manager or something like that. Like he had this energy that would come in that he would whip around. And of course Aldous was, I think this was just before he ended up transitioning and passing on in the early ’60s, was maybe a year or two before his death. And what he really emphasized was what I would call a more elitist approach to psychedelics. Whereas Timothy Leary and Alan Watts was a little bit involved. He talked about psychedelics, but he wasn’t necessarily as intimately sort of intricately intertwined with them like Huxley and Leary. And Leary was much more of the sort of egalitarian everyone should do this and Huxley thought that was a mistake, a huge mistake. And I’m curious just to hear you sort of riff on that now that we’re in 2023, now that psychedelics are becoming more accessible, now that there’s a lot of talk and conversation about accessibility and everyone should have access to these. What are your thoughts on psychedelics, mainstreaming them? Should this be kept to people who are “ready and prepared” or do you think everyone and anyone can benefit from these substances?
0:23:28.6 Jules Evans: Right. So you’re absolutely right. There was this conversation in the early ’60s about were psychedelics, should psychedelics be for everybody? And Aldous’ plan initially was to introduce it to the elite. They wanted to do a research program and they would give it to Einstein and the philosopher A. J. Ayer, and maybe his friend Stravinsky, and just to the elite and particularly creative people. It’s an aspect of the research then that’s completely lost now. It was psychedelics for art, for aesthetics. And he and Osmond passed the torch to Timothy Leary. Initially they were worried he was too square. That he was… And then after about a year, they’re like, there’s a letter where Aldous writes to Humphrey Osmond says, what happened to Timothy Leary?
0:24:29.9 Jules Evans: And they’re like… And there’s… If you go on YouTube, you can hear a video I posted of him tripping ’cause there are trip tapes of Aldous and Laura. And in it he’s kind of saying, well… He’s discussing Timothy Leary while he is on acid and saying, well, it’s… He’s blaming Leary’s Irishness that there was this rebellious streak in Leary that always wanted to shock. Anyway, it has to be said as well. But don’t forget Aldous’ book Doors of Perception in the words of Alan Watts, let the cat out of the bag. So that was the Michael Pollan book of the ’50s and ’60s. Suddenly this incredibly famous writer says, here are these substances which give you mystical experiences. So if he really wanted to keep it just among the elite, he should have never written that book.
0:25:19.2 Jules Evans: But he could not resist a great story. And I think he also saw it as maybe his gift to the world. He was gonna change the world, start a new religion. And the Huxleys always had this prophetic aspect to them. His brother Julian Huxley, also wanted to start his own religion as well. So they had a gene for religious kind of prophecy. All right, to get to your question, should these be for everyone? I think it’s a question of how we reintegrate these substances into Western culture. And I think we’re going from a state where to some extent ecstatic experiences were marginalized and pathologized in Western culture for about 300 and 400 years. Since around the enlightenment, Paul, like Western cultures have said ecstatic experiences are delusional. They’re dangerous. You’re gonna go crazy. Stay in control, stay rational. So there was this narrowing of our bandwidth of consciousness.
0:26:30.2 Paul Austin: And this comes back to Calvinism because there’s an overlap there with Martin Luther and the split from Catholicism and you know…
0:26:40.1 Jules Evans: Yeah, I mean, there was still… Yeah. And that’s right. And I think you are right that it goes back to the reformation as well. Before that the Catholic church had a monopoly on ecstatic experiences. The reformation blows that up. Suddenly you have groups wandering around Europe with people saying, I’m Jesus, we are holy. We can’t sin. Like crazy, ecstatic cults, some of which were violent. And so ecstasy starts to get a bad reputation. By ecstasy, I mean like ecstatic experiences. That even more so during the enlightenment, a lot of enlightenment philosophers like Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbs say, religious ecstasy is nuts, is delusional and dangerous. Stay in control, stay rational. This, you know, of course there are counter currents like romanticism, like ecstatic Christianity. But on a whole, these were marginal. Now what’s happening since the ’60s and even more today is an explosion of ecstatic experiences back into Western culture through psychedelics, through contemplative practices and so on. But particularly through psychedelics. On the whole, that’s good. I think because these are normal human experiences we are becoming reacquainted with aspects of our consciousness.
0:28:03.9 Jules Evans: But it’s messy. It’s sudden and it’s messy and it’s taking place within a hyper capitalist system. So do I think that ecstatic experiences is for everyone? Yes. I think these are normal part of human experience. They’re not essential. Some people are more prone to ecstatic experiences than others. So it’s not like if you’ve never had an ecstatic experience, you haven’t really lived. But they’re normal. They’re normal and human. And psychedelics are one way you can reach ecstatic experiences. However, we are very ecstatically naive in Western culture. We are infants. We have no cultural infrastructure in place for these experiences. We got rid of our monastery 500 years ago, we got rid of our maps and guides for ecstatic experiences 500 years ago, so we don’t have the cultural infrastructure in place. We don’t have the cultural literacy in place. So there’s lots of work that’s gonna need to be done, and it’s gonna need to be done in this messy way as millions of people are having these experiences.
0:29:22.6 Jules Evans: And basically, some of them are gonna be having mystical experiences that they’re not prepared for. They’re gonna go and try psychedelics ’cause they want some fun or they want a bit of, you know, they want healing or they wanna relax or just wanna explore. And suddenly a bit like the same kind of dynamic is happening in meditation, they get a mystical experience that they were not expecting, that they did not sign up for. And suddenly they’re in a different, an altered self and an altered universe. Okay. For lots of those people, all that means is they’re gonna feel a bit wobbly for two weeks and then they’ll go back to who they were before. But for some people, it’s the beginning of a journey that they were not expecting and were not prepared for. So that’s my answer, is I think we need to upgrade our cultural resources for all these people, for this reemergence of the ecstatic into Western culture.
0:30:22.4 Paul Austin: So when this topic comes up, often I think of lineage and I think of generations. And I had a wonderful podcast interview with Paul Samitz a few months back, and he made the point that it takes about seven generations for healing, for learning, for reacquaintance. And when it comes to the indigenous use of entheogens or plant medicines, you know, they’ve only been disconnected from these medicines for maybe a few generations, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 generations. Right? And obviously colonialism, genocide, all that was awful and terrible. And we have to be mindful of cultural appropriation, reciprocity, etcetera, etcetera. And what I often point to is like, as from a Western perspective, our lineage with these psychedelics have been caught off for, I would say more than 500 years.
0:31:19.0 Jules Evans: I would say 1700 years since the advent of Christianity, when the Eleusinian mysteries were eliminated. And so that was like, we were, we had a, in ancient Greece, there was a rich sort of familiarity, whether it was the Eleusinian mysteries, whether it was the Orphic mysteries, you know, where this was sort of part and parcel of their culture. And so all of a sudden the 1960s come around and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that LSD is made from ergot, just like the Kykeon was made from ergot, and all of a sudden it’s like, what the fuck is this? You know, what is happening? And so, as I’ve reflected on this, when we started Third Wave many, many years ago in 2015, the reason I led with microdosing and even continue to lead with microdosing in so many ways is because the sort of educational context that actually taking less is probably better for most people as a way to sort of onboard people into the deep end of their consciousness. ‘Cause sort of my reflection on talking about Leary in the 60s is this whole, turn on, tune in, drop out, everyone do 500 micrograms of acid. Right? Like we just didn’t have the appropriate cultural context to actually hold all of the energy that that contained.
0:32:34.3 Jules Evans: Yeah, yeah. And they were trying to figure it out in the ’60s, and Aldous Huxley gave Leary a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead on one of his visits to Harvard and they were like, “Oh, this is it. Wow.” I mean, they’d never read it before. And they were like, this is what we’re… You know, him and output were like, this is what our trips have been like. So they then created that trip guide, what was it called? The Psychedelic Experience Guide based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is kind of funny. [laughter]
0:33:02.3 Paul Austin: All the bardos.
0:33:03.4 Jules Evans: Yeah, all the bardos. But so they were trying to figure it out then. And I mean, it’s really, I’m both kind of fascinated and excited and worried by the kind of the speed with which everything’s happening, and I think that it’s more full on now than it was in the ’60s. Just because I guess the ’60s… I do. I think it’s laid the groundwork. Yeah. Okay. I’ll tell you two reasons why. In the ’60s, there was a handful of little psychedelic movements and organizations. As far as I know now, there’s like well over 200 psychedelic churches just in the US. Yeah. I did not know this either. I interviewed Alison Hoots from the Sacred Plant Alliance.
0:33:55.3 Paul Austin: Okay.
0:33:55.5 Jules Evans: She’s a lawyer who advises psychedelic churches. And she estimated there are at least 200, the vast majority of which have started in the last few years.
0:34:04.7 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:34:05.4 Jules Evans: There’s this scene growing really fast, way faster than it was in the ’60s. The other thing is that in the 60s, there wasn’t perhaps as much of a sense of a mental health crisis. There wasn’t as much demand for therapy. Therapy was still quite new in the ’60s. And now, there’s a huge sense of a mental health crisis, a huge therapy culture, and millions of people looking to psychedelics for healing from their problems. That was not the case so much in the ’60s. You’ve got this booming psychedelic religion scene, and you’ve got this huge demand for psychedelic therapy. And it’s been taken up by capitalism in a way that it wasn’t in the ’60s. It never really got to that point. There was a few clinics that were beginning to offer psychedelic therapy in the ’60s.
0:35:05.5 Paul Austin: But they were like in Saskatchewan, and…
0:35:08.6 Jules Evans: Yeah, they did quite well, some of them. There was one in Los Angeles, in Menlo Park. And there was one in Canada where they did so well that the guy, the psychiatrist running it, bought the biggest mansion in Vancouver, it might have been.
0:35:26.3 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:35:27.7 Jules Evans: Yeah. But not much, nothing like now, not with major venture capital billion-dollar companies. So it’s bigger now than it was in the ’60s. That’s exciting, but it’s also like, wow, how’s this going to play out? We’re already seeing that it’s messy. It’s exciting and it’s messy.
0:35:55.8 Paul Austin: Well I wanna talk a little bit more about that. What I often think about is tail risk, so the concept of tail risk. Meaning that oftentimes what upends a system or what upends a community or what upends whatever, it’s not a majority, but it’s the 1%, so to say. 99% of people are probably having… Actually, you would know these details, actually, ’cause you’ve been studying this, so I would love to hear your thoughts on like, my impression is 95% of people are having either positive or neutral experiences with psychedelics, and probably something in the 3% to 5% of range that are either having traumatizing experiences, negative experiences, maybe they have an expectation of being healed and they’re not being healed, so that’s a letdown. And my bet would be about a half percent are having very difficult, potentially traumatic, potentially dangerous experiences, but that 0.5% could be enough to create the media maelstrom, so to say, that we had in the 60s. So you’ve been studying this, so I’d love to just sort of open this up. Challenging psychedelic experiences, what are you learning as you’ve been doing research on this over the last while?
0:37:18.2 Jules Evans: Right. So I wrote a piece in 2021 saying we should research more the difficult trips, extended difficulties. There’s 3 billion raised, and the amount spent on researching adverse experiences, challenging experiences, is like next to nothing. There are hardly any studies. And there isn’t that much invested in support, integration for people who have difficult experiences. And I even suggested back then, what if psychedelic companies, funds and research centers invested 1% of the money they raise in harm reduction? So last year, I thought, well, why don’t we do this then? I mean, I have a background in academia. I, for eight years, worked at the Center for the History of the Emotions in medical humanities. So that’s kind of philosophy and medical history. Yeah. And I’m still an honorary research fellow there.
0:38:22.5 Paul Austin: Do you have a PhD?
0:38:26.1 Jules Evans: I don’t have a PhD. I came via journalism. So I was a journalist for 10 years, and then went into academia, skipping that part. So I gathered a team together last year to launch the Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project. So this is working with psychologists and therapists and religious studies scholars at Imperial University College London, Haifa University in Israel, University of Sydney. So we’re a team of about 10 researchers. And we said, we want to research not bad trips, because there’s already been some research on that, but people who have difficulties after the trip. So we wanna look at, yeah, that kind of thing. What happens after the trip? Does anyone get into difficulties lasting beyond the trip itself? And we raised some money, and we started to do research. We’ve already produced our first paper. It was authored by me and a researcher called Anna Lutkajtis, who’s at the University of Sydney.
0:39:35.8 Jules Evans: She did interviews with people after a synthesis retreat. Sorry. After a magic mushroom retreat, a synthesis. And this was for her PhD. And 30% of the people she interviewed after a mushroom retreat, actually, you know, it’s a truffle retreat, not a mushroom retreat. Yeah. 30% of them reported integration challenges in the weeks after their trip. It is quite a lot. All of them, these were problems like problems reconnecting with their life back at home, or post-ecstatic blues, the trip was so amazing, everyday life is crummy. Ontological shock, destabilizing their sense of reality, emotional volatility. All of that resolved after two to three weeks. So we call that paper “Short-Term Integration Challenges”, but it highlighted the fact that retreat centers and therapists and so on, should be aware that people are often… One-in-three in a wobbly state for two to three weeks after an experience. We then launched a survey and we asked people, “Have you ever had difficulties after a trip lasting longer than a day? Would you tell us what they were like, if so? And what helped you to deal with them?” We got over 600 responses of whom by… We’re still analyzing it for another paper, but just in terms of kind of give you a sense of some of what we found out. So two fifths, 40% of people, the difficulties lasted longer than a year.
0:41:22.7 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:41:24.4 Jules Evans: Yeah. And one-fifth, difficulties lasted longer than three years.
0:41:29.0 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:41:29.8 Jules Evans: The most common kind of difficulties people reported were fear and anxiety, just often just basic anxiety, but also things like fear of death being increased, social disconnection, feeling disconnected from the people in your life, derealization, which is what is real. It destabilizes people’s sense of reality. Depersonalization, like, I feel fragmented. People… Fear of permanent damage. “Did I mess up my brain?” And we’re gonna see which kinds of difficulties last longer. Some of these things will be, again, two to three weeks, and then they resolve. What… And then we ask people what they found helpful. Different types of therapy, different types of self-care, talking to people. So we’re gonna use this data and we’re also gonna make this data open to other researchers as well, by the way, to try and work out predictive factors for who gets into extended difficulties and predictive factors for how to minimize those extended difficulties so that… We’re not talking months and years, we’re talking, hopefully, weeks. So in terms of the prevalence, this study is not looking at the prevalence.
0:42:56.7 Paul Austin: Right.
0:42:57.7 Jules Evans: How often these kinds of things. But some other studies have. So two papers have looked at how often people get into extended difficulties after trips. One was a paper by an organization called ICEERS, I-C-E-E-R-S. Have you come across them, Paul? They’re a great NGO in Barcelona.
0:43:18.2 Paul Austin: We’ve had Ben on the podcast a few years ago, and I love their work, in terms of what they’re doing on the the ethnobotanist side.
0:43:23.6 Jules Evans: They do advocacy and they do research, they’re a really impressive organization. They did a study based on the global Ayahuasca survey, of 11,000 people who’ve taken part in Ayahuasca ceremonies. And in that survey, 12% said they’d had psychological difficulties for which they’d sought assistance. So, and then… But of course, there may have been more people who would have difficulties who didn’t seek psychological assistance. Then there was a paper that came out just a week ago by a researcher called Otto Simonson and his team. They did a survey online, they found 10% of trippers reported an experience leading to functional impairment lasting longer than a day. And 6% said that they thought of harming themselves or others…
0:44:23.3 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:44:24.2 Jules Evans: During this time. Okay. So all of that has to be bracketed with this, which is that the field of psychedelics should not be freaked out by the fact that some people have challenging experiences and adverse experiences. There can be a temptation to try to downplay it, minimize it, or silence it. If we talk about this stuff, then what happened in the ’60s is gonna happen again. This is the fear. It will spoil the reputation of psychedelics, it will prevent their legalization. That’s not, I think, the right way to think about it. From my point of view, the right way to think about it is psychedelics can change your life and have a massive positive impact. For millions of people, they have. It seems to be the case that for maybe, you know, 1 in 10, it can also lead to difficulties. That doesn’t mean that they don’t ultimately have a positive experience, it’s just like they might have difficulties as well. The best way to support the long-term viability of psychedelics, to my mind, is to learn about these difficulties and find out what helps people who have them to minimize and reduce the intensity and duration of these difficulties.
0:45:56.5 Jules Evans: Every medicine has side effects. If you look at antidepressants, something like 50% of people who take antidepressants report side effects.
0:46:06.6 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:46:09.0 Jules Evans: So one in two. That might be things like loss of libido, weight gain, sleep issues, all the way up to serious problems like suicidality. For years, big pharma denies that there were any serious adverse problems with antidepressants, and it took years and law cases for that to be acknowledged. Nonetheless, still, lots of people are helped by antidepressants. And I’m not anti SSRIs. They really help. Some people find them lifesaving. Now, psychedelics, you’re talking about fewer, you’re talking about the lower percentage of people who have adverse effects. It’s okay to talk about it and to learn about it. But so far there’s been very little research and that is a liability.
0:47:11.0 Paul Austin: And what comes to mind is if you don’t allow for the shadow, it’ll eat you. So if we’re thinking about this from an archetypal perspective or Jungian perspective, it’s like if that is repressed, not acknowledged, not brought to the light, not brought to the surface, then that could be the very thing… Not the media necessarily, but that could be the very thing that actually consumes the movement in a way.
0:47:33.2 Jules Evans: Right. And particularly if… There’s been signs in the last year or so when there’ve been some negative stories. I’ve been struck by how sometimes the psychedelic field, particularly the psychedelic industry, has reacted very defensively with either kind of denial counter attack, victim blaming which is not a mature response. The mature response is like yes, there are these, sometimes one in 10 might have short-term, medium term difficulties. Let’s learn how to prevent these being long-term difficulties. And also, recognize that every medicine has side effects and not taking any medicine also has side effects. As in not treating mental illness, that also has really bad side effects. So yeah, that will be the kind of mature response. It’s also about informed consent Paul. Like if I’m trying a new medicine, I would like to know, what are the worst case scenarios? And if you are not told about that at all, then there’s a legal risk.
0:48:47.4 Paul Austin: So that’s a good transition for ketamine and ketamine addiction. You’ve written, I believe at least one, if not a couple pieces now on Substack around ketamine, around the harms or potential harms of ketamine, the addiction potential. Ketamine is not a classic psychedelic, it’s a disassociative, but it’s being introduced into a psychedelic like context and being presented as a psychedelic, even though it’s very distinct from LSD, psilocybin, the lysergamides, the Tryptamines, etcetera, etcetera. So I’d love if you could just share a little bit about what are you observing and noticing as it relates to the growth of interest in ketamine, particularly telemedicine ketamine as well as maybe ketamine infusions.
0:49:30.1 Jules Evans: Yeah.
0:49:30.3 Paul Austin: What are some of the concerns that you’re picking up on, the risks, the addiction potential? I think that’s an important thing to highlight as part of this conversation.
0:49:40.2 Jules Evans: Right. Yeah. You’ll know more than me, Paul, because you’ve been aware of the kind of ketamine market for longer than me. I’ve written about the kind of more classic psychedelics for the last five years and the kind of sometimes, painfully slow move towards authorization and regulation of things like psilocybin therapy. I’ve written about Ayahuasca, LSD. And in a way I was aware of ketamine, but it was a bit off my radar, and I think that’s true for a lot of people in the psychedelic field. And it was an article in Business Insider, and it was about the risk of psychedelic… Sorry, of ketamine dependency. So I read that and I was like… And started to look into it and wrote, I’ve already written one piece on it for my Substack but I was like, wow, this has grown really fast.
0:50:41.4 Jules Evans: Like there was… One statistic was like, there was about 100 ketamine clinics in the US about three or four years ago. I think there’s now over like 600.
0:50:55.1 Paul Austin: Oh my God.
0:50:55.7 Jules Evans: So it’s really grown quickly. And another thing that’s happened, so there’s been this… And that’s partly on the back of the hype around psychedelics. There’s been so much hype around psychedelic therapy and how it can be healing, but it’s not been easy to get mushroom therapy to or to, let alone to go and do Ayahuasca in the Amazon or something. So while people have been waiting for these other miracle cures, there has been ketamine, which has already got FDA approval as an anesthetic. And suddenly it’s being offered for everything under the sun.
0:51:34.9 Jules Evans: Ketamine infusions. And now the second thing that as you know happened is that ketamine telehealth completely boomed during the pandemic. Companies like Field Trip and Mindbloom where you could order ketamine and it gets delivered to your door. And you… Supposedly you have someone on Zoom while you’re taking it, but to a large extent, it’s… You are left to take it yourself. And that has grown really fast. So I guess the piece was partly saying, wow, this has been off my radar, but this has grown massively fast. And also, alerting people in the psychedelic community. Have you seen what’s happening in the ketamine market? And then the kind of health risks are really I suppose twofold. There are concerns about Ketamine dependency.
0:52:35.9 Jules Evans: I don’t know figures of prevalence, but that some people become dependent on ketamine. And there’s been stories about this. There’ve been research articles about this in particularly in the UK where I’m from, and particularly like I used to live in Bristol in the west country of the UK. They had a massive Ketamine problem there. And in China, they had a… They had whole towns… Okay, no, that’s probably not true. But they had a big problem. They made a lot of the ketamine in the world supply and they had big dependency issues. So that’s one issue. And the other issue is if you are taking ketamine every day, it leads to, it harms your body.
0:53:23.6 Jules Evans: It can lead to things like ketamine bladder, where people have to pee constantly, people have had to have parts of their bladder removed. And then I suppose that the third issue is that people take ketamine and they have negative psychological experiences. There was a paper that looked at this recently. People sometimes struggle to let go. They have an infusion. They have a powerful ketamine experience, and it’s frightening for them because again we’re an anti ecstatic culture. We are not very good at surrendering control or losing control. So there is a lady whose name I can’t remember, but maybe you’ve met her and if not she might be a good interview person for your podcast. But she runs a kind of ketamine clinic and she kind of does advocacy around ethical ketamine. And she said she’s had about a thousand letters from people talking about adverse ketamine experiences, and we’re talking about bad psychological experiences.
0:54:29.9 Paul Austin: Wow.
0:54:31.0 Jules Evans: So I wrote about that. And just the kind of hyper capitalist thing as well. Like I wrote about it. Someone contacted me who’s in Ketamine marketing and they’ve kept on, they’ve sent me like repeated spam messages saying, Hi, Jules, listen. You know, can we touch base? Let me help you turn into a seven figure ketamine clinic. You know, how to get people in those chairs and hooked up to those drips. We’ve got a fantastic program. And I didn’t reply. And then I got another message saying, Jules really keen, can we… Are you getting these calls, Jules? Can we jump on a call? Like we can help you to get like 40 plus customers a week, this kind of thing. And it reminded me a little bit of like the mortgage market in the north east. You know I used to write about structured finance at the start of my career, and it was booming and there was so much fast money being made. And when you have a bubble market like that, there are strong incentives to cut corners. So that’s what I saw happening. I also know, the other side of the story is I know people who say their life has been saved by ketamine therapy. Ad then there are libertarians who say, yes, there are risks, but I’m an adult. Let me deal with these risks. So there are those sides to the story as well.
0:56:04.7 Paul Austin: And overall, ketamine is not a classic psychedelic. What I’ve personally experienced with it is because it’s only an hour to an hour and a half and oftentimes the way it’s prescribed is through a nasal spray, that it’s become sort of a drug de-jour at different parties. So a lot of people who would consider themselves, let’s say Cali Sober, will not drink alcohol, but they’ll do nasal sprays of ketamine instead. And I got a… I’ve been prescribed a couple times. I did the Mindbloom experience. With the telemedicine it’s a little bit different than you explained. You meet with, so you have a coach, not necessarily a clinician, but a coach. And this is in Mindbloom, I think it’s similar for some of the other ones, like Nue Life and Field Trip. You meet with that coach on Zoom before you take the ketamine, they confirm that you have a trip sitter there, and then you take the ketamine, it’s a lozenge form at home with a trip sitter, and then you can check in with them right after the experience. But they’re not necessarily, at least with the experience that I went through, on Zoom with you as you’re going through it. It’s quite easy to get a prescription. The joke that I’ve sort of compared ketamine to is like medical marijuana. You know? It’s like if you have a back issue, you can get a prescription or you could for medical marijuana. With ketamine it’s similar.
0:57:27.0 Paul Austin: If at any point you’ve experienced depression or anxiety, you don’t have to be clinically depressed or have a clinical diagnosis. You can also be prescribed ketamine. So it’s definitely a little loose. Now, a lot of these things, the sort of looseness of it, my sense is hitting, it’s hitting like… So when COVID hit in the United States, there was an act put into place that allowed for telemedicine prescriptions, because people can’t come in to see a doctor. That is now shifting beginning in May.
0:57:58.1 Paul Austin: They haven’t figured out the final rules for that now. But that will substantially change the telemedicine ketamine market in the United States, which will be interesting. ’cause now it will not be as easy as just hopping on Zoom with someone for five minutes. You’ll actually have to go in, talk with a doctor or a medical professional and then get a prescription. So there’s… And I’ve never had, I’ve never struggled with a ketamine addiction myself. I did notice that I would get into flows where I would do it once or twice a week, like a little bit of like, go in the sauna and do a nasal spray because it was so easy, you know? My challenge has always been, and maybe this is even a broader conversation. It’s like my challenge has been cannabis, you know? I’ve been more or less addicted to cannabis for like four years now. And it’s not all day every day, but it’s certainly something that I’ve taken a couple months off at a time, but I keep coming back to. And so this all comes to like education. It comes down to meaning and purpose. It comes down to…
0:59:03.4 Paul Austin: For a legal market, I can literally walk five minutes from where I am right now and go into a dispensary and buy weed. I think this is… So it’s a big question of like, how accessible do we want these to be and what are some of the risks when anyone and everyone can take them? And I sense with ketamine the risks are more substantial than, my personal take, than like psilocybin, because psilocybin is more anti-addictive. More people are just microdosing. There aren’t the same… You don’t have a physiological sort of addictive nature to microdosing. It’s just a different cat, so to say.
0:59:42.5 Jules Evans: Yeah. And it’s not a kind of dissociative. It can’t be used to numb emotions like booze can, and as far as I understand, like ketamine can sometimes.
0:59:55.4 Paul Austin: And like cannabis can, right? And so it’s sort of cannabis, ketamine, booze, porn, Netflix, these all fit into this sort of like desire to numb.
1:00:05.3 Jules Evans: Numb. Yeah.
1:00:06.1 Paul Austin: And psilocybin, obviously Ayahuasca, even MDMA, it’s not that necessarily.
1:00:14.4 Jules Evans: No. It can lead to arguably different forms of dependency. Like you get hooked on a certain kind of spiritual high. But I think that’s, yeah. I mean, it can happen, but maybe it’s rarer.
1:00:29.5 Paul Austin: Yeah. Sort of the psychological dependency of feeling like the only way you can be centered or the only way that you can deal with yourself is if you’re doing an Ayahuasca journey every month, for example.
1:00:41.8 Jules Evans: Yeah. And it’s all you talk about, that kind of thing. But I mean, yeah. So I think it was just the pace of growth that startled me. And I think also the kind of aggressive capitalist models. I’m not at all anti-capitalist, but like capitalism more so has side effects, it can lead to incentives of just make as much money as possible. And this is for everyone. We want to roll this out to everyone. And I think, yeah, it must be extremely exciting to be running a ketamine company at the moment ’cause the speed of growth is insane. And ketamine companies are buying up other ketamine companies. There is a race to get as many clinics as possible, as many customers as possible.
1:01:37.1 Jules Evans: And that should, I think that should ring alarm bells. When this is a substance that causes, can cause dependency. And especially like this is only a few years after… Well, we’re still in the midst of the fallout from Oxycontin. So it has similarities. Like a quite powerful drug suddenly being reframed as the solution to pain and suffering, aggressive marketing, aggressive search for customers. So that’s… But yeah, I mean, that’s…
1:02:19.6 Paul Austin: Well, and so the way I’d love to wrap up the conversation today is, you have, you’ve done a lot of writing, you’ve done a lot of research, you’ve been very involved in the psychedelic space and these sort of ecstatic states for a long time. Well, a long time comparatively, right. Eight, nine, 10 years.
1:02:40.9 Jules Evans: Right.
1:02:42.2 Paul Austin: We talked about stoicism, you know, sort of versus a more Dionysian aspect. We covered the challenging experiences, some of the shadows, some of the risk. And so I’d love to just hear you talk a little bit at length about what are those guardrails that we should be putting in place to ensure that we can integrate ecstatic states successfully? What should we be paying attention to? What should we be mindful of? I remember a similar book that came out to yours was Stealing Fire around the same time. And so at the end of Stealing Fire, you know, their mythic metaphor that they talk about is Prometheus.
1:03:21.7 Paul Austin: And when Prometheus stole fire from the gods, it never ends up working out. And I think what we’re going through right now is psychedelics have never been this sort of mainstream available treatment, or everyone’s been using it, even in ancient Greeks. It was the mysteries, it was secret, it was to the side, it wasn’t this like globalized technocratic capitalist society that was latching on to a miracle cure. So yeah, I’d love to hear you sort of pontificate on that. Like, how do we ensure that this doesn’t go sideways? What guardrails need to be in place? How would you sort of land this conversation, I suppose?
1:03:58.9 Jules Evans: Right. Yeah. Well, I think I am sympathetic to Jamie Wheal’s point of view. I think it’s mine as well, which is that I wonder if we can learn ecstatic literacy without necessarily creating some new ecstatic religion. Like a well-informed, relatively evidence-based spirituality, open source spirituality of ecstatic experiences, rather than some new massive global ecstatic cult or a refashioned old ecstatic cult like Christianity or Islam. So that’s my kind of idea. And so that would mean particularly ecstatic education. I wrote a piece, which I’ll give you the link for, about how to improve ecstatic literacy in our culture. It was like 10 lessons for ecstatic literacy. And it’s, you know, we’ve gotta learn, relearn these basic points. They were things like, just because you have an ecstatic experience in the presence of someone else doesn’t mean that they’re holy or blessed by God, which is one mistake that people make, and that’s what leads to kind of cults. Likewise, just because you have an ecstatic experience doesn’t mean you are holy or necessarily blessed by God. Just because you believe something during an ecstatic experience doesn’t mean it’s definitely true.
1:05:44.2 Jules Evans: Ecstatic experiences aren’t always healing. So there are these basic rules that we need to relearn and share and spread to improve ecstatic literacy in our culture. So that’s the vision I have for it. As now I’m no longer a Christian. I’m not even a stoic either, even though I’ve got a stoic tattoo on my arm that I got when I was in San Diego, which is never coming off. But I’m not… I don’t consider myself a stoic anymore. I’m an agnostic. Like the position I’ve arrived at in terms of making sense of these experiences is like, I don’t know. I’ve had powerful ecstatic experiences, both psychedelic and I had a near-death experience when I was like 24, life-changing experiences. And I tried to work out exactly what they meant and what they tell me about reality and about the universe I’m in.
1:06:47.3 Jules Evans: And I reach the limit of my understanding. I don’t know. So I consider myself an agnostic. I don’t think you can arrive at firm conclusions about the nature of reality from these experiences. They’re too mysterious. There are hints, suggestions. But in the words of St. Paul, in this life, we see through a glass darkly. We just have guesses about the bigger picture. And these kinds of experiences give us glimpses. But the… I think one of the big risks of, I think, a more ecstatic Western culture is it leads to an increase in dogmatism and fundamentalism and people being totally sure that they’re right, that their particular politics is right, that their particular conspiracy theory is right, that their particular religion is right. Why are they so sure? Because they had this ecstatic experience, and it told them. This is what happened in the reformation.
1:07:54.1 Jules Evans: All these kinds of crazy cults appeared, people running around Germany saying, I am God. Give me all your possessions. Let’s execute the heretics. So that’s the risk is this, we’re in a crazy time and the kind of return of ecstatic experiences just makes it crazier. So how to improve ecstatic literacy so that we can be open to this aspect of human experience without becoming… Without it actually narrowing our reality. Not opening our minds, but narrowing it and leading to dogmatism. But you know, Paul, like when you’re talking about the ecstatic, it’s everything is unpredictable. Who would’ve guessed that a minor Jewish prophet from an illiterate family who taught for about three years and then was killed, that his teachings would still be followed by two billion people today.
1:09:05.9 Jules Evans: So who would’ve thought that some random ecstatic meeting in Los Angeles in 1905 would create Pentecostalism? Which is the fastest-growing religious movement today. And I think hundreds of people convert to Pentecostalism every day.
1:09:24.4 Paul Austin: Wow.
1:09:25.0 Jules Evans: Maybe even thousands.
1:09:27.2 Paul Austin: Wow.
1:09:27.3 Jules Evans: So, in other words, I can… It’s very interesting for us to discuss the future of ecstatic experiences in Western culture, but it’s totally unpredictable. Like before we know, some new kind of Gaia Cult, the Church of St. Greta might suddenly appear and sweep through the West. All of these things are gonna also react with external events, like what happens with climate change, what happens with capitalism, what happens with democracy. So it’s just unpredictable. I am all… What I’m doing is like putting out an attempt to improve ecstatic literacy and to help all these millions of people having ecstatic experiences. If they’re difficult, to help them, maybe try to make sense of them in a non-dogmatic, non fundamentalist way. But I’m doing that knowing that there are these massive historical forces which are far more powerful than any work we are doing. But also with a kind of general optimism, general hope. I’m an agnostic. I don’t know if there’s a God, but I have a hope that things genuinely get better and that there is a God, kind of manifesting or appearing or evolving. So yeah. That’s my position. I have this sensitive… Yeah.
1:11:00.0 Paul Austin: That’s the narrative. And I love the idea of the principles of ecstatic literacy. I’ve talked about a similar thing with psychedelic literacy and what are the principles…
1:11:06.2 Jules Evans: Right.
1:11:06.2 Paul Austin: Of psychedelic literacy. And even the way I framed it is looking at working with psychedelics as a skill. And so if we’re working with ecstatic states, how do we develop the skill of ecstasy so it doesn’t necessarily consume us, our family, our community, whatever it is, but it’s something that can be contained in a way and actually leverage and utilize for good.
1:11:29.5 Jules Evans: Exactly. Exactly right. And I’m sure you’ve met in all your travels and interviews, people who are quite dogmatic that their path is the right path, their drug is the right drug, their interpretation of psychedelics experiences is the right one, and everyone else is less evolved or heretical or demonic. So it’s about this kind of epistemic flexibility and…
1:11:58.2 Paul Austin: Humility, in a way. Epistemic humility as well.
1:12:00.8 Jules Evans: Exactly right. Yeah. Like, this is what I think, but kind of, who knows.
1:12:06.4 Paul Austin: That’s a good position to hold. Jules Evans, thank you for joining us for the podcast. This has been, I think it lived up to our expectations. We’ve been talking about doing this for maybe a year, a year and a half now, and it’s the first time we’ve met face to face.
1:12:21.1 Jules Evans: Yeah.
1:12:21.1 Paul Austin: Although we’ve dropped messages here and there on Twitter or LinkedIn. But this was a phenomenal conversation, so thank you for showing up and dropping in.
1:12:28.6 Jules Evans: I really enjoyed it too. I didn’t look at the clock once.
1:12:32.1 Paul Austin: Yeah. Good. There we go. I love it. Okay. So you have a Substack. If people wanna learn more about your writing and go deeper into this, what, can you tell them about the Substack?
1:12:40.3 Jules Evans: Yeah, if they wanna find out about this research project, it’s challengingpsychedelicexperiences.com. At that website, they can find a link to the newsletter, which the Substack is called Ecstatic Integration. And yeah, I also write on Medium, but I think the best place just for our conversation is challengingpsychedelicexperiences.com.
1:13:06.3 Paul Austin: And we will link out to all of those in the show notes. So if you’re listening to this and you’re on the road, just head to the website, find the Jules Evans episode and a lot of the stuff that we mentioned today in the episode will be linked too. Thank you, Jules, for coming on. Thank you for the work that you are doing. Thank you for all the digging and diving and the journalism and the amplification of ecstatic states and the risks of all of this. I think you’re doing really good work, and it’s making an impactful difference in the overall psychedelic landscape.
1:13:37.8 Jules Evans: Thank you, Paul. Yeah, it was a real pleasure to meet you properly.
1:13:48.4 Paul Austin: Hey, folks, this conversation is bigger than just you or me, so please leave a review or comment so others can find the podcast. This small action matters way more than you can even imagine. You can also go deeper into this episode at thethirdwave.co/podcast, where you’ll find full show notes, transcripts, and all the links that were mentioned in this conversation. To get weekly updates from the leading edge of this Third Wave of psychedelics, sign up for our newsletter at thethirdwave.co/newsletter. You can also find us on Instagram at Third Wave is Here or subscribe to our YouTube channel at youtube.com/thethirdwave.