The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Will Psychedelics Destroy Your Morals?
This week we delve into philosophy and neo-nihilsim, as we’re joined by Peter Sjöstedt-H. We discuss how the psychedelic experience fits into his philosophical models, and how microdosing could contribute to modern transhumanism. We also learn about a Marvel character that is getting a new movie and TV franchise, and how Peter was involved!
Peter was a ‘straight-edge’ philosopher before any experiences with psychedelics. While teaching a ‘philosophy of religion’ course in London, he decided that the fabled ‘religious experience’ was something he needed first-hand knowledge of. He picked some magic mushrooms in a field and had his first encounter with the psychedelic.
This led Peter to investigate the link between psychedelics and philosophy – which he was surprised to find, had not been researched in great detail before. He found that many famous philosophers had used psychedelics, and perhaps most influentially, Plato himself.
Peter is now attempting to create a philosophical framework in which to explain the psychedelic experience. His greatest interest is panpsychism, which is the subject of his PhD studies. Pansychism is the concept that mind is intrinsic to existence – that is, everything is mind, nothing truly exists outside of consciousness. This concept is familiar to many psychonauts, who describe feeling the sentience of inanimate objects or the inherent life in all things.
Not many philosophers could say they’ve had a hand in the creation of a TV series… but Peter’s writings have influenced the upcoming big-screen revival of Karnak, a Marvel character. Peter’s essay on Neo-Nihilismwas read by Warren Ellis, novelist and screenwriter, and inspired Karnak’s reincarnation.
The basis of Peter’s Neo-Nihilism is the works of philosophers such as Nietzsche on the topic of morality. The basic idea is that there are no absolute morals, no good and evil, no ultimate duty or purpose.
Peter argues that modern morality is based on what Nietzsche called a “Slave Morality,” influenced by Roman culture, whereby we value characteristics such as meekness, compassion and humility. We take these concepts for granted as an absolute morality. Peter suggests that the psychedelic experience has the potential to strip away your values and show you the reality of morality – basically, that there is no true morality.
We briefly discuss transhumanism – the concept that humanity’s evolution is becoming accelerated by technology and substances – and its relation to microdosing. Peter believes that before microdosing can be accepted as a legitimate way to improve ourselves, we need to break down the acceptance of ‘Slave Morality’ and fight the stigmatization of substances.
Finally, Peter emphasises the need for caution with psychedelics. There is a risk associated with them, and we need to avoid promoting them as harmless miracle cures. There is potential dogmatism when it comes to psychedelics, and dogmatism is always unfounded. It’s up to individuals to think for themselves and overcome societal conditioning.
- Peter’s website
- Peter’s book, “Noumenautics,” on Psychedelic Press
- Peter’s facebook group, Ontologistics
- Peter’s twitter
- Sign up to Peter’s newsletter – the Hyperborean Bulletin
- Peter’s essay on Neo-Nihilism
- Peter’s article on the philosophers who took psychedelics
- Our interview with Danny Nemu: “Drugs in the Bible”
0:00:29 Paul Austin: Hey guys, welcome back to the show. We have Peter Sjostedt-H. And I needed to say that as soon as I could because I was mimicking another podcast because that Swedish name is very difficult. So, it’s Peter Sjostedt-H. And this is the 20th episode of the Third Wave Podcast. So first of all, I wanna thank all of you who have listened to every podcast, there are… Probably some of you have. I also wanna thank you, if this is the first podcast that you’ve listened to or the second or the third or the fourth or whatever number. It’s great to hear from you guys, it’s great to have you as listeners.
0:01:01 PA: It means a lot to me that people do spend the time and the energy and at least part of their attention on listening to this podcast. So I want to thank all of you. And what we’re gonna do with the podcast is because, this is episode number 20, I think it’s time to evolve. I think it’s time to look at what are the next steps, how can we change this, how can we make this better as a podcast. Right now, we’re working on a new podcast logo. The logo that I had before is passable, but ultimately not professional enough. If you’re a graphic designer or a logo designer, and you’d like to collaborate on that, if you like to help me create a new logo, please send us a message or send us an email.
0:01:41 PA: I would really appreciate that. So we’re working on a new logo, we’re also changing the format. Typically, for the last few episodes, five or six episodes, I’ve been doing “This Week in Psychedelics” at the end of the podcast. And I wanna start doing that at the beginning of the podcast because it gets people interested and excited in terms of current events and what’s been going on. And then we will lead into the interview after that.
0:02:04 PA: So for This Week in Psychedelics, we have a few cool things. So I did… The first thing is I did a microdosing seminar in Portland on April 3rd. We had about 275 people at the seminar. It was a great event, a really great turnout, a really enthusiastic crowd. We had such a good panel of people from various backgrounds. We had a musician, we had a Native American, we had couple Native Americans, we had someone as well from India who talked about the holistic nature, the idea of being connected not only to mushrooms as a plant, but also our nutrition. And we also had a woman who suffered from brain trauma and came up and bravely spoke about her experience with microdosing as well.
0:02:51 PA: So just a phenomenal panel, great questions all around, and that talk is on Facebook. It’s on the peers Facebook page will provide a link in the show notes without a problem. There’s a Facebook live video of my talk, so if you wanna see that, go and check it out. And I also posted it on my personal Facebook, if you guys wanna add me on personal Facebook as well, go ahead and do that. I’m trying to help spread the message anyway I can, and I consider all of you part of this community. So please go out and do that if you like, if you want, if not I’m perfectly okay as well.
0:03:27 PA: Moving on, some photos and videos for the microdosing event that I did, as I’ve mentioned now a couple of times, Psychedelic Science was almost two weeks ago now. And online there’s an organized list of all the Psychedelic Science presentation videos. So it’s a full organized list, and I’ll just read a little bit of what it says, “Thank you to MAPS, Beckley, all presenters and volunteers and everyone else involved.” It’s an exciting time for psychedelic research to make it easy to browse the talks according the schedule. I went through the PDF schedules for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and recreated the schedule with added video links.
0:03:54 PA: All talks are color coded for categorical browsing where relevant. This is on psychedelicwiki.org. Awesome, this is actually the first time I’ve seen this site as well, so I’m glad someone did this. We’ll provide a link to that. There are dozens and dozens of talks on so many cool things. And if you didn’t get a chance to attend the conference, or even if you did attend the conference, but you didn’t get a chance to go to all the talks, like this guy. I think I went to like three talks, Paul Stamets, Jim Federman, Fred Barret on psilocybin and meditation and the rebranding psychedelic. Four talks, yeah. So if you didn’t get a chance to see that many or if you didn’t get a chance to go all, go ahead and follow the hyper-link in the show notes and you can see those videos from the conference.
0:04:35 PA: Cool, good stuff. So what’s next on the list for This Week in Psychedelics? Problematic, which is a show on Comedy Central, is filming an episode on psychedelics and has asked for people with microdosing experience to contact them directly. Microdosing experience. So Problematic, this is the second time I’ve heard of the show because the first time I heard of it, it was on Twitter, when I saw something about MAPS being on it or Beckley or something. So basically, they’re looking for people who have microdosing experience as well as experience with a few other things related to psychedelics. So if you wanna be on a Comedy Central show about psychedelics, go ahead and you can check out that link.
0:05:13 PA: Last thing, there’s a survey on experiences with 5-MeO-DMT. We recently published our essential guide to 5-MeO-DMT and it’s doing quite well. A lot of people have become interested in 5-MeO-DMT. When I was at the Psychedelic Science Conference a couple weekends ago, I just kept hearing about this medicine of the toad and I’ve read the book by James Oroc, which is this Tryptamine Palace, 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Toad or whatever it is, and I should know the name of that book because I’ve read it and it’s a phenomenal book. So I’m just gonna Google that right now, maybe I actually had it right, “Tryptamine Palace 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad“. You know sometimes when you get high, you smoke some pot, some cannabis, and you’re like, “Ah man, my subconscious or my intuition or the universe knows more than I do.”
0:06:01 PA: So thank you, Universe. So, we’re getting back to the 5-MeO-DMT survey. We published this essential guide. We also spoke to Ashley Booth about a month ago on our podcast, and we heard about her experience with 5-MeO-DMT. So if you’re interested, and I would recommend listening to that podcast as well if you have not yet. So the 5-MeO-DMT survey, but it’s from researchers working at Bowling Green State University who are working on a project regarding the experiences of people who have tried 5-MeO-DMT. They’ll ask about your attitudes and beliefs about your experience with the substance, including the short-term and long-term effects, as well as beliefs about your outcome of the experience. They will also ask you questions about your demographic characteristics such as your age, your gender, ethnicity. And for every person, a little extra motivation here, for every person who involves themself in the survey, volunteers to take the survey, the researchers will donate $2 per participant to MAPS. So that’s a little extra incentive.
0:07:00 PA: So, photos and videos from the microdosing event in Portland, an organized list of psychedelic science presentation videos, Problematic is looking for people, and a survey on experiences with 5-MeO-DMT. Exciting stuff all around. One other thing, I mentioned earlier that we’re going to start changing the format of the podcast. We’re going to start answering questions on the podcast, so if you have questions that you would like me to answer about microdosing, about psychedelics, about culture, about community, about anything you want really, but try to keep it around psychedelics for the most part, I will answer them. And we’ll answer three questions per show and we’re going to do questions at the end of each show. So we will have This Week in Psychedelics at the beginning and then the questions at the end. So send in your questions and I’ll be happy to answer them.
0:07:45 PA: So as I mentioned already, we are joined by Peter Sjöstedt-H and with him we delve into philosophy and Neo-Nihilism. We discuss how the psychedelic experience fits into Peter’s philosophical models and how microdosing could contribute to modern trans-humanism. We also learned about a Marvel character that is starring in a new movie and TV franchise, and how Peter was involved. This is going to be an exciting… Well, I don’t know, honestly, if I would describe his podcast as exciting necessarily, but it’s going to be thorough, it’s going to be informative, it’s going to make you think and ask questions. And ultimately, I hope it maybe has you question some of your own thoughts or some of your own belief systems. I think every good philosopher does that. Absolutely. And I think Peter is a phenomenal philosopher. So, yeah, that’s a good way to end. I’ll see you guys after the show. Wait, before we go, just a quick thing. We updated the gifts for our Patreon campaign, if you haven’t and if you’re willing, we would appreciate your contributions to the Patreon campaign. And leave us a review on iTunes if you enjoyed this podcast. Thank you. That’s it. Now, for the podcast.
0:09:15 PA: So what interested you in psychedelics? How did you become interested in them? And how does that then correlate or integrate with your curiosity about philosophy?
0:09:27 Peter Sjöstedt-H: Okay, well, I studied philosophy as an undergraduate then and I was really drawn to some thinkers like Nietzsche, later Schopenhauer, Bergson and so on. But I always had a very strong interest in the philosophy of mind, which sort of overlaps with psychology, I suppose, and neuroscience and on so on. I studied that and then I got a job in London teaching A-level philosophy in a college there. And the college roped me into teaching philosophy of religion as well, or theology, which wasn’t really my field but I thought, “Okay, why not?” So I started teaching that and part of that was teaching arguments for the existence of God and sort of a metaphysical realm, cosmological, ontological, teleological arguments and so on. And these were all… There are a lot of arguments against these arguments, but there was one reason for believing in the metaphysical, and that as the argument from religious experience. In other words, some people have had what they think to be an experience of God or the afterlife, or something like this, and that sort of trumps everything else.
0:10:26 PS: So I was intrigued by this and I started reading Williams James on the varieties of religious experience related to that. And then interestingly, in James, he writes about how alcohol is the first step of the mystical consciousness. After that, he talks about ether, nitrous oxide, and other substances. So this got me thinking that in order to understand this aspect of theology, philosophy of religion, maybe it would be very useful to try these, some chemicals such as these. Anyway, that was in the back of my mind, and one holiday, I returned to Cornwall from London. I was teaching in London, and my brother and I came across this field of what he told me were magic mushrooms. And I thought, “Okay, interesting.” So I picked about a hundred of them, it was a very lucky year. I’ve realized afterwards. And took them back and I looked on the internet to discover if they were poisonous or whatever, whatever. Or if they were the right type of mushroom, and they were. They’re quite distinctive, these liberty caps.
0:11:18 PS: I tried them then I took them back to London and then I tried a small dose. I went to see a film, which I thought was amazing in the cinema, in 3D and so on. Realized at that stage it wasn’t actually in 3D, and that was a mild dose. And then a week later, I took a heavy dose of psilocybin mushrooms. And that changed my world because at the very least it showed me the power of the human mind. Now this is something you can’t really study, even if you’re deep into psychology or philosophy of mind or whatever. You don’t really know how amazing the mind, how powerful the mind can be. To see these unbelievably sublime and beautiful spacecrafts which you can flow into and you see it… Well, I saw it at least in exquisite detail, as detailed as the desk in front of me now, just sort of changes… Well, it changed me and it obviously changed a lot of people.
0:12:09 PS: So after that I started looking into the literature, philosophical literature on it and then I realized there wasn’t much. There’s some, like I said, William James, Aldous Huxley and so on, but not much at all. And Leni Gibson, who’s from the ’70s and was doing that. But relatively speaking, there was very little, so I thought, “Okay, I’ll write something about it.” And one of the things I wrote, which probably the most popular thing I wrote, was this psychedelic influence on philosophy, which very basically a list of philosophers who probably took or definitely took psychoactive drugs.
0:12:41 PA: Well, let’s get a little bit into that because as some of these listeners know, we had these things called the Eleusinian Mysteries, where they use this beverage, the Kykeon beverage, which Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD, assumes was made from the ergot fungus because The Mysteries were held in fields that were very close to where certain crops were grown, where we would have the ergot fungus. And for that reason we know… At least we assume that philosophers like Plato took part in these Mysteries as well as various other thinkers and intellectuals. What impact do you think that those experiences have had on Western philosophy, on our mode of thought, if that assumption is true that the foremost thinker, Plato, was involved in these Mysteries?
0:13:27 PS: Of course it’s hard to prove anything when you go back two and half thousand years. But I think it’s more likely than not that Plato did take some kind of psychoactive brew, Kykeon as you say. One infers that the Kykeon was psychoactive because of what we today call trip reports from these Mysteries. As I say in that essay, the philosopher Whitehead, who I mostly study today, he’s famous for saying that all of Western philosophy is but a series of footnotes to Plato. And when you look at Plato… When you look at his argument… He’s mostly famous for his arguments for dualism, that the soul and the body are distinct, and for the Theory of Forms which is that there exists this eternal timeless realm of ideals. Those ideas were introduced in a book called The Fido, On The Soul. And in that book, he talks about visiting the Mysteries… The Mystery festivals, and he says he had this sublime beautiful visions and he wanted to be known as a mystic.
0:14:20 PS: And after that, he talks about his theory for dualism which he apparently saw in his mystery visions. So one… It’s conjecture. It’s certainly not… There’s no proof. You can’t talk about proof here. But certainly it’s feasible that some kind of psychoactive substance influenced Plato’s idea of dualism in the Forms. And of course that has been highly influential. Plato… People say that Christianity today is really a mixture of Plato and the Bible, especially in terms of his dualism. So if it’s correct that he had these, what we today called psychedelic experiences, if that is correct then we can not only attribute the origin of Western philosophy to that, to a certain extent, but also Western religion, Christianity. So I think that psychedelics probably have played a much larger role in forming our culture than most people realize. The interesting thing about psychedelics is they are so radically alien, the experiences they can give you at a high dose at least, are so radically alien that it’s very hard to classify what’s going on.
0:15:22 PS: You can’t… It’s very hard to reduce it to anything else that you’re familiar with and thus very hard to explain it. And that’s why I think it’s so important now to apply a logical analysis and scientific analysis to these questions. So I don’t know what’s going on, really. But I have some hypotheses. So, for example, my last article in the Psychedelic Press was about a Whiteheadian interpretation of psychedelic experience. So, Whitehead, he believes there exists these Platonic forms, he calls them eternal objects. And I’m speculating that when one takes psychedelics, one can gain more of an access to these eternal forms. So alien forms of experience that we would not normally as humans experience in this age or any organism in this age would experience. So it gives us sort of tastes of potential types of qualia, or experience, which is just not practical for us, we don’t need them at the moment. But nonetheless, they exist there in this temporal eternal sense. And so that’s why it’s so fascinating.
0:16:20 PS: And that’s why William James calls these experiences ineffable because… I remember I had these very powerful emotions on psilocybin. And I remember thinking at the time… I don’t know if thinking is the right word. But I remember that I felt that I’ve never had these emotions before in my life, and I’ve never had them since in that particular way. I can’t even remember what they were. I think that’s partly because they’re so alien and as a result there exist no words for these emotions. But nonetheless, that there were emotions there completely different from fear or happiness or curiosity or any of the familiar feelings. So one can apply Whitehead to that because all of the potential forms of experience sort of already exist in this transcendent realm of eternal objects. That’s one sense in which I have applied Whitehead’s philosophy. But I think there’s so much more to explore. This is a very young science, isn’t it? It’s a very young Wissenschaft, where we’re all pioneers here in this new world.
0:17:17 PA: That’s part of what makes it so interesting. And we know that humans have been experiencing these altered states of consciousness, whether with psychedelics or other means fasting, trance states, dancing.
0:17:29 PS: Breath work.
0:17:29 PA: For thousands… Breath work. For thousands and thousands of years, yet we haven’t had the tools to really understand all aspects of what’s going on, both the “spiritual aspects,” but also the… Now the scientific aspects with neuroimaging studies and… And is that what your objective is? Is that what you’re trying to understand or “accomplish,” if even that’s possible, is to create a model in which we can understand psychedelics from a philosophical perspective?
0:18:01 PS: I suppose, yeah, partly. I’m generally trying to create a general metaphysical system incorporating Whitehead, Bergson, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and others. This is like a lifetime’s… My lifetime’s aim I suppose. And psychedelics certainly will feature within that. So hopefully within that system I hope that an explanation of psychedelics could occur. But I’m not saying it definitely will. It might be the case that we’re just not ready yet for such an explanation. Maybe humans are simply not the right species to understand these experiences. So, for example, if we assume an octopus can feel hunger, just because it can feel it doesn’t mean it can explain hunger. Humans have hunger as well. We can explain it better in terms of digestion and physiology of our bodies. But we might have experiences like an octopus does and we may simply not be the right… It just might be impossible to ever understand it.
0:18:53 PS: Or maybe we’ll understand it in a few hundred years when we have a number of other tools which we can’t even imagine yet in order to explain things. We know that we don’t know everything because… Not only in terms of psychedelics but the theory to relativity and quantum physics, for example, are famously incompatible. So we know that there must be a theory which will encompass both of those harmoniously. And we know that even if that happens, physics cannot explain… Contrary to what a lot of people believe, but I certainly think that for logical reasons physics cannot explain consciousness. So we need then a higher theory than even that. And this is gonna take really… We’re talking hundreds of years. So although I’m hopeful, I certainly don’t expect an explanation soon.
0:19:35 PA: What has developed so far? Based on the work you’ve done in the past five to ten years, specific to psychedelics and philosophy, what have you developed in terms of your understanding of this experience? If you could just give an overview of that, if that’s even possible. And where do you see it continuing to develop? Where do you see your work going in the next five years or ten years, something like that?
0:19:58 PS: Well, I’ll give you one aspect of it. So at the moment, I’m studying a PhD in Exeter University on panpsychism. Panpsychism is the view that mind, sentience, is not merely a product of a brain or a complex physiology, but mind is inherent in everything. It’s intrinsic to all organisms, including plants, but also including molecules, atoms, and so on. Most people think that’s completely nuts and crazy. But when you look at the logic, it’s actually… It’s probably right. Whitehead believed it, many great thinkers have believed it in the past. All the Renaissance thinkers believed… Many Renaissance thinkers believed it, like Bruno I mean he was burned to the stake by the Roman inquisition 1600 because of beliefs such as that. So anyways, so I’m working on this view that the mind is universal. And I think that can offer a good peek into the certain psychedelic experiences. So a number of people, a number of trippers say that under the influence they sort of feel they become what they see in a way. They look at a plant. I mean Aldous Huxley sort of spoke about the table, bamboo legs, but other people have spoken about sort of looking at the plant, becoming that plant, feeling what the plant feels.
0:21:10 PS: Now of course, most people say, “Well, that’s part of the hallucination of it.” But if panpsychism is correct and if plants do actually have a form of sentience, not consciousness, not a sort of thinking about what they did last weekend, but as a basic subjectivity, like analogous to our subconscious perhaps. If it’s the case that panpsychism is true, perhaps psychedelics offer a sort of breakdown of our separation between us as subjects and the outside as objects, creating a so-called, what Whitehead calls, a vectorization. So sort of overlapping of the subject and object. If that is the case, and this is radical metaphysics, of course from Whitehead, if that’s the case, then such experiences when the psychedelic compounds break down the normal functioning of a person’s physiology, then could explain those experiences, not as hallucinations but as actually something much more real than what we normally do perceive because, of course, our common normal experiences evolve to be practical. So we’ve cut out what’s unnecessary, generally speaking.
0:22:09 PS: So I think generally as Huxley said… And he was using Bergson, and Bergson and Whitehead are very similar in these respects. Psychedelics probably offer a sort of less limited perception of reality, and we must realize that our normal perception of reality is a hallucination in the sense that it’s limitation, it’s a very restricted form of consciousness. And it’s something, again William James wrote. So I think, certainly, yeah, panpsychism can explain parts of the psychedelic experience, but not everything.
0:22:37 PA: Remind me because I had talked to Roz before this and she had mentioned an essay that you wrote or a book that you wrote was influential in helping to develop a character in an upcoming film, Karnak, I believe.
0:22:51 PS: Yes.
0:22:51 PA: Is that correct? Can you talk a little bit about that?
0:22:53 PS: Yeah, sure. Okay. So at college, when I was teaching there, I said I taught philosophy and religion. I also taught Nietzsche’s book, Beyond Good and Evil, for six years. A book written in 1886 by Friedrich Nietzsche, who, if your listeners don’t know, is a German philosopher, lived from 1844-1900, a huge critic of Western culture, especially Christianity. Anyway, I was teaching this, and I sort of was getting into writing style then at the time as an art form. I always considered writing to be just a method of transmitting information. But with Nietzsche and other writers, like Schopenhauer, I realized that… And George Orwell, realized that no it really is an art form even in philosophy not just in novels and literature. So I thought, “Okay, I’m just gonna write this essay combining Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Hume really, called Neo-Nihilism.” It’s a chapter now in my book, Noumenautics. But I thought I’d write this just to extract the essence of this nihilism, this sort of anti-moralism, predominantly Nietzsche. And so I wrote it, but I also thought I’m gonna experiment in a new style, sort of hyperbole, a very harsh style, a powerful style, which is not the way I normally talk or write, but as I say, it’s partly an art form, although I believe that what’s in there is truth.
0:24:07 PS: So it’s sort of a mixture between art and truth. Anyway, so I wrote this thing and then I left it. And a few months later, this guy comes up to me and asks me if I know how to create e-books for sale on Amazon. I said, “I don’t, but I’ll look into it”. So I looked into it for him and I thought, “Okay, I’ve got this essay put that on Amazon,” and just to see how ebooks work, put it on there, worked it out. Then the essay, Neo-Nihilism, started selling a bit. And then one day, suddenly there was a huge sales spike, 150 sales in one day or something like that. I was just flabbergasted. I had no idea why this happened. And I found out a week later that a guy called Warren Ellis, who I subsequently found out was a very famous and well-respected comic book writer and also a writer of books and films, Iron Man 3, he had read and reviewed the book on his newsletter, he’s massive on social media, and that got me a sales spike. So I thanked him for it. We got in touch and his review was very nice, short but to the point, and it helped me out. And then after that, Marvel tasked Warren Ellis with recreating an old marvel character called Karnak. I think Stan Lee created him in the 1960s. He was part of a family called the inhuman, something like the Avengers.
0:25:18 PS: And Warren Ellis then recreated him and he wrote that he was inspired by a New York philosopher called Eugene Thacker and myself, primarily, with Karnak’s recreation. And so yeah, and then the comic book series came out, Karnak, last year. And the trade paperback has just come out, the six comics in one, which bears his name. It’s really… I don’t know much about comics, but I must say I’m quite pleased with this one ’cause he’s a very cool philosopher superhero. His superpower is that he can find the flaw in all things, in structures, but in philosophies as well. And now Marvel have teamed up with ABC and IMAX cinemas to create a new kind of movie TV show hybrid. So there’ll be a sort of show, a series. The first two episodes will be movies in the IMAX cinemas, and the rest I believe will be just like normal TV show episodes. So sort of an experimental idea, I suppose. And the Inhumans, one of the five or so Inhumans is Karnak. So I’m hoping for red carpet treatment for that one.
0:26:23 PA: That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
0:26:24 PS: The weird thing about all of this is it was absolutely unexpected. How could ever expect a text one writes would do something like that, but that’s life.
0:26:33 PA: In what way did your philosophy, in what way did your writing influence this character Karnak?
0:26:38 PS: That’s the question really you should ask Warren Ellis more than myself. There are hints within the work, like for example, one of the buildings, top of one of buildings there’s Noumenon, my book’s called Noumenautics. You know, partly based on Kant. Little things like that, but also just the fact that my essay is highly critical of the belief systems of the West, really actually everyone, in a logical manner, concise manner, and this is a manner which Karnak takes up within the storyline of the comic, it seems. But actually, what I really wanna do when I have time is go through the six comics, or the book, in detail and offer a philosophical analysis of it based on my work and Thacker’s work, and others, but I haven’t got time.
0:27:24 PA: Have you looked over the comic book, or read through the paperback, or anything like that?
0:27:29 PS: Oh yeah, I read the comics and so on. And like I say, it’s a general skepticism of all things, and also just the sort of… Neo-Nihilism was written in this, like I say hyperbole, this very harsh style, and it’s sort of the same way that Karnak speaks in the comic, a very similar harsh, critical style, but like I say, I might be reading too much into it. The best person to ask would be the author, Warren Ellis. In fact, Warren Ellis interviewed me about writing style recently, and I’m going to interview him, so I’ll actually ask him this question, you know. In what precise ways did Neo-Nihilism influence Karnak? I’ll ask him that.
0:28:07 PA: And what is, what is Neo-Nihilism anyway?
0:28:09 PS: Neo-Nihilism, it’s a fusion, like I said, of David Hume’s work, Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s work on morality. So ultimately, it’s the view that… It’s not new, the originality in it is the combination and the presentation of it. But it’s the view that there exist no absolute morals and that any statement which says it’s our duty to do this or that, or one should not, one ought not to this or one ought to do that, all such statements can never be logically substantiated. And ultimately, this means that they are subconsciously, mostly subconsciously, imperatives of power rather than truthful, ethical statements.
0:28:50 PS: A lot of this is derived from Nietzsche’s work, later work really, from Beyond Good and Evil. Like I said, I taught that for six years, and also the Genealogy parts of his [unclear speech] notebooks, and other works. What I think attracts a lot of 20 year old men to Nietzsche is that he questions so many cultural axioms that one holds without question. One isn’t even conscious that one can question these things, and what Nietzsche brings to the fore is how much Christianity has influenced our modes of thinking in the West. Even when one says one is not a Christian, even when one says one is an atheist. I mean Richard Dawkins, for example, the sort of arch-atheist of out time, compared to Nietzsche, he’s a archbishop, he’s very Christian in his thinking. So Nietzsche, in some senses, like a psychedelic drug, he takes you outside of your society, outside of your culture, and makes you look back at it in shock, from a completely new perspective really.
0:29:46 PS: And that shock is what I try to encapsulate within that essay which inspired that Marvel superhero. And there’s a Nobel-Prize-winning author called Octavio Paz, who’s Nietzschean in a sense. And he sort of combines, not in much detail, but it’s very interesting, he combines Nietzsche with a psychedelic experience, and says that psychedelic experiences take you outside of your comfort zone, outside of your culture, your social norms, your history, and so on. Well, they can do that. And they make you question everything, and that they make many customs seem completely absurd. I remember one guy once at a conference, Breaking Conventions conference 2013, said he was on LSD and he went into a supermarket and saw a policeman with a badge on, just the badge was just so hilarious to him. It’s this symbol of authority within this little sort of animal unit. So psychedelics can certainly do that. And Nietzsche, in his own way, does the same thing, but not just with social norms such as the police or the judiciary, or whatever, but with ingrained norms of morality.
0:30:50 PA: And what are some of those ingrained norms of morality that would, for example, like you mentioned, influence Richard Dawkins to be comparatively an archbishop to Nietzsche?
0:31:00 PS: Okay, well, Nietzsche is quite well known for distinguishing what he calls master morality from slave morality. So the argument is something like this: The Romans, for example, Spartans and other cultures had what he calls a master morality. So, what’s valued in those moralities are things such as strength, honor, courage, valor, and so on. And what’s dis-valued are things like weakness, mediocrity, even things like compassion. Plato didn’t value compassion. For Aristotle, if you read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the crown of his virtues was pride, which of course in Christianity became one of the deadly sins. So there have been different moralities on earth. What happened historically from Nietzsche’s narrative is this, the slaves of the Romans, they inverted the Roman morality, the Roman master morality, into a slave morality, so they’re contrary values. What were Roman vices became virtues for these slaves. Things like humility, weakness, meekness, and this was ultimately formalized as Christianity, “Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth,” and so on. And Nietzsche points out that this was just one morality, which was at the time then the Romans, of course, trying to kill the Christians and tried to put down this, what at the time was a cult. But of course, as we know, the Christians were victorious.
0:32:16 PS: Now the Christians became so powerful that their one type of morality had a profound influence upon the West as we know it today. So that one type of morality, which was originally Christianity. Of course, you get that kind of morality in other cultures as well. But here in the West that slave morality, as he calls it, was epitomized by Christianity. That became so powerful that it equated the word morality with its morality. And now, Nietzsche’s argument is that we’ve reached this stage where we just assume that morality is that form of morality and all other forms of morality are wrong. So we’ve progressed from these other forms. So, what makes Dawkins, for example, a Christian compared to Nietzsche is this, that Dawkins will ask a question like, “What makes a question moral?” and then he’ll look at the evolution of that and perhaps, you know, brain scans.
0:33:03 PS: But, of course, he’s assuming here what morality means already, and he’s assuming a slave morality as a morality. And that’s what Nietzsche means by when he says that people just take this as a norm without questioning it. Now, whether Nietzsche is right or not about this narrative, at the very least it makes you question what was before, at least for me, and certainly for other people. Makes you question what before was not questioned. And in this sense, I think he’s quite emancipating. And some people like Octavio Paz, Ernst Junger and other thinkers have seen a real compatibility between the psychedelic experience and Nietzsche’s philosophy generally. And, of course, interestingly, I recently wrote an essay, again, it’s chapter in Noumenautics, but it was published in HighExistence as well, on Nietzsche’s use of drugs. So, Nietzsche was a drug fiend really. He used a lot of opium, chloral hydrates, possibly a cocaine mixture towards the end of his life. And also, he said that he was inspired in this mystical manner. So, again, another… If that is the case, then there’s another example of how psychedelics have influenced Western thought.
0:34:12 PA: What do you see in terms of that relationship where we have some of these thinkers who go, “Oh yeah, I’ve taken psychedelics and I’m not left-leaning,” do have these more underlying kind of thoughts that are more in tune with like what Nietzsche talks about with this idea of a master morality?
0:34:28 PS: Yeah. I think it’s an interesting historical thing that occurred because, of course, as you imply, most people within what you could call I suppose a psychedelic community are left-leaning. I don’t know if left leading, I don’t really like the words left and right-leaning because they can mean very different things again. You could be right-wing, you could be a right wing creationist and you could be a right-wing fascist. They’re not necessarily the same things at all. But, generally speaking, this sort of ’60s generation who were into psychedelics were, you know, had sort of Marxist sympathies. This is a part of the age with the cold war and so on, I suppose, and the anti-capitalist feeling. And so many arguments have been made that when you take psychedelics, you gain this new political stance. But if you look at some of the original thinkers and some of the greater thinkers in psychedelia, this needn’t be the case. It’s not always the case that these chemicals lead to that political perspective.
0:35:19 PS: So, for example, Ernst Junger. Heidegger called Ernst Junger the true continuer of Nietzsche. In Albert Hoffman’s book. Albert Hofmann, of course, was the creator of LSD. In his book, LSD: My Problem Child, one whole chapter is devoted to Ernst Junger, who was a dear friend of Hoffman’s and inspired his outlook very much. Albert Hofmann himself was a self-claimed center right thinker. So, Ernst Junger, he was a decorated war hero in the first world war for Germany. He was a captain, a Nazi captain, in the Second World War, although he wasn’t keen on Hitler. In fact, he was implicated in the assassination attempt on Hitler. Could be because Junger thought Hitler was a bit too left-wing. But Junger, he was the guy who coined the term psychonaut, comes from a book of his from 1970. And he believed that psychedelics should not be distributed to the masses. He thinks that would be dangerous. He thinks psychedelics should only really be given to the few. And he always retained his, what we’d call right-wing beliefs, and he was a heavy psychonaut, one of the first real analyzers of the psychedelic experience.
0:36:32 PS: So, psychedelics certainly did influence his thoughts and his thought actually influenced Albert Hofmann who had big influence over people after that. Octavio Paz, I mentioned as well. Nobel Laureate. He believed that Western morality is unwholesome, it’s a real divider of man, divides the world, and he says, I’ve got the quote here actually. He says, “Psychedelic drugs are nihilistic. They undermine all values and radically overturn all our ideas about good and evil, what is just and what is unjust, what is permitted and what is forbidden.” So, of course, these two are the exception to the rule, but nonetheless, I think that if you really think that psychedelics can free you from social constraints, then at the very least they would make you question the morality in which you’ve been brought up, at the very least question it even if at the end you might come back to it.
0:37:18 PA: And I think a part of that morality which is what I wanted to kinda follow up with the second question is this concept in our morality that drugs are bad. It’s this concept that there is shame and guilt around drug use at least drugs that don’t play into maybe this “slave morality.” What’s your understanding of that relationship between this master morality and the slave morality, between pride and virtue and meekness and humbleness, and our society’s understanding of psychedelics and why they might be a taboo in that way?
0:37:51 PS: Well, the first thing one can say is that Christianity, which as I say, for Nietzsche is the epitome of slave morality, seems to, except for alcohol, seems to have always been against psychoactive drugs. Look at the Spanish conquistadors, the Catholics that came to South America and tried to forbid the use of their hallucinogens, their psychedelics. Why? Because they wanted a monopoly on spiritual experiences. I don’t think this is to do so much with slave morality. That slave morality became a huge power structure, of course, the Catholic church still is a huge power structure, but more influential in South America than it is in Europe now. But nonetheless, it’s there. And part of that power then is being a sort of mediator between the practical world, the everyday world, and the spiritual world.
0:38:40 PS: So, any competition to that, I think, would be heavily punished by them. I can see why that would have happened in terms of power structures. Possibly as well there witch trials was related to that, if one believes that there was actually a psychedelic element in witchcraft and medieval times, which is very debatable, but it’s possible. So, there’s the general Christian opposition to spiritual drugs, let’s say. By spiritual, I mean at least ostensibly spiritual, at least they make people… It seem as if things are spiritual, even if they’re not. So, of course, this was then this general Christian prohibition against the psychoactive drugs except for alcohol. It was then became ingrained within the Western culture. I suppose it flares up sometimes when you think about Nixon’s war on drugs and so on, although there are racist elements to that as well, of course.
0:39:26 PS: Okay, so someone who reads Nietzsche and realizes the limitations that Western morality places upon people, someone who reads that and frees themself therefore, or at least begins the emancipation from Western morality, will suddenly realize that if there is no such thing as good and evil, as Nietzsche says, then of course taking certain drugs can’t be evil in any sense. And that certainly frees one up in terms of at the very least not feeling guilt for taking them. So, I think, yeah, you could certainly use Nietzsche in this sense. He’s a great freer.
0:40:00 PS: He is the great leader of… Well, this is almost an oxymoron, but leader, I was gonna say leader of the free spirits, but he inspires one to become free, to take risks. He says one thing is needful, that one live dangerously. So, even if psychedelics did have dangerous side effects, which I don’t believe they have, relatively speaking, one would still take them to experience these heights of the mind. And like I said, Nietzsche himself certainly experienced that with opium. There are documentation, letters and whatever, him taking huge doses of opium and chloral hydrate and other things. So I think he’s a great freer. And I think there’s also now link to Nietzsche, I think, trans-humanism, if you’ve heard of that, and microdosing.
0:40:39 PA: Well, let’s get into that because we had discussed that. What is that relationship between Nietzsche’s thought because that was going to be a kind of a follow-up question that I have is, we’re discussing this idea of Nietzsche, this idea of going beyond good and evil and just from a personal experience, I got into Nietzsche as a result of doing psychedelics. I started reading…
0:40:57 PS: Oh really. That’s interesting.
0:41:00 PA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had my first psychedelic experience, when I was 19, at the end of my sophomore year in college. And within three to four months I was reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, Gay Science. And really, psychedelics were this unraveling of what you were talking about. This unraveling of all of these subconscious assumptions of morality that I had made and that had been indoctrinated into me, and I started to unravel those with the psychedelic experience, and that led me into Nietzsche.
0:41:30 PS: I see. That’s interesting, that’s almost like the opposite route I took for… It worked both… Same result almost.
0:41:35 PA: Yeah. And so what I wanna ask about that is from your perspective, and this kinda gets into the trans-humanist and microdosing aspect, which I wanna transition into, is what are those implications for then creating a “better” world in which we live, which is of course an argument in itself, what that means. But what does that mean for, I guess, reducing suffering for those who we have relationships with family and friends, in terms of overturning the slave morality, in terms of overturning this idea of meekness and humbleness and embracing some of these more Nietzschean type of ethics in our everyday life and… First unpack that and then we can see where that leads into trans-humanism because I think trans-humanism could lead possibly to a “better” community or world depending on how we use the tool.
0:42:22 PS: So yeah, microdosing, very interesting phenomenon, which is becoming very popular now, as you know. It’s, for those listeners who don’t know, it’s just taking very small doses of a psychedelic which is supposed to boost your productivity and your joy in life and so on. Now, immediately then of course you can say that if that where… I think, I don’t know, you tell me, but I think there’s… There are not that many studies into its effectiveness at the moment and it effects different people in different ways. I don’t really know. Let’s assume that it works in this sense. And of course, immediately, not thinking that there’s such a thing as absolute evil will stop any guilt from people using it, which can of course increase their joy in life, number one.
0:43:00 PS: Secondly, I want… Trans-humanism then is a relatively new movement. It’s the move to increase or to overcome humanity or rather to create a “better” form humans. Post-humanism is a view that there would be a new species really or at least that’s one form post-humanism, analogous to Nietzsche’s over man. There different interpretations of that as you know, it’s mostly written about in Zarathustra. But he says, “Man is a bridge between ape and Superman or over man.” Sort of implying it’s a new species, but that’s very debatable. But anyway, part of trans-humanism then says that… Well, a prime part of it says that we should use technology to increase our… Ultimately, our power, the way we deal with our environment and so on, and deal with each other.
0:43:51 PS: So don’t take power in a negative way. Our development, our advance, our evolution. Trans-humanism, that’s its raison d’etre, its reason for being really. Part of that is the use of Nootropics or smart drugs. So there’s, for example, a Swedish philosopher called Anders Sandberg who is very pro-smart drug, Nootropic. He says he uses modafinil, for example, and he says, that students, academics rather, should use smart drugs if it gets some better grades because if you’re… For example, if you’re working on a treatment for cancer, better that those researchers have a sort of enhanced cognition than that they don’t. A lot of people are against it. I heard that the Chess Federation I’ve recently banned a modafinil cause it… They’ve now proved that it makes players 15% better or something like this.
0:44:37 PA: And I think microdosing is even… Has way more potential than some of these more traditional Nootropics that we’ve been exposed to in the past, but continue, I just wanted to add that.
0:44:46 PS: Well, I was gonna ask you about that actually. Yeah, because I was gonna say, do you see microdosing as just one more Nootropic or do you see it as an enhanced version? Obviously, the latter then. Okay, so interesting then. So if then, microdosing is a super Nootropic, or if it could be, what would that mean to trans-humanism? Well, it could affect society in ways completely adverse to the original stance of the first wave of psychedelia. So for example, the American Air Force, they use modafinil, the pilots use it. If they discover that microdosing with LSD is much more effective in terms of their military operations, you might see LSD is quite…
0:45:28 PS: The military already did experiments with LSD, in the 50s 60s. One wonders whether there might be a new experimentation with microdosing now because I think in the original military experiments with psychedelics, they always took the macro-dose. I remember seeing videos of these soldiers falling down in a forest and laughing. So, imagine then that the military start using LSD or mescaline or psilocybin, whilst dropping bombs and whatever. What a radical departure from psychedelics that might be. It could happen, of course. Also, as you know, Silicon Valley is known now for microdosing a lot to make… Increases their productivity and even that has moved away from the original 60s sort of more communist thinking mode of thought or the more Communist… Even that way of using psychedelics is very far removed from the old 60s communist way of thinking because, of course, it aids the capitalist system, the better productivity of a company. Coming back now a bit more into trans-humanism, per se, and Nietzsche.
0:46:26 PS: There’s a guy called… One of the first English commentators on Nietzsche was called AR Orage, and in one of his books, Consciousness, he says that the over man, Nietzsche’s over man, would really need new forms of cognition completely, new forms of like akin to the mystical insight. So, one thinks then, okay, so a micro-dose could certainly help humans become more powerful and a macro-dose could offer people new insights into reality. So eventually, you’d get what I now call, there’s a potential of gaining this state of being a psychedelic Superman.
0:47:00 PA: And so, my follow-up question to that then, is what does that mean, from a practical perspective, in overturning the slave morality that has dictated Western culture for the past 1700 years?
0:47:12 PS: I don’t know if it, per se, would overturn that slave morality. I think there almost has to be a sort of a inverse direction that slave morality must, first of all, should be overturned, so that such… A sort of move in evolution through psychedelics could happen. It’s interesting, CD Broad spoke about this. CD Broad was a great Oxford philosopher that Aldous Huxley quoted on Bergson in the Thoughts of Perception. CD Broad writes that now, with increasing technology and so on, there are all these amazing potentials to overcome disease for humans, and to increase our age, and our strength, and our intelligence, and so on. But then, he says, but there are so many forces acting against that potential. He, himself, CD Broad, points out the Christian church as being always against such moves. And of course, again, the Christian church then is the epitome of the slave morality. So, you could find, in the future, that there’ll be some kind of church maneuvers against trans-humanism, and microdosing, and so on, but who knows? It’s completely unpredictable, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened.
0:48:18 PA: We could even, maybe, go with the assumption that it already is happening. That the prohibition of psychedelic substance is indicative of the slave morality that has been pervasive in Western government, in terms of prohibiting these substances for so long, because as you wrote about in, I believe, 382 AD, the Roman emperor at the time, whose name is escaping me, but I read this in your article this morning.
0:48:40 PS: Theodosius.
0:48:41 PA: Yeah. He basically put the kaput on the Eleusinian Mysteries, and of course, with all of the witchcraft trials, the Salem witchcraft trials, but also what went on in the Middle Ages with the Albigensian crusades, and how they were eliminated, how the Gnostics were eliminated, and there’s been always this repression.
0:49:00 PS: The conquest of Americas as I say. Yeah.
0:49:00 PA: Correct. Yeah. There’s always been this repression of consciousness of this direct experience with God, because, as you mentioned, the church needs to mediate this so that it can maintain power structures in terms of…
0:49:11 PS: That’s partly… With the Protestant reformation in Christianity, one of the reasons it was so ghastly to the Catholics was because there’s this movement to translate the Bible into the native languages: English, German, or whatever. And the Catholic church always wanted it to be in Latin, so that only educated priests and bishops could read it. Thereby, again, being a necessary conduit to the spiritual. So, the reformation in way is a move away from that monopoly that the church tried to maintain on, broadly speaking, spirituality. So, certainly, yeah. No, I do think that if there is a way of getting direct insight into the metaphysical, then the church will be against that. You know it does. If you go to church, at least for that reason, for a spiritual reason, as one would expect would be the case. Then, yeah, there’s massive opposition to it. I don’t hear that so much in England, this moral opposition to drugs, psychedelic drugs. It’s usually put in terms of health here.
0:50:06 PA: Sure.
0:50:07 PS: And then, the false belief that they’re very dangerous for one’s health. But I think in America, correct me if I’m wrong, there’s more of a moral argument against it, and that inherently, one just shouldn’t take it, it’s a bad thing to do, without any substantiation. But because, and I imagine if that’s the case, that’s because, of course, the church in America is much more pervasive than it is here. England, really, is a de facto secular country, even though the Church of England is a state institution, no one really believes it anymore. No one… Only a few people go to church. They’re losing money, and going bankrupt, and so on. Won’t last long, I don’t think.
0:50:40 PA: Well, and it’s like what you talked about with the printing press in the mid-15th century, which catalyzed the protestant reformation. We’ve had a very similar invention lately, it’s called the internet, and it’s seeming to do something very similar in terms of giving people access to information that was previously unknown. And this, obviously, we’re seeing play out on the psychedelic space, which comes into an interesting point of tension which you mentioned earlier, is there are some thinkers, like you mentioned, Ernst Junger, who believes that psychedelics should be kept only in the hands of a few because “only they can handle this direct experience.” Whereas, you have many other people in the psychedelic space who are much more egalitarian about it, who say, “No. We need to give this experience to everyone,” which has a lot of commonalities with Christianity. And I did this podcast interview with the Reverend Nemu about drugs and the Bible, and he mentioned about how there was this ointment that the priests used to rub on themselves, but it was only for the priests that could have this direct experience, that it wasn’t just given to everyone. And this was within the confines of…
0:51:42 PS: The anointed ones.
0:51:42 PA: Correct. Yeah. In the Christian tradition. So, I also see these parallels and commonalities in the psychedelic space when we’re assuming that these psychedelics have these values and these principles, that they’re gonna make us more free love, and they’re gonna make us more egalitarian, and more compassionate. And I think, that’s a dangerous narrative. And I think, that’s a misleading narrative, and I think that’s partly why I’ve really identified with your work because you question that and you’re very skeptical of that.
0:52:09 PS: Yeah. I think that there’s a danger, again, that a dogmatism arises here. It very easily happens with people. That they come into a community, and in order to become friends, they develop this narrative and these axioms, that cannot be questioned, and that gives them a sense of security. It’s the basis of all religion, really, and politics, and even science, really, aspects of science, and philosophy. There’s certainly that danger. And I think, really, one of the virtues, from my point of view, of psychedelics is this freeing of the mind. So, any kind of dogmatism, even unspoken dogmatism, is contrary to that, contrary to the spirit of psychedelia. So, that’s why I don’t like to really associate myself with any group within it. And in one sense, yeah, I’m more open to different people experiencing this. However, I would always note that, or warn rather, that psychedelic drugs, as you know, are not just like other drugs, they’re not like cocaine, or whatever, they’re not a party drug.
0:53:02 PS: They can induce severe metaphysical experiences. You can’t really even say that most psychedelic experiences are joyful. They’re very interesting, certainly. They don’t necessarily lead to overwhelming joy, like heroin can, for example. You need to used with caution and reverence. And as a result, I certainly don’t think it’s a good idea for people just to willy-nilly take them when they’re out at a friends house or something, without any thought or whatever. There are many dark experiences that people have, which if you’re not ready for, can affect people in a negative way. Especially if you’re inculcated within a certain moral framework, where the Gothic or the demonic, whatever, is seen as something real and dangerous. So, people, I think, need to be prepared when they take these things and use them with caution even though I don’t think they’re… They’re not relatively, physiologically dangerous. But mentally, they can have profound effects on people in a negative way, as well.
0:53:57 PA: Yeah, I think they can. And I guess I should also clarify my point of view in that the reason I’m doing this work, the reason I’m talking about psychedelics, the reason I’m curious about them, is because I believe they can facilitate or catalyze transformations in individuals which help them to navigate reality in a way that reduces suffering. In a way that helps people to be more free, in a way that helps people to understand their own, I guess, internal power, in terms of creating a better life for themselves and those around them. At the same time, like you, am skeptical of a lot of narratives that drive psychedelics and psychedelia right now, like, for example, science and research is the end of be all and it will lead us into this new glory age of having psychedelics available medically for only wealthy white people who can afford them. That’s an issue.
0:54:46 PS: Also, yeah, it takes away that sort of… The context is so important. And in certain settings, as they’ve always said, like to sell psilocybin in a white packet in the pharmacist just takes away a lot of the magic, and it probably will have an effect on the experience itself as one knows that. I think that’s quite dangerous. Some people argue it’s better that it remain illegal for that sense, but I don’t think overall, that’s a good idea, because someone could get arrested for taking magic mushrooms and end up in jail for seven years, and t’s absolutely terrible.
0:55:13 PA: Right. And as you talked about the one drugs is so racist in its nature anyway, it definitely is… These substances…
0:55:19 PS: Ideally, they would be controlled. So they’d be warnings on them and… Like the Mysteries in Greece, let’s come back to that. They were very formalized rituals with experts, the priests who led the ceremonies and so on, and of course people went there, all kinds of people, slaves included, to try it out, but only once a year. Well, it was only once year rather, for a couple of weeks, but it was a formalized thing. It was a… Could almost say like a state-sponsored thing, of course states didn’t exist then, except city states. But we don’t have that today. So simply decriminalizing them, I think is not enough really. But then, of course, the danger is if you institutionalize it in any way, then you can see that becoming a dogma very quickly with formal rules. I don’t know, it’s a complicated one, it’s very complicated.
0:56:01 PA: It is. Whenever I get any of these questions it becomes increasingly complicated by the chaotic and random world that we’re currently find ourselves in and how things are changing at an unprecedented rate. And in the past, I believe, even the past 20 years, it’s been much easier to create models in which we can make assumptions in terms of how the future might turn out and then we could do things based on those models, and I think that’s increasing the becoming obsolete.
0:56:26 PS: Well, certainly in the last few months really, it seems anything could happen now.
0:56:30 PA: Exactly, yeah. And so I think that then plays into psychedelics in terms of there are a lot of models that the current psychedelics space is operating on and there’s a lot of models that they’re assuming are true. For example, with even the medicalisation of things like MDMA and psilocybin for depression and PTSD. That assumption is based on the belief that nation state governments will still be viable within 10 to 15 years. And while that’s probably true, it might not be. It’s really hard to say with how quickly things are changing. And so I think that’s why it’s so important that we have people who are incredibly skeptical of the current narrative in the psychedelic space and are working to make sure that their voices are heard, so that we can develop alternative ways of navigating the future with these substances.
0:57:16 PS: I’m personally quite skeptical of many psychological so-called conditions even. Because my works in the philosophy of mind and I’m very aware that no one understands the true relation between matter and mind. It’s known as in the hard problem of consciousness, how mind and matter relates. There are many different theories, all of which have got problems. So we don’t know the relationship between matter and mind, we know they’re correlated, that’s about it. In certain aspects, and certainly not in all aspects. So when I look at psychologists who have come up with this condition, which is just based on behavior, I really do question that. So, for example, schizophrenia, apparently schizophrenia recently has been ramified into 20 different types, but before we thought it was one type.
0:57:58 PS: And look at the Victorian age and their psychological conditions, like nymphomania, that was obviously a cultural conditioning of a psychological state. That a woman wants sex more than is normal. [laughter] So you look at the history of these psychological conditions. Well, look at Freud and his psychology, which very few people really believe in now, but that was of course prevalent for decades. And today, we’ve got these so-called psychological conditions, but I’m skeptical of them. So even when you talk about MDMA treating PTSD, for example, Post Traumatic Stress disorder. I don’t doubt that people do suffer from these things, but to generalize it into one thing that they all suffer from is perhaps too much. Maybe there’s a multiplicity of different conditions they have. Also, think about political ulterior motives here. When you identify a condition and formalize it, then you can of course start selling products to overcome it. So I think there’s a danger that if you only look at psychedelics as therapeutic tools for treatment of depression or anxiety or whatever it may be, you’re, again, assuming perhaps more than we actually know, you’re assuming that these conditions really exist as such.
0:59:04 PA: And you’re not convinced that’s true. Obviously, you’re not…
0:59:06 PS: Like I say, I think… Look at different countries have got different psychological conditions. So, what? Do different nationalities suffer differently psychologically? I think rather the fact is that just like with morals, we believe that most people ultimately come to an absolute, “This is right and this is wrong”. I think in psychology people do that too easily as well. They think, okay there’s this condition, depression, for example, there’s this condition, anxiety. There’s this condition, autism, whatever it may be. I think the reality is much more complicated than that and I think that when we give a word to a number of different problems, we’ve simplified the world. But of course, we do that, and then the reason for doing it really is to be able to teach these things and also to be able to make money out of them. I’m just generally skeptical, as I say, of psychology, I must say.
0:59:50 PA: I think that brings up an interesting point which we touched on at the very beginning of this conversation, is that we don’t have the models yet to understand the psychedelic experience, but that with the growth of big data, and with the growth, largely of big data being able to collect massive amounts of information about various things, we’re all of a sudden given this opportunity to provide more nuance in terms of our understandings of the world and understanding of reality. And I think that ties into what you’re saying, is maybe in the future things won’t be labeled as PTSD, but every individual will have…
1:00:23 PA: I don’t know, there might be this level of comparison or this continuum that people around, and everyone is at a different place in it, and everyone maybe has a different objective in terms of where they wanna go. And we can consume certain things, potentially, to facilitate a transition into the states of consciousness that make… Wanna go with an expected outcome. So, I mean, to kinda break this down into a concrete language, if we assume there are… This general thing that people assume is PTSD, where we notice they have… When X event happens, their amygdala lights up and responds and it shuts down. But in individual A, that’s slightly different than in individual B, which is slightly different than individual C. What if we could then have some sort of, I don’t wanna say a therapy, but some sort of external action that helps a person deal with that and it’s individualized for that person. And it might be psychoactive, but it might not.
1:01:18 PS: Well, that’s the of future medicine isn’t it, individualized medicine, because drugs are generally one-size-fits-all, it’s set for that problem. So the future is, you have an identification of the individual’s body somehow, some analysis, and then from that, one realizes what chemicals will help them in whatever ways. So that seems to me… That’s the way medicine’s going and I think that will then take away these generalizations that we use at the moment. I think another thing that psychedelics do is, as I was saying, we don’t have an answer to the hard problem of consciousness. But what psychedelics add to that is the following, we didn’t even… Most people didn’t even know the potentialities of the mind. We think that we’ve experienced it all by the age of 20, but then you take psychedelics and you realize “Okay, no, no there’s so much more.” That adds so much mystery to what we already… To the mystery that already exists. So really I think, any dogmatism here is completely unfounded.
1:02:09 PA: And I think that’s a good note to end on because I think that encapsulates what we’ve been discussing this whole time, is that it’s up to us as individuals to think for ourselves and to try to overcome a lot of the “conditioning” that we’ve been exposed to. This idea of slave morality, this idea of the subconscious way that we’ve had our lives dictated to us in many cases, because of culture and because of the way that we grew up. It’s up to the individual to explore their consciousness, to ask questions, to be skeptical, to discover things for themselves and psychedelics obviously are a tremendous tool to be able to ask your questions.
1:02:48 PS: That’s their greatest value, they are the great emancipators.
1:02:51 PA: They absolutely are. Yeah, absolutely. So Peter, thank you so much for taking your time. Can you just give a few details about if people wanna find your book. If they wanna find information about you, where should they go or what should they do?
1:03:02 PS: Okay, my website is www.philosopher.eu. My book is available on psychedelicpress.co.uk. It’s called Noumenautics. It’s on Amazon as well I think. But better to buy it from the publisher. I’ve got a Facebook group on philosophy called Anthologistics. I’ve got twitter page, petersjöstedt.h. I’m all over the place, really. I’ve got a newsletter now. I have a boring bulletin that you can sign up to on my website, that’s pretty much it, I think at the moment.
1:03:29 PA: Great. Well, thanks again for joining us. And guys, I would encourage you to check out Peter’s stuff, it is a bit… It will take some acclimation. It’s not just something you can sit down on a nice summer day and read, but his thoughts are very interesting and obviously you’ve heard some of them in this conversation. So I would highly encourage you to dig even deeper. I know I will dig even deeper now. I’ve taken some time off of philosophy, but I think this conversation has catalyzed a renewed interest in these topics that we’re discussing. So thank you for doing that even, Peter, it’s been a pleasure. A pleasure to talk to you.
1:03:58 PS: I’m glad to hear it and I’ve really enjoyed this conversation.
This Week in Psychedelics
Photos and video from our Microdosing event in Portland
Organised list of Psychedelic Science presentation videos
“Problematic” (a show on Comedy Central) is filming an episode on psychedelics and has asked for people with experience microdosing to contact them directly.
Survey on experiences with 5-MeO-DMT. The researchers will donate $2 per participant to MAPS.