In this episode of The Third Wave Podcast, Jonathan Thompson of Psychedelic Parenting talks to us about his views on community, honesty, religion and spirituality, and how the psychedelic experience can contribute to raising a loving family. He’s been called a Pothead Parent… but Jonathan tells us that there’s much more to his philosophy than recreational drugs.
Jonathan is very active in the psychedelic community, having recently presented at the Beyond Psychedelics conference in Prague, at the Detroit Entheogenic conference, and appearing in a recent interview by Michigan State University in a feature titled “Pothead Parents”. Jonathan also comes from Michigan, currently a hotspot for the psychedelic community, producing many current contributors to the psychedelic movement (including The Third Wave’s founder Paul Austin) and being the location of various festivals such as Electric Forest and Lakes of Fire.
Jonathan talks about the importance of building a community in the psychedelic movement, that goes beyond an online connection. Jonathan believes that meeting in person and being a physical community is important in building a stronger sense of connection between proponents of the psychedelic movement.
Sharing a psychedelic experience with someone is arguably the strongest bond you can forge, says Jonathan. He talks about the permanent connection he feels with his best friend, who shared a psychedelic experience with him in 1999. Jonathan believes that having a common psychedelic experience together makes it easier to open up to that person; to be more genuine, and less easily offended by criticism.
Honesty is a huge factor in Jonathan’s parenting philosophy, and he believes that the psychedelic experience can make it easier to be honest with yourself and others. Of the five values of psychedelic family laid out on Jonathan’s website, honesty is number one. He believes that this is the core of building a loving and trusting family. And not only can honesty bring families closer together; it can make strangers into family in the blink of an eye.
In light of the Hubert Reeves quote, “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that the nature he’s destroying is the God he’s worshipping”, Jonathan suggests a fundamental link between all mystical teachers, be they Buddhists, Hindu Yogis, Sufis… But this isn’t true of non-mystical religious leaders. In Aldous Huxley’s ‘The Perennial Philosophy’, it’s written that if all the major religion leaders were to get together in the same room, there would be lots of disagreement – but if the same happened with all mystical practitioners, such as monks or Yogis, who were free of religious dogma – there would be much more in common.
Jonathan points out a talk by Bob Jesse at the 2013 MAPS conference, were he talks about the difference between religion and spirituality. He proposes that our negative perceptions of religion are based around dogma, and our positive perceptions of religion are focused on the spiritual side. Jessie suggests that organised religion is often missing a freedom of spirituality, and this is something that psychedelics can give us. Jonathan points out that in the US constitution we have a freedom of religion, but not a freedom of spirituality; we either have to accept psychedelic experiences as religious, ignoring the negative connotations, or we have to start rebranding religion and spirituality.
Most religious people these days have not had a mystical experience. Jonathan points out that psychedelics allow you to enter a mystical, spiritual place that religion alone can often not provide. He argues that the psychedelic experience gives you a form of introspection that can make you a better person, which is the kind of experience religious people strive for. Religions have historically never had a great relationship with their mystics, because it’s hard to control a spiritually open population. Jonathan even suggests that the Medieval ‘Dark Ages’ were the peak of mystical Christianity, producing some very enlightened mystical writings, demonstrating an intense understanding of the unity of the universe.
Nevertheless, there is a negative side of mystical religion. Jonathan talks about his experiences with the more spiritual side of religion, seeing that it can sometimes be out of touch with the world, whereas the core of Christianity has a large focus on helping others and protecting the vulnerable. Jonathan believes that the lessons learned from the psychedelic experience should be put into practice more often, and that the psychedelic community should make an effort to change the world and spread their happiness and love.
Jonathan tells us about his views on psychedelic parenting; he believes that it’s important to communicate honestly with your kids, and points out a talk by Allyson Grey that suggests giving children more information than they ask for; helping you understand where their level of knowledge is will help you to know how much information you need to share in future. Jonathan says that instead of shielding your children from psychedelics, you should be honest about them, without actually exposing them to drugs or drug-taking. Jonathan, for example, does not take substances around his kids, and does not force them to undergo psychedelic experiences. He believes that children should be allowed to make their own decisions, and he would not be upset if his children ended up moving away from the psychedelic community.
Unconditional support and love of your children is the most important aspect of parenting, says Jonathan. For him, psychedelics make that part of parenting easier. He also believes that being able to talk to your family about your beliefs and values makes it easier to raise your children.
Finally, Jonathan mentions that the recent US election gives everyone in the psychedelic community to be more loving and make a genuine difference in the world, perhaps now more than ever.
00:28 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to the podcast. Today, we have an interesting guest for you, a friend of mine who is actually just an hour away from my hometown, Jonathan Thompson from Psychedelic Parenting. Jonathan has recently presented at the Beyond Psychedelic Conference in Prague, the Detroit Entheogenic Conference, and the... He was recently interviewed for a documentary by Michigan State University called Pothead Parenting. And he runs the website Psychedelic Parenting, and I brought him on here today just to talk about what and how parents integrate the values of the psychedelic experience into their parenting and how they do that. So anyway, thank you, Jonathan. Thank you for joining us.
01:10 Jonathan Thompson: Thanks for having me, Paul.
01:11 PA: For sure. So we met, what, about six weeks ago at the Beyond Psychedelics Conference in Prague. What did you think of that conference? What were some of your thoughts, impressions, observations on both Prague as a city and the conference as a whole?
01:24 JT: I thought that they did an amazing job of bringing together some of the people that I respect the most ever. I thought it was incredible, the group of people that they brought together to talk with us, with Dennis McKenna, and Rick Doblin came, and Amanda Feilding, and Roland Griffiths from Johns Hopkins. The lit was an amazing group of people that were all in one place, and it was a really cool setting, and Prague is an amazing city. They had this alchemy museum there that everybody went to and loved it. I had thought it was an amazing experience, and I'm so glad that I was there. And meeting you there is really funny because I have this pattern of running into people that live really close to me in really distant places.
02:19 PA: Well, you said this happened with Kilindi, right?
02:22 JT: Yeah, Kilindi Iyi and I who... Kilindi Iyi, who's the founder of the Detroit Entheogenic Conference, and who is... He lives in Detroit, an hour from where I live. We met each other in Philadelphia at Psychedemia in 2012, and then at this Psychedelics Conference in Detroit just a few weeks ago, that was the first time that I'd ever seen him in Michigan. It was always we're in Prague or New York or wherever, Vancouver, we just kept meeting each other at these conferences and got to know each other, but we live an hour away but never seen each other in state before.
03:01 PA: Right, yeah. And we had talked about that in Prague when, I think, I first met you because I'm from Grand Rapids, which is an hour west of where you are in Lansing, which is in Detroit. It's like there's a triangle between Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Detroit. And it's just interesting that you have... The psychedelic culture in general is quite small, I would say, relative to maybe other groups of people.
03:22 JT: I would say so.
03:24 PA: And it's ironic or it's just interesting that there are three people now from Michigan, and from three different cities who are now... Have some sort of maybe website or conference or doing some sort of speaking about psychedelics.
03:39 JT: Yeah, my friend Andrew Dakinga is from Grand Rapids as well. He used to work at an Iboga center in Costa Rica, and he's a drug counselor in Grand Rapids now. Yeah, he also lives in Grand Rapids, so there's... Yeah, I think there's... Michigan's not too bad. There's a lot of interesting people here. We have the Lakes of Fire, the regional burn, Lakes of Fire in... I think they do it in Roxbury, the same place they do Electric Forest. And the Electric Forest, we have that. I think there is a pretty robust psychedelic world here suddenly. I didn't really know that it existed, and then all of a sudden, it's like... I'm like, "Oh, wow." And this... It's not like it's... Everything's new, it's stuff that people have been doing, just... They're more emboldened to let each other know that they're there now, and I think that's incredible.
04:33 PA: Well, and this is... I'm glad you brought that up 'cause this is a really important... I could go off of that. I could also talk about Michigan's beautiful beaches, and then the Upper Peninsula and all this other gorgeous stuff, the geographical stuff. I always try to sell my friends who are from Australia or Germany, I'm like, "You've gotta go to Michigan, it's... Actually in the summer, it's beautiful." But back to what you're talking about with... Almost like people who are finding the others is a good way of putting it, right? It's like...
05:00 JT: Right.
05:00 PA: With a festival like Electric Forest, or with this regional burn. I'm also... Back home in Grand Rapids, there's definitely a culture of entrepreneurship and small business based on microbreweries and restaurants that's really thriving. So this is an interesting thing that we spoke about at the conference in Prague, at the Beyond Psychedelics Conference, was how can we incubate more places, more ideas, more community for people to come together who want to connect with other people who are interested in the psychedelic experience?
05:32 JT: Yeah, I agree. I'm glad that you're doing as well. I think that what we have to do is all of our focus has to be on community building and connecting. And not just connecting over web resources, like yours or mine or anybody else's, but also once you do find those others that are in close proximity to yourself is to actually be with those people and have real physical relationships. I drive... I do ride sharing, and we just had a really big... We had a football game here yesterday, so I was driving people around, and then a friend of mine just texted me and said that his girlfriend had broken up, and he's like, "Can you come get me and take me to this place to see a 24-hour counselor?" I'm like, "Heck, yeah, I can do that." And I just went and got him and took him.
06:23 JT: And I think that it's really important that we find ways to be actual community for one another, and not just we see each other at a conference, or at the music festival, or even we take psychedelics together in ceremony once a month, or twice a year, or whatever, is that you actually do things with people outside of the ritualistic or ceremonial space, or party space, but you actually be community for one another because, number one, one thing that's really important is that if our community is only electronic, that we... If there was some sort of situation where there was... Someone wanted to control the internet like they do in China, then all of a sudden, you wouldn't be able to communicate with those people anymore. And I think it's really important to have real physical community where you can get together with somebody and actually be in their physical presence.
07:13 JT: Because I know that I've experienced... Fundamentally, I'll build online relationships with certain people. An example of this would be David Gyan, who's one of the co-founders of Dennis McKenna's company, Symbio. Him and I had built a really cool online relationship. He had been on my show when his son had been born, I think, three months pre-mature. And they were in the hospital, in the NICU, and I interviewed him from the NICU. I mean, there's like this really strong connection right from the beginning. And then it was almost a year, and we met in Prague for the first time. And just being together in person, you're like, "Yes. I felt like this person is my brother." That there was just so many different things about him that just felt like, "Yes. I know that this is somebody that I'm meant to be having a relationship with."
08:02 JT: But actually having that moment of being physically together, it's... There's a... We're human beings. We're not used to communicating only over electronics. We have to be able to hug or to make eye contact or to even... I don't know. You could... Somehow maybe it's even biological. You have to be in the presence of their pheromones, or their... The way they smell, or the way that they, see the way that they move, even that kind of stuff. Actually, like, "This is a real person. And yes, I should be connected to them, or maybe I shouldn't be connected." Sometimes you get around people, and you just kind of feel weird, and... But when you're in their physical presence, then you can know who they are in a way that necessarily sometimes you can't from online relationships.
08:40 PA: And in what role do you think... 'cause this is about community building. This is about in-person grassroots community-building about...
08:45 JT: Yes.
08:46 PA: About developing and building relationships, about having close deep authentic relationships. How...
08:51 JT: Yes.
08:51 PA: What role do you think the psychedelic experience plays in facilitating those communities, and facilitating that connection and that closeness that I also have experienced with a lot of people in the psychedelic world, just in the past six to eight months as I've gotten to know a number of them?
09:06 JT: Well, I think that, for one thing, when you share a psychedelic experience with another person, you are taken to a place... I... My best friend and I, who we did psychedelics together... Our first time was on Devil's Night, which is what in Detroit what they call the night before Halloween, in 1999. And we have... I... My... And then this person is still most trusted allies and my best friend. And he and I sort of... We were meditating together one time, and I saw that there was this... And we were meditating, it got really deep, and it was just a meditation. And I saw that there was this sort of tube, or tunnel that went from my heart center to his heart center. And I could see it moving. And I could go into it and travel through the tube into his body. And I recognized that this thing was like... It was like, after having that first psychedelic experience together, that there was some sort of like permanent connection on some really deep level.
10:10 JT: And I experienced that with many people that I have been in ceremonies with, especially if you're in multiple ceremonies with a person over a period of time. Suddenly, you just... Just, you are just... It's so easy to be just who you are and comfortable around them. And I find that people that I'm in ceremony with a lot, it's really easy for me to take loving criticism from them in a way that maybe I would get offended if somebody else tried to say to me. It is easier for me to hear what they have to say in ways... Things about maybe that I need to fix about myself. And I think that that it just... A psychedelic experience is you can't avoid genuineness. Because I think one of the fundamental things about a psychedelic experience... What separates a life-transforming experience, from say a "bad trip" is your willingness to accept what is at the moment during the... While the medicine is in effect. Because if you are... If you can say, "Yup, whatever happens, I'm fine with it. I'm okay with what's happening." Or, "It'll be over in six hours. I'll be fine."
11:11 JT: The more that you can be okay with what's happening, and the way that things are, the way they are, and you can't change them, you ride it like you're riding a wave, like you're surfing on the ocean. And when you are trying to resist it, and you're like, "I don't want this. This is too scary." Or, "I don't wanna face this thing about myself, or about my relationships." That's when it becomes bad because it's like attacking you. And I guess what I'm saying is that the two... Because you're forced to be authentic to have a good time or to have a positive experience in psychedelics when you do it with other people, that you're just in a space where you're just really genuine with them. It's really hard to be un-transparent or inauthentic in that person's presence. And that's how a real community works together when the people share powerful spiritual or life-transforming emotional experiences together. Then you just...
12:01 JT: A lot of the things that make it hard to be around those people, they tend to sort of go away. Or even if the person isn't your best friend, at least you feel like you can be honest around them. And that's... I think we just need more honesty, generally, in our culture.
12:16 PA: And what role do you... 'cause I think this is... Then, we can even bring this conversation to the next level of the ego-dissolving properties of psychedelics, and what role that plays in facilitating the open and genuine connection. Because when we get into a lot of, for example, transpersonal psychology, which, as far as I know, is based on Jungian psychology, some of it. We get into this idea of, when the ego drops away, when there are ego-dissolving properties within psychedelics, they melt these boundaries, which enable this connection, both in a here and now standpoint to other people, but also from an ancestral standpoint, that allows to what some... Carl Jung referred to as the collective unconscious. And I think, that also...
13:00 PA: Just from a... We could say a neuropsychology perspective, might play a role in facilitating that open and genuine connection because the ego tends to play quite a strong role in building boundaries. And as a result of boundaries come judgment and other things, which in some cases are important. This comes back to our reptile brain when we were primitive to some degree, living in more indigenous societies that we had to have that function. It was critical to our survival. But, now, when we get into these spaces of healing and spirituality, we can transcend that to really have this true open connection with the people who we are in ceremony with or even people who we were in ceremony with. And beyond that, past that time, I've noticed there's just this sense of openness that people have after they go through the psychedelic experience.
13:45 JT: Yes. Yeah. It's just a sense that you can... That that person is to be trusted. That's how I feel about it. It just feels like that person... Or if there's someone that isn't to be trusted, you just know that they aren't and because it's... Because there's just no way to hide who you are in that space, I don't think.
14:05 PA: Yes. Yeah. I think that's a...
14:06 JT: So, the implications for the wider society, to me, is... And I have to sort of preface this by saying that I am not a person who thinks that psychedelics are panacea. I think that it is possible, and I think that's totally true, that if you're a narcissist or a sociopath, if you take a lot of psychedelics, it can just make you better at being a narcissist or a sociopath. So it's not necessarily that these things will fix people, but what they do is they make it easier to be honest with yourself, and they make it harder to sort of conceal yourself. And I think that what we really need to do in the wider society, generally, is just be more honest with one another.
14:48 JT: On our website, we have what we call the five psychedelic family values. And those values for me... Of the five of them, the most critical for me is radical honesty because I feel like it's the center of all of my medicine work and all of my relationships is how do I be more honest with the people around me in a way that comes from love because my whole life, I feel like... Is about building family and being more genuine with the people that I love. And I think that we need more of that. There was a quote from Dennis McKenna once when I was talking to him, and he said, "From what we've seen, the family that trips together stays together." [chuckle]
15:29 PA: It's such a Dennis McKenna thing to say.
15:31 JT: Yeah. Yeah. And he's right. It create... Not only does it make families closer, but it can also make strangers into family in the blink of an eye. I mean, people that I had never... That I've never met before, I have one ceremony with them, and suddenly, this person is in my... On my BFFs. You know what I mean? You just make strong connections with people very rapidly, and I think that we need that more than ever right now. We need... Especially, in the United States, there's so much division and so much side-taking. And I think that we just need to be able to know who these other people are. I mean, for myself, this week, we're going through a lot of things about who... What my country is and is it... Does it represent the things that I thought it did. And what I reflected on is that as someone who's spiritually and socially liberal, I had never really thought that hard about what people that I knew, who are conservative, who were saying things like they didn't know... This isn't my country anymore, or my country's being taken away and I need to get it back or, to quote Donald Trump, "Make America great again." I didn't even really understand what that meant.
16:57 JT: And, now, one of the really big spiritual or, like intellectual, like sort of ahas about all of this stuff to me is that I finally understood what they've been experiencing for the last 50 years, if that makes sense. A feeling of the people's values are changing, or they're different than yours, and you didn't realize that they were different or... There's a lot of fear about people that are different and like... Well, is this... Is the whole collective opinion gonna be different than mine in this really dramatic way? So I'm looking forward in some ways to being able to be more authentic in my life and be more of a beacon or as of like a person who just operates from a place of loving acceptance and nurturing for people around me. And I think that's the only thing that we can really do to make a difference. It's just like be nurturing to the people around us. I don't know. That's not really about psychedelic, but...
18:04 PA: In some ways, it is. And then how does that transcend differences? How does that help to transcend differences and cultivate understanding, do you think?
18:12 JT: Well, I think that at the core of it is there's a realization that whatever God is or whatever... I call it God, but other people call it different things. Whatever one of the... In Christian mysticism, the phraseology that sometimes uses the ground of all being and that God is the ground of all being. Whatever is at the bottom of all of it, that's what God is. What's underneath everything. And I think many of my psychedelic experiences and many other people that I know, their experiences confirm that whatever there is when you take away everything that's unreal is just like... It's usually based in love, and it's based in this sort of unity consciousness experience. So it's kind of... When you get to the bottom and you realize that you are everyone and that everyone is you, and that there really isn't a you at all.
19:11 PA: And this goes back to dissolving the ego, what I just mentioned before, right?
19:14 JT: Right. When the ego dissolves, it's so much harder to be in judgment or be angry about other people because there really is no other.
19:22 PA: Right. We're all one and the same. In fact, I read a really good quote earlier building on this from a guy named Hubert Reeves, and I'm gonna find the quote right now. Basically, the quote was about... So, the quote is right here. 'Man is the most insane species, he worships an invisible God and destroys a visible nature, unaware that this nature he's destroying is this God he's worshipping.' And so, I'll read that again. "Man is the most insane species, he worships an invisible God and destroys a visible nature, unaware that this nature he's destroying is this God he's worshipping."
20:01 PA: So, this goes back to your idea of God being the ground of all being. And, as part of that, not only are we connected to other people, we're obviously also connected to the other life forms that... Sentient life forms and other life forms that surround us. To separate from that is part of this divide, part of this separation, where a lot of people hypothesize a lot of issues come from. And this is steeped in Buddhist philosophy, and this is also steeped in other types of gnostic philosophy.
20:36 JT: Yeah. I think that all of the mystical teachers of every religion pretty much say the same thing and agree on a lot of the concepts, you know what I mean? Like if you look at the teachings of Buddhists and the teachings of the Hindu yogis, and the teachings of the mystic Christians, and the teachings of the Sufis and the Islam, they're all talking about the same realities, and they use a little bit of a different word sometimes, but you can tell they're talking about the same thing.
21:05 PA: And an excellent book on that is The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley.
21:09 JT: It is, yeah. Excellent.
21:10 PA: And he talks about these 20, I think around 20... A few more than 20, maybe 20 to 25 commonalities between all major world religion by drawing on people like William Law, who was a major Quaker, Maestro Eckhart, people like... I think he draws on the gospel of Thomas, and then he draws on Rumi, the Sufi. He draws on texts from the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads. And all of these to form this kind of cohesive world view of these mystical values and how they, we could say, trickle down into the smaller aspects that run our lives.
21:51 PA: And I think it was in that book that I read something along the lines of... I believe it was in this book, it may have been somewhere else, but if all of the major world religion leaders, the priests and the imams, and the people who lead congregations, so to say, if they were all to get together in the same room... And this was back in the '60s, of course, that he wrote this, there would be probably a lot of divisiveness, there would be a lot of... When we bring dogma into the equation from a religious standpoint, we get away from the mystical aspects, and that can create divisiveness. Whereas, he's like if you were to get all the monks and Christian monks and these other mystics, the Buddhist monks, wherever they come from, those people who have disconnected, they'd say... There would be a ton in comment. They could just speak out, they would totally find the commonalities between what they're talking about.
22:39 JT: Right. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So, I think a really good talk of what I think is a primer that everybody that's interested in that kind of thing should read it, or should watch, is Bob Jesse's talk from 2013 MAPS conference. It's called, from this Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Studies to the Recreation of Religion, I think is the title of it.
23:05 PA: Oh, wow.
23:05 JT: But he talks about how whatever sort of religion... First of all, he starts off talking about how we sometimes will say things about... That we're spiritual. Like one of the things that people in our circles really like to say is that they're spiritual but not religious. And he talks about, like, "Let's collectively examine this whole thing." And he does this group therapy session on the people in the audience, and he's like, "When I say what are the bad things about religion, tell me things." And people name things about the religion that they think is bad. And then he says, "Tell me good things that you can think about religion," and people say some good things. And he writes them down. So he basically dissolves it into that, in our modern world, we've created these two things, spirituality and religion, that in previous generations weren't separate like that, that they were the same thing.
23:55 JT: Spirituality, in the Christian world, if you have a spirituality, it usually means your alignment with a particular monastic tradition or something like that. And that we separated these two things but what we really are doing is we take the things that we like about religion and we say that that's spirituality, and we take the things we don't like about religion and we call that religion. And he said what we can really do instead is look at what is religion at its core, and why are these things that we have that we call religion that we don't like, why are they there and what's at the bottom of those?
24:28 JT: And he talks about how that what's missing lots of times in these mainstream or established religious forms is that there is no connection to that mystical truth on a regular basis. So, there's no connection to that mystical truth on a regular basis. But if we have a religious form that is consistently re-energized or re-truthified, if you will, by connection to that mystical experience, then you can have religion.
25:05 JT: And the reason why he says you should have religion is that... In the United States, for example, in our constitution, we have freedom of religion but we don't have freedom of spirituality. So, spirituality from a legal sense is something that doesn't exist. And this is important in the context of psychedelics or entheogens because the experiences that people are having these medicines to me, if those experiences that people are having are not religion, I don't know what religion is. If that's not a religious experience, nothing else is a religious experience from the sense of what is...
25:35 JT: What should be preserved or protected for people from when something is a religious... Is religion is that's protected. If this isn't protected then nothing is religion from my perspective. So we have to own, for example, I think that it's really important that we own these experiences as religious experiences even if we say, "Oh, I don't like the word religion because it has all these negative meanings." That's how the way the law is written so we either have to change the law and since it's the Constitution, it's pretty hard to change. Or, we have to just sort of use the language of the law. And so, in this case, when you say, well, let's just say that this is religion because really it is religion in the sense that it's meant, that they mean it and in the Constitution. So, we should have these protections. So, I think it's important not to abandon words just because we've gotten kind of ruffled by them. I think it's important to embrace certain things because we should be legally protected to have these experiences, I believe. And so let's not give away our rights because we don't wanna use a word. Yeah.
26:42 PA: Well, to continue on that note, to pick up on that, there are still, you could say, world religions that do, at least aspects of them or splinters of them or groups of them still do experiences, ceremonies with entheogens. So, you have the people in Oaxaca, in the State of Oaxaca in Mexico who use mushrooms and part of the UDV is also using ayahuasca as a sacrament.
27:13 JT: Right. And the Santo Daime as well.
27:14 PA: And the Santo Daime as well. And so, we have these and we're building these. From my perspective, I do see there definitely being this cultural divide between religion and spirituality and that people's perception of religion is one of dogma, it's one of sheep following, it's one of some of these negative qualities where... And I think it's because part of that experience is missing, that renewal of the psychedelic experience.
27:41 JT: Exactly. Right.
27:41 PA: That renewal of the mystical experience. Rowan Griffiths talked about the research he's doing at Johns Hopkins with psilocybin and showing that in the past, a mystical experience was only likely to happen to maybe 0.5% to 1% of people, something very, very small. But that through psilocybin and other psychedelics, you can actually manipulate the mystical experience to happen more consistently and that, that's not a negative. I know that sometimes the term manipulate is used in a negative. This isn't a negative way.
28:13 JT: I know, but I think a better way of using it is that it provides access. I've heard people say it more consistently provides access to spirit, to mystical experiences. And I like the way that that sounds better than that we're manipulating the mystical experience 'cause I think that when you have the experience, you don't feel like you're manipulating anything. When you have the experience, the thing that you did or that you believed was doing manipulating ceases to exist at least. So then, to me, it seems more like a better way of talking about it because I think access to these spaces isn't guaranteed by taking psychedelics and then we go back to what we were talking about, about what I was talking about before about that one of the core important qualities to cultivate being your ability to relax and accept because if you try to say, "I'm gonna manipulate this," then it'll become a negative thing. And when you open yourself to what's happening, that's when really powerful healing occurs. So, I think I like the language of, it provides more consistent access versus we're manipulating the mystical, because I don't know, maybe this is just my thing but I don't think that we really manipulate that. It's something that's beyond us.
29:31 PA: Yeah, that's a good point. And I think that language is representative maybe of the society we live in rather than the society that we're trying to transform into.
29:40 JT: Right.
29:40 PA: Where people do use terms like manipulation or even manufacturing. You know, manufacturing, that has a similar type of vibe when really what we're doing is, like you said, we're providing access.
29:55 JT: Yes.
29:55 PA: We're opening the doors of perception, so to say, of that experience. And what that does then is it helps us to revisit this feeling of unity or oneness on a consistent basis. And so, I forget what book I was reading but he talked about how most people who are religious today, they've never actually had a mystical experience, they've never had actually any direct experience of connection with God. It's all based on the mind, it's all based on almost like an intellectual understanding, which was encouraged by the Calvinists. But now, in the way that it's gone to its full extent, has eliminated the ability, really, to, I think, bring humanity into religion as much as people, some people, some critical people who are critical of religion would like.
30:44 JT: Yeah. And the interesting thing about this talk about justice is he sort of swings it around to that dogma is that all these negative things about religion are rooted in positive things about what your experience is like and what it cultivates in us. And like you were saying, when you have access to and continuously revisits, say go back to the well, if you wanna describe it that way, you come and go back to this experience and it reinvigorates all of these different parts of your belief system or your understanding of how the world works and you are able to put yourself in check, right? You go back and you're like or you kinda get off on a weird thing and then you have another experience and you get to go back and say, "Oh, yeah, well, this is where I screwed this up and I did this part wrong and then I can next time, I'll do it differently and I'll be more open and I'll be more loving and I'll be more accepting." So you keep coming back to it and then if you've start to build a more calcified, something that goes beyond belief into dogma or rigidity, then you...
31:50 JT: You get to go back and sort of soften those things and then when you have a religion that's based on, say, the experience of one person, 10000 years ago or 2000 years ago, and you don't have the access to that well then you... It's hard to be authentic or hard to know. I remember an experience that I had, I was talking to a minister and he... I said I was telling him about this really mystical experience that I had had one Christmas Eve, in a mass in a Catholic church, and I had seen the priest hold the wafer at the end of the consecration and the wafer had turned into this search light, and it was sort of passing back like the beacon on a lighthouse and it was passing back and forth, and as it passed over people's heads, I saw these spirits or guardian angels sort of like rise out of their heads and unfold their wings, and it was like there was this breeze and they were being blown back by this light that was coming from this thing at the front, and I was telling this priest about this experience that I had, which was fundamental to me being Catholic and he said, "Well, you probably shouldn't tell people about that because most people aren't gonna have that experience you know and like get them build up their expectations too much". [chuckle]
33:12 PA: Were you like, "Fuck, it's game over."
33:17 JT: I was like...
33:18 PA: Oh, shit!
33:19 JT: Wow, that's an interesting convers... That's interesting. [chuckle] But that's like religion has a hard time with its mystics. It always has had a hard time with its mystics...
33:31 PA: It always has, yeah.
33:32 JT: Because they can't be controlled. And at the heart of that is the fact that whatever is this ground of all being that we're talking about is, whether it's God, or Buddha, or nirvana or infinite consciousness or oneness, whatever that thing is it's... I think Terence McKenna said that reality is weirder than you could ever imagine. And it's that, what's really going on is beyond our ability to put it in a package and understand it and name it and claim it and so, and the mystics all teach that, that whatever is beyond there is not something that you can really understand. You can experience it and you can be in it and you can dissolve in it but you can't put it in a box and under, say, think that you know what's going on.
34:14 PA: And I think this almost monopoly on the mystical experience is what encourages dogma in mainstream religions, it's a matter of power I think, and people saying that... I think this is why, for example, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, somewhere around 330 AD when Constantine was emperor. He went about doing his absolute best to kill all the monastics who were basically a group of mystical people who's still did, had mystical experiences, went through different types of altered state of consciousness to facilitate this mystical experience, had some different thoughts from the Bible that was determined at the Council of Nicaea and for that reason, since they were different and because of the way in which they were different, they were pretty much eliminated.
35:13 PA: And the same, what some people term "the war on consciousness" has been propagated and continued for many, many years. This is the result of what some people think of the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century in Massachusetts. This is the Albigensian crusades in southern France in the late 12th century, a lot of these are wars on consciousness because to control consciousness has been an important part of hierarchical structures really since the turn of the Middle Ages. And you could even argue obviously since the installation of Christianity as the mainstream religion.
35:50 JT: Well, I think that actually the early Middle Ages, what we sometimes, we'll call the "dark ages" was really somewhat misunderstood. I think that it was actually the peak of mystical Christianity that when you look at the... If you look at the writers and the thinkers in Christianity during what we call the "dark ages" you will find some of the most "enlightened" or "mystically-infused" writings. You have Hildegard of Bingen, you have Julian of Norwich. If you look at the Celtic writers, the Celtic mystics during the dark ages you see just a really intense understanding of the unity of the universe and how we're all one thing. And I think maybe my take on history is that civilization collapse that... At the end of the Roman Empire, civilization collapsed around people and then there was nothing else to do. So they just started thinking or meditating or maybe in Ireland they're, in England, they're hunting for Liberty caps and having psychedelic experiences maybe. I mean, there's no evidence I don't think in writing for that but it seems possible to me, I guess. [chuckle]
37:01 JT: It's just like wax, mystical about it Terence McKenna would. But, I think that's what they think. I think maybe the reason why there wasn't much evolution of civilization at the time is because people were sort of focused on the inner world. That's my spin on it. And it's pretty interesting the way that how many mystical teachers came out of that time and by the end of the Renaissance, say, there's just like everything has stagnated and become intellectual and it was... But I think there was actually a golden era of Christian anyway, mysticism, and it was definitely the Dark Ages.
37:34 PA: Yeah, that's interesting and it'd be interesting to see how that then impacted overall quality of life, if the spread of the mystical experience, so to say with the upcoming of more mystical teachers if... What impact did that have on a society-wide basis, in terms of the quality of life because then the counter to your argument of course that although we've lost some sense of spirituality in today's world, life is better than it ever has been in the past for more people. So I'd be interested in that relationship.
38:00 JT: Yeah, I think it's easier for people to live, it's easier for there to be less suffering now, we... Technology makes less suffering, physical suffering possible, we don't apply those things universally, we don't apply our technology universally. So there still is physical suffering. I think that's something that we need to look at as a community collectively. It's like, "How do we reduce suffering as much as possible?" One of the things that... I grew up in a Christian household, and I've been a Catholic, and one of the things that I take from Christianity, that's really important is that it has this sense of protection of the innocent or offering protection to the weak and then being more caring for the homeless and for those in prison and showing compassion. Some people might hear me say this it's like, "What? That does make any sense" because what you see is that, like there's a lot in sort of modern American Christianity sometimes there isn't a lot of evidence of those things, but I think at the core what I take from Christianity to be one of the most important things is being active in the world and being an agent of compassionate change and providing mercy and helping to reduce suffering. And sometimes I think that when...
39:25 JT: I spent many years also in the spiritual but not religious world and my wife and I worked for many years at a really big metaphysical bookstore in Sacramento, and one of the things that we took was there was, people are in their heads a lot, there's a lot of, doing a lot of, either I'm meditating or reading self-help books or but it's all kind of about inner work, and then you sort of forget that I think that when you have an interior experience that's transforming, that you, the way that you should, you have to express it is by, if you know that the base of everything is love, then don't you have a duty in the material world to love more deeply and to be more compassionate? And I think that one of the things that we can do to get back to community in psychedelics when you have these mystical relationships with people and then you say "What's next?" Well, we have to take what we love about this experience and what we have together and we have to make our lives be a reflection of our beliefs and if we believe that all is one and we are all the same thing and we need to treat each other like we are us, because we are, then it's our duty to be agents of loving change.
40:34 JT: And when we're agents of change, then people will be called to say like, "Well, what is it about that person that seems to be so different? They're more open and just I'm comfortable being around them and they do not seem to be people of judgment." And then people say like, "I wanna be like you" and then the message gets out there and we're changing people for the better. And I know that I've seen amazing transformational experiences by people in psychedelic experiences where they, like psychological healings, and whether it's from PTSD or long-term anxiety or depression, and you see these things, people change and people being healed and you know that I can't not be excited about that and I can't not talk about it and I can't not tell people, and I can't not be honest in the world because I need to be honest and so we build these connections and then we go out into the world and we say, "I need to be more accepting and loving and helpful in the world, so I'm gonna use my resources or use my energy or use my spare time to make my community a better place".
41:42 JT: And that's what I think we need to keep a hold of that in the psychedelic community, is we can build more community by being members of the community and being honest with people about what you maybe don't wanna tell everybody in the community about the fact that you've microdosed LSD or that you grow mushrooms and have religious experiences in your home, but especially with family, like if unless one of your family members is somebody that you know hates you, if you tell somebody in your family, "I had this experience and it was transformative for me." Mostly that person is not gonna call the cops and throw you in jail, for the most part. And one of the things that Rick Doblin said at his talk, at the Horizons Conference last year that really stuck with me is he said that when public opinion generally really changed about marijuana was when there were so many different states that had medical marijuana and when people, even if they weren't someone who maybe would have smoked cannabis, they knew somebody who had had a physical healing or and relief of suffering because of cannabis or at least they just knew someone who used it and that person wasn't crazy, then it was easier for people to be accepting of the idea of cannabis generally.
42:49 JT: And I think that that's really important for us as people who use psychedelics is to be honest, back to radical honesty, the people in your family, let them know, "This is the thing that's changed me or made me better and maybe even if you don't understand it, you're kind of scared of it, just accept that what I'm saying is that this has changed my life for the better." And if you live a life that shows, it's obvious to somebody that you're happier or it's obvious to them that you're more authentic or that you're easier to trust or that you're more willing to help out, that you can show evidence that this does, at least that you're not crazy. Nobody is gonna say that I'm father of the year, but my children are fed, and they are obviously intelligent people and they're loving, and I think they make me proud every single day, and so I try to tell my kids every time that I think of it as like, "I'm really proud of the person that you're becoming," 'cause they're all old enough to have personalities now, and you can see who they might be in 10 years and when you like the way that it's going and you're just really proud that you're able to help these souls come into the world and maybe be better, make the world a better place.
44:00 JT: And you see them just doing cool things and being really smart and I'm just trying to raise my kids with authenticity and talking about the things that I'm struggling with is comfortable to do with them and they know what we do and we let them ask us questions any time, and we answer all those questions with honesty, whenever they ask. And this is an important thing we talk about at Psychedelic Parenting is that... One of the things we do is we motivate the... We always answered every question they ask us honestly, but we took this from Allyson Grey, the talk that she gave in 2008 that you give them more information than what they're asking for. So that's how you keep track of how much information your kids are ready to handle or how much information you should, well, if you actually think about, "Well, what should I tell my kid about my psychedelic use?" You just like don't lie to them, but you don't give additional information that they haven't asked for.
44:57 JT: So if they say, well, if your kid comes and says, "Dad, do you do mushrooms?" you say, "Yes, I do", then maybe the kid'll say, "Well, how long you've been doing them?" and you answer the question and you don't necessarily have to add additional information because that's where you might get into like maybe they're not ready to handle this thing or whatever, that gives them this, their, the kid and their ability to absorb what you're saying is the driving force of how you discuss these things with them.
45:20 PA: And so, yeah, that you kind of encompassed most of what I was gonnsa then ask you in this this last part of the conversation, just about what the psychedelic experience means then for parenting. If you had to give someone the quick, someone who's a parent, someone who has had psychedelic experiences or someone who will be a parent, what are maybe three tips that you would use or give in talking about the psychedelic experience with your kids, or even raising your kids with the values that you get from the psychedelic experience so that they do develop into the people who they can develop into, I guess?
45:57 JT: I think that it's important to, it's all driven by honesty, like I was saying. I would say that you need to be motivated by their ability to understand, but willing to answer questions honestly, I think that it's important to not try to... Like you don't wanna shield them from what you're doing, but we don't use substances in front of our children per se. I guess I mean we are around them, my wife and I both have medical marijuana cards, so we're around them while we've been medicated, but we're not, but we don't smoke cannabis in front of them, if you know what I mean. So it's, we don't expose them to the actual consuming, especially something that would expose them to the substance in their bodies. Because I think that one of the core things is that with that your kid is it's really important to know if you're talking about, "Should I actually have an experience with my kids? Is... " Or "Should my kid have an experience? Is... Well, how old are they, and are they ready for it?" Because I don't think anybody should be forced to do this if they don't want to, and that's adults, anybody. And like one of the worst things I ever hear about is when people dose somebody without their knowledge or whatever, put something in their drink or and someone has a LSD experience and they didn't know that they were going through or something like that.
47:24 JT: That sounds like one of the worst things you could possibly do to someone, especially if someone in your family, never pressure someone into doing something because you want them to do it, that's the worst reason in the world to do anything. Follow the people that you care about, listen to them and is this something they want to do. I don't expect any of my children, I don't have a requirement of any of my children that they do anything the way that I've done it and I will still love them no matter what because as long as they're good people, but if you wanna do things differently, or not believe exactly the same things that I do, I'm like, "That's fine." So...
47:56 PA: And I think that's an important part of parenting. My parents are much the same way, we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Most recently psychedelics though, it's interesting how I've been able to actually talk to them about the experience and talk to them about my use of them. And while there was initially fear and consternation because of various reasons that I won't get into, it's now, again, getting back to the marijuana thing, like Rick Doblin spoke about, it's like with the onset of marijuana medical and now legal marijuana, I draw that similarity between psychedelics and marijuana to explain a lot of what we were taught about these substances actually aren't true.
48:38 JT: Yes.
48:39 PA: And now with more and more media coming out and more and more research coming out, when you provide that support, and we could say unconditional support. And I'm just saying this not, I don't have any kids, I probably won't have kids for a good many years, but from being raised in what I think was a very good way, that unconditional support is so important because it enables understanding and it enables vulnerability and it enables conversation, and I think that level of authenticity is so important in a familial relationship with people who you will likely be around with the rest of your life.
49:14 JT: Yes, yeah, and my parents as well, my parents are not interested in consuming any psychedelics or smoking cannabis, but they are incredibly supportive of me and who I am and of my wife and of my family, and they will watch our kids while we go to ceremony or something like that and the... Yeah, we just, they are very supportive of us because they know that we're good human beings and they don't really care about the weird stuff that we do, as long as we don't blow anything up or kill somebody. [chuckle]
49:47 PA: Oh yeah.
49:47 JT: You know what I mean? So yeah, I think that's a core value of any parent to be unconditionally loving of your child, no matter what they are, what they decide to do with their lives, and if it's different than what you think you should do, it's your duty and job to love them no matter what. And I think that this, and for me and for many people that I know the psychedelics make doing that more easy, it makes doing that easier, it makes it easier to accept what it is, it makes it easier to operate from a place of loving acceptance and that's something that's really important to be a parent or to be a member of a family.
50:22 PA: It is, it absolutely is because families, they go through difficult times, and so having that ability is really, really important.
50:32 JT: Yes.
50:32 PA: And creating those bonds and strengthening those bonds and maintaining those bonds is I think important. At least it has been in my life, it's been important and it sounds like in your life and in many of my friends' lives, so I think that's... Yeah, that's interesting. Now, just to, one more kind of similar question to you or similar related question for you, you know this, what we've been talking about with, especially these last 10-15 minutes about psychedelic parenting, having conversations with our parents or our children or siblings about the psychedelic experience, what role do you think that will play in the next 5-10 years in helping to facilitate a more mainstream introduction to psychedelics, we've seen this with marijuana now. Marijuana is also smoked by, I think at some point, maybe 60-70% of people in America have smoked marijuana, with psychedelics it's like 10%. So what role do you think psychedelic and the psychedelic experience plays in talking with people who haven't tried these things before and who never probably will? Parents or children or siblings or friends, close ones, what role will those conversations play in the next 5-10 years in helping to possibly facilitate more mainstream acceptance? Do you think that's a legitimate possibility?
51:50 JT: Yes. And I think that our ability to talk to our family is critically important to that. One of the things that I always tell people, "Well, why psychedelic parenting?" Well, the reason why is because it's a lot easier to just raise your children with the values that you have rather than trying to change the mind of an adult. And the people that you raise up in your home they're... I don't believe everything the same way my parents believe, obviously, but I carry their core values of what's important, and what's real, and what's worth protecting, and how do you love one another. Those core values are the same and we carry them together. And even though maybe some of the things when I was in my teens to early 20s I rebelled against my folks but I ended up coming around and seeing that they probably knew what they were talking about most of the time.
52:41 JT: So it's easier just to raise your kids to value the things that you value. So that's why this is important, because if you raise your kids just to... My kids don't, we live in a very diverse community and their school is really diverse both culturally and racially. So the idea that we have to even begin to talk about that one skin color would make a difference about who a person was versus another skin color, that stuff isn't really even part of the conversation until we turn to questions about racism and a lot of the questions that this election have brought up for our older kids. Then you start to talk about, "Well yes, there's people that believe this." And by this time, you've said, you've talked about what your beliefs are so long that their reaction to that is, "Well, that's pretty silly. Why would someone believe that? That's terrible." You don't even have to tell them that it's a bad thing, and just recognize that it is. And so, raising our children with what we believe is critically important and I think that that has been stunted to some degree, by the drug laws in this country because people have... I know people who have been using, say, cannabis their entire lives and never once discussed their drug use with any of their children because they were afraid that if they talked to their kids about it then their kid went to DARE that then the DARE cop would come and take their kids away.
53:57 JT: So I think that it's important to not be afraid to share what you believe with your kids even if it involves chewing on strange plants. And as we raise those kids up then it'll just be part of what's acceptable in the world. And then eventually people either change their minds or get old and then opinion moves with the wave of culture. And I think that we can have a profound impact and I think that if we're progressives in America and we look at the outcome of the election we shouldn't lose hope, because what we're being given is an opportunity to be more loving, even when people don't love us, or to be out there and actually be doing something to reduce suffering in the world instead of just talking about it or waiting for, say, "We don't have to do that 'cause Obama's got it." Obama doesn't have it anymore so it's time for us to do something.
54:53 PA: Yeah. And this is where family comes into play and building resilience and communities comes into play.
54:58 JT: Exactly. Right.
55:00 PA: And all the things we've spoken about in this podcast come into play. So yeah, I think that's a nice way of wrapping this conversation up in terms of looking forward and looking at the future now. Jonathan, so thank you so much for, first of all, talking with us...
55:14 JT: Sure thing.
55:14 PA: And discussing these topics. If people wanna find your website, find you, where should they go?
55:20 JT: It's www.psychedelicparenting.org. We have a regular podcast, it's available on Podomatic. You can also find it on iTunes. We're also on Google Play, so we're out there. We're on Stitcher, you can listen to the show. We talk with people about their experiences with psychedelics, how it's impacted their parenting. People tell us stories of healing. And sometimes we talk to experts or we really like to also have people on there just that are creating new books that are coming out or resources that you can use to spread your psychedelic mindset into your kids even before they're anywhere near old enough to have an experience. How can you teach them the values that you've brought back from the space, and who has the resources and the tools to make that easier? So we're doing that. We also have a pretty active Facebook presence so just search for psychedelic parenting on Facebook and you will find our constant stream of good ideas and positive information.
56:17 PA: Great. So if you are a parent, if you might be a parent, if you're curious about what being a parent might be like and you are interested in the psychedelic experience and what lessons that might teach for your parenting journey, it sounds like you guys have built a great resource. And so...
56:31 JT: We also have a Community Calendar on our website so you can see what events are going on in the psychedelic world and which ones would be family friendly and that kind of stuff, so that's available as well.
56:43 PA: Very cool. Well, thanks again. Thanks so much, Jonathan.
56:46 JT: Thank you, Paul. Thanks for having me on.