THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Synesthesia, Shared Hallucinations, and Telepathy with DMT
Dr. David Luke, a senior lecturer and psychedelic weirdness extraordinaire, sits down with host Paul F. Austin to discuss synesthesia, shared hallucinations, and why telepathy might actually be possible with smoke-able DMT.
Dr. David Luke Ph.D
Dr. David Luke is a Senior Lecturer for Psychology in the Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counseling at the University of Greenwich.
David joined the university in 2008, and is course coordinator for Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience; and Individual Differences and Abnormal Psychology on the undergraduate programme. He also lectures on research methods, criminology and forensic psychology, and functional neuropsychology for speech and language therapists.
David’s particular interest is in transpersonal experiences, anomalous phenomena and altered states of consciousness. He has published over 100 academic papers in this area, making him one of the leading researchers in this specialist area.
David was President of the Parapsychological Association (2009-11), and has received an Early Career Research Excellence Award (2011) and won the faculty’s Inspirational Teaching award (2016) from the University of Greenwich.
- David’s personal experience with Datura, the deadly nightshade, including details on his wacky hallucinations while deep in the Amazon
- Why transpersonal experiences are so beneficial, and how psychedelics help catalyze these experiences on-demand
- The role of parapsychology and why it’s still considered fringe by most mainstream scientists
0:00:00 Paul Austin: Welcome to The Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting-edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals, who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes, as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go, and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
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0:01:17 PA: As long-time listeners know, yoga and meditation have played a huge role as complementary practices to my own responsible psychedelic use. And that’s why we’re excited to be working with Halfmoon Yoga as a partner for the podcast. They carry everything from basic yoga supplies, to more advanced things like bolsters and sandbags, to meditation cushions that are super comfy to sit on. And right now they’re offering a 15% discount to Third Wave listeners with the promo code “thirdwave”. I’d encourage you to check them out at shophalfmoon.ca, if you’re looking for tools to support your yoga or meditation practice.
0:01:51 PA: So folks, we’ve got a weird one for you today, it’s Dr. David Luke, who I first met at the Beyond Psychedelics Conference in Prague in 2016. David moderated a panel on microdosing, high-dosing, and everything in between. It was me talking about microdosing, next to Kilindi Iyi, who’s literally in like 30 grams of Psilocybin mushrooms.
0:02:10 PA: And David just brought his very open, honest, warmth, energy to that space, and got a chance to know him at that point. And so when I went back to the UK in late 2019, I went on a little podcasting interviewing tour, where I also interviewed Ben Sessa, which is an episode that was out a couple weeks ago.
0:02:31 PA: I went out to the University of Greenwich, which is where they host Breaking Convention every year, and sat down with David in a little side area, and we just got to rap on parapsychology, exceptional human experiences, some of the on-the-ground research he’s doing with DMT. We talked about some of the books that he’s authored and edited, we talked about how shamans can influence weather patterns.
0:02:56 PA: There’s all of this sort of trans-personal and just out there stuff that a lot of people see as being not scientific. Yet David has a PhD, he teaches at one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. He’s written and published a number of books, so it comes from a source of true credibility. So I think more than anything you will find this conversation to be enlightening.
0:03:20 PA: There will probably be a few new things that come into your awareness about the credibility of parapsychology and psi, P-S-I, extrasensory perception. So this is going to stretch some boundaries for many of you today. And I’m really, really excited about that, because the way that David talks about this, it’s easy to get. So without any further ado, I bring you Dr. David Luke.
0:03:47 PA: So I’m sitting here with David Luke. We’re at the University of Greenwich. David, welcome to The Third Wave Podcast.
0:03:52 David Luke: Hey, thank you very much, Paul. Nice to be here.
0:03:54 PA: Yeah. I’m glad we could work this out. So I was hanging out with Ben Sessa last night.
0:03:57 DL: Nice.
0:04:00 PA: And Chloe, his girlfriend, and we were talking about… Oh, I forget at this point what we were talking about, but somehow Datura came on, ’cause I mentioned, “I’m going to see David tomorrow, we’re doing an interview.” He’s like, “You gotta ask David about his Datura experience.”
0:04:13 DL: I can’t give you any right now.
0:04:14 PA: You can’t.
0:04:17 PA: Imagine that. A podcast on Datura. I don’t know if that would…
0:04:20 DL: That would be a whole other story, wouldn’t it?
0:04:23 PA: Yeah.
0:04:23 DL: Yeah, I mean, that stuff’s super interesting. I mean, I highly do not recommend this to anybody.
0:04:30 PA: What is it, to start with? Just so that our listeners have a little bit of context.
0:04:33 DL: Well, I mean it’s kind of loosely in the psychedelic family, it’s usually classified as a deliriant. For good reason, in that it does make you somewhat delirious, in the kind of loosest sense. I mean, it’s the only psychedelic which is a true hallucinogen, I.e., gives you true hallucinations. So, in that, like your standard classic psychedelics, you get lots of kind of colors and geometric patterns. And you kind of know you’re tripping, but with the Tropane alkaloids, with Datura and the Solanaceae family of plants, often you don’t even realize you’re tripping, and be the hallucinations so-called that you have, just blend right in with your ordinary reality.
0:05:20 DL: It’s not like there’s any kind of colorful geometric patterns or anything like that. You’re just like, everything looks normal and then you turn around and you’re having a conversation with a werewolf, and that seems normal. And then you turn back and it disappeared. So it’s like, it’s really true hallucinations. But simultaneously, not only it gives you amnesia and it also gives you, like it just takes away your rationality. It’s like a waking dream, essentially. So yeah, I’ve had a few weird scrapes with it myself. That’s Datura, that’s Solanaceae.
0:05:52 PA: Would you mind going into one of those weird scrapes was? Or like what were those experiences like?
0:05:58 DL: But of course. I love nothing more than talking about my really kind of deranged psychedelic experiences. So on this particular occasion, I mean, I’ve actually had a few encounters with Datura, particularly with… Actually, Floripondio. Brugmansia, you know, tree Datura.
0:06:13 DL: But on this occasion, I wasn’t expecting it. I was at a, in a conference I’d organized in Brazil. And as part of this conference we had organized this like a journey into altered states, with local indigenous groups and trans-possession cults and things like that. And this was at the end of a very long weekend and we went to these indigenous group, the Guarani, for a tobacco ceremony supposedly. And at some point during the ceremony they passed around this herbal drink and nobody really even knew what was going on, they thought it was tobacco ceremony and then, you know, 25 delegates from the conference all tried getting back on the minibus to go home and nobody really remembers exactly what happened, but there was a lot of very kind of delirious people.
0:07:00 DL: It came to the next morning and I was kind of trying to piece together what had happened with some of my ex-students who’d come to join us. [chuckle] And it all got very, very weird and it was all manner of strange things happened on the minibus, which I could talk about for hours. But probably the weirdest thing was that two of my students were like, “Did you see the little man running around the fire in the Indians’ hut?” And I was like, “No, what little man?” And they’re like, “Oh, he was like about four feet tall. He had huge, dark almond-shaped eyes and a kind of weird grin. He looked about 300 years old.” And I was like, “What?”
0:07:38 DL: And then they showed me… One of my students had drawn a picture. She’d like… She was quite a good artist and she’d drawn this sketch. And I was like, the moment I saw it, I suddenly remembered my experience on the minibus of seeing this little, wizened old lady a few seats in front of me with kind of huge almond-shaped eyes. She looked about 300 years old and had a kind of smile from ear to ear. And I was like, “Oh, my God. I didn’t see him, but I saw a woman who looked just like him on the minibus.” So there was this kind of like sense of these kind of collective hallucinations as well, which takes it into a whole new realm of the extra weird. I mean, it’s one thing when one of you is having true hallucinations, but when three of you are having true hallucinations, I mean, how true is that, alright? I mean, it takes you to a whole another level of intersubjectivity and kind of ontology and how do you even begin to explain that.
0:08:30 PA: Well, this is what you’ve been researching though, not with Datura specifically. Your career is really, at least when it comes to psychedelics, like exploring the extra weird and the extraordinary and sort of the parapsychological kind of like… [chuckle] just the weird shit that can happen when people do psychedelics together, right?
0:08:53 DL: Yeah, I mean, I guess you could class that experience as research as well, but it was more kind of unexpected and spontaneous. But, yeah, essentially, that is my area of research, what are the nature of these experiences? How true are these hallucinations and what is the nature of subjective experience? I mean, the whole nature of hallucinations, this whole label we give these experiences, it’s kind of like un-explaining away the experiences. It’s not an explanation. It’s like a dustbin, like a wastebasket term, which we can throw these experiences into so we don’t have to explain them. My research has been, okay, let’s look at these experiences at face value and see if there’s any validity to them. What is the nature of hallucination and is it more than just this wastebasket term of hallucination? So yeah, looking at shared visionary experiences, experiences of telepathy or precognition, and all this kind of stuff, and seeing is there any validity to it.
0:09:52 PA: Well, that’s pretty different than the standard psychedelic researcher ’cause a lot of the [chuckle] things that are going on right now are like can we treat depression, can we treat PTSD. We’ve talked about microdosing for creativity, which I do wanna get into that because I know you were on the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study for microdosing. But there are very few people doing what you’re doing. Why do you do this? What’s your interest in it? And why did you get… Start to get involved in this sort of like out there exploration?
0:10:19 DL: That was always my interest. I actually went away to university to study psychology to try and understand the psychedelic experience, so it’s not like I started off as a scientist and then suddenly got interested in psychedelics. I was always interested in the psychedelic experience and weird experiences. And that’s… And my whole career has been kind of going down that path, like trying to understand these things ontologically, really. So I had a whole bunch of experiences as a teenager, exploring my own neurochemistry and wanting to have a deeper understanding of that and being kind of woefully disappointed in… When I arrived at the academy all kind of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and expecting to find answers. And three years of a psychology degree doesn’t really tell you very much about the super weirdness of a psychedelic experience. So I was kind of forced to have to do a PhD and take my own direction with it, really. And I still don’t have any answers, but, at least, I’m beginning to ask some of the right questions, I think.
0:11:19 PA: I’m sure there are a lot of weird things that you’ve experienced or that you’ve researched. If we just had to boil it down to three [chuckle] of the weirdest things that you’ve either experienced yourself, I mean, we already maybe talked about one of them with the Datura, that you’ve experienced yourself or that you’ve maybe researched or that you’re interested in, what are three maybe stories or anecdotes that really explain your interest in all of this?
0:11:45 DL: Okay, yeah, that’s a good starting point. A shared visionary experience is one obviously or a shared hallucination, and that’s one of my current projects. I can tell you about more of that in a moment. Maybe one of the others is like synesthesia. I had an experience in South America on 5-MeO-DMT where not only did I kind of see sounds but became and tasted them and my whole… Your whole body becomes like… Everything is like one kind of free-ranging synesthetic experience, so that’s been one of my other research interests. And I guess the other one is one of my main kind of research-directed interests has been precognition or psi, which I have looked at a lot experimentally, both with psychedelics and without, so I guess those kind of things.
0:12:36 PA: What is precognition?
0:12:40 DL: I knew you were gonna say that. [laughter] I knew you were gonna say that. No. Yes, so precognition is the kind of technical term we use in parapsychology for those experiences whereby you have a grasp of some future event without recourse to inference. So thus, you have a kind of experience of knowing or having experience of something which then occurs without there being any logical reason or use of ordinary sensory apparatus, or deduction or inference for having that insight into a future event. So basically it’s, when everything else is ruled out, the only possible explanation can be is that you’ve somehow received information from the future or there’s been a retroactive event. The usual stuff, everyday stuff.
0:13:31 PA: The usual. This to me is what’s so fascinating about the psychedelic space in particular. It’s like you have the ultra weird or abnormal, or things that are very out-there. In fact, Breaking Convention does a great job of doing this, the conference that you’ve co-founded and helped to do. You have everything from Salvia spirits to neuroimaging of the brain. What is it about psychedelics that can put us into an altered state to actually access some of these extrasensory, ESP, whatever else it might be?
0:14:05 DL: Let’s assume first of all, that extrasensory powers or psi or whatever you wanna call it, precognition, is a real phenomenon. I think there’s a good evidence out there that it should at least, at the very least be taken seriously based on the experimental literature. What we know is that, it’s not so much like the psychedelics create a special kind of altered state, it’s that all altered states are conducive to these kind of experiences and phenomena too, not just experiences. So probably one of the most commonly occurring precognitive experiences is in dreams. So dreams are a royal road into your own subconscious processes, into your own unconscious mind, and psychedelics take you to some pretty similar spaces. So it’s when we move beyond our normal state of consciousness into these other realms that we delve into our unconscious, that we have a richer kind of access to something that seems to transcend time and space quite often. And that’s when most spontaneous experiences occur, dreams, psychedelic experiences, meditation, hypnosis, whatever it might be. I don’t know what’s specific to the psychedelic experience other than it gets you into an altered state.
0:15:14 PA: Let’s go a little bit deeper into that. What is it about opening up the unconscious or the subconscious that then makes these experiences possible to understand? Or study? Or basically have?
0:15:24 DL: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m not entirely sure I know what the answer to that is, other than just looking at the data that the altered states are conducive to it. And I guess there’s many possibilities, it’s like we’re kind of moving gear and shifting away from this logical linear left-brain thinking, which somehow seems to be constrictive to these out-there, or anomalous, or exceptional experiences, or trans-personal experiences. So it is something about shifting into this more associative, uninhibited, free-wheeling, freer-thinking, free-associating, subconscious kind of realm, which allows you to perceive this material in a fresh way. You’re much more in the symbolic, mythological realm, which is the language of the dream world and also the language in which psi seems to operate most compellingly. I could say that.
0:16:24 DL: I don’t know in a more mechanistic way, I mean, you can try and pin it down into a logical linear left-brain mechanism, but beyond that, I don’t really know. What we do know is that this right-brain, dream subconscious state is just more conducive to the transcendence of time and space and these more mystical experiences. You try having a mystical or psi experience with your left-brain fully turned on when you’ve got your full analytical left-brain ramped up to the max, it just doesn’t really happen.
0:17:00 PA: Before the podcast, I was reading through the book that you recently published and edited, The Divine Mysteries of the Feminine. And I read in the introduction something along the lines of patriarchal or male is about being in the light, being quantitative, being analytical, seeing everything. Whereas what I’m hearing from you is a big part of these experiences is sort of the femininity of it, the mystery, the darkness, the not trying to figure it out, so to say, but just being open to whatever may occur.
0:17:29 DL: Yeah, there’s certainly like that. Like the left brain, okay, this is a very right-brain way of talking about very kind of… These aren’t hard and fast rules, these categories of being left and right and male and female and feminine, masculine or the rest of it, but that’s a very left-brain answer to that. [chuckle] But yeah, you can think of it in terms of mensuration versus menstruation, for instance. Mensuration is the act of measurement, which is a very masculine thing to do, as menstruation is a very feminine act. And it’s maybe poetic or not so accidental that we have this confluence of these two terms, right? There are these archetypal ways of thinking, I think. And the more porous mind is more open and fluid to these experiences of a trans-personal nature, I would say, without being too hard and fast about it.
0:18:23 PA: So from your perspective, why is it important that we study these experiences? Why is it important that we understand trans-personal experiences or we understand psi experiences? Why does that matter to you?
0:18:33 DL: If nothing else, to give us another perspective on the nature of reality, right? I think, just using your logical mind the whole time can get us into all kinds of problems. It’s really super handy for all kinds of stuff, like technology and science, and fixing things, and everyday material world, problem solving, but it’s pretty awful about understanding our deeper nature, perhaps, or finding meaning or connectivity. Those things lie in the kind of more associative mind. And I think the danger is we become divorced from our own mythic self and our own connection with our deeper sense of identity, and who we are, what we are as a species, what we are as beings, what’s the nature of existence, what’s the nature of reality. Those answers aren’t forthcoming from the logical linear perspective, I don’t think. I think if once we delve into those more trans-personal realms, it gives us a new perspective on our state of being. That way, empathy and connectivity lie, which is deeply necessary right now in our current ecological and psychological, sociological, political conundrum and chaos that we’re in.
0:19:44 PA: Being able to plug back in to the true human nature of who we are and…
0:19:49 DL: Any particular perspective on that. I don’t know if there’s necessarily any one true kind of reality, but it certainly helps to have different perspectives on it, right?
0:20:00 PA: We started this conversation with exploring the really, really weird and I wanna bring us back to that, because I feel like that’s really the core of what you’ve studied and a lot of what you talk about. But especially for a lot of our listeners who are interested in the topic of microdosing, you were also involved in the first ever double-blind, placebo-controlled microdosing study. You were involved with this as early as 2016, because you had mentioned it at the Beyond Psychedelics Conference where we were on the panel together, or whatever. And there was a piece about it published in Scientific American, which I’ll include in the show notes, about that research. So, I’d love if you could just give us an overview of what that research was, and what it was exploring, what questions it was asking, just things like that.
0:20:42 DL: I wasn’t directly involved in the running of the study, but the follow-up of that, we did a low-dose LSD clinical trial. We were looking at the use of LSD in a clinical context. It was mostly for safety and tolerability of LSD. Indirectly we looked at possible applications of that whilst we were doing it. So we were stepping up the dose, we started off with a microdose, we went up to a low dose. There’s not too much I can say, I have to say, in that the actual, the full results of the study have been embargoed by the study sponsor. It’s gonna be a little time till the full data comes out. The only thing we have published so far was the time perception study, which was a collaborative project with a colleague of mine, Devin Terhune, who designed the element of the study and that’s the only thing that’s been published, probably. There’s a lot more, there’s way more data. The whole thing was effectively looking at microdosing as a cognitive enhancement amongst the older age population.
0:21:42 DL: So the only thing we have any published data on and the only thing I can really comment on is the time perception study, which did find some good effects for a time perception effect even with a microdose. Even beyond any kind of subjective experience of tripping, there was this time dilation which occurred. Which was a really neat little study in that it allowed you to explore the effects of the drug on time perception, at a sub-threshold dose. So being in an altered state in and of itself will mess with your time perception. So it’s the effects directly pharmacologically on time perception beyond being in an altered state, which was kind of quite a neat way of looking at. That was quite convenient that we were able to do that, but that’s all we could really comment on at this point ’cause it’s still embargoed. But other than to say that there were clear lack of subjective differentiation between the different doses, 5, 10, and 20 micrograms at that level. So people really were in a sub-threshold state, and yet there’s still some observable cognitive effects beyond the subjective experience.
0:22:57 PA: What does that mean?
0:22:58 DL: So it’s having some effect on the cognitive processes, but not at a level which people can consciously observe, right?
0:23:05 PA: Which then aligns with this concept of microdosing being sub-perceptible, or whatever it might be.
0:23:12 DL: Yeah. Yeah. Those kind of doses it was below the threshold of perception and yet it’s still having some effect. So there’s some possibility that it may have other cognitive effects as well. Some of that stuff was looked at in the study but it hasn’t been published as yet. So it’s interesting in that it was the first placebo-controlled study of microdosing a psychedelic and yeah, it’s unfortunate we haven’t got more data to talk about at this point.
0:23:41 PA: Have you tried microdosing yourself?
0:23:43 DL: I’m more of a macrodose researcher. [laughter] Yeah, I’ve had some accidental microdosing experiences.
0:23:51 PA: But you’ve never done a Jim Fadiman for five weeks, do it twice a week, journal and nothing like that?
0:24:00 DL: No, I’m not a, I don’t have that kind of possibility for that kind of regime. Being… Having a lot of academic responsibilities and a three-year-old kid, I just don’t have time to have that discipline, unfortunately.
0:24:17 PA: Right, right. What are your favorite psychedelics, then? What are the ones that you’ve appreciated most or worked with quite a bit or…
0:24:23 DL: Well, the ones I like to research the most, ’cause obviously that’s all I can really talk about. [laughter] I think they’re all fascinating in their own way. I actually find the Solanaceae Tropane alkaloids of the Datura family hugely fascinating. But I’d really warn anybody from taking an interest in those ’cause they’re probably the most dangerous as well. That is super interesting from an ontological research level, the nature of true hallucinations and waking dreams. I think they’re probably the best kind of simulacra for the dream experience. I think that the anticholinergic, cholinergic system of the brain is probably where we’d find the best explanation for dream experiences. It’s basically like having a waking dream, but they’re not like your other classic psychedelics. I think 5-MeO-DMT is deeply fascinating, not least from an experiential level, but from a pharmacologically as well. It’s probably also naturally occurring in the same way DMT is. DMT, I’m also super fascinated with, although I’m more averse to actually get experiential with that these days, and I think Ketamine is also a fascinating substance, because that’s, there’s a whole other realm from your tryptamines as well, and also Mescaline too. You know, basically I love all of this research. [laughter]
0:25:43 PA: All of them, right?
0:25:45 PA: This one it’s, it’s all on the deeper and deeper you get into this. What about Iboga, do have any context for Iboga or not necessarily?
0:25:52 DL: I haven’t researched Iboga directly, though I have had an Iboga experience. And yeah, that’s super interesting, very profound, not for the faint-hearted, 36 hours of tripping and about the same amount of time to recover. It’s not the kind of thing you can fit into your typical schedule and it’s not a kind of thing you really wanna do in a rush either. It’s not like you’re gonna go, “Wow, that was amazing. I can’t wait for my next Iboga experience,” in my opinion, but it is fascinating. Yeah, definitely. I think the thing about all of these substances is, and all altered states, not just psychedelics, but non-drug-induced ones as well, is that they take you to such unique realms. There’s often a lot of overlap between the experiences phenomenologically, and yet they all have their own distinct kind of fingerprint to them. Where is the limit? What’s the bottom of the rabbit hole? Is there a bottom to the rabbit hole? Is there any limit on the breadth and diversity of altered states you can experience? And what does it all mean and what does it tell us about brain science, the nature of consciousness? I don’t think we’ll ever have all the answers, to be honest.
0:26:56 PA: Yeah, it’s one of those questions, you can go deeper and deeper and deeper into. It’s a never-ending exploration.
0:27:03 DL: There’s no bottom to it, I did the whole ride.
0:27:04 PA: There’s no bottom. And then, even for me that’s what fascinated me so much about psychedelics when I first started becoming more involved with this about four years ago. I was reading a number of books, history and The Psychedelics Explorer’s Guide and Acid Test by Tom Shroder and I probably read through 20 or 25, 30 books. And I was just like, “Man, there’s really no end to where this stuff goes.” It’s just… It crosses all chasms, in many ways. It really is fascinating because of that.
0:27:31 DL: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I don’t think there is really a bottom. I wanna know has anybody reached the bottom of the rabbit hole, please come and tell me about it. [laughter] What’s at the bottom of the rabbit hole?
0:27:41 PA: I feel like that’s the hard problem of consciousness in a way, isn’t it?
0:27:44 DL: Exactly. I mean, that’s what so fascinating. I mean, it’s not that psychedelics are endlessly, infinitely unfathomable and exciting and interesting. It’s like the nature of consciousness itself, doesn’t appear to have any real limits, right? Or at least if there are, we haven’t really managed to identify them. You think you’ve found the limits of consciousness and then you can have an experience which completely blows that out of the water the next time and it’s like you have to go back and reassess what you think the limits of consciousness are. John Lilly spoke about this a lot, he said, “In the province of the mind, there are no limitations.” And he says, “Those limitations to be found experimentally and experientially and when they are found, they turn out to be more beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind, there are no limitations.” And so far, I happen to agree with him. I haven’t found any limits as yet. As yet.
0:28:34 PA: As yet. [laughter]
0:28:36 DL: Keep looking.
0:28:38 PA: It’s a never-ending, a never-ending path. Well, let’s bring us to the present moment, and I’d love to just hear what you’re working on now that’s most exciting for you. Whether that’s from a research perspective, or whether that’s from a personal perspective. So yeah, if you could share that with our listeners.
0:28:55 DL: So I’ve got two major projects on the go, at the minute. One of them is mapping non-psychedelic altered states in the same way we map psychedelic states, with all the new psychometric measures, and so trying to get a standardized cross-section of all altered states and how psychedelic is a couple of hours in a dark room or an hour in a floatation tank and all the rest of it. And looking at the similarities and dissimilarities and what psychological constructs predict these experiences and so on, and so forth. So just trying to map all altered states in the same way we map psychedelic ones. That’s just an ongoing project and it’s nice and easy and accessible for my research students to do as well. But the main project I’ve got on the go, at the minute, is looking at DMT and looking at ontological questions, the nature of reality, entity encounters, telepathy, shared visionary experiences insight, but experimentally.
0:29:50 DL: So we’ve been working on for the last year now. We’ve been collecting data, doing a DMT field project where when people are smoking DMT, we go around to their house. In fact, sometimes we occasionally go into fields and literally field research and whilst they’re smoking DMT we collect data experimentally from them and psychometric measures. And so that’s really exciting and that’s gonna inform and feed into a lab-based study at Imperial which we’re collaborating on with the Imperial crew, which will be extended over the next four or five years. So that’s super interesting. I’ve just started analyzing some of the initial date from that. It’s been really slow-going but super interesting and rewarding. Just analyzed a whole bunch of data from pre-cognition experiments which are hugely exciting and compelling.
0:30:42 PA: How do you collect data for that? And what’s that process like?
0:30:44 DL: Okay, so we borrow a lot from parapsychological methods, which I’ve spent years doing research in, and we just apply that to people under the influence of psychedelics. In this particular experiment in the pre-cognition, we have people either under the influence of DMT or not, and they’re told to close their eyes and try and visualize a target from the future, and all they know is it’s gonna be the target from the future is gonna be a one-minute video clip. So, you usually do it on the come down of a DMT, not the peak, because that’s kind of pointless, ’cause they’re not really functioning in any way suitable to an experiment at that point. So these people are just coming down, but they’re getting a lot of mental imagery still. We’re them them to try and visualize this target. Basically, they describe their visualization first of all, they, we write it down and then they see four video clips, one-minute video clips, chosen to be as different from each other as possible from a randomized pool.
0:31:40 DL: And then they say, “Okay, my visualization was quite a lot like this one and a bit like that, not very much like this one, or nothing like that one.” So they rank order them. We know the exact probability of them choosing the actual target. Nobody knows what the actual target is, that’s then selected at random by a random number generator in the future after they have made their selection. And so we know there’s a 1 in 4 chance, 25% chance they’ll get the same one. So we can do some really exact statistics, probability estimates on them getting the target. And you have to do it over and over again, you kind of just run this repeatedly with a bunch of participants. And what you hope to find is that over time once you have enough people done the experiment, that they’ll select the right target from the future more often than you would expect by chance, and sure enough, you get 25% by chance. We get like 40% with people under the influence of DMT.
0:32:34 DL: So that’s… Yeah, it’s quite nice. I mean, it’s a tickle in the right direction. And now we’re extending that out to shared visionary experiences. So people on DMT at the same time and we take them off. We separate them and interview them about their experiences and then we have independent judges, looking at their experiences and trying to rank them. Okay, so you give a bunch of independent judges, like a whole bunch of DMT experiences, some of which have happened at the same time, some of which have been mostly independent and they don’t know the difference, right? And we redact any information which would give it away and the independent judges say, “Okay, these two experiences are more alike than the others.” And then again we can apply some pretty exact probability estimates to the possibility of finding those kind of corresponding trips, right? We haven’t got round to doing the analysis on that but some of the initial experiences have been way more compelling than I thought was gonna be possible. I thought I don’t think we’ll necessarily get much of a signal here, but yeah, I’m really looking forward to doing the analysis on that because I think it’s probably better than I thought it would be, to be honest.
0:33:44 PA: Can you speak to that at all, or…
0:33:46 DL: I can’t say much more than that. I haven’t crunched the data. We haven’t done the independent judging, but I’ve been surprised. I was like, “Yeah, you might get something.” And a quite a number of the people’s trips we’ve had some really quite compelling correspondences. I can’t say anything more than that, I would be over-stepping the interpretation, but I’m intrigued and interested in and excited by this research. Yeah, I think it’s got a lot of possibility.
0:34:13 PA: So going back to the first project that you mentioned, the mapping the various altered states.
0:34:18 DL: Yeah.
0:34:18 PA: And compared to psychedelics, could you just talk us through that? How are you setting that up as a process? What are you looking at in terms of how psychedelics are similar or dissimilar to other altered states?
0:34:28 DL: Yeah, it’s not like hugely theoretically driven or we’re not expecting really big discoveries here. It’s basically like… Yeah, it’s exploratory, right? We’re just like, “Okay, what is the nature of these altered states, non-drug-altered states, how do they map to psychedelic experiences?” So there’s these classic measures we use, like the 11 dimensions of altered states for mapping psychedelic experiences and it’s got a whole bunch of things like complex imagery, iconic imagery, blissful state, spiritual experience, anxiety, disembodiment. You kind of get a quantifiable measure of each of these different dimensions. And so we’re looking at, “Okay so, how disembodied do you get in an anechoic dark room? How much complex imagery do you get? How much kind of iconic imagery do you get?” And you know, what we’re finding is two hours in an anechoic, like this kind of completely sonically shielded, negative decibel, zero photon dark room, you find that people start getting quite hallucinatory experiences very quickly, comparable on paper, by these measures, not in reality, necessarily, but by these measures are comparable to a small to medium-dose of Psilocybin or LSD, right? And we can see the effect increases the longer you spend in there.
0:35:44 DL: It could be that you could work out the equivalent dosage of anechoic dark room to 100 mics of LSD, if we had enough data. By certain dimensions it may be that you get maybe more complex imagery and less spiritual insight and more anxiety perhaps in the dark room, but they are essentially like psychedelic states. And then we’re looking at the kind of psychological constructs, which predict the depth of altered state you get with psychedelics, as a construct called absorption, right? Which is the tendency to get lost in films or books, or whilst you’re driving, having forgotten how driving to a certain location, and that predicts pretty really robustly people’s depth of altered states with psychedelics. And we find the same thing with non-psychedelic states, as well, so these things are non-psychedelic psychedelic experiences.
0:36:43 PA: So instead of just giving everyone mushrooms, we should just make as many or create as many dark rooms as possible, just stick people in there…
0:36:51 DL: Yeah, well, they’re not as direct, you’ve got to work a little bit harder. And they may not be as kind of profound or revealing, but I think there’s a lot of mileage in these non-psychedelic altered states, even ways in which you can utilize the psychedelic state in a non-psychedelic way, like maybe re-inducing psychedelic experiences through hypnosis. That’s gonna be one of our next projects as well. And then mapping that. How psychedelic is that? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with psychedelic experiences, I think, but it’s… We can also understand the nature of brain and mind and altered states more generally, if we have this kind of nice comparators, really.
0:37:30 PA: Well, and Johns Hopkins has done some of this with meditation in particular, where they looked at how long-term meditators, when they have Psilocybin compared to just normal people who are taking Psilocybin what the brain might look like. And it sounds like what this is doing is you’re trying to sort of potentially, and correct me if I’m wrong, but sort of lay the foundation and groundwork so that people can ask more specific questions about maybe psychedelics and hypnosis or a float tank with Ketamine, which is what John Lilly, I believe, used to do quite a bit of.
0:38:00 DL: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely, yeah.
0:38:03 PA: And this is, it sounds similar to even what Jim Fadiman has talked about with microdosing ’cause he published that in 2017 with Sophia Korb with the sort of general survey analysis of microdosing. And that way people could go in then and go, “Oh, so there’s this experience, and there’s this experience and there’s this experience. Now, let’s go and really do some sort of controlled studies. So we can really dial in, what’s happening and why that matters,”
0:38:25 DL: Yeah, that, all of that, as well, it’s like… And getting kind of base line kind of like across the board categorization. And then we can begin to ask questions. Okay, so what features of these different altered states are comparable? What is it about disembodiment? What kind of states induce that? Can we say something about the underlying neurochemistry at work in non-psychedelic experiences based on what we know from psychedelic experiences and then begin to understand specific phenomena of altered states? What induces sense presence? What induces body experiences? What induces entoptics, these kind of geometric patterns people see, and why do we get those more in psychedelics and not in other altered states and so on and so forth. So just kind of like mapping the whole goddamn terrain, not just the psychedelic experience, but a whole realm of altered consciousness.
0:39:17 PA: And then from your perspective, how could that potentially be utilized by research institutions or by hospitals or by businesses, what sort of like, how could people build on that information to then heal or transform or help facilitate exceptional human experiences?
0:39:36 DL: Yeah, I think that’s the key. For me, I mean, I’m not a clinician, I’m not kind of a business-minded… I don’t really think too much about the applied dimensions of these things. I’m really super interested in just like the nature of consciousness and its kind of limits and kind of mapping it and understanding it. There are for sure a lot of applications and I think anything that helps us better understand these experiences and the variables which kind of affect them, set setting, underlying personality constructs. The better we understand them, the better trips or experiences in altered states we can have, the better we can utilize them for their full potential benefit, and like the trans-personal realm, the trans-personal element to the psychedelic experience in other altered states is what gives rise to exceptional experiences. And those are the things, that’s where the pot of personal transformational gold lies, is that the people who have these trans-personal experiences tend to have the best outcomes from these kind of interventions from psychedelic therapy and so on. So, the better we understand them, the better it is all round. And I guess I’m coming from a trans-personal, parapsychological, psychological dimension here and just the better we map them and understand them, the more uses and benefits we can have.
0:40:54 PA: Sort of bringing the right brain into more and more of the left brain.
0:41:00 DL: Yeah, I guess, yeah. Ironically, ’cause I’m delving into these really right-brain regions, but I’m coming at it from a very left-brain perspective. I’m a scientist, but I am very much happy in these realms of the nonlinear, the non-logical.
0:41:18 PA: Well, it’s sort of like, I was reading one of your descriptions on one of the podcasts that you had done before, and you essentially said that you were, you had studied in the UK for a while, and then you were like… Yeah, I’m just gonna go to South America to spend time with maybe shamans down there or what people are doing with the more, again, right brain stuff. And what keeps coming up for me in this conversation is, what’s the guy’s name who wrote… Jeremy?
0:41:39 DL: Narby?
0:41:39 PA: Jeremy Narby who wrote The Cosmic Serpent, right? And that was really like a look into where science and spirituality or science and shamanism meet. That just continues to come up for me in this conversation. It’s really like what you’re doing is going out into these like outer antipodes of the mind trying to understand what we can learn from them and then bringing them back in, so that they actually become useful or repeatable or something that we actually can do something with, rather than just sort of again throw away in the waste bin, like you were talking about before.
0:42:15 DL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s lots of different approaches and endeavors and these are completely transdisciplinary kind of states and substances. Psychedelics touches on everything from hardcore biology, neuroscience, oncology to anthropology and beyond, right? And I think we should be kind of approaching them inter-disciplinary, trans-disciplinarily. For me anyway, that’s… I think that’s where you can wring out the greatest kind of insights and it’s really useful to look at it from this perspective. I’m also interested in this kind of notion of state-specific sciences as well, something that Charles Tart came up with in the ’60s, one of the founders of trans-personal psychology, and he was saying like we should be looking at our intellectual pursuits from different states of consciousness as well, so like doing science in an altered state of consciousness and seeing what we can kinda pull through from these other states of being into our kind of ordinarily very, supposedly objective and linear kind of perspective, right?
0:43:24 DL: I think there’s a lot to be gained from that. I think we can probably learn as much from shamans as we can from neuroscientists, but very, very different things, with very different epistemologies and very different ontologies, right? But I think they’re all equally valid in many ways, and I think the danger of kind of atomizing or reducing things to one perspective is that we become quite myopic about these things. There is no one particular way of viewing psychedelics or the psychedelic experience, and there’s no one particular ultimate reality either. I think we can learn from the whole kind of broad array of perspectives and get a kind of deeper, richer, broader perspective on the nature of these experiences.
0:44:10 PA: And this gets into what we were just chatting about a little bit earlier on the podcast, it’s the importance of these experiences and enriching our lives as they become more and more atomized and disconnected and isolated. It’s really the richness and the breadth of these mysterious awe-inspiring experiences that makes it so wonderful to be human in many ways.
0:44:33 DL: Yeah. Right. Right. I mean, that’s the wonderful thing about psychedelics and there’s kind of this beautiful new perspective bouncing around a lot about psychedelics is that the increased connectivity on every level you look at. So from the biological, the neurological, through the psychological, the environmental, the sociological, into the cosmic, right? They increase interconnectivity between different brain regions. They give you direct access into regions of your own psychology. They increase empathy and compassion and open you up to different sociological realms. They increase kind of biophilia and eco-consciousness, connecting you up with the environment, and then they give you this kind of sense of connection to the whole universe, which is great. And I guess something you just tapped into and made me aware of there, is this like… And in the same way as kind of researchers, they tap us into this transdisciplinary realm as well. It’s like, yeah, you can’t just look at these things in a kind of atomized purely subject-focused way. It also forces you to look at them in a trans-disciplinary way as much as they connect you up across all these different realms of being. They also force you to look at all these different approaches and subjects as well, maybe. I can probably get away with that.
0:45:50 PA: It’s sort of like ignorance is bliss in a way, right? Once we’re opened up to these paranormal experiences through psychedelics, and I’m a little bit harder headed, so I definitely have had these sorts of experiences. I don’t know if I could recall them necessarily, or I can’t quantify them, but I can certainly say that they’ve been some of the more memorable, profound, meaningful experiences. I mean, this just gets back in the debate of the richness and the depth that shamanism and the concept of shamanism and the ontological approach to shamanism can add to our modern world view, it seems to be increasingly important in a world that’s techy and just disconnected and all those sorts of things.
0:46:34 DL: Let’s not forget that shamans are probably a community of people who have been using these substances and grown up around them for millennia. You look at the [unclear speech], the Huicholes, in Mexico for instance, as evidence that they’ve been using Peyote in that region for the last five and a half thousand years. When you go and spend time with them, they’re a fully shamanic culture, it’s not just like the one guy on the edge of the village is the shaman. It’s that whole culture is kind of rooted in shamanism, 20-30-40% of them are shamans. That’s their job. That’s the root of their entire culture is focused around their use of Peyote. So that’s what a culture looks like when they’ve been using psychedelic substances for thousands of years and that they’re a pretty interesting bunch. They seemingly have very little persona, they live in a constant magical reality. They really are on the kind of more idealist spectrum of metaphysical belief, and it’s astonishing to see and it’s a real insight, and I think that there’s a lot we can learn from that. We just can’t forget that our world view is acculturated and conditioned by years and years of cultural milieu and how we’ve grown up and how we’ve been educated.
0:47:54 DL: And it’s very easy for us to fall back into that and say, “Our way is best, our way is right. Look at the advances of technology and science, and all the rest of it, and how these… ” It wasn’t long ago we were calling these people primitives, right? And yet you have a psychedelic experience with them and what you experience is like hyper-technologized. They look like simple peasants eating maize and living off the land in a very simple way. And then the experiences you have, it’s just, it’s beyond your imagination. It’s like you go off to these other realms which seem incredibly complex and hyper-dimensional and just mind-blowing. Then you look at these guys again in a whole new perspective, it’s like, “Wow, they look so simple and yet they’re kind of like, they’re just there with that experience.” They don’t seem particularly shaken by that. And we are very new to this table, we’ve only had psychedelics for about a hundred years or so. And… But we still have a lot of kind of this colonial Western world developed nation arrogance around it like, “Science is best, we know best,” but I think there’s a lot we can learn.
0:49:01 PA: Well, whenever this topic comes up. It’s like industrialization, right? And the drugs that we’ve always used from a Western perspective in industrialization are nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, right? And now it’s with something like Cannabis, which is that gray area, and now we have psychedelics that are coming in and entering our mainstream cultural milieu. We’re shifting reality tunnels at the moment. I think what you’re speaking to is almost this wisdom that comes from sitting in a Peyote circle or going to the Amazon and working with Ayahuasca, or any other sort of cultural context. There’s a lineage that comes with that. And one thing that we’re missing from a Western perspective, is lineage with these substances. One can make the argument that Plato and Aristotle with kykeon, that’s a little bit of a lineage, but really our, kinda coming back to the Datura thing. One of our main lineages from a Western perspective is the witch’s brew and Datura and all that sort of stuff, as well. So it’s… We don’t have that context, we’ve sort of been zapped out of that.
0:50:05 DL: You don’t see people passing around the flying ointment at Burning Man, do you, really? [laughter] Yeah. Maybe that’s for good reason. The Solanaceae are not an easy trip. Yeah, we are devoid of that lineage in many respects, and you can see like LSD in a way, that’s like our shamanic plant medicine, in a way, obviously it’s not completely plant-derived, right? It’s kind of semi-synthetic, kind of an enigma, which is great in a way, ’cause that kinda sums up everything we’re about in the West, in many respects. And yet, it doesn’t really have any cosmology attached to it apart from what’s accrued in the last kind of 70 years or so. Whereas the traditional use of Peyote has a very rich and ancient cosmology. So maybe we’re just kind of scrambling around for our cosmology. That’s what’s lacking, there is no deep mythological constructs to attach to these things, a deeper, a more associative kind of dream world narrative associated with their use.
0:51:07 DL: We’ve got a really good kind of linear, scientific language and in a way that is our cosmology of psychedelics. And I never really thought about this before, but I guess, the scientific approach to psychedelics is our cosmology. We’ve coming out, we’ve attached these very deep mythological aspects to them, but from a very left-brain approach, from a very logical, linear approach. And maybe that has its own magic and power. Neuroscience is the 21st century psychedelic shamanism, in a way.
0:51:39 PA: Robin Carhart-Harris.
0:51:40 DL: Yeah, he’s kind of a elder psychedelic shaman of the neuroscientific branch of shamanism. [laughter]
0:51:50 PA: So what have you, you’ve talked about, you’ve done some field research, you’ve obviously spent a lot of time in Central America, South America. For you on a personal level, what have been some of the, a few things that you’ve learned from those experiences and spending time with those people that growing up in the UK and you’re a professor here at the University of Greenwich, that just isn’t, that you didn’t get in the West, so to say.
0:52:12 DL: I guess if nothing else, traveling and spending time in other cultures. I think everybody should be forced to do some amount of anthropology before they pontificate wildly in their own kind of sphere of research, because traveling to other cultures, spending time in other cultures is hugely educational in that it shows you what you’ve taken for granted as human norms are often cultural, right? That they’re the result of conditioning and indoctrination into your own cultural mores and laws and doctrines. And when you spend time in another culture you realize that’s not… That’s not necessarily the fundamental nature of reality, so you can spend time away with the [unclear speech] instance. And literally the moment you step into their culture, for me, I was kind of hallucinating elements of their cosmology very quickly without even having taken any Peyote, just kind of being in their world view, their cultural bubble, right? It certainly gives rise to a whole different perspective on reality. Which then enables you to come back and then see your own cultural reality bubble for what it is, our cultural perspective has a really powerful way of maintaining the limits of our own reality. We don’t live in a magical reality, yet we may be affected by it. [chuckle] It’s like a, so while our magical reality is materialist reductionism, it just seems to be a very self-limiting magical reality, right?
0:53:51 PA: Well, it’s very gray in a way. It’s very known, it’s very straightforward, and there’s not… Again, there’s not a lot of this mystery on reverence to the very linear knowing approach.
0:54:03 DL: Yeah, absolutely. And yet, science has its own limitations. Science doesn’t have all the answers. There is a huge amount of speculation, even the way in which we do science and the kind of answers we can get is determined by the questions we ask, so we only ask questions which fit within our reality tunnel. That’s why we don’t see much parapsychology, let alone psychedelic parapsychology. Because even asking those kind of questions is taboo and an anathema to the foundations of scientism, which is that there’s this kind of materialist reductionist reality. And even to explore possible alternatives to brain-based consciousness is kind of like taboo, so it becomes ridiculed, it becomes ostracized, it becomes taboo and therefore there’s not much of kind of scientific attention paid to it and so we just kind of carry on reinforcing our own particular world views about the nature of reality and the brain and consciousness and so on and so forth.
0:55:03 PA: Which is why I love what you’re doing, because you’re looking at the expansion of that, you’re looking at integrating new perspectives and new reality tunnels, essentially, so that we have this deeper understanding of who we are.
0:55:14 DL: Yeah, I’ve given it a go. [chuckle] I mean, ultimately…
0:55:16 PA: But there are… As far as I know there aren’t many other people who have made this… You’ve made this sort of your focus of research and study in many regards, right?
0:55:24 DL: Yeah, no one else is that stupid to… [laughter] I mean, I’ve basically committed double career hara-kiri, right?
0:55:31 PA: You’re doing alright. I think you’re doing alright.
0:55:32 DL: I’m surviving, yeah, against the odds. But yeah, when I started out doing this, psychedelic research was taboo and parapsychology was taboo and I tried looking at them both. Now, psychedelics is suddenly sexy within the academy, right? It’s kind of got credibility and respectability, and everybody wants to do it. I’m just kind of fighting off people, kind of sending me emails wanting to get into psychedelic research. Parapsychology on the other hand, is still taboo, right? Maybe at some point that will enter into the mainstream as well.
0:56:01 PA: Well, you’re a pioneer then, in what you’re doing with parapsychology, because there’s kinda like, just the fact, because it’s taboo doesn’t mean much. It just means it’s not understood. It means there’s a lot of ignorance within that. And what you’re doing is you’re essentially saying, “Well, let’s go out on that frontier.” Maybe you’re wrong 95% of the time, right? But the 5% could insert a new reality tunnel into where we are and that could lead to some really amazing understanding.
0:56:26 DL: I’m glad you think so, I mean, yeah, hopefully I’m looking at a time when parapsychology is just part of normal psychology, ultimately it’s only parapsychology because it’s not well understood. But ultimately my grand scheme is trying to kind of meet shamanism and science, right? These are two completely opposed or very, very different epistemologies and ontologies and world views and trying to find some middle ground between them without automatically dismissing them, either, from either perspective. And I think it’s just trying to have an honest discussion between these two different world views and see where they intersect and see if there’s room for each other within them.
0:57:05 PA: So let’s fast forward 10 years from now.
0:57:09 DL: Yeah.
0:57:10 PA: Right? Like psychedelics are medical, they’re decriminalized everywhere. All of a sudden, the cost of doing research, it’s diminished by a 10th or a 20th, so it’s much easier to explore a number of questions, particularly related to parapsychology and psychedelics. When that is the case, what are, outside of what you’re already doing right now, what are some more areas of research or things that you were really, really curious about exploring around the intersection of psychedelics and psi and parapsychology that might not be feasible to explore at this point in time just because of a lack of resources, but in the future might be feasible for you to really go into?
0:57:50 DL: Yeah. Well, that’s an interesting question. So when we have our set of para-psychopharmacology set up in 10 years from now and it’s a kind of legitimate mainstream area of research, what kind of questions am I gonna be exploring? That’s a super interesting question, I mean, psi, there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know about psi just from the mainstream, and I don’t know if we’d necessarily understand more about it by looking at psychedelic experiences, honestly, other than we know that these psychedelic and other altered states are conducive to it. Maybe we can begin to map it a bit better and understand the more nuanced conditions under which it arises. People taking psychedelics have way more of these experiences. We’re only, I’m only, and a few other people have only begin to ask them whether or not these experiences are legitimate. So there’s a huge scope for which directions we take it in and maybe that’ll open the door to more exotic, kind of shamanic world views and experiences.
0:58:52 DL: What about the nature of plant spirits or spirit entities, whatever you may call them? What about weather control? This is something universally that a lot of shamans do. Is it possible to even affect the local weather systems? That’s something I’d like to explore, I was going to explore next when I go to Mexico in a few months with Peyote.
0:59:16 PA: Wait, can you tell us a little bit… How does that work? How do you…
0:59:21 DL: I don’t really know. That’s why I gotta go and…
0:59:23 PA: Yeah.
0:59:23 DL: I’ve been witness to some kind of pretty far-out experiences with [unclear speech], and also the notion of weather control is not uncommon to many shamanic traditions and cultures, how that works, like exploring experimentally, I’m not entirely sure, it’s not really been explored very much. But being a witness to some pretty far-out experiences… One time, we met up with a bunch of Huichol Mara’akames and we were with one Mara’akame and they all got to arguing immediately. We were trying to say “Hi” and introduce ourselves. We’re a bunch of friendly gringos, and all that kind of stuff, and they were like, dove straight into this really heated argument. Meanwhile, this enormous dust devil popped up in the field behind them, maybe like 200-300 feet high… What’s that, about 100 meters high and maybe like 10-20 meters across. And it’s like moving towards us, like sucking up all these dry maize leaves and we’re like, “Oh, my God, that’s pretty far out.” And the guys, these shamans hadn’t even noticed, and we’re like, “Oh, shit, it’s coming right for us.” And at some point, it was virtually upon us and we were gonna point it out to them. It was like, “Hey, you guys, look behind you.” And they turned round and a couple of them just basically formed some kind of gesture with their arms, and kind of pushed it away.
1:00:42 PA: Like an energetic sort of “whoosh.”
1:00:43 DL: Yeah, just like, “Woo! Be gone.”
1:00:45 PA: Like a Jedi.
1:00:47 DL: “Be gone, dust devil.” And there’s this whole thing, this enormous dust devil… I’d never seen anything like it, like a mini tornado, suddenly changed direction, in the direction they were seemingly pushing it, and it kind of went round us in a big arc. And then when it had gone round, it just carried on going in its original trajectory, in this kind of straight line. And we were like, we were all standing there, these gringos were like, we’re standing right there, “Oh my God. Did you see though, did that really happen?” Meanwhile, these shamans had just got back to arguing instantly. They were just like paying no attention to that. It’s like, “Yeah, whatever. That’s out of the way. Anyway, what was I saying? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” The extreme casual ease of something simplistic we might do, like just changing tunes on an iPod or something like that. It was just quite astonishing. And yet, they claim to control the weather, you know? These kinds of phenomena need exploring kind of sincerely and in an open-minded way. Can they genuinely control weather? I mean, no one’s really asked those kind of questions. What’s the role of Peyote in that? There’s a lot of unanswered questions.
1:01:48 PA: This is fascinating. Okay, last question.
1:01:51 DL: Yeah, okay.
1:01:51 PA: Last question. This is something I’ve just been asking a few of our recent guests and I’m getting some really good responses, and basically it’s… The context is a lot of the work that you do. The parapsychological stuff is interesting, but just generally being involved in the psychedelic space. You’ve been involved… How long have you been doing research and sort of, professionally…
1:02:09 DL: Like 20 years.
1:02:11 PA: 20 years?
1:02:12 DL: Yeah.
1:02:13 PA: Wow. With psychedelics in particular?
1:02:15 DL: Yeah, psychedelics and altered states and parapsychology, yeah, since I started my PhD pretty much, like 20 years ago.
1:02:22 PA: And now, of course, psychedelics becoming very trendy, they’re becoming very popular. It’s kind of the space that everyone wants to get into. It’s seen as great work, inspiring work, useful work, yet there’s also a lot of difficulties and challenges that come with it, and I just wanna end on that note in terms of like, for you as a researcher in this field, what have been some of the difficulties and challenges that you’ve come across doing this work and being sort of a pioneer on a topic that most people have perceived as out there and taboo and just not legitimate.
1:02:53 DL: Probably the biggest limitation or hurdle has been my own beliefs about that, actually, the nature about thinking it was so taboo that I’m never gonna be able to make a career in it, and that pussy-footing around and gently, very quietly moving forward my research agenda, but not wanting anybody to take too much notice so they all point a finger at me and say, “You heretic! You don’t belong in the academy.” And then as I kind of incrementally become more and more out of the closet, realizing that actually there isn’t any resistance to my particular interests, intellectually or academically, and in fact, people are super interested in this. So I’d say the biggest obstacles and drawbacks have been my own perceptions of the apparent limitations, and they don’t really exist. So that would be my advice to anybody. If you’re passionate about something, just go for it and everything else will fall into place.
1:03:50 PA: And I feel like that’s a beautiful way to end this because that, I think, speaks to what we’ve been talking about this entire podcast, which is that our beliefs are our own limitations to some degree, and that the mind is so expansive; we really only know a very tiny portion of what it’s capable of.
1:04:05 DL: Yeah, I’d go with that.
1:04:06 DL: Nice chatting to you, Paul.
1:04:09 PA: Well, David, thank you so much for just sitting down and having this fantastic conversation. Thank you for all the work that you’ve been doing, for all the questions that you ask, for all the out-there, weird places that you go, both probably in your own experiences but also more from a research perspective. I think what you’re doing is incredible. It is very important, and will become only more important as you continue to do more research and get more funding, and we have more… I don’t know if we’ll have more answers to questions. There’ll probably just be more questions to the questions.
1:04:41 DL: But the genie’s out of the bottle now.
1:04:43 PA: The genie’s out of the bottle. Absolutely.
1:04:45 DL: Thank you. Brilliant interview. Thank you very much.
1:04:55 PA: Absolutely.