The Colonization of the Astral Plane
Ethical dimensions of "plant medicine" and medical psychedelic use
With the uptick in the popularity and ready public acceptance of plant medicine journeys, psychedelics, and other traditional healing methods, as well as the FDA’s recent admittance of the myriad of pharmaceutical, psychological, and neurological benefits for practitioners more ethical dilemmas arise than new horizons.
The interest from those whose ancestors chose “white”--white culture, white identity, whiteness, or more accurately “power”--in land based practices often use hybridized indigenous practices in neo versions of traditional “medicines'', plant, animal, and experientially derived medicines to alter the consciousnesses of practitioner, patient, client. But without the development of a shared ontology and an anti-racist lens, or a decolonial counter-narrative to the disputed history of this emerging field, we are irredeemably reinforcing the products of white supremacy and offering white-washed psychedelic ossuaries that are pseudo spiritual communities divorced from indigenous, black or brown culture or pain. These ethical dimensions our eyes so readily stare beyond are actually the whole point of sacred ceremony.
Ethically, as a practitioner I believe that this is a dangerous stage in the development of this tool which has been cleaved from indigenous science. Even more concerning is that it seems a rogues’ gallery of “parapsychology,” paranormal, and every would-be sorcerer with a website is suddenly offering “sacred journeys.”
I want to be clear: I think psychedelic journeys and plant medicine, within a ceremonial repository, can be incredibly helpful to the individual practitioner. But the way that academia, modernity, and the so-called experts, horny for attention, are pitching and selling it to you? That isn't really what these journeys and medicine are.
Plant medicine is often the “trickster deity” in material form. Do you understand what that means?
This realm that many treat like an amusement park--that place, those visions, and the spirits that bring them are sentient living beings. We are encountering ideas, will, and life from outside our own perception--outside our world. Whether it is your ancestors, Coyote, the Merry Pranksters’ proposed Kosmo, the subconscious super ego encountering Jung’s collective conscious, or actually some of the whack ideas Tim Leary and his CIA handlers came up with for what God must be: in my experience what I encounter there is typically there to help me tune into a vision, even if that vision destroys me.
Yes, most of plant medicine, sacred ceremony, and what we now encounter as “the path” of Spirit in modernity is littered with pamphlets, books, old ghouls dug up from the 60s as subject matter experts, and a 50-year history of Government experimentation. The country’s first large scale LSD testing gave us the book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, the Grateful Dead ( then Warlocks), Timothy Leary’s 30 years of research, the Unabomber, Haight Ashbury, a ton of shitty fashion sold as “spiritual” vestments, and some honestly terrible songs out of some pretty shitty bands.
MK Ultra was the name of the experiment, and you can just read the wikipedia link.
Really. Like READ THE WIKIPEDIA.
The freedom of information act has saved our ass so many times, you have no idea. And so here we are, on the precipice of a “bold new era” in the exploration of human consciousness… or we are entering a well known and explored field of science that the CIA, the defense department, and any number of other bad actors the Government allowed have spent decades mastering before they pretend you can have it while it languishes for years with the FDA..
The importance of us entering land based practices and having ceremonial receptacles that help us imagine a future, and a present, beyond the white supremacist constructs of ontology and epistemology. These constructs lead us to either “progressive” and utopian views dependent upon billionaires and corporations destroying our solar system the way we have, or eschaton and end world battles where only the Almighty can save us.
Plant medicine offers the opportunity for some of us, not all of us, to skip some of the work of finding balance with ourselves, our destiny or fate in this world, our lot in life, and to tune us into the Radical Immanence, or Divinity found in all matter as proposed by Dr. Rita Sherma of the GTU.
It is also a powerful tool in the ontological battle of this age. What humanity is trying to figure out is if the ancients are right. Or are we in the last 500 years? Is time progressing? Or are we witnessing the same stories, with different actors and settings, repeated over and over ad infinitem?
A cyclical vs teleological view of reality.
I said recently: “Eschaton and teleological frameworks are the ontological frameworks of theology and spirit the academy, in society, and as we deal with the series of disasters wrought by capitalism insistent dominionism of the earth, is a teleological progressive view of reality (which I contend is just a repacked geocentric cosmological view inherited from post reformation european church thinkers and scholars now center on white bodies as the center of the universe) versus a cyclical notion of reality with a perception of the concept of time that allows more malleability to it.
In one worldview there is an expectancy based on “eschaton” or a climatic event in time and space that will set all the world alright. An “end justifies the means” cosmological view that relies on intervention of either potential technology waiting to be unlocked in our minds, and of course , wrestled out of our continued conquering of the natural cosmos. In theological circles riddled with the quandary of particularity it is a God or Godhead who will step into human history, quite unbidden, to set “the world alright.”
Both examples of a teleological view of reality believe time is thus “progressing” towards some future humanist and technological utopia or a holy and Godly “kingdom to come” and both require little participation from the adherent other than upholding the current system. It centers humanity and humanities story, and continues to keep those in the construct of “modernity” severed from a relationship with land, or the land they live on.
This begs several questions: how does one honor, incorporate, and share a working praxis that is the epistemology of the land we live on or start to explain a so-called “magic of the americas?” How can anyone avoid perennialism, appropriation in a story like this? How does one articulate and honor the still living traditions, and now separate ontological realities, and land based traditional healing practices of those of the african diaspora in the americas? What is a “right sized” place in this larger story playing out across the world for and of these traditions?
Most importantly to me as a historian is the question: How can we stop erasing these voices of mysticism with 530 years of history, tradition, and magic that are still alive today and are often shouted down by white practitioners and academics in place of “pure” versions from antiquity.”
In other words this is the only land lenny duncan can exist. The only timeline. How can I grab from the wreckage of colonialism, utility from my ancestors, and knowledge that is written on my skin? How can I grab anything that is “safe”?
Therein is the trap. Our minds and the innerverse within us all isn’t safe, isn't for everyone, and shouldnt be sold to you like it is. Each individual story is like one raindrop falling from tens of thousands of feet in the air depending on wind, geography, and the day: it may land on a flower or on your head. Each sacred journey, the ancient and neo ways, that one can use now to face their shadow side, take the warriors journey, and contact part of ourselves lost to modernity is incredibly unique and requires care. Companionship. Teachers willing to be students. Students of this work of dragging the unreal into what most of us consider real to be teachers. Finally one must be willing to die to oneself more fully, each and every time you go there.
And as Baldwin said: that isn’t a day at the bargain counter. It is a total risk. No amount of quickly read risks at the end of the commercial can prepare you for what you may see when you use this science. The truth is we must remember that psychedelic research was on the backs of people still in prison to this day, and unsuspecting victims, and a spiritual landscape littered with those corpses requires investigation.
Thanks for writing about plant people relationships. All of the plants contain mind altering medicine if you love them enough.
Great article. Curious where the Sami people fit into this discussion of White colonialism and psychedelics or if they are an exception because they’re indigenous?