Reflections After Entheogenesis Australis: "Australia's Premier Psychedelic Symposium"
If you live in Australia and you're interested in entheogens, psychedelics, sacred medicine, consciousness exploration - whatever terms you like to use, and you haven't heard of EGA, it's probably time to crawl out from the rock you've been hiding under.
EGA, Entheogenesis Australis, is described as Australia's premium psychedelic symposium. It was held on the beautiful lands of Lake Eildon in Victoria, featuring a decent gathering of various leaders at the forefront of psychedelic research, presenting the latest findings, ideas, knowledge, and debates on all things psychedelia related.
Neuroscience, medicine, botany, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, art, culture, community...
It took a little while to decompress from my weekend away. Or perhaps it'd be more accurate to say, it took a little while to decompress from the past couple of months!
After island hopping throughout the Indonesia archipelago, completing my Kambo practitioner training through the IAKP, followed by camping out at EGA's outdoor symposium, back to back to back, I needed to give myself a bit of a defrag!
Now that I'm back, I'm going to try and give a brief run down of some of what I found to be key concepts / ideas / take-aways that have stuck with me since EGA.
PSYCHEDELICS, LANGUAGE EXPANSION & EMOTIVE VOCABULARY
(Reflections after seeing Nese Devenot speak on 'Poetic Language in Psychedelic Science')
How many of you have ever felt a feeling, but have failed to express or communicate that feeling accurately? I certainly have!
There seems to be a significant portion of the population that have somewhat of a rudimentary vocabulary when it comes to articulating the emotions and feelings that we experience.
I might speculate that this is partly due to our culture placing more importance over our thinking selves - the logical, rational, problem solving aspects of self, rather than our feeling selves - which includes the wide spectrum of emotions and feelings that we experience on a day to day basis.
Essentially, we use language moreso for practical matters, rather than to better understand and communicate how we feel.
Within this basic lexicon, which is neither inherently positive or negative, there lays the potential to dull down the rich subjective human adventure that we all experience!
Psychedelics are certainly one key that opens the doors to allow us to expand our vocabulary; enhancing our ability to express and communicate the richness of our subjective experience, both internally to ourselves and externally to others.
Expanding one's language is necessary to grasp and develop better frameworks and deepen our understanding when it comes to the psychedelic experience.
When we use new words and concepts to articulate and derive meaning from our journeys, this can translate into being able to language more and more of the subtle nuances when it comes to how we 'feel', in our 'regular' experiences in daily life.
If one wishes to cherish a greater depth and richness to their human experience, making a commitment to cultivate a practice of expanding one's languaging capacity is an important piece of the puzzle.
When it comes to making the cross-over for myself, I definitely could do with massive upgrades when it comes to being able to clearly express and communicate how I'm feeling.
After a quick online search, there's a stack of resources that provide a great variety of words that can be learnt and used to articulate one's feelings and emotions. I better get practicing!
SENSORY PERCEPTION AND OUR EXPERIENCE OF REALITY
(Reflections after seeing Des Tramacchi speak on 'Psychedelics & Auditory Perception')
Sometime last year, I remember listening to this podcast which detailed 'Aphantasia', a word used to describe someone unable to create imagery in their mind's eye.
A purple monkey wearing a monocle, riding a unicycle on a thin piece of wire, from one side of a volcano to the other, with a bunch of rainbow coloured helium balloons tied to it's tail.
Chances are, most of you will be able to picture it, unless of course you have aphantasia!
It blew my mind a little when I first learned of this, which brings up a slew of questions regarding how someone with aphantasia perceives reality.
What happens when they recall memories of time spent with loved ones? Is it perhaps the feelings that are remembered, rather than the visual component of the memory? What happens when someone loses their keys? Do they run through the potential places through a wikipedia style checklist, rather than mapping out locations visually in their mind?
It becomes even more interesting in regards to how they might experience a psychedelic journey! Perhaps not too dissimilar to how a visually impaired or blind person might experience psychedelics?
(If anyone uses psychedelic substances and has aphantasia, I'd love to know what your experience are like - please drop me a comment below)
I was actually reminded of Aphantasia after Des Tramacchi was talking about a particular psychedelic substance (DIPT - N,N-Diisopropyltryptamine) and how ingesting it alters how we perceive sounds.
This particular substance apparently causes significant shifts in how we perceive pitch and harmonic relationships, to the point where the auditory distortions it produces are incredibly disorienting, lasting for up to 30 hours!
He pointed out that while there a lot of psychedelic compounds, there aren't that many that change the way we experience harmonics, perhaps suggesting that our perception of auditory harmonies is quite a resilient / sturdy sensory apparatus.
I imagine it could be quite an uncomfortable reality to live in, if the music one listened to was completely out of tune, delivering unpleasant harmonies to one's ear drums!
This concept made me reflect about aspects of life that I'm sure many of us take for granted. Hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch... How very different our experiences of reality would be if any of our senses were skewed or distorted in any number of directions.
(A nice reminder about how malleable our sense of reality is, and how our ordinary experience of reality is only one tiny slice of potential realities available for us to subjectively experience through the way we've been cognitively wired.)
Again, I have a strange curiosity to know what it might be like if anyone had developed this kind of auditory distortion during life, and what one might experience if they then experimented with psychedelic substances.
(Unregulated science experiment anyone??)
PLACEBOS, PATHOGENS, AND THE MEDICAL APPROACH TO HEALING
(This point was brought up by Ben Sessa in one of the discussion panels.)
If we take a look at the prevailing Western medical model, it's clear to see that it views health predominantly from a pathogenic approach; looking at what makes us sick, rather than what makes us well. It would do this medical model well by broadening their view and placing more focus on the positives, rather than the negatives, coming from the understanding that we now have concerning the placebo effect and the power of the mind.
(Joe Dispenza and Bruce Lipton are good starting points on this subject, if you want to delve deeper into how our thoughts affect our health at a cellular level.)
When it comes to health, healing, and even curing certain ailments, there is a wealth of knowledge backed by scientific data, regarding the active role that both hope and positivity plays in one's ability to progress forward on their health and healing journey. It's quite clear that the placebo effect plays an important contribution in conjunction to medicines / medications being used, but unfortunately these beneficial findings are yet to have been adopted and implemented into mainstream models and ideas.
When it comes to the psychedelic experience and working with these consciousness expanding tools for healing, growth and transformation, it highlights the importance of preparation, integration, set and setting in the context of creating an environment, both internally and externally, to help induce states of hope and positivity, and to harness the power of placebo to the best of our ability.
INTERWEAVING MYSTICISM, RELIGION, PSYCHEDELICS AND SCIENCE
(Reflections and summations of Erik Davis' talk on 'Psychedelics and Religions')
When we take a look into the main religions, we recognise that they generally hold different belief systems, structures, and dogma on what their description of god is. The thing is, at the core of these differences is that one similarity: that 'god' actually exists.
Taking a deeper look, it becomes clear that god is not some bearded man dressed in immaculate white robes, but rather, points to a state of consciousness that one can attain, revealing a state of being that encapsulates the oneness of all; both everything and nothing; transcending time and space; experiencing the incomprehensible; the ineffable; a mystical type of experience that seems more real than real.
An experience that seems to defy rational explanation.
With the commonality of this mystical type experience that lays at the core of many of these religions, which many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have experienced, it suggests that this is actually an experience inherently available to all. And by all, I mean all of those who've happened to find themselves walking around on this planet in a human meat suit.
If it's an intrinsic, built-in, deep-rooted characteristic of the human experience, it would be ignorant to dismiss this as something without potential merit or meaning. Ahh... but yet here we are, on the cusp of 2018, with the current paradigm in the West being that of scientific materialism, which largely disregards this incredible metaphysical phenomena as something of little relevance or importance.
Is science not about investigation, exploration and discovery, by means of reliably reproducing results through testing, data collection, and the construction of theories? It seems kind of obvious that through the countless accounts and similarities of experience, even across different religions with different belief systems, that these mystical experiences can be reproduced with the right conditions.
What are the right conditions you ask?
Well, perhaps meditating in an ashram, or doing kundalini yoga for hours on end might not be the most reliable way to go about this, but two that I can think of off the top of my head are forms of breathwork, and, yes, you guessed it... entheogens!
(The literal meaning of 'entheogen' meaning - the divine within, for all you rookies out there.)
Psychedelics have the capacity to induce mystical states of consciousness that by all description matches the mystical states of consciousness described at the core of many religions and religious experiences. It makes sense then, that this is one avenue by which science can reliably reproduce results, blending mysticism and rationalism, the occult and the scientific, the metaphysical and the physical.
Erik Davis, through his incredibly well structured talk, made the point that trying to intellectualise, which may lead to over-intellectualising, someone else's path which includes mystical type experiences, may not get one very far. And that is probably part of the problem.
There's plenty of people within science and medicine (and the government, and the general public, etc etc etc) who are looking at these concepts from the sidelines, having little to no first-hand experience themselves, or fearing to stray too far from the establishment for reasons involving one's personal career or reputation, that may just not get it.
It's kind of like an astronomer telling Buzz Aldrin what it's like to walk on the moon. One may have to actually experience the path of mysticism within the appropriate context, to experientially understand these other points of view that are too often neglected.
Perhaps instead of narrowing the focus deeper and deeper to look at the fine details of these religious texts, religions in general, and the mystical experiences found within them, it could be beneficial to come back to the core experiences that we're all capable of sharing, and take it from there.
(Based off evolutionary concepts, it begs the question... What's the reason for all these mystical experiences? Do they have a purpose? Is it a built-in mechanism so that we, us, you and me, as an individual self, in which we are but one part of the grand total of Consciousness, which has manifested itself into individual human beings with individual perceptions of reality, can access these states of consciousness to recognise both the separation and oneness of all, with a constant feedback loop of information and experience progressively leading to more and more self-awareness of the physical universe itself, in which the non-physical is already completely aware of itself? - Try and wrap your head around that one!)
WRAPPING THINGS UP...
With all the research and data and insights and knowledge on all things psychedelia during this weekend long symposium, it's important to remember that psychedelics are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to one's health and wellbeing; a holistic approach and lifestyle most certainly being needed.
I've barely scratched the surface describing the wealth of information and experiences that were shared during this weekend.
Other interesting talks I managed to catch included Julian Palmer discussing his adventures across the globe searching for lesser known psychoactive plant species (including his potential candidate for Soma!), James Skalkos sharing his philosophies on integrating psychedelics with movement practices and nature, Jennifer Dumpert talking about exploring consciousness through dreaming and using various herbs (oneirogens) to enhance one's dreams, and James Oroc and his experiences of turning from some sort of scientific atheist sceptic into a full blown mystic, in a matter of minutes, thanks to his encounters with 5-meo-DMT.
Yes, I'm aware all of those presenters start with the letter 'J'.
Other notable presenters that I managed to catch glimpses of were Joe Tafur and his experiential wisdom of being an MD and spending time in the jungles with patients, using Ayahuasca as an allopathic medicine, and Rak Razam, an absolute wizard at articulating the most complex of concepts like his brain is permanently plugged into some sort of cross-breed Encyclopædia Britannica-Thesaurus.
The evening light and sound show extravaganza at the campgrounds were a treat, enhanced by a beautiful connection with my dear friend cannabis. Consciousness altering moments were shared by staring into a very alluring, incredibly crafted mandala, lit up by LED lights, conjured up by a dear friend of mine, who goes by the name of Hazel Mandala.
Overall, a fantastic and insightful gathering with old friends and new. I'm glad to be back from my adventures over the past couple of months.
It feels great getting back into the swing of things and serving some powerful Amazonian Kambo medicine to all those that feel the call. If you're in Australia and you're one of these people, please reach out and connect!
Wishing a safe, healthy and happy holiday season to all!
Big love, Chris x