Psychedelics, Conspiracies and the Neoliberal Milieu

Lately, we’ve seen a spurt of spiritual individuals, many of them linked to the psychedelic community, almost surprisingly invest themselves into conspiratorial thinking that lends itself to right wing tendencies.

I say surprisingly, but should it come as such a shock considering the context and approach within which most psychedelic circles take their ‘medicine’?

This term, ‘medicine’ in and of itself, although I do not want to discredit it completely as it does hold some value in that psychedelics can bring up unconscious material to be properly integrated, lends itself mainly to this underlying assumption that psychedelics represent almost platonic truths when one is on them, rather than revealing unconscious psychological constructs one already has, to be scrutinized and integrated with great care.

You see, without any reference to deeper critical thought, many psychonauts enter into the realm of psychedelics expecting to be offered some absolute truths. They enter into the realm as a neoliberal subject, stringing along the remnants of enlightenment values that serve to predispose as an upholding assumption that many, such as Jordan Peterson, use to legitimise the current socio political paradigm.

Let me just say, before all you Foucaultians (Foucaultans, Focaulteens?) begin losing your minds, I am only fairly familiar with the work of Foucault and so I use the term ‘neoliberal subject’ very loosely to describe a subject that is defined by the current neoliberal framework. An individual that does not see themselves or is ignorant to the part of themselves that is part of a milieu of knowledge-power structures, but rather embodies the very essence of neoliberal assumptions which lead to high levels of narcissism and a view of the world encumbered with the unconscious or underlying ideas of ultimate enlightenment truths.

For example, the assumption that has leaked into neoliberal enlightenment related thinking is that we are gods in some sense,  that our freedom is solely based in the mind and body of the separate individual.  The ‘I’ or the ego then becomes inflated and this is perhaps why we see much spiritual arrogance from those leaving Ayahuasca spaces, rather than what would be the presumed dissolution of ego.

On top of that it emboldens ideas that sit at the tails of these separate ‘I’s such as the faux conception of freedom that we have seen and continue to see many trumping (yes I used that word on purpose) out in the streets, demanding that wearing a mask is a vexing violation to their intensified egos.

When a neoliberal subject enters into a psychedelic space, void of deep criticisms beyond the current milieu besides shallow rat race analyses, instead of leaving the psychedelic space with more knowledge of themselves, of an understanding that the material they just encountered is connected to the cultural and political context, to be analysed and integrated or dismissed accordingly, they simply solidify these neoliberal constructs, coming out of their trance-like states with capitalist egos stronger than before.

These types of un-deconstructed egos lead to magical thinking and the idea of higher platonic truths, which if one looks deeper, conspiratorial thinking matches up with. The idea that life could be as simple as good and bad, the upholding of the neoliberal subject with its faux freedoms and deep enlightenment assumptions mixed with magical thinking all hold up the space for what we now deem to be conspiracy theories.

Perhaps the current psychedelic community needs to take some lessons from the first psychedelic counterculture in the 1960’s, which although imperfect and fraught with it’s own areas of magical thinking, approached the use of psychedelics with a more critical, rigorously thinking mindspace.

Psychedelics unlikely to be beholden to platonic ideals where one enters into another state to discover the ultimate truths of reality. Rather, in my opinion, they reveal to us the cultural constructs and baggage we have been carrying.

This is not an opinion that I hold in vain. In an article, namely “A Response to ‘Early Reflections on Interviews with Palestinians and Israelis Drinking Ayahuasca Together‘”  author and Doctor Sawsun Nur Eddin discussed the complexities of serving Ayahuasca to Palestinians within a western-influenced ‘shamanic’ new age context, thereby, in a sense performing, in his own words. “an exercise in psychedelic lobotomy” and as I understood it effectively pacifying the activism of participating Palestinians to fit within a Western-centric spiritual conception of love and light.

This lobotomy exercise is only possible because the author tends to agree with my views on how psychedelics function in relation to the psyche.

He states in the article that, “When ‘shamanistic’ Amazonian practices are extracted and transposed into a different context, the experience becomes clothed in familiar garb taken from one’s own language, social practices, and cultural and political discourses,” and even goes onto quote another who shares the same view: “The reality of this situation was spelled out by Dr. Brian Pace, ‘There have long been vague implications that wider psychedelic use will somehow inspire progressive values, universal siblinghood, and an ecotopia of overlong, platonic hugs. Psychedelics are chemicals carrying a lot of cultural baggage…In any case, evidence mounts indicating that the full spectrum of right-wing ideology, from outright Nazism to conservative-leaning centrism, is demonstrably hospitable to psychedelics–not uniquely endangered by them.’

A more anecdotal example is when my friend took some psychedelics at AfrikaBurn in the midst of studying his philosophy degree, and became convinced under the influence of the substance, that he was actually Hegel’s conception of the Geist.

Therefore, If we do not contend with this wider socio-political ‘set and setting’,  the societal baggage we bring with us into the psychedelic space or ‘ceremony’ we risk emboldening ourselves as neoliberal subjects, imprisoned by our current milieu, rather than seeing through the facade of our current culture or what Terence Mckenna famously (or infamously) referred to as, ” a linguistically reinforced hallucination.”



Contributor and Founder:  Dayna Joan Remus

 Previous long-time fence sitter, Dayna now refers to herself as a “wary anarchist” and “part-time vegan” – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. When she isn’t working her full-time job as a publisher and obsessing over it’Sunny you will probably find her pacing around and reading or singing Disney songs in – and out – the shower.