It’s no secret we’re living in a sort of psychedelic renaissance. With scientific evidence demonstrating the medicinal value of psilocybin and MDMA, and successful decriminalization campaigns happening in Denver and Oakland, we’ve never seen a time with psychedelics receiving so much institutional support.
And still, there is a long way to go before the mainstream perception of these substances are healed from the post-60s war on drugs smear campaigns.
For that to happen, we need grounded yet compelling pieces of media that walk the tightrope of advocacy and harm-reduction while keeping the viewer stimulated and entertained.
I just watched a recently released documentary that does this remarkably well.
It’s entitled “Journeys to the Edge of Consciousness.”
Getting a window into the first-person perspective of a psychedelic journey (with all of its elation and horror) takes the viewer on a thought-provoking and visually entrancing adventure.
Here is just a snippet from the man who was once dubbed “The Most Dangerous Man in America” by Richard Nixon:
“I looked back over the last 40 years with pain at my blindness. Every second had presented me with a golden chance to tune in, to break through, to glorify, to really dance with God’s great song. And every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day I grimly played out my own narrow little mental chess game. I now saw the plastic film I put between me and the divine process going on all around. My egocentricity, my deadening mind had created a plastic hell that separated me from this precious, fragile gift that we call life.”
— Timothy Leary
After each of these animated accounts, supplemental interviews with leading researchers and luminous minds like Gabor Mate, Rick Doblin, Dennis McKenna, and Graham Hancock are used to further flesh out these mystical rollercoaster rides.
And I love how they explore a vital distinction between “bad trips” and difficult experiences:
“Very often when people talk about bad trips they are talking about difficult experiences where a pain comes up or shame comes up or fears comes up. And the mind says ‘this is bad.’ In reality, what was coming up, the pain, the fear or the shame, are qualities you’ve carried all of your life and you’ve defended against by becoming a Harvard professor, or a medical doctor, or a nice guy, or a good wife, or a successful actress or whoever you are. All of a sudden your defenses are not available and now you’re experiencing the fear, the pain, and the shame, and the grief that you’ve always buried inside your personality. And we call that a bad trip. Well, it’s no bad if there’s deep learning from it. It was painful, fearful but that doesn’t make it bad. So bad is a kind of judgment. And who is making the judgment? If the outcome, however,if there is a constriction of the self, a more fearful self, a less effective self, then you can say that’s a negative outcome. And usually, that has to do context. That has to do with a lack of guidance. Lack of process. Lack of integration.”
— Gabor Mate
If your curiosity is piqued I’d recommend watching the trailer right here:
Even if you have never experimented with psychedelics (and never do), I’d recommend this film simply for the mind-expanding insights you’ll be exposed to during the animated trip accounts. Well worth the $5.99 rental fee from Vimeo or Amazon.
If you check it out, let us know which journey impacted you the most: Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley or Alan Watts?
Mike is a magician and poet telling tales from the intersection of attention, deception, and wonder.