Jordan Bates • • 11 min read
It’s Time to Step Out of the Psychedelic Closet
How many of us are still in the “psychedelic closet”?
Tim Ferriss has said that all the billionaires he knows use psychedelics regularly.
Steve Jobs famously said that LSD was a “profound experience” and “one of the most important things” in his life.
Scientific research validating the powerful benefits of psychedelics is now piling up.
Numerous great philosophers, including Plato and other founders of Western civilization, were likely inspired by psychedelic experiences.
Luminous minds such as Aldous Huxley, Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, Carl Sagan, and Tao Lin have written with reverence of their life-altering entheogenic experiences.
Despite all this, untold millions of people remain silent about their use of psychedelics.
Fear of real-world consequences.
Being outspoken about one’s psychedelic use can still result in ex-communication from families, career paths, and social circles—not to mention jail time or worse in certain countries.
The propagandized taboo against psychedelics, disseminated widely during the early years of the startlingly myopic “war on drugs,” is still alive and well in most places, along with the medieval laws that attempted to banish entheogenic consciousness-exploration.
But the times, they are a’changin’.
A Psychedelic Renaissance?
The global mood and conversation surrounding psychedelics is shifting.
Cannabis, a mild psychedelic with myriad medicinal properties, has now been legalized in Canada and throughout much of the United States.
Renowned journalist Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind, and other books like it, are bringing psychedelics into the realm of ‘respectable’ discourse.
Many scientists, in their own measured way, are beginning to rave about astounding findings in the realm of psychedelic science.
Psychedelic conferences and lectures are becoming commonplace throughout Europe and the United States.
Last month, Denver, Colorado decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms.
Oakland, California then upped the ante by decriminalizing magic mushrooms, peyote, Ayahuasca, and DMT.
Ayahuasca is being used legally throughout much of the United States, protected under the banner of ‘religious freedom.’
Legal psychedelic retreats are beginning to spring up all over the world, in certain forward-thinking places that are friendly toward extraordinary plants.
The dominoes are falling—significant dominoes—and a cascading effect is coming into focus.
The world seems to be re-awakening to the stunning healing and transformational potential of psychedelic plants.
The most egregious censorship of medicine in human history may be entering its death throes.
A saner global approach to psychedelics seems within reach.
And this time, integrating the lessons of the 1960s, we’re equipped to avoid the overzealous missteps of yesteryear. We’ll focus on therapeutic applications, the “betterment of well people,” and psychedelic literacy. We’ll emphasize the necessity of holding reverence for the power of these plants, the vital importance of experiencing them in a wisely cultivated context.
Because make no mistake: Psychedelics are the real deal.
These are mind-reformatting, soul-awakening power-ups that unlock astonishing new dimensions of experience—numinous dimensions. They must be approached with humility, respect, and a perspective informed by the wisdom of elders.
If we’re able to keep this skillful approach in sight, we may be on the precipice of a full-blown Psychedelic Renaissance—a re-discovery and re-integration of these compounds into humanity’s medicinal toolkit.
And perhaps not a moment too soon…
Before I get into that, however, let me tell you my story.
My Emergence From the Psychedelic Closet
I’m someone who’s more or less been in the psychedelic closet since first trying “magic mushrooms” about eight years ago.
I’ve dropped plenty of hints in my work about my psychedelic adventures—and, I mean, hell, I co-run HighExistence and Apotheosis—but I’ve never actually spoken or written publicly, at length, as myself, about my experiences.
That ends now.
The primary reason for my secrecy over the years has been that I come from a fairly conservative Christian family—a family I love very deeply—and in my family, “drugs” are generally considered devilish things that only losers and low-lifes get mixed up in.
I knew it would be inconceivable to explain to my family that there’s a certain category of “drugs” known as psychedelics, or entheogens, that are largely non-addictive and overwhelmingly safe when used wisely, and that these have the power to occasion experiences so miraculous they sound impossible until you experience them for yourself.
I knew some of my relatives would recoil in disgust and disbelief as I tried to explain that various entheogenic “plant medicines” have been used by countless cultures worldwide for thousands of years for spiritual and healing purposes, and that these medicines are capable of bestowing numerous benefits—everything from curing depression and breaking addiction to diminishing anxiety and granting a whole new sense of wonder, peace, and purpose in life (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg).
And, well, I don’t think this situation has changed. I’m sure there are friends, family members, and family friends of mine who will learn about my psychedelic voyages and forever condemn me—viewing me as some sort of estranged weirdo, black sheep, a lost soul who squandered his potential.
And you know what? I’m okay with that now.
I know I am a lucid person who is living at a high level of well-being and sincerely endeavoring to help this planet. I respect and love myself. If people want to judge me in spite of the abundant evidence that I am a sane, reasonable, thriving individual, that’s about them—it’s not about me.
Maybe I’ll catch some odd looks at family Christmas or receive a few alarmed emails, but whatever, I’ll keep on doing me. And I will invite anyone who wants to have a calm, intelligent discussion about this topic to reach out to me.
I simply cannot remain silent any longer.
Because the time is now.
And as I said, psychedelics are the real deal.
At our Apotheosis retreats, I’ve seen them revolutionize individual lives.
I’ve seen them reconnect people with themselves, others, and Nature, in a way that re-enchants life and changes everything.
I’ve seen them unlock levels of peace, joy, creativity, empathy, (self-)love, meaning, and awe that people would not have believed were possible.
I’ve seen them heal people in ways they didn’t know they could be healed; I’ve seen them occasion breakthroughs that people experienced as literal miracles.
I’ve personally had the most unbelievable, profound experiences of my life thanks to psychedelics, most notably Ayahuasca and psilocybin. They have enhanced my existence immeasurably and I am forever thankful for the gifts they’ve bestowed upon my conscious experience. I am extraordinarily happy to be alive.
But it goes deeper than that.
The individual benefits of psychedelics are jaw-dropping, but their potential to help us collectively is perhaps an even deeper reason why I feel called to discuss them.
“We are gaining the power of gods, but without the love and wisdom of gods, we self-destruct.”
— Daniel Schmachtenberger
We are living at a pivotal moment in the history of Earth.
We are gaining the power of gods via technology—never-before-seen power to create and destroy worlds.
As such, we need commensurate care, love, and wisdom to avoid misusing this god-like technology.
In the presence of exponential technology, mankind’s tribal squabbling and egoic domination of Nature are a fast track to doomsday. These millennia-old habits must be broken.
Within the next century or two, we are likely either to experience an unprecedented level-up to a new degree of collective wisdom/intelligence, or we will decimate ourselves and take a lot of the biosphere with us.
So we face a proverbial “fork in the road.”
Humanity is either going to level up or commit species suicide.
There aren’t many imaginable in-between scenarios. We either level up, or shit goes dramatically south.
This is heavy to consider, I know. As a result, many people will just ignore it or rationalize it away.
But let me suggest something to you: Our situation is not cause for despair or panic. Fear is the soul-killer. Don’t give in to fear.
No, our situation is not cause for terror, it’s cause for clarity. Let me explain:
Regardless of what happens, even in the worst-case scenarios, Everything will remain Okay on the deepest level.
We cannot harm the Essence of Nature, the fundamental fabric of Being itself. The All is always and forever Just Fine on the deepest level, no matter what happens. Mystics have been saying this since pre-history, and I’ve tasted it directly for myself. Think about it: How could Being itself ever be anything other than Okay?
Yet, paradoxically, it is simultaneously true that a mass extinction event would be Momentously Fuckin’ Shitty for us and all life on Earth.
The fates of trillions of sentient beings, living or yet-to-be-born, are tied to the fate of Earth, to the fate of humanity.
There’s also a way in which Being itself seems to be some sort of novelty- and complexity-increasing engine, suggesting that in a certain sense Being would actually ‘prefer’ for us to level up, restore harmony on Earth, and continue to flourish, blossom, and create in ever more beautiful and novel ways.
Considering all this, maybe you can begin to see why I think our situation is cause for clarity: We either attain a new level of collective enlightenment, or face the premature curtailment of what is shaping up to be a pretty goddamn legendary story of our species and countless other earthly species.
A quote from Elon Musk comes to mind:
“I came to the conclusion that we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.”
So let’s enlighten ourselves, kids!
This begins with the fundamental unit of humanity: individuals, like you and me.
It’s time to activate ourselves as wisdom-seekers.
It’s time to do the deep, difficult inner work to expand our consciousness.
It’s time to unlock new levels of of love, compassion, intelligence, illumination.
Let’s bring all this back to where we started: psychedelics.
Now don’t get your loincloth in a wad; I’m not about to start ranting about how “PsYcheDeLicz R tHe mAGic pIlL thAt WiLl enLigHteN uS aNd SoLve EvErYtHiNg!!!!!1!!”
Psychedelics are not a panacea, or ultimate answer, to the question of how to shift the human species to a higher mode of existence.
They are, rather, one particularly potent tool of many we must harness.
In other words: They won’t solve everything, but they sure as hell can help.
Psychedelics have the power to rapidly awaken in individuals a sense of compassion, eco-awareness, and wisdom—a sense of being part of one global community of sentient beings.
This attribute, combined with their penchant for awakening creativity, love, peace, connectedness, intellectual humility, and a passionate desire to help the world, make them invaluable tools in the quest to avoid catastrophe and raise all earthly beings to new heights of flourishing.
Hypothesis: The capacities awakened by psychedelics, to an uncanny extent, are those which we urgently need, in order to address the mounting challenges of the 21st century.
Consider for a moment that perhaps this is not mere coincidence. In my experiences with psychedelics I’ve seen that the plant world is vastly more alive, sentient, intelligent, communicative, and interconnected than we commonly realize.
In certain trans-egoic states of consciousness, Earth itself has seemed to me to possess a kind of superorganismic consciousness, a Gaian-biospheric intelligence. Is it so much of a stretch to imagine that Earth has a kind of planetary immune system that is contributing to its own self-healing in various ways, one of which is the transmission via psychedelic plants of sacred/forgotten wisdom to the disharmonious human monkeys who have ‘gone off the rails’ for the past few thousand years in a misguided ego-driven conquest of Nature?
I don’t know, man. I’m not dogmatic about this stuff—just telling you what the plants ‘told’ me. For this and other reasons, I’m actually optimistic about our future; I think we’re going to level up.
But whether you entertain Gaian theories is ultimately not so important. The crucial thing to recognize is that psychedelics truly do heal and enlighten in a variety of ways.
They melt away wounds and blockages, allowing love to flow freely.
They facilitate direct experiences of the interconnectedness of all things and the universal humanity in all people.
They dramatically amplify in-touch-ness with the biosphere as a whole, as well as compassion for all sentient life.
They reactivate organic curiosity and ‘Beginner’s Mind,’ allowing people to see the world anew and unlock new heights of insight, intelligence, and creativity.
They wash away fear, anger, and resentment, replacing them with awe, acceptance, and gratitude.
They open up new degrees of awareness and internal spaciousness, allowing people to see their own emotional, mental, and behavioral patterns with heightened clarity, and change them.
They tend to improve all of one’s relationships by granting access to new levels of empathy, compassion, (self-)love, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal understanding.
They humble and dethrone the overdeveloped human ego, liberating us from the suffering of over-identification with its self-obsessed narratives.
They obliterate the sense of alienation and separation that plagues so many in the maze of modern life, illuminating the fundamental truth of our deep connectedness to Everything.
They push people to transcend the dogmatic ideologies and narrow ingroup identities that have resulted in unfathomable bloodshed throughout history and keep humanity divided against itself.
They facilitate direct confrontations with the Mystery of Being, bestowing a renewed sense of cosmic wonder, reverence, and admiration—a sense of the Sacred in all things.
They do all this, and so much more.
It is not an exaggeration to say that psychedelics are the most powerfully life-changing tools known to man.
Understanding all this, we can notice the astronomical injustice of the near-global illegality of psychedelics, and we can see the tremendous import of the nascent Psychedelic Renaissance.
Though psychedelics are not a Final Solution to humanity’s problems, they are an indispensable ally in our quest to heal ourselves and our marvelous planet.
We stand at a monumental precipice in the history of our species, and our relationship to psychedelics may well be a key that determines whether we learn to fly or plummet to jagged depths.
As such, consider this a call to arms: We need you to be honest about your experiences with psychedelics.
Maybe not this week. Maybe not this year. Maybe not for another five years.
I don’t know your personal situation, and Eris knows it took me a long-ass time to finally begin speaking openly, as myself, about these experiences.
But, begin to consider this. Consider sharing your experience, if you can safely do so.
The more of us that come forth and open up, the more we will normalize and validate psychedelics as useful tools for healing, self-actualization, and spiritual development.
And as this conversation gains momentum and a critical mass is reached, we will see more and more dominoes fall.
If all goes well, we will witness the gradual emergence of sane legislation that facilitates the safe, legal, wise, responsible, widespread use of these catalysts for human betterment and evolution.
Can this really happen? Are we really ready for this?
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down,” Kurt Vonengut wrote.
Ready or not, the time is now.
The clock is ticking.
We either level up, or we self-destruct.
Whatever enlightening tools we have at our disposal, we ought to be using them.
Because pretty soon the passage of time will force our hand; it will push us off a certain fast-approaching cliff…
And the only real question is: Will we be ready to fly?
If you feel called to undertake a modern psychedelic rite of passage, consider joining us for an upcoming Apotheosis Retreat.
A Final Note on Safety: Psychedelics are not for everyone and must be approached with reverence. Before ever entering this territory, it’s wise to do your research and to understand whether you may be contraindicated for psychedelics due to mental illness or specific medications you’re taking. I recommend reading The Essential Psychedelic Guide on Erowid, especially the section on ‘Psychedelic Safety,’ as well as this article on psychedelic myths. If you feel called to experience psychedelic medicine, do so wisely. Best wishes. <3