The Psychedelic Renaissance and Spiritual Bypassing

One has only to look at the popular press or perform a casual Google search regarding psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, and there will likely yield numerous informative results. Even the allopathic medical field has become more focused on the potential that psychedelic medicines such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ayahuasca (Mother Ayahuasca), LSD and MDMA, have for healing psychiatric illness. This is a swing of the pendulum that harkens back to the early 50's when the healing potential of LSD and mescaline were being documented in the psychiatric press. This was before the "War on Drugs" when there were scores, if not hundreds of papers supporting the therapeutic efficacy and potential of LSD. I do not advocate the illegal use of drugs or medicines, but in truth, the "War on Drugs" was later seen to be a "war" on poor people and the hippie culture within the context of the cultural turmoil of the Vietnam War era. But that is a story for a later time. 

Many individuals use psychedelics as our ancestors did. That being to have transpersonal and transformational experiences that can often occur during the non-ordinary states of consciousness which can occur when using psychedelic medicines. The word psychedelic can be characterized as meaning "soul manifesting". Many individuals attempting to describe a sometimes ineffable experience use terms such as 1. A unity experience 2. I felt as if I was one with the universe. I felt unconditional love. These are just a few of the myriad comments made after a psychedelic experience. Sometimes, similar comments are made after a challenging experience (called at times, bad trip in the street vernacular). But the question then arises, after this door is opened to a more enlightened awareness and consciousness, how does one manifest the experience into everyday life and ordinary reality? How does that experience manifest itself into a unity and oneness with our fellow humans who exist here on Earth with us in ordinary reality? 

John Welwood, in his book Toward a Psychology of Awakening, coined the term "spiritual bypassing". Welwood defined spiritual bypassing as using spiritual ideas and practices to side step personal, emotional, psychological, physically unfinished developmental growth. While the term does not come without controversy and is not universally accepted, I would offer the term as food for thought. Let us say that I truly did find a way to better help my brothers and sisters as a result of these psychedelically derived transcendent experiences, and then did not share them with others? Should I only retreat to a mountain and contemplate on my navel? Or do I walk amongst these other unfortunate souls who have no achieved this enlightenment? 

I have heard some people respond to a catastrophic human event or tragedy with the following response: the Universe will take care of them. While that is possible, does that eliminate the immediate need of our fellow human for food, water and shelter? Is it possible that we, being part of that Universe, might take action to address those needs within light of our individual resources? Of what service has the "enlightenment" served if one reacts with fear or disgust to someone wearing a Black Lives Matters t-shirt? How does one know that the individual who has the sign at the intersection of the highway that says "homeless. Please help", is really hungry and homeless? The answer is that we don't. But we do know whether or not we have the resources or motivation to help. So if we give assistance, whether that might be spare change, a few extra dollars, or buy them a meal at McDonald's, or to direct them to a homeless shelter. These are not heroic efforts but such acts of compassion do require a certain degree of courage. We are not responsible for the outcomes of our giving. The person receiving the gift may 

misuse it but that is their option. And we should also not ignore or indulge inappropriate or no productive behaviors by rationalizing that "they are just trying to find their way or that is their karma". I believe that the remedies to spiritual bypassing lie in developing compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings. Whether they look like us, speak like us, worship like us, love like us or identify with us. 

In closing, one of Dr. Martin Luther King preached a sermon regarding a "certain man" who fell amongst thieves on the road to Jericho. The Samaritan outcast stopped to help the man when the religiously advanced who one might assume were on some level, spiritually advanced, passed that "certain" man by. Dr. King said that maybe the other men had some higher religious ritual to attend to, for which they did not want to be late. Or that they might be accosted by those same thieves that left the "certain man" lying broken at the side of the road. Dr. King posited that the other two men may have wondered, "if I stop to help this man, what will happen to me"? But Dr. King also posited that the Samaritan may have asked this question, "if I don't stop to help this man, what will happen to him"? So as the psychedelic renaissance continues to unfold, above ground or underground, one wonders if there will be greater access for people of color, the financially disadvantaged, regardless of gender identity or sexual preference, to the healing potential of these medicines? Each of us must answer the question as individuals where we may finds ways to be a part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem. After all, there is no I without a We and no We without an I. This pertains not only to psychedelic assisted psychotherapy but to all aspects of our daily lives on this wonderfully green and blue, oxygen enveloped planet that we call Home.