Michael Pollan, Sam Harris & More Explain How Psychedelics Can Change Your Mind
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Michael Pollan, Sam Harris & More Explain How Psychedelics Can Change Your Mind

You may have never tried psychedelic substances. You may never be interested in trying psychedelic substances. But if you’re reading this, you have thoughts, and you’re almost certainly feeling curious about how those thoughts work. As any engineer knows, one of the shortest routes to understanding how a machine works is to interrupt its normal operation. Psychedelic does just that for your brain, shifting your awareness into new perspectives that can offer insight into your perception of reality. Or at least they did in the view of Michael Pollan, Sam Harris, Jacob Silva, Ben Goertzel, and Matthew Johnson.

The more familiar you are with current psychedelic research, the more names you’ll know. Pollan, who made his name writing about food, stars in the Big Think video above about the scientific resurgence of mind-altering drugs. “The brain is a hierarchical system, and the default mode network seems to be at the top,” he explains. The network is “the conductor of the orchestra or the executive of the company. You lose it, and suddenly you have a revolt from another part of the brain and you have a network that doesn’t normally communicate with each other, suddenly starting a conversation.”

Psychedelic substances do this, meaning that when they’re being used, “you may have a visual cortex talking to the auditory system, and suddenly you see music.” Every music lover will feel at least some desire for the same experience. And even those with no interest in music will want to enjoy for themselves what Sam Harris describes in one of his own psychedelic experiences: “Frankly, there’s a layer of fear that I don’t know has been stripped away. leave,” leaving the “naked consciousness of the present moment.”

This may sound similar to the type of state generally ascribed to intensive meditation, and indeed, Harris — himself a practitioner and proponent of the practice of meditation — recognizes it as another path to the same goal. But for some people, says Harris, “using drugs is the only way they’ll realize it’s possible to experience a very different world.” Even if we weren’t so “lump and inquisitive,” we might still not seriously consider the many benefits that psychedelics can offer humanity. “Many of the disorders that psychedelics seem to treat well are manifestations of a jammed brain,” Pollan says, “a mind that tells itself destructive stories like, ‘I can’t get through the day without a cigarette,’ ‘I don’t deserve to be loved,’ ‘My job is shit.’”

The United States actually did research into psychedelic drugs until the early 1970s, when the Richard Nixon administration made them illegal because of their potential to undermine the will of those who were supposed to be against them. Vietnam War. (“He might be right,” Pollan admits.) But now that our society has found itself in a “mental health crisis,” as Johnson, a researcher on psychedelic substances at Johns Hopkins, puts it in the brief just above, we must explore all possible avenues—even those previously closed. — to change our minds.

Related content:

How to Use Psychedelic Drugs to Improve Mental Health: Michael Pollan’s New Book, How to Change Your MindMaking Case

Psilocybin Could Soon Become a Legal Treatment for Depression: Johns Hopkins Professor Roland Griffiths Explains How Psilocybin Can Relieve Suffering

Artist Draws 9 Portraits While Using LSD: An Experiment Within the 1950s to Turn LSD into a “Creativity Pill”

New LSD Research Provides Brain’s First Picture of Acid, and Gives Hints of Its Potential to Promote Creativity

Inside MK-Ultra, The CIA’s Secret Program That Uses LSD to Achieve Mind Control (1953-1973)

Aldous Huxley, Psychedelic Enthusiast, Lectures On “Visionary Experience” at MIT (1962)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcaststs about the city, language and culture. The project includes a Substack newsletter Books about the City, book The Stateless City: Stroll through 21st Century Los Angeles and video series City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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