The Dictatorship of the Imaginal Realms – Lessons from psychedelic literature

A Talk by Robert Dickins:

The Dictatorship of the Imaginal Realms – Lessons from Psychedelic Literature

14 March 2012.  University of kent, Canterbury. 18:00 in Darwin Lecture Theatre 1 Click here to register your attendance

During the 1950s and early 1960s there was a boom in psychiatric research with hallucinogens. This research led to the development of a number of new theories and practises (primarily concerning the drugs d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mescaline) that attempted to create frameworks for understanding the efficacy of these drugs in pathological terms. The famous mantra of ‘set and setting’ simultaneously became a tool for facilitating therapy and a method of elucidating results that sanctified said pathological frameworks.

As a result of this research a particular body of texts, described as psychedelic literature, was published. These texts participated in a dynamic with the new research models and acted as agents of information dissemmination into the public sphere, especially during the period of LSD popularisation in both Britain and the United States. The effect was to produce a particular understanding in the minds of individuals experimenting with the drugs and, essentially, dictate the construction of their imaginal realms.

Today, the medicalisation of hallucinogens is once again on the rise. While this is an important and vital step in creating both an atmosphere of acceptance in the public mind and their utilisation in the psychiatric sphere, it should not be seen as an end in itself. The central lesson of psychedelic literature is that, in LSD, you will find what you’re looking for; to have the outcomes dictated by a centralised medical dogma is to limit the potentiality of the drug and dictate the capacity of the individual to regard their own experiences as personal and non-pathological; to restrict their theatre of play.

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