Reflections on the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council & the Psychedelic Renaissance

by Paul Hessell (Creative Commons)

by Paul Hessell (Creative Commons)

A group of experts under the banner of the Brazil-based NEIP (International Group for Psychoactive Studies) has recently released a ‘Statement Critiquing the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC).

ESC, if you don’t know, is a nonprofit launched in late 2013 and dedicated to “assuring the sustainability and safe use of traditional plants,” of which ayahuasca has been the clear priority thus far. ESC’s activities include organization of ‘Plant Dialogues’ and development and dissemination of good practices (they certainly have the jargon of the nonprofit world down pat: every fourth word is ‘stakeholder,’ ‘consensus,’ or ‘sustainable,’ and they’re well on their way to a nice little collection of acronyms). It appears that their guiding purpose is to steer the evolving conversation and culture around psychoactive plants in the West in positive, inclusive and *sigh* sustainable directions. That seems hard to argue with. The staff is diverse and its members’ bio’s exude goodwill toward man—for instance, a young research coordinator “committed her life to social justice, food sovereignty, and the pursuit of a more equitable world” while picking coffee as a human rights observer in Chiapas, Mexico.

All in all, ESC seems well-intentioned, and, if not necessarily comprised of people you’d like, at least of people you’d vaguely dislike yourself for disliking. So what are 17 experts (now 62) from Canada, Brazil, the UK, Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico, the US, and Colombia up in arms about? Their Statement includes 12 points of criticism, including alarmist fundraising strategies, misrepresentation of expertise and involvement, lack of indigenous representation, and importation of Western medical and commercial paradigms. It ends with the pointed advice that ESC “direct their skills towards educating foreigners who are interested in ayahuasca, and leave the stewardship of ayahuasca to those with generations of expertise behind them.” Oof. And it must crush the crunchy, heart-of-gold staff of ESC to be accused of “impos[ing] Western, hegemonic, neoliberal norms upon communities in Latin America of which they do not have a detailed understanding.” They thought they were saving Fern Gully, but turns out they were driving the harvester.

This is interesting on a couple of levels. First is that ESC is sponsored and “overseen” by MAPS, the Big Friendly Giant of the Psychedelic Renaissance, and Rick Doblin is on the Board of Directors. Don’t mind the Cialis and Viagra ads that until recently came up when one searched for it online—MAPS is a force to be reckoned with, holding the purse-strings for psychedelic research (nearing $10 million in the bank), building credibility and trust with the general public and the government (the organization recently received a $2 million grant from the State of Colorado), and cultivating a relationship with the media (sympathetic coverage in the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and Newsweek, among others). MAPS has also demonstrated sophisticated social media chops: its Indiegogo campaign “Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy” received $133,000, more than 2.5x its stated goal of $50,000, and Dr. Doblin’s appearance on Reddit for a Q&A session attracted more than 2,000 comments.

MAPSMAPS’ main focus is MDMA, especially for PTSD, and will be for the foreseeable future—the game-plan is to become the sole licensed provider of prescription MDMA and use the proceeds to bankroll further research—but diversification is good practice and MAPS also has advocacy and harm reduction projects under its wing, in addition to research projects around the world. Ayahuasca is a smart direction for expansion. It doesn’t have the cultural baggage of LSD or marijuana, but does have a long history of indigenous and religious usage, which is an important legitimizing factor. Ayahuasca and iboga are two leading candidates for societal acceptance and relatively widespread legal use in the near future for precisely these reasons.

So it makes sense that MAPS would be interested in these plants, and it is indeed sponsoring research on both in the context of addiction in addition to its involvement in ESC. However, the ethnobotanical context is radically different from the Western medical and policy-making establishments, and the work ESC has cut out for itself is a different proposition from clinical research and advocacy, though those are certainly elements of the master plan of incorporating these and other visionary plants into the modern pharmacopoeia. ESC’s stated goal is to produce a set of ground rules for ayahuasca cultivation, distribution and use, but the problem is that such rules already exist, albeit informally; and unlike the discredited cultures currently surrounding illegal drug use, ayahuasca culture in the Amazon is well-established and above-ground. In fact, the very respectability that differentiates ayahuasca from LSD and marijuana makes it resistant to ESC’s approach. MAPS and its allies’ very conscious effort to “reposition” plants and chemicals hits a snag when the current positioning seems to be serving quite well, thank you very much, which seems to be the stance of the signatories of the Statement. Not only is this the first time that MAPS and affiliated organizations have engaged a credible culture of drug use and scholarship, but it is also the first time that they have had to contend with a serious rival, one with its own vision of the future of visionary chemicals. That is what makes this confrontation so fascinating. And it does appear to be a clash of ideologies, not merely a minor disagreement or misunderstanding: the Statement was only published after over a year of “extensive discussion” (though ESC disputes the claimed extensiveness of this discussion and was surprised when the opposition decided to take their critique public). Not a good start for the “consensus-building” that apparently forms a central part of ESC’s approach.

Comparing the approach of MAPS and affiliated organizations in the disgraced psychedelic culture of the West with their approach in its entrenched, ascendant counterpart in the Amazon may offer some insight into what’s going on under the hood of the whole ‘psychedelic renaissance’ project, which is to my mind a very important conversation to have.

The way in which an organization effects change—at least in the modern world of NGOs and crowdfunding, where overtly wielding power is passé—is to establish a need for its presence and intervention, to establish its expertise, and to implement a plan designed to bring about particular results. With any luck these results will be measurable, and can be used to justify its work and as a basis for continued fundraising. This general plan is being followed by both ESC and MAPS in their respective projects, but in the former, its every component has been attacked, while in the latter it has been and continues to be implemented almost without (public) debate. To what extent do the Amazonian and Western projects share a common vision? What are their respective ideological underpinnings? How do these organizations view and act towards opposing voices great and small? Tracing each project from establishment of need through plan development and implementation may shed some light on these and other questions.

Fundraising is the venue in which a case for necessity is most overtly argued, and is an area in which both MAPS and ESC excel. Their efforts are aided by prevalent preconceptions that a need for action might exist, that there might be deficiencies in the status quo. Many people think of prohibition as a travesty and happily speculate about the positive effects that psychedelia could have on square society. A perceived need—the only meaningful kind—is very much present. MAPS’ mandate is reinforced by the circumstances that led to prohibition and by the promising results from research conducted in the 50s and early 60s needing confirmation and further investigation. In the Amazonian context, it isn’t hard for a semi-informed Western liberal to imagine that 1) the Amazon is falling apart in general and governments are unwilling or unable to prevent this, 2) increased demand for ayahuasca is causing upheaval in traditional communities, ecosystems and supply chains, and 3) ayahuasca tourism and the ignorant white people who indulge in it are causing significant upheaval in otherwise-idyllic Amazonian communities. The stage was set for a fundraising effort, and indeed ESC raked in $60,000 in a short period.

A significant portion of the Statement focuses on ESC’s “fear-based” fundraising campaign, and accuses them of painting a picture of the Amazonian ayahuasca scene as an unregulated Wild West full of accidents, rapes, witchcraft, possibly impending bans, and a variety of threats to the survival of the plants. This is largely an accurate characterization of the campaign: in good fundraising fashion, ESC’s communications are clearly intended to provoke anxiety relievable by donation, to paraphrase David Foster Wallace. I don’t think ESC would dispute this, though they would likely dispute the signatories’ assertions that these fears are largely unfounded or overblown.

So we have one group saying that things are going very badly and that their help is needed and another group saying that things are going less badly and that the situation is under control, or at least that external assistance is not required. I don’t know the facts on the ground and you probably don’t either. Who do we believe? The signatories are experts who to my mind have little to gain by lowballing the risks facing ayahuasca in the Amazon; though preserving their own stewardship of the plants and culture by repelling potential conquistadores may play a role in their actions, it’s hard to see how they would profit from being the Lorax beyond a sense of pride and the power to #ProtectAya (to borrow ESC’s hashtag). I don’t think this loose confederation of PhDs and hangers-on is converting its guardianship of ayahuasca to filthy lucre. I trust them, mostly, as allergic as I am to trusting more than one person at a time. The ESC people are somewhat-less-expert, in that they know a great deal more than I do but perhaps a great deal less than is necessary to do meaningful, effective work in the Amazon. Furthermore, and in contrast to its critics, ESC has a lot at stake in representing the ayahuasca situation as dire. It’s an existential issue for them. That doesn’t mean they’re purposely misrepresenting the situation or that their perspective is necessarily warped; but it is important to remember.

There are two possible explanations for the two groups’ differing views on the neediness of the Amazon. The first is malpractice: one group either doesn’t have an accurate view of the situation, or is willfully misleading the public to serve some nefarious ends. This doesn’t resonate with me as a major factor, though I have heard a few strident voices accusing ESC of weaseling into the Amazon in order to carry off a bounty of indigenous goods and knowledge to be sold at a profit in the teeming bazaars of San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. I am inclined to view both sides as more-or-less knowledgeable, well-intentioned and honest within the standards of their fields. That leaves the second possibility, which is that the two sides have different visions for the future of the plants. ESC’s vision is for ayahuasca production and use to follow a formalized set of guidelines adhering to the modern left-of-center Western concerns of evidence-based practice, safety, sustainability and accessibility for all. This is where they get hammered for trying to import Western medical and commercial discourses in order to “modernize” and “sanitize” the jungle (and ostensibly make money, though as of now they’re significantly in the hole). The signatories’ vision is unclear beyond self-determination by indigenous communities and rejection of ESC’s goal, which may be acceptable as they aren’t the ones planning and implementing a large-scale project, but isn’t ideal given the problems that are undeniably unfolding in the Amazon (whatever their scope).

This situation is interesting and touches on some larger ongoing debates. It’s likely that ESC and a sizable portion of onlookers would argue that safety and sustainability are in fact universal, objective values. Smaller but still significant groups would argue the same in regard to Western approaches to epistemology, governance, and trade. A continuum of values can be arranged from occasionally to widely regarded as universal and universally beneficial: free trade, internet access, gender equality, rationalism, social freedoms, democracy, wealth, well-functioning health systems. Many to most Western, as well as non-Western, people believe at least some of these Western-coded values to be universal. In some cases, proponents of these values may feel so strongly that they are willing to introduce or impose them from the outside, and feel that this is in fact the only ethical course of action. Others are more laissez-faire. These positions are usually not clear-cut: the same individual who views globalization of trade as mostly harmful would still often favor intervention in the case of genocide or major disease outbreak. Generally, the will of the people in question is taken as the final arbiter, with assistance from principles agreed-upon more-or-less unanimously and recorded in documents such as the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Things aren’t so simple though. In many cases the will of a given group is impossible to ascertain because its members aren’t aware that they are being given a choice between values, or what those values are, or what might be the long-term effects of embracing a particular set (does anyone know the latter?). They may also lack the types of social organization necessary for recognizable consensus to be reached and transmitted to the outside world, which is what the signatories were getting at when they wrote that “leadership in the communities in question is a collective process.” My (admittedly outsider) impression of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon is that at least some of them fall into one or more of those categories. How can they be expected to know whether they want to Westernize? It certainly looks cool on TV or Youtube, especially in comparison to the poverty and social ills that characterize many of their communities.

Both ESC and its critics can credibly claim that their visions of the future of the Amazon have the best interests of the indigenous at heart, though the critics’ claims carry more weight insofar as they boast a greater degree of involvement in indigenous communities. We have yet to discover whether the great Western experiment will finally lead to self-actualization and universal brotherhood or whether it will dead-end in superficiality and consumption. Until we know, it may be safer to leave indigenous peoples alone—but it’s far from a simple debate, particularly when their communities are confronted with serious and unprecedented stresses.

The important fact remains that, outspoken or not, a plurality of people think that at least some Western-coded ways of living and thinking are more excellent than their counterparts. This can be understood as an exercise in ethnocentrism and an entrée to imperialism, or as discrimination in the positive sense—as judgment between relative values, one of the highest human faculties: in Christianity, discernment; in Vedanta, viveka. Notable examples of people who have made a living defending the superiority of certain elements of the Western cultural infrastructure are: the rationalist author, neuroscientist and New Atheist Sam Harris (whom I was interested to see approvingly quoted by Casey Hardison in his Erowid column), a number of Silicon Valley leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg who have expressed a desire to extend internet connectivity to everyone in the world (a plan that has also been endorsed by Michelle Obama and the UN), and virtually the entire political Right. Belief in the superiority of some or all of Western culture is an acceptable position in today’s noosphere, though people might get annoyed if one is vocal or tasteless about it.

Questions of competing values are inherently political, and these questions are extremely relevant in the situations of ESC and MAPS, organizations which are both trying to effect major reforms in their respective contexts. Values guide and inform both the methods and goals of any reform. ESC and MAPS are therefore necessarily making political choices and statements—try as they might to hide behind consensus-building and the ostensibly apolitical framing of scientific research. We as funders and constituents need to interrogate these organizations’ ideological frameworks, and their value profiles need to be worked out continuously through a collaborative process that includes “all stakeholders.” There might be yelling. Some of us might get called “neoliberal.” But this kind of active political discussion is necessary and healthy for any movement, especially once it reaches a certain size and degree of establishment. That’s why it’s great that the signatories published their letter, and also why we should take the letter as an invitation to a debate rather than final proof that the whole project is dumb and unethical and that ESC should pack up and head home. It may be and maybe they should, but maybe not: I look forward to having people try to change my mind.

So much for the Amazonian context. How do these ideas play out in Western psychedelic culture? How does MAPS balance competing values? The first thing that sticks out is that the “repositioning” effort inevitably privileges some perspectives at the expense of others. Hedonism in the psychedelic context is out. Political radicalism is out. Self-expression in particular disreputable forms is out. Occultism is out. Erik Davis wrote a piece last year for Erowid Extracts comparing the diversity of psychedelic discourse in its underground, outlaw period and carried on into the present day at Breaking Convention (including “professional scientists, psychedelic musicians, countercultural historians, underground chemists, academically-trained philosophers, mystic healers, paranormal researchers, working shamans, and visionary freaks”) to the significantly more “homogenous and controlled portrait” of psychedelia on display at the recent conferences sponsored by MAPS. Davis describes marginalization of the underground and indeed of most voices, even scientific ones, that were not speaking in support of the central project—“domesticat[ion] of psychedelics into regulated psychotherapeutic and clinical medicines.”

Arguably, this narrowing of focus is a necessary step if psychedelics are to gain acceptance into the medical world, which may be conceptualized as a step towards further mainstreaming or as an end in itself. This is reasonable, but we need to keep a finger on the pulse of the movement to make sure that a balance is kept between scientific and ‘visionary’ elements, and that psychedelic culture preserves the “kaleidoscopic diversity” that makes it so compelling and keeps its critique of square culture perpetually current. One can argue that these other disciplines have plenty of other venues and can be safely pushed out of the MAPS tent; but it isn’t impossible to imagine a split in the culture with the freaks and ravers on one side and the white-coated therapists and scientists on the other, and all the rest—social scientists, botanists, political voices, mystics—left out in the cold or subject to progressive loss of credibility as they seek shelter with the freaks. Indeed, that is what happened in the Reddit psychedelic scene—anecdotal evidence perhaps not generalizable to the real world, but still a danger to be taken seriously.

The diversity of psychedelic culture and the potential of the primary experience to generate such diversity are to my mind the key to psychedelics’ efficacy in clinical as well as spiritual and recreational contexts, and to limit either is to dilute the usefulness of the chemicals. Paying lip service to diversity and inclusiveness is no substitute. “Set and setting” is a familiar refrain, but it applies in this context: if psychedelics are absorbed into medical paradigms, care needs to be taken to ensure that they change the paradigms and not vice versa. The chemicals are not inherently transformative in a positive sense; psychedelia in service of the more controlling and dehumanizing currents of medicine could do serious harm, as it did in some notable examples during its first heyday. MAPS and allied organizations need to do more than simply introduce psychedelics into medicine; they also need to ensure that they have a strong and deeply-felt set of values guiding this process, and a well-developed critique of medicine as it currently stands. We as a community need to assist MAPS and its fellows in developing and fine-tuning these crucial elements of an effective, ethical movement.

MAPS has a tough job on its hands and by most accounts it’s doing a good job, all things considered. They see the imperative, and we see that they see—Davis talks about it in his article, describing the “odd bind [in which] the organization must continue to cultivate psychedelic funders whose core values need to be accommodated while simultaneously being swept under the carpet.” Fascinatingly, part of MAPS’ strategy for walking this tightrope is to look to ayahuasca, which boasts clinical research bona fides as well as “visionary and exotic charisma.” MAPS brought in Brazilian social anthropologist Bia Labate to program the ayahuasca track at its 2010 and 2013 conferences, as well as to organize a full workshop in 2011. Today, Labate is one of the most vocal critics of ESC, and is arguing against imposition in the Amazon of the very same medical-commercial norms that animate MAPS’ approach.

I wish there were a clear takeaway message from this. The best I can do is to advise you to stay involved in the process, stay critical, and agitate for your interests. Most people I know who are interested in psychedelia are so thrilled that psychedelics are moving towards legitimacy that they don’t think critically about what’s going on. Unreflective support may have been necessary and constructive in 2007, but the whole ‘psychedelic renaissance’ project has advanced far enough that we, the general public (sic), have to look critically at the approaches taken and the long-term plan.

We’ve established that ESC and its adversaries have differing visions for the future of ayahuasca—now let’s look at ESC’s plan, and its activities and communications up to this point. ESC’s strategy is to identify all stakeholders and collect their opinions, reach consensus on a plan of action and a set of guiding principles (the mystical Ayahuasca Agreement) and then implement. This all checks out ethically and as best practices in work involving indigenous communities. However, the signatories argue that ESC is not qualified to do this work and that it has no indigenous representation or meaningful experience with local groups in the Amazon. Though ESC contends that it is and it has, I am inclined to side with the signatories, who as authorities on the Amazon with some hundreds of years of experience altogether are better able to make informed judgments about what constitutes an appropriate amount of experience and meaningful connection to indigenous groups. Conducting large-scale research in a context as fragile as the Amazon without the necessary experience or indigenous people in leadership roles does not check out ethically. Indigenous peoples have been on the receiving end of so much ill-conceived and unasked-for investigation over the past few hundred years that the standards for preparation and for inclusiveness of indigenous voices must be set very high. In addition to questions of research ethics, there are important issues of self-determination at play: some of the signatories that I have spoken to have expressed indignation that “the gringos” are coming into the Amazon uninvited and trying to assume a leadership role (which ESC steadfastly denies it is doing). South America has a long history of contending with Westerners acting unilaterally and with varyingly sympathetic motivations: on the basis of this past alone, I think it might be wisest to wait for an invitation before embarking on such a wide-ranging project.

However, I also believe that we need to recognize the role that these histories play in shaping the course and interpretation of this encounter. It is easy to imagine that Western ‘assistance’ is coming in unsolicited and without adequate preparation, respect for other voices, or ability to cooperate, and this narrative necessarily affects how the debate is framed. I think that these narratives, combined with a few PR blunders that have received a great deal of attention, are painting ESC in a worse light than its actions analyzed independently might warrant. Even experts can be influenced by such prominent and emotionally-fraught narratives and histories. With that said, I still find myself siding with the signatories on these issues. It is their prerogative to evaluate all data points at their disposal—tangible and narrative—and to respond as they see fit, and they are too vocal and united in their criticism for preconceived notions to be acting without significant support from fact.

Nevertheless, I am sympathetic to ESC, whose staff is honestly surprised and confused by much of the criticism, and especially its tone (my mom read the Statement and said that it was “inappropriately arrogant with too much resort to name-calling”). ESC is to some extent in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have been incautious in how they have presented themselves, but I don’t believe they deserve to be castigated to this degree and with such evident rancor. Though there may be a kernel of truth to application of the “colonialism” narrative in this case—i.e. that ESC’s work is uninvited by the indigenous, unwelcomed by the local experts, and “top-down” (to use a favorite expression of the critics)—this kernel is surrounded and compounded by emotionality and rehashing of old antagonisms. Separating the kernel from the baggage it has dredged up is the secret to both understanding this episode and charting a path towards its resolution.

A locus of debate that is less overtly ideological is ESC’s experience and expertise. ESC bills itself as a group capable of providing a context for discussion and building of relationships among various ‘stakeholders’. Again, this is a reasonable and useful project, but one that should only be undertaken by an organization with significant expertise and experience with the groups in question. The NGO that I work for has a similar mission, but in contrast to ESC it is managed by homegrown leaders, has well over a decade of experience in its field, and has such expertise that it is regularly called upon by the government to provide technical assistance or to assist in implementation of new programs. It also fills a gap in that the private and public health sectors in India have historically been unwilling to cooperate meaningfully, and an NGO go-between has been necessary (though this may be changing). In Amazonia, with a young organization whose credentials are uncertain and a chorus of senior voices denying in unison that there is such a gap, it seems reasonable that the organization should at least adopt a more modest platform and strategy. There are certainly roles in which the experience and expertise of ESC’s staff would be very useful, but facilitation of discussion requires familiarity with the cultural context above all else.

ESC’s idea of setting ground rules for ayahuasca production and use in the Amazon and implementing a certification system based thereupon has also been a major focus of resistance. The critique in brief is that setting marketplace rules would turn the Amazon into a marketplace, that traditional systems of control are working well on the whole and adapting to new pressures (though with various degrees of difficulty), and that going in with the intention of making or even discussing structural changes without proper care may disrupt this. ESC’s response is that the Amazon is already becoming a marketplace, that its goal is to complement and extend these traditional forms of regulation to account for new pressures, and that it wouldn’t do anything without the full support of the communities in question. Though the signatories have doubts about this last bit, given ESC’s apparent unresponsiveness to differing opinions—which ESC disputes but which the signatories assert adamantly—there’s no indication that ESC would impose any unwelcome measures upon communities or ayahuasca centers. I think it more likely that at least some communities would leap at the conversations and opportunities that ESC is offering (indeed, they already have, according to ESC, which has conducted over 100 formal and many more informal interviews so far), but what the outcomes would be for them and for less-enthusiastic communities is unclear. This may be the most serious problem: the full scope of the repercussions of ESC’s plans does not appear well thought-out. Though ESC says that this is because research is ongoing, the critics for their part demand that extended preparation—including a thorough impact assessment of research as well as of any intervention—be carried out before any work in the field begins; this is reasonable and their prerogative, though ESC has expressed confusion at the failure of the signatories to mention that its preparations were inadequate before fieldwork actually began.

Again, the critics’ alternative to ESC’s approach is not distinct or formalized, to my knowledge. Their Statement alludes to development of an “informed response” (read: “handled by us”) to “emerging safety issues.” I hope that they use the opportunity provided by this episode to articulate their goals and plans going forward—public interest in this conversation is unlikely to last, and the debate over the medium-term future of ayahuasca production and use should try to find some sort of visible working resolution, with roles assigned and principles set, before it loses steam.

Since the Statement was published a few days before Christmas, a number of additional experts have lent their voices to the critics’ effort, bringing the total number of signatories to 62 (as of early January). ESC has issued a response: how effective it is depends on how one feels about the organization. The critics will view it as empty talk and missing the point. Those who support ESC’s project and are inclined to take them at their word will be heartened. In any case, ESC’s response is not a significant step towards resolution of this debate. The signatories are dead-set against ESC for complex, not-fully-public reasons that are ideological as well as pragmatic, and they will not cease their campaign until ESC drastically reduces the scope of its work.

I don’t know what will happen next; I don’t think anyone does. MAPS is sticking by ESC, though it has expressed agreement with the signatories’ concerns and has encouraged ESC to address them more substantively. Dutch ‘incubating partner’ ICEERS has not yet issued a statement. Partnering organizations PRISM of Australia and Nierika of Mexico have withdrawn their support. Debate on listservs and ayahuasca forums is vigorous and mainly against ESC, though with varying degrees of vitriol. I’m thrilled, though not so much at the opinions on display—which run the gamut from reasoned consideration of the facts and biases on display to kneejerk anti-colonialism and deference to authority—as at the simple fact that people are engaged, talking and thinking. I wish that this same fire were more present throughout the burgeoning psychedelic movement, in the forms of engagement not only emotional but intellectual and discerning, and as a continuous holding-to-account as is fitting for major and growing organizations that we have entrusted with our hopes, dreams, and cash. Perhaps the fact that it isn’t is an indication of MAPS and its allies’ successes in a complicated process, and in managing a diverse group of constituents and interests. Or maybe what we are seeing in action is the paradoxical quality of psychedelia—that the same experiences that can offer unparalleled freedom and individuality may also predispose to unreflective faith in charisma and perceived wisdom. I’m not sure that it is entirely the former. We would do well to put more effort into cultivating our own wisdom—capacity for discernment—and less into applauding the wisdom of others.

There are interesting times ahead, and the more people who meet them thinking for themselves, questioning authority, and participating in the conversations that affect them, the better things will be on the other side.


This article, written by Devin Van Dyck, originally appeared in the Psychedelic Press UK Journal. Devin graduated this past spring from the Haverford College with a degree in religion. He is currently working as a technical writer/researcher for SAATHII, an Indian NGO implementing HIV advocacy, prevention, and treatment programmes across 10 high-prevelance states. He will matriculate into medical school in autumn 2016 and hopes to become a psychiatrist out in the countryside somewhere.

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