Entheo-Science: A Liminal Freeland for Entheogenic Consciousness
The Entheo-Science Congress took place between the 12 and 14 September in Potsdam, Germany. Before arriving, we had the impression that the discussion of the science of generating God within, as the title indicated, would take place within the cloistered walls of a conference hall. Indeed, one of the great and never-ending criticisms of academia generally is that it is often divorced from the comings and goings of everyday life – objectivity nestled away high in the ivory towers. The setting, however, while perhaps still divorced from the everyday mainstream, was instead a subcultural landscape named Freeland.
Freeland is an alternative, magical and artistic space in Potsdam, with graffiti adorning the walls, the Spartacus club in the centre, art studios surrounding, and an over-riding feeling of an intense discussion zone embedded with a deeply subjective aroma of social change. It was within this atmosphere that Entheo-Science took place. Scientific method resides in the laboratory, and in statistical papers, observations, and the control; the practice of entheogenic consciousness, on the other hand, resides in minds, in the jungles, the psychedelic spaces and the liminal pathways between worlds. Freeland took up the mantel as the territory in which these ideas could relate: where entheogens and science could cross and create new boundaries, spark insurrections of mind and thought, and become the living sense of the new psychedelic era. The plethora of talks and discussions over the conference set this vibe alight in Freeland.
Friday night, while the speakers gathered across the way, we took the chance to watch a screening of Neurons to Nirvana; a slick and classy documentary that has been doing the rounds over the last year or so. Featuring some of the most important psychedelic luminaries, it drove home the point that entheogens have an important role in, not only mental and possibly physical healing, but also in spiritual development. And it is spiritual impoverishment that is held up as a symptom of a sick, Western society. However, as is so often the case, it was preaching to the converted. There is a danger of being a self-congratulatory sub-culture, insular and too content, happy to remind only itself of its mission. On Saturday, author and journalist Charles Shaw attacked this attitude.
Charles Shaw, author of Exile Nation, provided a very interesting historical reading of the emergence of psychedelic culture. According to him, the great Octopus of the U.S. state grew its tenticles after WW2. The CIA and all its sub-divided agencies began life with a social conscience that was fuelled by the rise of Freudian theory and the sub-conscious, and asked the question: How did the holocaust happen? However, it quickly descended into a malevolent entity that wished to find out and utilise how a population could be controlled. The 1960s counterculture was, to a degree, its own creation, mixed up with the political fervour of the era, and run through the now infamous MK-ULTRA project. The revolutionary mixture of the time, however, meant it became something to infiltrate and undermine.
The hippy movement, according to Shaw, was the non-political, inward facing self-obsession that actually worked against the changing of the state. Shaw criticized the modern movement as being a legacy of this inward facing culture; unmotivated to make any significant social change. MAPS, he said, is the only institution that actively worked against changing the state of psychedelics – unaware of PsypressUK obviously – but even their work simply retained a status quo generally. The us and them attitude prevailed in the talk. However, a number of the other talks looked to move beyond this – where a unified culture might produce the social revolution through healing and growth.
Maria Papaspyrou gave an outstanding talk on Femtheogens. A psychotherapist, Maria explored the archetypal in her presentation and, more specifically, how the feminine, the goddess in her various guises, has been a side-lined aspect of the Western psyche. We have, in her words, lost our priestesses. Whereas Shaw took pains to outline the divisive, the us and them, perspective on the roles of state and society, Maria sought to overcome the division through the reintegration of the feminine. This is not simply male and female, a sexual dichotomoy, but aspects of psyche, thus through the use of certain plants and substances, we are potentially able to reconcile the two in a balanced dynamic. Divisiveness, brought about by the oppression of the feminine by the masculine aspects, can be approached and overcome through the femtheogenic, itself an aspect of the entheogenic experience.
Ultimately, the major themes of Entheo-Science revolved around the healing, therapeutic and medicinal aspects of psychedelics. And while there are repercussions for both the reading and treatment of society, it is the individual pathology that was most focussed upon. Anne Schwerk gave a very insightful talk on Iboga and ibogaine in order to treat addiction. And, as a neuroscientist, she focussed on the remarkable efficacy of the substances in the brain, taking special note of the active sites and particular transmitters where the action occurred. Iboga, it would seem, shows great promise for a number of ailments. Spreading the healing zone wider was David King, co-founder of the Breaking Convention psychedelics conference. He introduced the term ‘epilogenesis’, and examined the contraction/expansion of consciousness as a useful model for implying choice and recognition of the body’s functions. Entheogens, in this sense, are powerful tools for enabling individual choice and healing.
It is regrettable to say, especially in light of our European cousins’ multilingual abilities, that we were unable to engage in all the talks because we were unable to speak German. However, of the two tracks, one was in English. Two other Breaking Convention organizers were present: Dr. Cameron Adams, who gave a fascinating talk on schizogenesis and how paranoia and conspiracy theory can be the result of unchecked psychedelic use; and Dr. David Luke, who spoke on the experience of synaesthesia while tripping and precognition during a peyote experiment. And, moreover, Kalliopi Tavoulari gave a guide to the South American indigenous medicines: Kambo, Rape and Sananga.
All in all the two day event was a sensation. It was an intimate affair where after-talk-discussions were held in the café over a cuppa or a delicious beer, which could either be brought from the café or a brewer, one of a few stall holders present, who had a delightful selection of cherry and elderberry wines as well as some mandrake vodka. Many people say the mark of a good conference is that it is not solely dependent on the talks but also the time spent with other interested and interesting people, and, since this was the first European mainland psy-conference the Psychedelic Press UK has been to, it was meeting these diverse and entheogenically curious minds that topped the conference off for us. At the closing ceremony there was talk of a meta-conference where all the big European psychedelic conferences converge and we are very much look-forward to the manifestation of this.