Transcript for Dr. Peter Sjöstedt-H Metaphysics, Consciousness, Psychedelics

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welcome to another episode of the human

experience live show my guest for today

is dr. Peter sure stead age Peter is the

author of Naaman knotek’s a book in

which he looks at the interplay of

psychedelic psychedelics philosophy

consciousness and metaphysics Peter

completed his degree in continental

philosophy at the University of Warwick

and achieved his PhD at the University

of Exeter where he teaches both

philosophy and skills on writing he’s

been featured on platforms such as TEDx

discussing the re-emergence and hidden

history of the usage of psychedelics and

their connection to philosophy science

and consciousness Peter it’s a pleasure

to have you on the show thank you for

making the time welcome to hxp thank you

very much saviors pleasure to be here so

I’m looking forward to the chat

so Peter let’s let’s kick this off by

credentialing the conversation a little


tell us about your education and you

know how you got into this work okay

well well I thought as a child I was

always known as a sort of little

philosopher so I suppose that’s always

been part of my character but I guess

well when I was about 17 I wanted to do

Eastern philosophy because my father had

a book on nanny yoga but at the time in

Britain that was didn’t exist as a

degree so I did there Western philosophy

instead and got into especially got

heavily into a certain German

philosophers like Kant and Nietzsche and

and then later on in London I started

teaching philosophy

any college there in South Kensington in

London and the college roped me into

teaching the philosophy of religion and

theology and that’s that wasn’t ready my

thing at the time but I I thought ok why

not and part of that included William

James and his book his great book of

1902 called the varieties of religious

experience wherein he talks about

mystical States induced by chemicals

such as nitrous oxide and ether and and

so I thought ok this is interesting

stuff and I you know wasn’t quite alien

to me but then concurrent to that I am

walking along these fields in Cornwall

and and my brother he was a sort of

amateur mycologist said let Peter I

think these are matching mushrooms there

so and that there were you know quite a

few I mean like you know hundred never

found it that many again in one place

but anyway I picked them dried them sort

of checked out that they were not

poisonous whatever and tried them and it

sort of changed my world it just sort of

made me realise the power of the human

mind and then when I went to see the

philosophic literature especially

philosophy of mind on it there just

wasn’t that much so I thought relatively

speaking so I thought I’d you know have

a have a stab at it myself and that’s

why I wrote Newman or take sort of you

know it’s just just sort of combining

philosophy and psychedelics in a way and

I’m still I’m still less sort of

involved with that whole project

what is Newman Eric’s mean what does

that mean exactly

well as word I made up so but what it

means to me it’s a combination of the

word Newman ER and the word psychonaut

so the word Newman ax comes from the

German philosopher Immanuel Kant he

divided the reality into phenomena which

is the world we see around us in terms

of time and space and causality and so

on and Newman ah which means the world

in itself the world as it really exists

without human

filter as it were and says a combination

of that because

you know it’s intimating in the book

that you’re getting a glimpse of Numa

now you get you perhaps as you’re not

merely hallucinating you sort of getting

a glimpse of the reality in itself at

the same time it’s based on the word

psychonaut which comes from another

german philosopher called

Anju Yuna here coined that in 1970 you

know was a friend of Alba Hoffman who

invented or discovered LSD sure in fact

in fact in them Alba Hoffman’s book LSD

my problem child he he devotes a whole

chapter to Ernst jr. but anyway so it’s

a you know comes up with this term

psycho node which basically means an

explorer of the mind fire chemicals so

the book is a combination really of that

exploration but also with the touch well

more than a touch of their philosophy

okay so let’s break this down a little

bit when we’re defining when we’re

looking at consciousness how how do we

define what consciousness is well that’s

you know there’s a huge question as you

know and I am in the PhD I completed

quite recently I’ve got a chapter

devoted to that question really I prefer

the word sentience which is an umbrella

term which includes consciousness but is

more than consciousness so for me

consciousness is opposed to sub

consciousness but both of those are

forms of sentience and within that we

can distinguish many different modes for

example we can distinguish reason and

knowledge the power of reason knowledge

we can we can have another category of

perception which includes the

traditional five senses you know sight

hearing and so on but also perhaps more

than that like perhaps another sense

that Whitehead calls a causal efficacy

which is a kind of primal sensing of

emotion the emotion within the world we

can also talk about other forms such as

the speed of consciousness the duration

of the present the species present as

it’s known we can talk about memory

imagination and then we can subdivide

that into dreams and hypnagogia sure

mystical States I mean it’s yeah it’s

there are many many elements that make

up what what we can call sentience but I

think you can at least list it and

numerate it one way that I like to think

about it as well more generally is from

Bertrand Russell and he says them the

mind is that which we know without

inference right say well that really

means is we we know the physical objects

around us by inference you know we see

the colors and whatever and we infer

that those colors and tastes whatever

were caused by external objects but our

consciousness itself you know the colors

we have the qualia as it’s known the

experience that we don’t infer that’s

directly known by us so that’s that’s a

quite quite useful distinction I find it

so I mean I mean surely this aspect of

sentience puts us you know at the top of

the species in versus pre hominid apes

or something like that sort of rummaging

around for these hallucinogenic


you know they this these shrooms affects

us differently than these other species

I mean would you assume that it’s I

would assume that yeah but at the same

time it’s hard to know what it’s like to

be in other species I mean they did this

really interesting experiment last year

where they gave MDMA to an octopus and

we don’t know what it was like to be

knocked person ecstasy however you know

ecstasy used to be known as empathy and

the behavior of the octopods

was quite strange because they started

getting very cuddly and you know sort of

seemingly empathetic so it seemed to

affect them in the same way even though

that you know the octopus brain is very

very distinct from our human brains so

um but you know these things I mean here

human neuroscience is still in its

infancy and the neuroscience of other

creatures even more so it means my

personal belief that sentience is not

you don’t necessarily need a brain to

have sentience and again this was what

my doctorate was on something called Pan

psychism which is the view that


exists throughout nature but in

different degrees just like the

complexity of matter exists throughout

nature but in different degrees of

complexity so I’d say there’s basic form

of sentience perhaps not consciousness

but something more like it kin to sub

consciousness even in plants but going

down all the way down mm-hmm you talk

about you talk about something that you

termed a hard problem of consciousness

and then you get into qualia what are

these things what is the hard problem of

consciousness ok well the hard problem

of consciousness was coined by an

Australian philosopher called David

Chalmers in 1995 and but it’s an old

problem it’s also known as the mind

matter problem the mind matter mystery

and it goes back hundreds of years if

not thousands but it’s it’s basically

this what is the relationship between

matter or the physical and mind or

consciousness or sentience it’s it’s

it’s it’s a real mystery to philosophers

psychologists scientists everybody

because essentially it boils down to

this how can something that moves in

other words like impulses within the

brain or the passing of chemicals how

can something that moves be the same as

or cause something that seemingly does

not move such as an emotion of happiness

or sadness or something like this

how does emotion cause emotion is it is

it that the movements within the brain

or whatever it may be are identical to a

mental state that seems very hard to

believe it was believed in the mid 20th

century in a theory called psycho neural

identity theory it’s difficult to

believe because for example neurons have

certain spatial properties like you know

the general pattern nation over time and

they’re correlated imagery let’s say a

purple triangle has different spatial

properties therefore you know you’d have

to say that the same thing has two sets

of spatial properties which seems

absurd so so when people sort of

dismissed that identity theory that mind

and brain were identical in the mid 20th

century there what emerged was really

something called emergentism

functionalism first but emergentism

which generally the idea that the brain

causes the mind to exist but the problem

with that is there are no known laws of

nature that that exhibit that causation

you know there’s a it’s called in in

philosophic terms it’s called a trans

ordinal mammalogy or bridge laws they’re

the these are not laws of nature as we

understand it secondly it’s problematic

because if you want to believe in free

will in mental causation which most

philosophers do today

it’s very hard to say how some something

that emerges the mind can feed back and

you know make your legs move and so on

so forth as a problem of mental

causation so so yeah that in a nutshell

is the hard problem of consciousness how

mind and matter relate and no although a

number of people think they know the

answer to that nobody agrees and there

are several theories out there so this

is the main sort of concern that

philosophers are looking at it’s a main

concern the main concern for I should

say philosophers of mind such as myself

but other philosophers you know they

look at ethics and that they’re not

concerned with us at all you know might

look at polity in a political philosophy

or or a pistol mala G which is the

theory of knowledge or so and so forth

but I think that this is a fundamental

mystery to not only philosophers this

harem of consciousness but but to

scientists as well I was just reading em

a book by Carlo Rovelli

called the order of time physicist and

he brings in lot philosophers actually

but he his understanding of sentience of

consciousness is quite limited and and

I’m reading him I’m thinking listen as

there’s so much more that could be said

about time the nature of time when you

involve consciousness then can be said

in by simply you know mathematics and

physics per se as we have it too

so it’s my belief that in the future the

philosophy mind and psychology will be

fused with physics you know basically

will to create a greater Cosmo logy that

that explains more of the sort of

anomalies and phenomena that we’re

working on today okay it’s interesting

we’re building the story here I mean you

you talk you talk about how the brain

filters subjectively consciousness right

so I mean how does how does that work

how does how is the brain filtering what

we experience in and see well I suppose

that due to evolution we have senses for

certain parts of reality the sort of

basic example would be the

electromagnetic scale so we humans can

see you know the colors that we see but

that’s only a fraction of the

electromagnetic scale other animals like

bees or deer can see ultraviolet they

see when a bee sees what we see as a

plain white flower they might see a

beautiful pattern whatever right

and and that’s just electromagnetism

there are you know we can only also hear

a fraction of auditory waves like sound

waves we cannot we are blind to

gravitational waves you know except on

the macro scale we’re blind to micro

scales as well you know the master

nations within atoms and so on we are

also blind to the sentience mostly blind

– I should say the sentience of other

organisms this is another problem in

like philosophy of mind called the

problem of other minds how do i how do I

know that you have consciousness you

know I know that I have consciousness it

seems that I infer that you have

consciousness they can never be sure and

if I can’t be sure about humans how

about other animals

I mean des cartes this founder of modern

mathematics of modern philosophy rented

a car he said he thought famously that

only humans have you know minds and not

even his dog had had of mind you know

they were just more like automata robots

he did make an exception for Maggie

strangely but generally there’s this

this problem that we we are yeah we’re

blind to the sentience of others were

blind to most of the physical forces of

which our science tells us is out there

so we are very very and why are we

because well for example Anne Marie

Burks and French philosopher he said you

know we’ve only evolved to to perceive

that which is a practical utility to us

practical use to us and we just in

evolutionary past we just have not had

the need to see you know x-rays and

infrared and whatever today of course

we’ve got technology which can translate

those waves into audible waves for us

you know with extra x-ray clip x-rays

and infrared glasses and so on that that

it’s quite clear that we are yet

filtering the world according to our

needs and perhaps it’s the case that we

are simply not equipped to understand

reality as it really is but at the same

time we seem to be making some headway

in them understanding more and more

about what’s out there yeah and this is

where psychedelics kind of come in right

because they change those filters they

allow us to see this this other realm

whether we’re entering it or something

else or whether it’s you know sort of

removing this filter that we’ve got sort

of set up in our our paradigms or belief

systems and you talk about how you know

psychedelics are reimbursing into

mainstream culture but but also you talk

about how much it’s influenced the

philosophy of our past so so let’s get

into modern modern philosophy now where

it is but also how we got to the place

where it– now because you talk about

Plato drinking forgot which is the

precursor to LSD and there are it seems

that there are more and more of these

experiences that are denoting this sort

of I don’t know this press presence of

psychedelics throughout human history

yeah and I was quite a quite quite a

fascinating M

line of inquiry really so albert hofmann

whom i mentioned who discovered LSD he

wrote a text saying that he believed

that well let me go back so in ancient

Greece two and a half thousand years ago

so there was this religious festival

known as the Eleusinian mysteries and

these were held there was a greater in a

lesser mystery but these were held once

a year and everyone who could speak

Greek was allowed to partake of this and

ultimately it involved taking a potion

of a specific dose after one has fasted

and then going into this darkened temple

and but one was forbidden to speak about

it and however it’s clear that the great

philosophers like all the other Greeks

were initiates in these mysteries and

Plato one of the you know the greatest

really of the ancient Greek philosophers

although he didn’t explicitly write

about it he intimates it quite a lot

like characters walk along the river

atlases which is the the location of the

lesser mysteries and so on and he talks

about he says that he wants to be

counted as a mystic as amongst the

Mystics and then he talks about this

great vision in the in in in in a few

books well one but two books

particularly the Phaedo especially and

the features and he talks about his soul

living his body and so on in this vision

and then thereafter he tries to come up

with logical reasons as to why mind a

matter are not identical in fact are two

separate substances and this is what we

call in philosophy substance dualism so

it seems that these these visions

inspired his dualism which was extremely

influential in modern Western thought I

mean a lot of people like Nietzsche says

Christianity is

platonism for the people right and and

so hoffman and thought that within these

mysteries there was the potion was

psychoactive and contained got why

because well there were these barley

planes adjacent to the illusion in

mysteries and got is a fungal parasite

that grows on wheat barley and so on so

there’s other theories as to what it was

as well but it seems quite likely that

it was some kind of psychoactive

substance I mean I should say at the

time wine in ancient Greece wasn’t like

wine today it was highly psychoactive

substance in itself so was the rosin not

unknown these substances anyway so it’s

if if white white head the philosopher

white head is someone I deeply admire he

wrote that um he famously wrote that all

European philosophy is but a series of

footnotes to Plato and if it’s the case

that Plato’s philosophy was inspired by

psychedelic intake it means the whole

legacy of Western philosophy really is

in one sense one can sort of conjecture

triggered by psyche psychedelic intake

and of course philosophy was the same as

science until a couple of hundred years

ago really so the whole of Western

intellectual development

one could argue has a debt to the role

that psychedelics played in ancient

Greece and it seems like there is this

reemergence happening now I mean people

are talking about this it’s been in

legislation they’re they’re talking

about decriminalizing magic mushrooms

and and peyote and these other compounds

that are just seemingly just part of

nature I mean this is this is something

that’s available to do everyone and it

should be right so yeah it back in

ancient times did you have you noticed

in your research that these psychedelic

compounds were available to a certain

class and not other people well there

was some restrictions placed on them

like I said for example then the

kikiyaon which was the potion in the

Eleusinian mysteries that was only

to be taken at the temple and by

administered by priests

however there were other sort of

concurrent Dionysian festivals going on

as well where it’s likely there were

other chemicals taken but it was always

in a ritual setting there were there’s

one case actually in ancient Greece of a

aristocratic youth who who plays out

performs a sort of mystery right in his

own home in other words he he probably

took the Chi kyon in his own home and he

is severely reprimanded by the state

when that happens I suppose because

these you see out that the illusion the

Eleusinian mysteries were the function

was to stop one fearing death so there

were you know very sacred activities and

certainly not nothing to be taken

trivially of recreationally but what

happened historically was that those

mysteries festivals or the allusion Ian

ones were closed down by the Christians

or the Romans who had just converted to

Christianity so for fourth century AD M

Emperor Theodosius who was a Christian

he closed it down and after that it

seems that Christianity then as you know

became you know very dominant to say the

least in Western culture and it seems

that it monopolized all mystical States

and and thus psychoactive compounds were

sort of generally emitted from that with

some exceptions maybe but but I think

now you know with the Enlightenment a

few hundred years ago then we move away

from Christianity to a certain extent

the church suddenly hasn’t got the power

it once had here in Europe at least and

in in sort of middle South America it

still has more power but certainly in

Europe Western Europe it has very little

power now ostensibly at least and so we

can return to

more pagan or more secular versions of

spirituality that don’t involved sort of

an intermediary priest and I think part

of that is the taking of psychedelics as

well it’s sort of like a and a kind of

direct mystical experience

some people say that this is a Western

way of thinking about psychedelics but

you know I think it’s a legitimate way

of thinking about it and and so I think

the prohibition on psychedelics that

we’ve seen in the last sort of 50 years

is a bit like the prohibition on alcohol

in the u.s. in the 1920s

you know lasted what 10 years their

prohibition Ellis T’s probably going to

last you know about 60 years or so but

we see it closing down now I think the

science is beginning to show that these

compounds are relatively harmless

remember Imperial College – this chart

of the harms of drugs and right at the

bottom was psilocybin you know the magic

mushroom sure a compound and so when the

science is there and when you realize

that these these psychedelic drugs at

least don’t cause harm I mean they don’t

relative to like alcohol or cigarettes

or whatever or heroin perhaps I think

it’s very hard and moreover when the

science is showing that they have

therapeutic potential as well again it’s

you know Imperial but also Johns Hopkins

many universities now are showing this

it’s it’s very hard to maintain a line

that psychedelics are somehow

immoral or should be you know kept

criminal law or or even taken lightly I

mean them list it the science and reason

in history is just not on the side of

these prohibitionists so it says it’s

nice to see these drugs been

decriminalized now but yeah it’s it’s

really fascinating to me I mean you talk

about these main figures in philosophy

likes are taking mescaline you talk

about Carl Jung Einstein I mean and then

you connect it to you know some of the

greatest thinking that that’s ever

Kirt into psychedelics I mean is this

something that should surprise us should

we be surprised that psychedelics are

kind of removing this filter reality

filter so that we can access this sort

of mystical higher knowledge

I think it’s prizes many how some of the

greatest thinkers were experimenting

with these drugs I mean the first

scientific psychonaut as I call him was

the local local man Sir Humphrey Davy he

was chemical philosopher with corn

McKenna’s today but in 1799 he was

experimenting heavily with nitrous oxide

laughing gas and he was taking he was

taking in a lot of it in 1799 to the to

the extent where he on Boxing Day 1799

he stepped into a an airtight box like a

TARDIS and inhaled 160 pints of the gas

and as he stepped out he took another 40

pints just to be sure you know and then

he said and then he you know the

fascinating thing is and this is is all

reported in the spoke of 1800 and his

notebooks all the time he said you know

everything all that exists his thoughts

right so and and by which he meant

idealism which is a philosophical stance

from Kant again you know related the

word Newman ah which is the view that

the matter and the space and the time we

see around us is actually a projection

of our minds projection of thoughts as

it were so these at the start of the

scientific investigation into

psychedelics we see an immediate link to

kind of metaphysics you know like the

fundamental study of reality which often

in view involves the mind and so we have

this ideal of ideal is immediately

coming through with the first studies of

psychedelics and and that was linked to

the Germans German philosophers of the

time so Humphrey Davy was known as a

great chemist you know he was the second

a scientists to be knighted after Newton

and he discovered barium and number of

other elements he invent

– the miners safety helmet and safety

lamps are in and and so on but um he he

was friends with Cola rage with the poet

Coleridge Wordsworth the Quincy to an

extent Robert Southey the poet laureate

and many of these were most of these in

fact all of these were very much

interested in the German idealism

current at the time you know especially

can’ts transcendental idealism so we see

that but academic philosophy in England

at least doesn’t become idealist for

another 70 years in the 1870s with

people at McTaggart and green and and

Bradley and people on that so it seems

that the psychedelic is sort of can

offer a direct experience of what can

intellect lighter intellectually be

understood but I think there’s a good

case to bring them bring them back

together again so it’s I think I think

psychedelics are a great tool to augment

metaphysics and the philosophy of mind I

mean how can you really study the

philosophy of mind without exploring you

know the great vast realms of the mind

it just seems like you know being a

traveler but staying in one state you

know something like this yeah I mean but

don’t you think you know haven’t we all

had those experiences that seemed to

make sense under some sort of compound

but later you know in sobriety it’s like

what was I thinking when I was out of my

mind I was out of my head how could I

know well for sure psychedelics also

induce hallucinations I mean I’ve I’ve

seen an octopus turn into a town for

example and I’m not saying that has any

vertical value but that’s not to say

that it’s all hallucinations so I think

the first thing one should keep in mind

is that as we were saying before you

know the might the mind is a filter or

perception as a filter of reality which

means that the world we see around us

all the time and our prosaic common

consciousness a consensus world that is

in a way a hallucination itself

and when we take I mean psychedelic

experiences there’s not one there’s not

one thing you know that it’s so vast in

itself there are so many varieties of

psychedelic experience to be mapped but

certain varieties then I think might

yield a more objective perception upon

the world for example the distortion of

time there’s no reason why the our

present like the species present should

be the duration is there’s no reason

that we should perceive time at the same

speed or the rhythm that we always do in

fact again again this guy at this fizzes

reveille I was reading his book because

he said that it was his experience of

LSD and the distortions of time that it

produced that made him wonder well what

is time you knows our ordinary

understanding of time correct and in his

book he says no is actually are not

common intuition of space and times

completely wrong it’s just a very human

all too human vision so could it be that

psychedelics actually break this Halleck

consensus hallucination and give us

greater direct insights into the nature

of reality I think in certain cases but

not all cases this can happen yeah I

mean wasn’t it Einstein who said reality

is merely an illusion albeit a

persistent one yeah I believe so yeah so

so I mean what’s happening in this state

where you know let’s say you’re drinking

ayahuasca and you’re you’re moving

through this I don’t know the solution

hallucinogenic reality space where

you’re you’re sort of collecting

information that wouldn’t be available

to you unless you were on this compound

on this drug well the active ingredient

in ayahuasca is DMT dimethyltryptamine

and I was I recently read and reviewed a

book called alien information theory

which concerns how DMT in its

relationship to space so one thing that

numerous DMT reports show is this this

this vision of hyperspace and by

hyperspace is meant more than three

dimensions of space so could this again

be not a mere hallucination but a

veridical perception why do I say that

surely space is only 3-dimensional right

and time might be the fourth dimension

as Minkowski an Einstein saying well if

you go back into the history of you know

dimensional space you’ll see that Kant

again first in 1747 his very first

publication said you know that fact that

space has three dimensions seems

completely arbitrary and it’s

investigation is one of the greatest

things that that mankind can do in 1854

a mathematician corey minh bernhard

riemann he showed that assuming that

there are more than three dimensions of

space does not lead to contradiction and

paradox as people has assumed but can

create very coherent geometries and

Euclid was wrong about you know the

fifth fifth postulate that parallel

lines never meet and and then this

continued and their iron stein adopted

Riemann’s mathematics to understand

space and time or space-time as it

became known a guy called colludes he

wrote a paper showing wrote paper and

sent it to Einstein showing that and if

we assume an extra a fourth dimension of

space the Einstein theory of relativity

go here with the theories of

electromagnetism Maxwell’s and Einstein

accepted this and

and quantum physics came along people

didn’t think about these extra special

dimensions directly for a while but then

in the 80s you had string theory which

said okay if we accept that there are

ten dimensions then we can bring


Einstein’s relativity with quantum

physics which famously don’t go here and

then M theory in the 90s said that

actually it’s eleven dimensions and and

people are still working on this so it’s

a sort of a hypothesis that hasn’t yet

been proved but if it were right it

would explain the coherence so many

mathematicians and physicists really

believed in these extra dimensions but

of course we can’t see them because

again we’ve evolved you know we project

the three dimensions of space some

people might be able to see more than

three dimensions this is an interesting

question Charles Hinton wrote books on

how to develop that visualization but

here’s the interesting thing so with DMT

them and and other and other

psychedelics but DMT especially seems it

seems to be that people can suddenly

visualize more than three dimensions of

space in other words hyperspace

could this be then the interesting

question is could this be a vertical

perception rather than a hallucination

considering the fact that physicists

generally believe that there are far

more than three dimensions in reality

anyway so you know that’s just one way

in which one can see psychedelics as

offering more of an insight into direct

reality rather than hallucination Peter

I I really enjoy your work because it

sort of connects these parallels I mean

I never would think that these ancient

philosophers were using mescaline or any

of these things that you’ve detailed but

you know I what I want to ask is do you

feel or believe that there could be a

type of war on consciousness because of

how hidden this is in our society mm-hmm

that’s an interesting question I mean

first of all let’s say this that there

was there was a sort of war on

consciousness in the 20th century


a lot of people just didn’t like it

because it did not fit in with

established theories so you had them

theory you know like crazy theories in

retrospect like eliminative ism which

said that consciousness didn’t even

exist or behaviorism which said

consciousness didn’t really exist it was

simply you know like a word like

happiness simply refer to smiling or

laughing or something like this

all of these theories led to horrible

paradoxes though and and of course a

very contrary to common sense

so that war unconsciousness was fought

and it seems that consciousness one with

the hard problem of consciousness coined

as such in than in 1995 as I mentioned

could there be a war on consciousness

with regard to the psychedelics quite

possibly yeah because I think that

psychedelics stop sort of impede certain

conservative ways of thinking you know

that there must be an order and things

must be structured in a traditional way

and so on they sort of allow for very

creative thinking and they also allow

for a real objective viewpoint of the

ideology in which one lives the Nobel

laureate Octavio Paz wrote about this

actually in terms of moral ideologies

and with regard to Nietzsche said

psychedelics destroy this moral ideology

then they make it a fast they make it

seem completely absurd now their what

morality is is it is it is a completely

different question but if we take in

that sense then of course there will be

many people who want to maintain a

certain ideology or certain morality or

certain political way of thinking who

would see a mass kind of intake of

psychedelics as you know very

threatening and you know this

also of course the church like I said if

the church had a monopoly on

spiritualism or metaphysics and then

suddenly people said you know what we

don’t need we don’t need you we can go

directly to the source as it were that

would be a threat as well then you see a

sort of a sort of coalition between

conservativism and the church which is

basically Catholicism is that already

you know but I could certainly see a big

attack against psychedelic consciousness

where it to become too prevalent as has

happened in the sixties I think another

factor though today is that we are

unlike the sixth well no that’s not true

another factor today is people are

pushing the therapeutic medicinal value

of psychedelics and so it’s very hard to

maintain morality and be against therapy

so it’s really hard to predict which way

this will go that other moment it’s

becoming liberalized obviously yeah I’m

really glad that you mentioned that

therapeutic aspect of this because

something that I bump into a lot is a

person that is in a situation where

Western medicine has you know all but

failed them they they just you know they

there’s no direction for them to go

they’ve tried every antipsychotic

medication that there is and nothing

seems to connect or work for them and so

you know a story that that I encounter

quite often now it’s it’s it’s no longer

surprising is someone who is making a

push towards going down to Peru and

drinking having a session with ayahuasca

and then you know and then someone who

actually goes and and goes there has

this session with a shaman the shaman

seems to lead them through this healing

process and finally it seems like their

lives you know turn a corner yeah yeah

no I doesn’t surprise me at all I mean

even if there’s no physiological tracing

of that change it’s it’s like him it’s

the mere experience itself which can be

correlated of course but psychologically

speaking it’s the experience itself it’s

just so refreshing in a way I mean again

like I said their variety

a psychedelic experience but just to

know that the vision of a leaf for

example can be so extraordinary

beautiful sublime and you know for many

people even such a simple thing can be a

you know life-changing to see to see how

powerful aesthetics can be you know how

much the beautiful can be appreciated is

a life-changing thing I remember when I

first took psilocybin from Liberty Capps

I just thought wow you know I’m really

gonna have to get into history and

theology and arson and look at the

Philosopher’s mind and in respect to

this more details incredibly inspiring

and anything inspiring of course is

going to help your mental health I

should say there’s one danger though to

only focus on the medicinal value of

psychedelics you sort of that is

certainly a very positive aspect of them

but it’s only one aspect there there are

and this is of course what I’m looking

into like him other useful aspects to it

as well

valuable aspects like him it’s its

application to metaphysics like I say

and philosophy of mind and art and and

so on and so forth so I understand what

people are pushing this medicinal point

of view to make them more acceptable but

we have to remember that this is not the

this is not that only purpose you know

they are much more I often say

psychedelics are much more than medicine

yeah I mean it’s it’s interesting that

you have that frame of mind you know to

come at it in more than just a

perspective of medicinal because it

seems like that is where everyone else

is you know everyone is talking about

how they can they has like a dellux can

help you in some sort of mental way but

you’re saying that there there is also a

perceptive quality that can change based

on our uses usage of these compounds

yeah there’s there is um I mean like I

say yeah they have very very strong

philosophical value that is to be

still to be mined and you know now that

I’m getting of course I’m not against

the medicinal use of it but I should

just stress that you know we need a

balance and we need to realize that

there’s there’s much more and also I

should add as well you know in in

limited cases psychedelics can actually

cause psychological damage not

physically not physiologically but

mentally I mean I have met some people

who have been scarred by their sort of

hell like gothic experiences which I

have also had but they didn’t affect me

I thought they were just kind of cool

you know but some people especially if

you’ve been inculcated into like a

religious family and you believe that

there’s there really is a Hell or demons

and think you know this this kind of a

dark stuff if you really if you’ve been

brought up that way and then you

actually see it and you have what

William James cause a noetic experience

where you think it’s real as it were

this of course can cause a lot of

psychological damage but I should stress

that is rare and of course alcohol can

cause that as well I mean okay not not

as in such a dark way but it’s much more

harmful on average overall psychedelics

are very beneficial but one has to one

has to be a bit careful to balance it so

a person should be aware of their own

sort of mental agency and and know you

know what their limits are and and I

mean experimentation and you you took

you talked about how you know even in

ancient times the state regarded doing

it outside of a ritual context as you

know a breach of some sort of agreement

that that was you know necessary you

know so go ahead yeah no I mean they are

very powerful tools you know they and

they should be handled with respect and

not fear but I should say respect

they’re not party they’re not party

drugs you know like cocaine psychedelics

are you know imagine if I mean I

sometimes I say like this imagine if

someone offered you a pill and said

listen if you take this pill you’ll have

a mystical experience like the great

mystics of eight of past ages you know

you wouldn’t take that when you were you


shouldn’t take that really at least when

you’re going to a party or traveling on

a bus or something like this you know

you should I think one should treat it

with a lot of respect and because of

their power and and their unexpected the

unexpected phenomena that can occur when

taking them

so um so I always caution respect not

fear but respect for these for these

compounds yeah no doubt I mean it it

seems like it would be necessary to have

a ritualized context to using these

compounds and reverence yeah I mean

think I certainly think of ritualized

contact content to context is is

advisable for probably most people

however there’s also I mean to balance

that even there’s a lot of people say

that you know taken in darkness by

oneself after you know not the first

time obviously but you know one one one

has accustomed to them that is the

greatest experience you need complete

kind of stoppage of all external

perception so you can focus you know on

the inner workings as it were I mean I

always think that psychedelics with eyes

closed is much more sublime and epic

than psychedelics with eyes open you

know with eyes open you can see plants

you know sort of waving about and walls

fluctuating and and so and so forth but

eyes closed I mean wow the thing the

things that can come to you with eyes

closed alone in other words without

interference from the outside as it were

it’s just so can be so phenomenal I mean

I I’ve experienced sort of traveling

through galaxies seeing the most amazing

crystalline sort of giant spaceships

which somehow seemed sentient traveling

through these strange glass escalators

in an alien world and and seeing

multi-coloured vortexes I mean it’s just

a lot of peace because number

people who’ve never tried psychedelics

think it’s just sort of pretty

kaleidoscopic colors you know as you see

in a certain 60s films but it’s so much

more than that you know it’s vet it can

be it’s sometimes I see

I remember one phase as it were a

session where I just saw every now and

again I suddenly sort of like a pang of

the most beautiful form you know object

that one of them was even a robot

strangely you know but it was just the

most perfect shape and and just they

also I mean the the emotions and

feelings that can accompany that you

know you can have feelings that you’ve

never had before

that you can’t really describe as

feelings you get this fusion of a

perception and a conception at the same

time like I said possibly seeing space

angled to a right angle to the three

dimensions rear we already know

communicate is seemingly communicating

with other beings that are not of this


I mean all of these things happen but I

think happened much more easily with

eyes closed so so so there’s a little

kind of an advert for doing it alone as

it were I mean Peter I wanted to ask you

what your concept of God was I mean when

we talk about these connotations of

these unperceivable realities like that

can only be accessed through these

compounds and what is what is your

perception of of God and how has that

changed after after the usage of these

compounds hmm yeah well I’m still in

conflict about about that guy actually

because so I was braum half Swedish half

British and both those countries are

very secular really even though we’ve

got the Church of England here very

secular countries and I was sort of de

facto brought up as an atheist I was

never told a theism was true it’s just

that you know obviously the church is

wrong and then and then to add to that I

started reading Nietzsche as teenager

and Nietzsche famously said you know God

is dead

and he caves beyond atheism and says

actually not only is absurd is actually

a real danger to the human race

Christianity and its morality and I’ve

got that sort of embedded within my

psyche now this sort of Nietzsche nism

at the same time I you know like I said

I’m I’m a big reader of Alfred North


1947 and he had a sort of new conception

of God which instigated something known

as process theology his basting started

off in California really Claremont where

I was a few months ago and his form of

God is not really the Christian form

although process theology sort of made

it Christian again it’s a kind of a

pantheistic God in a way and I’m more

sympathetic to that or I’m all

sympathetic to spur notes has got you

know Spinoza said nature is God so if

you’re going to call it if you’re going

to call God nature fair enough but the

real question is I think is there could

there be an overall sort of overarching

sentience which is the universe which

transcends the universe I I mean

certainly certain psychedelic

experiences tend to push one in that

that direction you can call it the

Godhead you can call it the absolute as

many names for it and I’ve had I haven’t

quite had a full-on experience of that

but so quite close but the problem with

the word God is has got all these

connotations doesn’t it – you know the

religions and whatever all of which I

think are quite quite wrong although I’m

not sure about that of course but you

know my experience at least they haven’t

shown any real strong reasons for

believing in them

so we’re yeah I’m just gonna stay

agnostic on that okay understood

I mean it’s it’s interesting to me this

idea and pursuing it I mean it’s almost

as if you know that there’s the

Pursuit you’re pushing the edge of

madness to you know get this idea

glimpse of divinity taste the divine –

you know I don’t know to have this

direct mystical experience of of God or

what you think maybe God um you know I

want to get into we’re about to close up

here but I want to talk about

synchronicity and Carl Jung and his cos

and he coined the word what what is your

understanding of synchronicity and what

did–what called mean with when he

talked about that well I must admit I’m

not a young scholar and I don’t really

know that much about it I mean I was

considered a young more of a

psychologist than a philosopher so it’s

not really something am i can talk about

but as I understand it it’s a sort of it

means I’m not merely coincidence but

that there is a higher purpose to what

we experience as coincidences

I again I’m gonna stay agnostic on that

I haven’t I can’t claim that I know much

about you know enough about you in at

least to be able to pronounce anything

on that I think that something related

to it is true though I think there could

be purposes or tell I tell us is tell

away of which which we act upon which

which our overarching as it were but

which we’re not consciously aware of I

mean a common examples simply the urge

to mate you know so although we see that

from our perspective as just mere

pleasure there seems to be a species

wide Telos directing us that way and

then the question is could there be even

higher purposes that directors which we

try to understand just in an

individualistic sense but actually which

exist in the higher level I mean we’re

going up to levels of God again now I

think there’s possibilities for that but

at the same time I’m Kantian to the

extent that I think that

we are like insects trying to work out a

game of chess you know we can see the

pieces and we can see them move but

we’ve got no idea that they are a game

but no idea about the moves the rules

and the techniques that can be had and

the glory of victory and things of this

so I think I think such things like

synchronicity and higher teleology and

so on so forth

we humans as of yet we’re just not yet

equipped to judge one way or the other

of course we can’t speculate and of

course we can hope that we will evolve

you know into into greater greater

beings in the future which perhaps then

have greater cognitions this is part of

one philosophy we called transhumanism

sure and post humanism the hope for

greater creative minds to understand you

know the greater universe yeah you know

I way that I’ve looked at it as is that

you know there’s this sort of people of

consciousness in this door of perception

and psychedelics seem to you know lift

that that veil as it were just for a

brief enough period where you’re seeing

behind the door for a little while and

but but then you know coming back to

sort of quote-unquote reality coming

back to the state it’s it’s hard to

retain that information it’s hard to

bring it back it’s hard to believe some

of it as well but you have to remember

that you know again William James said

that under the one one of the four main

marks of the mystical state was what he

calls the noetic quality which is the

belief that what you are experiencing at

the time is reals veridical it relates

to an objective existence which is not

mine dependent not dependent on your own

mind and when you get out of that state

you lose that noetic quality and then

you judge things according to your own

your own epistemology theory of

knowledge right so so then you start

thinking well well that can’t be true

because you know God is not real or

something like this in other words

you’re using your cultures beliefs

and your own personal limited

understanding and perhaps also your

character you know like your your

pessimistic or optimistic character to

judge things and seems that there’s no

real pure there’s no real pure neutral

state by which one can judge things

really I think one thing one should

always be aware of though is how our

human knowledge in science is

continuously changing continuously

getting getting closer and closer it

seems although there could be paradigm

shifts of course blah blah but you know

to think that our present state of

knowledge is complete as final is absurd

of course and this is in philosophy this

is known as a pessimistic induction you

know the fact that in the past we’ve

always been wrong sort of should give us

a warning that today what we think is

right is actually probably completely

wrong as well and when you look at the

latest findings in in science you know I

mean much of this is appears as more

magical than any magic of the 19th

century but it turns out to be quite

valid and all a lot of this sort of you

know hard core beliefs of the past are

just today shadows of ignorance so so

that’s why I like Whitehead in a way

he’s a speculative method physician and

he says we can explain these things if

we assume this that and the other

although that’s quite radical but we

have to understand that and whatever the

truth is it’s going to be very very

radical I mean how a problem of

consciousness whatever the solution to

that is it’s going to be extreme it’s

going to be something that no one today

would probably believe or very few

people will believe and so you know with

that in mind one can I think one can

start taking the experiences of

psychedelics a little more seriously at

least in their creative aspects you know

the fact that they can lead to creative

thought and further speculations and in

the fact that they can make one connect

concepts that are usually completely

distinct so in that in that creative

aspect alone they are valuable tools

for the progress of mankind absolutely I

love that I love that to wrap this up

with Peter thank you so much for your

time in working where can people find

your work well I’ve got a website called

philosophy you my twitter handle is

peter just @h i’ve got a big philosophy

facebook group called ontology sticks

that’s also a YouTube channel if you

want to find me in real life I’m a

research fellow at Exeter University and

at Exeter University you might be

interested to hear I’m actually me and

some others are organizing a philosophy

of psychedelics conference in April 2020

it should be I think it’s the first ever

conference on the philosophy of

psychedelics and it’s gonna be it’s

going to be epic it’s going to be great

and we’re planning it now so spread the

word it sounds great and the book is

called Naaman knotek’s my guest dr.

Peter sureste @h that’s the trouble

listen name finally got it

Peter thank you so much for your time

guys we’re gonna get out of here we will

be back next week for another live

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