JuLy 29th, 2023
EPISODE #64 OF THE PSYCHEDELIC LEADERSHIP PODCAST
The Bigger Picture: The Implications of Mainstreaming Psychedelics Through The "Clinical" Frame with
About this Episode
The primary narrative paving the pathway for the emergence and acceptance of psychedelic compounds into Western society is the narrative surrounding Psychedelic Therapy; psychedelics as a clinical treatment for mental illness.
But what are the implications of viewing psychedelics through this lens? Laura Dawn speaks with Alexander Beiner about The Bigger Picture and not only the impact that lens has on our personal experience but on the culture at large.
Alexander Beiner is a journalist and author of the book: ‘The Bigger Picture: How psychedelics can help us make sense of the world’.
- The hidden and far-reaching implications of mainstreaming psychedelics through a “medicalized” and clinical lens within a capitalistic model.
- Why “Psychedelic Therapy” is the dominant narrative and why we need to widen our frame.
- What is “The Psychedelic Trojan Horse”? And why is flawed?
- Power dynamics surrounding who makes decisions around psychedelics.
- Why the names and labels we use to describe psychedelic compounds matter.
- Why psychotomimetic might still be an appropriate word given our pathological cultural framework
- How do we avoid the mainstreaming of psychedelics becoming an elitist movement, the importance of access, and “the virtuals vs the physicals”.
- We explore the question: Are psychedelics really nonspecific amplifiers, are they really neutral or are they guiding us in a more “positive” direction?
- We explore the conversation around neutrality vs priming and the role of a guide or sitting within the context of this question.
- State training: learning how to navigate the psychedelic landscape as a skillset you can learn to develop.
- What is matter vs consciousness? What is Reality?
- Curiosity as a valuable tool
- The 5 people who have had the biggest influence on his thinking.
- The trickster effect of tryptamines.
- Entities and the extended DMT state.
- Where Alexander is meeting his growth edge as a psychedelic entrepreneur.
People & Resources Mentioned
The psychedelic experience is such an incredible training ground for problem solving, for creativity, for deepening our relationships, for so many things that we haven't yet explored.
Alexander Beiner Biography
Having a narrative of medicalized, corporate psychedelia means that the level of deep social transformation possible is immediately limited because it starts from the same paradigm that gave us the antidepressant drugs, where it's like, we've got a problem we need to find a drug to fix it, whereas actually, we have a problem and we need to find social transformation to fix it.
Episode #64: The Bigger Picture: The Implications of Mainstreaming Psychedelics Through The "Clinical" Frame with Alexander Beiner
Laura Dawn: So I’ve never started an interview with the way that I wanna start with you today. It’s like the, what’s behind Mystery Door number two, you know, the, the conventional pathway would be asking you why you wrote your book, which was fantastic, by the way, but I, I kind of wanna take a different route because you hold such a complete, and actually I would say an incomplete, but a vast, complex framework because no one can hold the complexity in its totality.
Alexander Beiner: Absolutely. Yeah.
But, but you hold a very wide frame on this psychedelic landscape, and so I’m very excited to wade through the deep end with you here and to pull apart the threads of complexity. But let’s start with a little rapid fire questioning. And so I’m going to, Tee you up and then you fill in the blank.
That sounds great. Yeah, that’s fun. I’m up for it. Yeah.
Laura Dawn: Okay. Psychedelics are powerful tools for,
Alexander Beiner: the first word that comes up is transformation, but I also think they can be powerful tools for disintegration. So I think they’re powerful tools for not just amplifying what’s inside us, but for opening a myriad of doorways that we’re invited to step through.
And those doorways can go in, in all sorts of different directions. I like it.
Laura Dawn: Even the words tool actually spins the conversation in, in an interesting direction. And I wanna talk about the power of words that form our conceptual frames and the maps that we use for sense-making. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, like what the word tool means and a tool for sense-making even.
So I, I appreciate that disintegration as well. Mm. Okay, so spanning the last 60 years or so, what’s your favorite secondary name that’s given to psychedelics? And I’m setting you up with psychedelics, but maybe you actually use another name as your primary word of preference to point to these complex compounds.
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, I, I would, two words popped into my head. I generally use psychedelic. One was entheogen generating the God within. But the word that actually really popped up was psychotomimetic. So the, with the very early name given to psychedelics in the sort of fifties, cuz they were thought to mimic psychosis.
And the reason I like that is because I think there’s something, I’m very inspired by the work of Peter Kingsley, who’s a kind of scholar and somewhat of a mystic and like, like people like Krista Murti is kind of pointed out that there’s something very interesting about the idea of insanity, especially in a world which is in itself claiming to be sane, but behaving in insane ways.
So there’s something about. what McKenna used, Terence McKenna used to call unsane, right? So in some ways, breaking free of what is quite a pathological cultural framework. Very often, particularly my culture, I’ll say sort of western technological culture breaking free of that into something else has, has a flavor of, of insanity to it.
But if it can be held in the right way and, and applied in the right way and so grounded in reality, it can be incredibly transformative. So, so that word doesn’t get a lot of airtime anymore but I find it interesting.
Laura Dawn: Mm-hmm.
And how much do you think that frame of just the word and the label influences the experience of it?
It’s even interesting to illuminate that we, , categorize quite a lot of, of compounds in the, the category of psychedelics , but yet they are actually slightly different in their structure. And in some ways I do think that there is diversity.
Like I can’t really sit here and say that, you know, the intelligence behind L S D is the same intelligence behind the D M T and BFO versus Ayahuasca versus synthetic or five M E O D M T. So I, I’m curious your perspective on that in terms of the differences and do the differences offer different functional attributes that we can pull, you know, in terms of a tool that’s used in different settings or for different applications?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really interesting question. I think it has a huge effect, what we call them massive effect on, on how we experience them. Because that, as I know the topic we’re both interested in is it provides the frame through which we’re looking at. It’s like the glasses, the frame of the glasses we’re putting over ourselves.
Now the molecules and medicines have their own, in my view. Vibe, let’s call it attitude intentionality to them whether or not we want to, you know what? Wherever you sit on the kind of spectrum of what you think reality is, whether you, you see, you know, ayahuasca as an entity and, and a, and a kind of teacher in her own right, or whether you see these as molecules that open up just internal states doesn’t really matter because in a sense they are all, like you’re saying, I think they are quite different.
They have a different phenomenology to them. So there’s a different way of navigating them. Like going into the D M T space is very different to going into the psilocybin space. Even the extended state D m T experience is different to Ayahuasca cuz you don’t have the Harmon and Harmine. It’s qualitatively different.
Similar, definitely similar, but there’s, there’s a nuance and a difference to it, which is in itself some, something that’s fascinating to me. And you know, the other thing that’s very important,
I think is to look at there, there’s this big myth in, in spiritual communities and in the new age, which is that all these different practices like meditation and yoga and tantra, they all take you ultimately to the same place.
And I think that’s totally not true. I don’t think they take us to the same place. I think ultimately there is a deep interconnectedness. And so in some senses, speaking to that, but a kundalini awakening experience is not the same as a zen Samadhi experience of, of dissolving into everything. And, and this is this is something that there’s a Trish Blaine who’s a coach, who I’ve been working with for a number of years, who I mentioned in the book, but she helped me prepare for my D M T extended state.
She has this model called the Four Forces, which is very, I found very useful for this because it helped me sort of untangle and look at, okay, wait a minute. The D M T experience, for example, Rick Strassman, so one of the original D M T researchers, he was expecting that Samadhi experience, like people were gonna become one with everything and their individual identity was gonna melt away.
And they got something, they got a whole lot of something. It was full of entities and intentionality and missions and, you know, entities saying, oh my God, you’ve, you’ve arrived. We, we don’t have much time. We wanna show you something that’s completely different experience and say a five m e o experience, five M e o d m T, which for many people is this very profound connection to a non Dual to reality as is, right?
So those are not the same. And psilocybin teaches in a different way. And from my understanding, even though I don’t have any connection or experience with it, iboga teaches in a, in a very different way as well. So all of these experiences are different states and they require actually different state training to be proficient in actually how we navigate them.
And if we think they’re all the same, then we’re going to be Confused at the least when we encounter what is really quite a different realm in each of them that we’re going into.
Laura Dawn: Mm-hmm. Okay. There’s so much to unpack there. You said the word entity, that’s a salient word that jumps out to me. And I also just wanna illuminate and emphasize the word state training because that’s also something that I talk a lot about in my work.
That for example, you know, you sit in your first ayahuasca ceremony, it’s very disorienting, it’s hard to stay cognitively coherent. You have sea legs and it’s hard to even like get up and go to the bathroom and someone might help you with that. But then if you sit consistently over the years, you start learning the songs and then you start maybe playing music and start writing music.
And then actually over time you can get very good at a skillset. It’s a skillset to navigate these altered states of consciousness. And the map and the terrain is different based on the medicine. Or we could swap the word drug under a Western frame or a sacrament under a different frame. And it is a skillset, and I really love emphasizing that for people because I.
And I use the music example specifically because we think about music in that way. It’s very apparent example to use. Like we can track that progress, but then we can also apply it to cognitive thinking skills or creative cognition, . So I like that you emphasize that it is a state-specific learning.
And when I look at, psychedelics and creativity literature, I think to myself, well, but that person might not have been trained and have developed the skillset. So to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say, oh, well psychedelics don’t help enhance, let’s say, divergent thinking. But if you train someone and they actually have a practice and that a practice evolves over time, they can actually become even better at divergent thinking than you can in waking consciousness.
Alexander Beiner: Absolutely. Absolutely. A and you know, on that, that this is tapping into one of the things that really excites me so much about the idea of state training, not just with psychedelics, but definitely psychedelics are perhaps the most exciting is that what cognitive science. Research from cognitive science suggests, and particularly the research of a researcher called Barbara Tversky, that we use the same cognitive machinery for, for example, talking about ideas as we do from moving through space physically.
So we’ll say like let’s take a step back for a moment and just look at this question. Or, oh, I really look up to that person. These are all like embodied motions, right? And that’s just pointing at something really much more profound, which is that we are basically always taking what we’re doing in one state and then applying it in some way to another.
And the more proficient we get in the state, the more that goes from state to a trait. And so the, you know, for example you know, I, when I did the recorded the audio book for the bigger picture, I. It was like a day after I came back from Belfast. So I’m I play traditional Irish music and I was playing, there was like an Irish music festival and I was playing, I played the flute, which is relevant to this.
So I was playing the flute like nonstop for like three days. And once we started recording, I realized like, oh, I feel like I’m speaking differently than I normally do. And I’m getting like, I’m really like dropping into this experience and I’m finding it really fun and interesting. And there’s something about the tonality, which just feels really easy.
And it was only afterwards that I realized, well, of course, like playing the flute is all the same skills, but in a different domain to reading an audio book, right? There’s tone. There’s also being in a flow state, so it’s state specific. There’s an Irish music. You sit in a pub and play. But it’s not like jazz.
You basically either know the tune or you don’t, and it’s really fast very often. And so there’s also all these different skills you have to develop, like you’re playing and you have to switch from one’s tune into the next one at speed. And that’s taken me like, you know, that takes years and years and years to develop, but that skill as well to be adaptive and fluid in the moment then also applies to solving problems in the real world that, that kind of present themselves, and also being in a high intensity environment and navigating it.
So in the same way,
psychedelic experience is such an incredible training ground for problem solving, for creativity, for deepening our relationships, for so many things that we haven’t yet explored. And that I think we share that like, I’m so excited about that because so much of the attention has been on medicalization and not enough, not nearly enough attention has been on.
What we can actually do if we put our minds to it and develop really solid protocols and actually figure out, okay, well how do we look at conflict resolution in a completely new way? How do we look at systems change or complexity thinking or creativity or, you know, relationships? So that for me is the cutting edge of psychedelics right now.
And increasingly I think will be in in the future.
Laura Dawn: Okay. I love this. So, Let’s circle back to this idea that if I hand you something and say this is gonna induce a psychotic state, versus I hand you something and say, this is going to allow you to come to know God, or I hand you something and say, this is a profound catalyst for creativity.
Or let’s apply the empathogen, you know, name to it. So this is interesting to me because this comes into neutrality versus priming conversation, which is really actually complex. And so we can immediately sort of jump to the conclusion and say, well, we shouldn’t prime people, but we are being primed by our frame of reference.
And if we say, okay, I value empathy in myself in leadership, it’s a good quality for society. Do you think if we put that lens on it, that then we can develop a framework, models, protocols, integration, preparation that actually steers towards that outcome. And do you think that that is ethical, unethical, and I’m gonna tie one more note in here.
This makes me think of, you know, Stan Gross’s emphasis that these are non-specific amplifiers. And is that true? Is that the whole story? Are they really neutral in that way or are they guiding us towards something that might be, you know, framed as better? Like we become better humans if we’re more empathic?
I know that’s a lot, but you are one person that I can trust to hold that.
Alexander Beiner: Thank you. Yeah, no, fascinating. I’ll answer the last part first. I think they are non-specific amplifiers, but I don’t think they’re only non-specific amplifiers. And I do think there’s a directionality to the experience and this is, you know, nothing is really neutral.
And to that point, It’s impossible not to prime someone. It’s not possible. And anyone who thinks they’re not is kidding themselves. And also, you know, this is research that my wife, Ashley Murphy Binder is doing at the moment, looking at the difference between the models of psychedelic therapy, which is very popular in the US where it’s like the therapist is just there as a guide.
And like I’ve heard people say yeah, you know, we shouldn’t even call it a guide because we’re not guiding anyone anywhere. We’re just holding space and we’re sort of in basically invisible. And the medicine is doing all the work. The molecule is doing all the work. And then you have psycholytic therapy in which the therapist is much more active and actually talking to people.
I I think both of those have truth to them, but I think the psychedelic side of it and this is kind of where, where Ashley’s kind of someone arguing as well, or, or, I mean it’s in process, but you know, she’s pointing out like, we need to look at the psychedelic side as well because it’s really actually very important to understand that directing the experience in some way can be hugely beneficial, especially to what we’re talking about right now.
The question of ethics is obviously a major one and in my view, the first thing is that I think the ethical thing to do is, is, train, give people the tools to stay in their own sovereignty. So their own ability to stay connected to themselves and aware and awake of their own agency so that they’re not giving agency away in any way.
That’s really key. And then also being clear, if someone’s not familiar with psychedelics, that priming is just something that happens. And to be like, Hey, every, because like literally every gesture you make, every word you choose is not another word you’ve chosen. Right. So just being like, look, you’re, this is a very sensitive experience where you’re very susceptible to the frame that’s being given to you.
Or, and, and in a sense, it’s not even giving a frame, it’s providing a frame because you, you we’re kidding ourselves as we’re saying, we’re not gonna provide any frame. Mm-hmm. Like, it’s just gonna be totally neutral. It won’t work. It’s also not a safe container for people. You can’t just give no frame. But what I think is very important is instilling an attitude of curiosity more, more than anything else.
Cuz it’s like if someone stays curious and connected to themselves, then they have the agency to go, yeah, that frame doesn’t really work for me. And of course, As a facilitator, not cramming the frame down someone’s throat or making it too much of the process, and also making it broad enough to, to encompass a lot.
So then finally, with that in mind, then I think absolutely we, we can create specific experiences and protocols that can, you know, potentially lead us towards, say, deeper problem solving or, or effective conflict resolution processes. Now, they’re not gonna be magic bullets where you just resolve a conflict through one ceremony or session, or that, you know, we bring a bunch of creative people together and they all come out with you know, the, the next art movement, like dadism or something.
I mean, it could happen and that would be amazing. I mean, this is why we should try, right? This is why where people should be, be doing this kind of work which I know you are like, so, so that I think is I think and implicit in that is that all those people have gathered there for that purpose.
Right. So in the same way that we kind of gather for anything with a specific purpose from our own desires, I think if we are, if there’s a creativity focused, you know, psilocybin protocol, for example, everyone who signed up for that or is experimenting with that is like, knows they’re going in for that reason and there’s a certain priming of, Hey, we’re here to do this.
And I, I don’t think that’s a problem.
Laura Dawn: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And you give such a great example of this in the book, which I think illustrates what we’re pointing to here quite accurately around these tools as Potential for sense-making and conflict resolution. And so they’re applying now, you know, ayahuasca ceremonies in very challenging situations between cultures with Palestine and Israelis.
And that’s a perfect example of, okay, these substances help us move towards empathy. How can we apply that? How can we then create a protocol, a set, and setting a preparation and integration to amplify that and support that? And I love that you mentioned that in your book.
Alexander Beiner: Yeah. And that work is, , done by Leo Roseman who’s a, a neuroscientist at Imperial, but also very talented, sort of, I would say, like ethnographic researcher on top of that.
And Sam Ard, who’s a Palestinian activist and people can check out I, I describe it in the book certainly. And they can also check out the, the first paper they published is already out. But actually the book is the first time I believe, That information about the second phase of that study has been published because Leo happened to be my neighbor at the time.
And I sat down with him a day after he got back from when they had taken groups of Palestinians and Israelis out to a, you know, to Spain to, to specifically do ayahuasca ceremonies centered on conflict resolution. And I think it’s a great example as well, because they encountered the complexity of what this work is because psychedelics are pretty much always complex.
So, you know, they point to like how at times the idea of we’re all one and this, what is the conflict anyway, because ultimately we’re all, we’re all of one soul in a sense that would come up. And that was also kind of like, that’s kind of like a idea held in many spiritual groups. But that idea itself then often could get in the way because it would mask the realities of the conflict and mask the disparity of power dynamics.
And so that would then come up in the circle and have to be dealt with. And I mean, it was fas it’s absolutely fascinating. And so that I think is so exciting and so promising because likewise, you know, with creativity for example there’s gonna be probably elements of of chaotic expression that come into it potentially and un unknown.
And we’ll all have to figure out how best to do it. And I’ll work together to kind of like share, I think open sourcing like protocols would be the best way to do it. To be like, okay, we tried when we got outta Blackboard and that was a mistake that didn’t really work, so next time we’re gonna try, we’re gonna try this.
Who knows? I’m just making, making stuff up. Right. But that I think is gonna be, that for me is so exciting and so fun as a prospect. Yeah.
Laura Dawn: Right. And the, the interesting aspect of this is that it’s so iterative and also meta. We go into these experiences to break frame, you know, and breaking frame is actually a powerful creative thinking tool that can help us think creatively and also help us ignite inner transformation.
And I wanna just circle back around to your point that we can’t be neutral here. So I want to illuminate the larger cultural context and you know, we’ve been talking about psychedelic therapy, but just to actually emphasize that this is the primary narrative paving the pathway for these compounds to emerge in our culture at large.
And that we forget that that actually is going to have, it is already having a major impact. We can talk about, you know, western society, consumerism. Capitalistic for-profit models. And , I call this the Pollan era, versus the Nixon era because, you know, the Nixon era is full of propaganda and , I know the, this is your brain on drugs, scrambled eggs image that everyone invoked.
I think that came a little later, actually, like in the eighties. But now we have the, the image in the Pollan era is, psychedelic therapist guide sitting next to a person with an eye mask on a couch in a box. And this is the image that people conjure up. And images are powerful. Framing is powerful.
Psychedelic therapy is a frame. And so, I’m curious to know, and I know this is, this is starting to pull apart the threads of complexity for people who haven’t really considered that, you know, what are the implications of it entering Western culture through this narrative in particular?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, this is a, a, a, I think, a really important question.
It has pretty significant implications. So, you know, Eric Davis has pointed out, I think, really rightly, that the narrative that we have around psychedelics changes the, the, the frame that we kind of then build after we, you know, break frame. It changes what we, what we experience. And, and you know, and we’ve talked about this a little bit already, the degree to which that, you know, that narrative affects it is perhaps up for debate, but it certainly affects it.
So having a narrative of medicalized, biomedical, let’s say biomedical and corporate psychedelia means that, The level of deep social transformation possible is immediately limited because, and this is significant also for the mental health crisis that as it’s called, right? Because I. It, what it assumes is it, it starts from the same paradigm that gave us the antidepressant drugs, where it’s like, we’ve got a problem.
We need to find a drug to fix it. Whereas actually, we have a problem and we need to find social transformation to fix it because, you know, socioeconomic disparity epidemic of loneliness, social media use the, the fact that , we’re facing multiple existential threats as a species , the kind of decline of any kind of solid religious framework in the West that gives us a kind of base of, of sort of metaphysical meaning.
All of that’s happening at the same time in this moment in history. And we don’t need new drugs to fix that. We need new societies. And if psychedelics only, and this isn’t to say they shouldn’t be medicalized, there shouldn’t be a narrative of psychedelics that that is also medical, but it’s that it shouldn’t be the only narrative and the reason it is the only, the reason is the most dominant narrative it’s because there was a very conscious choice by clinicians, medics, activists in the underground over the last 30, 40 years to do a, what I call a psychedelic Trojan horse of, okay, we’ll sneak them into the culture in this container, this Trojan horse of medicalization, everyone stop being so weird put on suits.
The countercultural , transformative revolutionary side of it is not very appealing to corporations or to policymakers. So this all makes sense. I get this strategy, and I used to be pretty behind this strategy. The problem with it is that the idea was, oh, once the psychedelics are in culture and we’ve got the okay, then the Trojan horse will open and all this magic is gonna spew out and, you know, transform people, you know, help the mental health crisis.
And then perhaps even, which was the promise of, you know, a lot of the psychedelic counterculture that I first encountered when I, you know got into this in say perhaps 2006, 2007 bef really before that was when the medicalization sort of picked up again. So the, the, the promise was social transformation and, and this kind of incredible opening of human potential.
The problem with the psychedelic Trojan horse is that with psychedelics, the horse itself is as important as a psychedelic. So the frame around them that’s containing them and the narrative around them and our expectations around them and what we think they’re for changes the experience we have on them.
And that is a huge, huge problem because , what we need is other ways of accessing psychedelics, whether that’s through retreats or through the kind of protocols we’re talking about, or through personal use, you know, responsible personal use religious use, and others. We need this kind of healthy ecosystem of different approaches to psychedelics.
The issue is that it’s not a simple. Saying, okay, great. Well, let’s have a healthy ecosystem, so we’ll make sure there’s psychedelic religion. We’ll make sure there’s this, there’s that. It’s that in our system, of course, the system has its own incentive structures, and those incentive structures will by default try and shut down anything that’s not profitable and doesn’t maintain the values of the system.
So it will, as we already see, hollow out, like what happened with mindfulness and yoga. It’s like, oh yeah, let’s bring those mainstream. And so we get these cookie cutter “Disneyfied” versions of them that go into the mainstream. So like the lululemification of yoga, right? Someone wants, someone said to me recently, I wish I could remember who but it’s a great, great line.
And the same thing happened with mindfulness. And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t also really deep practices going on there. You know, there’s Vipassan happening, there’s deep yoga retreats happening. That stuff is still out there. But what it is the, it’s the mainstream vision. It’s the mainstream narrative around them that, and so that is a really important thing because I, I think it’s such a, I would say travesty or it’s profane, let’s say, because I, for me, psychedelics are sacred and, and really connect us to something beyond ourselves.
It’s profane to try and water them down to fit into the system that’s the problem in the first place. And the system that is, that’s the, in the incentive structures of which are leading us to having a mental health crisis in the first place.
Laura Dawn: Right. Which becomes very tricky to actually distill how do we create a systems wide change? I mean, do you think capitalism is going anywhere anytime soon?
Alexander Beiner: I don’t know. I don’t think we right now have a compelling, an alternative that’s compelling enough or an alternative really, right now. I think a lot of the people in the systems change communities that I’m involved in, that’s what everyone spends most of their time wrangling over and trying to figure out, you know, is it like donut economics or there’s the, the idea of like game B, there’s all these regenerative models, but the system is incredibly embedded and powerful.
So the question isn’t when I think capitalism will stop, it’s whether we’ll survive that stop, right? It’s like whether the addiction kills us before the addiction ends by default, or whether we find some way to find something new. And I think we really can find something new. It’s just that we’ve, we find that through necessity often.
So we, we, things have to get to a certain level of have to be untenable in a certain way before we see that, that shift. Although also, you know, in systems, sometimes something completely unexpected happens and, you know, there could be a, there could be say the emergence of a new religion on a global scale that sweeps the world in the next 30 years that radically changes our value system. It’s happened before, you know, so we just don’t know really. I don’t think capitalism in its current form can possibly continue indefinitely. That’s mm-hmm. That’s certainly true. Mm-hmm. Or, or at the same time, a sort of, nothing is inherently anything, so it’s not, I don’t think it’s inherently like the big bad, it’s, it’s actually,
rather than capitalism, I think it’s a much deeper value system of the culture that is then exercised through capitalism, which is the idea that the only thing that’s real is matter.
Nothing else is real.
Consciousness isn’t real. The quality of experience isn’t real. The only thing that’s real is stuff. That’s the dominant cultural narrative that we’ve had for the last four or 500 years since the enlightenment, and it’s it’s so empty that it’s killing us.
Laura Dawn: Mm. . Sometimes when I feel really overwhelmed in the face of like, our system is fucked and it’s never gonna change, and how are we ever going to make it through this? We’re gonna need a systems-wide collapse. I do think about , an incremental approach and I do think that we can work with people in prominent positions, which also gets really tricky because then, you know, as you mentioned, and people are talking about it like , is this gonna become an elitist movement?
And if it is, and there are a lot of people in positions of power, you know, can they change their mindset? Because, and it comes back down to , are they non-specific amplifiers? Do they amplify narcissism or is there a guiding loving intelligence that actually opens up people to the mystic beauty of reality?
And, you know, the way that we are so interconnected, you know, I went to business school that was my undergrad. But yet, Psychedelics have vastly changed that indoctrination and that worldview even, you know, starting to invest in the stock market when I was just, you know, in my teens.
But for the past 20 years, I’ve been living outside in open air living because that word Ecodelics rings true for me in my life. So can we make the case that okay, actually people in positions of power, if they stick with this path for long enough and deconstruct their mind for long enough. And I’ll just pin on the side here that there are a lot of people having one L s D one ayahuasca journey and then, you know, coming full force into the psychedelic movement, which I’m not judging, I’m just saying that those are shallow roots.
It takes a long time to work with deconstructing the mind a long time, decades. So can we say that psychedelics can actually gear us towards a better way? And if we see things from an interconnected perspective, one of many, many examples, can we actually incrementally change the systems from the inside out?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, what a great question. I think, yes. I think what the trick or one of the tricks might be is psychedelics in combination with a compelling value system or let’s say cultural carrier, like a kind of cultural frame, which is new and of the times that can carry that, right?
Which is kind of what religions did in the past, right? They would carry, there would be a framework around sacred experience true religion rather than like a creed, which is just like, do these things and this cuz you have to do this.
So, and you know, to your point around elite, an elite pursuit. I think this is a really important question as well, and what I really wrangle with because it makes me very uncomfortable as an idea, and I think psychedelics should always also be grassroots and democratized because they are really easy to grow.
Right. And, and there’s the, you know, when I got into the psychedelic world in, in terms of like, you know, I had a podcast sort of like 2007, 2008, all about visionary art. And at that time there wasn’t really social media or it was in very, its infancy and it was a really beautiful community of people into psychedelics who would really support each other and have a lot of peer support. And there are some peer support groups popping up, certainly in the uk and I think the US around like, Hey, well there’s a lot we can do with, you know, knowing how to safely have the experience, knowing how to grow.
All of this that I think should always be there because that’s, that’s protective. That, you know, we have this kind of access and that’s, you know, breaking convention that one of the directors of, you know, we put on a big, you know, Europe’s biggest psychedelic conference, but we’re actually an educational charity is, is what we do and that’s what kind of drives us. It’s like, okay, we’re just going through a whole process at the moment to figure out, okay, what does that actually mean now that the whole landscape has shifted and where do we wanna bring that education?
So the other point around that, yeah, just on, on the question of the elite aspect though, I just read a book by Peter Turchin , which came out a long ago, called End Times.
And Turchin is a historian, but he’s kind of like a big data historian. He has this model called Cleo Dynamics which is like kind of the big data approach to history and especially civilizational collapse or, or like, you know, a, you know, regime collapse. And they have really quite a compelling argument to make that the, the cause of most changes in, in a kind of political systems is something called elite overproduction coupled with popular immiseration . So elite overproduction is that there’s too many elites and elite is basically kind of power holders in society. So it doesn’t have to be like the top. 0.1%. It’s people who are like, you know, have a good law law degree and they have the earn maybe a hundred grand a year in the states, or like, and there’s lots of different realms where you can be elite, right?
You have some kind of influence and power and so there’s too many elites and not enough spaces for them, right? There’s too many, for example, in the states, there’s way too many people with PhDs and not nearly enough places for them to go. And that’s true in lot, lots of other areas as well. There’s way, there’s way too few top law firm positions or way too many people with law degrees, and so they’re, they’re fighting for like, there’s like a musical chairs.
There’s not enough seats to go around. And then combined with. In our case, like declining wages in the west over the last like 30, 40 years. So that people are getting poorer, especially working class people and they’re pissed off about it quite understandably. Mm-hmm. And so you get people, like Trump is a great example where you get an elite then speaking the language of the pissed off people in, in the working classes.
And that’s kind of a pretty just crazy combination, right? And that’s happens throughout history, but equally there are times through history where the elites have managed to coordinate with each other and agree to have less so that everyone else can have more. And one example of this is in the, the progressive era in the States before the second World War, and then also the New Deal which was basically to kind of get out of the depression.
A lot of the elites. So the people who were in the kind of top, you know, 1%, and I believe even more of earners were like, yeah, we’ll have ma They had like 90% tax rate on the highest income, and that was voluntary. That was the politicians, the business owners, all getting together and being like, we have to do this for our own self-interest and survival.
But never, and sometimes out of a sense of civic duty and, you know, it’s always, people are complex, there’s lots of different motivations going on, but that ushered in a period of like stability and a lot of kind of transformation that the, the sixties never would’ve happened without that. Right. Like, so, so you have, so in a sense, so way back to your question that you started this with of like,
There is something really uncomfortable about like, tech bros taking ayahuasca and being like, oh, I’ve just unlocked the secrets of Bitcoin.
I’m gonna go, like, you know, that, I think that is for many people uncomfortable because there’s a sense of like, there’s real deep systemic problems that need to be solved, and what we don’t need is the rich to get richer. However, at the same time, there is an argument to be made of being like, Hey, people in positions of power and influence with the right framework, psychedelics can be very transformative and give with enough complexity and enough humility and a sense of like above all that we’re connecting to something greater than ourselves, regardless of what your religious beliefs or spiritual beliefs might be.
That what psychedelics can do is, is remind us that we’re not the center of the universe. You know? And so that capacity of them I think is probably the most promising. And then that needs to be integrated well. So it’s no easy task and it’s gonna take probably whole. Kind of cultural, psychedelic, cultural movement to do that.
But the point is like, we can’t leave out the grassroots and we also can’t leave out the elites because the real social transformation is gonna have to probably require transformation of both of the bottom up and top down levels.
Laura Dawn: Mm-hmm. I also, really liked the framework that you mentioned in the book, The physicals versus the virtuals? I’m curious, how does this fit into this elite map that you just kinda laid out?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a, that’s an idea by NS Lions and it, it fits perfectly into that map. So, Ms. Lyons is a is a brilliant ck he’s actually a China expert who writes under a pseudonym cause he works in Washington. He’s got a brilliant Substack called the Upheaval, which is excellent.
And he, yeah, he wrote an article about the Canadian trucker protests, which were a couple, about a year and a bit ago. Mm-hmm. And he was pointing out that like basically there’s the, he, he sees this kind of split in society between like the, the virtuals who are people like frankly like me and probably you who can do their jobs virtually.
And are we, we make our money through the trade of ideas and concepts and you know, sometimes might be practical stuff as well, but that’s, that’s the kind of knowledge economy, right, that many people are engaged in. And then there’s people whose, whose jobs involve their bodies and whose jobs make society run like truck drivers for example.
But in the case that he was talking about, or farmers. And increasingly there’s this divide between the two, which is a really kind of a sad divide because it’s very classist, but also I. Increasingly, the physicals and the virtuals live in different worlds. So you have the virtuals living in this kind of world of abstraction and concepts and theory, and when, when something like the trucker strike happens, it, it, it kind of reminds me of the Hunger Games.
Mm-hmm. It’s like you have these elites in the city who are like really concerned with their, like, increasingly specific narrow social concerns, wearing their crazy clothing, whatever it might be. And then you have the people who are actually like, down and out and the elites just cannot hear what they’re saying.
They can’t listen, they don’t understand what they’re saying because they’re so detached from it.
Mm-hmm. That’s kinda the argument he’s making. So that’s very much in, in line with what Turchin is arguing too. Yeah.
Laura Dawn: Mm-hmm. Which also speaks to the quality of our maps that we have to navigate the landscape, and I mean, you keep good company.
You know, and I’m, I actually am curious to know if you had to name like the five most influential people that have influenced your thinking, do you think you could , name them off the cuff pretty easily?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, I could give it a go. And they’re gonna be very different from each other probably. I’m gonna say.
John John Vervaeke springs to mind, cognitive scientist at the University of Toronto who put out a series called Awakening for the Meaning Crisis a few years ago, and we interviewed him on Rebel Wisdom and then done a lot of work with him and, and I just think his, his, his framework is brilliant.
And his insight I would say Alan Watts. Massive influence. Terence McKenna as well. Anne Shulgin is a huge influence on me, especially her work around the shadow that’s been really transformative in my life. How am I, how many am I own? I’m on four. And I will put a flag in the fifth one and see, see if that, that person comes.
Cause I can’t, no, no one’s coming to mind, but that’s, that’s a bit of a spread.
Laura Dawn: Yeah. Yeah. I was kind of curious if Ken Wilbur made it on that list.
Alexander Beiner: Ken Wilbur would definitely be on the list. Absolutely. And yes. And I actually had a chance to, to hang out with him again recently and was just reminded of like, wow yeah, the integral framework and the whole idea of holding multiple perspectives at once and understanding that there’s multiple different ways that we develop as human beings, and that there’s a difference between states we go into and stages of that development. All of these ideas are written, were really foundational for me, actually.
So yeah. Yeah, that’s yeah. Nora Bateson is another person who, who springs to mind and her concept of warm data, which I can talk about a little bit in, in a bit. But , just in terms of the maps, you know, like are we using the right maps? The problem is that no map. The map is not the territory as a famous phrase, right?
So, It’s like, and why I like Nora Bateson’s work is that it really looks at this idea of warm data, which is the idea that information changes across different contexts. You know, just in the same way that like, we’re different when we’re at work or then when we’re with our partner or when we’re with our friends, and like what’s true in one context does not necessarily true in another context. Doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as foundational truth. It just means that truth is fluid and dynamic as well as like solid. And so that means that if we’re trying to map out complexity and figure out like what is going on in the world, like how do we, how do we navigate like a really tricky topic.
It means that we have to do it by looking at it, not like car engine of like, okay, well this is like an engine that we have to figure out what’s going wrong in here and I go into it because that’s completely not the case. That’s not how reality is. Instead we have to look at it like a dynamic unfolding process, like an ecosystem, like a complex system.
And I think that that is the like, so we need like complexity maps. So it’s like we need maps that are very psychedelic cuz they’re like, like every time I’ve looked at a map on psychedelics, it’s like moving and shifting, right? And we need maps like that in a sense of like, that are shifting and dynamic.
And, and constantly changing, which means we need to be flexible and dynamic and constantly changing as human beings. Like. I think those are the skills that are being asked of us at this time in history.
Laura Dawn: Yeah. And it makes me think of developing the metacognitive awareness that we’re holding a frame and a map in the first place.
Absolutely. And, and it is interesting cause I think about this in terms of psychology, for example, and just how few people, men actually in the past, you know, a hundred years have influenced this entire field. You know? And I think, like, I love Grof’s map and his interpretation and, and I , I just wanna encourage people to have the sense of agency that just because they’re being handed to you doesn’t mean that that is truth. And the only way. You know? That, that Absolutely. It’s like, that’s why I’m like, wow, I wish more people contributed to psychology. So we’d have a more , diverse perspective.
And it wasn’t like all Jungian frameworks that we’ve just been like, oh, this is truth.
Alexander Beiner: Absolutely. And that’s really culturally specific because of like, what was just, what was going on in Esalen in this sort of seventies and who was talking to who. And like, it’s not written down in stone by any means, you know?
And it’s like yeah. And, there’s a lot of different ways to approach these states that we like we have so much opportunity to explore right now at this time in like, let’s say psychedelic history or the history of psychedelics. I think this is now the time to be like, okay let’s widen our frames and include those things.
But like also, you know, personally, while I really admire Grof’s work, I’m not really convinced by the idea of the, the perinatal matrix, I find it quite reductionist. I’m like, what? Everything is about birth. Everything seems to come down to that single, single process.
I’m just super skeptical of any reductionism. I think there’s also a lot of, strange flaws in transpersonal psychology as well, even though it’s a really valuable field. Like no field has got all the answers. And, and likewise, as, as Ken Wilbur famously says . No one’s smart enough to be wrong all the time.
Was it? I probably got it wrong. But yeah, basically like we’re all gonna have some aspect of the truth and also each of these disciplines and approaches is going to, but we need, like you said, a metacognitive awareness. So we have like a frame of frames, right? Yeah. And then we have to be careful not to get like caught in the meta, whereas we’re course zooming out perpetually, right?
Yeah. Because then what we,
I think what we also need and what we’re lacking so badly in culture, which really has an impact on the psychedelic renaissance, is a foundational sense of what is reality? Like what, what is real? Is reality consciousness? Is it matter? Is it both? What? Because that then really like our cultural story around that.
Everything else comes out of that in my view. Yeah. Because that dictates our, our values and our culture and then the, the kind of incentives structures we have designed, the kind of corporations we end up having, the laws we decide are the right laws to pass the wrong laws. But I think, you know, we’ve seen this like whole movement in the west of postmodernity of, of this kind of getting rid of the grand narratives and that was really necessary cuz a lot of those grand narratives were, were really just grand narratives for one group of people and really shut out pretty much everyone else.
That was a really necessary movement in, in culture. But it is impossible for human beings to come to work together, survive and cohere properly without some sense of why we’re doing any of that.
Like some foundational story, and we’ve gone past the point, I think where we’re gonna have a foundational story like we had 2000 years ago where it’s like, okay, everything was started like this by this God, and that that time has passed.
So we need these new, deeper but nevertheless foundational stories for culture. We don’t really have those right now. Yeah. You know, a lot of, yeah. That, that’s I think a big part of the problem.
Laura Dawn: I wanna talk about reality. It’s funny cuz when I wrote this chapter in my book about frames and metacognitive awareness, I said, okay, I’m gonna use reality and quotation marks, but I won’t use it for the whole book, but I’ll just state it here because it’s like, what are we actually talking about?
Before we talk about that though, there’s this, you know, the quality of maps, which I also wanna say , With so many new people entering the psychedelic. I don’t like using the word renaissance personally. I’m more into like the emergence into the western adoption at this pace. I call it the polling era.
But I. I do think it’s interesting because, there’s a lot of people who are entering into this space for the first time and who again, it’s like that same analogy of psychology, you know, going to study psychology and I’m saying like, Don’t not go and study, like go and study if you feel inspired to, but the people training you, they came up with that based on their direct experience of navigating the terrain, you know?
So that is first and foremost where we learn. And if you have the foundational skillsets of becoming aware of your biases, aware of the frame, aware of your, you know, cultural context, that actually you’re setting yourself up for the long haul in a much healthier position to assist anyone else than just being of the indoctrinated mindset that I need to go and get this degree now.
That is, I’m gonna study and check the box and still maintain the status quo of what the fuck we’re talking about.
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, absolutely. No, I, I, I really agree. And, and you know, there’s a, there is some kind of balance between some very important skills that you can learn in psychology and, and medicine, and, the skills you learn from being a Psychonaut, and being very skilled at navigating these spaces, and you need, ideally both, but very few people have, both of those, very few people have, you know, 20 years of, of deep state experience. You know, Frederica, Mekel Fisher, or she’s someone, I think she goes by Fredel Mekel.
She’s one of those people where she, she wrote a book called Therapy with Substance, you know, she’s a Swiss psychiatrist. She was working at, or cl clinical psychologist, not sure. She was working underground for years. And then she got busted and then spent a year in jail. And then came out and wrote her book.
But she was like, well, I’ve been busted now so I can like share. It’s really fascinating. Like her, her work, you know, like she really she spoke on my symposium at breaking convention and it was just really cool to watch her look at like, and this is the what, this is the, I think, an ideal approach, whether you’re psychologically trained or not, just as, as a person she was looking at like, Being really curious and, and being scientific about like the different types of psychedelic retreats she went to, you know, over the years and being like, this one, we did this and we dosed at this time, and then we had a sharing circle at this time, and she was like, and that I didn’t really like that.
And then she moved, you know, so she kind of like was analyzing, hey, what worked, what didn’t. And then she’s got a lot of really, you know, good psychological training. She’s also, you know, controversial. She’s controversial because of her, her approach differs to, to other peoples as well. So I think and she, you know, she talks a lot about state training, state competence is actually the, the terminology she uses, which I think is a, is a pretty cool phrase.
And so yeah, I think you’re pointing to,
there’s really deep tension in the psychedelic world between who, who gets to decide what they are, and then ultimately it’s about power. Who’s gonna have the power over them. Mm-hmm. And how is that power distributed? And you know, obviously, like psychiatrists very often in my experience, assume that they should have the power because they’re at the top of the pecking order of the current medical paradigm for mental health.
But I, I disagree with that pretty fundamentally. I think they should have power in their domain, certainly. And there’s things that psychiatrists and psychologists can do that really they should be doing, working with really vulnerable populations and really complex cases. But that isn’t universal at all.
And there’s a lot of Yeah, there’s a lot of conversation needed that has power front and center. Because if you’re not talking about power, we’re not really talking about the issue that’s at stake in my view, right? Like mm-hmm. It is about power dynamics and who’s gonna decide, you know, let’s say you feel depressed and you feel like life is kind of pointless.
If you went to a psychiatrist, you were gonna get it one answer. And if you went to a priest, or a rabbi or an imam, you’re gonna get a totally different answer. Mm-hmm. And basically what we’re being asked to do with psychedelics is be like, the medical one is the right one, that’s the official one. And of course, that’s the power structure in a lot of western culture.
But you know, psychedelics have this wonderful way of subverting the structures. And I think we’re seeing that. I think we’re seeing that as they enter the, even the medical system,
Laura Dawn: Yeah, well this is why I feel so passionate about talking about the frames and highlighting them and illuminating them and getting people to actually take their glasses off and look at them for what they are.
Because it is very unfortunate that I do see a lot of division in our, you know, psychedelic sacred plant medicine camp, indigenous lineage, not indigenous. You know, L S D is kind of like getting cast to the outskirts these days. It’s just so interesting and a lot of people do have a lot of judgment for the other camp , but it’s actually embracing diversity and embracing the complexity.
Not trying to say, okay, everyone, we should all agree to call it this, but to say, wow, there’s so much beauty and the diversity and the beauty in different lineages, beauty in language, beauty and culture. And to celebrate that and to actually not just . Surround ourselves. And I’m sure you thought about this a lot around the community aspect and like, if you are just in an echo chamber with the same frame of reference with other people, that’s gonna amplify, you know, whatever it is that you’re working through, good or bad, you know?
And so it’s actually, can we seek out people with different frames and have conversations and stay curious. And I love how much you say the word curiosity because we all think about growth mindset and we take it as valid. But actually curiosity mindset is a valid mindset that you can learn to train. So I love that you point that out. But you know, this aspect that we just surround ourselves with other people in our sort of camp and then we work with psychedelics and we just amplify what we’re learning and how we’re transforming.
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, absolutely. I mean all, all yes to all of that, right? Because we need this diversity of perspective, of background of approach how to have something true. That’s what, that’s what I’m, I love about breaking convention, is that we’re properly multidisciplinary and we, it’s like the only psychedelic event in the world that really brings together everyone, to my knowledge, right?
Having like, so we have artists, we have scientists, we have historians, we have, you know performers, kinda everyone. And so the so that’s really, really important. But so is being okay with strife and disagreement, right? So, so, because we need to be, in order to have the conversations, we need to be able to be like, we’re in, okay, let’s say sort of plant medicine people and then like hardcore biomedical psychiatrists, you think it should only be done in clinical trials.
Like there has to be a, I think it helps to just recognize like, We’re not necessarily rowing in the same direction and there is conflict here. And if we can name that, then we can work through it. And that means you can start having the conversation. Cuz otherwise it gets like there, there’s often an assumption, I think, in a lot of communities.
But I see it a lot in the psychedelic world and a lot of spiritual worlds that unity is good and separation is bad. And that really bothers me because you can’t, a, you can’t have unity without separation. They, they imply one another. It’s kind of that Taoist insight. It also ends up masking the importance of the uncertainty, the discomfort, the dynamic opposition between things. And that, that’s actually there’s a, a jazz theorist, Greg Thomas who I, I I’ve worked with a bunch of times and quote in the book. And he and his wife Jewel they run this jazz leadership project. And they have this concept that they teach people of antagonistic cooperation, which comes from Greg’s mentor whose name is Escape Me now famous, famous critic and, and jazz theorist.
But that antagonistic cooperation is like in jazz. You have this collective amazing thing happening that’s in flow, but actually it’s happening through the antagonism between like the trumpet player who’s like, Blast outta a solo and then the sax player’s like, oh yeah, well check this out.
I’m gonna try and best that solo. And then they play and then the drummer’s like, yeah, whatever. I’m gonna go like, and so you have all these people basically competing with each other, but they’re doing it for, for a higher purpose. There’s something, the music and the flow of the music is of a higher order than anyone’s individual solo.
And even though people are exercising their individual likes attitude in it, there’s something really amazing about what happens when we do it for a higher purpose. And back to the point I made earlier in the psychedelic community in particular, or probably a culture more generally, we can’t agree on what is that higher order that we are striving for.
Like what, what is culture for like, that’s why I have bug bear with the wellbeing industry as a whole. Cuz I’m like, what are we being well for? Like there’s no wellbeing unless there’s a sense of like, okay, there’s perhaps a feeling of, I feel okay. But what is that really? Is that really what we want?
Or do we wanna thrive and wanna feel alive? We wanna feel driven and purposeful and like we’re, we’re growing as individuals and as a culture. If we don’t have a sense of what we’re growing towards, we don’t know. So that’s actually, I created this survey which I’ve never sent out, which I really actually hope someone, like, if anyone wants to pick it up and you know, run with it, I would be super open to that.
But it’s called a psychedelic values survey, and I spent quite a lot of time with help from some, some people at Imperial College to, to pull together like survey on values and metaphysical beliefs and a bunch of other. Questions and moral foundations to go, okay, what is the psychedelic community like?
What are the values? Because unless we know what the values are, we’re not gonna know it. Is there a shared value or shared sort of baseline directionality to it? Mm-hmm. And I, I still think that I still do plan on doing something with it at some point, but that, the reason I spent so long on that and, , the reason I haven’t sent it out is cause I realized like, oh, it’s gonna take a lot of time and effort to sift through all the responses.
And then I was like, I wanna do it in different languages. And then it’s a whole thing, but it’s , it’s ready to go, basically. And I think that’s so important was just like, wait a minute. If we’re like, to your point about reality in quotation marks, if we can’t, like what are we, are we even talking about the same thing?
Are we even sharing the same values? And I’d love to know that. I don’t know. You know what, what even is the psychedelic community?
Laura Dawn: I love that. Okay. One, I’m gonna pin quote unquote reality for just like one more second. But I am, I, I wanna come back to it cause I have a specific question around that. But do you think that all the diversity of names that we give psychedelics and diversity of lenses, whether it’s an indigenous worldview or a Western worldview, medical, psycho-spiritual, you name it, do you think we could put a common denominator on all of it as we are literally just sentient beings trying to make sense of what it means to be like navigating , Tons of information and sensory data in any given moment, and they’re just tools for what it means to be alive.
Like could you, would you say that? Or is that even too presumptuous?
Alexander Beiner: No, I think it’s a really, I mean, it’s a really important question and I think, I mean, I don’t think like something like that would be that far off because it has to be universal. It has to be something everyone shares. I think our innate humanity, right, what it like you’re, this is what you’re pointing to what it is to be human.
That is I think, very beautiful and universally true and always there. And so somehow having a meta narrative around humanness, I think would be really beautiful. Nature is also a really good candidate for an overarching, and I’m probably maybe even the best one because a, it’s beyond us. Humanism is.
Humanism. This kind of like the focus on like getting rid of a sort of like metaphysical thing and just focusing on human beings and, and being really humanistic and like, yes, you know, we’re inherently good, et cetera. Which we see, you know, like western culture is kind of adopted as a belief system.
It doesn’t really cut the mustard because transcendence is an aspect of, of life. Like going beyond ourselves and connecting with something greater than ourselves in whatever capacity as human beings is foundational to being alive. Mm-hmm. And that could be the birth of a child, it could be the death of a parent, it could be a deep psychedelic state, it could be spontaneous, mystical experience in the woods.
Like this is part of deep, part of what it’s to be human. So it needs to include that. I think. Yeah, I think something related to nature and humanity and ideally humanity is place in nature are good candidates because we also have to do that to survive. So, so I think, you know, and it doesn’t trigger a lot of religions either.
To be like, Hey, let’s focus on nature, because all of them are like, yeah, our God made that. It’s like, okay, great. Whatever. That’s great. Let’s connect to it. Yeah. Right, right.
Laura Dawn: Do you ever get overwhelmed with the reality that like, or hold the polarity that it, it matters and it also doesn’t matter, like in a several hundred million years the earth is gonna be swallowed by the sun and therefore like, is this worth all of our.
Time, attention, intellectual devotion, cognitive capacities, or should we just like go swimming in the river?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, totally wrestle with that a bunch. And then I guess it has all these different layers for me where on the one hand, from like the cosmic perspective, it doesn’t really matter as, as, as far as I see, it doesn’t our, our, our unique concerns at this time in history in comparison to a greater whole and a greater kind of cosmic whole.
I think that you, you know, you could say it doesn’t matter. This was an experience I had on the the D M T extended state trial. In my final dosing, which I, which I also include in the book is, was this sense of an overview effect of like seeing the vastness of reality and it putting everything into perspective.
But also it wasn’t like an ego dissolution cuz I, my ego was just still there, but it was definitely ego reframing cuz my ego was very tiny. And so in that sense, That’s quite meaningful to me and actually quite relaxing if I think about that. And that kind of puts me into right relationship at least for a few moments with, with the rest of reality until the crazy game goes on.
And then you gotta get distracted. But yeah, the, the sort of yeah, I, I don’t know, I don’t fall so much into the nihilism side of it as much because I don’t know, maybe I’m optimistic or maybe I’m just in denial about the state of the world. But I do think that there is something like, I, I really have a lot of faith and belief in, in the ingenuity of the human spirit when faced with challenge and also in the fact that we’re not the only thing that’s going on and our individual consciousness and problem solving efforts are not the only thing going on in, in the picture.
Laura Dawn: Okay. Perfect. Segue into two words, reality and entities. I knew we were gonna circle back around to entities. Okay. So first sometimes I have this experience. I would say probably about a, gosh, it was early on, it was probably about 20 years ago that I really started having this narrative of like, is the psychedelic experience opening up our perception to the true nature of reality?
True in quotation marks and showing us, you know, the subatomic interplay of what’s really going on. And we just can’t perceive it in normal waking state consciousness, but it’s there. And these medicines shift our perception in a way that allows us to see what it really is. What, what do you think of that narrative?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah. God, I really, you know what? I ping pong between that and then also other narratives all the time. But, you know, what’s the first thing that comes up for me is that that is the narrative that many psychedelic using groups around the world have had, like you know, those groups in the Amazon and Jeremy Narby points out that, that often they have this di this kind of dichotomy between what’s seen and unseen.
But that’s, that’s a really interesting position because it’s not like our dichotomy of like the soul. He points out where we’re like, the soul is sort of like, In a different realm or this realm, right? Like there’s like the realm of the spirit and the realm of, of us. Like in a lot of those traditions, it’s actually like, no, no, it’s all the, it’s the realm.
You just can’t see the spirits that animate the plants. You can’t see the spirits unless you smoke Apache or drink ayahuasca. Then you’ll see what was there already. And Irish folklore has, has this ki kind of has that dynamic a bit as well. So we see it kind of repeated in lots of different places around the world.
So it’s very old that that sense. And I do think there’s a decent likelihood that. When we say take d m T and we encounter beings and entities that we are perceiving through our own lens, was I, I’m pretty sure of that whatever we’re seeing is very heavily influenced by our own lens, but we are seeing something that is there or some kind of information at the very least that is independently arising of, of our own un unique individual perception of it.
I’m also open to the idea that it’s all just incredibly sophisticated inner exploration. These are all like Jungian archetypes that we’re kind of encountering, although I somehow don’t really believe that I, I experience so many times, but I’m open to it. It’s, well, I think the only way to, to really navigate those kind of spaces and stay sane.
Is to keep that curiosity, openness, and try and hold the multiple perspectives at once without collapsing into any which one. Because anytime you collapse it into like, okay, these are definitely union archetypes, or like, these are definitely alien entities that I’m communicating with, it’s just bad sense making you, you’re just gonna end up finding contradictions somewhere that don’t make sense and then getting all sorts of confused and tangled.
And if you try and stay attached to your previous idea, it’s gonna cause pain. So I think it’s better to not cop out and be like, I, I believe nothing. Like, let’s just see what arises, but to actually hold the possibility of all of them and stay curious and stay kind of, you know, moving with them. And you know, in some sense it doesn’t have that satisfaction of being like, Eureka, I know what the entities are, now I’m gonna come back and tell everyone it’s gonna change the world.
That’s not gonna happen. Right? So it means that we have to be comfortable with uncertainty, which is also a skillset we need for the times we live in. So it’s another. Example of one of the lessons we can learn from the state training of psychedelics and apply to, to actually like finding a way to thrive in the world we live in today.
Laura Dawn: really appreciate the emphasis on just holding it all. It, one of my primary influential lenses that I apply to psychedelics and to life has been Tibetan Buddhism for sure. It’s had a huge influence. So I had, immediately thought about, you know, fluidity and the, the nature of impermanence and water logic versus rock logic.
Mm-hmm. And when we can actually train the water logic that it’s fluid we don’t have to grip it as truth, but we can actually just let it flow but not say it doesn’t exist in the first place.
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That’s a really nice metaphor. I love that. Yeah.
Laura Dawn: I love this quote you quoted Eric Davis in your book, and he said psychedelics sit at the nexus between science and spirituality because they are a molecule matter that changes our minds consciousness.
I just, ugh, just love that quote so much. It, it is like, we mind body complex, sit at the bridge between the unseen and the scene,
Alexander Beiner: yeah. Yeah. Curious your thoughts on that. Well, I mean, just firstly, like, it’s one of those quotes where Eric said it when I interviewed him for the book, and I was like, that’s so good.
And it’s so obvious, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else say it before. So yeah. So no, absolutely. I, I think that is what partly why they cause such havoc as well in, in, in, as they enter the west because we, we are all tangled in the relationship between mind and matter. Mm-hmm. Like, that’s one of the, I think the core tangles at the, at the heart of our discord and unhappiness.
It’s not the only thing. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on as well, but like we haven’t really resolved that well. And then now we have, you know, we had kind of classical physics and then quantum physics being like, oh, consciousness does seem to matter. We’re not exactly sure how.
And the universe does end up looking like this kind of incredible complex taoist relational flow at the heart of things. So there’s all these kind of contradictions that it brings up. And then amazingly psychedelics also open us to experiences of that. Mm-hmm. Like that we have an experience that if you talk to a quantum physicist, be like, huh, that’s interesting that, that sounds a lot like what we think might be going on.
I’m also, I’m also really cautious not to overemphasize like the quantum physics thing cuz I’ve, I’ve read a lot of really, really crappy new age stuff, which kind of like uses that to, to sort of like for manifestation or whatever it might be in, in a really oversimplified version that I think I, I, I disagree with, but at the same time, there is, there is something to that, that, you know, I love this idea, this potential that psychedelics are actually showing us what’s happening and, and like, like, like you’re saying at a different level of actual reality as it is, and that we’re seeing, you know, for example, the idea of the holographic universe.
Mm-hmm. The idea that the part, every part of the universe contains a whole within it. That’s a very common psychedelic insight that people have, you know, independent of, of familiarity with that idea or fractals, you know? Mm-hmm. This, this kind of fractal nature of the universe. There’s so many fascinating.
Insights that I think could tie in with like, my, my hope is that the science and the spirituality they blend together in a new way. Mm-hmm. And a lot of people are kind of working on that. And a lot of really great scientists argue that same thing where it’s like, we need a new paradigm. But, you know, I think it was even coon who created the term paradigm shift.
I think it might have been him who said, scientific progress happens one funeral at a time. You know, cause you know, these embedded, fixed, narrow-minded reductionist views, not just in science, but everywhere. And I ideally, as we grow, as a, you know, grow to greater levels of complexity. Those become something of the past that were necessary and then something new comes that, that, yeah.
Laura Dawn: Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ve thought about this a lot because I, I spent a solid five years really diving deep into metaphysics, quantum physics, and the word quantum now has really been adopted by the new age movement. And so it’s like, are we talking about like Deepak Chopra, quantum physics, Joe Dispenza, quantum physics, or are we talking about like.
Brian Green Quantum physics, but it is interesting to think about like, okay, actually if you become versed in the latest theory of quantum field theory, that that actually does point to, what we’re talking about.
And it’s not to throw out, you know, all the more spiritual side of quantum physics. That’s okay too. There’s still some truth in it, but , we do have to be so lucid in the sense-making of it. And so I, I appreciate that. And I do want to ask you about your perspective of entities. So I. I have tried, like, it just doesn’t, it’s not a word that I orient around and I know so many people have had this overwhelming experience at like a large percentage of people that explore D M T have these encounters with entities and you know, I’ve really had.
So many moments of like, do they exist? Like, can I lean into this? Like, what is there? And it’s just never been my experience in a different way. Like with Ayahuasca, it’s very different. You know, I have these these beings that I feel like going in, working on my brain, but I don’t necessarily encounter them the way you described them.
And so I guess this kind of comes back around to like, is reality subjective? Are you projecting what’s in your mind in the experience? And you refer to, you know, this loving teacher, the teaching presence. Yes. And I was like, I wonder if it’s you. Like are you your own teaching presence? Yes. And was that your, your perspective that, is it the D M t or is it just you and your psyche?
Are the entities like independent of you? It makes me also think of what’s that movie interstellar, you know, like we go into 5D and there are other beings there. And that was kind of making me think about what you were saying earlier about like the larger cosmological evolution. That’s the assumption that only us on planet earth are alive right now.
And it doesn’t matter if we get eaten by the sun, but what about everything else that exists that we don’t know about?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah. Yeah. So, so yeah. I mean, my short answer would be like, you know, in my metaphysics and my belief or or experience, I say my direct experience has led me to the per perspective that there is only us, there is only consciousness, there is only a single consciousness.
Like there, there is a single universal consciousness, of which there’s just mind bogglingly com, mind bogglingly, complex amount of individual expressions of that. So in some sense, Nothing we’re encountering from that perspective is not me. Right. However, there is a kind of like, you know, in the same way, like when we’re talking, we are both individuals and I can’t see what you’re thinking right now.
You know, I can infer, but there is a certain, like, very clearly part of what’s going on is that there is uniqueness and like a whole universe in you that I don’t have access to. Mm-hmm. So in terms of like the teaching presence, so like that was basically like, and I have this in every psychedelic experience, I have a dialogue with the experience.
The nature of that teaching presence is always, I would say it’s like a higher self, but it’s also somewhat alien. This is where it gets like cut tricky because mm-hmm. When I asked it at one point it was like I was like, what are you, it was like you but not you. And we, but not we. I was like, yeah, that’s really, that’s a real trickster response.
But I think that was true. Like in some sense we are connecting to ourselves, but I do think we’re connecting something beyond ourselves in the sense of our current awareness of ourselves. But you know, I guess the question then is like, are those entities as real and independently or let’s say independently arising as you or me or my dog?
Right. I think they might, where I land firstly, I don’t know. And no one knows. And no one possibly, no one will ever know. Right. That’s the other thing. But in terms of like taking seriously the idea that they, they might be, I think I, my sense is that possibly they are, and that there is somehow a synergy going on between our consciousness and some other aspect of consciousness.
And that is as independent as another person is now what to do with that information. Mm. What are we gonna do with that information? Right? This is part of my experience on, on that with, on the DMT trial where it was like, so what? Like, if, so, so what? Like we, you know, part of the message was like, we can’t even get on on Twitter.
We can’t even agree on anything on Twitter. So like, so what does it even matter if there’s like conscious aliens out there? Like it would matter in the sense of like, if we knew we weren’t alone in the universe, I think it would have a very profound effect on humanity. But I don’t think trying to get everyone, also however many billion of us there are right now to sort of like encounter DMT entities when it’s actually only about half of people according to one study, even in Canada in the first place.
So I don’t know. I don’t know how. Useful it, it actually is in a sense, and it might just be that in the west we have no idea how to kind of gather and take information outta that. But to be really blunt about it, the cultures that, to our knowledge, the cultures that have been in contact with these empties didn’t come back with like solutions for cold fusion or even solutions of how to have a kind of utopian existence amongst themselves.
Mm-hmm. They’re just as tangled as we are, so. What do we do with it? I think that, you know, this is the argument I kind of make in the book. Like we, we need to learn how to be human. We need to learn how to be better human and deeply human and like deeply connect connected to our humanity. And so I do think encountering other being is an important, and I do think it can lead us there, but it needs to lead us there to like that maturing process rather than like, oh, we’re gonna go to high.
There’s a lot of DMT world stuff of like, oh, we’re gonna go to hyperspace and we’re gonna encounter the entities and we’re gonna like, I’m like, yeah, okay. And then what? Like, yeah, yeah, yeah. To what end? To what end, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I like how you said trickster just very briefly. Sometimes I hold the loose narrative that these tryptamines are very trickery in their energy because they’re trying to flip our minds upside down and backwards, and like, as a process of breaking our frames and breaking our sense of what we know to be true.
They’re kind of like spinning you around and around and around until you’re like, oh, wait a second. What is reality? Yes, yes. They are trickery, and I love that about them actually. And I think they’re having a trickery effect on the collective as they go into culture as well. All the, you know, it, it just has a, to me, and this could be my own bias, but the whole thing, the whole conversation around psychedelics, mainstreaming, and decrim and everything, and all the intensity of the whole world of psychedelics has a real.
Trick story, psychedelic quality to it, you know? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So anyone listening to this don’t feel like, you know, the way, or the only way, or it’s that way because they reveal so much more of what we don’t know. That’s the point. Mm-hmm. And if you’re, and that’s a good narrative trend to get on. Yeah.
Laura Dawn: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. Okay. I know you have to go. Do we have time for one more question? Yeah, let’s go. Go on. We can do it. Okay. One, one more. And then we have to schedule again, because we didn’t even touch AI or any of the other really big things. Yeah. Which is absolutely, I’d love to do that.
I would love this to be part one of, of of conversation. For sure. Yeah. Okay, great. So I consider you to be a psychedelic entrepreneur, and you are in many ways. Do, do, do, does that resonate for you? Does that land kinda,
Alexander Beiner: I mean, yeah. Like, I, I, you know, the associations with the more like pharma side of it are a little bit like, I don’t, but in terms of like, I can’t.
I’d say that is kind of a accurate description in, in some ways. Yeah.
Laura Dawn: Is there anything that you are implementing in your life to build a new frame for a way that you are doing business? I mean, you’re running a business, you’re running a book, you’re running programs. The Rebel Wisdom brand is, you know, having a big influence.
And I think about this a lot too, as a psychedelic entrepreneur who is trying to advocate for systems wide change. And I’m like, okay, well what am I doing to implement even small things or mindset shifts into the way that I am navigating business and where I’m meeting my growth edge in that dialogue just between me and myself to be right with myself.
And so I’m curious, like where are you meeting your growth edge around that and anything that you feel like sharing?
Alexander Beiner: Yeah, so there’s a, there’s a couple of things. I mean, there’s two, I guess one, one is, is moving away from a sort of Focus on quantity towards a focus on quality. Like trying to orient myself to the quality of just quality.
What’s the quality of what I’m producing? What’s the quality of the connections? What’s the quality of relationships rather than the quantity of how much I can make, how much I can produce, et cetera. Which is kind of what the dominant cultural push is. Even though people know and respect and feel quality when they, when, when we see it, we all know it.
This is Robert Pirsigs insight was Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, which is just such a mind blowing book and, and insight. So there’s a kind of sense of like, quality is real and if quality is real. Also says a lot about consciousness potentially, but that’s a whole, that’s maybe for part two, but, so I’m trying my best to do that.
And then also to just generally manage the anxiety of the uncertainties and Scarcity mindset. Like trying to mitigate like my, my tendency to be like, go, go, go. More, more, more. I’m not, say I have a kind of safety thing. I, I think a lot of what drives my forward motion as well as just ambition, I think, and, and wanting to express my ideas and get them out there.
You know, there’s that, that side of it, which is the positive side. I think the negative side is a sense of not feeling safe, like, and not feeling like, Hey, how can I have, like, mainly like economically, like how can I have economic safety? How can I, how can I, you know, think five steps ahead and whatever it might be.
Like, have my fingers in lots of different pies so that if one of them doesn’t work out, then that’s fine. So that is a protective quality. I know where it comes from, but at the same time, it’s a real bummer when, when it starts running the show. So I’m trying to, Gently ease off of that. And that ties in with the, the question of quality of, because what’s the quality of my life?
The quality of my experience, the quality of what I’m bringing into the world. And so that’s my ongoing edge and process and fairly new. It’s only been like a year or so that I’ve really consciously been like, okay, I’m gonna try and make quality the, the thing I’m orienting towards. Yeah. Mm. I appreciate that.
I would say I’m in a very similar process. I’ve been moving from time management to energy management. And I, when I opened up this season, I just let my listeners know I’m doing solo episodes and this takes a really long time. I’m a slow processor, so I can’t put out an episode every week. It’s probably gonna be every month.
And I have to adjust to being okay with that because the system is like more, more, more. But I actually don’t wanna put out more. I just wanna put out really well developed ideas that take time. Beautiful. Yeah. But then there have a high quality. Like, you’re, you’re, you’re, what you’re putting out is of a higher quality.
Like, I’ve really enjoyed this, for example, like that. I felt like this has been a. Just like the, you know, I don’t know, like the, the flow of the conversation, et cetera, has been really enjoyable and, and had a feeling of like depth to it. Depth is such a nice word that goes with quality, I think. So, I think, I think like, I think hopefully we’re on the right track with that orientation.
Yes. And we’ll, we’ll have to soothe ourselves that we won’t get left behind. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, I appreciate just how much time that you’ve dedicated to the map and the conceptual frameworks. It takes a lot of dedication to learn in a multidisciplinary way, and it’s something that I dedicate myself to.
So I, I really get how much time you put into cultivating yourself and I really appreciate it. And I just wanna say that I see all the efforts and the quality that you’re putting out, and it’s had an impact on my life on many others as well. So just genuine, heartfelt, thank you.
I can really feel that.
Thank you so much for, for that reflection. I, I really do appreciate that. Yeah. Wonderful. So sweet to drop in with you. Look, yes, I, I hope more, many more to come. Yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you. Okay. Have a good rest of your day. Okay, thanks. Bye. Bye.
Curated Playlists for Psychedelic Journeys & Beyond
Sign up & receive your free playlists:
I am absolutely hooked on this Podcast. Laura Dawn presents her topics and guests in a stunningly beautiful, heart centered format while weaving in the most relevant topics in psychedelics today.
Laura Dawn rocks her Psychedelic Leadership Podcast with so much style and grace! Her guests are innovative thought leaders and she asks them the most illuminating questions. She shares a wealth of knowledge and inquiry as well as her passion for the arts and music. I always appreciate how LD conducts herself.
Each time I tune into an episode I get chills all over my body! This podcast is my personal new favourite, I’ve expanded my awareness around these topics so much just tuning into these conversations, from each episode I walk away with a new teaching! Im also deeply appreciative of the way Laura Dawn structures her episodes and interviews.
The psychedelic leadership podcast is blowing my default mode network!!! Episodes include revolutionary science, as well as practical steps we can all take to creatively make change to help heal the planet and ourselves. Laura Dawn is an amazing speaker, and most definitely a thought leader.
Laura Dawn’s experience and service to the healing journey is a recipe for humanity, through modern science, plant medicine and ancient wisdom is amazing. She attracts the best of the best leaders in the space of science, psychedelics and spirituality, I love every one of her podcasts. Thank you LD!
Wow what a powerful lineup of speakers and guests sharing profound experiences and wisdom. So relevant to our times and not just with plant medicines and psychedelics but with just being a human being in these changing, evolving times. May we all grow together. Thank you Laura D 😉 Be-elowan
I’m obsessed with this podcast and I’ve listened to every episode. This is the kind of podcast that has the potential to change humanity if we all listen to these interviews and Laura’s wisdom.
About Laura Dawn
Through her signature Mastermind Programs and Plant Medicine Retreats, Laura Dawn weaves together science with ancient wisdom. She teaches business and thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals how to mindfully explore psychedelics and sacred plant medicines as powerful visionary tools for inner transformation, fostering emotional resiliency and unlocking new depths to our creative potential.