As the psychedelic renaissance continues the language we use about these substances frames how they emerge from ‘traditional’, underground and research contexts and into wider culture.
For example, it’s worth pointing out that psychedelic substances, indeed all drugs for that matter, are not and have never been ‘illegal’. While this point may seem like splitting hairs to some it’s vital to understand how drugs are controlled, by whom and for what reasons (mostly Richard Nixon’s paranoia). Sure, in day to day parlance, we may speak of ‘illegal drugs’ but understanding the deeper truth of their juridical status helps us appreciate key nuances. What we are dealing here with isn’t outlaw substances, but rather the politics, policy and underlying ethical positions that support prohibition.
Another important aspect of pharmacolingistics is how we choose to describe the class of drugs being investigated in clinical and academic settings world-wide. While ‘hallucinogen’ has been used in this past this term has serious flaws.
“Hallucinogen is now, however, the most common designation in the scientific literature, although it is an inaccurate descriptor of the actual effects of these drugs. In the lay press, the term psychedelic is still the most popular and has held sway f,or nearly four decades.”
The comment above is from David Nichols, one of the leading psychedelic chemists on the planet, who knows a thing or two about such matters (see hallucinogen in Wikipedia). Luckily David’s wish to change that ‘inaccurate descriptor’ has been granted.
The quote from Professor Nichols dates back to 2004. These days a brief glance at contemporary research shows how ‘psychedelic’ has now become the preferred nomenclature in scientific circles . There is for example The Journal of Psychedelic Studies, a leading academic peer-reviewed publication that brings together scientific research concerning these medicines. Then there is Psychedelic Press Journal that publishes ethnographic research, rare historical material and experimental writing. There’s nothing remotely equivalent out there with the ‘hallucinogenic’ tag and for very good reasons, as I explain here…
The book I name check in this video is Mike Jay’s wonderful Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic; a meticulously researched and moving account, especially in relation to the development of peyote ceremony within Native American communities. Highly recommended.
Wishing you all a fabulous December Solstice!
Stay high! Stay free!
Yuletide shopping opportunity!
I’m really pleased to announce that Getting Higher has been published in Polish! You can get your copy here 🙂
I’m also running a workshop at Treadwell’s Books in London on Spaces and their Spirits on the 1st of February where I’ll be sharing techniques to enable us explore a metamodern animism. Expect spirit beings of all sorts, from genuis loci and faeries to chaos magic servitors and ancient deities!
I’ll be presenting at the Conjuring Creativity conference in Stockholm in March. The theme for the conference is art and the esoteric in the age of the anthropocene.
Have a magical 2020!