Psychedelics, the Spiritual and Consciousness – an Evolving Confluence in the Cultural Stream

In this time of ever ascendant materialism, greed and pathological narcissism, when the delusion of the disconnected dominant individual grows stronger, the contrary life affirming stream of connection and respect is gaining strength even as it is suppressed, vilified and criminalized. This stream, which we can call ‘Awakening consciousness,’ is the motor of civilization. It moves in the direction of the ultimate recognition of interdependency and the need for cooperation.  Some think of this stream as the altruism of the individual and recognize it as a more successful evolutionary survival strategy—the group versus the individual. The truth is more complex: the stream is the necessity for balance, cooperation and sharing as the inherent principle, behind which are the complex deep pleasures of love. validation, respect, and nurture.

The stream of awakening consciousness is the essential mammalian evolutionary lineage, moving historically into ever larger, more interrelated, and integrated social formations. All basically sane humans—those not bludgeoned into revenge seeking, suffering from complex PTSD aggressive reactions, or seeking dominance because of their individualistic delusion—all wish for a healthy and equitable  distribution of civilization’s prospects for good lives. The cultural transcends biological evolution and morphs it in its own selections of who survives. Ever burrowing—enlarging and faltering—threatened with obliteration by bomb and ecocide, this stream amplifies as the tools for liberating consciousness spread, as freedom of mind and association erupts.

We often hear of disruptive technologies that claim to manifest, support and often lead this awakening process. ‘Disruptive technology’ is a recent term for new entries that foster powerful changes in how we function, in opportunities for transcendence of older technologies, and consequent changes in how we think and relate. The Internet and the atomic bomb are obvious examples. “Disruption” is similar to Kuhn’s concept of paradigm shifts —except disruptive technologies are more material and practical while Kuhn’s framework focuses more on worldview and conceptual schema.

New technologies can support the process of awakening when appropriately distributed, used, and accessed,  but they threaten it  when used  for dominance, control and territory.  The uncontrolled profit motive fosters this negative tendency. In our past century, we have learned from its destructiveness that there needs be some form of balance between the individual and the larger community, between the private and the cooperative, and that this is best obtained by full participation in educated discussion and the deliberate resort to persuasion by reason and dialogue. We have learned that this remains a difficult process–with successes, failures, changing social formations, distortions and consequences. Yet the continuation and development of our skills in this process is essential.

What tends to be neglected in the ‘disruptive technology’ concept, making it too mechanical, is that:

  • Consciousness (and its amplification over time) is the engine behind all disruptive technologies.
  • Consciousness grows in earlier times within the complexity of the Darwinian process and then is exceeded in pace and morphed by the motor of cultural evolution. Like the Darwinian, there is no endpoint, endless possibility, dead ends, constraints, regressions and advances.

Technical innovation is a sprout growing from a soil rich with biological and social capacities that comprise the fundamental framework of being human. This soil contains the stunning interrelated integration of the prehensile thumb, bipedalism, enlarged cortex, hidden estrus and the functional social capacities of tool and weapon making, the nest built around the campfire, communication leading to language, group formation with cooperation, sharing, coordination and joint operations for food—forage, hunting and later agriculture—and role differentiation within the group. Technology has an important role in the awakening process, but it must come second to an understanding of the stream that makes fertile the soil in which it grows.

There are two strata to this stream of awakening consciousness: the collective conscious and it’s deep and often determinative unconscious. Conceived in this way, it appears metaphorically as an oscillating widening stream, dark periods of history contracting its flow and width–and bright and innovative periods expanding its breadth, complexity, and civil nature.  Integration of units of peoples grows ever tighter and more unitary, with larger and larger social formations, and attenuation and removal of boundaries. This leads to both progress and reaction.  Alterations and extensions of consciousness are interactive and ripple through social formations, at times remarkably so, like waves affecting minds, even when the means and direct causation to do so may not be apparent. The cultural unconscious is then its assumptive underpinning, particularly influencing us through social formations that are taken for-granted, such as the structure of the dominant business/financial edifice. When awakened awareness of the nature and impact of dominant structure occurs, an alternative view can emerge which informs and cultivates change in myriad ways. That movement’ can be defeated but often persists in the conscious strata. It has moral fiber and a sense of the real to it.

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article or to download the PDF version.

Tikkun 2018 Volume 33, Number 1/2:5-9

Phil Wolfson, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist/psychotherapist in the Bay Area. He is the author of Noe: A Father-Son Song of Love, Life, Sickness, and Death. He is an activist and a contributing editor to Tikkun with a special focus on consciousness studies and consciousness transformation. Website: http://www.philwolfsonmd.com.
 
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