This is an opinion editorial by Maxx Mannheimer, a former sales account manager with a background in training and industrial-organizational psychology.
I’ll begin by stating that I do not suggest that anyone take psychedelics. Each individual knows what is best for them and it is not my intent to challenge your free will in any way. If what I have written connects with your life experience, great. If it does not, feel free to ignore every word. But if you wish to debate about what I am presenting, I would only request that you carefully read this article in its entirety. I do not recommend participating in any activity which is illegal where you live and I do not recommend taking psychedelic substances without professional guidance. Psychedelic experiences can be profoundly liberating and inspiring, but they can also be existentially earth-shattering if used without proper preparation. As always, do your own research and use your best judgment.
I’m not the first to draw a link between psychedelics and Bitcoin. Articles about billionaire investor Christian Angermayer have highlighted at least one anecdote of psilocybe mushrooms assisting with the understanding of Bitcoin. However, I believe this won’t be the last time we see these two topics mentioned together. If my intuition is correct, we will be seeing many more articles along these lines as Bitcoin and psychedelics both enter the mainstream consciousness.
A financial revolution without a spiritual one will fail to create a better world for the majority of life on this planet. A spiritual revolution without a financial one will fail to enact lasting change due to the corruption that is built into our current monetary system. Both are needed to fix the world. It is important that we acknowledge this dynamic period in human history holistically and ecologically rather than making blanket statements about quick-fix solutions to the issues that humanity is facing.
The Bitcoin community often discusses the potential for a second renaissance. I hear much of the same talk in the psychedelics space. However, the two worlds often don’t consider the potential synergies between the two. My hope for this article is to support the ice-breaking process which has already begun. The 1960s were a time of ranging counterculture with no concrete direction. It represented a powerful lashing out against a system that doesn’t serve humanity. But after creating a cultural movement — and some excellent music — the flame was extinguished by draconian government intervention.
Not only did all use of psychedelics get pushed to the black market, but all scientific research was completely halted for about 50 years. Many psychedelics were being used recklessly at that time, but psychedelics were made illegal for political reasons, not health reasons. The loss to human progress is impossible to calculate.
In my assessment, the heavy handed prohibition is unraveling before our eyes. Various city and state governments have opted to decriminalize or legalize the use of psychedelics for therapy. Well known authors, comedians and other public figures are openly discussing psychedelics. Netflix is airing documentaries about psychedelics and many podcasters are covering the topic in a way which would have been shocking ten years ago. Publicly-traded companies are even working on psychedelic pharmaceutical development.
More conservative-minded Bitcoiners may pause before seeing this in a positive light, but the data regarding psychedelics potential for therapeutic use can’t be ignored. Therapy using MDMA — the chemical abbreviation for the drug known more commonly as ecstasy or “Molly” — seems to be the most effective way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a lasting manner. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is moving through U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) trials to have the substance rescheduled. Their phase three trials have demonstrated 67% of PTSD patients no longer met the criteria for PTSD two months after their sessions. Even after the fiat fiasco collapses we’ll still need to support these people who were traumatized by it. Note: MAPS accepts donations in bitcoin.
The psychedelics community may have some hesitancy about the Bitcoin community as well. From my interaction with plant medicine enthusiasts, I have gathered that they’re a sensitive bunch. I genuinely mean that as a compliment, but sensitivity doesn’t always lend itself well to the self-identified “toxic” Bitcoin community. As a generalization, they are wary of anything that could be used to exclude people and deepen inequality. These concerns are valid, but are often projected onto the bitcoin life raft rather than the fiat sinking ship. As a result, there isn’t a sturdy connection between these two communities, but I am predicting that there could be for a number of reasons.
The first bridge is the one that leads towards personal and collective liberation. Psychedelics have the potential to liberate us from old systems of thought and all of their downstream effects. Bitcoin has the potential to liberate us from Modern Monetary Theory and all its downstream effects. Both are interested in reducing violence against humanity. Both are interested in reducing government control over what we decide to put in our bodies. Both carry an inherently egalitarian questioning of authority.
The second bridge is the novelty of thought required to understand Bitcoin. As I mentioned in “The Bitcoin Customer Service Department,” Bitcoin is a complex paradigm-shifting topic. Despite the simplicity of the Bitcoin white paper, understanding all its implications requires a dramatically novel understanding of the world. In Michael Pollan’s book “How to Change Your Mind,” the following metaphor is used by Mendel Kaelen to explain the effects of psychedelics on the human psyche.
“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill, a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into the preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time, it becomes more and more difficult to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction. Think of psychedelics as temporarily flattening the snow. The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”
This metaphor is an excellent way to visualize what has been observed in psychedelic patient trials. Neural pathways become more flexible. New connections are created that allow for novel thought, understanding and behavior. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they fully understood your viewpoint and agreed with everything you said just to see them revert back to their default assumptions a day or two later? That’s the snow metaphor in conversation form. The more concrete our neural connections become, the less likely we will be to understand new emergent technologies.
The third bridge relates to the counterculture which gravitates around both Bitcoin and psychedelics. Radical rejection of conventional norms seems to be inherent in the Bitcoin ethos. Bitcoiners generally don’t accept mainstream media, political corruption or dishonesty. Psychedelics enthusiasts generally don’t accept moralistic arguments, violence or inauthenticity. Both groups seek fair treatment of humanity. Both groups avoid processed foods. Both groups are opposed to mindless materialistic consumption. Psychedelics enthusiasts are proponents of meditation and if Bitcoin holders haven’t been meditating through the 2020-22 market, I wouldn’t know what else to call it.
Psychedelics pose a threat to authoritarian systems of control because they show users a deeper potential for spirituality and connection with their environment. They enable a novel view of circumstances which allows people to notice that what they are used to may not be the truth. What happened in the 1960s, exactly? A ton of young people realized that the game they were playing was making them and the rest of society miserable. They dropped out in the hopes of finding a new way to live. Most of the hippies in the 1960s were deeply distrustful of the government and of the fruitless wars politicians were creating. They knew the game was rigged and the best course of action was to opt out. What are Bitcoiners talking about today? Essentially the same thing.
I know that both of these amorphous groups may balk at the fact that I have categorized them into groups at all. They are not really groups, but rather millions of individuals who share common interests and many of whom will never meet. That’s the beauty of it. Bitcoiners and psychedelic enthusiasts seem to be under a constant centrifugal force. As soon as I begin to categorize or wrangle them into any semblance of a group identity, they sprawl out even further. They span the full scope of human backgrounds and experience.
The propaganda war against psychedelics has largely lumped them together, in the mind of the public, with dangerous addictive substances. I would recommend a more nuanced approach to understanding drugs and their uses. Every drug is a tool and each has its proper use. To simply ask for any random tool when what you really need is specifically a Phillips-head screwdriver, you’re unlikely to meet your needs. A closer inspection of each substance will clearly demonstrate that lumping all “drugs” together, simply due to legal status, is absurd.
The federal government has clearly lost its grip on “The War On Drugs.” In direct opposition to federal drug scheduling laws, Oregon has decriminalized all drugs and made psilocybe mushroom therapy legal. As Ryan McMaken points out in his recent article, 43% of Americans are currently living in states which have legalized recreational cannabis. Again, in direct opposition to federal drug scheduling laws. If there was a “War On Drugs” it is fair to say that the drugs have won. Right or wrong, this trend is likely to continue.
The continuous lack of understanding regarding drug use in America has had a devastating impact on the psyche and freedom of the country. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world and approximately half of our prisoners are locked up for non-violent offenses. Drugs and alcohol play a critical role in many of the violent offenses as well. Those incarcerations damage families for generations which ultimately increases future crime rates and use of addictive drugs. Rinse and repeat. The harder we press down on drugs, the more harmful the drugs on the street become. Opium, heroin, oxycontin, fentanyl. Overdoses have never been worse. The criminal justice system is totally broken and people are suffering. Is it possible that people are turning to these drugs because they are disenfranchised by a system which has done nothing but abuse them since the moment they were born?
Don’t worry though! Big pharma has a solution for us. They’ll use their cantillon-bucks to lobby for their interests and pay doctors to prescribe psychotropic pharmaceuticals to numb the populace. It’s helpful to keep folks docile as we push them back into the massive machine which is crushing their souls. Western medicine really shines when it comes to saving people who are in dire need of intervention, but largely falls flat when it comes to improving quality of life in a sustainable way.
In addition to treating PTSD, psychedelics have shown remarkable potential in assisting with anxiety, depression, addiction, birth trauma and fear of death. I personally have witnessed resolutions of serious physical ailments which were thought to be permanent medical conditions following ayahuasca ceremonies. Is this a result of the plant medicine or is it a result of the plant medicine’s ability to unlock human potential in self-healing? In either case, the effects could only be described as miraculous.
Due to the lengthy prohibition, empirical research in this field is just beginning and the potential benefits are much broader than most realize. As John Sanro argues in “The Mindbody Prescription,” many of the ailments which we think of as physical in nature originate in the emotional body. If used responsibly, psychedelics can create lasting emotional relief which does not require repeated use. Most psychedelics are also non-addictive. Many have said that one profound experience is enough to create a permanent positive impact in one’s life. To my knowledge there are no pharmaceuticals which can make that claim.
The understanding of self-interest in human action is a critical component for understanding society. The understanding of what constitutes the self is a critical component for understanding spirituality. At the core of every spiritual practice is the same lesson. The litigious dogma which separates religions simply distracts from that. This has been said at least since Baruch Spinoza, Sri Aurobindo and Alan Watts. Some have argued that the core spiritual message has been lost since the original teachings of Buddha, Christ and Muhammad were passed on to their followers.
As eloquently discussed by Eckhart Tolle in “A New Earth,” humanity has simply missed the mark and that is the origin of suffering. The boundary between our self-interest and the interest of every other form of life is merely a condition of our perspective on the separation. You may discover that acting exclusively in self-interest without any consideration of others gradually becomes self-destructive. Most actions taken for the exclusive benefit of others, at great personal cost, typically prove themselves fruitless as well. There is a good reason for this. In his 2001 book, “No Boundary,” Ken Wilber presents a thorough case that all separation is simply an illusion. It is my belief that we all get the chance to see through this illusion upon departing this physical realm, but if we can look through the door, before permanently crossing the threshold, the broadened perspective can be beneficial to our experience until the departure.
However, all of these words have very little consequence if they are not accompanied by first-hand experience. The metaphor I like to employ for this understanding is that of the mountain. Throughout human history the great prophets and mystics have arduously made their way up the mountain using various methods. Many have done their best to describe the sights, sounds and viewpoints from the paths that they chose. Those who reached the top have seldom had words to describe what was there and many never make the attempt to explain. That place is not describable to those who have not experienced it. This is true of every aspect of life. How can sight be described to a blind person? How can sound be described to a deaf person? Words ultimately only point to truth, they do not contain truth. Without a shared context of reality, words are empty.
What psychedelics may be able to assist with, if the seeker is prepared, is to find a temporary view of various parts of the mountain. The glimpses into those heightened states of consciousness are simply that: glimpses. They do not contain the same value as thousands of hours of meditation, years of yoga practice or pilgrimages to holy sites, but the glimpses they provide can be profoundly liberating. To hop in a helicopter and visit the top of the mountain for fifteen minutes has the potential to alter your life permanently.
The permanency is what many people fear when they hear about psychedelics, but what if the changes that remain with us are largely beneficial to our well-being rather than harmful? What if the expansion of human consciousness is exactly what is needed to slingshot us into the next phase of human evolution? The lowering of time preference alone seems to have a spiritual component, but is it enough to shift human nature away from the darkest parts of our past? The answer will come in the form of individual choice and expression. I want to believe that the separation of money and state will benefit humanity as a whole, but I won’t be entirely convinced until I see how it happens.
What I would ask from the reader is a gentle approach to both psychedelics and to Bitcoin. You may benefit from listening for the true intent of those you are communicating with, not the intent you may have assumed they have. This speaks true not just for Bitcoin and psychedelics, but for all topics of discussion. The lack of understanding of a topic is not the same as malevolence. Assume the former even if you suspect the latter and your ability to support others in learning will improve significantly.
Have a nice trip.
This is a guest post by Maxx Mannheimer. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.