Erik Davis on the psychedelic Dharma

Erik Davis, host of the excellent Expanding Mind podcast, did a solo show riffing on "psychedelic Dharma" – the concept as well as the new organization (a) he's standing up.

The whole thing is great (and delivered impromptu!) – this bit near the end is particularly good:

Our desires to reduce stress, our desires to heal our wounds, are not innocent. Nothing is innocent in this stage of the game. And it doesn't mean you don't pursue those things, but we have to become more conscious & more critical of how we're pursuing them...

I believe a good combination of these two things [psychedelics & the Dharma] can actually set us going in the right way. I want to spend the last few minutes talking about that – about how Buddhism can help psychedelic seekers, as well as how psychedelics can help Buddhist seekers.


It's a little easier to see the first one. How people who really go into psychedelics can be helped by the Dharma. One of the things that can happen really easily with excessive psychedelic use is a sort of "deluded" character, a way of believing the visions, let's say. A kind of psychological inflation, a kind of magical thinking, that in small doses, and sometimes in big doses but for short periods of time is really groovy, but as a lifestyle can be very problematic.

And what you find within... psychedelic culture as I've known it, is that there's not a lot of checking going on. There's not a lot of negative feedback mechanisms that might interrupt your new trip.

Because it's such a goofy, and in some ways lazy & uninformed space, it's really easy to run with whatever idea you're going with. But there are people and ideas and processes and (especially) collective operations that can help push against that. Those kind of mechanisms have been improving very noticeable over the years, over the decades, as people try to figure out "how do we become mature in this practice?"

I think a lot of the elements of Buddhism [can help]: the commitment to a daily practice; the serious mind-training (outside of any wild experience), so when you go in there you have a better-trained mind and when you come down you're much better able to integrate the scary stuff & the beautiful stuff simply because you've been devoted to a certain idea of mind training.

[And] I also think there are elements within the Dharma, within the philosophical dimension of Buddhism, which are extremely helpful – lessons of no-self which keep you from the void of nihilism, [as well as] the goofiness of believing you're everything.


Finally, I believe that Buddhism, properly practiced... Buddhism swallowed deeply is a critical practice – criticism, critique, questioning, sometimes lacerating questions are part of the practice. Not the whole thing. If it were there whole thing, it wouldn't work. But it's a very significant part of it... "Buddhism is stressful."


And on the flip side, I also believe that for some Buddhist practitioners, only for some... I suspect that psychedelics have a lot of [offer]. For one, they open up realms of emotion, intense emotion, that are very powerful, sometimes very scary, but potentially transformative. People don't talk enough about that – they talk about the visions, or the entities, or the peak experiences...

Buddhists can have a place to experience wonder, intensity, deeply embodied energetic flowerings, of gestures, ideas & practices that otherwise can get a bit dry, a bit repetitive.

Psychedelic Sangha is just getting started. They are hosting events in San Francisco & NYC.