Embracing an Essential Vision
The potent adjective extraordinary barely rises to the task of describing the unprecedented and almost overwhelming challenges facing humanity at this time. Visionaries—including contributors to this book—have sensed that hundreds of thousands of years of collective and individual history, struggle, and karma are coalescing right now. Cynics may dismiss this recognition as magical thinking—a “my-generation” delusion. Others may downplay the urgency of the moment. Still others turn away in denial and cling to chimeras and false, even dangerous, promises and premises. But the signs are clear for those willing to look and to listen.
Mystics, explorers of deep psychonautic realms, intuitives, the long-held prophecies of multiple Indigenous/traditional tribes and societies around the planet, and the clearly evident and observable developments of increasingly rapid climate change, madcap materialism, and gross economic and social inequality and imbalance all point to an inescapable truth: the longstanding dominant mindset of spiritual disconnect that has cast its shadow over the human enterprise has run its course and is no longer viable or sustainable. The flatland days of continuing as we have been are all but over.
Until very recently we’ve had wiggle room. This endlessly generous planet has been giving us everything that keeps us alive second by second, year after year, and generation upon generation. She has allowed the great majority of us to grievously misunderstand our true nature as interwoven, interdependent participants in a vast, living, creatively evolving web of energy and intelligence. She has allowed our species to plunder her bounty, taking far more than we give back, not grasping the core truth that, in the words of legendary Chief Seattle (1790–1866), “Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”1
But now the jig is up. The naked apes have overrun the planet. The ominous facts of our predicament speak for themselves. The scientific consensus on runaway climate change is beyond debate. Piecemeal stabs at incremental change not founded in a deep transformation of understanding—however well-intentioned and innovative they may be—will not save us, much less bring back comforting old certainties and business as usual. As the great prophetic bard of song and poetry Leonard Cohen put it in his song “The Future”: “The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it’s overturned the order of the soul.”
But while all that may sound distressingly disheartening and bleak—even hopeless—it’s far from the whole story. It’s not even the story of the indescribable magnificence and brilliance of life altogether. And that’s where this book comes in. Many are seeing and feeling a death and rebirth process underway that is drawing the whole species in. The great teachings, the great teachers, and all the rest of us who have at least briefly landed on “what is,” recognize that there is an unconditioned, eternal reality. It’s far beyond words, and even our proximate symbols can only hope to carry a modicum of meaning if they’re sourced in experience. Then maybe we could call it Divine Light, Love, Holy Spirit, Creator, Eternal Source Consciousness, the Synchronous Field, the Noosphere (coined by famed philosopher Teilhard de Chardin), or any of a number of considered or even inspired attempts at symbolic reference. The intention and prayer of the participants in How Psychedelics Can Help Save the World is to share insights and visions to help us embrace the message and rise to what we are capable of as a custodial species of awakening and awakened beings.
The call now is for us humans to humbly and courageously face our situation without turning away; engage unequivocally with the inner and outer work that must be done to build a sane and sustainable future for the generations to come; and learn what it will take to collectively embrace and apply our best visions. If we can turn in that direction, we may be able to give birth to a “mature planetary civilization” as Duane Elgin has called it.
A grand chorus of voices is coming forward to call out from the depths of the heart that the time has come—right now. No matter how dark the horizon looks there is simply no other functional attitude to take. We have to believe in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa called “the possibility of possibility.” That is the true understanding of prayer by those who have seen it at work: the power of shared intention to manifest real change in the material world. And that understanding is central to the vision at hand, which several of the book’s contributors explore.
Let’s be clear from the outset that none of the contributors to this book are naïve, picturing or promising a golden age of peace and harmony around the next bend. All of us understand that we are moving into an extremely difficult period that may last decades or longer, and that the successful fruition of this period of Great Transition is far from certain.
But the participants in How Psychedelics Can Help Save the World, along with a great many other individuals past and present, do have some understanding of what this remarkable species is capable of. Ancient spiritual teachings remind us that underneath all the turmoil of the confused samsaric mind we are all awake by nature. And at this juncture, the old proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” has never been more true or more applicable.
So then what is the nature of this invention we’re being so urgently called and invited into? And what might a healed humanity look like? Questions like this are at the center of this book.
There’s a feeling in the air that the time is ripe for this message to be heard. Another—now well-known—Leonard Cohen line, in his song “Anthem,” hits the mark beautifully. “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” In a similar vein, a few years ago I had a close relationship with revered Native American elder and Native American Church roadman Kanucas Littlefish. Kanucas shared a vision with me that he and some of his associates had been receiving: that there will come a point when the crack has opened far enough and the existing system has lost sufficient viability to make room for a new vision.
As that potentially paradigm-shattering reality dawns on more people, the deep intuition is that the new story will be heard and it will be understood. Nineteenth-century French writer Victor Hugo famously declared that “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” When the great, unimpeachable idea whose time has finally and truly arrived has taken hold and becomes more compelling than the increasingly less functional and sustainable worldview now dominating the conduct of human affairs, many of us envision widespread outbreaks of recognition, relief, and liberation, as if looking back on a painful relationship that we are now so gratefully free from.
The role of psychedelics (a.k.a. entheogens and sacred plant medicines), in the journey of individual and collective transformation requires some context here. They’re not magic bullets, and they’re susceptible to misappropriation and to misuse that can sometimes be damaging. Although the contributors to this book have a deep understanding of the capabilities of these sacramental medicines—and they do play an essential role in the book—they’re not always the lead actors. The overarching mission is this urgent need for widespread awakening and redirection.
However, when the patient is in an advanced state of illness, strong medicines are often required. Abundant evidence has shown that when used in optimal circumstances in the right hands with skill and appropriate intention, and when the openings and insights are brought back into the daily walk as components of ongoing spiritual work and compassionate action, psychedelic medicines are the most potent tools at our disposal. Though most definitely not for everyone, the record shows that they can uncover and help heal suppressed wounds. They can help open the doors of perception to what Buddhist teachings call an unconditional reality, which wisdom carriers have described as more real than the versions of reality most of us experience every day.
So as an old saying goes, “Let us take heart.” No matter how isolated and divided we may feel, we are all being pulled into the same story. A collective vibration is gradually awakening. The energetic imprint of each one of us has at least some impact on the field. What humans think, feel, and do matters more than ever. Great teachings throughout history remind us that we can awaken. Now it appears that a great number of us have to awaken. And that is a prayer and a vision worth holding and feeding.
There’s so much more to say, but you have stumbled upon a treasure trove of inspiration here, so I’ll leave that to the twenty-five brilliant and caring contributors you are about to encounter. For the moment, I’ll end this introduction with some challenging and inspiring words from the remarkable writer and shaman Martín Prechtel. “We live in a kind of dark age, craftily lit with synthetic light, so that no one can tell how dark it has really gotten. But our exiled spirits can tell. Deep in our bones resides an ancient, singing couple who just won’t give up making their beautiful, wild noise. The world won’t end if we can find them.”2