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Psychedelics are more “mainstream” than you probably think. There have been many notable thinkers, creators, and leaders who have experimented or habitually used psychedelics such as Ayahuasca, Psilocybin, and LSD - from scientists, inventors and business figures to writers, painters and musicians.
The benefits of psychedelics have been expressed by great public figures, as many have stated that the use of these consciousness-expanding substances contributed to their personal success, inspiring their innovation and creativity. Others have shared how psychedelics have had a profound impact on their overall wellbeing and relationship with themselves, others, and the world in general, through a feeling of connectedness and perspective shifts caused by “ego-dissolution.”
Let’s take a look at some prominent public figures who have attributed their success and growth to the use of psychedelics, and investigate some research as to why this might be so.
Psychedelics are known to provide users with new perspectives and the ability to take a step out of “group-minded” thinking and years of social conditioning. Recent research has shown that psychedelic plant medicines such as ayahuasca have been linked to creative divergent thinking because of its modulation effect on the default mode network (DMN) which has been identified by scientists as the “seat of the ego” in the brain (read more about the DMN in our blog). Ayahuasca has been shown to increase and strengthen cognitive flexibility in the DMN, and consequently, potentially enhanced creative thinking and interpretations, whereby individuals generate new, effective, and adaptive cognitive, emotional, and behavioural strategies.
When Jobs left the corporate world to take a huge leap of faith and start a revolutionary product with Apple, it could be observed that his experience with psychedelics provided him with the confidence to find a way out of the confinements of mainstream thought and the limitations of his old thinking patterns
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important - creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” -Steve Jobs.
Tim Ferris, author of “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “Tools of Titans”, and host of the hit podcast “The Tim Ferris Show,” is notably one of the world’s most popular productivity gurus. In a recent interview with GQ, Tim revealed that he had spent much of his career chasing after external markers of success - money, time, skills - and yet felt that something was still missing. He attributes his most recent breakthroughs to the ego dissolution experience of psychedelics, stating that they provide a “vehicle for stepping outside of your normal egoic self so that you can see the stories that govern your life more accurately”. The shift from productivity to going inwards and getting comfortable with himself, has proven to be incredibly powerful.
He goes on in the interview to say:
“It doesn't matter what types of fancy toys you collect. It doesn't matter how hot your significant other is, if your inner world—your internal monologue or dialogue—is that of anger or despair or frustration or sadness the majority of the time”
“You can’t deepen relationships, repair relationships, deescalate instead of escalate conflict, unless you have a certain degree of self-awareness, emotional resilience, and emotional acceptance. That only comes, in my experience, through transcendental, transformative blocks of time touching the timeless, in a sense. Where the ego is dissolved.”
Distortions of the subjective experience of one’s “self’ or “ego” are central to the psychedelic experience and are usually referred to as “ego-death” or “ego-dissolution”. Specifically, a reduction in the self-referential awareness of normal waking consciousness has been reported with plant medicines such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.
Sam Harris an American author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and podcast host, and creator of the Waking Up Meditation Program which shares conversations with thought leaders in psychology, meditation, philosophy, psychedelics, and other disciplines, as well as lessons on a number of types of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, vipassanā-style meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and Dzogchen. He has interviewed many thought-leaders in the field of psychedelics and shared insights from his personal experiences.
He attributes his inspiration to understand the nature of consciousness to psychedelics:
“There was a period in my early twenties when I found psilocybin and LSD to be indispensable tools, and some of the most important hours of my life were spent under their influence. Without them, I might never have discovered that there was an inner landscape of mind worth exploring.”
In one account after using the psychedelic compound MDMA he reveals:
“I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that I loved my friend. This shouldn’t have surprised me—he was, after all, one of my best friends. However, at that age I was not in the habit of dwelling on how much I loved the men in my life. Now I could feel that I loved him, and this feeling had ethical implications that suddenly seemed as profound as they now sound pedestrian on the page: I wanted him to be happy."
That conviction came crashing down with such force that something seemed to give way inside me. In fact, the insight appeared to restructure my mind. My capacity for envy, for instance - the sense of being diminished by the happiness or success of another person - seemed like a symptom of mental illness that had vanished without a trace. I could no more have felt envy at that moment than I could have wanted to poke out my own eyes. What did I care if my friend was better looking or a better athlete than I was? If I could have bestowed those gifts on him, I would have. Truly wanting him to be happy made his happiness my own.”
Psychedelic plant medicines have been shown in studies to have positive effects on mood and feelings social connectedness, which may be what Sam is referring to. Participants have reported a positive increase in their sense of connection to themselves, others, and the world, and this sense of connection may be what underlies the strong therapeutic potential of psychedelics for depression and anxiety disorders as well as a key factor of psychological well-being. This sense of connection is compared in this study to the ‘overview effect’, characterized by a “sense of ‘awe’ and perceived smallness in the presence of vastness.”
The Beatles were greatly influenced by psychedelics, with their album “Revolver” famously notable for being the first Beatles album to bear the marks of their immersion into the world of psychedelics. In addition to inspiring their creative pursuits, George Harrison has also revealed how psychedelics contributed to the positive interpersonal relationships between the members in the band.
“After taking acid together, John and I had a very interesting relationship. That I was younger or I was smaller was no longer any kind of embarrassment with John. Paul still says, ‘I suppose we looked down on George because he was younger.’ That is an illusion people are under. It’s nothing to do with how many years old you are, or how big your body is. It’s down to what your greater consciousness is and if you can live in harmony with what’s going on in creation. John and I spent a lot of time together from then on and I felt closer to him than all the others, right through until his death.” -George Harrison
Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Francis Crick, the father of modern genetics, also admitted that he was under the influence of LSD when he first discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.
Another Nobel Prize-winning biochemist, Kary Mullis, who invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique, which is used to make copies of DNA segments, has attributed his success to psychedelics. The PCR technique is standardly used in criminal forensics, diagnosing diseases, and in genetic research. A year after winning the Nobel Prize, he came out publicly to claim that his entire legacy probably depended on the use of psychedelics, and that they were more important to his accomplishments than any education he had received in school.
“What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.” -Kary Mullis
Aldous Huxley, the British-born author of “Brave New World”, was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. After experimenting with mescaline (the active substance in the San Pedro Cactus) and LSD, he also wrote “Doors of Perception” and “Heaven and Hell”, which detail the effects of psychedelics on consciousness.
“It’s a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe there is. I think it’s healthy that people should have this experience.” -Aldous Huxley
Are you curious to see if psychedelic plant medicine can inspire your creativity and innovation? Are you wondering if it can help you connect with yourself and your relationships on a deeper and more meaningful level? To find out more about the science behind plant medicine, and how to maximize the results of a psychedelic experience, visit our website here.
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