Tripping on Science: The Psychedelic Community Contests Terms

by Peter Bebergal

Despite their common, and mostly fringe area of concern, the psychedelic subculture — whose kaleidoscopic reflection includes Johns Hopkins scientists, transpersonal psychologists, dozens of independent (non-affiliated) researchers, writers, visionary artists, and the users themselves — is often at odds with itself. Above board researchers take pride in their work, adhering to the strict peer review process that all science is subject to. But to some, the work of psychedelics is the work of the spirit, of the non-rational, of connecting ourselves to something that may well not be testable or empirically verifiable. There are also clashes of personality, of ideologies, and of intention. Sometimes it’s simply a disagreement over words, what they mean, and how they should be used.

At the heart over a disagreement of the meaning of words within a very small subculture is another more essential divergence, one that reflects a wider cultural conflict between science and spirituality.

One of the most remarkable developments in the past ten years is the trending toward acceptance in the scientific community of research involving psychedelic drugs after an almost forty year period of disregard. But like other recent fields of research, such as work done with stem cells, DNA, and even evolutionary biology, it finds itself up against the question of spirituality. Continue Reading →