Deeper Learning with Psychedelics: Philosophical Pathways Through Altered States

SUNY Press, forthcoming

In both clinical and informal settings, psychedelics users often report they have undergone something profound and even life-altering. This implies a claim that they have learned something important.  Yet there also persists a notorious inability precisely to articulate just what has been imparted. This situation of ineffable profundity is so widespread as to have become conventional wisdom among psychedelics enthusiasts and a source of frustration and/or amusement depending on one’s context and temperament. Unfortunately, the announced insights typically reduce to platitudes like “we are all connected” or “it’s all about love,” etc.—beautiful sentiments but unclear as to what role the psychedelics have actually played and what exactly such generalities, however heartfelt, ultimately mean.   
Informed by multidisciplinary emerging research, this book provides an account of the specifically educational aspects of psychedelics and how like the best teachers they can render us ready to learn. Drawing from indigenous peoples worldwide, who typically revere these substances as “plant teachers,” and also from canonical thinkers in the western tradition such as Plato, Descartes, Hume and Heidegger, Blacker proposes an original set of categories through which to understand the educational capabilities of classic psychedelics. While there is no neat blueprint, it turns out that beneath the kaleidoscope of distorted perceptions, there are discernible patterns that point in very surprising directions. It emerges that psychedelics’ real power lies not in destabilizing and decentering—“turning on and dropping out”—but as powerful aids in restoring and reenchanting our shared worlds. 

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