Do psychedelics have the potential to expand your mind, or even your consciousness?
When humans first encountered psychedelics just over a million years ago (or thereabouts), we were not fully conscious as beings, we were also not on the top of the food chain, which I guess is hard to believe. Over this million-year period, humans collected and ingested mushrooms which we know today contain psilocybin (this is the ingredient which makes them psychedelic). This gave us our status above the other animals. We became the dominant species and learned to do many useful things such as keep ourselves and our tribe safe, which, of course, was important for our survival.
It has been argued that our physical human biology has barely changed in the past 100,000 years, which cannot be explained by biologists. However, since the first uses of psilocybin, we have evolved massively where the brain is concerned; including our linguistic system.
Since this time, we’ve learned a lot about psychedelics and what they can do to the human mind. It has been recently shown in neuroimaging studies that on a daily basis, our brains function at a lower capacity than we would if we were subject to psychedelics such as psilocybin. This could be used to argue that psychedelics do, in fact, increase out levels of conscious awareness.
There is an argument that consciousness is an illusion, which was covered in the book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion written by neuroscientist Sam Harris. The author claims that the thoughts that we have within our own heads live and die within our own consciousness. Harris argues that once we understand that our self goes no further than our own head, we can take ourselves away from sources of suffering.
At the same time, those seeking to expand their consciousness need to understand that although the journey may be a magical one, the ingestion of psychedelic drugs should not be taken lightly by anyone on a spiritual journey to enlighten themselves or just learn more about consciousness, as the outcome of the trip cannot be determined. Through it likely that the outcome of what happens from the moment you ingest psychedelics to the end of the trip will be linked to your own biology, genetic make-up and how you’ve learned to understand and interpret psychological experiences.
It is expressed by Harris:
It is your mind, rather than circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life.
It seems that this sums it up nicely that it may not matter whether you ingest psychedelic drugs to expand your mind, as ultimately it is your mind that determines whether you have that quality of life.
Do you think that psychedelics can expand your mind? Feel free to leave comments and questions below.
Terrence, McKenna (1992). Food of the Gods. 3rd ed. USA: bantam books. 20-21.
Robin. l. C. Harris, Robert, Leech. (2014). The entropic brain: A theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in neuroscience.20 (140), 64.