I strongly believe that tryptamines can be used to treat Mental Health problems, improve general well being, treat addiction, and of course be used to have a great time. I also think they can be used to hack ones belief systems to more coherent, positive and altruistic systems. But I believe all of this good is best harnessed by trying to understand, administer and "integrate" these chemicals in a scientific & secular way - preferably devoid of metaphysical, spiritual, religious or theological language or theory.
Medicine throughout history has improved largely thanks to a shift from superstition to science. Shifts like understanding disease in terms of germ theory instead of "negative energies" or "evil spells".
Nevertheless the Psychedelic Community is still a community on the edge of society and still uses language that is non-secular. Furthermore I believe that mainstream adoption of Psychedelics, especially in medicine, is perhaps hindered slightly by the image people have of the community as being "new age hippies".
The advice I have seen with respect to set, setting and integration can be impractical, non-concrete and non-secular. Very rarely do I see literature that is linking various effects to neuroscience and physiology. This is of course in part due to mental health and neuroscience being majorly underdeveloped fields. That is to say, the science is lacking.
So the second issue I have with the non-scientific aspects of the community is patient safety. Not just physical safety, but psychotic safety. Powerful tryptamines can cause serious psychotic episodes and even PTSD. I believe that adopting more scientific and secular approach in the community could reduce these risks dramatically.
1. Non-secular language can refer to things that are outside the patients control. Not feeling in control of one's situation can contribute to psychosis and a sense of hopelessness. For example "evil entities", "dead spirits", "demons", "possession", etc.
2. Sometimes religious references are quite scary and can themselves invoke anxiety and panic into the patient (e.g. "parasites", "hell", "dark worlds", etc).
3. Non-secular theory, advice and practice can be difficult to follow, in that it does not describe concrete steps to follow. For example "you need to let the mother spirit protect you from the evil entities" - how does one actually follow this advice? Say when compared to "you need to eat more carbs".
4. Similarly the advice can be a burden/distraction. For example Yoga could be thought of as a nice relaxing exercise, or it can be thought of a mandatory practice to cleanse the soul. The latter again places pressure on the patient.
5. Non-secular language is often focused on moral matters, which can foster a great sense of guilt in the patient. Tell a patient their symptoms are "negative karma" and they perhaps feel greater guilt? Tell them their symptoms are simply physical/neurological and the morality/blame is taken out of the picture.
6. Secular meditation, like mindfulness/zen, is easier to follow, and again devoid of moralistic goals. Simple meditation focusing on physical sensations, like breath, or contact points, etc, is more than sufficient to help a patient - there is no need to make meditation spiritual, and can make meditation more difficult.
7. By definition, non-secular approaches will have less scientific evidence to support them. After doing a lot of research I realised we can explain the post 5-MEO time, e.g. reactivations, anxiety, exhaustion, sleeping problems, euphoria, etc, in neurological terms. I intend on writing a separate post on this topic.
8. By definition, secular language will have a wider scope of inclusiveness, in that it does not contradict or exclude any religious/spiritual group. For example a Christian, Muslim or Jew might believe that Psychedelics are Pagan, Occult, etc and thus be turned off.
I'm not trying to undermine people's experiences, nor am I saying that there is nothing actually metaphysical about a Psychedelic experience. But I do think we should try to focus more on what facts we do have so that:
A. We can make Psychedelic use more mainstream, and potentially used in medicine to treat Mental Health problems.
B. We can ensure a greater degree of safety in use, especially psychological safety.
I usually get very negative responses when I express this view, so I'm interested to see what I get here.