monk holding prayer beads across mountain

In a fascinating article on UnHerd we learn about the idea of the Altered States Economy and how it is bastardizing the spiritual process of human growth.

Psychedelic trips have been part of mystical traditions for centuries, but their revival comes at a time when traditional religions are in decline. This has led to the emergence of an “altered states economy” worth up to $4 trillion, offering a range of techniques to tap into the Real or muffle the Unreal.

This includes legal psychedelic drugs, which are being rolled out in Oregon and decriminalized in many US states. Mexico is also tapping into the market for psychedelic experiences still illegal in the US. The faith we once put in transcendent states has been swiftly industrialized, with Big Pharma and start-ups vying for control of the market.

From the post:

This language goes beyond aspiration, or even idealism: it’s a simulated religion. Inconveniently, there are dangers in viewing our search for God as a technical problem — one that can be solved through human ingenuity. The current psychedelic landscape is greatly influenced by Carl Jung, whose acolyte Stanislav Grof administered LSD in more than 5,000 sessions in communist Czechoslovakia. Yet Jung was famously suspicious of what he called “the pure gifts of the Gods”, described and promoted by early “psychonauts” such as Osmond and Huxley. More than anything, Jung suggests, we ought to engage with the psyche on its own terms, as a mysterious and subterranean layer of reality that can’t necessarily be gauged in the terms of Reason that govern our everyday lives.

The commercialization of the industry has been accompanied by a huge amount of research, much of it funded by profit-driven entities. There is also a growing trend towards digital therapeutics, with some companies offering apps and wearable devices to track and harvest data from users’ trips. However, there are dangers in viewing our search for God as a technical problem, and Carl Jung warned against relying too heavily on “the pure gifts of the Gods.”

Our take? While there is room in the industry for religion, the idea that the psychedelics industry is being bastardized by commerce is difficult to support. Both the spiritual and scientific side of the industry are important and they’re going to have to learn to coexist.

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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