A summary of psychedelics in civilisation, from the Eleusinian Mysteries to Amazon shamanism, including a digest of modern scientific research on how psychedelics might make someone a ‘better’ person.
Split into two parts: first focussed on ancient Western sources (Epictetus, Plutarch, Diodorus Siculus, Cicero, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius) who believed that the Eleusinian Mysteries promoted moral behaviour; the second part on the much different cultural attitude of the mestizo Indians of the Amazon.
Conclusion: psychedelics are a consciousness-enhancer that will amplify whatever cultural expectations you bring to the experience.
Epictetus on set and setting:
The benefit of the Mysteries depends on proper place and time: one must approach with sacrifice and prayer, with body purified and mind ready and disposed to approach holy rites and ancient sanctities. Only so do the Mysteries bring benefit, only so do we arrive at the belief that all these things were established by those of old for our education and the amendment of our life. – Epictetus
Psychedelics inspired the Stoic logos?
The world is a living being – one nature, one soul. Keep that in mind. How everything is absorbed into this one consciousness, how a single impulse governs all its actions, and how everything helps produce everything else – spun and woven together. – Marcus Aurelius
Mestizo Indian vs Western New Age views of psychedelics:
the mestizos of the Upper Amazon think almost all illnesses, accidents and deaths are caused by sorcery. Ayahuasca is a medicine to cure people from magical attacks, and a weapon to assist attacks… This is so different to the Western understanding of ‘Mama Ayahuasca’ as this cosmic universal healer showing us our ‘true self’, guiding us like a loving Jungian therapist to the blockages in our subconscious… For mestizo Indians, ayahuasca helps you realize which of your neighbours has cursed you, and it helps you get revenge.