In this Microdosing Table Talk episode with Alexander Beiner, Author and Journalist, we dive into the role that psychedelics can play in our lives, and their potential in helping us navigate modern-day crises such as wars, pandemics, ecological crises and the emergence of AI. Psychedelics always emphasize the need to address the root of problems if we want to truly start addressing them, and if we want to make real headway.
Alexander emphasizes quality over quantity when it comes to psychedelic experiences. He underscores the value of profound and meaningful journeys over simply having experiences. Moreover, we delve into the realm of microdosing, sharing thoughts on how it’s a low access barrier tool that can play a role in collective healing, solving problems, and aiding creativity.
Alexander Beiner is an author and journalist. His book ‘The Bigger Picture: How psychedelics can help us make sense of the world’ has been hailed as ‘the most important book on psychedelics to come about in a long while’ (David Jay Brown) and ‘a convincingly argued, deeply thought-provoking and beautifully written book.’ (Graham Hancock). He’s an executive director of Breaking Convention, a UK charity which hosts one of the world’s largest conferences on psychedelic science. He runs a popular Substack, The Bigger Picture, where he writes about popular culture, AI, psychedelics and systems change. You can read more about his work on alexanderbeiner.com.
Microdosing Table Talk Episode 26
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00:00 Alexander Beiner (AB)
So I think in a way it’s like, I want to listen to the bigger message of the psychedelic experience, which is like, stop messing around and go to the root of things. And that’s kind of what I think we can do as a community of psychonauts and people interested in psychedelics. And I think that’s going to take a lot of people working together. What I’m particularly interested in is creativity and problem solving and systems change.
00:24 Jakobien van der Weijden (JW)
You welcome to Microdosing Table Talks, the world’s first podcast dedicated exclusively to learning more about, you guessed it, microdosing. For those new to the community, microdosing is the practice of consuming a psychedelic substance in tiny sub-halucinogenic doses with the purpose of enhancing one’s quality of life. While this practice has its roots in ancient and indigenous traditions, there’s still a lot to learn and a great deal of mystery to uncover.
Here at Microdosing Institute, our mission is to merge and honor this ancient wisdom with the growing body of scientific knowledge. In the podcast, we’ll introduce you to experts in the psychedelic space to bring you a better understanding of how microdosing can truly serve us both as individuals and humanity at large. Before we begin, we’d like to extend a thank you to our friends at Microdose NL for sponsoring this episode. Microdose NL is Europe’s number one Microdosing shop for all of your microdosing needs. For our community members based in the European Union, check out Microdose NL before your next microdosing cycle. Now let’s go ahead with today’s episode.
Alexander Beiner is an author and journalist. His book, The Bigger Picture How Psychedelics Can Help US Make Sense of the World, has been hailed as the most important book on psychedelics to come about in a long while. This was said by David J. Brown and a convincingly argued, deeply thought provoking and beautifully written book by Graham Hancock. Alexander is also the executive director of Breaking Convention, a UK charity which hosts one of the world’s largest conferences on psychedelic science. He runs a popular Substack, The Bigger Picture, where he writes about popular culture, AI, psychedelics and systems change. All right, Alexander, welcome to the podcast today. Thank you for being here very much.
Yeah, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, and so a little disclaimer here for our listeners. We did not bring Alexander on because he is the greatest microdosing expert, but I am very excited to do this episode with him and pick his brain a little because he wrote a very interesting book, The Bigger Picture. And we will talk today about our complex and fast changing world and the multiple crisis that we’re facing and navigating at the moment and the promise that psychedelics offer to help humanity move through these times. And so this is important stuff that I think we should never skip here in the psychedelic community. I would say so, yeah. Let’s start maybe with this big crisis theme big crisis with capitals. What do you mean precisely by that? And what led you to actually write a book about it?
Yeah, so I think it’s useful to start with the word crisis and where it came from. And it comes from a Greek word which means to decide. So it’s like a crisis sounds scary, can be scary. Definitely when we’re in crisis, like personally it means everything is upside down and we’re really struggling. And of course it also means that on the collective level. And I’ll talk a little bit about what I see as the different crises so plural that we’re actually facing, and I call them the combination of them is sometimes called the meta crisis in the systems change world, which I’m fairly involved in. And in the book I called it the Big Crisis because meta crisis is a little bit confusing for people and I wanted to really speak to an audience who weren’t familiar with systems theory, which is most people basically in the world.
So yeah, a crisis is like a decision point where we have to change, we can’t go on the way we’ve been going. And so the big crisis is the many different examples of that we’re facing collectively. So for example, we have the environmental crisis of which climate is one element, but there’s also ecosystem destruction, there’s species sort of biodiversity losses, there’s all these different aspects of that crisis that we’re trying to find a way through. And that one is really closely related to our survival. Also related to our survival is geopolitical instability and of course nuclear, the threat of nuclear war which has been with us for 60, 70 years. Of course Oppenheimer, the film just came out, so it’s a little bit more in the public consciousness now. And of course with the invasion of Ukraine we have perhaps most connected to psychedelics in many people’s minds, the mental health crisis, which is something I talk a lot about in the book and certainly be interesting to explore here, but the question of well, what exactly is causing it?
Right? Because from the perspective of biomedical psychiatry, from extreme sort of biomedical model, it’s like oh well, it’s a problem in the brain, it’s an imbalance and we’ll fix that with drugs. And I think while there is some truth to that in different contexts, really in the mental health crisis there’s a lot of evidence to point us towards the fact that it’s a symptom of something much deeper, a symptom of kind of deep disconnection in society. It’s got really deep socioeconomic elements to it and it’s really widespread. And so with the psychedelic world, I’m very critical of this idea of psychedelics as sort of fixing the mental health crisis. I think it’s something that pharma companies and people trying to make money or trying to raise money that’s usually the go to. And while I think there is a huge potential for that, I think actually what’s more important is solving what’s driving the mental health crises.
This brings us to another crisis, which is the meaning crisis, which is a phrase coined by John Vervecki who’s a cognitive scientist at the University of Toronto. The meaning crisis is particularly in the west, particularly in the sort of the secular, non religious west. This deep uncertainty and anxiety and unclarity as to what are we actually alive for? Like what is culture for in the first? Like what are we trying to do, what’s our purpose, what’s the meaning at the heart of things? And that goes really deep and I actually see that as the underlying driver of most of these crises because one level we have a worldview that comes from scientific materialism which tells us that we don’t matter and that human consciousness even is just a byproduct of physical processes. And so from that perspective it makes perfect sense why you would destroy the environment because there’s no inherent meaning to anything.
So it’s a very nihilistic or narcissistic worldview. I don’t think it’s true scientifically or philosophically. And so also we have this just general fragmentation in culture, a lot of political polarization, a lot of polarization around pretty much any topic, especially topics to do with identity. And I think that is in part because of this deep cultural narcissism of if there is nothing greater and this is something again, John Vervecki points to if there’s nothing special about being a human, you have to make yourself special, you have to become unique, you have to be special. And then of take if someone doesn’t agree with your specialness then it feels like annihilation and death. And so you get all this acting out and all of this kind of chaos and psychedelics are really coming into that culture. Psychedelics are also being we know that psychedelics can make people more grandiose narcissistic as well as more open, connected, expansive, world centric instead of egocentric.
So I know you guys talk about this, they’re nonspecific amplifiers. I think that’s largely true. I don’t think it’s only true, but I think it’s largely true. And so in that sense it’s really important if we’re talking about psychedelics in any capacity that we look at the setting, but not just our own setting, but the wider cultural setting. Like every time you take a psychedelic you take your whole culture with you take the whole internet with you take everything you’ve seen and read and so our whole conception of setting really has to expand. And so I suppose my book in some ways is about the big setting, the bigger picture, but also what does it mean to change that setting? What does it mean for us to actually use psychedelics to elicit social change? And that’s not a simple thing, that’s not a magic bullet and that’s actually something we all need to figure out together.
I don’t have answer for that. But I have a lot of different potential ways to start asking that question and start working together towards that.
Yeah, wow, there’s so many things in here and I’m really glad you also specifically put some emphasis on that meaning crisis that since we’re really a little bit lost there with religion not being so present anymore and spirituality has so much connotations attached to it that it has almost become something else. And also we’re still trying to figure that out, like what it even is and how we can connect to it and how we can connect to spirit and source. Yeah. It also makes me think that our ancestors and the indigenous and tribal people have a different understanding, like the almost the opposite as what we have today in the modern world where we think we can own nature, manipulate it, take whatever we need. Like there is no reciprocity in that sense. So yeah, there’s lots of things here attached to it that we also see in the psychedelic space.
And when people have psychedelic experiences, whether that’s in ceremony or in whatever context, but definitely when it is in the context of working with Indigenous healers or doing it in nature and being very much connected to nature, that these themes come up and that it somehow becomes very clear to us where all this disconnect comes from and where all these crisis have sort of are rooted in. And maybe I want to ask you something about this because science is now, I think, also slowly coming up with more and more evidence that taking psychedelics makes us more eco conscious.
Yeah, that’s a really interesting that evidence is really interesting and I talk about it in the book as well because I think it’s eco conscious is one aspect of it. And there’s also this other aspect of it from a fairly recent study from Johns Hopkins that psychedelics tend to make people move people towards seeing the world and plants and even objects as alive and having agency in some way. Right? So that’s kind of like a return to animism which speaks to what you were just talking about, which is that many cultures, what we call indigenous cultures, it’s such a difficult term because we’re all indigenous to somewhere and so it’s a difficult one. But I think people generally, we know what we mean when we say indigenous cultures, so have a worldview very often where the world is alive and full of intention and there’s different entities and spirits in plants, in animals, in the air around us, through us.
That’s kind of the opposite of the worldview we have in the west and in sort of, let’s say kind of nations who ascribe to a sort of what we call developed nations who are largely sort of secular and they’re focused on economic growth, they’re focused on things. The world is dead, the world is not inherently alive. It doesn’t speak back to you. So if you think about reciprocity requires an exchange between two conscious entities. So we can have a reciprocal relationship but I can’t have a reciprocal relationship with my mouse computer mouse, right? I can pretend to and that’s happening a little bit with AI, which we can talk about in a bit. That’s really interesting, but it’s not a real relationship. It’s called an I it relationship instead of an I vow relationship, an IU relationship. They’re really totally different. And so I think one of the things psychedelics can do is open people up to and this might be an aspect of them that’s not just nonspecific amplifier.
There’s arguments that people have of like okay, yeah, well maybe people are more nature connected from psychedelics because they’re already more open to that because they have more of a kind of openness to that and leaning towards that. I think that’s a really important question. But I do think that psychedelics certainly connect us to our environment and it could be that you could have a psychedelic ceremony where you walk through a city and connect with the energy of the city. However, being in nature without psychedelics is also very healing for people and also very connecting. So I think it’s more going on than just totally non specific and like you take it and you just connect to whatever’s there like a bird, a baby bird that imprints on the first thing it sees. I think there’s more going on with psychedelics than that, but it is important I think to think about it.
So I think that’s a really promising aspect of psychedelics. And actually, when I spoke to Michael Polan for my book, I was kind of almost surprised because he know were talking about that study, that Johns Hopkins study. And he was know, even if it’s not true animism that the world is alive, it might be good to pretend it’s true, because it would change how we behave. It changes how we treat the environment, how we behave with each other. And so he’s kind of making the argument, I think he’s quite probably a bit more scientific materialist and quite more traditionally minded in that sense. So it’s particularly interesting to hear him say like effectively this is a potentially really beneficial worldview for people to hold because it changes. I totally agree with that. I also think that in some sense the world is alive and perhaps not in exactly the same sense as some indigenous cultures might think, but generally I’m a panpsychist in the sense that I think consciousness and matter are of one substance.
Like there’s consciousness in every aspect of the universe. And so in that sense having a relationship with the universe is pretty fundamental and also solves or doesn’t solve, but certainly moves towards solving aspects of the meaning crisis where we’re not alone in a dead universe, but we’re alive as part of an evolving conscious universe that’s bigger than us.
Yeah. If I understand correctly, the task that you’re sort of set out on is trying to find a way in which we can take this notion of that everything is conscious panpsychism you mentioned and utilize that and kind of put it into practice in the real world in our day to day existence.
Yes, definitely. And the easiest way to do that I found is actually well, if people have heard of the book Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, it’s written by Robert Piercig. He actually already cracked it in some sense. And I actually doing the research for my book, really returned to that. I was like, wait a minute, I feel like I’ve already read this somewhere. I was like, oh yeah, this is Pierceig’s idea. And his idea really is to orient towards quality. And it’s a really simple way of bringing a kind of more panpsychist or consciousness first perspective. Because in a world where we believe the only thing that’s real is things, what our whole culture values is quantity. And this is true of psychedelic research as well. What they really get the money for and look at is the brain stuff. What can we quantify?
And even as a participant on a healthy volunteer study, it was really fascinating because I would have these extended state DMTs, so I have these really deep experiences and then immediately after the scientists would ask me questions about it and then they would quantify that information. So it’s not that’s not important to quantify information. It’s just very interesting how the psychedelic experience is an experience. And the main thing, the thing itself is that experience and it’s actually the quantification that’s secondary to that experience, in my view. So if we orient towards quality, then what we’re orienting quality is what it’s like to be you that’s a qualitative thing. Or like, what’s it like to be my dog. It’s a subjective being-ness. And so I’ve actually found that really effective revisiting this and thinking, okay, if I orient towards quality, it even means that as a writer, I have to send the second question of, like, okay, should I write these two pieces so that I have written enough on my Substack?
Or should I slow down and really feel into putting something of the highest quality that I can have? And that means a quality that is meaningful to me, that aligns with my deeper purpose, that aligns to deeper truth I want to express, et cetera. And it also then also impacts the choices we might make in life of like, okay, well, do I work incredibly hard to have a higher quantity of money and security or do I focus on the quality of my relationships and how do I balance those two things? So it’s really practical and I think it also then speaks to actually something much deeper, which is that the universe itself might be a qualitative experience. So we’re actually aligning with the deeper expression of a universal truth.
Wow, that’s something to sit with for a little bit and to contemplate. Yeah. But is it also yeah, I really like that notion of quality versus quantity. And it seems indeed that this is a bit of a paradigm shift that we have to go through because it kind of makes sense for yeah. You immediately understand it makes sense when you talk about writing. I’m also thinking when you talk about music, right. When you have an album or a playlist or so, you don’t really care how many songs are on there, but you care about the quality of the songs and how much you can enjoy the experience of listening to that. One song, maybe one song just says it all and nothing else is needed. So it’s a really beautiful notion, but I think we’ll also still be stuck for a little while in the quantification of things like you just mentioned with science.
I don’t think science is ever going to completely flip things around. Of course, this whole system money, the economical system, just the way things work here, it’s very much quantified. So? Yeah. I don’t know. This is not really a question. I just wanted to bring it up and see what do you see here?
That’s a really good point. Also, I love the idea of a musician releasing an album with 150 tracks being like, this is amazing. Look, with 150 tracks on it. It’s a great example, but that would never happen. Yeah. Actually, if you could just repeat the question because I just lost my thread there. Not the question, but the last thing you said because I wanted to speak to it.
Yeah. So we have both quality and quantity, and I think we can value both in today’s society. And then I think I mentioned research as well. Like, research will probably always be quantifying things.
Yeah. No, so I think this is where it’s like a yes, and I’m really influenced by integral philosophy, so like the philosophy of Ken Wilbur, and a big part of that is try and hold as many perspectives as possible, but it also looks at the different quadrants of knowing. So there’s I we it and it’s right. And so different types of knowledge are focused on different things. So science is focused on how do we agree on facts together? And so that’s really important because otherwise, anyone and this was the case for hundreds of years, anyone could be like, okay, I’ve just seen God and they’ve told me we all need to do this and this is the truth. And then it’s like, oh, okay, well, how am I going to verify? A scientist would be like, okay, well, I need some proof and I need some verification, and then I need to be able to replicate that.
And that’s a really important thing, and it’s a very good thing that we have that. Otherwise it’s quite difficult to get anything done properly. But the problem comes when that becomes its own religion, when that becomes in the absent, like, that becomes also the way that we are making meaning out of things. That’s not really its job. And so that’s the job of spirituality, of art, of connecting deeply to our lived experience and exploring that with each other. It’s a different domain. And there’s a hierarchy in our culture where that side of things, that qualitative side is seen as less than the quantitative side. You never see a government saying like, oh yeah, okay, well, they talk about economic growth and they’ll talk about, yeah, there’s 0.3% growth and it’s kind of numbers. They don’t go we’ve just noticed that on the whole, people in the country are having slightly more fun this year, which is great.
It would just be unthinkable. I mean, Bhutan has a National Happiness Index, but it’s still an index, right? It’s a quantification of happiness. So it’s not a qualitative feeling into the vibe, but the artists in the culture generally do that. The artists and the comedians and the writers and whoever else. That’s kind of the job of that. But they tend to have less power as well. So it’s complex. So basically I think the issue isn’t that we have this quantification, it’s that it’s trying to play a role that it has no right to play and isn’t designed to play. You don’t go to a scientist for or I would say, I think you shouldn’t go to a scientist for deep existential questions about what it means to be alive, because they can only give you answer, which is something that is quantifiable. Maybe a quantum physicist, they start to get a little bit more mystical because it is at that level.
Okay, and so what does all of this mean for the people who are using psychedelics and who actually say, hey, I want to use this tool that I have access to, that I got to know about, that I learned how to navigate it to some extent, yeah. What is in all of this? What is your message for all the psychedelic explorers here on Earth?
Well, I don’t know. I think everyone’s doing something a little bit different and on a different kind of process. But overall, I guess if there was a general message, it’s that I think we need to protect the idea of psychedelics as like socially transformative experiences and tools and molecules. And that’s very important because that was a major part of the reason I was so inspired by the psychedelic experience. Aside from the deep inner healing and the deep connection to something much beyond myself, which is absolutely life changing, I got very into the academia and the counterculture of psychedelics, particularly Terrence McKenna and Ramdas and Alan Watts and Anne Schulgen and lots of really brilliant thinkers. And the promise, I still very much believe in that promise that psychedelics can play an important role in changing the social and cultural game we’re playing. That’s not the only thing and it’s also not psychedelics by themselves, right?
It’s psychedelics in combination with a practice. And so that practice might be ritual, a particular type of ritual, it might be psychotherapy, it might be religious practice. What I’m particularly interested in and started to and write about in the book, but also have started to try and figure get moving in the real world is how do we combine psychedelic experiences with real world problem solving and creativity and conflict resolution and a lot of the very important problems that we’re having trouble solving. How can we use psychedelic processes to do that? So I’m thinking, for example, probably say low dose or medium dose processes where a group of people might get together with a shared problem. Or it could be individual problems that is not just focused on us, ourselves and our own inner work, which is also incredibly important, but is actually focused on how can we use our collective awareness and our collective problem solving, our collective creativity to actually start solving some problems.
Now that really excites me, because that is, so far, the psychedelic renaissance, as it’s called. Although I think, like many others, I’m kind of sick of that term. But it’s been so focused on mental health, and that’s an important strand. But what it hasn’t been focused on is, like yeah. What I think is the real potential, because basically, we can give brilliant psychedelic healing sessions to loads of people over the next ten years and we’re not going to solve the mental health crisis. I don’t even think we’re going to make much of a dent in it until we actually look at the underlying factors that are causing it. And so it’s like, okay, well wouldn’t it be as important just to get a lot of people together and go, hey, how do we solve, how do we start preventing or create systems and cultural norms in place that prevent the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?
Because that is going to be a massive driver of mental health in the future. So instead of just trying to put a band aid over it, which is what we generally do all the time with every problem, let’s actually do what the psychedelics tell us to do and show us how to do, which is go to the root. That’s what’s amazing about psychedelic healing. It goes to actually the truth and the root of what’s going on and that’s often a painful place and a difficult place, but it’s where the healing happens. So I think in a way it’s like I want to listen to the bigger message of the psychedelic experience which is like stop messing around and go to the root of things. That’s kind of what I think we can do as a community of psychonauts and people interested in psychedelics. And I think that’s going to take a lot of people working together.
What I’m particularly interested in is creativity and problem solving and systems change. But it’s probably going to take me quite a long time to get that off the ground and find the right people for that and experiment with protocols. And then there’s a whole bunch of other things that people could be doing. Like Leo Roseman at Imperial College. He’s just finished a study with Israelis and Palestinians who drink Ayahuasca together with the intention of conflict resolution. That work is super important. There’s probably way other things out there that no one’s thought of yet, which would be incredible for proper, safe, effective protocols to be developed around that it could be so many different things. So? Yeah. I don’t know. It requires our creativity and coordination to figure out what could we do with these.
Yeah, absolutely. But it does also seem to me that thinking of two things actually the collective unconscious I think there are many things happening already. I happened to speak to someone last week who literally said, yeah, we’re starting this project where we actually want to use psychedelics for problem solving. And thinking of those experiments I forgot the name at Manlow Park that they did with sort of medium doses of masculine and LSD, I believe, where they had people work on a professional problem and that was in the 60s, right? So something like that. And let’s bring together people who are all up for it, who are all ready to look at the root of things and sort of solve the bigger problems in this world than just kind of staring at your own navel for your own healing. So I think this is all happening on different levels and also because of maybe the stigma is now slowly getting less and less.
So it is easier to talk to people, it is easier to do some podcasting and set up organizations and be open about it. How positive are you about this overall sort of movement? Because of course a lot needs to happen and I think maybe it’s not even an interesting question because this is something also we cannot really quantify it. We don’t really know to what extent is really change is happening. Right?
Yeah. So do you mean the movement as a whole or do you mean the movement specifically more? Yeah, that’s a big question.
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I really go back and forth with that question over the different over the years, as I’m sure you do. Overall I’m cautiously optimistic because also in 2020 particularly we had that huge gold rush of investment into the psychedelic space with billions of dollars raised and all this. And I’m really satisfied because like others I was saying this is a huge bubble. These people don’t understand psychedelics. This is coming from absolutely the wrong. Not all of them, not to speak for everyone, but for a lot the biomedical capitalist pharma model is not the model we need for psychedelics. We don’t need a psychedelic world captured by the worst aspects of the system that it could transform. That bubble has burst and there’s half the amount of money in the space now and the people who are left I think are more likely to be in it for the right reasons and also now more cautious.
It was fascinating because it almost followed like a psychedelic trajectory of like when people take psychedelics for the first time. Generally this is pretty widespread and myself included. There’s a kind of oh my God, this is going to change the world. And then there is a kind of process of realizing the complexity of that and then maybe going into a little bit more of a darker space of cynicism and then coming out with perhaps more grounded balanced viewpoint. I see that trajectory happen all the time and I noticed it myself. And so that I think is inevitable. It’s just part of the experience and I think that we’re moving into that more mature phase. In some ways it’s also very difficult because it’s increasingly large. I don’t know. Psychedelic science in Denver was quite mind blowing in the sense it was like 12,000, 13,000 people in the center of a major city.
It’s very American, big, overwhelming.
Yeah, I’ve seen that people were there in costumes and it was booming and blasting in all sorts of ways. There was a lot of.
You know, in Colorado psychedelics, where plant medicines are decriminalized. So there’s this whole other energy of and it had only happened a few months before. There was whole other energy of sort of potential. It was both the best and the worst of American culture at the same time, I would say. Right, which is almost how I would define America a lot of the time. It’s often very extremes.
It is always polarized.
Yes, they’re always polarized coming exactly. I feel like sort of cautiously optimistic because I also think that I really have a lot of love for fellow people in the psychedelic community who’ve been in it for a while, who’ve dedicated who care about it. There’s a lot of intelligence and generosity and compassion and creativity in the core community, which is growing all the time, which is great.
And I think it’s just a question of there’s an evolution to it and it’s continuously evolving. And I think that I do feel overall positive because ultimately it’s also I feel neutral because it’s like it’s totally up to us. And that’s another thing that certainly psychedelics have taught me. It’s like there’s loads of possibilities of which way it could go and if those of us who care about it decide to do nothing, then probably it’ll go the way of sort of biomedical, know, Gwyneth Paltrow bullshit. But if everyone who cares about it really kind of coordinates and puts their energy and dedication, then it’ll go also in a different direction. We’ll go in both directions, probably at the same yeah.
What comes to mind for me now is also integration. Like are we integrating our lessons? Are we integrating and putting them into practice? This also in our professional work, also in our yeah, I’m speaking now as someone who is professionally active in this field, but yeah, that’s truly up to us. Yeah, I very much agree with that. And the field is growing, the space is definitely growing and I think also with all the education, like I hear people say this all the time, education is so key. So if we keep on educating ourselves and we keep on learning from our psychedelic experience and our communal experience and our real life experiences, then yeah, there is a good chance that we get to move forward in a positive direction at least. But what is it going to look like? I also have no idea. Yeah, I wanted to go back with you towards the topic of AI because you mentioned it before and I know that in the book also, you take quite some time to talk about AI and the internet as what do you call it?
Sort of like a sort of playground. Also to learn and evoke transformation on a bigger scale as the collective. So please explain how this relates to psychedelics.
Yeah, the argument I’m kind of making is that the subtitle of the book is how psychedelics can help us make sense of the world. So how can we take what we learn from the psychedelic experience and apply it to the real world and making sense of what’s going on and then perhaps actually enacting change? And I think the Internet in particular is one of the most relevant areas for this because shamans for tens of thousands of years have been skilled at going in and out of different realities. You have this regular real world social reality and then you have the reality of the psychedelic experience, which is also often full of different spirits and entities that shamans make alliances with, particularly DMT related experiences. And so it’s also a realm which is full of symbols and complexity and it’s super intense. There’s a lot of information coming all at once and that is very similar to the internet.
And increasingly as AI develops and as virtual reality develops more and more like the internet. Right? And there’s also interesting parallels between the birth of the Internet and psychedelics and a lot of crossovers, not necessarily that one directly led to another. It’s just there’s an interesting there was a very strong utopian kind of hippie element in the early internet and so actually I didn’t talk about that in the book because it wasn’t space, but I did research it for it with that in mind. It’s like, okay, well, what are some of the things that we can take from the psychedelic experience and apply? So one is getting good at dealing with complexity and dealing with multiple different loads of information flying to you at once and getting good at discernment. So figuring out what can I trust and what can’t I trust? And that’s, like, a state skill of being able to find what’s relevant and meaningful in all of this information and stay centered in yourself as you do it and not get totally lost and dissociated and like, wow, I’ve been caught in a rabbit hole, and now I believe every conspiracy theory that anyone tells me kind of thing.
Right? So this is also super important that we have this solidness in ourselves. That’s true in psychedelics and it’s also true in the internet. There’s also the experience of dealing with non human entities. So we don’t know what DMT spirits and entities are, right? We have no idea. Maybe we’ll never know. But what we do know for sure is that human beings have the lived experience of encountering and interacting with and exchanging information with non human entities, whatever they may be. That’s really similar to what’s now happening with AI very quickly and increasingly. You don’t really know if, say, you’re talking to a customer service agent at your bank, you don’t necessarily know if it’s an AI or if it’s a person already. But it’s going to get even more crazy where we won’t know whether whole personalities and people are AI. We might even see AI religions springing up, which is something I think we will.
You know, there was a guy in Belgium who an AI chatbot convinced him to kill himself because he was really obsessed with climate change and his impact on it. And then his wife said he developed this relationship with the AI where it was like his best friend and it eventually convinced him the best thing you can do for the Earth is to commit suicide because then you’re like one less person, which he did, which is sad and crazy, but it’s already happening. And so there’s this amazing story that Michael Harner relates, which is so Michael Harner was one of the first people to study Ayahuasca from the west, like in the he had this experience with his shaman in the Amazon where he was on Ayahuasca and these two huge entities came, like these huge dragons, and they were like, bow down before us. We’re the gods of the universe.
We control everything. And he was really freaked out, like, oh, my God. And then the next day, he asked the shaman, he’s like, oh, I had this experience, and these dragons came, and he was like shaman was like, oh, describe the dragons. What did they look like? He’s like, oh, they’re like this. And he was like, oh, did they say they’re the lords of the universe? He’s like, yes. He’s like, now they’re full of shit, don’t they?
I know those guys.
Yeah, they’re full of shit. And so it’s really like that in a lot of shamanism that you don’t know who to trust in that realm. You don’t know. Just because someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s the same with people, right? And already with the Internet, we already have that experience of catfishing, and it’s really a realm of deception and also full of unconscious desires and violence and sex and buy this and do this and watch this, and you can be whatever you want to be. Express yourself. Identity is whatever you say it is. It’s a different realm, and it’s not the real world is the thing. So we also have to get good at so also, psychedelics, if we apply them correctly, can help us dip in and out of that realm, which we’re doing hundreds of times a day. Normally, we’re like, online on your phone, then you’re like at a train station online on your phone.
That is a skill. And we’re not really good at it because the technology is so new and it’s also designed to keep us really engaged. So I think we can learn a lot from psychedelics about how we get better at navigating.
Yeah, I’m thinking about it also. It develops really fast. We get used to it partially. We know that if you go on Instagram, people are using filters and all sorts of things, and we know it, but that doesn’t mean that we’re mastering it yet. Not at all. Yeah, this is really fascinating, and I know that also in the book, you offer some ways to navigate, some tools to actually navigate those realms. And I’m actually wondering right now, do those also apply? So maybe you can talk about them a little bit. I think it’s four or five different techniques. And do those also apply to going online?
Yes, definitely. So there’s a few, I call them flipping, blending, grounding and twisting. And I’ll talk about them briefly and I’ll talk about actually some of the practical practices that are useful as well. But generally a lot of them are based really around being flexible, curious and flexible. Right. So flipping, for example, is being able to sort of jump between these two different realities. Really fluidly, right? And that skill I was just talking about, Grounding, is that we can stay connected to our bodies just like in a psychedelic experience when we’re online. It’s a very disembodied world, right, and where almost like, the world of theory and thought and imagination sort of becomes real, and we need to stay grounded in the process. And we saw this happen in a really extreme way during QAnon and the January 6 riots or insurrection in the US.
Because QAnon was this sort of like imaginary fantasy myth that became real for people. And then as they were actually storming the Capitol, a lot of them were like, you can see in the pictures, people are like it’s almost like they’ve woken up from a dream and they’re suddenly there. And one of the ringleaders said from his prison cell, he said, reality hit fantasy like a car wreck. It was like, oh, my God. Because they were ungrounded, and they started believing this kind of mythic fantasy, basically. And there’s lots of that online, so we have to stay connected to there’s this meme touch grass. I don’t know if you ever seen that which younger people use. It’s basically you’ve been online too much, go outside and touch some grass. And I think it’s very interesting that these things come out of the culture, right? And then twisting is being in a way to navigate the online world.
You have to be able to speak the language of all the different subcultures online, right? I just went on TikTok about a month ago, and the films are really popular, and the first one went viral, and so I was like, suddenly now have all these TikTok followers, and I have a really great TikTok marketing guy, and he gets the space. And it has been this whole process of having to twist my own way of communicating to meet a different realm, right? Like, different drugs have different effects, different social media platforms have different rules and effects. Like, TikTok is very like, everything’s fast, everything’s in your face, everything’s. Like there’s like a cliffhanger at the end of every sentence. It’s like, oh, but what about this? And so at first, I was like, oh, God, this is such a different style.
You want to know what to expect, right? It’s the same when you’re taking a drug, if someone just puts something in your drink and you have no idea what you’re getting into. And it’s actually the same with micro dosing. It happens occasionally that someone starts micro dosing and they have no idea about the dosing, so they take ten times as much or 100 times as much. It has happened. Of course, they’re in for a completely different ride. But, yeah, it’s important to know what you’re getting into, and then you can apply the rules or start learning the rules.
Yeah, absolutely. Twisting is like, okay, you got to twist to meet the difference online of these different ecosystems and these different types of people and different tribes and whatever it might be. And I think what really binds a lot of the techniques is flexibility is the key psychological capacity and skill that we need to navigate the complex world that we’re in. Also to go through a psychedelic experience. Well it’s also the skill that George Bonneau, who’s a trauma expert, he argues that it’s actually the skill that helps people heal from trauma most effectively. It’s the thing that across people is that they have a flexibility with what they’re doing and say, okay, this didn’t work, I’m going to try this. This element worked here, I’m going to combine it with it. So flexibility I think, is extremely important. My wife, Ashley Murphy Beiner, she published research on ayahuasca which showed that Ayahuasca in the afterglow period in particular increases mindfulness and cognitive flexibility.
So psychedelics can help us with this and I think intuitively people know that genuinely it helps us to loosen our grip on what we think has to be true and is more flexible with what can be true and what’s possible.
Yeah, when someone who is depressed or under stress or it can also be a bit of a personality where you see things more black and white than they actually are, you just tend to think in these terms or your perfectionist towards yourself. You’re very highly critical. So you can either do it right or do it wrong. And this of course narrows our consciousness level so much and yes, going into the other direction is just giving that relaxation and that sort of yeah, I see this as a very important one, especially when it comes to mental health, but also in general also.
Yeah, absolutely. And to add to that, I think ideology and intense fixation on your own political position is the sort of political equivalent of that same problem where we can’t think outside, we can’t have that fluidity and flexibility because there’s not a single I mean, in a sense, every ideology is a conspiracy theory. And while some of them really speak to some truths about life and have a lot of important signal in them, none of them is true all the time. And that’s just like there’s not a single ism what that’s true know that’s a big message from the psychedelic counterculture that inspired me, particularly people like Karen’s McKenna. It was like ideology is not helpful. Ideology is never going to take us where we need to go. We’re not going to find an ideology that goes like, oh amazing, this explains all of human experience and we all just do this, then everything will be great.
It’s a fantasy, right? So what we need is a much more complex, flexible, fluid approach to how we solve our problems together and that’s like moving into a new phase of being human collectively. That’s kind of what we need. We need this what I call a complexity culture. It’s like a culture that isn’t getting fixated on these black and white possibilities, but is actually going it’s also not getting lost in a mushy relativism where everything is like, oh, this is relative here, and this is relative. And everyone my biggest annoyance is like, oh, yeah, all the different spiritual practices, they all go to the same place. I’m like, no, they don’t. They absolutely don’t go to the same place. They all go to different types of spiritual experience, right? And similarly, different practices don’t different ideologies don’t. So we have to have a whole, I think, different conception of really the complexity of being alive.
And for me, that’s what psychedelics do. Take a psychedelic and you’re like, oh my God, there’s so much more going on than I thought.
Yeah. Like, oh, this is also true. I thought this was true, but this and this and.
This too many things are true. Yeah, it’s true.
Okay, I think there are two more techniques or there’s a few more techniques. So let’s see if we can also yeah, I’m trying to keep the thread up here.
Flipping grounding and holding and holding is basically I’ve done the three of them. I think holding is basically what were just talking about, funnily enough, which is holding multiple perspectives at the same time. It’s like, how can we instead of going, this is right, this is wrong, how can we hold a larger frame? In the book, when I talk about the cognitive science and the neuroscientists of psychedelics, the metaphor I use, or borrow, actually, from Vervecki and a few others, is reframing. It’s like we’re looking through glasses at the world. And what psychedelics and other practices do is help us take off the glasses and look at the glasses and then expand them out so we get a wider frame. We see more. I think this is a natural, I don’t know, law of the universe, but certainly we see it reflected in the natural world and in systems, including the human body, is that we go to greater orders of complexity.
We start like, as a single cell organism, and then suddenly we’re going to Mars, right? Because that’s multiple multi-cell organisms connecting with other ones in this kind of exponential, interconnected, complex system. And so that’s actually something I talk about in the book a lot, is the necessity of understanding the difference between a complicated system and a complex system. Because all of our problems are complex, which means that they are changing as we’re trying to solve them. They’re like a living, changing organism. A complicated system is like a car engine where it’s super easy to fix when you know what’s wrong with it. But generally, policy wise and culturally, we often try and fix, like, okay, we have this problem, we’re going to fix it by treating it as if it’s a complicated system by putting in a new law, for example, and that’ll make that people stop doing that, but of course it doesn’t work.
So many other implications.
Exactly. People are getting addicted to heroin, let’s make drugs illegal and then of course we all know how that goes.
Yeah, cool, wonderful. Thank you for explaining all of that. Yeah, we’ve touched on many things. One thing we haven’t touched on yet though is microdosing. And yeah, I said it before, I’m kind of curious how you view micro dosing as a practice, but also as a movement of people who are very much fond of taking psychedelics in tiny doses that aren’t giving this. Overwhelming experience with lots of information and you really need to know how to navigate it because otherwise but who say like, hey, it does give me that additional focus that is normally hard for me to reach. It also gives me more awareness of what is going on in the present moment, whether that’s something good or helpful or beautiful or whether that’s something that actually triggers me, but then I become aware of my trigger and I have some time to investigate that.
And so this know, as we see here at Microdosing Institute, it’s a growing movement, it’s also a movement that a lot of people see so much potential in and they coach others or guide others or see all these options for problem solving and making it an important tool for humanity as well. So is this something you can also talk to?
Yeah, a little bit. Probably less than any other guest because like I said before, we’re recording it’s probably the area of psychedelics I know least about, especially in terms of my own direct experience, but I think the same principles apply, which is like you were just speaking to, and I feel similarly about any high dose psychedelics. It’s the intention and the practices you’re using alongside them that really matter. I think it’s fantastic that it’s available and a practice that’s growing and expanding because it will give something different, everything gives something that nothing else can give in the sense that you can get things from a high dose experience that nothing else can give. This kind of real, breaking your frame, complete reevaluation of what your previous framework was, and then with good integration, making something new. But there’s something very different but interestingly in the retreats that I run and in my own experience, it’s like the real work isn’t not the real work, there’s as much work in preparation of that and integration, of course.
So that is like how do you actually apply that? And I think what can be potentially really valuable about Micro Dosing is in a way you’re doing the living life and the processing integration in a way at the same time from what you’re describing. And that’s very valuable as well. Right? It’s almost like a different type of practice, like a life practice and then is going to be very affected, I think, by what you’re doing. And I think if it’s raising an awareness and a mindfulness and heightening that sensitivity of like, oh, okay, when I do this, I feel like this and when I don’t do this, I feel like this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to make this choice. And I think that’s super valuable. I think my always and I actually want to hear from you because I’m super curious about this.
The big question mark I have is between the difference between a mini dose and a micro dose and what people’s experience is around that, right? Because in some models I see like a micro dose is almost sort of homeopathic level of like you don’t really feel anything and then other people are like, no, there is a slight feeling. And then I’ve heard people say like, no, okay, but there’s a slight feeling that’s really a mini dose. And so I’m curious about where do you guys stand on that? Because that’s my biggest question.
Yeah, we also think one of the biggest misconceptions is this, what do you call it description of microdosing definition, as if it were sub-perceptual. It is not subperceptual because you are perceiving. You are perceiving different things, other things, but it is sub-hallucinogenic and it shouldn’t give you anything that really interferes with your daily life or that makes it difficult to operate in the normal sense with your normal activities. So we always say sub-hallucinogenic when it becomes a bit more of a psychedelic experience. I would say that is mini dosing. And yes, everyone has to calibrate and find their own microdose, their own sweet spot or wherever that lies. It can differ from day to day because we also see that set and setting is tremendously important. So there are days where I take the same micro dose and on some days I don’t feel it at all and on other days I do feel it quite strongly.
Come on. So set and setting for sure. And then what was the other thing? Yeah. And I do think it is also very important that we learn that we actually build a relationship with that substance, because we’ll be taking it for longer periods of time in our day to day life. And we really want it to help us instead of to interfere or to give an experience that we cannot really control. So yeah, with our community, we always talk about this. We very much emphasize this calibration process. And what a lot of people actually find out is that they start for instance, they start taking, let’s say, 0.2 grams of dried mushrooms, but they end up taking only 0.1 or even 0.5 grams. So it’s like very they fine tune themselves, they calibrate usually downwards. And you could argue that at some point maybe it becomes more of a spiritual practice that they see.
I just want to feel the presence of this medicine, it’s my ally and I just want to have a pinch and that’s it. And I fully subscribe to that. Why would you take more? And also the same with what you mentioned about it is almost like life, it becomes life. It becomes like how do you navigate through life instead of through your microdosing process or cycle? At some point for some of us, it becomes irrelevant whether we microdose or not. At some point we don’t feel like we need it anymore or we know it’s there, but we don’t really have to use it. So I think this is really the this is interesting, right? This is kind of what touches upon all of what we’re just speaking about.
Yeah, no, that’s great. Thank you for the description and certainly I think that makes perfect sense to me, sub hallucinogenic rather than sub-perceptual, because sub-perceptual is a bit of a paradox, right? Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and I like that in a sense, it’s just a different practice around psychedelics in that way. And ideally there’s a whole spectrum of practices and norms and communities that can give mutual peer support, which sounds like this is exactly what’s happening and what you guys are doing, which is, I think, really important. And you know, the other thing that springs to mind is like, there’s also physical benefits to psychedelics which are increasingly being investigated for pain management. It’s so funny. I was telling Natasha Pilgrim, who I worked with doing running retreats, I was saying to her on our last retreat about migraines, I used to get really bad migraines up until I was like 18, which is also the first time I took mushrooms.
Now I haven’t really had a migraine since then. And I was like, yeah, I bet. I was like, obviously psilocybin cures for some period of time, cluster headaches, which are like suicide headaches, the worst headaches you can get, and I think they’re serotonogic or they’re related to serotonin, so it’s really intense. And I was bet. I wonder if anyone’s done any research on migraines and psilocybin and then saw on social media, like the next week there’s a new study around, I think maybe from Johns Hopkins as well, around psilocybin having an effect on alleviating migraines. And I thought that’s really interesting because in the very first breaking convention there was a group of people sitting in the corner. It was really, it was really niche, it was really underground. It was like twelve years ago, this one, or 1312, I think. And so there was a group who just looked really out of place and I went to talk to them, to get to know them and they were from Cluster Busters, they all had cluster headaches and they all wanted to basically they were like, this works.
They were like, we’re not really interested in shipping at all. It’s almost a side effect of the thing. And. Then, you know, in those cases. And my friend James Close is part of a study at Imperial looking at chronic pain, which is also really interesting because it’s a non psychological thing. Not everyone who’s got chronic pain or cluster headaches or migraines is necessarily going to want to have a psychedelic experience, nor should they have to in order to alleviate those symptoms. So I think that’s another aspect of microdosing where potentially it’s really beneficial in that way too.
Yeah, exactly. It does open us up to holistic ways of healing and also mystical ways of healing, just ways in which we cannot always expect ourselves to heal, but yet it happens. And I think Ayahuasca is also a great example of there’s so many sort of mystical healings that have happened and maybe one day we’ll find out. The medical world is also very much interested in this and cluster headaches is another great example, I think also the working mechanism is still not very known, but it does work. And we actually recorded a podcast with Bob Walt who is the founder of Clusterbusters. Yeah, because it’s sort of always been on our radar also for quite.
Have do they have to take for it to work for cluster headaches? Do they take micro doses now or do they take bigger doses or I’m just curious about that.
So there is a protocol that is relatively effective with micro doses but actually Heinz is more of an expert on this. It’s actually mini dosing. So a microdose might still be too little in some of these cases. Yeah, and they want to do some research as well with a substance that is similar to LSD, but it does not give a psychedelic experience at all. It has been tested out already by individuals, not as official academic research and it worked as well. But yeah, the good thing about microdosing, what I think also for many people, it is just a lower entry level, it’s more accessible, it is less scary. And so they find that it is kind of a sweet and gentle way to explore their inner world and that might also open them up to all these ideas that we’ve been talking about today. So to animism the value of nature, the value of working as a collective and they of course also get curious very often to have a high dose journey, but then also they come from a different perspective.
They don’t come usually from that quick fix mentality anymore.
I think that’s very important because one of the things I care a lot about is state training and helping people, to help people train into how to navigate a state. And sometimes I feel like that’s my job mainly. It’s almost like sometimes think of myself like a Skydiving instructor, except it’s into the mind. Only they can do the Skydiving and it’s their journey and it’s their process. But you can definitely tell them the ways to flow with the experience and when to lean in, when to lean out. And so I’m really interested in that and I think it’s very good for most training for a skill starts with like okay, you’re going to go surfing but you’re actually going to start with the surfboard on the sand, we’re not going to even get in the water yet. And it’s the same with lots of it.
So I think it makes a lot of sense as one potential trajectory because also when people have a psychedelic experience where the dose is a bit too high for them and it’s their first one or even a regular dose. Sometimes they can dissociate, as in they’re not present with the experience because they get overwhelmed. And they haven’t yet learned the skill of how to hold that level of energy and be with it because it takes a while to get used to that. And so even, I even think people’s first experience should obviously be done safely and consciously and not be like a massively high dose, be like a sort of medium low dose to be like, okay, this is what this is, and then start moving it up from there. So it’s the same idea I think.
Yeah, well this makes me realize we’re coming to the end of our hour. It does make me realize we haven’t talked about your DMT experience in the trial where you got, what was it, four or five good doses of DMT injected. But I would say let’s save that for the book and people who are curious about it, let’s direct them to your book.
Yes, thank you. They can read all about it there and I can just say it was as wild as I’m beautiful and actually healing as it sounds.
Encounters with entities and all of it. I want to thank you for this whole conversation. It’s been very rich and interesting and inspiring. Is there anything else you would like to share or do you feel like this is complete and we can just.
Tell where people well, no, just a big thank you. I’ve really enjoyed it as well. It’s also cool to sort of deepen my understanding of microdosing as a practice. That’s really helpful for me because it’s like I said, it’s an area where I want to learn more about and is like a gap in my knowledge of the psychedelic practices as well. So that’s really cool and I love what you guys are doing and the way you’re approaching it in terms of yeah, no, I think I feel pretty good. I mean obviously people can dive into these ideas a lot more in the book and I also write on Substack so I write regular pieces not just about psychedelics but also about other sort of big picture. It’s called The Bigger Picture in my Substack, so other obviously big picture topics. So people are interested in these ideas as well.
Main place is the book and then also I dive into them also in the Substack quite regularly.
Yeah, so can you just spell it out one more time? What is your Substack and is there any other place where people can find you if they would like to connect with you?
Yeah, so the Substack is just Beiner; Beiner Substack.com and the Substack is called The Bigger Picture, like the book, which is also called The Bigger Picture. And then also I’m on Instagram and TikTok on Alexander underscore Binder so people can check out. And also I have some short films about my DMT extended state experiences on TikTok as well for the quick summary. Quick, intense summary of experiences too.
Okay, cool. We’re going to check that out and we’ll put it in the show notes and yeah. Thank you once again, Alexander, and to you, our dear listener. I hope you had a great time listening to this conversation. Let us know in the comments what you’ve picked up on or anything you feel called to share with the global community. Thank you for exploring with us to A.
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