Psychic Trips or the Misappropriation of Psychedelic Culture?
I watched a documentary about the American government's experiments with "remote viewing" (called "Third Eye Spies") the other day and it caught my interest. The film clearly took the position that this supposed psychic phenomenon was real and set out to convince the viewer to do the same. I tend to be highly skeptical of anything of the "woo woo" persuasion but I was struck by some of the descriptions of the alleged extra sensory perception. The "remote viewers" talked about experiencing visual and other sensory stimuli without having encountered any. Some claimed to have shared experiences. Flashes of unseen color and light were associated with the ability to be a "remote viewer" by some of the subjects in the film. Upon hearing those things, I couldn't help but to be reminded of my own psychedelic excursions and the various "trip reports" of others that I have read over the years. I have experienced some strange coincidences on psychedelics and some of the more well traveled psychonauts claim to have left their bodies and communicated with strange entities in even stranger places. In short, there is a similarity between this claimed psychic sensation and a psychedelic trip. Why is this the case? That is a question that I have been grappling with for the past few days. I don't tend to believe in psychics or other supernatural things but I have noticed some rather odd occurrences on mushrooms. I want these fantastical claims to be true but I also have a suspicious mind and I am compelled to assume that they are the product of misinterpretations of normal reality or are lies that are concocted by charlatans who hope to exploit our belief in such things. I can't say, with any certainty, which of these things is true but I thought it might be fun to briefly discuss both possibilities here.
The more interesting of the two possibilities is that people do possess the potential to produce some psychic power and that the similarities between the psychedelic experience and "remote viewing" exists because they are two manifestations of the same process. There is some reason to, at least, consider this as a possibility (though I would say that it falls short of being called evidence). The U.S. government spent quite a lot of money researching "remote viewing" during the cold war and there are rumors that it continues to this day. Why would they keep incurring that expense if there was nothing there? The descriptions of the "remote viewing" process closely mirror certain aspects of the psychedelic experience. The "experts" in that field claim to see distant places without being there; much like DMT users report traveling to other literal planes of existence and receiving new information and knowledge from what they encounter. They spoke of seeing flashes of color which is reminiscent of some of the hallucinations that I and many other psychedelic users have had. Shared experiences or "visions" are commonly reported by both psychonauts and "remote viewers" (that is, they claim to have literally seen the same thing place during their separate "remote viewing" sessions). Of course, none of that is real evidence but it gives me pause when I try to dismiss this idea.
I have, personally, had a few trips that felt like they were coming from somewhere else and I have been in groups of people who have all experienced the same unusual occurrences. For those reasons, I find myself being drawn to the idea that there was something happening beyond my brain and it's reaction to a drug when I have tripped in the past. I remember sitting silently for hours during a particularly bad trip while my friend did the same. After quite some time, we turned to each other and uttered the same word ("pathetic") at precisely the same moment. Then, proceeded to explain our mindsets to one another. Shockingly, we had both been going the same negative thought loop without knowing that the other was experiencing the same rather specific emotional event. I can't explain why that happened but it makes me want to believe that there is something that we don't know about psychedelics and the power of the mind.
Of course, this could all be bullshit. The psychonauts may just be tripping and the psychics may be liars. There is no real evidence, beyond anecdotal reports, that psychedelics produce supernatural phenomena. There isn't really any evidence that supernatural phenomena exist. The "remote viewers" were operating during a psychedelic revolution and knowledge of these drugs, their effects, their culture, and the "mythology" that surrounds them would have been fairly common. A group of charlatans could have appropriated bits of psychedelic culture to make their lies and magic tricks seem more credible. Why create a new psychic lore when there is a preexisting one, accepted by a significant segment of a popular counter-culture movement, which can be easily plagiarized? There was motive for these people to lie too. They benefited from government contracts and profited from their supposed powers. It would have been quite simple for the "remote viewers" to research the psychic claims associated with psychedelics (whether they are valid or not) and incorporate some of those elements into their explanations of their alleged abilities.
I would love to confirm that my own strange psychedelic experiences were real. The world would be more exciting if eerie powers and out of body travel were possible. New modes of exploration would be amazing and visiting literal alien worlds through my inward journeys appeals to me. However, I need more than some weird trips and a moderately convincing documentary to make a believer of me. We have been lied to time and time again by countless people who claimed to possess powers beyond understanding. Psychedelics are serious drugs and that fact makes our trips and our interpretations of them untrustworthy by their very nature. The similarities between tripping and the reports of psychic activity are intriguing but I can't shake the feeling that the connection is false or, at least, fantastical than it might seem.
All the images in this post are sourced from the free image website, unsplash.com.
As I mentioned above, the documentry that I referenced here is titled, "Third eye Spies." It is availble on Amazon Prime at the moment, for anyone who is interested