Podcast 419 – “A Conversation from the Margins”

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Guest speakers: Nese Devenot

Photo credit: Randy Mayfield

Photo credit: Randy Mayfield

PROGRAM NOTES:

Today’s podcast features a conversation with Nese Devenot who pose a number of challenging questions. One of the issues they raise regards the reluctance of some of us in the psychedelic community to discuss some of the serious problems that arise out of a false sense of protecting the reputation of us all. Hopefully this will be the beginning of an ongoing discussion of this important topic.
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Neşe Devenot
is a founder the Psychedemia psychedelics conference and a PhD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies and teaches psychedelic philosophy and the literature of chemical self-experimentation.

Website: https://upenn.academia.edu/ndevenot
Contact: ndevenot (at) sas (dot) upenn (dot) edu

Posted in Consciousness, Culture, Family, Future, Nese Devenot, Psychedelics.

15 Comments

  1. While I enjoyed this conversation and appreciated the female academic perspective of psychedelic subculture, I admit feeling pangs of irritation at some of their threads.

    In particular: “We both have Ivy League degrees, you know, it’s like, that gives us this level of power that other people, like, don’t have.”

    As one of the “Other People,” I hope future contributions from these “Sisters of the Extreme” move away from uptalking Valley vernacular and are slightly less condescending to the community at large.

    Thank you for the share Lorenzo!

  2. Excellent discussion of important topics. The way these two smart women listened to each other and responded and took their own space in the discourse was a model of non-competitive conversation I really enjoyed and will think about. I thought JG’s response and contextualizing of the podcast was equally provocative and insightful.

    My own thoughts feel less developed than JG’s but I want to offer one important mitigating thought on the abuses within the psychedelic community. One of the difficulties with achieving the kind of transparency and variety of opinions and open dialog and moral accountability which Nese and Lily are calling for is a problem peculiar to psychedelic research; that is the legal status of using these medicines/substances. It mitigates heavily against the kind of peer review process or truly open culture in which such benign checks and balances might act to keep things healthy. Even so it is all the more necessary for those with some clout and those who listen in to embrace the troubling facts presented enough to do what can be done to prevent further abuses.

    I also want to note that the competition for intellectual access to a public audience produces variations of ego-tripping, put downs, and power/money games throughout human communities of every kind( most shaman’s seem to have shamanic enemies) and while psychedelics as medicines should create a different quality of relationship, that is in the deepest sense the work we all do in response to the light we are given and not guaranteed by healing insights from the substances or techniques used. I love Lorenzo for the breadth of his friendliness and his respect for such a large range of speakers. He sets a great example.

    In light of the entire range of responses to this podcast I would like to see a show where one or more of the recent women speakers would focus on their own and other sisters’ personal growth and development as enhanced by psychedelics. Basically to riff a bit on the positive side.

    As a male artist ( brooksideglassworks.com ) who works with transparency light and glass, music breath and gardens, I found my own experience with these medicines opened up a deep respect for the feminine, a deep empathy for the exploited and a sense of my own feminine side that continues to inform my life. I am glad to have lived at a time when women have begun to be leaders and presences in every part of life.

  3. @Gregg-

    I had a similar response regarding the “naming and shaming,” as you call it. My main critique of the episode was that there was much discussion of confronting issues, but yet not much actual confrontation of issues. I think that is understandable. Lily and Nese did mention the problems with “burning bridges” and risking the platforms that they do have, etc. I think that is a real problem related to the larger issue of problematic power structures. You can see even in this comment section the kind of backlash women face from merely speaking out in very general ways. So, with that in mind, I think it is OUR job to support and encourage this discussion and do what we can to contribute to an environment where these truths can be brought into the light. If we do so, we can help to ensure that this discussion is the just the beginning, and encourage Lily and Nese and many other voices to return and further discuss these issues in an environment that is healthy enough to actually reckon with specific problems.

    Again, I have to thank Lorenzo for introducing this discussion. It is a very wise (and very psychedelic) thing to do to confront your own weaknesses and address your own problems honestly. I think most of us our pretty good at doing that as individuals, but it is good and necessary to do it as a community as well.

  4. Fantastic podcast, always lovely to hear these more female centric episodes recently. It’s definitely needed. I agree with Joey above, and thank JG for their very interesting response.

    I’d like to ask Lily and Nese: You had an interesting chat about “naming and shaming” the abusers and rock stars etc. You seemed to agree that this should be done. My question is then why didn’t you take the opportunity to do this during the episode? Is it because you are afraid of the possible repercussions?

    Keep up the great work!

  5. Absolutely brilliant. I admit that the first couple of minutes weren’t promising, symptomatic of the felt need by women in our culture to apologize for talking to general society. But very quickly it rocked. These girls know their Foucault. Some of the commentators owe it to themselves to educate themselves. He was a guy by the way.

    My one comment concerns the thing about wanting to be heard for what they have to say and not their gender. This may be a subtle one, but this preoccupation demonstrates an internalization of patriarchal norms and ignores the social construction of the subject. It is appropriate within a certain sphere no doubt, but, even leaving aside any essentialist views as to the inherent value of a “female” perspective, gender is a social construct that engenders (no pun) an experience of life which absolutely needs to be articulated. The search for validation by means of an imaginary gender-neutral realm of meaning, if it is not merely a self-consciously subversive tactic, is ultimately disempowering. So women should speak with an awareness that they bring a different experience of the world to the table, or that different experience will be airbrushed out of discourse.

    Enough lecturing on that. I also enjoyed JG’s comments, with which I largely sympathize, but I would like to add that the 60s countercultural movement is remembered/reconstructed fondly by those who were there as politically revolutionary, but it was anything but self-aware around issues of gender and it was easily as woo-woo as anything today. Ultimately one of the main contributing factors to its ebbing was precisely this lack of self-awareness. And I totally agree with the discussants that history may repeat itself. It is hard breaking ranks with the tribe because you can pay a heavy social cost; but it is imperative to speak your truth because otherwise there is no collective growth. On the other hand, there is a much broader pro-psychedelic movement today than there ever was in the 60s so I would tend to doubt that in the long run the unwillingness of some to acknowledge their dark side would in fact prevent the emergence of new social attitudes.

    Also, let’s acknowledge please that while Terence was a genius and gifted speaker, he did talk a lot of crap. We forgive him it as we would a beloved family member, but we should avoid contributing unnecessarily to his status as a cultural icon.

  6. Uh oh, a couple of women dare to express themselves and, hey look, some boys got their pee pees hurt. Gee, I’m shocked to see that in an internet comment section. But as we all know, for every one word a woman speaks, men are by default allotted a thousand. So by all means, pile on.

    Listen, if I can sit through two hours of goddamn Grover Norquist with an open mind, it wouldn’t kill any of you to hear a couple of intelligent women discuss things that may challenge your views. If you don’t see the “relevance” of things like members of OUR community being sexually assaulted, if you don’t even want to hear about it, you might consider some introspection. And when someone expresses that they don’t feel that their voices are heard enough in our community and your response is to basically tell them to STFU, it saddens me to see such a mean-spirited waste of perfectly good irony.

    There are hundreds of hours of discussions here in the Salon. Does it really hurt to your fee fees to hear women speak from the perspective of women for a measly hour? Anyone who’s used psychedelics should be sufficiently open-minded to ask themselves why this bothers them so much. Here’s a hint: I’d give a re-listen to my all time favorite Psychedelic Salon episode, #021, Ann Shulgin’s perfect “Psychedelic Psychotherapy and the Shadow.” Cliff’s notes: when you come across someone who REALLY irritates you, it’s usually because they are reminding you of something that you don’t like about yourself.

    Also, to the guy who asked “Where are your pod-casts, organizations, publications?”…seriously? You couldn’t be bothered to even read the incredibly descriptions of the speakers? If you had, you’d know that one of them does have her own podcast, and the other is a PhD candidate (safe to say there are some publications there). So, ya know, as it says in Proverbs: those who live in glass houses shouldn’t tell other people to get off their asses.

    To Lorenzo: more like this, please. I’ve been listening for many many years, and this is one of the most memorable. In a cosmic-giggle sort of way, it both makes up for the Norquist podcast and reiterates my comments about it: diverse opinions are necessary. (Though I’m always astonished at the diversity of opinions about how we should treat 50% of our population) If there is one lesson from psychedelics, it’s that we shouldn’t spend all of our time in the echo-chambers of our cultures, our ideologies, or even our own heads. Perhaps we need another Robert Anton Wilson podcast soon to reiterate that sentiment.

  7. I love listening to the podcasts on this site but was disappointed to listen to the identity politics material. Social justice warriors have sown disunity and destroyed many communities before. They did it to tye atheist community, they do it to the gaming community, even occupy wall street. Do not let them ruin our community. The ideas they have may sound nice but are utterly toxic and are based around critique only – they have no positive solutions to offer. Please dont drink the kool aid.

  8. [COMMENT by Lorenzo: This is an interesting and well reasoned comment. I highly recommend that you read it and give some thought to the issuse JG raises here.]

    It was great to hear some of these issues being addressed.

    I have some observations about how some of it might be put into historical perspective.

    An issue which the discussion touched on was the anxiety in the movement to present a friendly public face, because of the persecution that it’s faced in the past. This seems very important.

    It seems to me that the psychedelic movement has gone through several distinct phases since the days of its early criminalisation. In many ways the period of the counterculture,, late 60s, early 70s, still seems like the moment when it was most sophisticated in terms of the understanding of the need for a complex ecology of radical social, cultural, and political movements of which psychedelia could be only one strand. This was, crucially, the moment when, especially on the East Coast, psychedelic culture managed to break out of its traditional white enclave (John and Alice Coltrane had been tripping for years, but think Funkadelic, Miles Davis On the Corner, David Mancuso and the Loft, etc. etc.), which was deeply connected to the rise of Black radicalism. But as we all know, the counterculture was largely (not entirely) defeated by its enemies.

    The psychedelic resurgence of the 90s wasn’t political at all, really, but was informed by the discourse of Wired-magazine techno-utopianism, combined with a naive primitivism. Even McKenna was quite prone to this at times – the idea being that psychedelics were a kind of technical fix which in themselves would solve all our problems (see Pinchbeck et al…). This is still the default position of most burners, for example, I think – they’re not interested really in traditional social movements and their power struggles. They think yoga, the internet and MDMA are all they need. Most of them are so privileged that that’s probably true in their case.

    This situation is further compounded by the proximity of most psychedelic discourse to New Age discourse. The problem with that is that New Age is for the most part a consumerist appropriation of traditional forms of mysticism. Just look at how the mindfulness movement is extracting techniques from a practice which is designed to totally deconstruct the individualised self in order to neutralise their implicit radicalism and make them into efficient techniques for training google employees to be more productive. The Wired-model of psychedelia very easily becomes part of the same formation.

    More recently the main psychdelic project has been all about restoring psychedelics and research into them to scientific respectability. That’s great so far as it goes, but it’s almost built into the programme that any political agenda has to be denied. So a movement which is currently composed mainly of this third version plus the 90s version is almost inevitably going to find it very difficult to talk about wider questions of power. It may even be that in its current form, the psychedelic movement is predicated on not talking about those questions.

    Of course this isn’t the end of the story. Lorenzo’s championing of the Occupy movement’s radical democratic collectivism shows very clearly that the potential for a resurgence of politicised psychedelia is there.

    My suspicion – maybe this is wrong though – is that a psychedelic movement which could properly address the issues raised in this episode would have to be one which was willing to be quite critical of, at the very least, the banal liberal individualism which much of the scene has inherited from New Age and from the wider dominant consumer culture, and would have to look quite different to the current collective bid for respectability represented by MAPS et al.

    But of course the danger would be that the result would only be to lose the small but precious amount of ground that MAPS has already won, and the small space of cultural freedom represented by Burning Man (they let us keep it because, unlike the 60s, they don’t think there’s any danger that we’re actually going to change the world…but that’s still better than them not letting us have it at all). And that would be bad. Which is why I couldn’t claim to know what we should actually do. But I think this bigger strategic context is worth thinking about.

  9. Though I acknowledge the necessity of dealing with bad actors I felt this, like most social justice conversations, was like a snake eating its own tail.

    Those shamans that are abusing women? Make sure they have more exposure than Terence McKenna and if possible pressure their local government to prosecute.

    Bad actors at conferences? Shame and ban them. If the organizers won’t do it, shame them and start your own conferences.

    Picket, dox, give everyone concrete things we can do to fix the situation, anything.

    Just as long as we never, ever, have to talk about this ever again.

    This was the first Psychedelic Salon that caused a pain in the chest type panic attack/guilt fit.

  10. It’s not just you. I forced myself to hear them out, only to conclude at the end that I hadn’t taken anything from it. That I had been mentally tuning out too much, I suppose as a means to cope with the speaking style.

  11. I thought this episode was dry in its carefully measured academia and irritating in audio quality. I love most all of the speakers you post on the podcast but this one I turned off early on. I’m sure they hit on some interesting and even important points (based on the above comments), but I just couldn’t get into the cadence…so perhaps it’s just me?

  12. That was really interesting, thank you. The thing that struck me at first was how annoyed I got and how unusual for me it was to hear two women speaking in a podcast like this, in just the way women speak naturally. You take relationships as examples, you use “like”, “right”, “gorgeous”, “amen to that” etc, you let each other speak and listen, you are emotional and personal, but not only sharing your own problems but just as much those of others. It was, after my first small shock, really refreshing and empowering to hear! It made me feel like I could be heard too, and not by doing it as a man as I’ve been thinking is the way, but as a woman. I’ve always tried to hide that part of me as it somehow haven’t felt like I’d be taken serious – maybe because most of the people I hear speaking about wise things are men. With the wise words you have to share, it is impossible to take you as any other than that though!

    Brave to dare speak about it all. To take it seriously and making a point. It is difficult and dangerous. It is the only way to make it real though, to make the problems legitimate to talk about, and to open up for people with less status in this community to dare being hear when something bad is done to them. Very important and as said big part of what’s amazing with psychedelics – to face whatever present difficulty there is, and get through it. If we have learnt anything from the drugs, that should be as big part of the community.

    As for the question if to mention abusive people by name, I’d say yes, it should be done. The “silence to keep the peace/to not cause problems” is just not leading anywhere good. Issues need to be discussed, not hidden, it doesn’t solve itself. The “silence because I’m threathened to loose my possition and status” should be broken when in a fairly safe position, to open up for the ones with less status to do the same without risking anything. And for the “silence because it would cause a lot of trouble for the abuser” -it shouldn’t be talked about in order to fuck up the abusive people’s lives or create an unnecessary conflict, but as the victims suffer from not being able to share it, and the abusers can continue, its not acceptable. But one has to remember when bringing the discussion up that the abusers have both good and bad sides too. Everyone should be treated with compassion (which is a reason I don’t agree with your point of acting on and encouraging anger, but that’s an other discussion). Also important not to make a victim identity out of having been used/fooled/threatened, but simply letting people know what has happened and trying to make it not happen again. Speaking as a victim of sexual abuse who after 15 years did bring it up, still seeing it as the only sane thing I could have done (after trying not to for a long time). Not that it means my idea of how to handle it is by that more right than those thinking the opposite way, but just wanted to air my thoughts on the subject.

    Thank you very much again. Really important issues being brought up. I really enjoyed this 🙂

  13. Cannot see anything relevant in this segment.

    So what have you done of value? As far as I’ve seen, the groups you’re criticizing are focusing on the topic of psychedelics, not male not female psychedelics. Maybe that’s why others are giving them an audience. It seems you are coming late to the table, using the battle of the sexes to jump ahead of the others. I hope the discussion won’t be sidetracked by this noise. Where are your pod-casts, organizations, publications?

    Rick

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