I believe the time has come for all psychonauts to come out of the closet and proudly stand together so we can be heard. For too many years we've allowed social condemnation and the illegality of our experiences to prevent us from telling our stories. As long as we allow fear to subdue our voices, the narrative our larger society keeps telling — which is that all drugs are bad and serve no purpose — isn't likely to change. But we know the truth. Which means we have an obligation to future generations to tell them our truths, so they can learn from our successes and our mistakes.

So many of us turned to mind-expanding drugs for assistance at the crisis points in our lives, and through them found relief from our own inner demons. We lived through those countless moments in our spiritual development when we found ourselves suffering from unexpressed — often subconscious — longings to reconnect with the truth of who we are, so we know our own use of hallucinogenics forged a beautiful means to open up a channel into ourselves.

For too many years hallucinogenic journeys of self-discovery have been declared off limits by our societies, in part because they undermine the state's control over us. When we realize who we are, we're able to stand firm in our convictions about what's right and good and true, and to respond to life from a place of inner strength. By standing in our own power we render helpless those who would wield external force to manipulate us. However, because the cornerstone of every modern state is that it possesses a monopoly on force, none yet seem willing to tolerate activities that may render their coercive techniques ineffective. That's why most governments not only refuse to support us when we undertake a personal spiritual quest; they will undermine our attempts, should we be discovered.

Certainly we're invited to learn about God through any number of sanctioned religions that are eager to explain what God is, yet we're discouraged from having a gnostic experience of the god-force that flows within us. We're also taught to control and coordinate our physical bodies through socially sanctioned activities and sports, yet we're forbidden to intimately explore our physical bodies, or to investigate their abilities outside the bounds of what's been deemed acceptable.

We're further instructed to express only those emotions society tells us are useful, and to suppress all others that might be considered disruptive. We're told what to think, and how to regurgitate discrete, prepackaged servings of beliefs; while at the same time it's made clear to us which thoughts and ideas are off-limits to our minds. In short, everything about our modern life experience — spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental — has been reduced to a form of social conditioning; a means to ensure we'll each behave, think and feel in ways that won't undermine the stability of our society.

The irony, however, is that although the concerted coercive suppression of our divine higher selves might stabilize our society in the short run, in the long run such suppression is itself destabilizing. Over time too many of us have been successfully, albeit tragically, disconnected from our own spirits, distanced from the functions of our own bodies, made terrified of our own thoughts, and rendered unfamiliar with the landscape of our own emotions. That means we're inherently less capable of either discovering or delivering the wondrous, blessed gifts we were born to offer into this world. We've therefore created a society that — in the interest of preserving its own stability — has rendered dormant the creative genius that lies within its own people.

Childrearing today could be compared to a modern playground, what with its safety swings and plastic slides and soft sands everywhere. Childhood in general has gotten so manicured, structured and managed that no hint of wildness or danger remains. Whereas once children used to scamper imaginatively for hours through open fields and forests, playing at being knights or intrepid explorers, adults today organize all their activities, slicing and dicing each child's day into discrete functions, and prioritizing them based on adult opinions about which are the most important — with safety always a top priority. Over time then, almost imperceptibly, we've become separated from the wilderness, from nature, from the curiosity of self-exploration, from creative experimentation and emotional self-expression. We're reminded constantly of the risks we take by venturing beyond the parameters our society has drawn to guarantee safety…all with the best of intentions. Out beyond those massively walled, well manicured, and socially approved arenas of thinking and feeling, we're darkly warned, there be the dragons.

The above explains why I believe psychedelics perform an important and noble function in our society, and why we should not be shy about sharing our truths. Plant medicines in particular have been serving as stand-ins for the thoughtful, compassionate guidance our modern society seem to be lacking, at least when it comes to encouraging self-awareness.  Based on the stories the shamans tell, it's possible our plant ancestors actively conspired, and then took it upon themselves to educate us humans about things our elders weren't capable of teaching, namely because they hadn't themselves internalized those truths.

Under the watchful tutelage of Earth's plant medicines, our conditioned responses to reality are encouraged to dissolve, and we're invited to evolve beyond the adolescent alienation in which our species seems to have gotten mired. Our minds, launched beyond their familiar landscape, find themselves meandering through bewildering terrain, forced to seek alternative means of coping with experiences that are so beyond the realm of normal our minds cannot react in conditioned ways. A clear benefit of guided psychedelic exploration then, is to teach us to break through conditioned patterns that for too long have been used to manipulate us. Only by freeing our minds from their heavy layers of conditioning can we uncover the truth of who we truly are.

Some psychedelic journeys focus on helping us break through these conditioned mental patterns. Other journeys teach us to reconnect more fully with our own bodies, by inviting us to reclaim those parts of ourselves from which we're detached. Still other journeys goad us into feeling every emotion we've forcibly been suppressing. Above all, each journey offers us an open invitation to realize and experience the god-force that we are, but have forgotten.

Whatever a given journey's purpose may be however, the bottomless fear that we feel in such moments is real. Real too is the peaceful acceptance that arises on the heels of these fears. No…our mind will not gobble us up and swallow us whole if we give it permission to think some heretical thoughts.  No…our body will not imprison us forever with its physical demands if we opt to occupy it. No…our heart will not explode from grief or fear if we allow it to feel. No…when we stop running from our fears about who we are, we won't find a dragon lurking inside of us. In fact, the instant we cease resisting all these experiences of self, what we discover is that the only dragon we've ever really needed to confront is our own deeply conditioned assumption that we're incapable of the art of self-mastery.

Instead, we've been trained to live uneasily with a nagging sense of brokenness and incompetence. In our efforts to avoid confronting our own incompetency, so we can transform it by learning the art of self-actualization, all we've really done is inflate our own fears. Our fears about what we might be, do, or feel — at bottom, our fear of who we truly are — is what's been short-circuiting our journey of self-discovery. Eventually though, we each must confront the terrible truth of what we're doing to ourselves in the name of control. As individuals — and by extension, as a species — we've grown far more frightened of how much we don't know about ourselves than we are of what we suspect we'll learn once we find the courage to face the truth and meet it with open wonder.

A person who cowers in fear of self-discovery his whole lifetime has been forcibly disconnected from his own nature. He's surrendered his innate impulse to wonder in exchange for a pretense of safety. That causes unbearable pain for the mind and heart, enough to physically sicken the body and trigger a crisis of spiritual dimensions.  The good news is: it's in that moment of existential crisis that a person is rendered ripe for self-realization. He or she intuits that the only cure for this dis-ease is to develop a greater intimacy with the mysterious, and largely suppressed, inner self; because without that communion we're starved for meaning and lacking a reason to live.

Hallucinogenic experiences rip away our illusions of self-control along with any pretense of personal safety, so we're stripped to a state of naked awe when we meet the vastness of ourselves. We become pure awareness, and all sense of ourselves as limited, broken or incompetent gets subsumed within the realization we are. Of course, over time the plant energies slowly withdraw, and the ego begins to reformulate itself. And yet something's different. Our blinders have dropped away to some extent. We begin to recognize social conditioning for what it truly is: it's only a set of shared agreements that dictate how we're supposed to relate to the world. They are not the absolute truth of the world itself. And sadly, because so many of our shared agreements were forged in the absence of any communion with the god-force that informs our greater cosmos, too many are life negating, not life-affirming. We additionally realize that, if and when we choose, we hold the power to reimagine, reconfigure, or even discard our conditioned responses at any time.

Plant medicines are not the only key that releases the bonds that hold us back from exploring our own true natures, nor are they right for everyone under every circumstance. Ultimately, however, our society would do well to shed its longstanding hostility toward these journeys of self-discovery. That's why it falls upon those of us who know the truth to speak out as one and facilitate this change — not merely by falling back on recommending plant medicines to cure our physical ailments, but by honoring the value of the entirety of their mission.

By applying the collective wisdom of our experiences, we have the ability to create warm, inviting and protected environments sanctioned — rather than punished — by society. We can build places and design processes where spiritual journeys can be compassionately guided, and all travelers protected, while they wrestle with their delusions and disconnection. Why? Because in the end, we each deserve the opportunity to master our personal power, and to reclaim our god given right to explore ourselves. It is through self-realization, accompanied by the hard work of self-actualization, that we are able to fall in love with who we are. And as we are within, so we are without.

Image by amphalon, courtesy of Creative Commons license.