Part 2: A Journey Through Psychedelics – Dr. Ivan Casselman – Psychedelic Communities, Tribalism, and Divisions

by May 14, 2021

Psychedelic aficionados are tribal - the compounds they use, the spiritual or therapeutic paradigms in which they operate, the list goes on

Psillow is hosting a series of articles on Psychedelic Communities. Read Part 0 and Part 1. Follow Psillow on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest installments.

The plethora of people who use, advocate and research psychedelics are, colloquially speaking, referred to as a “community.”

While this notion of a united group of psychedelic champions, all working together to better society with these incredible tools, is a wonderful notion – it is not actually how it plays out in real life.

Instead, I would propose that there are instead several tribes which, depending on the day or topic, cooperate or at least tolerate each other; other tribes are insular and have a rigid operational structure which, if not adhered to exactly – leads to immediate rejection.

Psychedelic Tribalism

Psychedelic aficionados are tribal, bound by the type of compounds they use, the spiritual or therapeutic paradigms in which they operate, researchers, entrepreneurs, the list goes on.

I have been a member of many tribes throughout the years. To highlight the tribal nature of the psychedelic “community,” perhaps my personal experiences will exemplify aspects of this nature. I welcome this open discourse on lived experiences and encourage others to share as well.

My Tribes

Academia

I am and always will be a psychedelic researcher. I was a drug nerd from a very early age, I spent my early years combing the alt.drugs and alt.psychedelic newsgroups of the pre-internet. Later, after my second degree, when I learned it was a legitimate job to become a psychedelic researcher, my track was set. All my graduate and post-graduate studies focused on psychedelic medicine – it is my passion, my obsession.

This tribe is an eclectic collection of incredibly intelligent people, whom I have a massive amount of respect for. The thing about psychedelic research: until a few years ago, to be a researcher in this field, you had to be passionate, you had to be driven – no funding agency or government wanted to facilitate this type of research.

Any research done on psychedelics before 2020 happened because the researcher made it happen. I have had the privilege of meeting several very intelligent, very driven psychedelic researchers over the last 2 decades. They are not the type of people to wait to have things handed to them, they do not suffer fools.

Ayahuasca (‘Aya’)

In the early 2000’s I had the opportunity to study with an ancient Peruvian lineage and undergo two aya ceremonies. It was an extraordinary experience – what I learned drastically altered my worldview and was a foundation of the person I am now.  While I have not been called back to medicine, it is an experience that will be forever ingrained into my being, I will be forever grateful for the experience.

To say ‘aya is polarizing’ is an understatement. Since I had my experiences, it has become pervasive in popular culture.

So many people have come back from experiences in South America, called to the medicine. For some, it becomes a habituation, a far cry from its traditional use. As more and more people come back to the “west” and start their own version of the aya practice, many ancient practices have become fractured, insular.

As the different groups who practice aya outside of the Amazon grow in number, so do the number of sub-tribes associated with this powerful and sacred medicine. If you want to really understand the tribal nature of psychedelics, all you have to do is talk with a few Westerners who have experienced aya.

I don’t know how I feel about the proliferation of aya outside its traditional practice. On the one hand, this ancient tradition is rooted in the experience of the Amazon, the collected knowledge of generations of practitioners. To be exposed to this knowledge is to be exposed to the genesis of humanity itself. But, on the other hand, I understand the power of this experience and the benefits that can be derived. So, if more people are exposed, more people can be healed by this extraordinary medicine. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Alkaloid brotherhood

I lived in Australia while I was doing my Ph.D. Aside from the academic tribe, I was also included in the most important psychedelic tribe I have been part of. Where I lived in Australia was a bounty of psychedelics: aside from all the tropical plants from other places in the world which grew there, the native trees produced DMT, and ‘gold tops,’ Psilocybe mushrooms, grew in every farmer’s field.

While there, I formed a bond with a very select group of brothers. We were bound by our passion for psychedelics, growing, extracting, and experiencing. A motley band of psychonauts. No matter where I am in the world, my brothers will always be a part of me.

Psychedelic business

My most recent foray into the world of psychedelic business is yet another tribe. At the moment, the one with the most public exposure and criticism. This type of business is a tricky line to walk.

How do you start a successful business and maximize the help you can give to people? At the same time, respect the tradition of the plant/fungus. The decades of advocacy in the face of the war on drugs propaganda machine and the unique individual experience that each person inhabits.

Admittedly, there are some bad actors – some joiners looking to make fast money. But, to date, the majority of the people I have met in the emerging legal psychedelic industry have been genuine, looking to help people, and wanting to open the world to the healing power of psychedelics.


Dr. Ivan Casselman is the Chief Psychedelic Officer of Havn Life. You can learn more about him on his website, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

  1. Dru Sneddon

    Brilliant article. And so true.

    Reply

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