Psychedelic Horizons

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Are you hungry for subversion? Is a world spiralling out of balance finally ready for the multi-dimensional reality revealed by psychedelics? Martin Williams reviews a new book by Thomas B. Roberts, "Psychedelic Horizons" that thinks it might be so...


Rare - and brave - a person it is who has the insight to explain the inexplicable, and to demystify the mystical, that together constitute the psychedelic universe. As we discover time and again, words are perhaps the least adequate of tools available to us to explain those intangible, ineffable experiences. While not expressly aiming to achieve such lofty ambitions, Thomas B. Roberts nonetheless skilfully casts a rich and textured light on the subject in his new release, Psychedelic Horizons.

Drawing on his long-term experience as Professor of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations at Northern Illinois University, Roberts, the editor of the significant work Psychedelic Sacramentals: Essays on Entheogens and Religion (2001) writes in an accessible, yet comfortably authoritative style. His familiarity with and enthusiasm for his subject are clearly evident, yet he generally avoids the kind of breathless over-exuberance that often seems to beset books of this type, and which could detract from his very engaging and challenging thesis.

An opus in four parts, Psychedelic Horizons explores several diverse facets of the psychedelic worldview. A 'tools-to-think-with' book, and unashamedly a work of Big Ideas, it encourages the reader to adopt new ways of thinking, and perhaps contribute in time to our collective wisdom, by drawing on the inspiration to be gained from the exploration, through entheogen use, of the psychedelic space in its broadest sense.

The first part, entitled 'Snow White: Grofian Psychocriticism', is a light-hearted examination of our minds' complex journeys, as reflected in works of art such as Disney's film Snow White, and through the lens of Stanislav Grof's formulation of entheogen-influenced Transpersonal Psychology. The depth of ideas underlying Roberts' deceptively breezy writing style is impressive; this is a common observation throughout the book, as the accessibility of writing style is clearly the basis for his success as a communicator and educator.

In 'The Emxis Speculation', Roberts starts with a few words about Bicycle Day, an annual celebration of Hofmann's discovery of the psychoactive properties of LSD on April 19th, 1943. He goes on to explore the conjecture that the human immune system might be modulated and indeed enhanced by mystical or 'peak' experiences, in many cases associated with psychedelic use. Introducing us first to the subject of Psychoneuroimmunology, then discussing the power of entheogen-induced peak experiences, he draws the two together with the question: “Have we discovered a path from psychedelic mystical experiences to powerful emotions to spontaneous healing --- even to spiritual healing? Perhaps hardly surprisingly, he responds in the affirmative, persuasively rather than dogmatically presenting his evidence and then inviting the reader to pursue the subject if the interest is there.

Moving on to the third part, entitled 'Multistate Mind', Roberts endeavours to highlight the limitations of the contemporary single-mindstate paradigm, what he terms the 'Singlestate Fallacy': the erroneous assumption that all worthwhile abilities reside in our normal, awake mindbody state. The alternative is the cultivation of a diverse range of mental, emotional and even physical states --- new cognitive programmes, all of which might contribute at various times to our overall experience of being and our capacity to adapt, and adapt ourselves to, the world around us.

Finally, 'Enlarging Education' applies the multistate paradigm to the subject of intelligence and its enhancement, both within institutional frameworks of learning and beyond, in our own almost infinitely diverse individual realms. Roberts projects far into the future of human knowledge and wisdom, hoping that we might be prepared in time to utilise any and all means at our disposal to become ever more educated and ultimately move beyond our current, potentially if not inevitably disastrous, relationship with our fragile planet.

Psychedelic Horizons is explicitly not an exposition of psychedelic experiences, nor is it a discussion of the psychotherapeutic uses of entheogens. Tom Roberts makes little or no reference to the relationship between psychedelics and religion, having already made the connection so effectively through his editorship of Psychedelic Sacramentals, and which he is promising to develop further in an upcoming monograph. Rather, in Psychedelic Horizons, Roberts allows his marvellous imagination to roam free, exploring hitherto uncharted realms of thought about the potential roles of the psychedelic mindspace in various facets of our everyday lives.

Roberts' role as teacher and mentor is never far from the forefront as he espouses the responsible, even professionally guided, use of entheogens, given appropriate conditions of set and setting, in order to achieve some or all of the objectives articulated throughout the book. He is ever cognizant of the prevailing social and political climate in which he is writing, and so he urges the reader to act maturely, pragmatically and ultimately responsibly in order to achieve broader acceptance of the value of psychedelics for our mental, social and physical well-being.

As we mark the fortieth anniversary of the scheduling of LSD in the USA, Psychedelic Horizons will hopefully lead the way towards an enlightened view of psychedelics and their responsible use, in the West and throughout the world. In this book, Thomas B. Roberts has made a valuable, highly stimulating and very human contribution to the intellectual sphere that surrounds entheogens and their use in the modern age --- one which we would all do well to read, reflect upon and respond to in the interest of our collective wellbeing and possibly survival.

Psychedelic Horizons (Societas) (Paperback) by Thomas B Roberts (Author)

Paperback: 255 pages Publisher: Imprint Academic Language: English ISBN: 1845400410