Psychedelic Philosophy: Mysticism or Mixed-in-Schism?

In this, our fourth seminar, we will be continuing with the topic of ‘Psychedelic Truth’ as regards the current state of play in the study of mysticism. You don't need to have attended past events to enjoy this one, nor do any preliminary reading unless you want to!

It has been the received wisdom in psychedelic circles since the wider dissemination of Huxley’s (1945) Perennial Philosophy that the connection between the world’s religions have a common experiential bond: mystical experience lies at the heart of the religious experience of humankind and links all its various manifestations. This experience, it is held, has been refracted and filtered through the various cultures and religions. Such a theory has been compounded by Strassman’s DMT: The Spirit Molecule and nuanced by his sequel, DMT: And the Soul of Prophecy.

In theological circles, this is known as the ‘mystical core thesis.’ The idea that there is some kind of common, prelinguistic, precultural state which is filtered through language culture, as white light comes through stain glass in different colours, as one flower has many petals, one cloud with many drops, one mountain many roads, or perhaps – with a slightly different emphasis – one sea with many islands.

Whilst this, however, was also the received wisdom of many interfaith theological circles and those students engaged in comparative religion, it has come under attack since the 60s. For Katz, for example, when the philosopher, Stace – in his Mysticism and Philosophy – separates ‘experience’ and ‘interpretation’, he argues that this is theoretically impossible, for all experience is always ever being experienced concurrently. Thus, in these scholars’ minds, Meister Eckhart’s writings on the non-isness of God are intrinsically different from Samadhi meditation and Shankara’s non-duality, as they have different intellectual lineages. Similarly, Lindbeck has argued that each religion is a cultural linguistic system (with which hippies would agree with up to this point), which thus circumscribes what it is possible to experience (where the disagreement kicks in.)

These ideas are challenging and whilst our temptation would be look away from them as the pedantry of closed minded ‘experts’, tackling these ideas head on will allow for a more fruitful understanding of the mystical and perennial. Firstly, we shall examine the theoretical background: Huxley and Watts will be seen in hand with the philosopher W T Stace and modern authors who still advocate mystical core perennialism, such as William Tyndale and Brother Stiendl-Rast. Subsequently, we will look at those who criticise these theories, looking especially at Katz and Lindbeck.

Psychedelic Philosophy is a discussion group for people with an interest in exploring the philosophical issues related to the use of psychedelics. It is a lively, fun space to engage with ideas, have our preconceptions challenged, and connect with others interested in questioning what IS, and what it MEANS.

Sessions run every few weeks and include a short presentation by a facilitator, followed by structured discussion activities. Preparatory reading will be provided for those who want to do it, but homework is always optional!

Who will be facilitating these sessions?

Lindsay Jordan is a senior lecturer at the University of the Arts London, where she teaches philosophy and theory of education. She is currently researching the purpose of universities, the role of psychoactive substances as educational tools, and moral enhancement. She won the student prize at Breaking Convention 2017 for a doctoral assignment on psychedelic enquiry (, and spoke at Beyond Psychedelics 2018 on ‘What Are Psychedelics For?’ (

Mark Juhan graduated in Theology & Religious Studies from Pembroke College, Oxford and has just completed a masters Religion and Society at St John’s, Durham. He has been a lay chaplain and is currently applying for a doctorate in psychedelic theology. He is interested in the relationship between drugs and culture, specifically the potential of augmenting religion with ritual entheogenesis. Mark has spoken at Breaking Convention 2017 on Christicisms of mystical thrill-seeking ( and at Beyond Psychedelics 2018 on a social study he has conducted (

► Please arrive early for a 7pm start

► It involves a bring-and-share supper: bring culinary goodies if you can.

► The event will take place at the Psychedelic Society HQ, in Homerton, 8 Mackintosh Lane, London E9 6AB

The Psychedelic Society, 8 Mackintosh Lane, London, UK, E9 6AB

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