In his First Inaugural Address President Abraham Lincoln expressed the hope in his perhaps over-quoted phrase that Americans would be touched “by the better angels of our nature.” Jon Meacham used part of that phrase in his recent book’s subtitle The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels. We seem once more to be faced with a benumbed American psyche, that is to say, more than a few of us are out of touch with our best selves.
How does Meacham explain how this happened? Where has the current American “extremism” or “populism” come from? Here is where Meacham fails to make the connection between past historical events and the current dysfunctional Republican Party. “Absent that central explanation, though, his book cannot adequately address and measure what’s gone so wrong with the American soul and what we can do to right it.” (1) Indeed, we will have to look beyond both history and American politics for both the source of our current dilemma and its solution.
Let’s begin with another recent book, The World as It Is, by Ben Rhodes who was a presidential adviser for Barack Obama. In this book President Obama asked his aides, “What if we were wrong?” In her column “Obama—Just Too Good for Us,” Maureen Dowd interprets what he might have meant by that comment. “But in his next breath, the president made it clear that what he meant was: What if we were wrong in being so right? What if we were too good for these people? Maybe we pushed too far. Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.” (2)
Perhaps Maureen Dowd is projecting her own bias onto the former president, which is a failing we all have, which is not helpful in addressing our current dilemma in the Global Village. We will have to transcend our shadow projections to avoid the dystopia that lies ahead. How do we do that?
We would all have reason to fall into despair if our species did not have the ability to transcend tribalism. Fortunately, Maureen Dowd and or her interpretation of the meaning of President Obama’s comments are both unduly pessimistic. Both seem to be blind to the human potential for transformation.
For example, we are going to focus on one institution and the changes that are taking place in that arena. Just as America missed an opportunity to move toward healing the illusion of tribal differences in the institution of government during the Obama administration, we missed an opportunity to heal both physical and psychological “dis-eases” during the last 50 years.
“A 2016 study showed that 80 percent of cancer patients responded positively to psychedelic treatment—and the more intense their trip, the more positive and long-lasting the benefits. ‘If it gives them peace,’ one psychedelic researcher tells Pollan [*] ‘I don’t care if it’s real or an illusion.’” (3)
Fifty years ago our American community had a reaction to the use of psychedelics and that unreasoning fear halted research and any consideration of what is beginning to be understood as promising healing modalities for some our most painful and intractable diseases of both mind and body.
Remember that the goal of any sustainable community on earth will have to be a realization of the principle of Oneness, a new identity beyond that of the ego and a growth in consciousness. “You don’t necessarily need drugs to enter this strange, egoless realm of consciousness: Near-death experiences, meditation and fasting can get you there, too. But psychedelics get you there quickly, while greatly intensifying concomitant feelings of oneness with … whatever it is the quieting of our default mode network puts us in contact with. Some may call it God, and others the cosmos, but even atheists come out of psychedelic therapy changed by the experience. ‘You go deep enough or far out enough in consciousness,’ one researcher tells Pollan, ‘and you will bump into the sacred.’” (3)
Obviously, the use of substances like psychedelics and marijuana will require an open mind on the part of patients and professionals but the evidence will continue to reinforce the efficacy of redefining reality itself. One smoker explained his decision to ditch nicotine after a particularly potent trip: “Because I found it irrelevant.” (3)
The widow of a dying cancer patient, Patrick Mettes, described to Pollan the scene at her husband’s deathbed: “He was consoling me.” (3)
Insight # 38: “Healing is not a process but a revelation; for the revealing of the perfect man always heals.” Ernest Holmes
- Health in The ABCs of Simple Reality, in print and on this blog, by Roy Charles Henry, 2018.
- Wilentz, Sean. “Hard Times.” The New York Times Sunday Review. June 10, 2018, page 10.
- Dowd, Maureen. “Obama—Just Too Good for Us.” The New York Times. June 3, 2018, page 9.
- Bissell, Tom. “Take Acid. Not Too Much.” The New York Times Book Review. June 10, 2018, page 20.
* Michael Pollan author of What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Also see comments by Pollan in Current Events essay #36, “No Thanks, I’d Rather Suffer.”