Updated: Jul 24, 2019
Written by : LNZ
Co-written by: Reilly Capps
At this week’s meeting of the Psychedelic Club of Denver, I had the pleasure of working with Reilly Capps of Rooster Magazine to co-present Johann Hari’s newest release, Lost Connections. The Psychedelic Club hosts a monthly book of the month club, and members have talk on everything from Terence McKenna's "Food of the Gods" to Michael Pollan's "How to Change Your Mind" to Leonard Pickard's "Rose of Paracelsus."
Hari discusses mental health, addiction, and the war on drugs. His 2015 TED talk proved to be wildly popular, garnering nearly 10 million views on YouTube.
Although his latest book makes a journey into psilocybin research, Lost Connections is only partly about psychedelics.
Yes, Hari visits the lab at Johns Hopkins where researchers test psilocybin on living brains. Yes, Hari talks to the folks healing with mushrooms from anxiety and depression, and tries to figure out why mushrooms work — (hint: it's a mystery, but it's partly about connections). Yes, Hari sees promise in a society switching from bandaid drugs like Prozac to psychedelics. He writes how one study demonstrated that high doses of psilocybin reliably elicited a mystical experience, and afterward “participants showed significant positive changes on longitudinal measures of interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping." The higher the dose, the more lasting the effects – with participants who received the highest doses having the most positive outcomes after 6 months.
That's just one chapter, though. "Lost Connections" is mostly about the things psychedelics have the capacity to heal.
Mostly, Hari explores the nature of anxiety and depression, pharmaceutical research, and ultimately, as the title would imply, the disconnection experienced by many and how it affects our mental health and overall sense of well-being. From disconnection from meaningful work, to social isolation, this book discusses a wide range of causes for our existential discomfort and offers realistic, evidence-based solutions.
If anxiety and depression are caused by things like disconnection from other people, from community, from nature, it stands to reason that psychedelics have a lot to teach us. By suspending one’s ego during a psychedelic experience, many people report experiencing a profound sense of unity with all things, including fellow humanity. This is not a hallucination — rather this is an observation of objective reality. When our egos convince us that we are separate and discrete from the rest of creation, this is the beginning of disconnection from the larger picture and the source of various types of suffering. Psychedelics, though not a panacea, are adept at helping people re-forge the exact kind of connections Johann Hari says that we have lost and should be an important part of the conversation.
Fortunately, one doesn’t need to repeatedly experience ego death to reap the benefits of the psychedelic experience. The psychedelic community is growing and opportunities to join are popping up all over the nation. Psychedelic Club is one example that has provided a beacon for enthusiasts, activists, and advocates alike to rally behind this movement. It offers an above-ground way for people interested in psychedelics to connect with one another, collaborate, and build meaningful relationships with those who share common values. We have a lot of work to do to heal our collective unease, but I believe the psychedelic community is off to an amazing start.
Griffiths, R., Johnson, M., & Richards, W. (2017, October 11). Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors. Journal of Psychopharmacology. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881117731279