MDMA: The Cure for Sophistry?

Of late, the radical Left’s raids on rationality have increased in both frequency and potency. Scarcely any proponents for reason find themselves outside the blast radius. Fallacious hit pieces and maligning accusations characterize the assaults on figures who stand in opposition to pernicious ideologies. The woke Left will continue to manifest its immune response to logic at all costs as it descends into shamefulness, taking great lengths to sully the reputations of those who appear most threatening. As the barrages persist and casualty becomes pervasive, one might ask herself whether or not there are more unconventional reactions worth pursuing.

With this in mind, I urge a paradigm shift in the way the rational Left frames the struggle with the radical Left. In order to mitigate casualty, and to maintain the Left’s progressive infrastructure, a War of Ideas might not be our most promising classification. In fact, to frame this struggle as a contest is to have a loser by definition. Rather, I urge dialectic, and not mundane dialectic. I urge MDMA-assisted psychotherapeutic dialectic. Administration of MDMA in a scholarly context might be just what we need.

This might seem like a radical or ludicrous suggestion to those unfamiliar with the psychoactive entactogen 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA. There will also be those with a reflexive hostility towards this substance, due to its uneasy relationship with the US government. Regardless, I implore the apprehensive reader to suspend both disbelief and distaste.

MDMA’s Reputation

One might recognize MDMA’s street name, Molly: a drug known by many as a sacrament of EDM culture. While not incorrect, this is doubtless an unsatisfactory characterization for a substance with the potential to alleviate hate. It became immensely popular as a party drug in the 90s, taking forms such as Molly or Ecstasy, the latter being a tablet cut with additives other than MDMA, often including cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and even synthetic cathinones (bath salts).

The distribution of impure Molly and Ecstasy on the street has culminated in a number of sensationalized deaths as the byproduct of buyer credulity, improper administration and consumer irreverence. The ongoing debate regarding the entactogen’s neurotoxicity has been largely inconclusive, as the vast majority of overdoses have involved multiple confounding variables. However, when properly administered by a medical professional or scrupulous psychonaut, there appears to be negligible risk of death. Likewise, both MDMA’s abuse by party fiends and its prohibition by ignorant officials are outside the realm for which this compound bears its most alluring fruits.

There are profound spiritual and intellectual lessons to be learned from MDMA and there are assuredly far more than we have yet to conceive. Psychiatrists, scholars, students and spiritual inquirers alike have been using and administering the Schedule 1 compound both in the public eye and behind closed doors for half a century now, taking it upon themselves to experiment with the extremes of conscious perception of “generosity, communicativeness, and self-compassion.” Many public intellectuals today report their inquisitive ingestion of MDMA to be of profound philosophical and spiritual importance.

Sam Harris, perhaps the most famous contemporary intellectual to disclose his experimentation with psychedelics, describes his experience with MDMA as “revelatory”. In a discussion for Big Think, he goes into detail about the nature of the entactogen on one’s subjective experience, and the unambiguous profundity that accompanies it. Most notable, and indeed most captivating, is his level of sobriety coupled with an ostensibly transcendent concern for the well-being of any and every one.

it was an experience of absolute sobriety … [I felt] boundless love for one of my best friends, and absolutely no egoic self-concern, but then I [realized] in the next moment that I would feel this way for anyone who walked through the door.

Harris’ recognition of complete dissolution of self-motivation is not unique to his experience. In fact, this overwhelming sentiment of compassion is widely considered to be a characteristic symptom of MDMA ingestion throughout anecdotal testimony. Although this requires more detailed analysis, indications suggest many potential uses including one that could prove indispensable in the ongoing internal struggle of the Left, that being, the aforementioned MDMA-assisted psychotherapeutic dialectic.

The idea of using MDMA to assist conversation is not new, and in fact was put in practice starting in 1976, when Dr. Leo Zeff began the first MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions in his private psychiatric practice. In the years leading up to the scheduling of the substance in 1985, it has been estimated that as many as 4,000 therapists integrated MDMA into their counseling sessions. What could happen if you put two diametrically opposed intellectuals in a room together with a couple hundred milligrams of pure 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine?

Reframing the War

In recent years, the Left has alienated many and crippled the whole. Those who rally under the banner of rationality have made countless attempts to dissuade passionate stupidity, and yet the ranks of the woke Left grow in strength. Political correctness is an impenetrable and unyielding phalanx, anonymous hit pieces come as barrages of arrows and the fields between familial conflict breeds loathing. A War of Ideas is grotesque; it is at its core antithetical to dialectic, and it cannot persist.

There is something profound about a name, and specifically about a classification. The way we classify a concept presupposes the way we think about it. From an evolutionary perspective, the ability to recognize a concept as part of a group is quintessential to the human condition.

There are many different levels of complexity that are involved in the analysis of a concept, and formulae for determining which level to resort to as contextually optimal is highly contingent on both time and the body of knowledge one has at her disposal. This relates to how we describe the internal struggle of the Left. Sadly, most individuals have a nuanced opinion in the order of only one or two. There is simply not enough time in a day for a working class human being to take a concept and chew on it. Thus, the innate need to understand the Cosmos is substituted by ideology. Ideology, in the words of Jordan Peterson, is a “low resolution image of the world,” and I must agree. Ideology is not durable, it is simply expedient. It does not hold up in debate; it is not meant to hold up in debate; it is meant to dissuade, in an overwhelming confusion at the complexity of one’s world.

If the rational Left continues to label this internal struggle as a war, there will never be winners, there will be a devastating breadth of losers. The Left is made up of people, and the vast majorities of these people have adopted an ideology: even, believe it or not, those who err on the more rational side. The ideologies of the Left, both rational and woke, rely heavily on a distinction of classification. Classifying this struggle as war rather than struggle or dialectic or misunderstanding is likely to be counterproductive.

But how does a shift occur in the way we classify this struggle? This is where MDMA returns as our guiding light. There must be transcendence in the way the collective human mind understands itself. Not as an individual, but as a cog in a sophisticated machine that extends all of conscious experience. When MDMA is administered to subjects, a whole swath of selfish interests is dissolved, and the realization of one’s place among the collective becomes unhindered. In this way, an individual is besought by the Cosmos to experience what a Daoist contemplative might comprehend and integrate only after decades of study and meditation, in the span of a few hours following ingestion of 100mg of MDMA. This is unequivocally profound.

For the vast majority of human existence, wisdom has been a power commensurate to time. Only communities peppered throughout the Americas and a few tribes in Africa have brandished entheogens as a looking glass into the mind of god. However, MDMA was never at their disposal.

Psychedelics and the Ego

Today, MDMA experimentation has been suppressed by ill-informed and politically motivated officials. As many freethinkers will be quick to disclose, Nixon’s “war on drugs” was assuredly the greatest hindrance to scientific progress in the past century. The thousands of papers that were published in the 50s and into the 60s was a treasure trove of medical possibility, specifically in treating mental illness. Although most papers on psychedelics at the time were focused on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), the poster child of the counterculture, there was also some dabbling with psilocybin (magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (DMT or ayahuasca) and mescaline (peyote), however, it appears that most inquiry was motivated by their subsequent comparison to LSD. Regardless, these psychoactive molecules have shown tremendous potential in treating depression, generalized anxiety, end-of-life anxiety, addiction recovery and in dramatically increasing trait openness as well as creating or enhancing general sentiments of awe towards the Universe.

MDMA is divergent from traditional psychedelics in its initial experimentation. The substance appears to have been most widely administered in a psychiatric context, utilizing it as a tool for enhancing therapeutic outcome. More recently trials have been undergone in the possible treatment of PTSD, to varying degrees of success.  However, there is a large playground of potential that has yet to be explored, which brings me into the realm of framing MDMA not as a medicine, but as a tool.

For any scientist or scholar, one of the most crucial designations in a paper or public discourse is in describing possible personal biases. In acknowledging the inherent human impulse to further one’s personal means, addressing potential bias strikes the learned intellectual as pedestrian. But how would a scientific body of knowledge that is closely acquainted with and assisted by MDMA manifest? To take a step further, what mode would a political landscape take on if those in public office were required to ingest 100mg of MDMA and attend a town hall meeting before their inauguration? What would a society characterized by designated MDMA consumption for the upper classes look like? Given what little we already know about this substance, it is not outlandish to imagine a more actualized and interwoven humankind under the supervision of this entactogen.

In the 80s and 90s, Terence McKenna gave numerous talks on the tragedy of humanity’s destruction of the earth, our need to save her, and the indispensability of psilocybin mushrooms as a translator for the Cosmos. He put much emphasis on the grandeur and distinction of psilocybin in its potential to expedite humanity through its next evolutionary leap, culminating in the redemption of our planet. I disagree to an extent. It appears to me that McKenna took a preemptive foothold. Before humanity can learn to appreciate its place in the Cosmos, it has to learn to appreciate itself.

MDMA pulls the blinds back on the window of the soul and illuminates the interconnectedness with our neighbors and enemies alike. It seems that this substance, unlike psilocybin, allows the ego to maintain domicile, opting rather to introduce it to other centers of consciousness with intimacy. For this reason, it seems most practical that the first step towards a psychedelic-enhanced society ought to involve MDMA as its primary actor.

A general feeling of compassion and love for the other must presuppose the possible annulment of the very concept of the other. The annulment of the other must presuppose a comprehensive integration of the human collective. This integration is requisite to preserve humanity, and thus, to preserve our planet. From this context, it appears McKenna jumped the gun. There is a necessity to preserve order whilst integrating chaos—and MDMA provides the nuance between this pair.

A Cure For Sophistry

While it may be unattainable to distribute and administer MDMA to the bulk of humanity, there are almost certainly countless lessons to learn, as well as possibilities for less drastic application. A more realistic approach, albeit still highly speculative, would be to lay the groundwork for a movement of intellectuals who are willing to undertake dialectical conversations under the guidance of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. There is no telling exactly how such an experiment would manifest, but without doubt it would involve a discourse to behold.

Often times, public debates are simply a front for an internal desire to dominate. I have on occasion witnessed the dissolution of grace in even my most admired intellectuals when they are hit with an unexpected blow. There is social and communal pressure for a public debater to come out on top, and not necessarily to change anyone’s mind or to make ends meet. Periodically, an intellectual might even become entranced by their audience, and begin to play to the crowd rather than traverse scholarly discourse. Adding MDMA to the equation would predictably lower one’s egoic delusions, providing a gentle plane across which new ideas can dance as one rather than cross blades.

Humanity has been revolutionizing the way we interact with the world for more than half a century now with computer technology. We enhance our intelligence with the use of search engines and AI; we can recollect memories with crystal clear acuity with our cameras; we can send information across the planet in an instance with the internet. Psychedelics are the next step.

All that we can learn from psychedelic substances has yet to be revealed and there remains a need for caution and much investigation. But with an increasingly comprehensive body of knowledge surrounding them, the future looks promising. Drugs that are highly psychoactive have far more to offer than shapes and saturated colors. Medicine, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy all have much to gain from what will come of a psychedelic renaissance. And it can’t come soon enough for the Left. Dialectic is overthrown by the venom of anonymous defamation; war has become the classification of choice for our struggle, and casualty will persist. A drug that breeds compassion might be the only tool robust enough to bridge the gap between rationality and passion. The Left is in need of deliverance, and rather than resorting to contest with sophistry, we—with the help of a rather conspicuous molecule—might just be able to cure it.

This is not an anti-establishment, hippie drug fest; this is a revolution in the collective consciousness of humanity.

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9 comments

  1. I suspect that we have enough ‘naturally generated’ chemicals floating about in our brains that could be/may be/are having profound effects on our thinking and behavior, without deliberately adding more. Especially if we are adding them because we think they will enhance our understanding of life/death/the hereafter/god etc.

  2. I am a real person who had an experience of an adult giving me LSD at the tender age of 11. It was called LSD-25. It changed my life in a very challenging way in which I tried so very hard to maintain what was real and what is an illusion.

    Current neurobiological studies show the prefrontal cortex does not finish growing and maturing until past 20s. It is imperative no person under 30 years of age should take psychedelics until PFC is fully developed—and even then, depending on a peson’s grip on reality an experience with psychedelics May do harm.

    I do not recommend LSD for depression because from personal experience it caused me to suffer chronic depression. Psychedelics aren’t dependable experientially because depending on manufacturing and most importantly how well our brains have developed during our aging process.

    Psychodelics may better help drug users or people stuck in emotional ruts caused by heartbreak or stagnancy in life but may also come at a cost of suffering psychotic episodes or furthering delusions about reality.

    Personally, from experience as a child given a hallucinogenic, I wouldn’t wish the the experience on my worst enemy. Taking hallucinogenics is like playing Russian Roulette on your brain and your sanity. Just deal with life as best you can with the incredible brain you already have despite its tendency to often give inaccurate reality as it is.

    The author is basing his views by his own experience which, in time, he’s bound to experience that one bad trip…it only takes that one bad trip on a hallucinogenic to make you spurn its use and forever make you question your sanity.

    1. I am sorry that happened to you. I agree there is much need for vigilance when consuming psychoactive substances. However, I have never had an experience on psychedelics, in fact, everything I wrote in this article comes straight from medical journals and limited auxiliary anecdote. The current literature, while clearly discouraging irreverence for these compounds, shows far more promise in helping those with mental illness rather than in hurting them.

      1. Thank you, for your sweet concern.

        From other people met who tried forms of psychedelics or who do research or podcast (e.g. Sam Harris) on the merits of psychedelics, there is a big difference between the kinds produced. I hear more positive experiences in usage of mushrooms than say with argot derivatives.

        It seems inhumane to use psychedelics on “mentally ill” people and I am against such testing on those without a voice/cannot communicate well; however, what a so-called sane adult wishes to do to their body is their prerogative.

        Specific kinds of psychedelics may be of benefit to people who suffer addictions like alcoholism. Yet, a bad trip is tantamount to experiencing a psychotic episode that lasts for some time (weeks or years) which definitely causes cessation of certain kinds of behavior (but not the kind attributed to depression).

        I’ve read research papers whereby educated counselors stand by during administration of hallucinogens to ensure the patient is kept “safe”—How so? By injecting them with another drug to induce unconsciousness? It doesn’t work out that way because the psychedelic stays in the system longer than the sedative.

        It seems more valid for researchers to experiment with hallucinagenic drugs on themselves to really know what they’re dealing with and give accurate evaluations as to what good it will do for others since they’re not addictive like opiates…but may cause them to mentally experience temporary insanity.

  3. I must dispute your premise that the rational left and radical left see themselves at war with eachother (ironically I say this as somebody who thinks himself of the rational left, and as such feels beset on many sides, but most stingingly from the radical left). those on the radical left consider themselves to be the rational left, and those who disagree with their ideas or methods in any way are simply not left, but rather secretly right-wingers. meanwhile, the vast majority of the rational left either keep their mouths shut, their critiques to themselves, and blindly support whichever ideological referendum they are told they must (be it for fear of excommunication, or because they consider the right wing to be the greater threat), or they begin to identify as conservatives or libertarians as a reaction against their own side’s extreme rhetoric. thus we of the rational left are a small band, and generally recognize that persuading the larger left is our only option, because if it be intra-wing civil war, we’d surely be overrun with minimal effort. meanwhile the radical left doesn’t even think we really exist. nobody is framing as a war.

    secondly, if the only way to cut through this mire and communicate with eachother on a human level is to collectively agree to alter our brain chemistry, then surely all is lost. you can’t convince everyone to do that, but more importantly you shouldn’t. one is wearing red tinted glasses and seeing things a certain way because of it, another is wearing blue tinted glasses and seeing things a certain way because of it, but not to worry, because here comes a kaleidoscope salesman to clear everything right up! no, I think the only practical way is to find solutions compatible with existing brain chemistry.

    finally, is seems to me those who comprise the radical left are many of the same people who have been doing molly at raves for years. which would seem to suggest that this solution has been tested, and failed spectacularly.

  4. Don’t blame Nixon’s war on drugs. Blame Timothy Leary and his fellow travelers for a dark age of a half century. Timothy Leary scared the shit out of Americans, and did so with a smile on his face, knowing exactly what he was doing. He was going to give your kids LSD, this was going to make them hate you, and they would never come home again. Is it any wonder America had an immune reaction to psychedelics?

    I totally support elected officials being required to take MDMA as a condition of their office. They need to know how to sympathize with the rest of us, something all too few of them do.

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