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On The Power Of Master Plants

Everybody’s talking about psychedelics lately. Magic mushrooms are sprouting up in articles, white papers, academia, science, medicine, therapeutics, conferences, and policymaking. A lot of evidence exists suggesting that mushrooms and other psychedelics hold great promise in treating intractable mental health problems like PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders. Modern medicine has struggled to heal people suffering from these conditions.

The psychedelic and master plants—or psychoactive plants that grow in nature, not the lab—renaissance is gaining mainstream momentum as a way to help heal tens of millions of people. Some suggest they may play a role in healing humanity itself. “There’s research on the ground looking at the use of psychedelics in treating trauma and promoting conflict resolution among Israelis and Palestinians,” shares Exile & Ecstasy author Madison Margolin. “We can learn from psychedelics about sacred activism, putting our ideas into action, and about the importance of embodiment and earth (or land)-based spirituality.” After decades of prohibition and stigma, these compounds are emerging from the darkness once again.

Prohibition has had an adverse effect on the lexicon of shared knowledge regarding master plants and synthetic psychedelics. As prohibition thaws, a tsunami of information is flooding pop culture. It can be difficult to figure out the basics like the difference between master plants and synthetic psychedelics or what it means to create the right “set and setting” for psychedelic experiences. Let’s start with differentiating between master plants and synthetic psychedelics.

Not all psychedelics are considered to be “master plants.” Psilocybin mushrooms are a master plant but LSD and MDMA are synthetic compounds. All can be therapeutic in the right set and setting but there is a distinction between the two within the psychedelic community. The media has not made this distinction yet but practitioners have, and end users report different experiences with master plants and synthetic compounds.

Educating folks about these differences can help people choose the right experience for themselves. While elected officials and academics march prudently down the road of legalization and integration, the world is being flooded with mushrooms and synthetics like LSD. There are now dozens of legal retreat centers globally that host adult visitors for master plant or other psychedelic experiences.

Why isn’t there more information about master plants in mainstream media coverage of psychedelics? It may be due to the fact that master plants are complex and don’t easily fit into neat and clean boxes. Master plants can be psychedelic, like psilocybin mushrooms, but they can also be non-psychedelic and only mildly intoxicating (or not at all) like cocoa and coffee. Synthetic compounds like LSD have a stronger presence in pop culture than, say, San Pedro cactus. This oftentimes makes them easier to explain and popularize, particularly given the history of LSD and MDMA in pop culture going back to the 1960s.

The list of master plants is diverse but one common denominator is that they possess power. Coffee is a powerful master plant. Most of the Western world is dependent on it. Try hanging around the hotel breakfast bar when the coffee dispenser runs out. People take serious notice when coffee is not available to them when they need it. That’s power.

Cannabis, amanita muscaria, ayahuasca, iboga, Syrian rue, peyote, San Pedro cactus, and tobacco are all examples of master plants with power. As we all know, power is a complex part of the human condition. It can be both beneficial and harmful depending on our relationship to it. It’s no different with master plants. Cigarettes can kill but tobacco can also play an important role in spiritual ceremonies and in bringing people together. The peace pipe filled with tobacco is but one stereotypical example of the power of this master plant.

Master plants have been used by Indigenous people for centuries to pray, hunt, create, unite, heal the sick, stimulate the body, absorb wounds and hardships, negotiate with partners and adversaries, and commune with ancestors. Master plants are not seen as “something you do,” they are seen as “something that is an integral part of being human.” While exposure to synthetic compounds tends to be viewed as “trips,” master plant experiences are often grounded in “ceremony.”

“I do place master plants in a different category than many compounds or synthetic substances out there, psychedelic or otherwise,” said neurologist Dr. Maya Shetreat, author of The Master Plant Experience. “This is not due to the idea that psychedelics are ‘better’ or ‘safer’ per se, but simply that master plants are not drugs or tools here to alter us… but beings, with their own consciousness and intelligence.”

Firstman, a founding member of Life Is A Ceremony retreats at the Rastafarian Indigenous Village (RIV) in Jamaica, added a philosophical and spiritual perspective. “RIV is in a cultural container that depends only on the natural world,” he said, “and here existence itself can be viewed as a soul. Being in that kind of indigenous environment, it becomes ultimately clear that ‘I and I’ separation is an illusion and all that exists is one.”

Many users of master plants report receiving messages from the plants themselves during their experience. “Ayahuasca spoke to me about my life” is a common refrain. While a synthetic like LSD may provide insight, LSD is not known to talk to seekers the same way master plants do.

All psychedelics contain their lessons, their messages, and their insights. Sometimes you just have to ask.

The psychedelic researcher Roland Griffiths reported having a conversation with LSD about his cancer diagnosis while under the influence of the drug. LSD told him his cancer was going to take his life but there was a deeper meaning to that and he should keep doing what he was doing. Griffiths experienced a lot of clarity after his diagnosis (even without the acid) and took great comfort in this message despite dying shortly afterward.

Distinguishing between synthetic compounds and master plants within the psychedelic diaspora can help people approach both with more reverence and respect. By doing so, the proper set and setting for the experience can be created. For some people, MDMA may have a much different set and setting than Iboga or San Pedro cactus. Education is key and so is ensuring the source for the compound is safe and reliable.

After all, in the immediate aftermath of prohibition, people are getting to know these compounds again. Just as being in the garden with a plant brings people closer to it, learning the power of master plants and synthetic psychedelics will take humanity one step closer to harnessing its potential.

While no single object or practice will save humanity from itself, master plants and synthetic psychedelics can give us a mirror to hold up and look into, explore within, and see the world and each other with fresh eyes.

#Power #Master #Plants

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