The idea of a Psychedelic Renaissance — as captured in the title of Ben Sessa’s book The Psychedelic Renaissance — is growing in the health professions, and as a Feb. 9, 2015, article in The New Yorker phrased it, current clinical research is “part of a renaissance of psychedelic research,” so we see the phrase is catching on in the general culture too. To me, Psychedelic Renaissance is more than a guide for psychotherapeutic practices, more than the inauguration of an era of experience-based religion, more than an enrichment of academic and artistic fields; it can be an embarkation port to a realistic and expanded view of what our minds are and what they can become. Health dominates current policy discussions, but as psychedelics’ other domains become widely accepted, what new uses will emerge, and what policy discussions can we anticipate for future years?
A Four-Stage Model
When I think about the Psychedelic Renaissance, I find it handy to think about it as a four-stage process, in short: medical, religious, intellectual, mind. This is not a sequential theory, not one in which a new stage replaces it predecessor; each stage builds quite naturally into the next. While we are now at the medical stage, some precursors of its subsequent stages are appearing, but I am using “stage” to signify the time when the general culture adopts psychedelics’ various other uses —will feel at home with them— not when their first inklings appear.
When we ask, “What policies will have to be developed for each stage?” it’s important to recognize that “policy” has two arms, regulation by laws and regulation by social conventions. Because these arms constantly interact, any successful attempt to change one must include the other. By taking us beyond today’s discussion of regulatory changes of the medical-neuroscience stage, the 4-stage model alerts us to pay attention to broad policy areas elsewhere in society and to keep an eye out for ideas in one stage that will lead us its following stage.