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The Impact of Psychedelics on Our Perception of Free Will

*Note: The personal experiences in this article were taken from my upcoming autobiography, "Life of a Psychonaut." Available this summer.


The topic of psychedelics and their impact on the concept of free will has been a topic of great interest and debate inside my mind for many years. While there is still much to be learned about the effects of psychedelics on the human mind and consciousness, there is growing evidence that these substances can have a profound impact on the way we perceive and experience the world around us.


One of the most intriguing aspects of psychedelics is their ability to alter our perception of time and space, leading us to question the nature of reality itself. Some people who have taken psychedelics report feeling as though they have experienced a sense of transcendence or unity with the universe, and many have described these experiences as life-changing.


In this article, we will explore the relationship between psychedelics and the concept of free will, and examine some of the key issues and debates surrounding this topic.

What is Free Will?


Free will is the idea that individuals have the ability to make choices and decisions that are independent of external factors. This concept is central to many philosophical and psychological debates, as well as religious and spiritual beliefs.


Free will is often considered a cornerstone of personal autonomy and agency, and is often seen as a necessary condition for moral responsibility. However, the existence of free will is a topic of much debate, with some people arguing that it is an illusion created by the workings of the brain, while others believe that it is a real and essential aspect of human experience.


Exploring the Intersection of Psychedelics and Free Will


The impact of psychedelics on free will is a topic that has not yet been fully comprehended. Despite the lack of complete understanding, studies have shown that psychedelics have the power to alter our understanding of time, space, and self, inducing a sense of unity and interconnectedness. This shift in perception has the potential to question conventional concepts of free will and self, offering space for new perspectives and insights.


However, more research is necessary to gain a thorough understanding of the relationship between psychedelics and free will. It's challenging to determine what form this type of research should take, as the subject is complex and not yet fully understood. Nevertheless, exploring the impact of psychedelics on free will could lead to greater knowledge and insights into the workings of the mind and human consciousness.


The Influence of Psychedelics on Free Will: A Personal Account


Some people paint a mental picture in their mind to form their thoughts. I build a structure with words. My inner voice has only stopped talking a few times. Even when I’ve tried to quiet this voice via meditation or some other technique, it eventually creeps back to the surface and becomes my inner monologue.


Discovering my own consciousness was the strangest thing to me because I was obviously aware of this inner monologue, the voice that I think with, but I was also aware that I was aware of being aware of this voice. Like a cerebral Matryoshka or Russian doll, I used to lie in bed at a very early age and try to count how many degrees of separation there were between the actual me – whatever or wherever that was – and the many layers of consciousness living behind my eyelids. I had discovered a distinct difference between my brain and my mind.


Over time, I would come to understand, consciousness truly is all we have in this world. All of our hopes and dreams, our likes and dislikes, everything we experience would not exist without consciousness. Without consciousness, we have no self-identity. But as I dug deep into my mind, removing layer after layer of my inner Russian doll, I was trying to find that center point where my true consciousness lived. I was trying to discover the source for all of the thoughts that came into my mind.


Before long, I came to the understanding that I was rarely in control of these new, raw, unprocessed thoughts. But this only left me wondering, where was this inner monologue coming from? Most thoughts seem to come into my mind spontaneously and effortlessly.


In time, I would understand that these thoughts do not control my actions. My voice and my actions are controlled by filtering these thoughts through a framework of layers. Layers called logic and reason, as well as a foundation of morals and sometimes, dogma. At one point, I even lost faith in the concept of free will because I could never answer the question: Where could those original thoughts come from? This question left me perplexed for decades. If this reality were a video game, I would suggest each new thought in my head is coming from whomever is holding the controls.


Later in life, after a mind-bending mushroom trip in the mid-1990s, I began to question everything I thought I knew. The trip put me face-to-face with the concept of free will, a cornerstone of Christianity that explains why Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise for misusing it. Though I've moved past the allegory, I've always grappled with this philosophical idea.


And as the lens through which I viewed religion and even reality as a whole was racking into focus, the entire concept of free will began to blur. The notion that our every choice is predetermined by past decisions, leaving us without true control, troubled me. Could it be that free will is just a false illusion, trapping us in the relentless flow of fate?


We think we're in control of our lives through the choices we make, but what if our choices are just the outcome of past experiences? We can't fully comprehend all the factors shaping our decisions in the moment that we make them. That would be impossible. And we certainly can't control those factors. Desire and preference can't be commanded, and choices aren't always black and white. What makes us want one thing, or one person, more than another? Can I control the things that I want or don’t want? I can’t simply decide to want something that I don’t want. Choices are not always binary.


My journey into the world of psychedelics wasn't always pleasant, but it helped me comprehend reality and consciousness. Using psychedelics takes willpower and discipline, as evidenced by those who use Ibogaine to overcome heroin addiction. That doesn't look fun or easy. Despite the challenges, the payoff is often worth it, causing the desire to explore the psychedelic realm to outweigh the desire to avoid psychedelics altogether.


We do not control the things which we desire, they control us. We either do things because we want to or because we feel forced to. So, perhaps we don’t have free will over our wants and our wants do control our decisions. Being forced to do something is the opposite of free will. We either stand fast, jump, or get pushed. This is something I constantly ponder as I map out my future. We don't choose our upbringing or the society and culture we're born into. We're at the mercy of fate, with no control over the events that shape us. Our actions are the result of prior causes, beyond our control.


Before psychedelics, I never entertained the notion of fate or the philosophy of free will. The thought that our lives are predetermined felt restrictive, like we have no agency. Even without considering free will, the idea of being a passive participant in the flow of fate is daunting. It's a concept I try to avoid dwelling on, for me, it's one of the most frightening philosophical ideas.


Where does that leave us?


The relationship between psychedelics and the concept of free will is a complex and intriguing one. On the one hand, psychedelics have been shown to have an impact on our perception of time and self, and some argue that they may alter our sense of free will. On the other hand, there is evidence to suggest that psychedelics may actually enhance our sense of free will, by providing a new perspective and insights into our lives that can help us make more informed and conscious choices.


Ultimately, the debate over the relationship between psychedelics and free will is ongoing, and some sort of new research is needed to fully understand the effects of these substances on our perception and decision-making abilities. However, what is clear is that psychedelics have the potential to help us question our beliefs and challenge our assumptions, and that they can play a valuable role in personal growth and self-discovery. Whether we experience a loss or gain in free will while under the influence of psychedelics, what is important is that we continue to critically evaluate and examine our beliefs and experiences in order to achieve greater understanding and self-awareness.

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