Metaphysics, Mysticism, and Psychedelic Research

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event At the Edges of Consciousness, in Pari from June 6 to 13, 2023.

with Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has re-emerged as treatment for a variety of afflictions, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, fear, addiction, etc. Recent evidence suggests that a core efficacious component in such therapy is the inducement of ‘mystical experiences’ – experiences that we can seemingly recognise from certain taxonomies of ‘mysticism’. But such experiences can be more widely subsumed under the category of ‘metaphysical experiences’ and, in so doing, can be further explored through the variety of metaphysical positions that philosophy offers, such as neutral monism, idealism, the transcendent, dualism, and types of physicalism. It will be proposed that exploring psychedelic-induced metaphysical experiences with recourse to metaphysics would be an important optional part of the integrative phase of psychedelic therapy, with the further conjecture that such amplified cognizance of these experiences will lead to longer-term benefits to the participant. Though this proposal of Metaphysics Integration in Psychedelic Therapy maintains a neutral metaphysical position, in this particular session Peter will explore the mystical experiences referred to by the term ‘oceanic feeling’, with its origins (via Freud and Rolland) in the metaphysics of Spinoza, a neutral monism.

Dr Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes is philosopher of mind & metaphysics who specialises in the thought of Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Whitehead, and in fields pertaining to altered and panpsychological states of consciousness. He is a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Exeter where he has co-founded the Philosophy of Psychedelics Exeter Research Group, the ambit of which includes taught modules, conferences, workshops, and publications. Peter is the author of Noumenautics, Modes of Sentience, editor of Bloomsbury’s Philosophy and Psychedelics volume, the TEDx Talker on ‘psychedelics and consciousness’, and he is inspiration to the inhuman philosopher Marvel Superhero, Karnak.