#187  Psychedelics: the key to evolution or (yet more) big Pharma hype? With Dr Ros Watts of ACER Integration

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Are Medicine Plants a key to our progress as a species? Can they help overcome the mental health crisis in one quick fix? Or is it – as it seems – far more complex than this? With Dr Ros Watts of ACER Integration

We are the Accidental Gods. We didn’t plan to be the ones to hold the god-like power to destroy most of the life on this planet, but here we are, at a place where one single species – ours – has the capacity to do just this. The routes to Armageddon seem to be increasing all the time, but they all have one thing in common: they’re predicated on our absolute disconnection from the web of life.

It is a central tenet of this podcast that, for most of our evolutionary history, humanity has existed as an integral part of this web – and that we were aware of our connectedness. Quite how we lost this is open to question and I doubt if we’ll ever find concrete answers: certainly I don’t think speculation is worth a lot of emotional or intellectual bandwidth – because what really matters – what can and, I think, should, take up most of our energy in whatever time we have left – is finding ways to heal the rift, to re-connect us to the living web so that we can ask of it, ‘What do you want of me?’ and respond to the answers in real time. If you’ve listened to this podcast much, you’ve heard me say this once or twice before. Possibly more often. If you’re a part of the wider Accidental Gods community and come along to our monthly Intention Intensives, then you’ve heard me say it Every. Single. Time. we meet. (!)

So, yes, finding ways to do this at scale is something of an obsession. I think it’s the only way we’re going to get through, and that if we can achieve it. we’ll have made a significant shift in the evolution of our consciousness – our wisdom (the bit that AI will never be able to emulate). But one of the things from which I have steered quite clear is the field of psychedelics. There are a lot of reasons for this and we explore some of them in the podcast we’re about to hear because I have found someone whose opinion I trust implicitly, who has direct experience of the use of psychedelics in a number of fields and whose integrity feels strong.

Dr Rosalind Watts is a clinical psychologist who was the former Clinical Lead of the ‘psilocybin for depression’ trial at Imperial College, London. She also gave a ground-breaking TEDx talk in 2017, in which she opened up the results of that first trial to her peers and to the world.

Since then, though, she has written a Medium post in which she points out some of the pitfalls of that trial, and opens up the concept that if we use psychedelics indiscriminately in a toxic culture, they are as likely to amplify the toxicity as they are to heal. Having realised this, and experienced some of the harm that plant medicines can do if not held within a supportive framework, Ros has gone on to found ACER Integration, a twelve month online course with monthly modules built around connections to and with trees – designed explicitly to create the supportive culture people need to integrate their experiences.

So – if you’re expecting us to talk about all the multi-coloured wonders of psychedelics, then forget it, that’s not what this podcast is about. It’s about understanding the systemic nature of mental health, of cultural experience and of the ways plant spirits can act to change this. It’s inspiring and it’s a call to action, as well as a profoundly important health warning as we approach the brink of yet another tipping point.

In Conversation

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