Doing Psychedelics in the 1960s
In the 1960s, psychedelics seemed equally likely to become to be the secret to happiness or a complete sham. There wasn’t any experimental evidence to prove otherwise, but there was plenty of anecdotal evidence. The epistemic environment in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time was similar to that of a cult uprising.
Before the advent of mass atheism, how would you know whether or not to join a cult? Typically, you verify that a cult is working by looking at the people around you. You would look at proxy variables, like a sense-of-community, belonging, the possibility of sex, or even fun. And who knows, participating might put you on the ground floor of the next Christianity since every major religion once started as a cult. Maybe the cult you’re joining has the actual secret to getting into Heaven. Nobody has proof that Heaven doesn’t exist.
Just as there is no outside view that Heaven doesn’t exist, there was no outside view in the 1960s that psychedelics weren’t going to unlock the “spirit molecule” or some global awakening. Now, sixty years later, it’s clear that the acid heads weren’t right. Or were they? Bill Gates and Steve Jobs famously did acid, as did many Silicon Valley pioneers. And now Silicon Valley is ascending to world domination, much like Christianity. Maybe that’s all that everybody was after in the first place, to be players in grand dominance games. It would have been rational to believe all the hype surrounding psychedelia if the upshot was that you were going to become an early adopter of something greater.