You Don’t See Reality How It (Actually) Is

How Psychedelics Offered Me A New Perspective On Life

see reality as it is psychedelics
Psychedelic Lens — Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

A few years ago I left my bachelor’s course at Brazil’s top university the University of São Paulo to move to Holland, where I kicked off my career in the area of the responsible use of psychedelics.

My main motivation when I directed my professional goal to the wonderful world of the therapeutic use of sacred tools such as psilocybe mushrooms, mescaline cacti, LSA, and other entheogens became clear to me after my first psychedelic experience when I was 18 years old and realized that there was something of value in the mystical experience that I think can benefit our world.

I remember — and also made a point not to forget — that that first LSD experience changed how I saw reality forever. More than just changing my consciousness for a few hours, it made me realize that other people saw reality in a different way than what I expected them to.

Now it seems kinda silly to say this, but at the time I had this conviction that every single living being saw the world in the exact same way as I did.

Maybe other people and animals navigate through different sensorial equipment and a different interpretation of reality, but growing up without access to the psychedelic landscape I led myself to believe that even dogs and cats understood reality in the same way that I did.

The Psychedelic Lens

This misconception came crashing down during my first psychedelic experience with LSD where I could experience firsthand a totally different external and internal world that somehow felt more real than my ordinary consciousness.

LSD offered me the flexibility to interpret the data my senses captured in a myriad of different ways.

Integration is the name that we give to the process of implementing psychedelic insights and lessons into our everyday life. Integration is a never-ending process that invites the psychonaut to reexamine old habits and past life choices in the light of a newfound perspective.

By looking back into my own life considering the new realization that there is more than one way to see the world, a drastic change happened in my life. This triggered a process of metamorphosis that fundamentally impacted how conduct me and understand reality.

Beyond changing how I see reality, this mystical insight allowed me to take in the fact that what I see, hear, and feel about my surroundings is not an accurate depiction of what reality (actually) looks like.

Sun Storyteller — Photo by Ben Vaughn on Unsplash

The Greatest Storyteller

A few streets from my house there is a park with a little lake where different kinds of birds live and often I catch myself looking at the leaves of the trees around this lake that during winter falls off and then they slowly grow back as the seasons pass.

In my hometown on the coast of Brazil, the trees don’t lose leaves, so it’s rare to see a healthy tree without leaves in Brazil. To me, it is really fascinating to watch how the European trees change their foliage gradually changing their colors from Autumn to Spring.

On a sunny day, the photos interact with this foliage, and depending on how this interaction goes the photons will be redirected into my retina feeding my brain with valuable information about my surroundings.

This sensorial input will become an important component in my cognitive system and ultimately will compose my worldview.

This means that we humans understand the world based on a mental model of the external world composed of the interpretation of the packs of energy that our senses detect.

Thinking of our star, the Sun, as our main source of energy and the main responsible for the information our senses detect, then we could argue that we humans understand the world secondhand based on the story that the Sun tells our sensorial organs, making the Sun the greatest storyteller on Earth.

When I look at a green leaf, how accurate is that leaf in relation to the objective reality?

green leaves psychedelics
Green plants — Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Scientist Donald Hoffman believes that evolution didn’t benefit individuals who saw reality accurately, instead, the animals most likely to survive were conditioned to interpret reality via mental abstractions that made them more likely to interact with elements of nature in a more fit way to survive.

This may mean that humans are also made to interpret the world favoring practicality instead of accuracy.

Assume Ignorance

psychedelic articles assume ignorance
Assume Ignorance — Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

My biggest takeaway from this epiphany that I had all these years ago and that still resonates with me today was: if I don’t even see reality accurately, then how can I know anything at all?

At first, this thought can be a little uncomfortable, but at times like this, I think of the Tarot card of the falling tower, which represents the archetypical idea that in the process of evolution it is necessary to let the castle fall so that you can rebuild it with firmer pillars.

We have to be open to letting go of old beliefs and reexamining them as often as needed, and as someone who grew up to be quite attached to my own worldview, I found that assuming ignorance helped to make the leap to a more flexible understanding of reality.

A scholar tries to learn something every day; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily. 

— Alan Watts

Assuming ignorance means that I never approach a new problem with the conviction that I already understand it. In reality, I found benefit in navigating the normal everyday life by observing my surroundings as if I had to figure them out in real-time.

This made me more curious as well as more attentive to my surroundings and the people around me. The more information I can collect about the world around me, the better equipped I am to understand it.

There was a deep change in my social interactions when I started to listen more carefully to what people were saying and waited until they were done speaking before I decided how to respond.

Another change I noticed was that I began to have healthy disagreements with other people when I stopped defending my worldview and started a process of cooperative mutual exploration with others in search of the truth.

Make your own experiment

Take some time to sit without distractions and try to unlearn everything you believe to be true and systematically explore reality in order to rebuild your belief set.

You may find a new meaning in science, as it offers firm fundamentals to one’s belief set.