Andy Letcher
Senior lecturer in ecology and spirituality

Ontological anarchy and the ecological self

Can psychedelics save us from ecological destruction? One common discourse is that by occasioning animaphany – the experience of the world as alive, agentic and meaningfully interconnected – psychedelics (or perhaps ‘ecodelics’) truly reveal the world-as-it-is and our place within it, and so have a major role to play in steering us safely through the Anthropocene. But how seriously should we take this claim? Can’t such experiences be easily dismissed as ‘magical thinking’?

Bracketing the ontological truth claims of animaphany, I suggest that the answer depends partly on our view of the Self. Drawing on the REBUS model of psychedelic action on the brain, Deep Ecology, Indigenous Cosmovisions, and the New Materialism, I present a typology of the Self and argue the merits of ‘the Permeable Self’. Only this meets the challenges of the Anthropocene.

Finally, I ask what happens if we lift the lid and take such ontological truth claims seriously. I argue that the times necessitate ontological anarchy, both to resist the episto-ontological structures that birthed the Anthropocene, but also to maximise resilience through an increased ontological ‘biodiversity’.

Dr Andy Letcher is a senior lecturer in ecology and spirituality at Schumacher College. A writer, performer and scholar of religion he began life as an ecologist, completing his D.Phil in Ecology at Oxford University. After a spell as an environmental activist during the 90s, especially during the anti-roads protests, he moved to the humanities, completing a PhD in the Study of Religion at King Alfred’s College Winchester. He is an expert on contemporary alternative spiritualities, especially modern Paganism, neo-shamanism and psychedelic spiritualities. A writer known for his critical approach, he is the author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom and a range of academic papers on subjects as diverse as fairies, animism, folklore, bardism and Druidry. He wrote the companion volume to The English Magic Tarot. A folk musician, he plays English bagpipes and Dark Age lyre, and for ten years fronted psych-folk band, Telling the Bees.