Psychedelics for Judaic returnThu 12 July 2018
Davis: ... an example of how open-ended the results of psychedelics can be... You were in Israel studying American Jews who found their way back, or not even necessarily back but came to embrace hardcore orthodox Judaism in the full-on Israeli mode, which is no joke... and you discovered that some of the motivations that brought them there were sometimes psychedelics.
That's not part of that normal set-and-setting matrix for your average 19-year-old who eats mushrooms at a university. That really fascinates me...
Steinhardt: ... a lot of those [people], a lot of them were young men but some were young women, they were experimenting with psychedelics as teenagers or at colleges, which was also my experience. And it opened them up to this realm of experience that they then wanted answers for. Or they wanted to channel in some way (which is using their language).
I think a lot of it also comes from American identity politics – that they were squeamish about appropriating someone else's culture. There was also this question of "what do I have?", "what can I bring to this?", "what was our tradition?"...
And then they start studying Judaism and they stumble on Shlomo Carlebach [either this one or that one]. And Carlebach, his whole thing was finding these hippies in the 60s & 70s and bringing Hasidism to them... this mystical philosophy that takes the Kabbalah, the mystical tradition... and he used to say that giving Hasidism to these people was like giving them heroin, in a way... it was like they were so hungry for something. And you see that too with the younger people.
So there is this return narrative, of returning to Judaism. And that's one of the things that resonants across the American countercultural uses of psychedelics – of people trying to return to some other state of harmony where they're aligned with the universe, and somehow that opens them up.