“LSD didn’t create the anti-war movement in the 1960s. It radicalized it, distracted it, and, ultimately, made a very serious and important movement all but inaccessible to people in the mainstream.” That’s Robert Forte talking recently from his hideaway in the mountains outside Santa Cruz. He is one of our nation’s foremost thought leaders on the topic of entheogens (i.e., psychedelics and spirituality) and a self-described “psychedelic drug scholar,” and, more to the point, he is coming to Santa Barbara to speak this week, bringing with him a big dose of controversial reality.
Forte, who is an author and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, represents a bridge between the golden age of psychedelics (think young Timothy Leary) and their current renaissance with the proliferation of DMT churches, ayahuasca tourism, and micro-dosing. Interestingly enough, Forte is not too happy with what he sees unfolding in modern times. “I have a somewhat dark analysis of what is going on,” he said. “The potential for these substances to be instruments of mind expansion is just as real as their potential to be instruments of mind control — fairy dust in the eyes of the population to distract the masses from their political realities.”
If what Forte is talking about smacks of conspiracy theory, you wouldn’t be wrong, and he wouldn’t argue with you. “People are allergic to conspiracies, and I get it. But, truthfully, if you aren’t coming up with conspiracy theories, you aren’t looking at history or sociology in a very scientific way,” he said, especially when you consider the role the CIA played in the early days of acid. “I know that we can nourish our culture and our bodies and our souls with these types of drugs,” Forte explained, “but love is not all you need, especially today. You need political sophistication, and you need to face some hard facts about your reality and the systems you are living in. Psychedelics can either aid that personal evolution or prevent it.”
Robert Forte speaks this Friday, April 27, 6 p.m., at Unity of Santa Barbara (227 E. Arrellaga St.). The event is $30 in advance or $40 at the door. For more information, see entheomedicine.com.