Bakunin and the Entheogenic Challenge to Atheism (Anarchist Studies 24.2, Winter 2016)



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Publication date: December 1, 2016

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As fossil fuelled capitalism drags global civilisation towards the strange attractor of ecological implosion, can we get any help from outside (what the secular main-stream in the west generally recognises as), the human social field? This paper makes the case for the pedagogical potential of the naturally-occurring psycho-active ‘entheogens’, that is, substances which, taken sacramentally, are held to ‘engender the divine within’. Handled in a thoughtful way, these substances, I argue, are potential allies for the remaking of the revolutionary movement in an age where human extinction is now thinkable. Between the existing radical left in its various forms, and this ally, however, there are some obstacles. One such obstacle is the atheism of the dominant European revolutionary tradition. In this paper Mikhail Bakunin’s influential critique of religion as a form of human domina-tion, as an enemy of human freedom, is taken as exemplary of this tradition. The testimony, meanwhile, of entheogenic experience puts this familiar leftist-atheist standpoint in question. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews with users of entheo-gens including ayahuasca, vaporised DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT toad venom, I argue that a left willing to open itself to these experiences could gain a new standpoint from which to oppose and outflank capitalist ecocide.