Home Blog PSYCHIDELICS Surfing the Third Wave: A Vision of Ecological Integration
Surfing the Third Wave: A Vision of Ecological Integration

Surfing the Third Wave: A Vision of Ecological Integration

About the Author: Benjamin Ramm is the author of the forthcoming book High Definition: A Vision of Our Psychedelic Future. As a journalist, he presented documentaries for the BBC and wrote for The New York Times and The Guardian. He is the founder of Honeydew, an eco-community in Italy inspired by plant medicine. You can follow the project on Instagram @HoneydewCommunity.

The Third Wave is surging – but in which direction is the current flowing, and how is it transforming the social landscape? 

Where will the tide deposit us, once we have landed, in the period after psychedelic illumination? 

And, crucially, how can we integrate the journey successfully, incorporating these insights into the fabric of our everyday lives?

“The ceremony begins when the ceremony ends.”

Since the pandemic, media coverage of the psychedelic renaissance has reached a fever pitch of positivity. And yet, within the plant medicine community, discordant voices are louder than at any point since the honeymoon began almost a decade ago.

Influential figures have begun to reference the Gartner hype cycle, devised to map the emergence and challenges faced by new technologies. First comes the rapid surge of enthusiasm, culminating in the Peak of Inflated Expectations, in which the specific technology is regarded as a magic pill — the panacea for all our personal, cultural, and even political woes. Then comes the similarly steep Trough of Disillusionment, characterized by counter-narratives of discontent, mismanagement, and abuse. 

The question is whether the psychedelic “renaissance” can survive the slump and emerge into the last two phases hypothesized by Gartner: the Slope of Enlightenment, followed by the Plateau of Productivity.

Corporate Capture

During the recent “shroom boom,” the tenor of the industry was characterized by brashness, the kind of swagger associated more with confidence-boosting amphetamines than with ego-dissolving psychedelics. 

A sense of vindication, reminiscing on the lost fifty years from prohibition to revival, has led many advocates to emphasize the dual nature of psychedelics: how they fit pre-existing models of clinical treatment while bolstering the broader status quo of industrial capitalism. If the Second Wave was the rebellious child, looking to reshape society around the psychedelic experience, the Third Wave is the child seeking validation, wishing to place psychedelics in service of corporate culture.

Yet a fundamental tension exists that fails to cater to the awakened self; one who experiences radical personal transformation before re-entering a society hostile to ecstatic states. Returning from the edge of consciousness, the tripper is met with incomprehension, wariness, and even disdain. They are expected to integrate transcendental insights into a culture rooted in individualistic, consumerist precepts. The tools offered for integration are curiously modest: a weekly Zoom call, daily journal writing, setting up a mini-altar at home — all of which may assist in providing clarification, but none of which are capacious enough to integrate the vastness of this cosmic experience.

An Alternative Path

Instead, we require a holistic approach that addresses an unacknowledged truth of the psychedelic renaissance: it is impossible to integrate healthily back into the society that made you sick. The modern metropolis – with its toxic air, noise, and light pollution – undermines all efforts at healing: it is intolerable to the nervous system and antagonistic to emotional regulation. The city’s culture prompts a competitive rather than collaborative impulse, which is wearying rather than rejuvenating — a perpetual barrier to a sustainable community. The city is the site of a civilization dying, not of one being re-born.

Out of these insights, the Honeydew project was conceived — from a desire to reconnect us to each other and to the natural world of which we are part. The community, nestled in the mountains of central Italy, has a dozen long-term residents and welcomes visitors, volunteers, and retreat attendees. The project was prompted by a transformative mushroom journey, at the end of which I expressed a singular desire: to commune with others through the preparation and sharing of food. In his book Food of the Gods, Terence McKenna quotes Venda of the Fox Clan: “To eat together is to be of one body.” 

Our community is dedicated to nourishing the social soul.

Sustainable Integration

The philosopher Jules Evans has suggested that one difference between the Third Wave and the post-war Second Wave is the commitment to serious integration. But this belies a misunderstanding of the Second Wave: the advocates of ’60s psychedelia would have been baffled by the intention to optimize productivity or alleviate the pressures of corporate culture. Sixties psychedelia explicitly rejected integration because it regarded psychedelic sacraments as a portal to imagining a radically different kind of society.

By contrast, Third Wave work on this subject, such as Marc Aixala’s 2023 book Psychedelic Integration, avers from any serious civic engagement, treating the integration of ecstatic experiences as a private, personal responsibility. But this does an injustice to psychedelic technologies, which offer us a brief window to drive the social and cultural shifts that are essential for individual self-renewal. 

During the Second Wave, the point was to grasp the moment for radical renovation; by contrast, during the Third Wave, practitioners counsel to wait for thirty days before making any drastic changes — after which the clarity and conviction are often muted, and the suffocating habits of everyday life constrict our room for maneuver.

Collective Healing

Honeydew is an attempt to honor the transformative potential of the psychedelic experience. Against the “heal thyself” lifestyle culture, this project stems from the belief that therapy, without community, can never heal us fully. At Honeydew, visitors can see how communion continues after the ceremony and how the fire of connection is deepened in this earthly sphere of consciousness. (Indeed, communion around the fire is an essential ritual at Honeydew — a return to an ancestral form of social bonding.)

Our community is not a retreat from the world; on the contrary, we regard Honeydew as a site of emergence, of coming into being, a place where people open, flower, and finally breathe. The psychedelic state allows us to glimpse the potential for self-renewal, and our community empowers us to realize it. (Perhaps the term “re-treat” is more appropriate — a true prescription for a deep social malady.)

Honeydew is a cicatrice, a healing bridge, offering safe passage from a culture incapable of facilitating true human flourishing. Honeydew illustrates how community holds us in ways conventional structures (such as the nuclear family) cannot. Here, there is an energetic uplift, best conveyed — as they say of ayahuasca — by showing, not telling; by partaking, not observing.

Social Flow

Microdosing coaches often speak of flow states of creative productivity, in which resistance melts away, and action and imagination are in sync. In the community, we’ve discovered a kind of social flow as we enter a conscious state of co-creation. In episodes like this, Honeydew becomes vitalized with its own life force, an organism that forges its participants as they, in turn, nourish the collective. And this binds the group in trust — a form of collective self-actualization.

Reaching this state requires a willingness to shift focus from the ego, which is the cause of so much of our melancholy — that endless rumination on the self encouraged by the New Age therapeutic culture. By committing to a project larger than the self, we unlock a part of us that has not been allowed to flourish in a competitive urban culture. As connections become more deeply embedded in the shared communal fabric, we carve out that most elusive experience in modernity: the making of collective meaning. In shared pursuit, rather than perpetual individual competition, we create a kind of collective resilience against adversity.

Spiritual Consumerism

Early on, I identified the most difficult challenge facing the community — not the material conditions (a vast site uninhabited for a decade) but the transactional mentality of the consumer, who knows how to calculate and purchase but not how to live in service, giving their energy in a way that enriches both the self and the collective. The Second Wave understood the psychedelic experience as a disenchantment of capitalism, but the Third Wave can be characterized by a degree of spiritual consumerism, in which this experience becomes just another commodity.

Visitors who came to Honeydew as digital nomads often expressed these attitudes, regarding the community as merely a perch on which to sit fleetingly, always maintaining a degree of aloofness. These nomads failed to grasp that there is a kind of freedom that comes only through deep commitment: choosing to dedicate yourself completely to a shared project. And that service facilitates a more generous self — in the joy of living with and for others.

The Meaning of Grounding

To access this kind of social liberty, it is necessary to enter the community with a degree of humility. Many in the psychedelic space are busy publicizing their healing, but their capacity for growth is limited when it remains centered on the self. Community living offers a different kind of evolution: away from the limitations of ego achievement and into the expansive realm of the collective. The logistical challenges facing communities such as Honeydew (ranging from financial to ecological) pale compared to the friction that occurs when egos are set against each other instead of in service to the collective.

Indeed, it is vital to be aware of the shortcomings of the Sixties and Seventies communes inspired by the Second Wave of psychedelic awakening. Too often, in declaring the abolition of bourgeois morality, these communities embraced ‘natural justice,’ which favored the powerful more than the wise. Sexual ethics were anarchic and imbalanced – the demand for “free love” was more frequently made by men – at precisely the moment when sensitivity was required. 

Crucially, these communes were rarely intergenerational: they tended to attract young people emerging into adulthood, often with a strong sense of certainty and lacking the diversity of experience that comes with age. Disregarding elders led to hubris, and contempt for tradition encouraged vanity. We treat these lessons as warnings and emphasize that Honeydew is an act of social rediscovery, not a pioneering invention.

Shared Gratitude

The word humility comes from the Latin humus – earth. So often, the psychedelic experience elicits a deep connection with the earth and its bounty. At Honeydew, this is consecrated as we ground ourselves in shared abundance rather than in the consumer culture’s mindset of scarcity. 

The flower of community comes from the earth, and at Honeydew, we live a more active, grounded life, avoiding the online culture of silos and slogans. At the core of our outlook is gratitude: for fresh, abundant food; for a cosmopolitan community rooted in local traditions; for the dazzling, star-filled night sky; for clean air and pure water; for low noise and light pollution; for a space to co-create and reimagine our own kind of society.

The pandemic clarified the extent of our isolation and the urgency of new models of solidarity. Over the next decade, our culture will face great waves of difficulty, which can be surmounted only with collective resilience. The work of building community is not always easy. Indeed, its virtue comes in part from embracing its difficulty. 

Sed omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt, wrote Spinoza — “But all things that are excellent are as difficult as they are rare.” And in the mastering of difficulty, in concert with others, we discover a sense of mission and purpose that mainstream culture rarely offers us. In the work of co-creating community, we begin to evolve into people capable of building a new, more conscious, more collective society that will ride the coming waves of dissolution.

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