Luke Dodson
Musician & writer

The Psychedelic Illuminati: Conspiracy Theories and the Counter-Culture

Conspiracy theories have long been a feature of the psychedelic counter-culture. As psychedelic drug-users have often found themselves on the wrong side of the law, as well as in politically antagonistic relationships with the Powers That Be for all sorts of other reasons, a certain degree of paranoia and mistrust of the government is inevitable. But what about those conspiracy theories that turn inward, towards the psychedelic counter-culture itself? Writers such as Jan Irvin and the late Dave McGowan have claimed that the entire psychedelic movement came out of a manufactured campaign of social engineering spearheaded by CIA and other powerful organisations. While one may or may not fully agree with all of the conclusions that these revisionists come to, they nonetheless draw attention to some disquieting facts that are worth taking into consideration.

This talk will examine the different narratives promoted regarding the origins of psychedelic culture, and take a perspective that attempts to integrate these often confusing, contradictory, and sometimes paranoia-inducing narratives into a holistic, psychologically literate framework. A counter-culture cannot help but be shaped by the culture from which it was spawned. Likewise, psychedelics will be utilised by people in the ways that their culture will have conditioned them to do so. The involvement of powerful players in the military, intelligence, and financial worlds does not have to lead to a paranoid, us-and-them mentality. Nor does an acknowledgement that there is at least some truth and merit to the revisionist arguments mean we have to throw any babies out with the psychedelic bathwater.

Luke S. Dodson is a musician and writer based in Canterbury, UK. His academic background is in Comparative Literature, and his postgraduate work focused on the use of language as a tool of occult practice in the work of William Burroughs and Jorge Luis Borges. Since then, his interests have veered towards parapolitics, conspiracy narratives, and Jungian psychology.