Tehseen Noorani

Psychedelics Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Policing the Boundaries of Spiritual Emergency

The medicalisation of psychedelics has sought to render predictable the psychedelic experience and harness its power for therapeutic ends. What are the limits of this? Historically, the term 'psychotomimetic' has served as a placeholder for vexed debates about the relationship between psychedelic experiences and madness. I review these debates and their relevance for this moment of psychedelic medicalisation. I will focus on attempts to police the boundary between 'spiritual emergency' on the one hand and 'psychosis' on the other, reflecting on the roles that psychedelics could play in either case.

Tehseen is an anthropologist interested in the phenomenological, epistemic and sociopolitical character of extreme experiences, and how these are made sense of across different 'consciousness cultures'. He is currently writing a monograph tracing the renewed scientific and therapeutic interest in psychedelic experiences in the global North, and its impact upon broader understandings of psychopathology and mental health care.

Tehseen is a member of Hearing the Voice, a Wellcome Trust-funded project based at Durham University. He has taught in clinical and community psychology at the University of East London and science and technology studies at New York University. He studied the hearing voices movement in a PhD at the University of Bristol (2007-2012) and spearheaded qualitative research on psilocybin-assisted smoking cessation in a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University (2013-2015).