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SPEAKERS

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OLI GENN-BASH MA
Co-Founder, University of Kent Psychedelics Society

Oli Genn-Bash, MA, is a co-founder of the University of Kent Canterbury Psychedelics Society. He has undertaken postgraduate research primarily within the field of politics; with a specific focus on the philosophy of resistance, mysticism, religion, psychedelic experiences, and stand-up comedy – in particular the work of the late American comedian Bill Hicks. He is particularly fascinated with Gnostic traditions, along with the philosophy of Taoism and Judaism.
 

ABSTRACT: ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH? HUMOUR AND THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE

Many have experienced comical moments within their own personal psychedelic experiences; funny situations, in-jokes, or novel occurrences of a humourous nature. This is something which I believed is often overlooked to a large extent when focusing on the nature of the psychedelic experience. Instead the focus seems to lie within other realms such as spirituality, mysticism, religion, philosophy, medicine, or healing. The humourous moments one may experience don’t become necessarily a focal point – possibly because one feels that there is more to this experience than just fun. Or even further it is that this kind of experience has to be taken very seriously so as to acquire some form of learning which requires full attention. However, I would argue that humour serves a very serious function in these moments which we may not entirely be conscious of within the moment itself; it is the notion that we must not take life too seriously – and I stress this in a very serious manner. Much like the Zen Buddhists who utilise Koans to shake ones mindset out of ordinary thought patterns, humour can be utilised in a similar fashion as a grounding mechanism. It is a reminder that we may not always be so aware of what is going on at all times, and that we may not have as much control over situations as we usually feel like we do within ordinary states of consciousness. The psychedelic experience when viewed within this comedic manner allows us more freedom, and an ultimate release from worry when things surprise us. The ability to laugh at ourselves can serve as a tool to allow for personal growth and maturity, along with the ability to potentially work with the darker and more unpleasant sides to life. Certain stand-up comedians including George Carlin and Bill Hicks have utilised their own personal psychedelic experiences in this way, allowing them more room to explore uncomfortable situations in a jovial manner. Various mystical traditions such as the Sufis and Native Americans have also used humour in this way so as to function as a grounding mechanism, and I believe this is an essential facet of the psychedelic experience which should be explored in further detail.