Episode 11 : David Luke

“How psychedelic is two hours in anechoic dark room? It turns out it’s like a small to medium dose of LSD or psilocybin”

David Luke

In this episode I sat down with David Luke. David is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich. Dave is co-founder and current chair of Breaking Convention, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary conference exploring psychedelic science and culture.

David straddles two very different worlds – he operates within the conventional academy of the social sciences, whilst also maintaining a deep interest in esoterica and parapsychology. Dr Luke directs the Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness salon, as well as conducting field experiments with DMT and clinical research with LSD.

I would still describe myself as a philosophical materialist but I find hyper materialist  - like any other extremist thinkers – both intellectually tedious and ideologically dangerous. It was in this spirit I wanted to talk to David – I want to have good-faith conversations, in-person, with nice people (who I might disagree with). The goal is to see if they can teach me something and maybe vice versa. 

 We didn’t really get into the weeds of parapsychology for several reasons.

  • I had very limited time with David as I had to rush off from London to Bristol to attend another event. Think of this as an introductory chat - I’m sure we will sit down again.

  •  I need to be a bit more knowledgable on the actual claims within the field of parapsychology

  • I’m not a sociopath – I always seek to find common ground with people before reflexively disagreeing with them. And the good news is I feel we did this…

Having consumed a good deal of David’s content, I think we share a similar frustration with a scientific tendency in psychological research to not just dismiss outlier findings but to go too far  - to repudiate them. This leads to a regression to the mean of both scientific innovations and applied outcomes Furthermore it is just plain lazy - it abdicates the responsibility to explain findings which simply do not fit inside your neat little paradigm.    

So let’s all keep an open mind, without letting our brains fall out. I think it is healthy for David and researchers like him to make extraordinary claims, and I feel it is appropriate for interlocutors like me to demand extraordinary evidence. This back and forth should proceed with mirth, goodwill and a fundamental sensibility for the fact that the person you are talking likely knows something you don’t!

I really enjoyed Davids company, I get the feeling he takes what he does very seriously, whilst not taking himself too seriously at all. That is as it should be.

In this Podcast we discuss:

  • Anechoic Chambers

  • The concept of Dark Retreats

  • David’s Collaboration with Haroon Mirza

  • The role of Art as a legitimate arm of the scientific vanguard

  • The problem of expectancy bias and priming effects in psychological research

  • Absorption as a potential correlate to psychedelic states

  • Temporal lobe lability

  • The relevance of epilepsy to psychedelic science

  • The potential similarity between the ominous experience of ‘sensed presence’ between sufferers of sleep paralysis and those who reported an ‘ominous presence’ within the anechoic chamber

  • David’s agnosticism around the concept trans-cerebral Consciousness

  • Parapsychology

  • We introduce the concept of, ‘antirithm’ - consuming content that is antithetical to the bubbles the algorithms are pushing us all into.

  • David’s DMT research

  • Bundle of content related to David’s more conventional work

  • Bundle of content related to parapsychology

  • The value of non-drug altered states as psychedelic experiences

Dr David Luke

Psychologist, Lecturer, Psychedelic Researcher, Director of Breaking Convention

Dr David Luke is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich. His research focuses on transpersonal experiences, anomalous phenomena and altered states of consciousness, especially via psychedelics, having published more than 100 academic papers in this area, including ten books, most recently Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine (2019).

Niall Campbell