Brighton Fringe 2018
A talk about exceptional human and transpersonal experiences. Or as Dr. Luke put it “Weird people doing weird stuff with weird substances in weird places and having weird experiences.”
The fifth and final talk of The Odditorium’s series of events at this year’s Fringe was by Dr. David Luke, an author and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich where he teaches the Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience. He began by explaining that his interests ranged from topics such as synaesthesia, out of body experiences and possession, to telepathy and psychokinesis (which was a cue for one of his many self-depreciating jokes, “Anyone who believes in that, please raise my hand”). His style is informal and engaging, and he is clearly an accomplished speaker and lecturer.
Much of the talk consisted of references to his experiences when taking various drugs to ‘transcend time and space’ while trying to contact something ‘greater than ourselves.’ He discussed his trip to Mexico as a young man to study various psychoactive plants and told us about his dreams and visions of flying saucers whilst on peyote in the Mexican desert, and reads from one of his books about the time he was robbed at gunpoint which proved to be a liberating, transcendental moment.
He also explored his relationship the plant Salvia Divinorum know as “The Shepherdess” and the many supposed coincidences that let him to discovering it for himself.
The second half of the show focussed on Celtic storytelling, recounting adventures in Glastonbury and psychic operations all mixed in with Arthurian legend and the prophecy of Merlin. These were interspersed with tales of ‘losing the plot’ at parapsychology conferences, tobacco use and Ayahuasca ceremonies. One got the feeling that the majority of parapsychology academics spent most of their days mashed out of their heads on a whole host of psychoactive substances!
He went on to talk about Breaking Convention, an event held every two years in Greenwich, which brings over 1,000 academics and writers together to discuss parapsychology and psychoactives.
The expectation from some of the audience was that it would be an evening based more on science and research, as he has a doctorate, but instead it was a collection of personal anecdotes. And while they are mildly amusing tales, listening to someone describing their dreams or personal psychedelic journeys can only hold the attention for so long. While obviously deeply symbolic and meaningful for the experiencer, they are less enrapturing for those listening to it second hand. Much of the audience came away with very little new information about psychoactive substances.
Luke’s delivery is confident and relaxed and obviously struck up a rapport with the audience. His dress-down manner and look meant he was approachable. So it was all fun, but perhaps less weighty and intellectual than some of this particular audience may have come to expect from Odditorium events.