The Connection Between Politics and Personality

The sacred is not supernatural, it’s all around us. You only need to learn to see it.

“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques, but I found the divine within my heart.”
— Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī

Lincoln Stoller, PhD, 2021. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Open and Shut Thinking

Politics works to establish a definitive direction and a unified narrative, while a scientific approach considers all alternatives. The scientific approach is more successful, and for that reason politics tries to appropriate science, but it cannot. Their methods are in conflict.

Our dominant personality, which we call our ego, tries to dictate and control when under pressure. When people are relaxed, they are open-minded and flexible. Open-minded people consider alternatives and revisit issues. They are less reliable, from a political point of view. Politics does not like relaxed people. Politics aims to create factions whose opinions are fixed.

When people feel pressure, they seek the protection of their group. In today’s society, the largest group is the state, while others are political parties, communities, cultures, and religious congregations. Most of these groups, even groups of scientists, operate on the factional, political model. Groups are biased even when the subject is scientific. And while bias is rarely warranted, our egos prefer it. Limitations make things simpler.

Beyond Open and Shut

There is a third way of understanding. These first two are rational, discriminating, and pragmatic. The third was doesn’t have a name, which is odd because it is the fundamental path we take in coming to decisions. We might call it dramatic, emotional, or instinctive.

Reason is a gloss on top of instinct, and we tell ourselves we are free willed, rational, and in control of our circumstances. The truth is, we are only weakly rational. Our reasons have their own reasons, and these underlying reasons are not reasonable at all, they’re emotional.

Let’s call this third way of knowing transcendent. It provides new understanding and new reasons. Transcendent knowing is not necessarily irrational or unreasonable, though it feels that way at first. You may eventually come to a new, rational understanding of things, but such conclusions are not necessary. Explanations are never a goal, they’re only a means. You don’t need an argument in order to act successfully or feel you’re doing the right thing.

The only way to a new understanding, aside from having your old memories knocked out of you, is to discard some old structures. Transcendent knowing is a process of mental reformation, and you can never be entirely ready for it. We may be open and attentive, but new perspectives take more than that. They require the ability to recognize and find meaning in new patterns.

Yourself and Others

I recently spoke to a woman concerned about the mental health of her son. I never met her or her son. All I know comes from her report, and you should never believe what people tell you. You should not believe what you tell yourself, which is more to the point.

This person wanted to understand in a way that was neat and predictable, and things were not working. As is often the case in relationships, her son sounded like the perfect argument against her view of the world.

I told her that we could work to change her view of the world—which is to say her view of herself—or we could work to change her view of her son. But we could not work on changing her son’s view on anything. Only he could do that.

She was adamant that she was looking for an understanding that would change her son, or an angle that would give her the power to make these changes happen. I told her that was not how things worked, and I could tell she was not listening.

In truth, you can change other people when those other people are figments of your imaginations, and everyone we know is, to some degree, who we imagine them to be. But even in this case, changing “them” is changing you, and the program is circular.

All reasoning ultimately comes back to undermine itself. This is why mathematics works and physics doesn’t. Math never explains anything, it only establishes identities between things. Physics aims to explain something but, in the end, it always rests on imaginary things. Mathematics is a fourth way of knowing, and we can make a useful personal mathematics when we know ourselves better.

This mother’s problem was that she could not envision a reality that her son could share. Her need for control and understanding was leaving her empty-handed. She was looking for an authority who had the dynamite to blast a tunnel through the mountain to the clarity she wanted. It wasn’t going to happen because she was tunneling through the wrong mountain.

The Tragedy of Knowing

The trouble with knowing is that nothing is true. The more significant the truth you’re looking for, the more inadequate will be what you’ll have to accept. Real truth is multilayered. It does not endorse one goal and does not substantiate one path.

The compromising rationalist will say, “Okay, I understand there are alternatives. I just want to find a combination of the best.” But the best is relative to the perspective you take, and no one perspective is sufficient. In every case that I can think of, the best perspective consists of a combination of contradictions. The only way to accept one idea and its opposite is not to believe either.

Donald Trump is the only US president who is a confirmed sociopath. This isn’t a neurological diagnosis, it’s behavioral, and he fits the behavior. Other presidents have been extreme in other regards—racist, narcissistic, paranoid, or dishonest—but Trump break new ground.

Presidential personalities reflect the society that elects them. All the Trump supporters I knew were white, angry, militant, frustrated, and preferred simple explanations. They knew Trump was dishonest, but he stood for change, and they didn’t much care what. To them, his willingness to screw everyone meant he was allied with no one.

We Get Who We Deserve

“We get what we deserve. They are our elected officials.”
George Carlin

Presidents are elected in the spirit of the times. When the attitude of the times is divided, the voters alternate between the two. Starting well before Trump and continuing well into the future, the attitude of these times is a combination of idealism, selfishness, consumption, and irresponsibility. The leaders that have been elected in the US and its allies have combined these.

I’m often amazed that out of an entire population, presidential candidates have so little to recommend them. This is not a reflection of the quality of the candidates, but the factionalism of the people. This is amplified by our ego’s attraction to simple concepts, and our combative society, which likes to assign blame. There is more to us, but these parts are rewarded.

It isn’t that we cannot have honest, intelligent candidates, it’s that we don’t have an honest, intelligent society. And one reason is that the cart of politics is more easily directed when the team that’s pulling it—which is us—is blinkered. It’s nothing more than that: Western capitalism is an oligopoly, directed by the most powerful organizations.

What is Sacred?

My friend Rachel Harris (2023) has written Swimming in the Sacred, a book about the transformative power of psychedelics. She distinguishes between intellectual understanding and the experience-based, heart-opening kind. It’s this second kind of transformation that she refers to as sacred. Sacred transformations are not on the radar of the current “psychedelic renaissance.”

Today’s interest in psychedelics is an academic exercise in managed care. It’s aimed at the social dragons of trauma, addiction, and depression, which are three great threats to national productivity. Psychoanalysis was imported by the military to address shell shock (Barber, 2008). Psychology was created to police capitalism (Akomolare, 2022). And psychedelics are now being enlisted to boost the Gross Domestic Product.

Rachel argues that not only are psychology, politics, and health care avoiding the sacred—the experience of which holds the greatest potential for change in a psychedelic experience—but they’re not interested in it. The immature nature of our society is responsible for this but, ultimately, this kind of change must be personal.

The world-wide bungle of the Covid-19 pandemic response—with pervasive policy and scientific failures—has shown that science does not mix with politics (Lardner et al., 2023; Editorial Board, 2023). Where science works toward inclusion, politics works toward exclusion or, in common terms, factionalism.

Health care is a social service, not a personal growth movement. Health care institutions look for solutions to social problems. In our supposedly secular society, the absence of the sacred is not considered a social problem. It is only to be expected that practitioners, who are the agents of the health care system, will only see the social issues meaningful to them.

Health care is not scientific. You can create theories and experiments in health care, but that does not make it scientific. The popular refrain of our “evidence based” policies is an attempt to make back-room policy decisions sound scientific. But as scientists well know, you can find evidence for anything.

Psychedelic therapy is emerging from 50 years of underground culture, but today’s leading forces have little interest in what’s gone on in the underground. The underground has not generated the right kind of evidence.

Psychedelic therapy is also emerging from twenty millennia of indigenous use, but again, the evidence is not appropriate. Today’s psychedelic renaissance pays lip service to indigenous knowledge.

Policymakers are pressed to recognize other cultures’ use of these substances, but this is done without serious consideration. After all, indigenous cultures are marginal. They do not steer policy.

Being Too Pragmatic is an Oversight

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Helen Keller

Politics is rarely forward-looking, and health care is no exception. We may discuss the future, but policy is based on present values and likely outcomes. Where Rachel decries the oversight of those steering the psychedelic renaissance, I insist this is politics as usual. More fundamentally, it is personality as usual.

The sacred will not become an issue until it has a place in individuals. As long as policymakers, health care institutions, and agents cannot conceive of the sacred, it won’t exist as part of the program. Rather than decry this as inevitable, I teach the alternative.

The sacred is not so mysterious. It’s hidden inside everyone. We don’t see what’s sacred in us because encountering the sacred is frightening, and we get no support.

Some would claim the sacred is religious, but I deny that. While spirituality creates a sense of the sacred, religion exploits the sacred to create orthodoxy. Religions have no more to do with the sacred than governments do, which is why the two compete with each other.

The sacred grows from a larger awareness. Awareness grows from the combination of disengagement from the old and the recognition of new patterns. New patterns make little sense, are chaotic, or seem empty, noisy, and confused. You might say it’s not possible to focus on what does not exist, but then you probably have not taken psychedelics!

Mind-expanding experiences develop greater awareness, empathy, and personal growth. They can be facilitated by, but are not limited to, the use of psychedelics. Enlarged awareness can also be discouraged by an overly pragmatic approach. Seeing psychedelics as medicines for illnesses dismisses their role in opening us to the sacred.

The sacred is not supernatural, it’s supra-natural. One can prepare to venture beyond one’s psychological borders in the same way one prepares for any journey: give yourself time, space, support, and find direction.

Magical thinking is unnecessary. Western-minded people make this mistake because they see indigenous cultures as magical, but indigenous cosmologies are not magical to natives of these cultures, they’re normal. Shamans engage with these forces all the time. They see our blindness as magical.

Letting go of limiting beliefs is an essential part of change. Gaining awareness of new aspects of one’s self are standard parts of brain training. The sacred is not somewhere over the horizon, it’s all around us. Today’s medicalized psychedelic renaissance does not see it is because today’s practitioners and policymakers don’t know how.

I help people become aware and awake, to sleep and hear better.

I invite you to join me in a free, 15-minute call to learn more.


Akomolare, B. (2022). Emergence, self-exploration & recovery, Episode 56, Inside the Wooniverse. Retrieved from:

Barber, (2008 Winter). How Freud conquered America, and then lost it. The Wilson Quarterly. Retrieved from:

Editorial Board (2023 Apr 24). A closer look at the U.S. pandemic response reached an unsettling conclusion, Washington Post. Retrieved from:

Harris, R. (2023). Swimming in the Sacred, New World Library.

Lardner, R., McDermott, J., & Kessler, A. (2023 Jun13). The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted. AP News.

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