Featured Conference Symposia and Contributors
Note: each symposium concludes with a 30 minute Q&A with the panel.
Click the arrows for information on a symposium’s contributors.
Psychedelics and HealthFriday Morning
Few issues in our lives and in our culture are valued, both psychologically and financially, more than our health. Recently, new grant-funded research has revealed the healing properties of several psychedelic substances, reviving the validity of research done decades ago. With the help of researchers and clinicians, this symposium will explore current trends in psychedelic healing, and also how discoveries old and new might change the way that we think about health and healing.
DAVID JAY BROWN, M.S.
DAVID JAY BROWN holds a master’s degree in psychobiology from New York University (1986), and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Southern California (1983). David was responsible for researching the section on unusual animal behavior and earthquakes for British biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s bestselling book on the unexplained powers of animals: Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (Crown, 1999), and his widely reprinted essay on this subject “Etho-Geological Forecasting” was published in the Oxford University Press book First Certificate Masterclass Workbook. David has appeared in numerous television documentaries talking about unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes, including, the PBS Nature documentary “Extraordinary Cats”, and the BBC and The Discovery Channel’s show on “Psychic Animals” Animal X. David is the co-author of three volumes of interviews with leading-edge scientists and artists–Mavericks of the Mind (Crossing Press, 1993), Voices from The Edge (Crossing Press, 1995), and Renaissance of the Mind.
STEPHEN BEYER, Ph.D.
Title: “Shamanism, right relationship, and the sacred plants.”
We will be hearing a lot of talk about what the sacred plants can do for us — heal our wounds, cure our addictions, expand our minds. We have been taught to think of the sacred plants as useful prepackaged collocations of active molecules. But in indigenous cultures, shamans heal because they are in a personal and mutual relationship with the healing spirits. When we use the sacred plants, our encounters with the world of the spirits are not visits to the therapist; they create a relationship that entails obligations as well. In this view, the sacred plants are autonomous others who are not means to our ends but rather ends in themselves. Like vision fasts or dreams or talking circles, using these plants is a sacred shamanic ceremony, which has its own often unforeseen purposes, and lessons to teach us.
“Stephan Beyer… has an unparalleled knowledge of sacred plants” — The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions, Smithsonian Institution
STEVE BEYER has doctoral degrees in religious studies and in psychology, and has taught at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the University of California – Berkeley, and the Graduate Theological Union. He lived for a year and a half in a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, and has undertaken and helped to lead numerous four-day and four-night solo vision fasts in the deserts of New Mexico. He also studied wilderness survival among the indigenous peoples of North and South America, and studied sacred plant medicine with traditional herbalists in North America and curanderos in the Upper Amazon, where he studied the healing plants with doña María Tuesta Flores and received coronación by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama.
Steve’s current interests center on the indigenous ceremonial use of the sacred plants. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Shamanic Practice, and currently serves on the advisory board of the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service. He is the author, among other books, of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon.
NEAL M. GOLDSMITH, Ph.D.
Title: “Psychedelic Love: Sex to Transcendence”
What is Love? We make love, love that sweater, love God. We sometimes think of love in the form of sex as lower than love in the form of romantic relationships, and romantic love as lower than love in the form of spirituality. Is this an accurate representation of reality? From Jesus to The Beatles, in psychedelics, through all seven chakras, and including sex, romance, and spirituality: Love is the very essence of the Universe. This talk will present ideas for a book I’ve been working on, Love: Sex to Transcendence , and as in Psychedelic Healing , this book (and this talk) will be part overview of the latest research, part clinical guide, and part personal report from the field. Please join me as we explore the truth about “Psychedelic Love.”
NEAL M. GOLDSMITH, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist specializing in psychospiritual development and resistance to change. Seeing “neurosis” as the natural unfolding of human maturation, he views psychology as the science of personal emergence and spiritual maturity. With the exception of biologically-based diseases, such as schizophrenia, psychology is not about “mental illness” and so Dr. Goldsmith treats “neurosis” as spiritual immaturity, not pathology. In fact, he believes the “sick” label itself tightens and distorts, actually slowing healthy realignment. Dr. Goldsmith conducted his dissertation research, on the factors that facilitate or inhibit the successful utilization of mental health policy research, as a federally-funded doctoral research assistant at Princeton University. He was also deputy principal investigator of this four-year, nation-wide study of mental health policy research utilization.
KATHERINE MACLEAN, Ph.D.
Title: “The Effects of Psilocybin and Meditation on Personality Change and Well-being”
KATHERINE MACLEAN, Ph.D. received her bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College where she completed a two-year research stint recording brain activity in rhesus monkeys. Heeding the call to study the neuroscience of consciousness more directly, she transitioned to human research for her graduate work at the University of California, Davis. There she worked with Ron Mangun on studies of visual attention and with Cliff Saron on the Shamatha Project – a longitudinal study of changes in behavior and brain function during intensive meditation training. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology in the Fall of 2009 and subsequently joined the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit within the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as a postdoctoral fellow. For the past two years, she has been working with Roland Griffiths and his research team on laboratory studies of the psychological and behavioral effects of psilocybin and other hallucinogens (Salvia divinorum) in healthy adults. In her ongoing research, she has been investigating the intersection between psilocybin and meditation, including potential brain mechanisms and therapeutic applications.
MAGGI QUINLAN, Ph.D.
Title: “Healing from the Gods: Ayahuasca and the Curing of Disease States”
This work explores concepts of healing: what healing means and how it is achieved. It explores and expands the concept of the role of disease. Rather than viewing illness and disease as abnormal and only a condition to be fixed, it shows the potential for transformation. It is a record of the inner and outer journey through illness that each person experienced using the entheogen ayahuasca as the catalyzing agent for the curing that was reported. It investigates the potential for healing that does not currently exist in an allopathic system of medicine which “presupposes the direct organic combat of disease and of its symptoms through a neutralizing, opposing agent” (Groisman & Sell 1995: 241). Ayahuasca offers a potential to change that paradigm, and to expand current medical options in treating terminal and chronic illness. By providing access to a larger image of the psyche ayahuasca shows us the transpersonal and perinatal roots of symptoms and the energetic concept of healing that offers a new model of medicine.
MAGGI QUINLAN Ph.D., received her Doctorate from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She was one of the first recipients of the Kranzke scholarship for the study of Entheogens. Her Integral Studies Doctoral Program focused on Healing and Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness, and was paralleled with a 4 year independent program which studied the specific qualities and consciousness associated with individual entheogens. It also taught the specific skills required to safely and effectively facilitate entheogenic sessions for others. Her dissertation studied the healing people experienced from terminal and chronic illness, through the use of Ayahuasca and other entheogens. In her clinical work as a Healer and Counselor for the last 35 years, she has seen the effect that illness, injury and disease can have on the transformation of a person’s consciousness. She has also studied the impact that work with entheogens can have in facilitating and accelerating that transformation. This has led her to the conclusion that a new field of medicine needs to be established specifically for the healing of consciousness, and the recognition that entheogens are the Medicines for Consciousness, which is also the title of her upcoming book.
Psychedelics and Art TheoryFriday Afternoon
The psychedelic experience is perhaps no more prominent than in creative expression. The experience of being taken away and shown a new world has allowed artists in all modalities to bring back new and transformative ideas in creative expression. This symposium would talk about the role of psychedelics in art, and how that translates to the potential for psychedelics to transform culture.
Title: “The Path and Lineage of Visionary Art: How We Opened Ourselves Up”
With the invention of the camera in the mid-1800′s, artists were freed from painting reproductions of reality and were able to turn their gaze inwards. Various artistic movements focused on how we see the world around us and how we perceive the inner landscape. Early methods and results of the inner explorations were, at times, simpler in scope than what we have found ourselves able to elucidate upon today but, by now, we’ve had a lot more practice with the imagination. The turning the eye inwards and the development of this ‘Modern Art’ happened in tandem with new explorations and developments in the field of psychology, the introduction of Eastern spiritual texts into the Western lexicon, advances in various fields of science, and the introduction, synthesization, and exploration of various psychoactive substances including opium, hashish, mescaline, and LSD. These new modes and areas of inspiration led to a deeper exploration of the inner imagination and helped propel the arts towards a deeper and more meaningful dialogue with the human condition.
Michael Divine is at the forefront of a resurgent creative wave that draws its inspiration not just from art theory and intellectual ideas but also from the basic principles of what it is to lead a healthy and vibrant life. His spirited and vivacious artwork falls in step with a long tradition of artists who base their work on their interpretive visions. His paintings – with their imaginative wonder and deeper spiritual underpinnings – reference ancient traditions, modern artistic explorations, and contemporary themes. His work is as much inspired by Futurism, Impressionism, and Abstract Artists as it is by the Surrealists and the Fantastic Realists. He is inspired by the teachings of the many great artists of the past and his work helps to continue a living artistic lineage and narrative and adds a very present spiritual component to this artistic vision. Click here to visit Mr. Divine’s website
Title: “It Takes a Village to Raise a Strong Art Movement”
Jen Ingram presents a seasoned perspective on the growing visionary art movement and the global festival culture as a whole. Blending experience as a mother of two and US west coast facilitator for a worldwide phenomenon; the importance of the role that family plays in a community environment; and the growing need for collaboration across boundaries on the path to sustainability: “it takes a village to raise an art movement.”
Using the vehicle of art gallery Tribe 13 Jennifer Ingram supports the efforts of independent artists through creating opportunity and momentum on their journey. From creating new interactive experiences to bringing the culture on tour to new audiences, Tribe 13 is the on the forefront of the art, music and fashion world of the new galactic culture emerging today.
Jennifer originally hails from Seattle, WA and now lives in the outskirts of the Bay Area in California. Since the birth of Tribe 13 with fellow artist Roman Villagrana, Jennifer has been curating and coordinating huge efforts getting art, fashion and music from the underground to the mainstream year-round. Beginning with art galleries at the Oracle Gatherings in Seattle, then on to the Interdimensional Art Shows & Tours across the west coast, and now with international, large-scale gallery installations, Tribe 13 has paved the way for artists of ‘visionary’ or ‘interdimensional’ art with Jennifer at the helm.
In addition to Jennifer’s work within the art world, she also contributes and volunteers within the African Birth Collective in Senegal. The scope of her work reaches far and wide and affects more and more people as time unfolds.
Ken Johnson writes art criticism for the New York Times. His book “Are You Experienced? How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art” was published by Prestel Books in 2011. Find a profile of his book, and an interview with Ken Johnson here, and view Ken’s articles for the New York Times here.
ANDREW ‘ANDROID’ JONES
Android Jones is at the forefront of the visionary art movement, a wave of artists who emphasize creativity as the foundation of consciousness and an agent of social change. As a digital alchemist, Android builds on the technical developments of past centuries in art history while pushing the boundaries of the imagination with new technologies and media forms. Moving beyond the traditional technologies of pencils, ink, and brushes, Android develops latent possibilities within software programs such as Painter, Photoshop, ZBrush, and Alchemy, discovering new combination’s and uses for tools that exceed the original intentions of their programmers. In Android’s live art performances, including the acclaimed Phadroid dance performances with wife Phaedra Ana, he incorporates elements of chance and improvisation, inviting synchronicities that surprise audience and artist alike and allow for unscripted moments of beauty to shine through. As an experience designer, Android has contributed to films, games, and to building communities through www.conceptart.org andwww.dreamcatcher.net, and his interactive installations have enchanted tens of thousands of participants at events like Boom and Burning Man. Viewing the digital domain as a medium of energy and light that expands the nature of reality, Android’s art encourages others to explore the potential interfaces of mind and machine in this time of accelerating change and increasing novelty. To this end, Android’s art serves two related functions: it bears witness to realities accessible through heightened states of consciousness, and it also engenders heightened awareness through the processes of creation and audience interaction. Digital art becomes a tool for navigating reality and human awareness, and Android’s art invites others to join the advancing evolution of consciousness by speaking to the artist in everyone.
Click here to visit Mr. Jones’s website
Title: “Principle in Art Theory”
Visionary art—of which psychedelic art is a species—can be as various as any other category of art, which is to say, without limit. The visionary art most currently associated with psychedelic experience seems to be mainly representational, albeit representing non-ordinary reality. However, visionary art has other manifestations in other cultures, as well as in Western culture itself. Of the latter, the French poet/artist Henri Michaux (1899–1984) is an example, drawing on mescaline what he thought of as an alternative (non-verbal) language, in rather calligraphic abstraction. Before him William Blake (1757-1827) painted what he saw in non-drug-induced vision, then visioned further in engraving his Illuminated Prophecies, where text and image continuously modify each other in complex vision-inducing experience. Among our contemporaries, Gary Hill (b. 1951) sees his video and installation art as originating in LSD experience, and rather than represent that experience, he allows insight into re-visioned reality to create new modalities of art experience, including what he now calls Glossodelia. My own work in axial art has connections with all of these (Michaux, Blake, Hill) and aims to embody states of visionary awareness within specific mediums (drawing, language, music, video, performance) as the basis of singular experience beyond paradigm—performative initiations into the self-transforming structure of reality.
Artist, poet, critic, and musician George Quasha works across mediums and disciplines to explore principles in common within language, sculpture, drawing, video, sound, installation, and performance. Solo exhibitions of “axial stones” and “axial drawings” include the Baumgartner Gallery in New York (Chelsea), the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia, and at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. His lecture will present a theory of “principle” in art, poetry, music, thinking, and consciousness, and in particular the “axial principle,” where “principle” is in contrast (and yet complementary) to “conceptual” art.
Psychedelics in University Academics and ResearchSaturday Morning
A field of inquiry gains its merits by its inclusion and recognition by universities. There, through scholarly research and discourse, a question can flourish, a field of study can grow, and reliable information can shape a culture. In 2007, the inauguration of the first university school dedicated to the study of environmental sustainability made a powerful statement about the cultural relevance of that field of inquiry. In this symposium, perspectives from university scholars already dedicated to the field of psychedelic studies will discuss current momentum toward such program of psychedelic studies and grant-funded research, and consider how such a program might be feasibly developed.
Title: “How Does the Legal Status of Psychedelics Affect Research Opportunities and Outcomes?”
We are now in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, with clinical research studies under way at top medical schools and research institutes worldwide. Yet the legal status of psychedelic drugs continues to restrict scientists’ ability to assess their safety and efficacy. What are the intended and unintended effects of current drug policies on clinical research? What are the challenges in changing the legal status of psychedelic drugs? And what are the drawbacks and benefits of various options for changing their legal status – such as gaining FDA approval for medical use, legislative reform, or legal exceptions for religious use?
JAG DAVIES is the publications manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. Davies has worked in the field of drug policy for more than a decade, with a focus on establishing effective and humane public health and criminal justice policies. He previously served as the policy researcher for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where he coordinated local, state and federal efforts to end punitive drug policies that cause the widespread violation of constitutional and human rights. Prior to the ACLU, he worked as the director of communications for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
NEŞE L.S. DEVENOT, M.A.
Title: “Psychedelic Studies in the Humanities: Risks, Precursors, and Potentials”
This talk will provide an overview of efforts towards integrating psychedelic experience into a humanities curriculum and to establish Psychedelic Studies as a recognized academic field. In particular, Neşe talk will discuss how she began studying psychedelics as a graduate student in a Comparative Literature program at the University of Pennsylvania. She will explore several recognized precursors to aspects of Psychedelic Studies in the humanities, including Queer Studies and ‘paraphysics. Lastly, she examine the motivations behind–and the challenges of–teaching the course “Poetic Vision and the Psychedelic Experience” to groups of mostly freshmen students in the 2011-2012 academic school year.
NEŞE L.S. DEVENOT is a doctoral graduate student in the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania and a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich and Evolver.net. Specializing in visionary art, psychedelic culture, futures studies, media studies, and performance, taught an undergraduate course titled “Poetic Vision and the Psychedelic Experience” during the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters. She has presented on DMT and hyperspace philosophy at the American Comparative Literature Association annual conference in Vancouver, BC, and on psychedelics in academia at Breaking Convention: A Multidisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness in Canterbury, UK; the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in California; and Entheogenesis Australis in Victoria, AU.
JEFFERY GUSS, M.D.
Title: “Training to Become a Psychedelic Psychotherapist”
This talk will review the history of this unique Training Program and the academic, ethical and research issues that have emerged over the first five years of its existence. Dr. Guss will describe the curriculum of the program and its similarities to psychoanalytic training. He will share observations on the skills and abilities that are emerging as vital for working with research subjects, and the preparation to work as a therapy dyad. He will also address the uneasy bridges that span from positivist, academic narratives, which underlie the pharmacology research-model, to the more subjective/experiential based forms of knowing and healing that tend to be more sensitive to social and immanent forces.
JEFFREY GUSS, M.D. is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY and is serving as Co-Principal Investigator for the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study, and is the Director of Training in Psychedelic Psychotherapy for that study. He is on the Faculty of NYU Medical Center’s Fellowship in Addiction Psychiatry, offered through the NYU Department of Psychiatry, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
Dr. Guss graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL in 1974 (BA) and from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY in 1978 (MD). He completed a Residency in the Adult and Child Psychiatry program at University of Michigan Affiliated Hospitals and a Research Fellowship associated with the University of Michigan Anxiety Disorders Program, Ann Arbor, MI, in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Dr. Guss received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY in 2005. and He is the co-editor of Addictions in the Gay and Lesbian Community (Haworth Press) and most recently published “The Danger of Desire: Anal Sex and the Homo/Masculine Subject” in Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2010.
Dr. Guss specializes in outpatient psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the treatment of addictive disorders.
STEPHEN ROSS, M.D.
Title: “The NYU Psychedelic Research Group”
This talk will review the history of the NYU Psychedelic Research Group and will focus on the experience of conducting research with psychedelic medicines in the context of an academic medical center.
DR. STEPHEN ROSS, M.D. is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. He is the Principal Investigator for the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study. The primary objective of this double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study is to assess the efficacy of psilocybin on psychosocial distress, with the specific primary outcome variable being anxiety associated with advanced cancer. Secondary outcome measures will look at the effect of psilocybin on symptoms of pain perception, depression, existential/psychospiritual distress, attitudes toward disease progression, quality of life, and spiritual/mystical states of consciousness. Dr. Ross holds leadership positions throughout New York University, including director’s positions at Bellevue Hospital Center, the Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, and Tisch Hospital.
STEPHANIE SCHMITZ is the Special Projects Archivist at the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections. She oversees materials within two distinct collecting areas, the Susan Bulkeley Butler Women’s Archives and the Psychoactive Substances Research Collection. In this position she makes decisions about what archival materials should be acquired for each collecting area and ensures that they are properly arranged, described and preserved so that they are made accessible to researchers and other interested parties in perpetuity. Prior to coming to Purdue in 2007, she worked as a conservation technician at the University of Maryland Libraries, an assistant librarian at the National Symphony Orchestra, and as a government contractor at one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency libraries. Her archival training was acquired as a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, and as a graduate assistant at the University of Maryland Libraries’ Special Collections for Performing Arts. She received her Master’s in Library Science from the University of Maryland in 2006.
Translational Research of Psilocybin’s Effects on HumansSaturday Afternoon
In the past decade, a wealth of research studying the effects of psychedelics on human psychiatric pathologies has appeared in academic an lay journals alike. This symposium will look at the most recent advances in this research in labs at John’s Hopkins University.
ROLAND R. GRIFFITHS, Ph.D.
Title: “Overview of the Hopkins psilocybin research and summary of studies in healthy volunteers.”
ROLAND R. GRIFFITHS, Ph.D., is Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories has been on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs. His research has been largely supported by grants from the National Institute on Health and he is author of over 300 journal articles and book chapters. He has been a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, and to numerous pharmaceutical companies in the development of new psychotropic drugs. He is also currently a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence for the World Health Organization. He has an interest in meditation and is a lead investigator of the psilocybin research initiative at Johns Hopkins, which includes studies of psilocybin occasioned mystical experience in healthy volunteers and cancer patients, and a pilot study of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation.
WILLIAM A. RICHARDS, Ph.D.
Title: “Psilocybin treatment of cancer patients.”
WILLIAM A. (BILL) RICHARDS, Ph.D. is a psychologist in the Psychiatry Department of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Bayview Medical Center, where he has pursued research with psilocybin during the past 12 years with Roland Griffiths and other colleagues. His graduate degrees include M.Div. from Yale, STM in the psychology of religion from Andover-Newton Theological School, and Ph.D. from Catholic University, including studies with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, where his involvement with psilocybin research originated in 1963. From 1967-1966, he pursued psychotherapy research with LSD, DPT, MDA and psilocybin at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, including protocols designed to investigate the promise of entheogens in the treatment of alcoholism, severe neuroses, narcotic addiction and the psychological distress associated with terminal cancer, and also their use in the training of religious and mental-health professionals. From 1977-1981, he was a member of the psychology faculty of Antioch University in Maryland. His publications began in 1966 with “Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism”, coauthored with Walter Pahnke, and published in the Journal of Religion and Health.
MATTHEW JOHNSON, Ph.D.
Title: “Psilocybin Treatment of Drug Dependence: Smoking Cessation.”
Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Vermont, and completed a fellowship in behavioral pharmacology at Johns Hopkins. He has received multiple grants as principal investigator from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on the psychology and treatment of addiction, and has authored approximately 30 publications. Much of his work has applied behavioral economic models such as delay discounting and demand elasticity to decision making in addiction, and recently to sexual decision making in cocaine and methamphetamine addiction to understand HIV risk. He is also conducting treatment research including a clinical trial of combined pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapy for cocaine addiction. Dr. Johnson is also an expert in assessing the behavioral and psychological effects of psychoactive drugs in humans, having published human drug administration research with cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, various sedatives, and hallucinogens including psilocybin and salvinorin A. In 2008 he published recommended safety guidelines for the re-emerging field of human hallucinogen administration research, and in 2011 he published the first placebo controlled study showing psychoactive effects of salvinorin A in humans. In published research with psilocybin he has examined mystical-type effects, persisting changes in attitudes and behaviors, personality change, and psilocybin effects on headache. Currently he is studying the effects of psilocybin on a mediation program, and psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety and depression among cancer patients. He is principal investigator of an ongoing pilot study examining the putative anti-addiction efficacy of psilocybin in the context of tobacco smoking cessation. Dr. Johnson has served as a scientific reviewer for multiple grant review panels and numerous scientific and medical journals, and received the 2011 American Psychological Association Substance Abuse and Psychopharmacology Division Young Psychopharmacologist Award for excellence in research interfacing pharmacology and psychology.
Psychedelics and TheorySaturday Afternoon
Introducing a new variable into an environment changes the dynamics of that environment, even if only in a small way. If the renaissance of interest in, and appreciation of, psychedelic experiences continues to develop from a groundswell into the mainstream, we must consider how a culture might adapt to this new contribution. This symposium will explore theory and philosophy as they relate to the integration of psychedelics into the modern cultural paradigm.
Title: “Laying the Groundwork for a Psychedelic Theory”
PAUL ELIAS is a graduate student at York University, Toronto, in the Social and Political Thought program. His research interests encompass theories of mind and consciousness (including those associated with the psychedelic experience), German Idealism and Hegelianism, Marxism and radical political theory, and phenomenology (of the Husserlian tradition). His studies project onto an interpretation the psychedelic experience. Mr. Elias believes that a psychedelic theory is needed to bring the discussion back into mainstream social and political discourses—a theory that is capable of attracting mainstream attention and eliciting serious consideration of psychedelics and the psychedelic experience.
Title: “Measuring Immeasurable Phenomena”
This discussion takes place at the junction of four levels of discourse–epistemology, subjective consciousness, the neural network model, and neurochemistry–by making an analogy between the psychedelic experience and Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” In Kuhn’s work, a self-consistent scientific worldview (Newtonian Mechanics) is challenged by the observation of anomalous phenomena (the way light bends around celestial bodies) that are inconsistent with that worldview. Subsequently, the status quo must be overhauled to fit the anomalies into a new, self consistent framework (Einsteinian Relativity). Similarly, anomalous subjective phenomena that occur during a psychedelic experience differentiate alternate levels of consciousness beyond the normative, resulting in a conceptual paradigm shift. Psychoactive chemicals give us the opportunity to establish well-formulated experiments with known chemical compounds, set dosages and specific trial times. With these chemicals as tools, researchers have the potential to develop concrete answers to age-old philosophical issues involving the epistemological validity of subjective insight.
DREW KNIGHT majored in Consciousness Studies at New York University with a focus on Integrative Education. He has since been traveling and teaching, making independent films, organizing multi-disciplinary media events in New York City, studying Indian classical music along with Hindu and Buddhist meditation in Northern India, participating in Native American shamanic healing circles and medicine ceremonies in rural Pennsylvania, studying Sufi devotional music in Turkey, attending conferences on Consciousness Studies at Oxford University, co-writing and acting in an educational stage-play in North England, and training English language teachers in Thailand where he now resides. Knight’s primary interest lies at the crossroads between physics, metaphysics, empiricism and subjectivity.
K. VIOLET McKEON
The prohibition of psychedelic drugs from being made available to citizens as patients is something presently left to sovereign states to decide, with considerable pressure from more powerful states having influence. The rights of patients as both citizen of a sovereign state and as a human with assumedly inalienable human rights are considered. When the two concepts of a person are in opposition in regards to their rights, which is to be given priority? When access to certain prohibited substances means the difference between health and wellness, pain and productivity, does the state ultimately have the authority to deny access to the citizen qua human being? I will argue that a patient’s human rights include the right to wellness when wellness can be achieved through the use of prohibited substances; moreover, that the individual’s conception of wellness is the salient concept. I will also argue that it is ultimately unethical to prohibit an individual from obtaining or using any substance that they and their chosen medical advisors deem appropriate in their quest for wellness.
K. Violet McKeon has a Masters degree in Philosophy from the University of California at Irvine, where she is presently working on her doctoral dissertation on Global Environmental Justice. Her other academic work presently is in Ethics more broadly construed, and Game Theoretical approaches to environmental issues. As an undergraduate at UC San Diego, she wrote her thesis in the Philosophy of Physics, and minored in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing. She has volunteered with the organization MAPS. She is also a fine art and performance painter, yoga teacher, and avid rock climber.
Title: “Mapping the Contours of Higher Consciousness: States, Stages, and a Space for Psychedelic Experiences”
The theoretical framework I wish to pursue explores the use of psychedelics for the purpose of expanding and advancing consciousness and how this relates to mystical experiences. Developing a theory of psychedelics oriented around the advancement of consciousness generates a series of questions that I will address. We will develop a theoretical framework for consciousness itself, and what it might mean for it to be “advanced,” “expanded,” or “evolved” from both an individual perspective and a social perspective. These perspectives can be aligned to yield a model of states of consciousness with stages of individual development. Distinguishing “states” from “stages” of consciousness is necessary because it examines the relationship between altered states and developmental levels of consciousness, how transient states can be transformed and preserved into more enduring realizations that can serve as actual stage structures, and what the manifestations of such achievements might be.
As an undergraduate at the Gallatin School of Individualized study, Phillip Witkin incorporated academic work from a wide variety of specializations into his concentration consciousness studies on the evolution of consciousness. Chemistry and physics, as models of the hard sciences, served as a grounding point and objective orientation to supplement studies in the social sciences of ethnomusicology, anthropology, and theorists of the social sciences. Philosophy emerged as his primary tradition. The Works of Ken Wilber became and remain an extremely influential meta-theoretical framework for his consciousness studies, which incorporates science, philosophy, and spirituality. Witkin is a founding member of the Gallatin Consciousness, the first club at NYU dedicated to consciousness studies. Though an avid intellectual, Phillip Witkin is also an artist and musician. Using his backround in mathematics, he cultivates what would be now considered a “Traditionalist” approach to fractal art.
Psychedelics and InnovationSunday Morning
Psychedelic experiences are most commonly associated with the dissolution of boundaries, the limits of innovation. Fables about psychedelic-inspired innovations abound. In this symposium, creative scholars across disciplines will explore avenues of innovation previously opened up by psychedelic experiences, and discuss new avenues being opened up today.
ANTHONY P. BOSSIS, Ph.D.
Title: “Psilocybin and Mystical Experience: Implications for the Treatment of Existential Anxiety and Psycho-Spiritual Distress in Advanced Cancer and End-of-Life Illness.”
The psycho-spiritual and existential distress that cancer patients frequently experience is a
primary clinical factor in end-of-life suffering. In recent years, the disciplines of palliative care and psycho-oncology have greatly expanded efforts at better understanding end-of-life existential and psycho-spiritual suffering and have called for integrative and novel psychotherapeutic approaches to provide spiritual and existential interventions in end-of-life care. Building upon research with psilocybin and other psychedelics (entheogens) begun decades ago, current research is exploring the potential benefits that a psilocybin-facilitated mystical experience may provide in helping patients find meaning, improve on spiritual well-being, and experience a greater acceptance of the dying process with less anxiety. Clinical research with psilocybin has been shown to promote a mystical or primary religious experience. This presentation will focus on the potential of these mystical states of consciousness to cultivate personal meaning and mitigate end-of-life existential and spiritual distress. An overview of the current research at New York University School of Medicine and the NYU Bluestone Center for Clinical Research focusing on the psilocybin-facilitated mystical states of consciousness to cultivate personal meaning and mitigate end-of-life existential and spiritual distress in end-of-life patients will be presented.
ANTHONY P. BOSSIS, Ph.D is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University College of Dentistry. He is the Co-Principal Investigator and the Director of Palliative Care Research for the New York University Cancer Anxiety Psilocybin Research Project. This research is investigating the impact of a psilocybin-facilitated mystical experience upon existential and psycho-spiritual distress in persons with cancer. He is a supervisor of psychotherapy and clinical training at Bellevue Hospital – New York University Medical Center and the co-founder and former co-director of the Bellevue Hospital Palliative Care Service. Dr. Bossis is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management and a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care. His clinical, teaching, and research expertise are dedicated to the enhanced understanding and treatment of patients with life-threatening and severe medical disorders in addition to patients with chronic pain conditions. Dr. Bossis has a long-standing clinical and research interest in the interface of psychology and spirituality and the role of spirituality and primary mystical experience upon psychological and physical health. Dr. Bossis maintains a private psychotherapy practice in New York City.
RICHARD DOYLE, Ph.D.
Title:”Here (and Now) in Darwin’s Pharmacy, and How!”
Richard Doyle, Ph.D. earned his Ph.D. in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley. He was the Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow in History and Social Science of the Life Sciences at MIT in 1993. Doyle holds appointments in English, Science Technology & Society and the College of Information Science and Technology at Penn State University and was Visiting Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric in 2003. Doyle teaches courses in the history and rhetoric of emerging technosciences – sustainability, space colonization, biotechnology, nanotechnology, psychedelic science, information technologies, biometrics – and the cultural and literary contexts from which they sprout.
Title: “Some Pitfalls of Psychedelic Culture: Utopian/Dystopian Delusions and Spiritual Megalomanias”
An overview, from someone sympathetic to psychedelic consciousness, of a few problematic and too rarely discussed aspects of psychedelic subcultures: their too frequent tendency to uncritically embrace a slew of naive utopian ideas, conspiracy theories, half-baked mythological constructs, and spiritual megalomanias of various types. J.P. will explore some possible reasons for these tendencies and how perhaps to mitigate some of the negative consequences these uncentered expressions can have.
J.P. HARPIGNIES is associate producer of the annual Bioneers (www.bioneers.org) eco conference since 1990 and formerly a program director at the New York Open Center, is a consultant, conference producer, copy-editor, writer and eco-activist. He is: the author of three nonfiction books: Political Ecosystems, Double Helix Hubris, and most recently, Delusions of Normality; editor of the collection Visionary Plant Consciousness; and associate editor of: Ecological Medicine and Nature’s Operating Instructions. A radical student activist in the anti Vietnam War movement in his youth in the 1960s and early 1970s, he studied at “Science Po” (The Institute of Political Science) in Paris in 1968, and at CCNY and Columbia.
Title: “Entering the larger Conversation: The future of interdisciplinary psychedelic studies.”
The future of psychedelic studies is implicitly interdisciplinary, drawing from psychology, anthropology, sociology, critical theory, and feminist studies as much as from the hard sciences. Integration into mainstream academic discourse requires the integration of themes and issues elucidated by the social sciences in contemporary discourse. To be taken seriously by academics in other arenas, psychedelic discourse must engage the complexities of race, gender, class, sexuality. As a community of academics we must take seriously the lack of indigenous voices within our discourse, as well as the lack of women’s voices, and the voices of people of color. Of all social sciences, anthropology in particular offers insights into the complexities of study with indigenous populations that are relevant to a psychedelic culture that incorporates indigenous understandings and claims, in some circles, to be built upon foundations of indigenous knowledge. Central to this inquiry is critical engagement with the myth of the noble savage and the complexities of translating complex cosmologies across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Finally, contemporary anthropology demands self-reflexivity, a critical eye turned toward the institution of research and its implicit agendas, and a willingness to situate the researcher to understand the limitations of research across cultural boundaries. Without taking these insights and movements of various social scientific disciplines seriously, the psychedelic academic community will remain peripheral to mainstream academic discourse. Ultimately, to integrate into the discourse of other disciplines we must integrate their insights into our own work.
LILY ROSS is a Masters of Divinity candidate at Harvard, around religious dimensions and integration of psychedelic or plant medicine experiences. Her particular focus is in new traditions rooted in indigenous practice, primarily although not exclusively, Ayahuasca. This includes critical examination of the intercultural exchange occurring around Ayahuasca, drawing from anthropology, post-colonial theory, cultural studies, history, and religious studies. Her studies are geared more toward integrating theory and practice: mapping emerging territory in a language that is useful and practical to communities and individuals invested in various forms of medicine work. Lily is Director of Development for Critical Beats for the Climate and Amazon Voice. Lily also composes poetry, prose, and plays.
Psychedelics and EthicsSunday Afternoon
In the wake of astonishment leading up to and following new developments/technologies, it is not uncommon to forget to consider the ethical ramifications of such innovations. In the past, these oversights have yielded negative outcomes. In the field of psychedelic studies, it yielded a deathblow. In this symposium, leading scholars will explore ethical considerations in the development and use of psychedelic technologies, looking into the past for lessons, and also looking to potential pitfalls in the future.
BIA LABATE, Ph.D./BRIAN ANDERSON
Why “ayahuasca” healing?
Over the past decade, the psychedelic brew ayahuasca has garnered significant attention as a healing substance–a potion that can purportedly cure mental illness, cleanse believers of spiritual afflictions, and even repair severed bonds thought once deeply to link humanity with the rest of nature. Because we find certain uses of ayahuasca for healing to be intriguing, and even compelling, we wish to fashion a richer understanding of the concept of “ayahuasca healing” by dissecting out recent social and political factors that have coalesced to shape ayahuasca’s dynamic ontology as a “medicine,” or even a “sacred medicine”. Key examples of how understandings of ayahuasca are being re-invented in ritual settings in South America, constructed in biomedical research, and reified and challenged through government regulatory measures are used to demonstrate the complexity of social forces behind ayahuasca’s perceived healing nature. Much of the impetus for representing ayahuasca as being inherently “healing,” we argue, is the product of a particular cultural vision that divides substance use into dichotomies such as recreational versus medicinal use, or licit versus illicit drugs. Finally, given the current status quo in drug policy, we speculate on the possibilities of having ayahuasca’s healing potentials officially recognized, and we reflect upon the challenges of conducting biomedical research with ayahuasca.
BEATRIZ CAIUBY LABATE has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, ritual, and religion. Currently she is Visiting Professor at the Drug Policy Program of Center for Economic Research and Education (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE), in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is also researcher with the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of its site (http://www.neip.info). She is author, co-author, and co-editor of eight books, two with English translations, one journal special edition, and several peer-reviewed articles. For more information, see: http://bialabate.net/
BRIAN ANDERSON obtained his BA in Biochemistry with a minor in Latin American and Latino Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. Currently, he is an MD Candidate at the Stanford University School of Medicine and an MSc Candidate at the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics. His anthropological fieldwork experience includes working with the undocumented Mexican immigrant population in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and with the União do Vegetal in Bahia, Brazil. Brian intends to specialize in psychiatry and to conduct research on mood disorders, substance abuse, and the therapeutic uses of psychedelic substances.
MARTHA FARAH, Ph.D.
JULIE HOLLAND, M.D.
Title: “Ethical considerations in the medicinal use of psychedelics”
Ethical considerations in the medicinal use of psychedelics in Western medicine will be explored, with particular attention to how government cooperation or obstruction affects vulnerable patient groups.
DR. JULIE HOLLAND, M.D. is a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist, with a private practice in New York City. After receiving her medical degree from Temple University, Dr. Holland completed a residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. From 1996 to 2005, Dr. Holland ran the psychiatric emergency room of Bellevue Hospital on Saturday and Sunday nights. A liaison to the hospital’s medical emergency room and toxicology department, she is considered an expert on street drugs and intoxication states, and lectures widely on these topics. Her extensive research paper on MDMA (ecstasy) resulted in multiple television appearances, forensic consultations, and a book, Ecstasy: The Complete Guide. A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA. All proceeds from this book fund clinical studies of MDMA. Dr. Holland is the medical monitor for multiple therapeutic studies investigating the utility of MDMA or cannabis in ameliorating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. She is also the medical monitor for a therapist-training program for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Dr. Holland received the Norman Zinberg Award for Medical Excellence in 2011.
JONATHAN D. MORENO, Ph.D.
Title: “A Social History of Psychedelics”
This presentation will explore the pathway of one psychedelic in particular, LSD, from the pharmaceutical industry through national security, psychotherapy, spirituality, popular culture and its recent reappearance as one of several innovative treatments for emotional problems and cognitive enhancement.
JONATHAN D. MORENO, Ph.D. is one of fourteen Penn Integrates Knowledge university professors at the University Pennsylvania, where he is also Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, of History and Sociology of Science, and of Philosophy. In 2008-09 he served as a member of President Barack Obama’s transition team. Moreno is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and is a National Associate of the National Research Council. He is a member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee and has served as a senior staff member for three presidential advisory commissions. Moreno is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he edits the magazine Science Progress (www.scienceprogress.org). He has served as an adviser to many governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Moreno has published 15 books and more than 500 papers, book chapters, reviews and op eds. He is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major media. His book, The Body Politic: The Battle Over Science in America, was named a Best Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews.