In Loving Memory of Psychedelic Pioneer and Spiritual Teacher Ram Dass

In Loving Memory of Psychedelic Pioneer and Spiritual Teacher Ram Dass

Above: Ram Dass, late 60s, from “Birth of a Psychedelic Culture”

Forever Remembering Ram Dass

Psychedelic pioneer, countercultural icon, spiritual teacher, and Synergetic Press author Ram Dass passed away last month. He peacefully departed from his body on 22 December 2019, at the ripe age of 88 surrounded by friends and loved ones at his home in Maui. 

Without a doubt, Ram Dass was one of the most symbolically representative figures of the countercultural consciousness revolution that took place in the 1960s and 70s. From formidable Harvard professor, LSD researcher, and right-hand man to Timothy Leary, he helped to initiate the psychedelic era to later becoming the spiritual teacher known world over as Ram Dass. 

Born Richard Alpert in April 1931, he graduated from Tufts University in Boston, earning a doctorate in psychology at Stanford, and becoming a high-flying professor of psychology at Harvard University. In the early 1960s, Alpert worked together with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner at Harvard University, emerging as a figurehead in the countercultural scene. 

Higher Consciousness at Harvard

Ram Dass, Timothy Leary & Ralph Metzner

Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, and Ralph Metzner

It was under Timothy Leary’s influence that Richard Alpert came to have his first psychedelic experience. Leary had experienced psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico, holding that the experience revealed more about human psychology than he’d spent his career learning. Alpert found himself intrigued by Leary’s description of the mushroom, and soon enough an experiment had been arranged. Alpert describes his first experience with psychedelics as extremely powerful, bringing about an ego-death, dissolving the image of himself that he’d spent his career working towards. Reflecting on his dissolving identity, he said:

“‘Well, I guess I don’t really need that anymore’ and I sat back and relaxed. And the minute I said, ‘I don’t need that anymore,’ the figure changed and it was somebody else. I sat forward and there I was again, except now I was the young cosmopolite. My ‘cosmopoliteness’ was sitting over there; alright, well I guess I can do without that. Sat back. And in a sequence, all of my social roles went by— ‘loverness,’ ‘wise man,’ ‘kind person—all of my roles. With each one, I said: ‘Okay, well too bad about that one, there it goes.’”

In 1960, Timothy Leary ordered psilocybin from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland, with the aim of investigating how different manners of administration could generate different experiences. Richard Alpert, alongside Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner (who passed away last year), collaborated with figures like Aldous Huxley, and Allen Ginsberg in order to carry out research into human consciousness, which later became known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. 

Soon the Harvard professors began to include LSD in their experiments. Although psilocybin and LSD were both legal at the time, their research was considered to be highly controversial and its legitimacy was questioned by the faculty at Harvard, leading to Alpert and Leary being jointly dismissed in 1963. 

Learn more about LSD, it’s history, and how it was first synthesized.

Birth of a Psychedelic Culture

Unperturbed, the unorthodox Harvard trio relocated to an estate in Millbrook, New York, offered to them by heirs of the Mellon fortune, in order to continue their research. Alpert and Leary went from being academic to legendary counterculture icons, forever changing a generation of Americans with their explorations into the usness. 

An illuminating conversation between Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner is presented in our publication, Birth of a Psychedelic Culture: Conversations about Leary, Harvard, Millbrook, and the Sixties, in which they shine light on these radical experiments, and provide an understanding of the history of the sixties.

CLICK HERE to read Ram Dass’s and Ralph Metzner’s reflections in this last chapter of their memoir on a decade of experimentation with psychedelics and pioneering the science of consciousness research with their colleague Timothy Leary.

The Trap of Getting High 

Psychedelics were undoubtedly the catalysts that led Richard Alpert to India, seeking a more permanent form of enlightenment. The awakenings induced by psychedelic substances never lasted for long, and Alpert longed for a way to maintain and integrate expanded states of consciousness. Disillusioned with the experiments at Millbrook, Alpert traveled to India in 1967 in search of a more enduring experience of enlightenment. In India, he became the devoted disciple of the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, tenderly known as Maharajji. It was Maharajji who renamed Alpert as ‘Ram Dass’, meaning “Servant of God”.

During his time in India, Ram Dass gave his guru a hefty dose of LSD, curious to see how Maharajji would react. However, it had no impact, and the holy man was unaffected by the drug, telling Ram Dass that one could take a drug and “stay in the room with Christ for only a few hours instead of living with the Lord.” It was this notion that led Ram Dass to make his life about spiritual practice, his relationship with psychedelics taking a backseat. 

We Wouldn’t Be Here Now without Ram Dass

Be Here Now by Ram Dass

Ram Dass’s ‘Be Here Now’

Ram Dass was a major harbinger of the New Age movement, and after returning to America, long-haired and bearded, Ram Dass devoted himself to the path of selfless service, making Maharajji’s teachings his work, eventually becoming considered a guru himself.

“A guru only exists to serve his devotees, that’s the only reason for his existence. And seeing him in the physical form is only another part of the dance and another part of the illusion.”

Upon returning from India in 1971, Ram Dass distilled his spiritually enlightening experiences, publishing his seminal book Be Here Now in which he imparts the teachings of his guru Neem Karoli Baba, or Maharaj-ji. Be Here Now was perhaps Ram Dass’s most influential work, and it continues to be exceptionally resonant for generations of spiritual seekers, having sold over two million copies since it was first published. In a sense, the book made novel Eastern spiritual and philosophical ideas palatable to the Western mind, propelling the New Age discourse on mindful awareness, positivity, and higher consciousness. 

No Stranger to Death

An experienced psychonaut, Ram Dass knew the terrain of ego-death intimately, having co-authored The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner to guide people through experiences of ego-death encountered in the psychedelic experience. 

Beyond this, in 1997, Ram Dass suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side, unable to find the words which before had flowed so fluidly. Going from being fully independent to being dependent on others, and having to learn how to speak again, he described the stroke as “ego-shattering”. Emphasizing the importance of “being here now”, Ram Dass viewed death as a reminder to live more fully, encouraging us to be in the moment and remember that our souls transcend space, time and the transient existence of the physical body. 

In the past, he had spoken of his acceptance of death. Last year, in an interview with the New York Times Magazine he was asked how he’d come to this acceptance. In response, he shared: 

“When I arrived at my soul. Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying. The ego, this incarnation, is life and dying. The soul is infinite.”

A Word from Michael Gosney, Synergetic Press, Associate Publisher

“It was an honor to have known all three of the main characters in the Harvard Psychedelic Club. The first was Timothy Leary, who I befriended in the early 90s during his final Chaos and Cyberculture phase when he appeared at several of our Digital Be-In events in San Francisco, and we held parties at his house in Bel Air during the Digital Hollywood conferences. I met Ram Dass at Tim’s 75th birthday where he made a theatric entrance with a gigantic bouquet of roses, symbolizing his love for Tim and the end of their estrangement at the time.

Ralph Metzner and I met in the late 90s with his participation in the Digital Be-In, and in 2003 I organized the after-party in San Francisco for his groundbreaking conference on Ayahuasca. The following year Ram Dass finally made our spirited cyberculture event when we held a Ram Dass discussion circle moderated by Wavy Gravy at Digital Be-In 13 (May 29, 2004, Memorial Day with themed “The Transparent Network”).

I have long been fascinated by the respective roles these three iconic figures played on the world stage. Timothy took the celebrity visionary path and continued to hack mainstream culture in various ways. Ralph never stopped working as a serious consciousness researcher and became the guide of guides, leading the neo-shamanic movement and helping to set in motion today’s psychedelic research renaissance. Richard Alpert in becoming Baba Ram Dass took the path of spirit, and starting with his classic transmission Be Here Now, translated age-old principles for a new generation of seekers looking for deeper insights into life than the prevailing materialist paradigm offered. His many books, seminars, and organizations (such as Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation) were all products of his commitment to compassion. Before his passing, he initiated the Be Here Now Network an ongoing resource from his core circle of teachers.

Although I never had the opportunity to know Ram Dass as I did the other two, events and people seemed to keep us connected, including friends who managed his tours before the stroke constrained his travel, friends who made the beautiful documentary Dying to Know, and my work over the years with Synergetic Press, which in effect began with a launch party for Birth of a Psychedelic Culture edited by Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner at the legendary Anon Salon venue in San Francisco.

The last time I saw Ram Dass was in 2016 when he wheeled up to the table at the wedding of mutual friends in Maui. Although his energy was limited that day, he took the time to come and join in the celebration and bless the event. All in attendance felt that signature loving vibration.

Thank you, dear brother, for all you contributed to our shared journey through these remarkable times. Onward into the subtle realms…”

 

Psychedelic Conversations with Author Don Lattin

Psychedelic Conversations with Author Don Lattin

Confessions of a Psychedelic Journalist: A Conversation with Don Lattin & Kat Snow

Join veteran journalist Don Lattin, and KQED Science senior editor Kat Snow at 7:00 PM, January 16th 2020 at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, for an insightful conversation traversing Don’s long, strange trip of a career investigating and writing about psychedelic substances . 

For over forty years, Don Lattin has written about the social, spiritual, and political aspects of the psychedelic drug movement as a newspaper reporter, freelance journalist, and the author of four books of narrative nonfiction.

In the 1970s, as a young reporter working in the East Bay, Don broke one of the first investigative stories about the US Army’s past efforts to use LSD as a hostile interrogation tool. He also covered the first local campaign to legalize marijuana in the United States—a political movement that continues today in ongoing efforts to decriminalize the use of magic mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca in cities and states across the nation.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as a staff writer and columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, Don wrote extensively about various cults, sects, and new religious movements including a generation of spiritual seekers inspired by psychedelic drug experiences in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Lattin’s most recent book, Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy, builds upon his previous investigations, presenting a broad survey of the psychedelic renaissance, covering almost all areas of this resurgence, placing emphasis on the particulars of how psychedelic substances are being used for therapeutic as well as spiritual purposes.

Listen to Don’s previous interview on the KQED Radio. 

Buy Tickets Here

The “Post-Prohibition” Era of Psychedelic Substances 

It is safe to say that we find ourselves approaching the “post-Prohibition” era of psychedelic substances. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted “Breakthrough Therapy” status to psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, as a treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). Psychedelic substances are once again establishing themselves as therapeutic modalities, promoting both spiritual and psychological insight. In the closing chapters of Changing Our Minds, Lattin reflects on this changing paradigm:

“What is most striking about the psychedelic future is how much it looks like the psychedelic past. If today’s vision becomes tomorrow’s reality, it will be possible – sometime in the 2020s – for regular people struggling with depression, addiction or other psychological woes to seek help from therapists using psilocybin or MDMA as treatment tools – just like people could do back in the late 1950w with psilocybin and in the early 1980s with MDMA.”

Don Lattin young

Don Lattin

Psilocybin mushrooms are being decriminalized in various cities and states across the US, including Denver, CO, Oakland, CA, and Chicago, IL. It is forecasted that psilocybin, alongside many other drugs, will follow marijuana’s trajectory from illegal to medically approved to decriminalized to eventually being legalized. 

Moving beyond the first wave of psychedelic exploration, and the backlash of prohibition that ensued as a reaction to what happened in the sixties, we find ourselves in a wholly new era. We now see a massive resurgence of legitimization, with psychedelics being ‘rebranded’ or rather repositioned within the public mind, due to the growing body of scientific research that continues to highlight the psychologically beneficial aspects of these substances. Psychedelic substances are not only being used for those who suffer from mental health conditions, they are increasingly being used for the’ betterment’ of well people. However, Lattin wisely cautions:

“Psychedelic plants and chemicals are not for everyone. They affect different people in diverse ways, depending in large part on one’s intention and the setting in which these drugs are taken. But, in sometimes subtle and other times dramatic ways, they often inspire awe and wonder, providing the heightened insight and meaningfulness one may also find in dreams or religious excitation.”

Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy 

Changing Our Minds by Don LattinChanging Our Minds is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date books on psychoactive substances, their socio-cultural trajectories of use over time and their place in contemporary society. Lucid, well researched and written, Don covers the global movement of scientifically-grounded exploration of how psychedelic drugs – such as LSD, MDA, MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine, and many others – have been utilized to treat conditions like PTSD, depression, addiction, and end-of-life anxiety.

“Changing Our Minds expertly explores the healing and spiritual journey catalyzed by psychedelic psychotherapy through the courageous voices of those who are pioneering the study of these treatments. An essential read for those interested in the expanding field of psychedelic research for therapeutic and spiritual uses, this volume lands at a crucial time during the re-emergence of psychedelic research as we approach the mainstream, scientific acceptance of psychedelic psychotherapy and the reintegration of the legal use of psychedelics into Western culture.” — Rick Doblin, PhD., Founder & Executive Director of MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Learn More About Changing Our Minds

California Institute of Integral Studies LogoAbout California Institute of Integral Studies

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is an accredited university that strives to embody spirit, intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities, and the earth. CIIS expands the boundaries of traditional degree programs with transdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and applied studies utilizing face-to-face, hybrid, and online pedagogical approaches. Offering a personal learning environment and supportive community, CIIS provides an excellent multifaceted education for people committed to transforming themselves, others, and the world.

Stay tuned with CIIS public programs & updates for similar events @CIIS_sf

 

More About Don Lattin


Don Lattin, author of Changing Our Minds

Don Lattin is an award-winning author and veteran journalist. His five previously published books include The Harvard Psychedelic Club, a national bestseller that was awarded the California Book Award, Silver Medal, for nonfiction. His feature articles have been published in dozens of leading magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle, where Lattin worked as a staff writer for twenty years. Additionally, Don has taught as an adjunct faculty member at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where he holds a degree in sociology. His most recent book, Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy, was published in 2017.

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch in San Francisco

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch in San Francisco

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Prayer OfferingSecret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

We want to issue a massive thank you to everyone who joined us for our Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch at Haight Street Art Center on 18th November in San Francisco as well as those who attended  Psychedelic Sangha’s DARSHAN 9 event that took place at Lang College of the New School in New York. Both events were aimed at exploring and celebrating the convergence of psychedelic studies and Buddhism whilst simultaneously celebrating the launch of Michael Crowley’s new book.

The Book Launch was kicked off with a mantra meditation led by Michael Crowley in which he relayed a yogic technique from the Dzogchen tradition which helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Experience Michael’s guided meditation here.

Psychedelics in Buddhism: Evidence of Amrita in Tibetan Art

 

The scriptures of the Vajrayāna repeatedly make reference to a sacrament called amrita, the  Sanskrit term for ‘immortality’. The word amrita is significantly older than the Vajrayāna and was also used within the ancient Indian scripture, the Rig Veda, (composed c. 2000 BC) as a synonym for soma, the divine intoxicant. At the Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch, Mike Crowley gave a presentation highlighting the ubiquitous prevalence of amrita in Tibetan art as well as recounting personal anecdotes about his path as an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage.

Panel Discussion on Buddhism and Psychedelics led by Erik Davis (Psychedelic Sangha)

One of the highlights of the evening was a panel discussion moderated by author, podcaster, and award-winning journalist, Erik Davis. Erik Davis also is co-founder of the Psychedelic Sangha in NYC and actively organises the San Francisco Sangha. 

Many psychedelics are reentering culture under the necessity of the medicalisation framework due to the hierarchy of approvals that are needed to legitimise them as healing tools. Psychoactive substances and the Buddhist tradition converge on the aphex of spiritual experience. This discussion served to “probe the heretical edge” of this controversial, but crucial topic, exploring the relationship between psychedelic sacraments and Buddhist practice; the importance of the role of community (Sangha) in integrating mystical experiences; the ways in which Buddhist doctrine and practice is inherently ‘psychedelic’ and much more.

Erik Davis, Mariavittoria Mangini, David Presti, and Allan Badiner at Secret Drugs of Buddhism discussion panel

Discussion panel with Erik Davis, Mariavittoria Mangini, David Presti, and Allan Badiner

Panellists included: 

Erik Davis, author of TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, a cult classic of visionary media studies. He has contributed chapters on art, music, technoculture, and contemporary spirituality to over a dozen books, including Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. His latest book, High Weirdness, explores the new counterculture of drugs, esoterica and visionary experience that emerged in the 1970s. 

Mariavittoria Mangini Ph.D., FNP is a member of faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Program. Her academic interest has been the historiography of psychedelics and she has written extensively on the impact of psychedelic experiences in shaping the lives of her contemporaries. 

David Presti Ph.D. is a neurobiologist, psychologist, and cognitive scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1991. Since 2004, He has been teaching neuroscience to Tibetan monks and nuns in India, Bhutan, and Nepal, part of a contemporary dialogue between science and spirituality initiated by the Dalai Lama.

Allan Badiner is a contributing editor at Tricycle magazine, and the editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. He also edited the books, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology, and Mindfulness in the Marketplace. Allan holds an MA from the College of Buddhist Studies in LA and serves on the boards of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation, and Project CBD.

Deborah Parrish Snyder at the Secret Drugs of Buddhism book launch marvelling @phaneros_art's visionary gallery.

Publisher, Deborah Parrish Snyder at the Secret Drugs of Buddhism book launch marvelling Sander Bos’ “The Veil”

Partners & Exhibitors

We’d also like to give a special thanks to the San Francisco Psychedelic Society for partnering and exhibiting with us, and the SF Dharma Collective for exhibiting and helping to make this evening such a uplifting event. 

The renowned curator Phaneros Art awed us with an elevating exhibit of visionary art, including paintings by artists like Sander Bos and Bernard Dumaine. Phaneros Art is a platform devoted to curating peak experiences through showcasing visionary art, with the word Phaneros coming from the Greek phan “to show” and eros “love.

Musical Offerings

No Book Launch would be complete without a little celebratory party. The musical offerings of the evening included Sound Temple, a soul soothing duo comprised of Stephen Kent, the pioneering Australian Aborinal didjeridu player, and ritualistic teacher and performer, Jeffrey Alpjonsus Mooney. Following this, LA-based Lynda Arnold, otherwise known as Divasonic, graced us with her healing melodies. The night was concluded by DJ Goz, SF-based Michael Gosney who has been producing transformational events since the 1980s such as a Digital Be-In series, and Burning Man Community Dance series.

Cover Art of 2nd Edition of Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Michael Crowley About Secret Drugs of Buddhism 

Did the Buddhists of the ancient world make use of shamanic plants and psychedelic sacraments in their sacred rituals and practices?

This is the provocative question that Buddhist lama and author, Michael Crowley, explores in his recently re-published book, Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayāna.

Drawing on scriptural sources, botany, pharmacology, and religious iconography, Crowley calls attention to the central role which psychedelics have played in Indian religions and traces their history from the mysterious soma, venerated in the ancient Hindu scriptures, to amrita, the sacramental drink of the Vajrayāna.

Get your copy of Secret Drugs of Buddhism


More About San Francisco Psychedelic Society 

San Francisco Psychedelic Society Logo

The San Francisco Psychedelic Society is a Bay Area organization devoted to weaving community with people from all walks of life who share an interest in the exploration of altered states of consciousness. They frequently organize events with the purpose of educating people on psychoactive substances, providing support, and opportunities for integration and spirtual growth. The current leaders of the San Francisco Psychedelic Society include Deth Warner, Danielle Negrin, and Damla Gunngor.

Keep up-to-date with the San Francisco Psychedelic Society psychedelicsocietysf.org or @psychedelicsocietysf

More About Psychedelic Sangha

Psychedelic Sangha Logo Sangha संघ (saṃgha) is Sanskrit for “spiritual community.” Psychedelic Sangha offers a safe and supportive spiritual community with a commitment to discernment, practice, and play. They provide refuge to those who value the integration of Indic-based yoga and meditation with psychedelic exploration. Psychedelic Sangha is headquartered in NYC, with groups in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boulder, and Montréal.

Their public mission is to organize and host spiritual trips—immersive experiences that facilitate the encounter of psychedelics and meditation in a spirit of critical dialogue, ethics, community-building, and navigational group practice. 

Keep up-to-date with Psychedelic Sangha @Psychedelic_sangha or psychedelicsangha.org


About the Author Michael Crowley

Author of Secret Drugs of Buddhism Mike CrowleyMichael Crowley was born February 26th, 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has lectured at the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Times, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Psychedelic Sangha, a group of psychedelically-inclined Buddhists, based in New York and he teaches at the Dharma Collective in San Francisco.


Other Books on Psychedelics by Synergetic Press

Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics edited by Allan BadinerZig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics edited by Allan Badiner 

More than ever, people are in pursuit of greater fulfillment in their lives, seeking a deeper spiritual truth and strategies for liberation from suffering. Both Buddhism and psychedelics are inevitable subjects encountered on the journey to wisdom. Examined together, the reader may understand more deeply the essence of each. Edited by Tricycle contributing editor Allan Badiner and with art edited by renowned visionary artist Alex GreyZig Zag Zen features a foreword by Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor, a preface by religion historian Huston Smith, and numerous essays, interviews, and art, that lie outside the scope of mainstream anthologies.

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs edited by Dennis McKenna and Wade Davis published by Synergetic PressEthnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 Years of Research (1967-2017) edited by Dennis McKenna

Certain plants have long been known to contain healing properties and used to treat everything from depression and addiction, to aiding in on one’s own spiritual well-being for hundreds of years. Can Western medicine find new cures for human ailments by tapping into indigenous plant wisdom? And why the particular interest in the plants with psychoactive properties? These two conference volume proceedings provide an abundance of answers. The first international gathering of researchers held in San Francisco, California on this subject was in 1967, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and U.S. Public Health Service. It was an interdisciplinary group of specialists gathered in one place to share their findings on a topic that was gaining widespread interest: The use of psychoactive plants in indigenous societies. The WAR ON DRUGS which intervened slowed advances in this field.

Research, however, has continued, and in the fifty years since that first conference, new and significant discoveries have been made. A new generation of researchers, many inspired by the giants present at that first conference, has continued to investigate the outer limits of ethnopsychopharmacology. In June of 2017, once again specialists from around the world in fields of ethnopharmacology, chemistry, botany, and anthropology gathered to discuss their research and findings in a setting that encouraged the free and frank exchange of information and ideas onthe last 50 years of research, and assess the current and possible futures for research in ethnopsychopharmacology. The papers given at the 2017 Symposium, organized by Dr. Dennis McKenna, appear in this handsome two-volume boxed collectors set represents perhaps themost significant body of knowledge in this interdisciplinary field available.

Browse related books on consciousness and psychedelics

 

Synergetic Symposium and Salon: Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

Synergetic Symposium and Salon: Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

We are delighted to announce a one-of-a-kind event exploring and celebrating the convergence of psychedelic studies and Buddhism with the launch of The Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Mike Crowley. Hosted by our publisher, Deborah Parrish Snyder, and associate publisher, Michael Gosney at the beautiful Haight Street Art Center in San Francisco on 18th October 2019. 

The evening’s experiences include:

The evening’s experiences include:

• Mantra Meditation led by Mike Crowley

• Panel Discussion: Buddhism and Psychedelics
Erik Davis – (Psychedelic Sangha, moderator)
Allan Badiner – author, Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
David Presti – Prof. of Neurobiology, UC Berkeley
Mariavittoria Mangini, PhD, FNP – CIIS Psychedlic-Assisted Therapy program

• Mike Crowley presentation and book signing

• Musical Offerings
Sound Temple with Stephen Kent and Jeffrey Alphonsos Mooney

Deep Jam with Mike Crowley and emergent players

Divasonic – live electronic set

DJ Goz – closing grooves

• Exhibitors:
Psychedelic Society of San Francisco
SF Dharma Collective
MAPS

• Visionary Art by Phaneros Gallery

• Cash bar (by donation) – wine and beer

When & Where? 

The Synergetic Salon and Symposium: Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch will take place on Friday, 18th October at San Francisco’s Haight Street Art Center, with doors opening at 7:00 pm. 

Buy Tickets Here  

Buddhism & Psychedelics Panelists Include: 

Erik DavisErik Davis Ph.D. is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and popular speaker based in San Francisco. He is the author of TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, a cult classic of visionary media studies. He has contributed chapters on art, music, technoculture, and contemporary spirituality to over a dozen books, including Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. His latest book, High Weirdness, explores the new counterculture of drugs, esoterica and visionary experience that emerged in the 1970s. He is also co-founder of Psychedelic Sangha, organizing the San Francisco Sangha. 

Allan BadinerAllan Badiner is a contributing editor at Tricycle magazine, and the editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. He also edited the books, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology, and Mindfulness in the Marketplace, and his written work appears in other books including Dharma Family Treasures, Meeting the Buddha, Ecological Responsibility: A Dialogue with Buddhism, and The Buddha and the Terrorist. Allan holds an MA from the College of Buddhist Studies in LA and serves on the boards of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation, and Project CBD. He has been a student of Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for more than 25 years.

David Presti Ph.D. is a neurobiologist, psychologist, and cognitive scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1991. Between 1990 and 2000, he worked as a clinical psychologist in the treatment of addiction and of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco. Since 2004, He has been teaching neuroscience to Tibetan monks and nuns in India, Bhutan, and Nepal, part of a contemporary dialogue between science and spirituality initiated by the Dalai Lama. His areas of expertise include human neurobiology and neurochemistry, the effects of drugs on the brain and the mind, the clinical treatment of addiction, and the scientific study of mind and consciousness.

Maria ManginiMariavittoria Mangini Ph.D., FNP is a member of faculty at California Institute of Integral Studies Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Program. Her academic interest has been the historiography of psychedelics and she has written extensively on the impact of psychedelic experiences in shaping the lives of her contemporaries. She has worked closely with many of the most distinguished investigators in this field. Her current project is the development of a Thanatology Program for the study of death and dying.

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Pre-Order Discount

Did the Buddhists of the ancient world make use of shamanic plants and psychedelic sacraments in their sacred rituals? This is the broad topic that Buddhist lama and author, Michael Crowley, attempts to unfurl in his book Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayāna. Crowley’s book is the culmination of over forty years of research exploring the extensive historical evidence for the use of entheogenic plants within the Buddhist tradition. Learn more about the Secret Drugs of Buddhism.

To further celebrate the release of this exciting book, we are currently offering a 40% discount on all pre-order purchases of Secret Drugs of Buddhism.

Pre-order Secret Drugs of Buddhism

Evan Hirsch Interview with Mike Crowley at Psychedelic Science 2017

“There is no fluff, it is just solid information. The reason that someone might want to read it [Secret Drugs of Buddhism] is that it legitimises the use of psychedelics in a sane and responsible manner for spiritual progress. It shows that for hundreds of years that were used perfectly well, perfectly safely in this manner when used with great respect and used in a spiritual context.” —Mike Crowley

More About the Author, Michael Crowley 

Mike Crowley - The authorMichael Crowley was born on February 26th, 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has lectured at the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Times, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Psychedelic Sangha, a group of psychedelically-inclined Buddhists, based in New York and he teaches at the Dharma Collective in San Francisco.

Breaking Convention: 5th International Psychedelic Conference

Breaking Convention: 5th International Psychedelic Conference

Breaking Convention: More than a Conference

This August, Breaking Convention, one of the world’s largest conferences on psychoactive substances took place at the University of Greenwich, London. Over 1500 people attended, coming together to share and discuss psychoactive substances from a diverse range of perspectives and backgrounds. 

More than a conference, Breaking Convention’s program featured over 150 interdisciplinary presentations across the span of three days covering five simultaneous academic tracks – not to mention the various workshops, art installations, musical performances, and stalls (of which we were proud to be one). 

David Luke speaking at Breaking Convention

Dr. David Luke, co-director of Breaking Convention, talking about altered stated of consciousness.

Not limited strictly to the scientific, Breaking Convention presents a unique convergence of voices, weaving together a multi-layered narrative, skillfully incorporating the numerous perspectives involved in today’s dialogue on psychedelics, encapsulating insights from neuroscientists, psychologists, psychotherapists, anthropologists, spiritual practitioners and many more. 

We found ourselves truly overwhelmed with the tightly packed schedule of quality speakers, unable to choose between one talk and another. Lucky for us, the team at Breaking Convention records and broadcasts all of the talks online free of charge. Watch their video lectures here.

In the days leading up to the conference, there were also several related events hosted around Greenwich. One of our personal favorites was the comedy show hosted by UK Psychedelic Comedy featuring stand-up comedians Shane Mauss, and Adam Strauss. Needless to say, we laughed a lot and even learned a little in the process.

The Psychedelic Renaissance

Breaking Convention Group photo from 2016

Breaking Convention group photo from 2016

Well beyond the anti-drug backlash of 1960s counter-culture, times are changing. Many psychoactive substances are slowly on their way to being decriminalized, with the mental stigma and cultural baggage associated with psychedelics dissolving. 

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of research into the therapeutic potentials of these substances. The growing body of scientific research continues to demonstrate the psychological, medical, and spiritual value of many psychoactive substances leading to their reevaluation in mainstream consciousness.

The psychedelic renaissance is here, and the growing interest in these substances can be observed in the fact that Breaking Convention has seen a marked rise in interest surrounding the conference, with each iteration of the conference growing in size. Psychedelics are becoming more commonly accepted, no longer considered fringe or radical. 

Extinction Alert: In Response to the Ecological Crisis

This year, Breaking Convention placed a heavy focus on the current ecological crisis and the extinction threat that we face collectively as a species, acknowledging the copious evidence that supports that our planet is in a state of ecological crisis. 

Over the last century, industrialized human civilization has upset the natural balance of life and as a consequence we are in the 6th wave of mass extinction, facing a rapid loss of species estimated to be between 1000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. As organisms with psychedelic properties may constitute part of the medicine cabinet of our future, Breaking Convention as a cultural and educational organization declared a state of ecological emergency and it supports efforts to educate the public on this situation.

Dr. Gail Bradbrook co-founder of Extinction Rebellion gave a talk about the ecological crisis, stating: 

“I’m not actually here to really push this idea of nature connection even though I believe it’s foundational because I don’t think we have time to really write that in us. I think that it is going to be many centuries of work and I want it to happen. Because this issue is systemic we have to think about the system itself and how that sits in us.” 

Watch Dr. Gail Bradbrook’s talk below. 

Find out more about Extinction Rebellion.

Keep up-to-date with Breaking Convention

Breaking Convention LogoIn early 2015, Breaking Convention achieved registration as a UK charity. Its main objectives include organizing and hosting their biennial academic conference which brings together multiple disciplines associated with research into psychedelic substances. Further, they are concerned with promoting and supporting research in psychoactive substances and assisting in the dissemination of useful findings from such research, publishing an academic collection of essays submitted by the speakers of each conference. It is in their aims to purchase physical premises to act as a psychedelic charity shop and workspace within London. The Psychedelic Museum will sell books and wares, acting both as a networking space and a place to raise money for the organization. 

Interested in getting involved? Stay tuned with their latest developments and events through their website

BreakingConvention on FB or BreakingConvention_uk

Summer of Love Sale: LSD & 1960s Counterculture

Summer of Love Sale: LSD & 1960s Counterculture

Albert HofmannSummer Love Sale and The 50th Anniversary of Woodstock

This year commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the legendary music festival Woodstock. Woodstock began in 1969, taking place in Bethel, New York. It was one of the world’s most iconic music festivals with an enormous attendance of over 400,00 people, bringing people together in times of great social turmoil. Formally known as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” it served as a testimony of music’s power to unite people, giving hope of a better future. 

In order to celebrate Woodstock and the revolutionary culture surrounding it, we are offering a ‘Summer Love Sale’ on Mystic Chemist which tells the story of the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann and his discovery of LSD. The role of LSD and other mind-manifesting substances should not be overlooked in the 1960s countercultural revolution. 

Get Mystic Chemist half price with the coupon code: summerlove

San Francisco’s Human Be-In: The Birth of a Psychedelic Culture

Poster advertising the ‘Human Be-In’ designed by Stanley Mouse, and Michael Bowen using the photograph of artist Casey Sonnabend (via Wikicommons).

Woodstock alongside the revolutionary youth culture that it celebrated emanated from the rapid movement that developed in 1967, leading up to ‘the Summer of Love.’ 

San Francisco’s legendary Human Be-In took place in Golden Gate Park, January 1967, serving as a prelude to the Summer of Love. An estimated 20,000 people attended what was planned to be a small “gathering of the tribes” in order to protest the new California law banning the use of the psychoactive drug LSD. 

The Be-In represented the birth of ‘hippie’ culture with a generation of young adults finding themselves disillusioned by authority figures due to the Vietnam war, the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the continued struggle for civil rights. The gathering cemented the foundational ideas of 1960s counterculture including: radical liberalism, the rejection of materialism, socio-political decentralization, communal living, and the idea that we could evolve consciousness by using psychoactive substances such as LSD.

The Be-In was attended by counterculture figureheads such as the beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg who unconsciously embodied the generational shift between the beatnik bohemians and the hippie generation. Timothy Leary (see below), famed LSD guru and ex-Harvard psychologist stood up amongst the crowds and encouraged young Americans to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

 

The Summer of Love

As it turned out, the youth heeded Leary’s enticing call and by the summer of 1967 as many as 100,000 people had made their way down to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, inspired by the possibility of creating a new way of life. 

Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, San Francisco and the Bay Area had attracted individuals searching for alternative lifestyles. Beatnik figures such as Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs lived in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. Their works helped to germinate the hippie movement, expressing contempt to 1950s America, rejecting materialism and encouraging spiritual, sexual and cognitive exploration. Thus, Haight-Ashbury which was already the home of several alternative communities became the epicenter for hippie culture.

The Be-In was an underground experiment which unwittingly inspired a spontaneous uprising of radical youth culture, the likes of which had never been seen before. Haight-Ashbury was no longer a quiet down-town neighborhood, its culture became infectious and mushroomed into the mainstream – The Summer of Love had begun. 

The Discovery of LSD 

Albert Hofmann first synthesized Lsysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) in 1938 whilst working for Sandoz laboratories researching compounds that would act as respiratory and circulatory stimulants. The psychoactive properties of LSD were not discovered until April 1943 when Hofmann decided to intentionally ingest the substance in a self-experiment to ascertain its effects. Read more about Hofmann, and the world’s first LSD trip.

LSD presented itself as a significant discovery in the fields of psychiatry and psychology as it was believed to have possible clinical applications. Initially it was thought of as a ‘psychotomimetic’ and believed to be capable of producing a model for psychosis. It was also researched for its potential to treat addiction and conversely encourage creative thinking. Reflecting upon the importance of LSD, Hofmann stated that:

“I knew immediately that this drug would have importance for psychiatry but, at that time, I would never have believed that this substance could be used in the drug scene, just for pleasure. For me, it was a deep and mystical experience and not just an everyday pleasurable one. I never had the idea that it could be used as a pleasure drug.”

Timothy Leary and the Rise of LSD 

Hofmann could never have anticipated how LSD was to escape the bounds of the laboratory, making its way into mainstream culture. For this reason he refered to LSD as his “problem child.”

LSD was largely popularised by the ex-Harvard psychologist, Timothy Leary who believed it to be an important tool in the exploration of consciousness, and a shortcut to spiritual enlightenment.

Timothy Leary

Leary, like most of the avatars of the early psychedelic movement, saw the value of psychedelics as deconditioning and deprogramming agents. Psychedelics allow users to “unhook the ambitions and symbolic drives and the mental connections which keep you addicted and tied to the immediate tribal game.” They break the trance of consensus culture. ─Daniel Pinchbeck, Breaking Open the Head

Leary was fired his position as an instructor on the Psychology Faculty at Harvard due to the controversy surrounding his research. No longer a lecturer, he began a campaign advocating the use of psychoactive drugs for personal development, often inviting friends and the occasional graduate student to participate in psychedelic sessions with him and his colleague Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).

Later, President Nixon deemed him as “the most dangerous man in America.” Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs’ demonized psychoactive substances, ruling out their possible medical value and making them illegal, causing research into LSD to come to a grinding halt.

To learn more about LSD, its history, and pivotal role in creating the 1960s counterculture, check out Mystic Chemist which we are offering  half-price!


Mystic Chemist: The Life of Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSDMystic Chemist

By Dieter Hagenbach & Lucius Werthmüller

Mystic Chemist is the authoritative biography on arguably the most famous chemist of the 20th century. Authors Hagenbach and Werthmüller, close friends of Hofmann, take us on a journey through the 20th century from his mystical childhood experiences with nature; to his chemistry studies with Nobel Prize winner Paul Karrer in Zurich through his discoveries of both LSD and psilocybin at Sandoz; to his adventurous expeditions and his many years of retirement devoted to philosophy of nature and a rich social life. The authors also reveal a thorough and eventful history of the impact that LSD had on culture and the ensuing struggles between its advocates and opponents, many of which persist today.

Get Mystic Chemist paperback for only $20 with the coupon code: summerlove

Buy Mystic Chemist Here

 
Featured artwork from Brian Blommerth’s Bicycle Day 

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