Kai Wingo at her mushroom farm in Cleveland.
As 2015 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on some of the remarkable people in the visionary community that I had the pleasure of meeting this year. It’s becoming increasingly common for women who attend our WVC events to create their own gatherings – and then invite us to meet the healers, artists and activists that they admire. I received an invitation to participate in one such event this fall that took place in Cleveland, Ohio. Organized by Kai Wingo, the Women and Entheogens conference brought together an inspiring group of entheogenic researchers and teachers from around the U.S. It was an opportunity to meet Kai’s community from Cleveland and Detroit and visit her urban mushroom farm, Kultured Mushrooms, where she grows shiitake, lion’s mane and other fungal delicacies. Kai has also been outspoken about the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms for both personal and cultural healing.
In addition to being a teacher and pioneering urban farmer, Kai has a gift for connecting people. Kai first contacted WVC requesting a scholarship to our 2015 Women’s Congress. Thanks to WVC donors and supporters, we were able to grant her one. When Kai invited me to speak at her gathering in September, I booked a flight to Cleveland and met people from Cleveland, Detroit and other cities. Many of the participants were teaching and practicing plant and spiritual traditions from Africa, Native American and contemporary urban cultures.
Presenters included, Ayana Iyi, a “seer,” event organizer and the founder of “Sistahs of the Sacred Black.” Her talk was entitled, “Sex and Psilocybin: Connecting the 3rd Eye to the Sacral Chakra.” LaToya Kent, a yogi and Kundalini teacher, talked about her work as a community healer. Sophia Buggs, owner and operator of Healing Flower, a spiritual and herbal consultation company, and the Lady Buggs Farm in Youngstown, Ohio, spoke about reclaiming the sacred roots of farming. Sophia revitalized her community by creating a sustainable urban homestead across multiple city lots in Youngstown where she offers gardening and cooking classes.
Other businesswomen at the event included Kai’s mother, Vicki Acquah, a designer and artist who sold her jewelry at the event. Vicki has a fine eye for style. I bought several pairs of her earrings and appreciated her wisdom and her energy.
Traveling all the way from Colorado to attend the event, Onani Meg Carver gave a thoughtful presentation and was my wise, joyous roommate at our lodging in Cleveland. Onani shared insights from her apprenticeship with Grandmother Keewaydinoquay who taught her the medicinal uses of plants, songs, stories and ceremonies from her Ojibway Native American tradition. From the academic community in Indiana, archivist Stephanie Schmitz joined the conference to talk about her work with the Psychoactive Substances Research Collection at the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center at Purdue University. The collection documents the history of the therapeutic use and application of psychedelic substances.
Three additional women traveled to Kai’s conference in Cleveland to contribute their knowledge. Shonagh Home, who has presented several times at WVC, talked about the cultivation of intrinsic abilities, intuition, creativity and multi-dimensional awareness. Shonagh is a honeybee activist and author of the books, ‘Ix Chel Wisdom: 7 Teachings from the Mayan Sacred Feminine,’ ‘Love and Spirit Medicine,’ and the upcoming, ‘Honeybee Wisdom: A Modern Melissae Speaks.’ Another writer who spoke at the conference, Bett Williams, is a New Mexico-based journalist and author of the novel “Girl Walking Backwards.” Bett is now working on a book about psilocybin mushrooms called “The Wild Kindness,” and hosts retreats for poets, artists and mystics near Sante Fe. Ifetayo Harvey, who had just joined the staff of MAPS before arriving in Cleveland, offered an update on research being carried out by that organization. A writer and activist, Ifetayo has spoken at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference and on NPR about her experience growing up with a parent in prison.
L-R Onani Meg Carver, Ifetayo Harvey, Kai Wingo, Baba Moudou Baqui, and Annie Oak
In addition to these accomplished women, the conference featured a number of remarkable men including Bro Omari Miles-El, the founder of Third Eye Open, A Historical and Metaphysical research Organization and R.Y.D.E. (Rolemodels for Youth Development and Enlightenment), a youth oriented motivational consulting firm. A long time student of Kemetic Antiquity and Egyptology, Bro Omari Miles-El offered insights into hidden cultural history and knowledge from the ancient world contributed by people of color. Conference participants also received sonic information from the modern era offered by Detroit-based artist Onyx who preformed his multidimensional concept called beatjazz. Onyx’s improvisational, electronically derived rhythm and jazz delivered projected visualizations, light color sequencing, robotic feedback and CAD design dimensions. And finally, Justin Petty, M. Ed. (Ser Moudou Awa Balla Baqui) aka Baba Moudou Baqui, offered his perspectives as a third generation Detroit-based metaphysician. An activist, Certified Level II Reiki healer, martial artist, urban shaman, and educator, Moudou talked about the healing taking place in his community.
After two days of celebrating the sovereignty of consciousness and right to self-knowledge, Kai and her children invited us to their urban farm for delicious shiitake mushroom and vegetable pizza. Community elder and mycologist Kilindi Iyi, head instructor of the Tamerrian Martial Art Institute, was there to stoke the fire in the earthen oven and remind us of all the healing powers of fungi.
It was a great honor to meet this community, hear the presenters speak, and spend a beautiful autumn afternoon sharing a meal at Kai Wingo’s mushroom farm. We have invited Kai to present at the 2016 Women’s Visionary Congress, June 17-19 in Petaluma, Calif. and we hope to continue offering scholarships and grants to healers, farmers, and community activists like herself who are changing the world – please click here to make a donation to our scholarship & grants funds. I encourage everyone to learn more about the members of Kai’s community and support their projects.
The 2015 Women’s Visionary Congress is fast approaching and we the organizers have had the great pleasure of inviting an especially wonderful collection of speakers this year. The best part of getting ready for our annual gathering is corresponding with healers, activists, artists and researchers whose work inspires us. Tickets for this year’s event are almost gone, so please get one soon if you wish to join us – click here to register. If you won’t be able to attend the gathering this year, or if you will be there and want a preview of the fine discussions to come, allow me to introduce you to the speakers as they will appear on the schedule.
The 2015 WVC will begin Friday, June 19th with a presentation by Valerie Corral, the co-founder and director of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), the longest running medical marijuana collective in the U.S. Founded in 1993 in Santa Cruz, California, WAMM serves seriously ill and dying people with organic cannabis grown in a collective on a donation basis. Valerie is also acting director of WAMM’s sister non-profit, the Raha Kudo, Design for Dying Project, a hospice organization that addresses the concerns of dying WAMM members and their families. Valerie’s talk will be followed by a presentation by Meriana Dinkova, MFT, a San Francisco-based psychotherapist, speaker and workshop facilitator. Meriana will talk about the development of her psychological and neo-shamanistic inner-space navigation tools designed for exploring non-ordinary states of consciousness. The final speaker of the evening will be Eleonora Molnar, a health professional and independent researcher, who will hold a workshop on kinesthetic knowing. Participants will examine the ontology of consciousness and explore an “Oh Wow” experience developed by master clown Richard Pochinko to help his students encounter a feeling beyond rational explanation and discover trust through impulse.
The first full day of the WVC, Saturday, June 20th, will begin with a yoga class taught by Yoga Ma, also known as Barbara Powell. A long-time yoga practitioner with a deep personal practice in the meditative arts, Yoga Ma leads retreats and offers Wild Yoga wilderness hikes in the forest near Santa Fe, New Mexico and other locations. After yoga and breakfast, the first presenter of the day will be Sitaramaya Sita, a PlantWisdom Practitioner trained in the Shipibo tradition. Sita has founded several organizations including PlantTeachers, Conscious Path Creation, and Quantum Path Creation as well as the Convergence conferences. Her commitment to deep ecology has led to the development of “Fundo Sitaramaya” a preservation project of privately held Amazonian land to steward and protect old growth trees, waterways and rainforest flora and fauna. Sita will report on the use of dietas and other traditional Shipibo practices in urban North America including discovering and dieting Master Plants native or local to California.
The second presentation on Saturday will be offered by Kathleen Harrison, M.A., an independent scholar and teacher of ethnobotany. An esteemed researcher in the WVC community, Kat has initiated and participated in recurrent fieldwork, mostly among indigenous people in Latin America, since the 1970s. She is the president and co-founder of Botanical Dimensions , a non-profit organization that has worked for 28 years to collect medicinal and shamanic species and the lore that helps us understand how to regard them. Kat will be introduced by anthropologist Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Ph.D. who studies psychoactive substances, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, and religion. Bia is a Visiting Professor at the Center for Research and Post Graduate Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), in Guadalajara, Mexico. She is author, co-author, and co-editor of twelve books, one special-edition journal, and several peer-reviewed articles.
The midmorning discussion will be led by Jennifer Dumpert founder of the Oneironauticum, an international dream group that meets in physical and dream space. Jennifer will discuss ways in which this group explores the use of oneirogens — herbs, medicines, scents, auditory experiences, and practices that promote vivid dreaming. Participants will choose from a variety of oneirogens that will be supplied as part of the session, journey together in the dreamscape overnight, and gather again on Sunday to share stories about their dreams. The final presentation of the morning will be offered by Jane Straight, a true pioneer in the realms of collecting, preserving, and disseminating rare medicinals. Jane has played a central role in the important cultural shift back to plant-based medicines, and speaks eloquently about the relevance of intentional connection to the botanical world around us. She will bring us a beautiful living altar of plants to admire and will share heart based stories.
After lunch, we will hear a talk given by Veronica Hernandez, a Peruvian clinical psychologist and shamanic practitioner. Veronica is completing her doctoral degree at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco where she is carrying out research on the healing and transformative benefits of entheogens, especially ayahuasca. Her talk will undertake a comparative analysis of entheogenic shamanism and Jungian Psychology and look at ways in which entheogens have been, and are being used, in shamanic practice as catalysts for exploring inner psychic realities.
In the mid-afternoon, we will have the great pleasure of hearing from pioneering climber and guide Doug Robinson, founder of the American Mountain Guides Association. Doug considers climbing a physical meditation that hones the attention and nudges us into visionary experience. He first explored these thoughts in an essay entitled, The Climber as Visionary. Between guiding trips, Doug studied biochemistry. He investigated the delicate transformations deep in the brain that lie behind our bright, visionary eyes, and crystallized these observations into a remarkable book entitled, The Alchemy of Action.
Jacqueline Patterson and Mara Gordon will present together during the next scheduled WVC presentation, giving a talk entitled, “From Disability to Diversity: Can Cannabis Compliment Conventional Condition Based Therapies?” Jacqueline Patterson educates legislators, patients, and the public as a patient ambassador for the medical cannabis patient’s group Patients Out of Time. While cannabis has great medical utility, state cannabis laws are not acknowledged by federal authorities putting patients at risk of prosecution. Jacqueline will focus on how these laws create obstacles to optimal health and create social stigmas for cannabis patients. The founder of Aunt Zelda’s, Mara is a cannabis alchemist and process engineer who helps patients customize their cannabinoid and terpene dosage. The former head of Methodology at a Fortune 50, Mara will look at how patients can be best served with precise cannabis delivery.
The late afternoon tea time presentation will be given by Alicia Danforth, PhD who serves as a co-investigator on a current FDA-approved phase 2 pilot study looking at the effect of MDMA-assisted therapy on social anxiety in autistic adults. Alicia also served as a study coordinator and co-facilitator on a Heffter Research Institute-sponsored clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy for existential anxiety related to advanced cancer. She will provide an overview and progress report of the MDMA-assisted therapy study, which is sponsored by the Multidisiciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and share insights into how being in community with visionary women has supported her in her research career.
Before dinner on Saturday, there will be two concurrent events. The first at 4:40 pm, will feature Dr. Gantt Galloway, who served from 1989-2005 as Chief of Pharmacologic Research for the Drug Detoxification, Rehabilitation & Aftercare Project of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics in San Francisco. Now a Senior Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in its Addiction and Pharmacology Research Laboratory and co-founder of the New Leaf Treatment Center, Gantt studies medications and psychosocial treatments for addiction to methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. He will discuss the nature of addiction and the rationale for using psychedelics as treatments for addiction. Gantt will also present information about opioid overdose prevention and will be available during the weekend to train anyone who has a need for an overdose prevention kit.
The second concurrent event at 4:40 pm will be a Walking Tour Performance entitled “Here Come the Ecosexuals!” Presented by artists Beth Stephens, Annie Sprinkle, and their scouts, the tour will begin at their sparkly blue “Pollination Pod” and will guide participants on a wondrous journey around the IONS grounds. The adventure begins with Ecosex Orientation, followed by the location of our E-spots (ecosexy spots) and an exploration of ways to make love to the Earth through our senses. Ecosex switches the metaphor from “Earth as mother” to “Earth as lover.” Local environmental issues will be brought into the open, drama will ensue, and by the end of the tour, participants will have developed the ‘ecosexual gaze.’ Annie Sprinkle is an internationally known multimedia artist whose performance pieces based on her life as a sex worker, “Post Porn Modernist” and “Annie Sprinkle’s Herstory of Porn,” toured for nine years throughout the US and to 21 countries. In 2001 Sprinkle fell in love with artist Beth Stephens and together they produced the documentary film, “Goodbye Gauley Mountain—An Ecosexual Love Story.” Beth Stephens is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and a professor at UC Santa Cruz. Her visual and performance work has explored themes of the body, queerness, and feminism for over 25 years. She has exhibited and performed in many museums, galleries and theaters across the US and Europe. Sprinkle and Stephens will head up the first ecosexual contingent in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 28th and invite all Earth lovers to join them.
The Ecosex Walking Tour will continue until 6 pm, but for those who would prefer to remain inside and look at visionary art, Clancy Cavnar will present images of her art work beginning at 5:30 pm. Clancy has a doctorate in clinical psychology and works at a dual diagnosis residential drug treatment center in San Francisco. She is co-editor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of three books The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca (Springer, 2014); Prohibition, Religious Freedom, and Human Rights: Regulating Traditional Drug Use (Springer, 2014) and Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2014). Clancy also has a master of fine arts in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and will show images from her body of work, many of which appear on the WVC website.
After an excellent dinner prepared by the IONS chefs, the evening portion of the WVC Saturday program will begin with more art presented in the amphitheater by artist Dana Smith. Dana founded a fine arts digital press to create limited edition artwork in a project called Dana Dana Dana. The press focuses on very small edition, hand-made books and digital prints with an emphasis on working collaboratively with other artists. Dana’s longest collaboration has been with Mark McCloud, artist and renowned overseer at the Institute of Illegal Images, a massive collection of LSD related art in San Francisco. Together Dana and Mark created “LSD Barbie” in 1993, and later in 2003, started The Blotter Barn, an ongoing project to document Mark’s extensive collection of blotter papers.
The final presentation of art Saturday evening will be offered by Marc Franklin, a self taught photographer, media artist and psycho-activist. Since 1975 Marc has been immersed in experimental photography, painting and sculpture incorporating advancements in digital image making. In 1984, he designed and co-published the seminal “High Frontiers,”, a wildly experimental underground magazine, and diligently photographed nearly all the key figures of the psychedelic subculture: chemists, clinicians, researchers, artists, poets, writers, musicians, and activists. Marc’s talk, entitled “From Laura Huxley to Ina May Gaskin,” features photographic encounters with twenty prominent women explorers along with the stories behind them. After this presentation, participants who choose to may adjourn to the Full Circle Tea House for tea, stories and conversation with Carol and Michael Randall, visionary activists, artists and historians.
The final day of WVC will begin with another sublime yoga class with Yoga Ma, followed by breakfast and a reading by TEDx Poet Rachel Kann. Rachel is a modern-day mystic: irreverently reverent and exuberantly human. Rachel has performed her poetry with artists such as daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra, Marianne Williamson, Sage Francis, Saul Williams, and Rahzel, at venues such as Disney Concert Hall, Royce Hall, The Broad Stage, The San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, and the Vans Warped Tour, as well as spiritual and sacred spaces like Jewlicious Fest X aboard The Queen Mary, Agape Spiritual Center and Sinai Temple. She is a shamanic apprentice, dancer, teacher and DJ. Rachel will perform poetry entitled, “The Poetry of Transcendence: Get High, Get Off, Get Free!”
Rachel’s poetry will be followed by stories about gender, community, and spirituality presented by Jae Starfox. A queer, trans, psychedelic visionary, Jae is studying to be a radical accountant and is an experienced coordinator of restorative spaces, a lover of tea, yoga teacher, and bicycle delivery person. Jae’s transmasculine gender involves paradox and non-duality, two of the essential characteristics of unitive or mystical experience. Their personal work focuses on deepening awareness through the joyful practice of yoga, meditation, critical theory, and self love.
Each year at WVC, we invited a member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to present an update on current MAPS research. This year, the update will be presented by MAPS Public Benefit Corporation Clinical Study Assistant Allison Wilens. Allison’s talk will cover preliminary data from MAPS’ Phase 2 clinical trials in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, current timelines for FDA approval, and the rationale for formation of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MPBC). Allison’s presentation will be followed by a second presentation from Vancouver, Canada-based Eleonora Molnar who organizes an annual WVC salon in Vancouver, BC at Simon Fraser University. Eleonora will look at the impact of international drug tourism in the Amazon basin and the appropriation of traditional indigenous practices in North and Latin America. She will explore possible ways to mitigate problematic behaviors arising from this events in North America.
The last talk on Sunday morning will be offered by Patricia Shaw Savant, aka Khats, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology and behavioral medicine, and works as a clinical psychologist in private practice. Khats leads shamanic ceremonies and sacred medicine journeys and has conducted workshops and individual shamanic healing at the Shamandome at Burning Man for the last 10 years. She will compare and discuss medicines, holotropic breathwork and shamanic techniques for entering and traveling in “inner space” to achieve healing, transformation and expanded awareness of the multiverse at large.
After lunch on Sunday, Jennifer Dumpert will lead a followup discussion of the previous day’s Oneironauticum dreaming practice where we will discuss our adventures in the dreamscape. This conversation will be followed by a presentation by Danielle Schumacher who began her career as an activist when she was appointed Executive Director of Illinois NORML and held the Youth Seat on the National NORML Board of Directors while she was a student at the University of Illinois. As the first Chancellor of Oaksterdam University Danielle worked with Richard Lee to establish America’s first cannabis college and is currently office manager for nationally noted physician Frank Lucido MD and nurse practitioner Maria Mangini PhD FNP. She will talk about the history of the cannabis movement and her newest project, THC Staffing Group, a boutique recruiting firm whose mission is to encourage diversity in the cannabis industry.
The 2015 Women’s Visionary Congress will close, as it traditionally does, with talks by community elders. The first elder will be Carolee Waidelich, founder of the Nayeli Nature Retreat in New Mexico, who lived for several years in her RV in the desert of eastern New Mexico. Carolee now resides in her RV in the woods of Northern California and will talk about how her commitment to the medicine has created a life that is utterly simple and close to the earth, animals and plants, without a lot of stuff and money. She has been working with plant medicines and their allies since 1989 when she became an apprentice and partner to a Native American medicine man and graduated from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 1995 with an M.A. in East/West Psychology. She has used her shamanic training in private practice and to offer elder wisdom to festival participants at “grandma’s cozy corner for resting.”
The final WVC presentation will be given by Rhoney Stanley, who will share stories of the visionary women of the Grateful Dead community and how their expressions of culture and family offered a different view from the complacency and materialism that they grew up with. Rhoney will talk about how these women learned from their LSD experiences to expand their artistic creativity, value the handmade, and expand their spirituality and sense of oneness with each other and with nature – then used these insights to create a community that transformed the counterculture into mainstream culture. She will draw from interviews with women who worked for and influenced the Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters as well as stories from her book, Owsley & Me: My LSD Family.
You can read more about each of the 2015 WVC speakers on our biography page. We look forward to seeing you at the Congress and hearing your thoughts on these remarkable presentations.
Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin died in June of this year. He experienced what I would describe as a beautiful death: surrounded by his friends and family, peaceful and free of pain. This in itself is remarkable, because Sasha suffered for many years from chronic illnesses which might have brought about a different kind of end to his life story; but the steadfast support of those closest to him and most beloved by him, as well as his own courage in facing his disabilities, made it possible for his death to occur as a natural and seamless part of his remarkable life.
Sasha was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century: He was curious, artistic and creative; a pioneer and a connoisseur; what Huxley called a “Naturalist of the mind.” Sasha designed and synthesized hundreds of psychedelic drugs. His chosen discipline was one that was reviled and discounted through most of his career, and one which has only very recently begun to reveal to a larger public its tremendous potential for both therapeutic benefit and for the betterment of the lives of healthy individuals.
Sasha’s ability to see beyond the obvious, to communicate in ways and to travel in realms that were available only to those who could open to the vast possibilities of consciousness, permitted discoveries and brought about changes that will have continuing resonance long after his death. About 2000 of those who knew him, who had studied his work, or who had been benefited by his discoveries,gathered at the Berkeley Community Theater on August 2, 2014 for a tribute to Sasha, a meeting of old friends and a wonderful and sumptuous potluck, reminiscent of many historic parties at the Shulgin Farm.
About 20 close associates were invited to speak, and you can view their moving, provocative and heartfelt presentations can be seen on the Sasha Shulgin Memorial Ustream (embedded below), along with the musical performances of some of his friends and associates and footage of Sasha speaking about his own ideas about alchemy as a form of meditation. I was particularly honored to be included in the speaker group, and to be able to describe to the assembly my experience of Sasha as a friend and elder, and my impressions of the importance of his work in the larger society.
Watch Sasha Shulgin’s Memorial Service, August 2nd, 2014, Berkeley, CA
I chose to begin with one of Sasha’s outstanding characteristics: his playfulness. He was an archetypal trickster who could enjoy laughter at himself as well as instigate laughter at the expense of others, especially if they were particularly pompous. Sasha loved jokes and wordplay and was a collector of palindromes – words or phrases that read the same forward or reversed. A favorite one was detartrated – past tense of “to detartrate”, a chemical term meaning to remove tartrates, which is the longest English palindrome in the Guinness Book of Records.
Sasha also knew a great many limericks and wrote quite a few, like this one:
When Lady Chatterley swoons
Her breasts pop out like balloons.
But her butler stands by
With hauteur in his eye
And pops them back in with warm spoons.
Another favorite was the paraprosdokian: a kind of “inside-out” wordplay where the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that changes the hearer’s understanding of the first part:
I told my doctor that I broke my arm in two places. He told me to stop going to those places.
I’ve had a wonderful evening. Unfortunately this wasn’t it.
Sasha had the excellent talent of delivery with diversion and loved to catch us off guard.
Gandhi walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
Sasha could synthesize something that had never existed anywhere in the universe before, find out what it does, and bring back the results for their potential benefit to the community; and do it with grace and wit.
The Cactus That Speaks
“Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact
” (Emerson, 1849).
Sasha was a plant-whisperer, particularly in tune with the psychoactive cacti, some of which were clustered around the podium during the memorial; mourners, like the humans present, at the death of their friend and ally. I chose to begin the more sober part of my reflections by asking the assembled humans to open to any mute messages that these remarkable plants might want to transmit to us.
Then, to my great honor, I was permitted provide the some closing remarks on all that had come before, both in the memorial and in Sasha’s life and in the lives of all of us in attendance. We have been touched in so many inexpressible ways by Sasha’s discoveries, by his leadership, and by the social milieu in which these aspects of his life were so very influential:
The Journey We Share
This gathering has been a remarkable mixture of the public and the private, the worldly and the sacred, the revealed and the concealed. I think it was Terrance McKenna who once said that “a secret is not something untold. It’s something which can’t be told.”
During the course of Sasha’s lifetime, there have been remarkable and radical shifts in what is or can be told about the uses of his discoveries.
Although conservatism has dominated decades of electoral politics, it has not been able to entice the genie of pluralism back into the bottle. According to some “attaching disgrace to drug use is the hidden keystone of the campaign to smear the entire range of liberatory idealism that a four decades ago gave hope, heart, and character to [my] generation” (Hanan, 1995).
Whether or not this is so, the concept that taking psychedelic drugs could be benign and even beneficial has been politically extremely unpopular in contemporary America, although it has been a popular view for millennia. Some users of psychedelics simply want to get high, a goal that provokes less sympathy and more social repression than therapeutic or religious uses and is often used to obscure the possibilities of these substances to produce beneficial effects. Still, many of us know that the insights, ideals and commitments that we brought home from psychedelic experiences have contributed to our formation as socially responsible, ethical and humane citizens.
While there may be a discrepancy between ideals and insights that we connect to our psychedelic experiences and the values and commitments that structure our daily lives, I suspect that there are, for many of us, ways in which our ethics, spiritual beliefs and daily practices have been formed by insights derived from psychedelic experiences.
In my own research, participants related their experiences of interconnectedness with Nature, with Deity, and with others, and many described how these experiences had led them to engage in political activism, take up philanthropy, undertake ecological restoration, or enter public service. Their psychedelic experiences did not encourage these people to turn away from social responsibilities, but seem to have moved them to become more involved in caring for the community and the natural environment.
Sasha was a hero, a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, and ability, who completed the classic heroic journey in all of its difficult and sometimes painful dimensions. It is time for us to take the hero path that he walked with and before us, and to bring about the transformation that has been its goal and its outcome. We are culturally and politically vital. If, as I suspect is true, our psychedelic experiences have had lifelong implications not only for our personal growth and spiritual development, and also for our community involvement and political activism, we can and should stand up and claim those experiences as influential in our lives.
Joseph Campbell, another great hero of Sasha’s generation, described this journey better than I ever could, so I chose to close this little talk with his summation of what awaits us on the road ahead:
“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, [the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path]. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world” (Campbell, 1968).
Campbell, J. (1968). The hero with a thousand faces, 2nd Ed., Bollingen Series 17, Princeton University Press. p. 25.
Emerson, R. W. (1849) Nature; addresses and lectures. New York: Library of America. Ch. 4, Language.
Hanan, S. M. (1995). Out of the psychedelic closet. Tikkun, 10(5), 15-20.