John B. Cobb – Whitehead and Psychedelics – Part 2

John Cobb - Part 2

This is part two in a four-part series recorded in John Cobb’s apartment in Claremont, California. This was recorded during a small weekend conference on psychedelics titled “Exceptional Experience Conference.” You can listen to the full talk in this episode of Psychedelics Today.


John Boswell Cobb Jr. is an American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist. Cobb is often regarded as the preeminent scholar in the field of process philosophy and process theology, the school of thought associated with the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. Cobb is the author of more than fifty books. In 2014, Cobb was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends, an idea which his primary influence, Whitehead, described as “world-loyalty”.

Kyle: Do you think what’s going on in the mind, say like neurotransmitters or electrical activity firing, that’s creating this reality, or the experience is having an influence on the neurochemistry?

John Cobb: It’s all experience. It’s a question of whether this is the experience of the neurons or of the psyche, and I think the evidence is that the psyche plays a role. One of the first people we worked with, a very famous physiological psychologist. And there was a man who did a lot of experiments on the split-brain.

John Cobb: I’m sure there were other people. I think the name begins with an S, but anyway. He was over here at Cal Tech, so he was more accessible to work with. He really appreciated working with us because he found he could now formulate his findings. He was very, very clear that the evidence that he had was that conscious experience had a causal role.

John Cobb: It’s just common sense. I decided to put my watch back on and stopped fiddling with it and I put it back on. Amazing. Pure coincidence in terms of… Since purpose cannot play a role. I call it the metaphysics. It was wrong when it was only applied to other animals. It deepened the anthropocentrism since it was an only human experience that counted. But it’s just so absurd.

John Cobb: Scientists who are busy engineering genetic change tell us that genetic change has no purpose. Purpose plays no role in the genetic change. I don’t think they believe it, but that’s what they have to teach.

Kyle: What do you mean by no purpose in the genetic change?

John Cobb: Because purpose cannot have a causal effect in the Cartesian world. Now, the other way they would say, “Oh, but I know that my purpose is actually completely the result of mechanical relationships between my neurons.”

Johanna: I have a question about the actual occasions.

John Cobb: Yes.

Johanna: So what you say that the human being is an actual occasion?

John Cobb: No, I would say the psyche consists of a series of actual occasions.

Johanna: All right. So could you elaborate on this definition of actual occasions? I know that it’s a really hard concept.

John Cobb: Well, an absolutely basic question in traditional philosophy, I don’t know what’s taught under the rubric of philosophy today, I won’t address, is the question of what kinds of things are in and of themselves actual that would be in distinction from things which can be divided up into other entities. So an actual occasion would not be divisible into other actual occasions. And of course for a long time, beginning with some of the Greeks, the answer was an atom. An atom is indivisible. But that doesn’t keep it from actually existing.

John Cobb: Now for Whitehead, the word atom is so bound up with substantive thinking. For me to simply say an actual occasion is an atom would be confusing. But if you take the basic meaning of atom, the actual occasion is the basic unit of actuality. And of course saying that is an alternative to a substance way of viewing, and it doesn’t exclude the possibility other people will come up with other theories.

John Cobb: But I mentioned Quarks and Quanta, not that I know they cannot be divided further, but right now there is no clear indication that Quark is made up of other things. So it seems to be a unit of reality. So when we deal with living things, obviously if they are like us, have brains and so forth, we assume they have a psychic life, and the occasions of psychic life will also be atomic.

John Cobb: One of the things that I raised in one discussion that there was some evidence that plants also have some kind of unified experience. I don’t think it’s been studied enough to be making any clear pronouncements. But I don’t know whether I mentioned in the larger groups of Findhorn. Have you heard of Findhorn?

Johanna: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Cobb: Okay. Well, the people there commune with their plants. They’ve been doing it for 50 years, so it’s not a fly by night. I think there are a lot of people who have a feeling about the tree that it’s not just a lot of cells interacting, but maybe the tree itself may have some purpose or something to say. But that’s all of what are the actual occasions, is an entirely different question from what it means to say it’s an actual occasion. Is that okay or do you-

Johanna: That’s fine. Thank you.

John Cobb: They’re atoms.

Johanna: Yeah.

John Cobb: And when you talk about a society of atoms like the sofa or the chair or the table, which are the kinds of things that standard brand philosophy, for a long time, held up. They’re clearly not atoms.

John Cobb: Society as I was indicating, if you have enough actual entities, their dynamism disappears in the society as a whole. Making negative statements that are always very questionable, it’s hard for me to think that a stone is an experiencing entity. I think the molecules are. And I’m sure cells are.

Kyle: Okay, so the rock as the whole isn’t, but the molecules and the atoms are?

John Cobb: That’s right.

John Cobb: I’m sure that those cells are influenced by the emotions of people. I don’t think a rock is, could be wrong, and it could be that the molecules are slightly, but that’s just canceled out. But the plant organization, I don’t think it gets canceled out. What happens to the cells affects the way they relate to each other and the total development of the plant. I hope you understand, again, having a particular conceptuality does not tell you just how it’s going to map out on real things, but Whitehead, so many things, well these are empirical questions and they’re important empirical questions. When I think some of the evidence is so great that I just go ahead pretend I know.

Joe Moore: You can see how this worldview seems very psychedelic.

John Cobb: That’s what we keep hearing. I mean even we who haven’t, who don’t know that we have psychedelic experiences, that the things that people report sound true to us. And if they are true, then how you got there is also of great interest.

Joe Moore: Did you have the opportunity to communicate with Stan Grof at all?

John Cobb: You know, I may. I’ve been at Esalen twice, and I kind of think he was there one time. I didn’t have any real conversation.

Joe: Okay. John Buchanan brought him here, I’m sure you’re aware, in 2015, for the big conference.

John Cobb: That’s right.

Johanna: You were very busy. Thousands of people.

John Cobb: I did not have conversations with…

Joe: Thankfully you did (have him at the conference). It was really great. Lenny and John Buchanan have been really pushing Whitehead on Stan, which is really interesting.

John Cobb: Yes. I mean I would like to offer it. If people are not interested, that’s-

Joe: Yeah. I don’t know if pushing is the right word.

John Cobb: It’s perfectly okay. Yeah. But I think when people who have had the experience hear that there is a philosophy which works very well with the cutting edges of science, that they’ll likely define that something positive. That doesn’t mean they have to go spend a lot of time reading Whitehead. And there are so many people who when I listen to them I would say eco-feminism. I’ll give a particular example. The eco-feminists I’ve known best, I mean the theological world, but they’re very strong eco-feminist.

John Cobb: Mary Daly and Rosemary Ruether are two of them. Now Mary Daly knew some Whitehead and liked it, but Rosemary Ruether, everything she writes sounds just right to us. She said, “I will not read a word of Whitehead.” So I don’t think that Whitehead is the one and only way of arriving at what I… The reason I push him is that I’m very concerned by the institutions, and especially educational institutions that they have enormous power over what is considered good policy and so forth. And they are so wrong about it. If you say, “Oh, but psychedelic experience shows that’s a mistake.” It doesn’t really open the door for further conversation.

John Cobb: If you have a philosophy that can make more sense out of physical evidence that is taken seriously by physicists, I’m announcing that they are very, very slow to be interested. But at least among quantum physicists, Whitehead’s name is known and appreciated. And that could be an opening wedge that would mean that physics as a whole would adopt an organic model rather than a mechanical. That’s the usual way. We put it and fit.

Read part 3 here. 


Links

Website
Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition

Other books by John Cobb Jr.

A Christian Natural Theology, Second Edition: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead

Jesus’ Abba: The God Who Has Not Failed

Grace & Responsibility: A Wesleyan Theology for Today

For Our Common Home: Process-Relational Responses to Laudato Si’


About John B. Cobb Jr.

John B. Cobb, Jr., Ph.D, is a founding co-director of the Center for Process Studies and Process & Faith. He has held many positions, such as Ingraham Professor of Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont, Avery Professor at the Claremont Graduate School, Fullbright Professor at the University of Mainz, Visiting Professor at Vanderbilt, Harvard Divinity, Chicago Divinity Schools. His writings include: Christ in a Pluralistic Age; God and the World; For the Common Good. Co-winner of Grawemeyer Award of Ideas Improving World Order.

John B. Cobb – Whitehead and Psychedelics – Part 1

John B Cobb - Blog - Psychedelics Today

This is part one in a four-part series. Kyle, Joe and Johanna Hilla were able to spend time recording with John B. Cobb at his apartment in Claremont, California. This was during a small weekend conference on psychedelics titled “Exceptional Experience Conference.” You can listen to the full talk in this episode of Psychedelics Today.

John Boswell Cobb Jr. is an American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist. Cobb is often regarded as the preeminent scholar in the field of process philosophy and process theology, the school of thought associated with the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. Cobb is the author of more than fifty books. In 2014, Cobb was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends, an idea which his primary influence, Whitehead, described as “world-loyalty”.

John Cobb: The senses heighten and intensify the connection on particular kinds of connection. The eyes are obviously very sensitive to particular wavelengths, and the ears are sensitive to other wavelengths and so forth. But that this is to think that sight is the most direct relationship to what’s going on externally, doesn’t make sense. Sight requires… I mean there’s lots that happens before what we call sight occurs. And those happenings are more fundamental than seeing. But the tendency of British empiricism has been to start with the data of sight. Philosophy should go deeper than that. What label can we give to the most fundamental relationship? First, we need to describe that relationship. The most fundamental relationship is any happening, the world is made up of happenings, rather than substances.

John Cobb: Any happening enters into its successors. And one of the best kinds of meditations in terms of conscious experience is to think of what’s happening. As you listen to music in any given moment, there’s just one tone, but you don’t really just hear a tone. If you heard just a tone and then another tone, you wouldn’t hear music. You hear at least the musical phrase, and the whole musical phrase is still in the experience at the time that the concluding note is being struck. So the experiences of the previous tones do not end when that experience ends; it gets transmitted.

John Cobb: Our experience is the inclusion of elements of previous experiences. It’s very much like Buddhism in this respect. Whitehead calls the fundamental relationship of inclusion including part of the previous experience a prehension. So a prehension is the way in which one experience enters into successor experiences. And he thinks this is what’s going on also in the subatomic world. So the word prehension is a cause. It’s a causal relationship. But the image of course that Hume was looking for just looking in the wrong place.

John Cobb: So if the world is made up of prehension, then what, in any given moment, is prehended, and Whitehead says everything. That is every past event leaves some trace and has some trace in the present. In that context, you can try to figure out why sometimes particular past events sort of revivifies itself in the present.

John Cobb: You could study it under what circumstances, there’s some event from your childhood all of a sudden. But it doesn’t mean it has had no relationship to your experience. The conscious experience is, of course, a very special form of experience, and the boundary between what is conscious and unconscious is a very fuzzy one.

John Cobb: So when we talk about everything being experience, we certainly don’t mean everything is conscious. Sadly among a lot of philosophers, the only use of the word experience is referring to conscious experience. And then there’s no understanding of Whitehead’s view.

John Cobb: Since everything is a synthesis of relations to everything in the past, you have much more material to work with when you’re trying to explain experience. Now an experience is not exhausted by its relation to the past. Whitehead calls the relatedness to the past, physical prehension. We are prehending actual entities. But we also prehend potentialities. Now those potentialities may also be prehended as realized actualities in the past. So it doesn’t mean that every conceptual feeling is of something that is radically novel, but it is being experienced simply as a potential, not as actual. And Whitehead thinks this is present even in very elementary matters. Waves of vibration. He liked the term. It’s a very large part of the world we live in.

John Cobb: And then when you go back and forth between two states, this is the minimum of novelty that actual entities can have. Both states, neither state is novel, it’s constantly recurrence. He thinks that without some variation from moment to moment, nothing really happens. So this kind of novelty is to be found all the way down in the quantum world. And though as the description of the quantum world, so the indeterminacy and all of that certainly suggests that this is not unreal. Most of the developments in science since his time tend to fit very well into his ideas. Quantum was just on the edge coming into existence when he was writing. He wrote very extensively about relativity, very little about quantum. But many quantum physicists are quasi-Whiteheadians. David Bohm, we worked with a lot because he came and spent two weeks in the house next door to me and we talked all afternoon, day after day. So I really thought I got acquainted with him.

John Cobb: He was very process-oriented. He actually thought that we needed to change our language. He thought we could do it simply by shifting to gerunds from nouns. Because gerunds suggest something’s happening. Nouns suggest something IS. And this has distorted our understanding of the world in which we live.

John Cobb: So from the Whiteheadian side, any experience, however weird, needs to be taken seriously, that happened. If that is experienced, however confusing it is, however misdirecting it may be, nevertheless, if it happened, it happened, and that has to be taken account of. And his combination of the inclusion of actuality and potentiality usually makes it possible to figure it out. And of course, if it’s too much potentiality and too little grounded in actuality, you better be careful of it. But on the other hand, if you don’t have the potentiality, then you ultimately just have a completely deterministic universe. Then you can’t explain a great many of the most important phenomena.

Johanna: Does Whitehead relate potentiality to his ideas about intuition?

John Cobb: The word intuition, you don’t find in Whitehead. I shouldn’t say that. It’s a very limited word in Whitehead. But I think people who have studied about intuition in other traditions usually find that what they mean by intuition is a form of prehension. Intuitions, I think, can be both of pure potentials and can be intuitions about other people. Yeah.

John Cobb: I mean obviously proximity is likely to make something stronger. My psyche can prehend your psyche when you’re sitting there and I’m here. And also around the world even it could… It becomes less and less likely when there were no other supportive… I think when you’re actually talking to somebody, obviously you have visual cues and auditory cues and it enriches the connection, but that’s not the basis of it. That there is an actual occasion over there that is experiencing hearing me and seeing me is intuitively about a certain… It’s really in many ways more certain than that’s a patch of blue. I’m more likely to be wrong about the color than I am about the sheer being, sheer occurrence. So obviously a lot of what are called paranormal experiences are not magical or supernatural or something.

John Cobb: So many things that the university just won’t touch for a Whiteheadian point of view should be regarded as empirical theories. The fact that somebody claims to have seen something or done something doesn’t mean that’s true because there are plenty of illusion. But rather than dismiss it, they just study it and test it rigorously. I mean, it’s not that you just immediately are gullible about everything,

John Cobb: I mean, frankly I have until yesterday paid very little attention to astrology. Now as a Whiteheadian, that does not mean that I think that the planets have no effect on us whatsoever. I’ve just rather assumed it was a rather minor matter. I’m much more open now to learning more about the connections as they say. But just the fact that you find thoughtful people have developed elaborate theories about these connections doesn’t make them right. But it should mean well, that’s interesting. What evidence is there?

John Cobb: And somebody was telling me that… You will see that as far as names are concerned, I’m absolutely terrible. But the woman who spoke (Becca Tarnas)

John Cobb: That she had told him, I don’t think it was either reviewed.

John Cobb: The year he was born, correctly. Just on the basis of very little knowledge, well, no, when I hear that I think, wow, okay, there’s more to this than I thought. But that doesn’t mean Whitehead says anything about this. It’s just he… If we prehend everything that has ever happened, however trivial, then to know in advance that this couldn’t be true is ruled out.

John Cobb: So on the other side, since he does not privilege our standard sensory experience, then if people started talking about having very different sensory experiences, there’s no bias against it. I’m saying what Whitehead offers, and since he makes very explicit points, we need to study experience, drunk experience, sober, he doesn’t say experience in the psychedelics and not, but it’s obviously included.

John Cobb: And then while he’s experienced drunk, does not seem to give one insights into reality through any very… I mean it tells you something about the human body and how our body chemistry affects neuronal activity. I mean, in that sense it cannot be understood, but that it gives you a vision of reality that happens to be much more like Whitehead’s, naturally increases interest on the part of the Whitehead is.

John Cobb: I mean, most people who’ve had drugs feel a deep relationality that is not given to us. An insight, for example. And the world has much more dynamic, and Whitehead shows us how vision abstracts from the dynamism rather than commuting the dynamism.

John Cobb: So I think Lenny can tell you. I mean, he wrote an article that we published in The Center for Process Studies that is using process categories to explain the psychedelic experience. And John Buchanan has been working on that, it got many people. And of course, the psychedelic experience is different with different people. So it’s different with different drugs and all of that. So you can explain one experience, you haven’t explained all. And obviously it can be just as misleading about what the world is like as normal experiences. So the interaction should give rise to hypotheses for testing.

John Cobb: But if someone is already convinced that our interconnections are far more extensive than if somebody says, “Oh, I had this vision and I saw everything related to everything else.” We Whiteheadians are not going to test it, we just say, “Good, I’m glad you’ve see it. I wish I could see it that clearly. I believe it.” One of the very important features of Whitehead is to distinguish a complex society. I mean, the table is a complex society. And if we talk about pan-experientialism, we’re not saying that the table has had the experience. But we are saying that if you analyze the table into the quanta and quarks, that these are dynamic entities.

John Cobb: So when you put together a lot of dynamic as it is, and even as indeterminate as it is. I mean, one of the ironies is that predictions based on theories in quantum, they call it quantum mechanics, but it ain’t mechanic. And they develop a formula and these tend not to be more precise than when you’re just dealing with the big objects. So you might think that if you have a little bit of indeterminacy in the entities that then this could be multiplied, but statistics don’t really work that way.

John Cobb: I mean, if you flip a coin, you flip a coin 10 times, it wouldn’t be too surprising if you got seven on one side three on the other. If you flip it a hundred times, it would be very surprising if you’ve got a 70 on one side and 30 on the other. If you did it 10,000 times, it would be utterly amazing. And you would be quite sure this was no longer neutral, that there was something about the coins or something that was causing this difference. So when you get trillions of cases, as you would in a table, that it comes out so that the prediction can be so precise, doesn’t mean it’s a mistake to think that there was uncertainty in the individual cases.

John Cobb: Physics has opened up vast amounts of things. From a Whiteheadian point of view contemporary physics would be almost universally valid if the world were composed entirely of physical feelings.

Kyle Buller: What do you mean by physical feeling?

John Cobb: Physical feelings are feelings of actual occasions. This term for what is, is an actual occasion. Human experience is an actual occasion.

Johanna: So what would be opposed to the physical feeling?

John Cobb: Conceptual feelings are feelings of potentials.

Johanna: Right.

John Cobb: And he (Whitehead) thinks now our feelings are potentials in every actual occasion. So physics is never adequate to any individual entity. And the attempt to make physics apply, standard physics, of course I mean, apply to the quantum world is a total failure. Almost everybody agrees on that.

John Cobb: I think the attempt to make ordinary physics apply to human experience, which is the task assigned to Neuroscientists. The neuroscientists I have known, and they’re obviously a select group, on the whole, they’re completely convinced that subjective experience has a causal role to play in the world. Whitehead thinks it has the causal role to play in the world.

John Cobb: But as long as you are only talking about the experience of past entities, you can avoid it. But when they found out that when they study Zen practitioners and discovered that their brain’s shapes are changed by their practice, I just don’t see how they can keep on saying that subjective experience has no causal role. And they don’t. I mean the people who are doing these experiments, they said they have to be very careful how they word this when they go back to their… One of my many reasons for not thinking highly of the American university.

John Cobb: It is more committed to metaphysics than it is to empirical study. Really is.

Read part 2 here.


Links

Website
Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition

Other books by John Cobb Jr.

A Christian Natural Theology, Second Edition: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead

Jesus’ Abba: The God Who Has Not Failed

Grace & Responsibility: A Wesleyan Theology for Today

For Our Common Home: Process-Relational Responses to Laudato Si’


About John B. Cobb Jr.

John B. Cobb, Jr., Ph.D, is a founding co-director of the Center for Process Studies and Process & Faith. He has held many positions, such as Ingraham Professor of Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont, Avery Professor at the Claremont Graduate School, Fullbright Professor at the University of Mainz, Visiting Professor at Vanderbilt, Harvard Divinity, Chicago Divinity Schools. His writings include: Christ in a Pluralistic Age; God and the World; For the Common Good. Co-winner of Grawemeyer Award of Ideas Improving World Order.

What’s the Psychedelic Community Talking About? Three Main Takeaways from the 2019 Horizon’s Conference

Dr Carl Hart - Horizons NYC

In the heart of Manhattan’s busy Greenwich Village, the Horizon’s Conference: Perspectives on Psychedelics, graced the Cooper Union Great Hall on October 12th and 13th. The largest and longest-running gathering of the psychedelic community brings folks from around the globe together for presentations on psychedelic research findings and activism every year.

The conference first ran in 2007 as a single afternoon of talks at the Judson Memorial Church with around 250 attendees. This year, both days were sold out and attendance exceeded 2,600 people, not including after-parties and other unofficial events around town.

This was also the first year that offered pre-conference classes for physicians as well as interested individuals, like Introduction to Psilocybin Therapy with Bill Richards and Rosalind Watts, Intro to MDMA Therapy for Clinicians led by Shannon Clare Carlin and Marcela Ot’alora, Intro to Ketamine Psychotherapy, and Sexual Ethics in the Psychedelic Community, all of which were sold out on Friday, October 11th.

But what kind of talks are given in such a collegiate atmosphere, at a podium that’s hosted leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and Barack Obama? On day one, Julie Holland, M.D. and author of Weekends at Bellevue hosted the science-themed presentations, including recent research on psilocybin from the Imperial College London team, mindfulness-assisted Ketamine therapy by Elias Dakwar, M.D., the potential harms and benefits of 5-meO-DMT given by Alan K. Davis, PhD, among other fascinating and informative talks.

Then on day two, the theme switched to culture and Bia Labate, Executive Director of Chacruna and MAPS’s cultural specialist hosted presentations on psychedelics in the media by the DoubleBlind Mag founders, the indigenous peyote way of life by Steven Benally, president of Azee’ Bee Nahagha Nation (formerly known as the Native American Church of Navajo Land), the intersection of art and psychedelic-assisted therapy by artist and activist, Swoon, along with other important and moving discussions. 

Let’s take a look at three main themes that emerged this year at Horizon’s to get a sense of the kinds of issues the psychedelic community is currently debating.

1. Psychedelics are coming, but how? Medicalization vs. Decriminalization vs. Legalization

The conversation at this year’s Horizon’s seemed to move past whether or not legal psychedelics are coming. Everyone at the conference seemed to agree that the future includes some kind of legal option for substances like psilocybin, but now the question is: What’s the best model for moving forward?

At the end of day one, Carl Hart, PhD, Colombia University professor of psychology, and author of High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, proposed legalizing and regulating all drugs as a civil rights and safety issue to a standing ovation. 

Carl Hart PHD - Columbia University

Yet, even for the psychedelic community, Hart’s ideas are somewhat radical. Other organizations in the space strongly believe in a more medicalized model, where psychedelics wouldn’t be legal to use and possess by anyone, but instead only by doctors who would administer them in a controlled environment to qualifying patients. It’s a big debate in the community, especially considering the medicalization of psychedelics probably wouldn’t be accessible to everyone because of the high price tag that will likely come attached. 

Decriminalization is the third option, but can still fall short of being enough for the safest and most responsible drug use. For this reason, many in the community see it more as a step toward full, adult-use legalization than the finish line. In Hart’s talk, he pointed to the fact that law enforcement can still marginalize certain groups, especially POC (people of color), with decriminalization, and without regulations and purity testing of substances, people don’t have enough information to use drugs safely.

2. Economic Models of Psychedelic Expansion

Which brings us to our next point, if psychedelics are legalized, will companies be able to make a profit from selling them? Could “Big Psychedelics” come in and monopolize the space?

George Goldsmith, Bia Labate, Dr. James Rucker

While this issue was brought up in many contexts at Horizons, it was the center of discussion on Sunday morning at a panel titled, “Economic Models for the Expansion of Psychedelics”. George Goldsmith, co-founder and CEO of Compass Pathways, a for-profit company that has patented synthetic psilocybin and threatens to monopolize the space, was a member of the panel and put in the hot seat by many in the community, both during the Q & A and by the other panelists. Goldsmith is already a millionaire and is poised to make the most profit and have the most control over medicalized psilocybin, and that is cause for alarm for many people in the community. Most of the other organizations sponsoring research into psychedelic-assisted therapy are not-for-profit organizations, like MAPS with MDMA and the Usona Institute with psilocybin.

Other options for psychedelic expansion were also addressed in this discussion, like the “pollinator approach” by economics and public policy professor, Bennet A. Zelner, PhD, which is a more community-based model of resource and information sharing and distribution. 

3. “Coming Out” as a Psychedelic User

Lastly, another main theme that was touched on in both presentations and private conversations was the need of community members to “come out” publicly as psychedelic users. The idea is to show the mainstream that anyone can be a responsible psychedelic (or other type of drug) user to try and break some of the stigma that still surrounds these substances. If we can change the public perception of psychedelics, then a shift in law and policy could naturally follow. 

Horizons NYC Opening Ceremony and Party

There’s even a group from Costa Rica trying to start an international coming-out campaign on February 20, 2020 called “Thank You Plant Medicine” to support folks in telling their transformative psychedelic stories publicly. 

It was a busy and exciting year at Horizons NYC, and a great opportunity for the community to come together to push the conversation forward. These are three major issues to continue to pay attention to as psychedelic research and decriminalization progress!

Michelle Janikian is a journalist focused on drug policy, trends, and education. She’s the author of, “Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion: An Informative, Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Magic Mushrooms – From Tips and Trips to Microdosing and Psychedelic Therapy”, and her work has also been featured in Playboy, DoubleBlind Mag, High TimesRolling Stone and Teen Vogue. One of her core beliefs is ending the prohibition of drugs can greatly benefit society, as long as we have harm reduction education to accompany it. Find out more on her website: www.michellejanikian.com or on Instagram @michelle.janikian.