In this episode, David interviews East Forest: Portland, OR-based producer, podcaster, ceremony guide, and musician, specializing in ambient, electronic, contemporary classical, and indie pop music largely to guide listeners through deep journeys.
Forest discusses his live performances and influences; how his music pairs with journeys and specific psychedelics; the difference in the connection and vibe from a live performance vs. a recording; the difference between single-artist music created specifically for sessions vs. Spotify playlists; the inhumanity of generative music; his Journey Space online music and journey platform; and the challenges of making money in a time when music is more prevalent than ever, but also more in-the-background and diluted.
He talks a lot about sound itself: the role of rhythm and sound in communication and personal transformation; how richer overtones and increased layers of sound increase effects; research into very low pulsating tones, and how more synthesized sound and the growth of AI has created a yearning for more authentic, imperfect sounds.
His newest album was just released August 18: “Music For The Deck of The Titanic,” an homage to the musicians who spent their last few hours playing songs for passengers amidst the chaos and tragedy – an album Forest sees as an offering to the chaotic moment we’re all in.
“I’m trying to make music that is intended to come directly into the foreground and pass the foreground into the place where you merge with the music, and the music becomes the sonic architecture by which you are having an experience inside, and perhaps become it, synesthetically. So I want to go way beyond it being in the background. I actually want it to be even more than a guide. It’s almost like you synthesize with it as one: like who’s guiding who? There can be a magic to those experiences that’s far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in anything else in life, and that’s really the North Star that I want to be in service to. I don’t think, even, that that’s something that I can concoct or conceive totally. It’s more opening myself up to some kind of magic that’s way beyond anything I could decide.”
“What I love about humans’ creativity is the fact that we can be creative and we can celebrate that by making things like art. When I’m surprised by art is the best feeling. And so giving people support to create: as of now, we can’t beat that. You’re just asking yourself: how far can we go in this celebration and in this experience? I have never experienced a generative experience that’s even anywhere close to where we can go with one person sharing their humanity in a way that’s beautiful. If it’s innovative, even better.”
In this episode, David interviews Dr. Gabrielle Lehigh: Co-Founder and Managing Director of Psychedelic Grad, a web-based community serving as an educational and career hub for up-and-coming psychedelic professionals; and the host of the related podcast, “Curious to Serious,” where she speaks with students and professionals about the path they took to land in the psychedelic field.
Lehigh recently earned her Ph.D. with research on something not many are looking at: the stories behind powerful and transformative psychedelic experiences specifically at music events, based on 38 interviews and over 500 surveys mostly collected at day-long festivals in the southern United States. While the goal was largely data collection in support of the clear potential for therapeutic benefit in using psychedelics in recreational settings (as many of us who have experienced this can attest), she was surprised to learn how many people still blindly trust dealers; how much festival security can affect safety; how the community often makes more of a difference than the music itself; and how many parallels exist between colder clinical models of psychedelic-assisted therapy and the completely open festival experience.
She discusses how she found her way from environmental justice to psychedelics; what people are most looking for on Psychedelic Grad; why she chose to use the word “transformative” in her research; what music she has had her best experiences with; why psychonauts shouldn’t forget about Pink Floyd; and much more.
“I went to my advisor at the time and I said, ‘Listen, I want to change the direction that I’ve been going in.’ I’m like, ‘I either want to study the anthropology of space colonization,’ (which is so out there) ‘or I want to study psychedelics.’ And my advisor was like, ‘Neither one of those is anywhere near what you were studying before. What happened?’”
“I can be somewhat frustrated sometimes when, from the clinical setting, there’s this idea that recreational use has no benefit for people, because I’ve seen it from other people’s experiences, [and] there have been experiences that I’ve had in those types of recreational settings that have been incredibly beneficial for me. Even when I started taking psychedelics, even though I was taking them at home; it wasn’t clinical, it wasn’t medical, it wasn’t necessarily therapeutic as defined by ‘therapeutic,’ so it was still considered recreational. So I was just really frustrated in seeing repeated notions that recreational isn’t necessarily beneficial. And so I set out to be like: well, if it’s not beneficial, then maybe we should go check it out and see what’s really going on.”
“When we think about the clinical setting, when we look at the MAPS protocol and everything, music is a part of it. But in the interviews, people talked about the value of live music. There’s something special and something unique about music being created in the moment, and you, as a spectator, are part of the creation of that music, and there’s something really special going on there. …It’s the music, and it’s not just the music as the music, it’s this live production of the music. There’s some type of magic in it.”
In this episode, Kyle interviews the Reverend Dr. Brian Rajcok, Lead Pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Avon, Connecticut, who recently completed his Ph.D. in pastoral counseling.
Rajcok dives into the intersection of spirituality, religion, mysticism, and how psychedelics bring these topics together, discussing a transformative peyote ceremony and the awe-inspiring moments of surrender, connection, and divine presence that left a lasting impact on him and deepened his connection to God. And he talks about his recently completed dissertation that was inspired by it all: “The Lived Experience of Professional Mental Health Clinicians With Spiritually Significant Psychedelic Experiences,” which he created to gauge the relationship between religious spiritual commitment, tolerance, and multicultural counselor competency. He shares stories from the study and reflections on how these experiences have changed the way involved clinicians work.
And he discusses much more in the realm of psychedelics and religion: why he pursued pastoral counseling and how psychedelics come into play; the balance between tradition and reason and spiritual commitment and tolerance; the legal and regulatory considerations of religious psychedelic use; the concept of a faith quadrilateral; the need for psychedelic experiences in counseling training programs; the big question of ‘when is it religion and when is it mental health care?’; and how the future of psychedelic spirituality could be humanity’s biggest evolution.
“There were moments in the night where I felt like I was looking at the fire, having a feeling of being in Hell. And then there was this shift of when I said, ‘Okay, if I’m in Hell, accept that.’ And then I accepted that, and then there was this total emotional shift to like, ‘Wow, now I’m in Heaven!’ It was just this beautiful experience of accepting the worst, and then once that work was done, it shifted into this beautiful experience. That was a very profound moment for me.”
“People who are more religiously committed tend to have a reputation for being less tolerant, and people who are the most tolerant tend to have a reputation of being the least committed. But I think that what we see from people who have (whether it’s psychedelic experiences or naturally occurring) mystical experiences, there’s a level of religious spiritual commitment and tolerance at the same time that increases. So that was one thing that I wanted to explore.”
“That was another really profound one: people who experienced different spirit guides; experiences of the divine; encounters with deceased relatives was another one; there was someone who was not a Christian who had an experience with Jesus. So there’s a lot of these profound encounters. …And they’re so healing that it’s obvious that there’s something good going on here. It’s not just your imagination running wild, there’s a real [connection] to the spirit realm or to whatever other dimensions of reality, and it’s such a mystery, but it’s clear that there’s something real going on.”
In this episode, David interviews Dr. Rosalind Watts: famed clinical psychologist, former clinical lead on Imperial College London’s first Psilocybin for Depression trial, and Founder of ACER Integration.
She discusses the awakening she had after having a child; her work at Imperial College and realizing the importance of staying in touch with patients; the challenges of balancing her work with being a mother; her ACER integration model and the interconnectedness of trees in a forest; how the Watts Connectedness Scale works (and David fills it out); and how much the outside-the-hype surrounding pieces matter – the therapy, the therapeutic relationship, the lessons learned, and the work done to integrate it all.
And she talks about another moment of awakening, at last year’s Psych Summit conference, where capitalism’s obsession with profit-over-care frameworks and “magic bullet” and “brain reset” narratives was on full display, which fully enforced what she hopes for in the future: a world where we embrace non-clinical, ceremonial, and nature-based practices; with healing centers (psychedelic and non); supportive communities; infrastructure around conflict resolution and restorative justice; and a shift towards collectivism and collaboration – and how that all starts by finding our psychedelic elders.
“I’m a tourist. I’m listening, I’m learning, but I know that I don’t have deep roots and that there are people that do. So it ties into that thing about finding the elders: as we find our elders for conflict resolution and for therapy and for healing and for psychedelic healing, I also hope we find the elders who are deeply rooted in Indigenous traditions, from Indigenous traditions all over the world, and that they can teach us and teach me, if they will, those stories and those ways, and that then, my daughter: if she can learn through her life, she can grow up with it in a way that I didn’t – so she can have deep roots in that tradition.”
“When we’re on the riverbank and we’ve had our cup of tea and we’ve warmed by the fire, we can look upstream and think: all the people that are coming down the river, what might they need? And then we can kind of run and chuck them the blankets or a chocolate biscuit or the things that they might need, or just shout to them and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing great. It’s crazy out there, there’s a riverbank soon. You can come and sit and join us.’ So it’s like, it’s also about thinking of what’s next for us, but also thinking of all the people that are coming and how we can support each other on the rapids as well.”
There are a great many tales to be told about the countercultural years of the 1960s, but the story of tripping Rabbis whose psychedelic exploration contributed to a great Jewish Renewal isn’t found in many history books.
While the world was shaken by the Vietnam War and the ongoing Cold War, the counterculture represented a rise of a new consciousness expressed in forms of music, art, drugs, and civil disobedience. In a collective rise against the ‘American dream’ utopia built by their parents, the young generation sought to find alternatives to materialist and conservative values. For them, the counterculture was a strike of anti-establishment, in an egalitarian spirit emphasizing the value of human relationships and the individual’s quest for meaning in life.
Drugs like LSD, cannabis, and mescaline became increasingly common with renowned academics, authors and poets of the era. But they weren’t the only cultural leaders exploring the power of mind-altering substances; while the world watched Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), Aldous Huxley, and Allen Ginsberg encourage the new generation to turn on, tune in, and drop out, a few radical rabbis were quietly exploring the use of psychedelics to get closer to God, and revive age-old mystical traditions.
I was inspired to investigate the connection between liberal Jewish movements and psychedelics after encountering the article ‘Psychedelics and Kabbalah,’published in the Jewish youth magazine Response (1968) by Itzik Lodzer. Lodzer was revealed to be a pseudonym for Arthur Green, the now well-established Jewish scholar, rabbi, and influential figure in the establishment of liberal Jewish practices (for the remainder of this article, Lodzer will be referred to as Arthur Green). One of Green’s contributions was Havurat Shalom, an experimental community embracing Jewish libertarianism and alternative religious values. Through Havurat Shalom, Green met another unconventional rabbi: Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, now also commonly referred to as ‘Reb Zalman,’ founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. Schachter-Shalomi became the leading figure for the Jewish liberation theology, and his influence for the entire Jewish community is monumental.
Both Green and Schachter-Shalomi referred to psychedelics as tools to shed light onto forgotten mystical traditions. The Jewish Renewal movement was an epiphany of that realization, and strove to reinvigorate stagnant traditions by reinventing modern Judaism through Kabbalistic, Hasidic, and musical practices. The lives of these two rabbis, their encounters with psychedelic drugs, and the paths these experiences led them on, are remarkable examples of how psychedelic drugs were an integral part of reinventing Jewish theology.
From their stories we can conjecture that psychedelics were a factor in influencing certain powerful, liberal Jewish ideologies, as well as helping their users to experience Jewish mystical theology in a new light.
The Psychedelic Experience and the Kabbalah
Kabbalah is Hebrew for ‘receiving’. It encompasses a set of teachings generally distinguished from the ‘traditional’ Jewish doctrine. The term came into use in 13th century Spain, where a group of Jewish esoterics and mystics began to separate themselves from the regular Jewish practitioners. To this day, hundreds of modern Kabbalah centers have opened up all around the United States and Europe and many well-known celebrities with (and without) Jewish heritage have picked up the practice of this mystical tradition.
In the 1968 Jewish Review Response, Green draws a parallel between his psychedelic experience and the teachings of the Kabbalah. For him, the foundation of the Kabbalist teachings became vividly real during his encounter with LSD. This is also the likely reason why he chose to write about a topic which, even during the period when LSD was legal, was considered contentious for the traditional Jewish community. Green analyzed parts of the psychedelic experience corresponding to Kabbalist teachings. Many of the elements recognized today as classic psychedelic trip experiences, represented vivid manifestations of Green’s own belief system.
“That which I thought was all terribly real just a few seconds ago now seems to be a part of a great dramatic role-playing situation, a cosmic comedy which this ‘me’ has to play out for the benefit of the audience,” he said.
In Kabbalah the only ‘true’ unchanging reality is the Ein Sof, ‘the Upper Reality,’ our ways of perceiving that reality are under constant change. For Green, psychedelics opened the illusionary nature of unchanging reality and of his own self. He wrote: “Seen from beyond, however, world and ego are but aspects of the same illusion. From God’s point of view, only God can be real.”
The Paradox of Change
The second aspect Green brought forth is the paradox of the fundamental change of everything about God, the simultaneous fundamental constancy of God, and the circular coexistence of impermanence and permanence: “All is becoming moving. I blink my eyes and seem to reopen them to an entirely new universe. One terribly different from that which existed a moment ago […] If there is a ‘God’ we have discovered through psychedelics, He is the One within the many; the changeless constant in a world of change.”
God’s Gender – Maybe Not Male After All?
Having strongly experienced a feminine presence during his trip, Green questioned the prevailing Judeo-Christian assumptions of God as male, underlying that ‘the father of the heavens’ only makes sense in a context where there is also ‘the mother.’ He argued that Judaism today has become trapped by the stationary image of God as a father figure. Subsequently, the Jewish Renewal movement has been especially focused on the revival of the female Goddess. For Green, the two sides of God were as attainable for ‘contemporary trippers,’ as they had been for the mystics of the past.
Discovering God’s Fluid Essence
Typically, descriptions of divinity in Kabbalistic writings are inconsistent and fully metaphorical. Green observed the parallel of the flow of beautiful images during his trip and the fluid Kabbalist descriptions of the nature of divinity, but warned against any static statements defining God. He argued that only symbolic and metaphorical descriptions could come close to the truth. Although the process in which the voyager creates a metaphor to describe the flow of images and information can be enjoyable, he warned against taking one’s own imagery too seriously:
“Indeed, this is one of the great ‘pastime’ of people under the influence of psychedelics: the construction of elaborate and often beautiful systems of imagery which momentarily seem to contain all the meaning of life or the secrets of all the universe, only to push beyond them moments later, leaving their remains as desolate as the ruins of a child’s castle in the sand. No metaphor is permanent, one can always ascend another rung and look down on the silliness of what appeared to be a revelation just minutes before.”
Exploring God’s Authentic Nature
What Green referred to as the “deepest, simplest and most radical insight of the psychedelic consciousness” concerns the authentic nature of God. He wrote: “This insight has been so terribly frightening to the Jewish consciousness, so bizarre in terms of the biblical background of all Jewish faith, that even the mystics who knew it well, generally fled from fully spelling it out.”All reality is at one with the Divine, and therefore every human, Jewish or not, is a part of God’s divine nature, he posited. According to Green, the very sanity of the Western civilization lies in the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, to separate between God and humans. Now that this fantasy had been shattered for the young Green, the rest of his life was bound to change. “If God and man are truly one … what has all the game been for?” he questioned.
Green’s testimony of his first psychedelic voyage is a remarkable historical account of how psychedelics can operate on the consciousness of a deeply religious individual. Green’s understanding of Kabbalah provided a strong framework through which the experience could fluidly mature, and although he voiced his concerns of autonomous explorations of God through psychopharmacology, he also believed both the psychedelic and mystical consciousness can be compatible.
In his 2016 biography, Hasidism for Tomorrow, he still states that taking LSD was an important step for his understanding of Hasidic and Kabbalistic philosophies. Such states would be achievable without the substances, he says, but acknowledges taking drugs and spontaneous mystical experiences as parallel processes.
The question arises: will the revolutionary qualities of the Jewish Renewal movement prove lasting, or will Judaism shake off Liberal influences and continue its static path? Just as the Jewish Renewal movement is often seen as a minor influence on a small current, the counterculture movement is often viewed as a failed attempt of revolution, as utopia slowly sinking into disappointment. Both Green and Schachter-Shalomi held their experiences with psychedelics as major influential points in their lives. As the research on psychedelic drugs and neurotheology continues to advance, perhaps the liberation theologies of a number of religions can be understood in a completely novel way.
According to Shalom Goldman, a professor of religion and Middle Eastern studies, the impact of the Jewish Renewal movement has left a permanent mark on contemporary Jewish life.
“Schachter-Shalomi’s Jewish Renewal still remains small in comparison to the larger Jewish denominations, but its influence is wide,” he said. “And many of those influenced would be quite surprised to read that in a way, it started with LSD.”
Editor’s note: this article is an adapted version of the essay, Tripping Rabbis: The Impact of Psychedelic Consciousness in the Revival of Jewish Mystical Tradition during the 1960s Counterculture Movement, by Johanna Hilla-Maria Sopanen, originally published in Psychedelic Press Volume XXI (2017).
In this episode, Kyle interviews the Co-Founders of The EAST Institute: teachers, facilitators, and spiritual guides, Lena Franklin and Jeff Glattstein.
The EAST Institute offers educational and experiential events, and trains facilitators in the art of the EAST Method™, a multidisciplinary approach combining modern research with traditional, Indigenous methods of healing and integration, touching on transpersonal psychology, mindfulness, meditation, vibrational sound therapy, energy medicine, shamanic healing, natural plant medicines, and more. Their approach is a structured (but flexible) process that guides the experiencer through preparation, the ceremony, and integration, but with a much larger focus on preparation than is typically seen, and with a deep phase of integration touching on six key modalities.
They tell their stories of what led them to follow a healing path, explain the basics of the EAST Method™, and talk about their facilitator training program. And they discuss: how beneficial it can be to introduce shadow work right off the bat; how the West needs to learn to stop deifying medical degrees and learn to trust our inner healers; the power of energy and the energetic reciprocity between our bodies and the medicine; and how we, as a culture, need to break through our conditioning – from propaganda, fear, and the self-limiting beliefs that keep us from being our best selves.
“The clinical world is all about psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which is going to be amazingly helpful for people who step into that clinical realm. And yet the question remains: how do I embody all of this into my life every day?…What are you going to do differently? Now that you’ve had this amazing experience, what are you going to do different, today?” -Jeff
“The medicines are teachers and guides, and they teach us and they show us and they guide us as to how we can heal ourselves. And yes, they’re powerful healers as well, but they’re only as powerful as we allow them to be, by owning the responsibility of our own healing. …The medicine doesn’t heal, the medicine shows people how to heal.” -Jeff
“How can we continue to anchor our embodiment in the truth of interconnectedness, of remembering our divinity every day, in the ordinary moments? There’s the quote: ‘Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.’ Ordinary moments can be extraordinary moments when our lens is clear of the veils of fear.” -Lena
“I feel like there’s just so much potential and interest and growth and vitality at this intersection of the scientific world and the medical world and really, where these medicines came from – our ancestors the ancient, Indigenous ways of honoring the medicine. …That eagle-condor reunification: it’s collectively the movement from individualism and disconnection into the truth that we are all interconnected – this interdependence of our souls and our energy. And I think we’re seeing that reflected in the psychedelic world right now.” -Lena
In this episode, Joe interviews Erica Rex: award-winning journalist, past guest and writer, and participant in one of the first ever clinical trials using psilocybin to treat cancer-related depression; and Mona Sobhani, Ph.D.: cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Proof of Spiritual Phenomena: A Neuroscientist’s Discovery of the Ineffable Mysteries of the Universe.
As Rex discovered the power of psychedelics through a clinical trial, she discusses a huge problem she discovered: that researchers are not preparing participants enough for the ontological shock they may go through in trying to match unexplainable happenings to a rigid framework (or match the normal to a framework that has suddenly shifted) – that while patients have support at the clinic, it all disappears when they return to normal life. She believes that all too often, researchers are doing only what is necessary to be able to continue to receive funding, push drugs through the FDA, and prescribe a pill.
And as psychedelics changed Sobhani from very constrained scientific thinking to being very open to new ideas about consciousness and spirituality, she learned that many scientists had similar stories, and that coming out of the psychedelic closet is sometimes the best thing to do to normalize these ways of healing.
They discuss the challenges of newcomers trying to explain their experience without having the necessary language; how we still don’t truly understand mental illness; how the DSM just clusters symptoms to fit ‘disorders’ into a box; how society has started pathologizing anything we find unpleasant (which of course, is a part of being human); Gary Fisher’s research on using LSD and psilocybin for schizophrenic children, why science needs to combine consciousness research and psychedelics research, and more.
“I think most people (neuroscientists, a lot of psychologists): we don’t like labels. We don’t like the DSM (especially neuroscientists). It doesn’t make any sense; all you’re doing is clustering symptoms and calling it a disorder. It’s useful, but it’s not explanatory. …Everyone’s so focused on ‘What are the brain mechanisms?’ but we do need to pull out and [ask]: ‘What are the societal mechanisms? How is our society not supporting [us]? Why do we see such an increase in some of these disorders? It’s a really big question.” -Mona
“There was a big move to get grief made into a pathology that was defined in the DSM so it could be treated with a pill. Grief. This was during COVID. So now grief is a pathology and you can be diagnosed with ‘grieving disorder’ and treated for it. …Anything that does not serve the machine is now considered a disease and disorder and has to be fixed, which is unfortunate because it takes us away from every piece of authentic experience that we could ever possibly have. And that is dehumanizing, profoundly.” -Erica
“Our whole society’s not built around humanity, even though we talk a lot about humanity. But there’s no humane principles in business or in society. Nothing is built around what the human needs, and that’s why, even in psychiatry, you see [that] grief or these normal human needs are pathologized. …We’re just cutting off parts of ourselves and not catering to being a human because we hate being human so much, apparently. We hate the things that are inconvenient about it, that it’s like we just have to cut it off and block it off and go forward. But you can’t do that; then you have all these coping mechanisms that emerge and then all these disorders, because you’re not functioning in an environment that supports you being what you are.” -Mona
In this episode, Joe interviews Greg Lake, Esq.: Co-Founder of the Church of Psilomethoxin, author, and trial and appellate attorney specializing in working with entheogen-based religious practitioners in establishing their right to consume their sacraments under existing religious freedom laws.
Psilomethoxin (4-Hydroxy-5-methoxydimethyltryptamine or 4-Hydroxy-5-MeO-DMT) was first synthesized in 2021 by mixing 5-MeO-DMT with psilocybin substrate, and after initial tests and months of user reports, it was deemed safe to use.* Lake co-founded the Church of Psilomethoxin in 2022 with the goal of shifting the paradigm of religion to primary direct experiences and individual beliefs rather than a dogma everyone must follow, with a big focus on community and discussing the ultimate questions of life together – with Psilomethoxin as the sacrament of choice. While he prefers member-to-member referrals, there is an application on the site, and he hopes to grow the church through linking people up regionally, (eventually) training people to facilitate, and partnering with a data collection company to gather real-world data on both Psilomethoxin and on why people are seeking out psychedelic churches in the first place.
He discusses several cases that brought us here and inspired his work; why he believes Psilomethoxin won’t be a target of the Federal Analogue Act; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the need for states to establish similar state legislation; the importance of new churches establishing evidence in the public record; how much courts take sincerity into consideration; and the concept that, while we’re quick to think of the law as the enemy, courts often don’t want to go after churches – religion is a sacred and intimate thing, so who is the victim if a court brings a church to court that hasn’t harmed anyone?
*Update, April 17, 2023:Results from analytical testing released on April 12, 2023, reveal that there is no evidence to suggest the compound psilomethoxin is present in the samples of sacrament material the Church of Psilomethoxin is offering to their members online. The report, prepared by Samuel Williamson and Alexander Sherwood of the Usona Institute, states, “Psilocybin, baeocystin, and psilocin, were, however, unambiguously identified in the sample, suggesting that the claims regarding the biosynthesis of psilomethoxin may be misguided. The implications of these findings should be critically considered within the context of public health and safety.”
We are following this story at Psychedelics Today and are working to update our community with commentary from the researchers. Stay tuned to our social media channels for more on this topic.
“I think eventually the courts will come around to realize that where medical and scientific and religious and spiritual begin or end within this space is not crystal clear, because as we’re all aware, in the research, people, even in clinical settings, are having mystical, religious experiences. And then they see that that really, at many times, translates to positive outcomes. If people, even in a medical setting, can have a religious experience, well then where does ‘This is a religious exercise, this is not’ come into play?”
“One of our core beliefs is that in the peak entheogenic experience like 5-MeO, where you experience unitive cosmic consciousness, that’s basically our moral code – that once you experience unity with all, that tells you pretty much everything that you’ll ever need to know about how you should be treating other people, how you should be treating other beings, and how you should be treating the environment.”
“One thing I’ve learned (and I learned real quick working with these churches) is that, especially post-Covid, the community, for a lot of people, is just as, if not more healing and spiritual than the actual ceremonies.”
In this episode, David once again interviews a teacher and student from Vital, speaking with Grof-certified Holotropic Breathwork® practitioner, author, and developer of InnerEthics®: Kylea Taylor: M.S., LMFT; and therapist and Lead Consultant of psychological therapists at NEU: Shabina Hale.
This Vital Psychedelic Conversation is largely centered around ethics: how practitioners and facilitators define ethics; how InnerEthics® is involved; power dynamics; accountability; how the energy in a session is transferable and can bring up shadow elements for both parties; the need to be honest about one’s own scope of competence; the need for facilitators to have more experience both as a sitter and experiencer; and the very simple but most vital aspect of facilitation: considering how any decision made will affect the person on the psychedelic.
They also discuss having a code of ethics inspired by Indigenous culture and decades of underground use; how the psychedelic experience is affected by the ways it’s treated by its surrounding culture; how the practitioner becomes a protector; defining what is normal in a psychedelic experience (can you?); informed consent and the importance of explaining how roles will change throughout the process; and what the world would be like if everyone followed the same set of ethics.
Have you seen our commercial for Vital yet? We’re pretty thrilled with how it came out.
“We’re doing psychedelics in a different culture and a different community. I come from an Asian community that is often more tight knit and more tribal in its way of being, and mental health is seen differently within that community, care for elders is seen differently in that community. And so immediately, you’ve got these different rules and different structures that happen. And psychedelics obviously have come from some of those communities, but we don’t have the same communities anymore. We’re in the West. People will take them [and] they don’t go back to communities. They’re on their own. And that’s really isolating. …How do you keep people safe in some form of community when they go back into a society which is much more individualistic?” -Shabina
“I think it helps to just consider it all normal and not abnormal, because it’s only abnormal in the context of our society and our culture. What happened to Indigenous people in their psychedelic experiences was held; whatever it was was held by the culture, so it was not abnormal. It was normal in the extraordinary state of consciousness, and they assumed that it was healing and worked with it.” -Kylea
“You can see things that may not make sense on the outside, but to that person, on the inside, they really do make sense. And they make sense of it in a way that is far more profound than you could ever interpret or analyze or try and take apart.” -Shabina
“I think if people really find out what is theirs to do and do it, that is so satisfying that all these other things that cause problems for other people disappear.” -Kylea
In this episode, David interviews published researcher, social entrepreneur, and internationally recognized Indigenous rights activist: Sutton King, MPH.
In New York City alone, 180,000 people identify as Indigenous, Native American, or Alaskan Native, and this community is facing a disproportionate prevalence of mental health disparities, poverty, suicide, and PTSD due to intergenerational trauma from attempted genocide, forced relocation, and the erasure of culture and identity via boarding schools. Her purpose has become to bring light to what Indigenous people are facing due to being forced to live under a reductionist, individualistic Western approach that is in direct opposition to their worldview.
She talks about growing up being instilled with the importance of ancestry and tradition; why she moved to New York; how psychedelics helped her move through the trauma she felt in herself and saw so commonly in her family tree; and capitalism: how we need to move away from our private ownership, profit-maximalist, extractive model into a steward mentality inspired by the Indigenous voices and principles that have been silenced for so long.
“One of the principles that I always was taught is that Indigenous peoples were always taught to be humble and not to be proud and not to be loud. But I have always felt like that was a way to keep us stagnant, to keep us complacent. So I would say I’m definitely a disruptor of this generation.”
“We are dealing with a burden of poverty, we’re dealing with so much chronic morbidity and mortality, as well and our chronic health. There is a number of different issues that we’re facing as Indigenous peoples. However, I’d also like to highlight how resilient we are as well. To be able to survive genocide, forced relocation, boarding school, and the poor socioeconomic status that many of us face [and] our families face, but continue to be a voice for our communities; continue to be on the front lines, advocating for missing and murdered, advocating for the protection of our land and demanding land back – I see a resurgence.”
“When you look at that skyline of that concrete jungle in New York City, I love to remind folks that it was the Mohawk ironworkers who risked their lives on that skyline, to be able to create the world we see around us. The paths that we walk today [and] the rivers that flow have always been used by the Indigenous peoples who came before us.”
“When we think about the economy and this market, it’s not capital that creates economic growth; it’s people. And it’s not this reductionist, individualistic behavior that’s centered at the core of economic good; it’s reciprocity, and being able to make sure that we have a market and an economy that’s inclusive; that’s bringing in all voices, that’s also considering all voices, all of the different parts of the ecosystem – not to silo people, but to bring everyone together, I think, will be the opportunity of a lifetime to really be able to really enact change.”
In this episode, Joe interviews Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and certified sex therapist, Courtney Watson. In just two years’ time, Watson grew from “Psychedelics are white people drugs” to opening a ketamine clinic to serve the marginalized communities she comes from. She shares the work she is doing through Access To Doorways; her Oakland-based non-profit whose mission is to bring psychedelic-assisted therapy to queer, trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and two spirit communities.
This discussion is all over the map, from the platform of African traditional religion through the prospect of trauma healing for white supremacists, across BIPOC erasure in psychedelic research studies, and down into the realms of connecting to the spirit of entheogens from our pasts. Watson waxes on Black resilience; Hoodoo; how ALL plants are entheogenic; how conceptualization and talk in the psychedelic space often falls short of real action; ancestral veneration and ways to connect with one’s ancestral past; andthe concept of “spirit-devoid” synthesized compounds actually being the evolution of those plants’ spirits. She breaks down thoughtful considerations for queer and trans people in the psychedelic space, pointing out that while our society places too much emphasis on gender and sex, the acknowledgement of gender diversity and tearing down of the myths of hetero- and cisnormativity is hugely important. She believes that true access to these medicines can lead to true healing, which leads to love, justice, and actual equality. You can support Access to Doorways by making a donation here.
“Our people will talk to us. They will guide us. They will direct us. Especially for folks that don’t have ancestral practices in their day to day and haven’t had for generations; ancestors are starving for attention. They’re like, ‘Thank God you see us!’ Give them some light, give them some love, give them some attention, and they will open roads for you in all sorts of ways that you never knew were possible.“
“I think we also place way too much emphasis on gender and sex in this culture in this way that ends up stigmatizing the fact that there is gender diversity. …Holding all of this knowledge that heteronormativity is a thing and cisnormativity is a thing, and that these are not the default when we’re working with trans folks and folks that do not identify as heterosexual – that is really important.” “Healing could actually help shift what’s happening. It can help turn things in the ways that they need to be turned; in the ways towards love, towards justice, towards actual equality. It’s only when we are healed that we can actually do that; 1) because we have enough energy to be able to do that, but also because we have enough vision and foresight to be able to do that. The clarity of what it means to actually love only comes when we are healed.“
“There’s a lot of conversations, there’s a lot of talk, there’s a lot of conceptualizations, there’s a lot of dreams. But there’s not a lot of action. …So many people get stuck in the conceptualizing piece of it and the philosophizing piece of it that action gets missed. Access to Doorways is action. With $7000, we have given 4 subsidies. I know people that have raised ten times more than us and have not done that much. It is completely about doing what we say that we’re doing. It is completely about action towards healing.”
Courtney Watson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and AASECT Certified Sex therapist. She is the owner of Doorway Therapeutic Services, a group therapy practice in Oakland, CA focused on addressing the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous & People of Color, Queer folks, Trans, Gender Non-conforming, Non binary and Two Spirit individuals. Courtney has followed the direction of her ancestors to incorporate psychedelic-assisted therapy into her offerings for folks with multiple marginalized identities and stresses the importance of BIPOC and Queer providers offering these services. Courtney has received training from the Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research at CIIS, MAPS, and Polaris Insight Center to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy with a variety of medicines. She is deeply interested in the impact of psychedelic medicines on folks with marginalized identities as well as how they can assist with the decolonization process for folks of the global majority. She believes this field is not yet ready to address the unique needs of Communities of Color and is prepared and enthusiastic about bridging the gap. She is currently blazing the trail as one of the only clinics of predominantly QTBIPOC providers offering ketamine -assisted therapy in 2021. She has founded a non-profit, Access to Doorways, to raise funds to subsidize the cost of ketamine/psychedelic-assisted therapy for QTBIPOC clients (now accepting donations!!!). When not in the office seeing clients or in meetings for the businesses she leads, she’s watching Nickelodeon with her kids, kinda working on her dissertation and more than likely taking a nap!
A progress update on the Oregon Health Authority, Measure 109, and religious liberty.
It turns out a whole lot of people care about religious and spiritual freedom issues surrounding psilocybin. A few weeks ago, Oregon had two public hearings on its proposed psilocybin rules on products, testing, and facilitator training. The overwhelming majority of the public testimony received was in support of religious freedom, affordable access, and the community container for psilocybin service. The support was so overwhelming during the first meeting that I tried to keep tabs on the second meeting. I counted 31 total comments that were received. 24 of those 31 – or 74%! – voiced support for the adoption of the entheogenic practitioners framework for safely regulating community-based practice. I do not believe a single person testified in opposition to its adoption.
Additionally, we are starting to receive written comments that people and organizations have submitted to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, has published his comments to OHA about the proposed rules, in which he recommends adopting the proposal in whole and even making some of the provisions around safe, affordable ceremony applicable to the entire M109 program. You can read his statement here.
Concisely: (1) Psilocybin in mushrooms or as synthesized substance provides access to many different states of human awareness, some powerfully facilitative of psychological and/or spiritual development; (2) The safety and probability of benefit are best ensured when preparation/education is provided in the context of a supportive relationship or community, either in a framework of mental health or of religious care; (3) When wisely integrated into our culture, psilocybin may well significantly decrease human suffering and promote the fuller realization of values such as peace, respect for diversity and compassion; (4) Access to this molecular tool for those who desire it, whether in medical or religious contexts, may be seen as a fundamental human right to explore our own minds.
“Currently, no state or federal law protects religious communities or practitioners who utilize psilocybin from being prosecuted by Oregon law enforcement. As charitable non-profit organizations, most if not all of these communities and practitioners lack the resources to hire attorneys to secure their rights. Measure 109 promised to welcome these communities into a legitimate legal framework. However, we believe that some of the proposed rules for implementing Measure 109 would substantially burden such communities and force them to operate illegally while remaining in the shadows.”
It also points out the following: “We note nearly half (49%) of the respondents to your Community Interest Survey indicated that their interest in accessing psilocybin under Measure 109 was for spiritual purposes. For context, the interest in spirituality ranks higher than interest in psilocybin for trauma-related issues (47%), addiction and substance use (17%), end of life psychological distress (10%), or “other” reasons (9%).”
It also offers some legal analysis to show that, based on the language of M109, Oregon has the legal rulemaking authority to protect religious practice. Here’s just one example:
“…Subsection (C) empowers the OHA to regulate the use of psilocybin products and psilocybin services ‘for other purposes’ deemed necessary or appropriate by the authority. The phrase ‘for other purposes’ indicates that the OHA may create rules that achieve purposes that are not explicitly stated in sections 3 to 129 or implied from them. This too means that OHA can create rules for the purposes of accommodating religious practice.”
You can view or download their full statement here:
“Affordable access to psychedelic healing is perhaps a wholly new equity issue that touches on racial, health, and spiritual equity. Equity means affordable access. Lack of affordability reinforces inequity that exists around race, gender, and class lines. We believe access to psychedelics to be a means of promoting spiritual equity, that we not create “spiritual privilege” as a function of socio-economic privilege. Equity also means culturally-sensitive. It must not impose Western medical paradigms on non- Western approaches to psilocybin.“
You can view or download their full statement here:
The Oregon Health Authority will be publishing its written summary of the public comments soon. Stay tuned to hear how Oregon responds to the public outcry to protect religious and spiritual communities!
For those who have been following closely, a revised edition of the proposal for the entheogenic practitioners framework can be viewed/downloaded here.
Additionally, Eyes on Oregon will be changing shape over the coming month, from a somewhat sporadic web series into a more traditional and more regularly-released podcast. I will be hosting and interviewing various people from the frontlines in Oregon, with Joe joining when he is able. With so much happening, there’s a lot to talk about, and we hope you tune in.
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