The Wisdom of the Psychedelic Elders
Read Rick Doblin's foreword for my new book – *Psychedelic Wisdom*
I am ecstatic to report that my latest book, Psychedelic Wisdom: The Astonishing Rewards of Mind-Altering Substances, has finally been released.
It is already the #1 new release in the category of Pain Medicine / Pharmacology on the world’s largest marketplace, but I need your help to reach a higher rank in the categories of “Popular Culture in Social Sciences” & “Popular Social Psychology & Interactions.” Please consider purchasing the book, as well as a couple more as gifts. Early sales in particular will help make the book a breakthrough success, so that it can reach those who need to hear its message most.
The mission of this publication – and the book of the same name – is to reveal what up to now has been suppressed in the mainstream. I have chosen to bring about this change through two primary avenues: illuminating the science of psychedelics and influencing the culture to accept them as medicines. My online radio broadcast and this newsletter add a third avenue: encouraging community. I count on my subscribers to expand our growing “tribe” by spreading the word and sharing these newsletters. New founding members will receive a free copy with their annual subscription.
If you can’t afford a founding membership, consider buying the book through the MAPS bookstore. While you are there, you can make a gift to MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) to support psychedelic research today.
MAPS was founded in 1986 by my dear friend Rick Doblin, who also generously contributed a foreword to the book, which you can read below. He is also one of nearly 20 distinguished ‘Psychedelic Elders’ featured in my book who shared their stories – some for the first time – of their sub rosa experimentation with various mind-altering substances.
Rick, who turned 69 in November, is in fact one of the younger elders. The book features the wisdom of more than 1,500 years of cumulative experience. Their stories speak to the potential benefits and significant healing properties of these substances as medicines.
Every enduring culture leans heavily on its tribal elders to nourish the younger generations with the wisdom that comes with experience. For better or for worse, the modern Western world has left many of its own traditions behind. The baby boomers—today’s elders—were uniquely independent and did not want to carry on what many viewed as the tired, archaic cultural traditions of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Instead of walking blindly in lockstep with prior customs, they forged their own path through the 1960s and ’70s. In the process, they created what has been referred to as the counterculture. The counterculture, however, might just as easily be called modern culture, as it spawned, among other liberations, the feminist and the civil rights movements, whose victories in the cultural arena characterize much of what is truly innovative about our modern era.
The book is broken down into four categories: scientists, doctors, therapists, and artists. You will read how several elders faced persecution from their peers in the medical field, including “America’s Doctor” Dean Edell, and clinical psychologist and family nurse practitioner Mariavittoria Mangini. Some pioneers were even tried and went to prison for their activities, like Swiss medical doctor Friederike Meckel Fischer, and Tim Scully and Michael Randall, who manufactured and distributed LSD as founders of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
Academicians like Thomas Roberts, PhD, and anthropologist Jerry Brown, PhD, lived quiet academic lives and suffered professional and personal isolation due to their undercover exploration of psychedelics.
You may find these confessions are trips in of themselves! Read on and find out why these prominent Elders took the risk of experimenting with psychedelics, when they began, what it was like, where it led, how it changed their value systems, and more. As new research expands our understanding into the healing mechanisms behind the psychedelic experience, it is my hope that this growing tribe of courageous elders will set off a cascade of curiosity and will embolden others to come out about their own personal experiences, which are themselves a valuable repository of data. If this happens, the fifty-year-long period of suppression of information is bound to come to a swift conclusion.
In the words of the Beatles, “You say you want a revolution? Free your mind instead.”
Richard Louis Miller, MA, PhD
Fort Bragg, California
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Foreword (Excerpt) by Rick Doblin
Psychedelic Wisdom is being published at a time when humanity is generating more knowledge than ever before in human history but has a critical need for wisdom of any kind. In 1959, several years before he died, Carl Jung said, “We need more psychology. We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man. Far too little. His psyche should be studied because we are the origin of all coming evil.”* Psychedelic Wisdom is a courageous response to Jung’s call to study the psyche to better understand, address, and reduce the evil that humans can cause.
Psychedelic Wisdom is composed of Dr. Richard Louis Miller’s incisive and psychologically probing interviews of the personal psychedelic explorations, and the lessons learned, of an expertly curated group of psychedelic elders: scientists, doctors, therapists, activists, and teachers. A common theme in the interviews is the role that psychedelics played in enabling people to go beyond their individual egos to an experience of interconnectedness, and of the personal and political implications of that realization of that interconnectedness.
Other themes that emerge in the interviews are the use of psychedelics to work through personal trauma, conflicts with others, the search for love, purpose and meaning, and other earthbound challenges. The virtue of Dr. Miller’s decision to interview psychedelic elders is that the interviewees have had decades to ponder the consequences of their psychedelic experiences, which for most everyone interviewed started early in their lives.
During the recent psychedelic renaissance that has taken half a century to develop—following the backlash to the psychedelic counterculture and research in the 1960s—Psychedelic Wisdom facilitates acknowledgment of the stories of these interviewees about their own psychedelic experiences. As an example of the power of personal stories, voter opinion surveys of U.S. citizens who voted to legalize marijuana in state ballot initiatives indicated that a primary motivation came from knowing a medical marijuana patient who had revealed to them the beneficial effects of their own use. There’s enormous social change potential in open, honest psychedelic stories in this book and elsewhere, especially in interpersonal conversations and old-fashioned word of mouth.
Another theme that emerges in the interviews relates to the evil that comes from people thinking in terms of “us vs. them.” This mindset is inherent to humans; we identify ourselves as part of various kinds of groups based on tribe, race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, and so on, with some people inside your group and some people outside your group. While tribe or group identification is important and useful and is not itself inherently a problem, people too often devalue and even dehumanize those who are outside of their group. In the extreme, this can lead to economic exploitation, slavery, rape, murder, and genocide.
In contrast to this “othering,” the unitive mystical experiences that are frequently generated by the classic psychedelics can provide experiential confirmation of our essential commonality with all other people—indeed with all life on our planet—regardless of the ways we identify and divide ourselves. Many of the interview subjects mention these experiences and the profound impact they made on their lives. These unitive mystical experiences can potentially, but not in all situations, induce identification with and compassion for people who are different from us in some ways. Nevertheless, culture and context are more determinative of attitude and behavior changes flowing from unitive mystical experiences than those experiences in and of themselves. One example is the patriarchal and homophobic attitudes of some South American syncretic Ayahuasca churches who, in their struggle to survive, have blended with the Catholic Church and its views. The power of context and culture to shape psychedelic experiences is a key aspect of psychedelic-assisted therapy, in which a supportive therapeutic alliance is an integral component of the healing process.
In 1983, Robert Muller, assistant secretary general of the United Nations, wrote in New Genesis: Shaping a Global Spirituality that the unitive mystical experience was an antidote to fundamentalism.
The cover of Muller’s book featured a picture of the Earth from space; this is an example of “overview effect,” which, according to Wikipedia, “is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space. It is the experience of seeing first-hand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, ‘hanging in the void,’ shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. The effect may also invoke a sense of transcendence and connection with humanity as a whole, from which national borders appear petty.”
This sense of our collective nature can, in the extreme, also become dangerous. We’re living in a time of tension, with authoritarian governments emphasizing the collective over the individual, with individual human rights under attack and being trampled around the world, and with democracy itself threatened in the United States— the cradle of modern democracy. The prioritization of individual freedom, taken to an extreme, can also be dangerous in ways that undermine collective action and shared responsibilities, for example in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, income inequality, and global climate change.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, in his widely taught hierarchy of human needs, is commonly understood to have placed the highest need as self-actualization—the drive to find and develop one’s own uniquely individual nature. In a way, self-actualization is a libertarian ideal focusing on the primacy of the individual over the collective. What is not widely taught is that Maslow’s view of human needs evolved in the last few years of his life as he studied non-ordinary states of consciousness and mystical unitive experiences, and as he engaged in dialogues with psychedelic researchers such as Dr. Stanislav Grof. Maslow’s final articulation of the hierarchy of human needs displaced self-actualization as the highest need and placed above it the need for self-transcendence, emphasizing acting for the common good from the understanding of the collective nature of our existence. What Maslow’s later insight points to is that the more we understand and act in light of our collective nature, the more we can develop a path to a fuller self-actualization.
The wisdom that can be generated by psychedelic experiences, discussed in many of these interviews, is that there is no inherent conflict between individual self-actualization and self-transcendence that comes from seeing ourselves as part of a larger whole. We can better appreciate differences, rather than being frightened by them, when we understand the depths of our commonality. Maslow’s transition from self-actualization to self-transcendence suggests that we don’t need to subsume our individual self into the collective nor lose our sense of our collective nature in unbridled individualism.
On a personal note, Richard Miller has been an inspiration to me as I was building MAPS—the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies—so it is with great satisfaction that I can pay my respects to him by writing this foreword. Richard accompanied me and other MAPS staff to Israel about two decades ago when we were working to obtain permission from the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Israeli Anti-Drug Authority to start research in Israel into MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD. I’ve never been known for my fashion sense, but Richard dressed elegantly for our meetings and conveyed a sense of respectability, dignity, and wisdom that helped persuade the Israeli regulators to permit us to go forward. Back in the United States, Richard hosted fundraisers for MAPS at his home that were critical to our progress in the early stages of our research. Now all these years later, MAPS has successfully completed one Phase 3 study into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD with results published in Nature Medicine in May 2021. The journal Science ranked that publication as one of the world’s top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2021. MAPS will complete our second Phase 3 study before the end of 2022.
If those results are positive, we anticipate regulatory approval before the end of 2023 from the FDA, the Israeli Ministry of Health, and Health Canada for the prescription use of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD by trained therapists. We anticipate regulatory approval in England and Europe a year or so afterward, then over time in the rest of the world.
As psychedelic therapy moves increasingly into the mainstream, and other forms of exploration become legally available, the interviews in this book will help with the education of the public, which is so essential for the integration of psychedelics into the modern world. With the right education, we can avoid the backlash that happened half a century ago. It’s our hope that the testimony of these psychedelic elders will result in their experiential wisdom being more widely shared by millions and billions of people.
This use of psychedelics for experiences of interconnectedness, and for personal psychodynamic issues by the interviewees in Psychedelic Wisdom, and by tens of millions of others, is a further response to Jung who remarked, “The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.”
Rick Doblin, PhD, is the executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit founded in 1986 with the aim of developing legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics as prescription medicines. His own personal goal is to eventually become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist.
*Face to Face television program, “Professor Jung,” interview by John Freeman, aired October 22, 1959 on BBC.