Nov 13, 2017
This episode is a recording of three talks and a panel discussion from the Sunday portion of our Boston Entheogenic Network (BEN) event, A Trip to the Past: Boston’s Psychedelic History. The speakers, in order, are Carl Ruck, PhD, Wendy Chapkis, PhD, and Rick Doblin, PhD, followed by a panel discussion with the three speakers plus authors Don Lattin (Changing Our Minds, the Harvard Psychedelic Club) and Bill Richards, PhD (Sacred Knowledge), moderated by yours truly.
The theme of this event was an exploration of Boston’s rich psychedelic history, along with an overall dive into psychedelics in a historical and current context, through the lens of religion, social justice, medicine and healing, and beyond.
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“Because if we don’t take class and gender and race and sexuality seriously, we’re gonna leave those core problems of social inequality firmly in place within our movements and within this society that we’re trying to transform. And that would be such a loss! Because entheogens, psychedelics, are all about revolutionary transformation… Moving away from thinking in terms of industry, think what qualities these drugs bring out in us that we want to cultivate.. Love and community being primary among them.” -Wendy
Below are the speakers and authors’ full bios.
Don Lattin is an award-winning author and journalist who over the past decade has researched and written three books about the history and future prospects of psychedelic exploration. That trilogy includes The Harvard Psychedelic Club — How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age in America, a national bestseller that was awarded the California Book Award, Silver Medal, for nonfiction.
His new book, Changing Our Minds — Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy, explores an ongoing wave of scientific research and spiritual exploration into the beneficial uses of psychoactive plants and chemicals. At the end of the book, Don recounts his own journey to find an alternative treatment for depression, a trip that took him to a Mexican ibogaine clinic; an ayahuasca retreat in South American jungle; psychedelic sessions with two crusading ketamine doctors; and, last but not least, a cathartic encounter with an underground mushroom therapist on the California coast.
Lattin's previous works include Distilled Spirits — Getting High, then Sober, with a Famous Writer, a Forgotten Philosopher and a Hopeless Drunk. That book blends a recovery memoir with a group biography of writer Aldous Huxley, philosopher Gerald Heard and Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson —telling the story of how they came together to experiment with LSD in the 1950s and lay the groundwork for the spiritual counterculture of the 1960s.
Rick Doblin, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He received his doctorate in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he wrote his dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana and his Master's thesis on a survey of oncologists about smoked marijuana vs. the oral THC pill in nausea control for cancer patients. His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a 25-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment, which evaluated the potential of psychedelic drugs to catalyze religious experiences. He also conducted a thirty-four year follow-up study to Timothy Leary's Concord Prison Experiment. Rick studied with Dr. Stanislav Grof and was among the first to be certified as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner. His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise healthy people, and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist. He founded MAPS in 1986, and currently resides in Boston with his wife and one of three children (two in college).
Wendy Chapkis is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern Maine and the author of Dying to Get High, an account of the California patient-caregiver collective WAMM; WAMM members, most of whom living with terminal or life-threatening diagnoses, grew and redistributed cannabis without charge (New York University Press). She is also the author of books on the politics of commercial sex (Live Sex Acts, Routledge) and on the issue of women and body image (Beauty Secrets, South End Press). Her articles include “Cannabis, Consciousness, and Healing” in Drugs and the American Dream (Adler 2012) and “The Trouble with Mary Jane’s Gender: gender politics in the marijuana policy reform movement,” (Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, no. 35, Summer 2013).
Carl A.P. Ruck is Professor of Classics at Boston University, an authority on the ecstatic rituals of the god Dionysus. With the ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann, he identified the secret psychoactive ingredient in the visionary potion that was drunk by the initiates at the Eleusinian Mystery. In Persephone’s Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion, he proclaimed the centrality of psychoactive sacraments at the very beginnings of religion, employing the neologism “entheogen” to free the topic from the pejorative connotations for words like drug or hallucinogen. His publications include: Mushrooms, Myth, and Mithras: The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe; The Effluents of Deity: Alchemy and Psychoactive Sacraments in Medieval and Renaissance Art; Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess: Secrets of Eleusis; Entheogens, Myth and Human Consciousness; Dionysus in Thrace; The Son Conceived in Drunkenness; The Great Gods of Samothrace and the Cult of the Little People.
William A. Richards is a psychologist in the Psychiatry Department of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bayview Medical Center, where he and his colleagues have conducted research with psilocybin during the past 17 years, and also a clinician in private practice in Baltimore. His graduate degrees include M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, S.T.M. from Andover-Newton Theological School and Ph.D. from Catholic University, as well as studies with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, where his involvement with psilocybin research originated in 1963. From 1967 to 1977, he pursued psychotherapy research with LSD, DPT, MDA and psilocybin at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, including protocols designed to investigate the promise of psychedelics in the treatment of alcoholism, severe neuroses, narcotic addiction and the psychological distress associated with terminal cancer, and also their use in the education of religious and mental-health professionals. From 1977-1981, he was a member of the psychology faculty of Antioch University in Maryland. His publications began in 1966 with “Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism,” coauthored with Walter Pahnke. His book, Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, has recently been released by Columbia University Press.