Get curious about psychedelics. Responsibly.

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Prioritize cannabis legalization!


Illustration by Sam Jones

In a recent VICE interview, President Obama told young people that cannabis legalization ought to be “way at the bottom” of their priorities, behind things like war and peace, the economy, and jobs. By framing legalization as separate from and inferior to these other issues (which is incorrect), he missed an excellent opportunity to highlight the drug war’s effects on and interconnection with the economy, jobs, war, and peace.

In response, I wrote an article on how these issues are interconnected and why you should prioritize cannabis legalization. Click here to check it out!

Three ways to contribute to psychedelic research today!

If you’re looking to pitch in some hard-earned cash to advance drug education and bring the future of legal, well regulated, socially accepted psychedelic use ever nearer, here are three great initiatives deserving of your attention and dollars:

1)  Help make the non-profit production of MDMA & psychedelics a reality!

EmmaSofia, a Norwegian non-profit, is hoping to take a big step forward in increasing the accessibility of quality-controlled psychedelics around the world. If their Indiegogo campaign proves successful, they plan to manufacture MDMA, psilocybin, and perhaps LSD for “use in medical practice, research, and other legal purposes.” With a week left in their campaign, they’ve raised $18,000 of the $300,000 start-up cost for MDMA and psilocybin.

The two researchers behind this project have contributed significantly to psychedelic research in recent years. In 2012, Pål-Ørjan Johansen and Teri Suzanne Krebs conducted a meta-analysis that showed LSD could be a viable treatment for alcoholism — I covered this research here.

These same researchers are also behind a recent population study which demonstrated that psychedelic use does not increase the risk of psychosis or other mental health conditions, refuting a myth that has persistently clung to psychedelics for decades.

EmmaSofia is “working to ensure the human rights of people who choose to use MDMA and psychedelics whether for therapeutic, spiritual, personal development, or cultural purposes.” If you want to join the 500 people that have contributed to EmmaSofia’s mission so far, check out their Indiegogo campaign! Continue reading

CJAD interview on psychedelic research

An AskMen article I wrote on psychedelics caught the interest of Montreal’s CJAD radio station (hooray!), so on March 18 they brought me on The Exchange to talk about psychedelic research, some of their medical applications, and the role these substances might come to play in our society in coming years. Enjoy!

Psychedelics for treating premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and other sexual disorders

In recent years, researchers have begun to report once more on the many medical uses of psychedelics. Far from being new discoveries, many of these findings are replicating much of what was already becoming known about these substances in the first wave of psychedelic research that spanned the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Treating post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and end-of-life anxiety in terminal patients are amazing and much-needed applications, and they’re also the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible.

For one extremely interesting example, here’s a quote from a passage of Stanislav Grof’s “LSD Psychotherapy” where he describes the various applications of psychedelic therapy:

Sexual experiences and behavior can be deeply influenced by the LSD process. The intensity, depth and completeness of the sexual orgasm and the ease with which it occurs seems to be closely related to the process of letting go of psychological defenses. Many problems in this area can be traced back to unconscious confusion between the pattern of genital orgasm and that of the total physical release that characterizes the orgasm of birth. As LSD subjects learn to let go in the death-rebirth process, their orgasmic ability increases considerably; this improvement of sexual experiences can be observed in both males and females. In those individuals who did not have any major psychopathological symptoms prior to the LSD session, the same effect can usually be observed after one or several high-dose psychedelic experiences. Sexual neuroses, such as frigidity, vaginal spasms (vaginism), genital pain during intercourse, impotence and premature ejaculation frequently respond well to LSD psychotherapy; however, effective treatment of these disorders usually requires serial administration of the drug and experiential confrontation of the roots of these disorders on the perinatal level.

sex loop_oh

“sex” by loop_oh on Flickr


A Salvia Breakthrough: My First Trip

Turning Inward Logo

Logo: Sam Jones

My first psychedelic experience took place the summer before leaving for college. I smoked a large amount of 20x salvia extract and consequently underwent an extremely sudden and overwhelming ego death, for which I was completely unprepared. The experience was thoroughly disorienting and left me with many questions and few answers, if any at all. I felt it would be worthwhile to write about the experience, as it remains the most challenging and intense experience I’ve had to date, and one which broadened my horizons and continues to influence my interests and studies.

Read the trip report here! Afterward, you should check out this short interview where I spoke briefly with The Link’s Mathieu D’Amours about salvia and my experience.

In other news, you might have noticed the awesome new Turning Inward logo at the top of this post, courtesy of Sam Jones! He also did an excellent job of illustrating my salvia trip:

illustration by Sam Jones

Illustration: Sam Jones

A Guide to MDMA Harm Reduction


One of the cool things about writing these articles is that the people around me tend to feel more comfortable talking to me about drugs, and these conversations often provide inspiration for future pieces. After I wrote my first article, a friend got in touch to ask how they could best support one of their friends who wanted to try magic mushrooms for the first time, and that conversation resulted in my article on trip sitting. Talking to several friends about how they’ve benefited from their psychedelic use led me to publish an interview on one person’s use of psilocybin mushrooms to treat anxiety issues, and if all goes according to plan I’ll do more interviews like that in the future.

The inspiration for this piece is similar. Over the past several weeks, I’ve found myself providing harm reduction information for MDMA—things like supplements, dosage, drug testing, overheating, and staying hydrated—to a number of friends. Since I’m already aware of these things, it’s easy for me to forget that these are often things people are unaware of, or are not taking into consideration when doing MDMA or other drugs. So for those who don’t know (and those who don’t know they don’t know!), I wrote this guide to MDMA harm reduction. Enjoy!

NOTE: I tried my best to be comprehensive, but you should always take what you read with a grain of salt and make sure to do your own research, especially if you have questions that remain unanswered in what you’ve read so far. Erowid’s entry on MDMA is an excellent starting point; Bluelight and other drug forums such as the MDMA subreddit tend to have a knowledgeable community and can be good places to ask questions and find information. If you still have questions and want to talk, you can always reach out to me at gonzonieto [at] gmail [dot] com.


Psychedelic Self-Therapy: An Interview


This week I had the opportunity to interview someone who, over the course of a couple years, regularly used psilocybin mushrooms and found it helped him work through anxiety issues and regain the passion he’d lost.

Read the interview here! Afterwards, you should check out this interview between myself and The Link’s Mathieu D’Amours, where we talk a bit more in-depth about my article.

Distractible Minds


This week, I wrote about meditation and how it can help reestablish control over an easily distractible mind. Like many people, I am often at the whim of an often erratic attention span–difficulty concentrating on a task I’ve set out to do and catching myself thinking while other people are talking are but two nearly quotidian manifestations of this. What’s more, I always thought that this was something I had, not something I could improve or work on, and I was never aware of the degree to which it affected me until I stepped out of it.

Within the last year, there was one particular period where I was meditating daily for close to three months. By the end, I was noticing that I felt much more present and in control of my ability to focus. I was able to read and work on projects for longer than before; in conversations, it felt as though I was fully listening to and receiving the message that was being imparted rather than thinking over the person talking. I felt like I was beginning to grasp what it means to live in a present-minded fashion, and like I was intentionally using my time and focus rather than feeling frustrated at the whim of a capricious attention span.

As much as I learned about how beneficial regular meditation can be, I’ve struggled with continuing that since then, so I’ve also learned about how difficult it can be to maintain such a practice.

Nonetheless, I wanted to share what I learned from that period and share what worked for me in the hopes of making meditation a teensy bit more accessible. To read the article, click here!

Richard Tarnas on the need to embrace the feminine

From Richard Tarnas’ The Passion of the Western Mind:

Many generalizations could be made about the history of the Western mind, but today perhaps the most immediately obvious is that it has been from start to finish an overwhelmingly masculine phenomenon: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Copernicus, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud. . . . The Western intellectual tradition has been produced and canonized almost entirely by men, and informed mainly by male perspectives. This masculine dominance in Western intellectual history has certainly not occurred because women are any less intelligent than men. But can it be attributed solely to social restriction? I think not. I believe something more profound is going on here: something archetypal. The masculinity of the Western mind has been pervasive and fundamental, in both men and women, affecting every aspect of Western thought, determining its most basic conception of the human being and the human role in the world. All the major languages within which the Western tradition has developed, from Greek and Latin on, have tended to personify the human species with words that are masculine in gender: anthropos, homo, l’homme, el hombre, l’uomo, chelovek, der Mensch, man. As the historical narrative in this book has faithfully reflected, it has always been “man” this and “man” that — “the ascent of man,” “the dignity of man,” “man’s relation to God,” “man’s place in the cosmos,” “man’s struggle with nature,” “the great achievement of modern man,” and so forth. The “man” of the Western tradition has been a questing masculine hero, a Promethean biological and metaphysical rebel who has constantly sought freedom and progress for himself, and who has thus constantly striven to differentiate himself from and control the matrix out of which he emerged. This masculine predisposition in the evolution of the Western mind, though largely unconscious, has been not only characteristic of that evolution, but essential to it.

For the evolution of the Western mind has been driven by a heroic impulse to forge an autonomous rational human self by separating it from the primordial unity with nature. The fundamental religious, scientific, and philosophical perspectives of Western culture have all been affected by this decisive masculinity — beginning four millennia ago with the great patriarchal nomadic conquests in Greece and the Levant over the ancient matrifocal cultures, and visible in the West’s patriarchal religion from Judaism, its rationalist philosophy from Greece, its objectivist science from modern Europe. All these have served the cause of evolving the autonomous human will and intellect: the transcendent self, the independent individual ego, the self-determining human being in its uniqueness, separateness, and freedom. But to do this, the masculine mind has repressed the feminine. Whether one sees this in the ancient Greek subjugation of the pre-Hellenic matrifocal mythologies, in the Judaeo-Christian denial of the Great Mother Goddess, or in the Enlightenment’s exalting of the coolly self-aware rational ego radically separate from a disenchanted external nature, the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine — on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature: a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman — of all that which the masculine has projectively identified as “other.”

But this separation necessarily calls forth a longing for a reunion with that which has been lost — especially after the masculine heroic quest has been pressed to its utmost one-sided extreme in the consciousness of the late modern mind, which in its absolute isolation has appropriated to itself all conscious intelligence in the universe (man alone is a conscious intelligent being, the cosmos is blind and mechanistic, God is dead). Then man faces the existential crisis of being a solitary and mortal conscious ego thrown into an ultimately meaningless and unknowable universe. And he faces the psychological and biological crisis of living in a world that has come to be shaped in such a way that it precisely matches his world view — i.e., in a man-made environment that is increasingly mechanistic, atomized, soulless, and self-destructive. The crisis of modern man is an essentially masculine crisis, and I believe that its resolution is already now occurring in the tremendous emergence of the feminine in our culture: visible not only in the rise of feminism, the growing empowerment of women, and the widespread opening up to feminine values by both men and women, and not only in the rapid burgeoning of women’s scholarship and gender-sensitive perspectives in virtually every intellectual discipline, but also in the increasing sense of unity with the planet and all forms of nature on it, in the increasing awareness of the ecological and the growing reaction against political and corporate policies supporting the domination and exploitation of the environment, in the growing embrace of the human community, in the accelerating collapse of long-standing political and ideological barriers separating the world’s peoples, in the deepening recognition of the value and necessity of partnership, pluralism, and the interplay of many perspectives. It is visible also in the widespread urge to reconnect with the body, the emotions, the unconscious, the imagination and intuition, in the new concern with the mystery of childbirth and the dignity of the maternal, in the growing recognition of an immanent intelligence in nature, in the broad popularity of the Gaia hypothesis. It can be seen in the increasing appreciation of indigenous and archaic cultural perspectives such as the Native American, African, and ancient European, in the new awareness of feminine perspectives of the divine, in the archaeological recovery of the Goddess tradition and the contemporary reemergence of Goddess spirituality, in the rise of Sophianic Judaeo-Christian theology and the papal declaration of the Assumptio Mariae, in the widely noted spontaneous upsurge of feminine archetypal phenomena in individual dreams and psychotherapy. And it is evident as well in the great wave of interest in the mythological perspective, in esoteric disciplines, in Eastern mysticism, in shamanism, in archetypal and transpersonal psychology, in hermeneutics and other non-objectivist epistemologies, in scientific theories of the holonomic universe, morphogenetic fields, dissipative structures, chaos theory, systems theory, the ecology of mind, the participatory universe — the list could go on and on. As Jung prophesied, an epochal shift is taking place in the contemporary psyche, a reconciliation between the two great polarities, a union of opposites: a hieros gamos (sacred marriage) between the long-dominant but now alienated masculine and the long-suppressed but now ascending feminine.

And this dramatic development is not just a compensation, not just a return of the repressed, as I believe this has all along been the underlying goal of Western intellectual and spiritual evolution. For the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its own being. The driving impulse of the West’s masculine consciousness has been its dialectical quest not only to realize itself, to forge its own autonomy, but also, finally, to come to terms with the great feminine principle in life, and thus to recover its connection with the whole: to differentiate itself from but then rediscover and reunite with the feminine, with the mystery of life, of nature, of soul. And that reunion can now occur on a new and profoundly different level from that of the primordial unconscious unity, for the long evolution of human consciousness has prepared it to be capable at last of embracing its own ground and matrix freely and consciously. The telos, the inner direction and goal, of the Western mind has been to reconnect with the cosmos in a mature participation mystique, to surrender itself freely and consciously in the embrace of a larger unity that preserves human autonomy while also transcending human alienation.

But to achieve this reintegration of the repressed feminine, the masculine must undergo a sacrifice, an ego death. The Western mind must be willing to open itself to a reality the nature of which could shatter its most established beliefs about itself and about the world. This is where the real act of heroism is going to be. A threshold must now be crossed, a threshold demanding a courageous act of faith, of imagination, of trust in a larger and more complex reality; a threshold, moreover, demanding an act of unflinching self-discernment. And this is the great challenge of our time, the evolutionary imperative for the masculine to see through and overcome its hubris and one-sidedness, to own its unconscious shadow, to choose to enter into a fundamentally new relationship of mutuality with the feminine in all its forms. The feminine then becomes not that which must be controlled, denied, and exploited, but rather fully acknowledged, respected, and responded to for itself. It is recognized: not the objectified “other,” but rather source, goal, and immanent presence.

This is the great challenge, yet I believe it is one the Western mind has been slowly preparing itself to meet for its entire existence. I believe that the West’s restless inner development and incessantly innovative masculine order of reality has been gradually leading, in an immensely long dialectical movement, toward a reconciliation with the lost feminine unity, toward a profound and many-leveled marriage of the masculine and feminine, a triumphant and healing reunion. And I consider that much of the conflict and confusion of our own era reflects the fact that this evolutionary drama may now be reaching its climactic stages. For our time is struggling to bring forth something fundamentally new in human history: We seem to be witnessing, suffering, the birth labor of a new reality, a new form of human existence, a “child” that would be the fruit of this great archetypal marriage, and that would bear within itself all its antecedents in a new form. I therefore would affirm those indispensable ideals expressed by the supporters of feminist, ecological, archaic, and other countercultural and multicultural perspectives. But I would also wish to affirm those who have valued and sustained the central Western tradition, for I believe that this tradition — the entire trajectory from the Greek epic poets and Hebrew prophets on, the long intellectual and spiritual struggle from Socrates and Plato and Paul and Augustine to Galileo and Descartes and Kant and Freud — that this stupendous Western project should be seen as a necessary and noble part of a great dialectic, and not simply rejected as an imperialist-chauvinist plot. Not only has this tradition achieved that fundamental differentiation and autonomy of the human which alone could allow the possibility of such a larger synthesis, it has also painstakingly prepared the way for its own self-transcendence. Moreover, this tradition possesses resources, left behind and cut off by its own Promethean advance, that we have scarcely begun to integrate — and that, paradoxically, only the opening to the feminine will enable us to integrate. Each perspective, masculine and feminine, is here both affirmed and transcended, recognized as part of a larger whole; for each polarity requires the other for its fulfillment. And their synthesis leads to something beyond itself: It brings an unexpected opening to a large reality that cannot be grasped before it arrives, because this new reality is itself a creative act.

But why has the pervasive masculinity of the Western intellectual and spiritual tradition suddenly become so apparent to us today, while it remained so invisible to almost every previous generation? I believe this is occurring only now because, as Hegel suggested, a civilization cannot become conscious of itself, cannot recognize its own significance, until it is so mature that it is approaching its own death.

Today we are experiencing something that looks very much like the death of modern man, indeed that looks very much like the death of Western man. Perhaps the end of “man” himself is at hand. But man is not a goal. Man is something that must be overcome — and fulfilled, in the embrace of the feminine.

Schizophrenia is a mirror

From John Weir Perry’s The Far Side of Madness on the mirror-like qualities of schizophrenia:

The extraordinary thing about schizophrenia is that it is a condition of the subliminal psyche making itself manifest in the clear light of day. Like the depths of the psyche it is so alien and unknown to us that it appears to be just exactly whatever we make of it. Schizophrenia acts as a kind of mirror held up before us, reflecting what we project upon it. In this way it becomes also a sort of eerie touchstone for psychiatrists by virtue of which they discover and establish their view of human nature and of the deviances from its norms. On the other hand, the schizophrenic person is in an equally extraordinary state. He so loses his identity that he becomes highly suggestible and identifies with any powerful impact from inside or outside. So, when society says to him, “You’re too different, a menace, sick, and we’ll have to lock you up,” he feels correspondingly crazy and reprehensible, dangerous and unmanageable. Hence, he reflects like a mirror what is expected of him. We have only to convey to a patient the tacit message, “You’re so sick you need my help to make you sane,” to convince him that he is beyond the pale and isolated. The more sane-making we become in our good will, the more crazy-making we find ourselves; we entangle ourselves in our own preconceptions, and the patient becomes hopelessly ensnared along with us.

In our cultural transition toward tolerance for the nonrational and natural, might it not make all the difference to forego our presuppositions about normality and cure? If the psyche were allowed to be what it is and to act as it is inclined, to further its own ends, how much of what now leads to psychosis would resolve itself before coming to that unhappy pass? Might we come to view even “psychosis” as something awaiting a person on the forward path rather than on the regressive road away from the challenge of life?

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