THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Psychedelics – A Future Service Industry?
Thomas Roberts, one of the founding members of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), shares his extensive knowledge of psychedelics and his opinions on the future of psychedelic therapy. We discuss the directions that psychedelic research needs to take, and the reason why public benefit corporations will be the way forward for a burgeoning psychedelic industry.
- Why mystical psychedelic experiences are not necessarily the same as experiences designed to enhance problem solving.
- How psychedelics could be enhancing our immune systems, and why future research should examine this.
- Imagining a future psychedelic industry that doesn’t charge for substances, but for services like therapeutic guidance and integration.
00:25 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to The Third Wave Podcast. We had a bit of a hiatus the past few weeks, as I was traveling quite a bit. Didn’t really have an opportunity to sit down and get a podcast recorded. But we’re back this week with an interview with Thomas Roberts, who is one of the founding members of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the author of ‘Psychedelic Future of the Mind’, and someone who has really been a leader in the relationship between psychedelics and cognitive enhancement. In fact, Thomas led a workshop with Jim Fadiman at the recent Psychedelic Science Conference that MAPS put on, about creativity and problem-solving with psychedelics. So this is a great interview that I did with Mr. Roberts. And in this interview, he really shares his extensive knowledge of psychedelics and his opinions on the future of psychedelic therapy. So, basically, we talked about the directions psychedelic research needs to take, and the reason why public benefit corporations will be the way forward for a burgeoning psychedelic industry. I had a great time speaking with Tom here on the show today, and I think that you will really enjoy this interview. So, without further ado, I bring you Thomas Roberts.
01:50 PA: With your background and the work that you’ve done, and the fact that you’ve been teaching a class about psychedelics, I believe, since the early ’80s, is that correct?
01:57 Thomas Roberts: That’s right, 1981.
02:00 PA: 1981. I’d love to hear a little bit about your path with psychedelics. So was that something that you became introduced to in the ’60s and ’70s and had a number of experiences with, which then informed your teaching? What was your story with psychedelics, in the beginning?
02:13 TR: Well, in about 1966 or so, I was a Master’s student at the University of Connecticut, and that’s when Leary was all having a lot of drug problems. So I was sent up to Harvard, and I got a copy of the Harvard Review. They had an article on him. And I read it, but it really didn’t have anything to do with me. I was just curious about it. Then, in 1967, I went to Stanford to start a doctorate. ’67 turned out to be the summer of love, although I didn’t go to San Francisco for that reason. I was driving to San Francisco, and there was a lot on the newspaper about it. And then, at Stanford, I started to do my dissertation on Maslow’s needs hierarchy. And there was a professor, Willis Harman, who had a course called Graduate Students Special. And he knew about Maslow, so I took the course to find out about Maslow. But during the course, that’s when I first heard graduate students at Stanford talking about their psychedelic experiences, and that didn’t fit the image I have of the drug-crazed drug-taker. These were graduate students at Stanford. So that got me interested in an idea. And then I… One of them had tickets to a speaker who was coming to campus. I didn’t know anything about him, but he couldn’t use the tickets. So I went to hear this guy, I had… I figured if it was pretty boring, I’ll leave.
03:24 TR: It turned out to be Alan Watts, and he was talking about psychedelics and Eastern, Western religion. And I realized you could get into this from a sort of intellectual direction. Although I didn’t have my first psychedelic experience until February 1970. So that, of course, really interested me. And then I went to a conference in Iceland in 1972, and another in ’75, and people there were directly talking about psychedelics. So that got me interested from an intellectual direction, rather than a psychotherapeutic direction.
03:55 PA: So there’s a lot there. I’d love to start with… I think the first question that came to the top of my mind when you said you moved out to Stanford in 1967, when you mentioned the name of Willis Harman, who I believe worked on one of the research studies that Jim Fadiman carried out. Did you know Jim back in the ’60s, or had that relationship not been developed yet?
04:14 TR: No, I didn’t meet Jim probably ’til the summer of ’72 or ’73. I was visiting a friend who was on the board of editors for the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. And I went with her down to Tony Sutich’s house, and Jim was there at that time. And that’s when we first met, and have sort of been in touch with each other, on and off, since then.
04:33 PA: Right, because, before we started talking on air about this, I was mentioning how both you and Jim have been leaders in this relationship between psychedelics and creativity, problem-solving, personal development, this betterment of well-being. So I think it’s likely no coincidence that both of your paths went that way, considering you were both at Stanford in the mid to late ’60s, around people like Willis Harman. What sort of impact did being in that environment have on the work that you’ve now been doing for the last 40 to 45 to 50 years?
05:09 TR: Well, it opened me up to the area of psychedelics, but again, I hadn’t done any until 1970. And that summer, I came to work at Northern. So that basically was it. But there was a lot of openness to new ideas at the time. Willis Harman, by the way, was the lead author on the study on creativity and problem-solving, that Jim was one of the co-authors on. So that was that length. And I had Harman as my professor. And so that opened me up to consider psychedelics, but I didn’t really get interested in them until my own experience in 1970. So, basically, most of my time at Stanford was spent on general academic stuff. We were working on Maslow’s needs hierarchy. Maslow, by the way, got interested in psychedelics, and he mentioned Stan Grof’s work at one time in some of his books, and was quite excited when Stan developed what, from Maslow’s point of view, was a way of transcending the ego. So that’s how it went. And then, when I came to Northern, I started reading in the area, and that really built… Opened up a lot of different directions. I think Jim’s approach to problem-solving is the most important direction to go because every field can use improvement in problem-solving.
06:21 PA: Right. And this is what you talked about in ‘Psychedelic Future of the Mind‘. This is really one of the core elements of that book, was how these peak experiences, so to say, could eliminate some of, I think what you term, the personal gunk, in terms of letting the higher light through the lantern glass, which then allows us to go from this I, me, you perspective to this more transpersonal perspective of seeing things from a wider angle and a wider value. And it’s interesting, when we root it now in 2018, how this element of microdosing for, quote-unquote, ‘productivity, creativity, problem-solving’ seems to be the next round of people becoming interested in psychedelics for things beyond just depression, addiction and PTSD. I mean, I’d love to hear your take. I know, obviously, Jim is a huge fan of microdosing because he obviously kicked off this whole craze in the first place, so I totally blame him for all the chaos. But what’s your take on the microdosing development, and things that have been going on around that the last two to three to four years?
07:31 TR: I haven’t microdosed, so I won’t be speaking from my own experience. I think it’s… Clearly, the direction has to be looked at. Jim, as you might know, is collecting people’s reports on it now, and will probably have an article coming out, but these are sort of non-scientific individual reports. But of course, that’s what people… The way people get into things. I’ve written to Ayelet Waldman for a while and interviewed her book when it came out. And that was very important because that was reviewed in The New York Times in the fashion section, of all places, so she would reach a lot of people who ordinarily wouldn’t get it. But I think the idea of problem-solving… Let me say, the first topic I was interested in, psychology, I was in third or fourth grade, and I wanted to become an inventor, so I asked my mother how to invent ideas. I mean, that’s the kids’ creativity question.
08:18 TR: And since then, that’s been my major interest. And I find that problem-solving is the most interesting thing that our minds do because we can put questions down in there and answers will pop up after a while. So it means that there’s all this unconscious processing that’s going on. What I find most intriguing is that our unconscious could download an endless amount of junk, but there’s some process in there to recognize what a good solution will be and let that ones come through. Now, not every solution that pops up is a good one, but the overwhelming majority are, and the question is, what’s that selection process? Is there like a gatekeeper that keeps out this infinite amount of junk? That’s the most intriguing thing about the human mind that I know of. And, of course, Jim’s work and Grof’s work on all the creativity gets into that.
09:06 PA: And so is this what Aldous Huxley referred to when he talked about how psychedelics, they often… You know, the mind is in a somewhat constrained state normally because we can only access so much sensory input at once, but when we take a psychedelic, it obviously opens more of those avenues up to let things filter through the subconscious and unconscious. And I think now there seems to be more of a reductionist approach or understanding of what’s actually going on in the brain when that process happens. So what do you know about that in terms of… From a more modern perspective, when we take a psychedelic, what’s going on to enable that sort of ideation and development of ideas that maybe we had kept out of our conscious understanding previously?
09:51 TR: I think there are two parallel processes here. One is the overwhelming mystical experience, which is experienced in terms of religion or sacredness or awe. And then there’s the problem-solving route, which I think is a different one. For example, for the mystical experience, you want a good, strong dose. For the problem-solving one, apparently, even microdosing or lower doses will work. So I think there’s a… They’re related, but they’re different processes, psychologically. But of course, the mystical experience does give you an insight, that’s usually sort of a very powerful emotional insight. Whereas, problem-solving relatively in the cognitive direction. And both of them seem to recall in our unconscious, the very parts of our unconscious.
10:33 TR: So I really think that’s the direction to get going and we really need some research. I guess, you know, they’re doing some work at the Beckley Institute… Beckley Foundation in England, trying to get some good research going on creative problem-solving. Now, of course, having a psychotherapeutic insight counts as problem-solving too. And it’s problem-solving in the emotional area. So that problem-solving is not just solving technical and engineering problems, but all the research that’s been done in psychotherapy really gets moved over into the creative problem-solving area too.
11:08 PA: Because there is a direct relationship correlation between those two parts. In fact, I would even say a lot of people can’t start to work it on those sort of high-end peak states, mystical experiences, the sort of betterment of well-being, until they’ve done, for many people, the psychotherapeutic work to work through past trauma and emotional issues that have come up. Because it seems like a lot of people who might seem high-functioning actually are coping with certain trauma with, for example, overworking or just being too productive, which is also an interesting trend with the whole microdosing Silicon Valley thing, where it seems like, subconsciously, a lot of these, quote unquote, ‘developers’ or engineers who are microdosing for productivity might, in fact, be microdosing just to cope with the fact that they’re overworking and burning out, and not really paying attention to some of this underlying issues that might be necessary to address.
12:06 PA: So I’m really glad that you brought that up because I think, you know, obviously, we do have the research from a psychotherapeutic perspective and it’s gonna be really, really important then just to kind of raise the bar in terms of, from a business perspective, leadership, creativity, but most importantly, how are we facilitating and conducting business? And I think this was one of the big takeaways that I took from your book, when people go through that mystical experience, when they go from this, I, me, you perspective to this transpersonal perspective… I think also there was another point that you brought up in terms of the games that people are playing, how when we go from playing life goals, in terms of the lower games of glory, victory, fame and wealth to these higher games, these meta-games of beauty, knowledge, salvation and awakening, I think this is the same transition that we wanna see in the business sphere, so to say, where we go… Instead of it being from the ego-based, for-profit, as much as possible, regardless of cost, we’re really looking at how we can start to play these meta-games of creating beautiful experiences for people that are sustainable and organic in the long-term.
13:15 PA: So I just would love to hear you talk a little bit more about that, in terms of what research would you like to see done about this relationship between psychedelics and peak experiences, or psychedelics and next-generation business, psychedelics and creativity. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts about that.
13:34 TR: Now the problem, I think, was largely going to be just one of getting permission to deal with… From National Institute of Mental Health and DEA, and so forth, because they all are oriented toward psychotherapy. And really, they don’t have anything… Any area of creativity or religion that falls in their domain, and this is a real problem because in order to get psychedelics, legally, of course, and to do legal research, you need their permission. So this is really a block on it. Probably Jim’s collection of microdosing cases is about all that we’ve done right now. I hope that somebody, let’s say DARPA or some other federal agency, might get into the direction of solving all kinds of problems. And there are… A couple processes are going here. I think the large dose, overcoming a mystical experience, it’s a different kind of process from the practical problem-solving process, ’cause in the practical problem-solving process, the dose is lower and the person focuses on the particular problem or creative work that has to be done. And on mystical experience, one must just sort of sit back and has the experience. You mentioned it’s helpful to have done some psychotherapy prior, that certainly would be true for both of them.
14:47 TR: For example, several people who experience the psychedelics think a good preparation would be meditation, and try a meditation session to, in a sense, sort of clear out the garbage in your brain, in your mind. And then, it makes it easier both to do the problem-solving and to do the mystical experience. But I think that those are really separate paths to take psychedelics on. The creativity area certainly is the… To me, the really exciting one. And how can we use our minds better is the question that we’re all looking in. And clearly, psychedelics can help. The problem I see also, with the microdosing, is that there will be people that it’s just not a good drug for. There are always some people that do not have good experiences with psychedelics or they don’t get what they think they’re getting or they’re not prepared for it, and that’s why it should be done in sort of a nice, controlled experimental approach. One of the problems with the Hopkins research, which is… Is that they’ve screened their volunteers a lot, so basically, they are not… Their generalization does not apply to the whole population. They’re taking people who are physically healthy to start with, and use those groups.
15:54 TR: So how much that extends to everybody, in general, we just don’t know yet. And I think microdosing could fall into that same problem of not being able… Of being very good for some people, but not being good for others. And of course, my fear and other people in the field is that there will be a few people who will take… Let’s say, try microdosing and act really weird and crazy, and sort of set us back the way the ’60s set us back.
16:19 PA: Right. Yeah, there seems to be that sort of hesitation or concern from people who might be in the more quote unquote ‘conservative’ camp of psychedelics, in terms of these things happened in the 60s and 70s when we took it out of institutions, and obviously we know the whole story about Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey. And now I think, obviously, the main difference between back then and now is the dose level, is… Obviously, in the ’60s and ’70s, when the Grateful Dead was handing out Orange Sunshine, it tended to be in 250 microgram tabs, and people weren’t paying attention to set and setting. Whereas, with microdosing, although I would say you’re right in that, when people are doing it in a more experimental way, there are more risks, most of those risks can be mitigated, but not all of them. At the same time, there seems to be… And this is kind of what Jim has noticed or what I’ve talked to Jim about, is that if people start microdosing, and they notice that it’s just a little uncomfortable, then they can just stop. As to date, from the research that I know Jim has collected with [unclear speech], there haven’t been any instances of long-term harm, so to say. Some people who maybe experienced something with microdosing that was a bit uncomfortable.
17:37 PA: I think that just, generally, comes about because with these… It’s kind of like a scalability sort of thing. With these higher doses, you’re opening up the subconscious or the unconscious even more. So then when it comes to positive experiences, the experiences are that much more positive, intense, ineffable, so that there’s mystical experience. But when they’re negative, they’re that much more negative, and really intense, which can then sometimes lead to these traumatizing experiences when people don’t pay proper attention to set and setting. Whereas, with microdosing, it seems to be like because you’re just taking a little bit, it might open up those channels a bit, but there’s not a lot of, we could say, shit that’s kind of like coming through, that needs to be processed, just a little bit over time, which seems to lend itself to a bit more stability. In fact, this is one of the main criticisms of microdosing within the larger psychedelic community, is that it encourages similar thought patterns as before, meaning, for a lot of people, microdosing is not about that paradigm-shifting experience like we get with the mystical experience, the I, me, you, to the transcendental, transpersonal experience, but it’s much more just about amplifying or improving our day-to-day existence, even if that means using it to, what some people would criticize in this space, further the end goals of the corporate machine.
18:57 PA: But this is the interesting thing about microdosing, and a question that you ask in your book is how do we move psychedelic benefits from the fringes to the center? And so I’d love to hear you talk a little bit more about that in terms of, microdosing or not, what’s your understanding of the way that psychedelics can be, quote unquote, ‘mainstreamed’ through the avenue of creativity, problem-solving, this sort of angle, about cognitive enhancement?
19:31 TR: I think the… What we need to do in order to make psychedelics more generally-available and used is to show people how they can use in different ways besides psychotherapy, or beside, let’s just say, microdosing for practical problems. And I’m particularly interested in trying to get people in the humanities and the sciences to recognize that they can use the human mind in a number of different ways. An idea that I’ve developed, I call mind apps, that is, these are apps for the mind. And just as we can install apps in our devices and then do different things with them, we can install mind apps in our minds and do different things with them. So we think of psychedelics as one class of mind apps. There are lots of others: Meditation, the martial arts, yoga, all these are mind apps. They are ways of putting apps into our minds and using our minds in different ways, just as, in our devices, when we install an app, we can do new things with it, when we install mind apps, we can do new things with our minds. So that’s the idea that I think people have to sort of find out about, and recognize that we can produce a large number of these different mind-body states using mind apps, and then use those states in new ways, just as we use new programs and new apps on our devices.
20:43 TR: And once people get that, then they see that the supply is all over the place, not just in psychotherapy or not just in religion or not just in problem-solving. And what I’m working on right now is trying to get people in humanities to recognize that they can use these various mind apps, and the mind app that I talk about all the time, the psychedelics, because that’s the one I know about, but it’s a much larger view of human mind, rather than just psychedelic. It includes all these other mind apps. And new ones are being invented all the time, and being imported. And then Ibogaine and Ayahuasca are good examples of imported mind apps. But then there are all the meditative techniques that come out of Asia, those are other mind apps. So what we’re doing is expanding what our minds are capable of. And I think that’s the idea that people have to understand, these particular things we are looking at are hints of a much larger area.
21:38 PA: No, they absolutely are. And I’m really glad you brought this up, because I think this concept of a mind app reminds me of our flow states. Are you familiar with flow, the concept of flow?
21:49 TR: Yeah, Csikszentmihalyi’s work.
21:49 PA: Yeah. There’s a Hungarian psychologist, who I believe taught at the University of Chicago, Mihaly Czecha-something.
21:56 TR: Csikszentmihalyi. One of his students was one of my colleagues.
22:01 PA: Ah. Super. So, he obviously talked about this concept of flow quite a bit, it’s this process of positive psychology. And then a friend of mine, Steven Kotler, who I’ve had on the podcast before, recently published a book called ‘Stealing Fire‘, which talked about how all of these high-functioning… From the Navy Seals to, obviously, people in Silicon Valley, to the scientists who are working on psychedelic stuff, they utilize these different, what people might call, modalities, mind apps, to facilitate peak performance. Because it seems like what you’re talking about with meditation, maybe fasting, psychedelics, there’s some new things like neural feedback, other modalities that people are using, they seem to neurobiologically induce very, very similar states. The challenge, of course, then, with psychedelics is, unlike meditation or extreme sports, psychedelics deal with incredible cultural stigma, where, and I think you mentioned this in the book, the biggest issue around psychedelics is just a lack of psychedelic literacy. Most people don’t have the proper education to understand how they can actually utilize these substances.
23:09 TR: I’d like to pick up on your… You mentioned neurofeedback.
23:12 PA: Yeah.
23:13 TR: Now, here’s an idea. Now, basically, when we talk about these mind apps, we’re talking about using them one at a time, but suppose we combine neurofeedback with psychedelics and meditation, it’ll be possible to produce mind-body states that have never been produced before. Now, we can… We don’t have to use these only one at a time, but think of them as ingredients for different recipes, and there’d be an infinite number of very big recipes. Then we would look at all the mind apps. Not only that, but their different strengths. And we’ve talked about microdosing, which is low-dosing, and dual experiences or high-dosing. So what happens when we produce a mind-body state that’s never been produced before? What abilities might reside in that state? At the very least, we have a much bigger view of what the mind is possible of doing or producing. So, this is what I find the big idea behind this, I call, mind design. It’s possible to use these various mind apps in different combinations and produce mind-body states that have never been produced before. And we have no idea what will be in those states, abilities, disabilities, who knows what.
24:19 TR: And most of them, I think, will probably just be curiosities, but a few good ones will make them really worthwhile. Synthetic chemistry is a good example of that. There’s an infinite number of synthetic molecules that can be produced. But a few of the really useful ones are very, very useful, and I think it will turn out to be that with mind-body states. We can produce synthetic mind-body states, just like we have synthetic chemicals. And now there’s synthetic biology. I think the next move is to move it up to synthetic psychology, where we produce mind-body states that no one has ever experienced before.
24:51 PA: And what do you think some practical applications of that would be, in terms of utilizing or leveraging these different synthetic mind-body states?
25:01 TR: That’s exactly the question. And we won’t know until we get there. It’s like discovering a new land. You don’t know until you explore it, what you’ll expect to find. And so I wish I could say we’ll be able to do this, that, and the other thing. Some of the things that we now consider impossible might be impossible because they basically reside in those other mind-body states. We hear things about “95-pound woman lifts cement truck off child,” those extreme things. And flow may be an example of that. So the question to ask is, “How, for example, does flow vary from mind-body state to mind-body state?” We can take any human ability and ask, “How does it vary from one mind-body state to another?” As we produce these synthetic states, we can ask the questions there too. So there’s really an enormous area of future of the human mind that just has to be developed. We’ve basically done a good job and developed an ordinary default mind-body state, that you and I are probably both in now, but there are all these other states. And the question is, “What might we be able to use them for?”
26:04 TR: And the mystical states, and the problem-solving states, and the flow states are examples of these other mind-body states that we find uses for. And are there others, and what are they useful for? And who knows? If I had… The billion-dollar question people say, “What would you fund?” I’d want to fund research that explored different mind-body states that we have, find out what they’re useful for, and produce new ones to see if… What if, anything, they’re good for.
26:29 PA: And why is that of such an interest to you? Why… I guess I’m curious about why is it that you’re so curious about these different mind apps and mind-body states, in terms of what they can facilitate from a human experience perspective?
26:42 TR: Well, this is like discovering a new continent. We don’t know until we get there. For one thing, it would give us a fuller view of the human mind. And in fact, the view of the human mind would expand every time we produce a new synthetic mind-body state that adds to what the human mind is able to do. And as a psychologist, I’m always interested in the fullest development of the human mind. As an educational psychologist, my questions are, “What’s the fullest development of the human mind and how do we get there?”
27:09 TR: And I think the fullest development of the human mind, meaning being able to produce all useful mind-body states and all the abilities that are in those states… So on things like… Parapsychological abilities might be odd because they exist in mind… Other mind-body states. Healing is an interesting one. There are these spontaneous healing instances, they’re often associated with mystical states, in their description. So if we produce mystical states with psychedelics or meditation or neurofeedback, or some combination of those, will that be a way of sort of causing what used to be spontaneous healing not to be spontaneous anymore?
27:45 PA: Right. So, all of a sudden, it takes something that maybe we perceived previously to be a, quote unquote, ‘miracle’, there’s no scientific explanation, to something that we can actually understand, study and replicate on a consistent basis.
27:56 TR: Yes. After all, the mystical experiences were considered miracles. Only now we know we can produce them rather regularly. There’s also the question which I think could never be resolved, are naturally-occurring mystical experiences the same as created ones? And I think every art, when I’ve heard about that, comes down to people confirming their assumptions they started with, so that’s the state we’re in on that one.
28:19 PA: So, in terms of this difference between, for example, this random mystical experience, and I believe… You know, I saw Roland Griffiths give a talk about this, Beyond Psychedelics, in Prague about a year and a half ago, when he spoke about how about 1% of people have a spontaneous mystical experience, but that, I think, with Psilocybin, you could induce a mystical experience something like 80% of the time. Do you think there’s fundamentally a difference between those two, or do you think, generally, they’re actually the same, and just Psilocybin is that shortcut that consistently induces these experiences?
28:50 TR: I think they’re the same, with one difference. And that’s if one does… Approaches mystical experiences to sort of cleaning out one’s mind, say, by meditation or yoga, and so forth, I think the mystical experience is likely to be clearer and more spiritual, and have less sort of junk in it. So I think that’s the reason for a lot of good spiritual techniques, is to clean out the mind. But that they shouldn’t… Should be used, or they can be used as approaching the mystical experience. Your listeners may wanna know there are a couple very good TED talks that [unclear speech].
29:23 PA: Perfect. So we’ll provide links to that in the show notes, so if our listeners wanna go and check out those TED talks, they can do so and…
29:38 PA: Hey, this is Paul here. I just have some quick announcements for you before we get back to the interview. A little bit of This Week in Psychedelics. The first thing is we are doing a retreat in Amsterdam, April 15 through 17, with Psilocybin truffles to facilitate creativity, innovation, and personal development. We still have two spots left for that. If you’re interested, email me immediately for those spots at [email protected]. We have two spots left for the April 15 through 17 retreat.
30:10 PA: A new study shows that over 95% of cancer patients given medical Cannabis report benefits, including better sleep, reduced pain and improved appetite. The study suggests that Cannabis should be an important part of future palliative care. The harm reduction organization, The Loop, based out of the UK, have started crowdfunding to allow city-centered drug testing locations to open up across the United Kingdom. They are already offering drug-testing services at UK festivals and clubs, and have had the full support of local police, despite having no government approval or funding. And one last note, if you’re buying Kratom in the US, be aware that dozens of people have become ill from Salmonella and it’s been linked to contaminated Kratom powder. A specific supplier has not been identified yet, but you do wanna be aware of this.
30:56 PA: Also, one more thing. I just read something this morning about how there is LSD blotter paper specifically in Quebec that has been laced with synthetic opioids. If you’re purchasing any sort of LSD blotter in the immediate future, or even in the far future, make sure to always test your drugs. Always test your drugs, that’s extremely important. Now, let’s get back to the interview with Thomas. And please, if you enjoy the podcast, leave a review on iTunes, and don’t forget to send us your questions on Twitter or Facebook.
31:35 PA: Something that I wanna get back to is the sense of how mystical experiences can potentially heal because this is a point that you brought up, again, in Psychedelic Future of the Mind, which is just like, “Oh, woah.” It was like kinda one of those breakthrough catalyst insights, I think this would really help our listeners as well, when you mentioned that something about… In psychosocial factors and secretory immunoglobulin A, there were doctors that showed this relationship between a salivary level, the IGA levels, and stress reduction. I would love to hear you talk a little bit about that, in terms of what do we know so far then about this relationship between mystical experiences and actually producing physical changes in the body? I think also some of the research that they’ve done at NYU and Johns Hopkins about the relationship between mystical experience and reducing pain, inducing end-of-life terminal cancer is also interesting to see. I would just love to hear you kind of explain that and talk a little bit more about what we know about that relationship.
32:33 TR: The reasoning is that we know that positive emotional experiences, like when your life is going well, when your work is going well, people are likely to be healthier because of that. When people have negative experiences, their immune system is damaged, they’re likely… More likely to get colds or whatever ailments, illnesses. So there’s a clear link between emotions and health and bad emotions and bad health. So that’s well-established, very solidly. Now, the question is if good, positive experiences boost the immune system, what about the sort of ultimate positive experience of a mystical experience? Will that boost the immune system a lot? So that’s the direction we should… Really should go on. And I hope the people who are doing that psychedelic research would start testing the immune system, because my expectation is that the peak of psychedelic experience during a mystical experience is likely to boost the immune system a lot.
33:29 TR: There are odd little cases of this happening, but not enough to make it into a good argument. So, I really think that this is a whole approach to health that we can look at, to see if mystical experiences, whether brought on by psychedelics or hypnosis, or anything else, because they’re emotionally very strong, would then boost the immune system. I think this is… And probably, other than creativity, the direction to go in after we do the psychotherapy direction.
33:56 PA: Absolutely. And I think I’m really glad you brought that up, because something that I’m planning to do in the nearest future is something similar to this, where, basically, I’m going to do an experiment where I’ll get blood work done. So I’ll get a number of lab tests done on different cortisol levels, stress levels, all of these other things, testosterone, whatever it might be. And then I’m also doing… I did my 23andMe genetic profile, which I can take raw data from, to then understand an ideal diet and fitness routine based on my genetic data.
34:29 PA: And then I’m doing a couple other things as well, with an understanding of looking at, “Okay. If I take the before and I take the after and in-between, I do microdosing and a high-dosed experience to induce a mystical state, how are these blood markers changing as a result of introducing the variable of psychedelics? And I think that is a really interesting potential, going forward, of psychedelics is… Obviously, there’s a lot of research that can be done in a clinical setting, in a laboratory, to see the changes of these levels, but I think also more and more now… And of course, it’s not perfect yet, but more and more the technology is developing, where even people at home who maybe are interested explorers and pioneers, who ideally have extensive previous psychedelic experience can then test and measure the potential efficacy of, for example, their own psychedelic experiences in facilitating this healing process.
35:30 PA: And I think you’re right, in that this is the next frontier to go in, in terms of really understanding not only these mind-app states, these mind-body states, but then also understanding what is this relationship between the mind and the body. I was just speaking at a conference last week with a woman named Joanna Marchant, I believe, who’s a journalist, who wrote a book called ‘Cure‘, that show the power of placebos in facilitating the healing experience. And I think this is something that’s been so understudied and under-researched for the same reason as psychedelics, in that it’s not near as profitable as getting people to buy things.
36:08 TR: I’m gonna take a look at it. Yeah, because this would fit right into that, because it may be possible to produce these intense, mystical experiences, which will turn out to be, hopefully, very physically-therapeutic.
36:20 PA: Right. Exactly. Now I’d like to continue to go into some of these practical applications of mind apps and mind-body states. And I’d like to just start by hearing a little bit more about the workshop that you facilitated with Jim Fadiman, a psychedelics sciences pastor. I believe it was about psychedelics and creativity and problem-solving. I’d love to hear more, for our listeners and for our audience, what was that workshop about, and what were some of the take-home messages that people took from this relationship between psychedelics and creativity in problem-solving?
36:55 TR: Well, I think Jim and I, we both hope that people would realize that psychedelics have a lot of uses, beside psychotherapy. I was particularly interested in the religious uses, Jim primarily in the problem-solving uses, and both in the benefits of powerful, mystical experiences. What we wanna do is to widen the… MAPS and other groups that are looking at, to include other uses of psychedelics. And we both agreed that psychedelics have a lot of really splendid therapeutic uses, and we see therapeutic uses just being the key to a much wider field of using the mind fully, problem-solving, and in religion and in social relationships.
37:35 TR: Because one of the things that happens with people who have mystical experiences… A curious thing is not always. It happens to some people, some of the time. All the psychedelic stuff is puzzling because they’re all things that happen to some of the people, some of the time, but never to everyone, all the time. So you have to figure out why does somebody have this experience and next time not have any experience, why does one person having an experience and somebody doesn’t, because this is the whole set and setting thing. So, it’s not just a matter of a drug causing a psychological experience, but a drug, plus the setting, plus the person’s personality, making the experience.
38:09 PA: So, then, as a follow-up question to that, let’s say there are people who wanna utilize psychedelics. For example, we’re doing a retreat next month in Amsterdam called Synthesis, which we’re basically facilitating creativity and problem-solving through Psilocybin truffles, because they’re legal, in Amsterdam, to consume. So, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about someone wants to do this at home or with a small group of friends to facilitate creativity and insight. What are best practices in terms of set and setting mindset beforehand, the environment in which someone is in, to improve the probability of an excellent session, a session that’s productive or a session that helps in some way.
38:52 TR: There are two very different questions in there. One is using psychedelics in a psychotherapeutic situation, the sort of work that Stan Grof has done. In that case, you wanna do it with a professional who knows how to handle them, and handle the situations that come up, because the purpose will be to addressing the difficult tension, difficult problems in one’s life. Now, the other one is to go to try to have a positive experience, and that’s… All of it just shows, if your life is not going well, don’t do psychedelics for that reason. Okay if you’re doing psychotherapy with a psychotherapist, but not on your own. Be physically and mentally healthy, relaxed. Be in a situation that you enjoy. Some people like to be with other people. Some people like to be alone. Probably start off with a small dose, to see if you’re comfortable. And if you’re not comfortable, then don’t go on to the higher ones. Also, the type of music, for most people, makes a big impression. Also, you may be surprised by the type of music that you like. I was very surprised to find that I like Gregorian chants and recorder musics.
39:53 TR: So, again, you never know what’s gonna happen, and be willing to accept whatever happens. And also you should have a person or people around who can be your interface with reality as the telephone rings, or if somebody comes to the door, so forth. And of course, you’re going to that group in Amsterdam or wherever it is, they’ll take care of all this. They’ll know how to make it more likely that people will have positive experiences rather than negative experiences.
40:23 PA: Right. And this is, of course, the part that facilitators play in not only the actual experience itself, but also the preparatory experience and the integration experience afterwards.
40:33 TR: To prepare… Preparation and integration are very important. It’s not just a matter of dropping acid in the backyard, on a Saturday afternoon, but it should be done as part of an ongoing, longer process. And that’s where Johns Hopkins and NYU are particularly good, in preparing, than having this action and then integrating it afterwards.
40:53 PA: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s why I think… And they’ve seen these results, where, 12 months after someone takes the psychedelic, they still have clinically-significant reductions in depression or anxiety, or some of these other things, is because I think there’s the sense that it’s just about the psychedelic experience, but really, what it’s about is maintaining, I think, that sense of non-do awareness, that detachment from maybe the ego, that understanding of our place in the cosmos and being able to have a deep understanding of that for months, if not years, after the psychedelic experience as well. And typically, that requires some level of maintenance, some level of upkeep, where that might be, as we’ve already spoken about, utilizing other modalities like meditation, breath work, or just having a maybe consistent psychedelic routine. So, for example, typically, every three to six months, I do a moderate to high-dose of a psychedelic. And then, from time to time, will microdose as well. And that seems to be a really good way to revisit some of those states and understand their power, their utility, and kind of the cosmic joke that we all exist within… Which is, of course, life, and the suffering that’s so inherent to life.
42:12 TR: I think that’s right. One… As you pointed out, one of the really interesting things is it’s a shift in one’s perspective that counts. It’s not like taking most drugs that you take every day or whenever you’re sick, but it’s the psychological shift that happens. And that’s the big shift. And the drugs are just… They’re gonna make the shift occur.
42:30 PA: Absolutely. And then it’s about how do you continue to facilitate that insight and that experience. And ideally, for my personal interest, and I think the interest of a lot of people at Third Wave, it’s how do you facilitate that experience towards a tangible outcome or benefit, in the here and now, in the next three months, six months, whether that’s a career change, whether that’s an improvement in health, as we’ve already talked about. And whether that’s kinda reframing of how we just approach life in general, where we transition from the sense of ego-based, I, me, you to the transpersonal higher meta-games of beauty, knowledge, salvation, meaning, awakening, these sorts of things.
43:06 PA: So there’s one last topic that I really wanna kinda dig into and continue to go, because we have about 10 to 15 minutes left, and that is I’d love to hear one of the breakthroughs, again, from your book that I read, was about the sense of a corporation, a psychedelic corporation, which I think you referred to as the CFC or the Community Psychedelic Center, something of that nature, which I thought was a really really interesting perspective on how energy could be harnessed to facilitate change on a massive cultural scale. So I’d love to just hear more of your thoughts in terms of either how that idea has developed over the last few years since you’ve written your book about psychedelics. And yeah, just hear a little bit more about that vision, from your perspective, in terms of what are potential viable business models now that it looks like psychedelics will become medicalized and hopefully eventually regulated, what are some viable business models that you foresee in terms of psychedelics and integrating them within our cultural framework?
44:08 TR: Of course, MAPS is making the main advance on this in their Public Benefit Corporation. And they wanna set up a company whose business will not be to earn money, but to provide psychedelic psychotherapy sessions, and they will charge for it, but then the money will then be used to pay for other people who can’t pay for it. So that’s definitely one direction to go. Another direction, the one that I wrote about there, I’ve done some work on that since then, is that I think that, eventually, there will occur, either through MAPS or individually, separate company, whose service will be to provide professional psychedelic experiences. And there would be a psychotherapeutic division and a personal growth division. Psychotherapeutic division would work on those things that are being worked on now, plus new treatments that are coming along. We haven’t mentioned MDMA and PTSD, that would certainly be one. So people would be then referred to one of their hospitals, I would imagine hospitals being, basically, all over the globe, by a mental health professional, just as one now might be sent to a dialysis specialist. So this would be a specialty that we have professional people prepared to do psychedelic sessions.
45:23 TR: And the second division would be a personal growth. This would be problem-solving, religion, personal growth, all those type of things. So, depending on what one was interested in, one would either be referred to by a professional to the professional division or apply oneself to the personal growth division. And I think that it would be possible to raise a lot of money to do this because the product or the service would be so valuable. Let’s just say how much would it be worth for someone who used to be an alcoholic not to be an alcoholic anymore? Or what would it be worth… The angle I’m interested in is intellectually, suppose the personal growth division specialized in religious mystical experiences. Well, various churches might wanna send their people there. There might be religious elders who wanna go. I can imagine university classes or perhaps only graduate classes in religious studies, anthropology religion, sociology religion, having their students experience this type of experience. And right now, I’m trying to think of ways in which people in the humanities might be interested in psychedelics. There’s obviously the romanticism, in the early part of the 19th century, but the vocabulary that is used to describe it is often parallel to the psychedelic vocabulary.
46:40 TR: So there would be all these possible ways of corporations providing services. Again, the money would not be in providing the drug, because the drug may be a minor part of the service. The income would be from providing the service. It would be like going to a psychotherapist, or someone who provides for the service, not for the drug. So I think that’s a very possible direction to go. I think of it… I have a new name for the corporation. I forgot what it’s called, something like Psychedelics Without Borders. I can imagine a big international corporation doing this, or perhaps a lot of small ones specializing. For example, there could be specialists in academic fields, specialists in religious fields, and so forth. So it’s actually a part of seeing the human mind in a much larger perspective. And the question is then how do we develop the human mind in all these different perspectives? My interest using psychedelics, but there are all those other mind apps too.
47:35 PA: Right. And do you think those other mind apps, those would be useful aspects of this, for example, personal growth or psychotherapeutic division, or would it only focus on psychedelics?
47:44 TR: Well, I think it could go either way. It would just depend on how it would develop. We do now have all those various ways of practicing meditation or yoga, and so forth. So those might be separate, as they are now, and this would be sort of a parallel to those on a psychedelic realm, or they might… Let’s say, somebody doing personal growth might say, “Well, I think this type of meditation or this breathing exercise would be good for you. Why don’t you try this along with it?” That would be part of the professional development of the field. People would be able to, in a sense, diagnose what would be the best combination of mind apps for each individual person, and for that person’s desire at the time.
48:21 PA: Yeah. No, I like this approach. I think it would be an excellent approach. And I think this is one of those ideas that influenced our own decision to start this synthesis program in Amsterdam with this vision or idea of, how do we fuse these psychedelic mind states with enhanced cognitive function, with this potential to induce this paradigm-shifting I, me, you, to the transpersonal? So what… How does this become mapped on to next generation business, where we’re already seeing, in the cultural sphere, transition into more collaborative business models, to like what MAPS has already set up with the Public Benefit Corporation, where it is still profitable, so to say, but more and more of the profits are going into social and ecological capital. I think this is one of the biggest potentials that psychedelics hold, from a cultural perspective, is I don’t think they’ll be singularly responsible for changing the way that we do business, but I think, certainly, there’ll be… They’ll hold a tremendous amount of power and value in helping to facilitate this transition, where people can actually start to accept that we don’t live in this scarce world anymore, that there are more than enough resources to go around, that we do live in abundance.
49:37 PA: And right now, the biggest challenge, or one of the biggest challenges that we’re facing, as a global society, and, particularly, as a Western culture, is really actually deeply understanding that there is more than enough to go around, and that because we are all interconnected, we’re part of this larger cosmos together, it serves all of our interests, both personal and community, nation, global interest, to utilize psychedelics to induce this deep, intuitive understanding of shared resources and shared value. And I think there are many people in this space who continue to focus, obviously, on just the medical aspect of things, which I think is an excellent start, but I think if we really wanna see the potential of psychedelics to transform our global culture and society, it behooves us to begin the work that you and Jim have set out starting, and to begin to look at how we can integrate that sooner rather than later.
50:39 TR: I hope we’re going in that direction. It seems to me we are. And it’s important to keep a longer-term perspective on this. If you think month-to-month or year-to-year, there might not seem to be much, but if you look decade to decade, there’s tremendous advances that are being made, and being made faster. For example, when veterans started to be treated for MDMA… With MDMA for PTSD, and there’s to what I call the hospice use, it’s what they’re doing with death anxiety, those could catch on very quickly. And those would be excellent services for, let’s say, this company to provide.
51:13 PA: Absolutely, yeah. And I think that’s a question. I was talking to a journalist the other day, and she was bringing up this parallel between Cannabis and psychedelics, so obviously, Cannabis became medicalized in 1996 in California, and then, 16 years later, in 2012, I think Colorado and Washington were the first states to actually legalize it. So there’s about a 15 to 16-year difference between medicalization and legalization. So she was asking me a similar question about, “What’s that relationship with psychedelics? Is it gonna be… For example, if MDMA becomes medicalized in 2021, will it be at least another 15 or 20 years until we have a legal regulated market?” And my response was, “I think it will be slightly shorter. I think we could look at maybe a seven to 10-year period, where we go from medical psychedelics to potentially a regulated market.” Just one of the challenges, of course, is… Or the main challenge is education, is typically what it comes back to.
52:13 PA: And understanding that these drugs are, in fact, not addictive, that they hold tremendous potential for these peak and mystical experiences, and that people, as long as they have the appropriate training, people who are like you and me, who are healthy, functioning individuals, should ideally be allowed to go down to a store of some sort to purchase a psychedelic to explore our own consciousness, in a way. But of course, it still will be many years until that’s feasible or possible.
52:48 TR: Well, there’s no reason it has to start in America. As you say, I think there’s the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries. They could very easily start there, and then we’d pick it up from there. That might be actually the easier path to go. This group you mentioned in Amsterdam is probably gonna turn out to be sort of the prototype of something that will develop out of it. Either it’ll grow, or it’ll have branches elsewhere, or somebody else will copy the idea in other cities. Things like that grow fast. So that’s the direction to look in. I, particularly, would think the Netherlands would be good, because, historically, that’s where a lot of the early psychedelic psychotherapists lived.
53:24 PA: Switzerland as well. I was recently speaking…
53:26 TR: Yes.
53:27 PA: At a conference in Switzerland, and it was a business conference. It was for business leaders, and I had asked, at the beginning of my talk, “How many of you have tried psychedelics before?” And I had 30 to 40% of people who actually raised their hands in a predominantly-business crowd. So it seems to be a lot of people are starting to become more and more interested in this, for the exact reasons that we’ve been speaking about this entire time. So I really do think that we’re sitting on the cusp of something great. And my optimistic hope is that, because of the work that, like I said, particularly, you and Jim have done around these topics, we can continue to develop the curriculum and this understanding of this on a cultural basis.
54:07 TR: Yes, I think that’s definitely a direction to go. Obviously, things are going to happen and are happening. The question is what’s gonna go where? And there are gonna be things we just don’t expect at all. For example, suppose like a Senator whose wife, who’s an alcoholic, has treatment, and gets rid of her alcoholism. All of a sudden, things are different, politically.
54:26 PA: Absolutely. I think that’s a really, really good point. So it will be these little outlier cases that could end up playing a really big role in how our culture perceives these substances. Totally. Well, Tom, I just wanna thank you so much for hopping on the podcast and sharing your breadth of knowledge and everything that you’ve learned. There were some topics that we didn’t get into, which I would have loved to have spoken about, but there’s always the next time. Just so that our listeners can find you, can you just let them know the name of your book that you’ve written, and then any other resources that you think that you’ve developed, or whether you have a website or an email list, anything like that that you think would be relevant for them.
55:04 TR: Okay. The book is ‘The Psychedelic Future of the Mind‘. I have some other books too. One is called ‘The Psychedelic Policy Quagmire‘, which is a rather expensive professional book. My website is on Academia.edu. And the way you get there is www.niu, as in Northern Illinois University.academia.edu, Edu/ThomasRoberts. I have over 100 items, mostly articles, but some talks and some videos, and miscellaneous stuff that’s in my website. And that’s the best way to get in touch with me.
55:44 PA: Great. And we’ll provide links to that in the show notes. So if any of you listeners wanna check out that material, just go to Third Wave, and check out our recent publication for the podcast. And, yeah, I just, again, thank you so much, Tom, for coming on. It was a real pleasure, and an absolute honor to speak with you for an hour.
56:02 TR: Thanks, I’ve enjoyed. This is my favorite thing to talk about, as you can guess.
56:06 PA: I could imagine. Yeah. It’s mine too, which is why I love… Love doing this with people like you, so thank you so much.
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