Would You Share Your Psychedelic Stories?

Episode 6

Mike Margolies

Our guest for this episode of The Third Wave Podcast is Mike Margolies from Psymposia, an events group and digital magazine focused on psychedelics and drug policy reform. Mike talks about how Psymposia organises a platform for people to talk about their psychedelic experiences, and issues within the psychedelic community. We discuss the privilege still inherent in psychedelic culture when it comes to drug use and criminalisation, and what we can do to become a more diverse community.

The full episode transcript is available here.

Podcast Highlights

Mike Margolies is the Expansion Director at Psymposia. Psymposia’s signature event is a feature called “Psychedelic Stories”, which they run at conferences such as Horizons in New York and Beyond Psychedelics in Prague. In the segment, people from the psychedelic community can speak openly about their experiences. Mike believes this is a contrast to the typical presentations seen at these conferences, and helps to build a sense of community among psychedelic users.

The digital magazine side of Psymposia opens up conversations around various topics, including psychedelic science, drug policy reform, and the future of the psychedelic community. Most recently, they ran a conversation series on diversity within the psychedelic community. Voices from across the psychedelic world have lent their opinions on why diversity is such an issue in our community, and what can be done to address it. Mike believes that the lack of diversity in the psychedelic sphere is a reflection of the diversity issues in greater society, and we need to keep open a dialogue about inclusiveness.

Another example of content produced by Psymposia is their recent series on coming out of the ‘psychedelic closet’, likening the open discussion about personal psychedelic use to being open about sexuality. This series gathered opinions from opposite sides of the argument, and Mike believes that keeping a frank and balanced discussion open is an important part of developing the psychedelic culture.

Mike also brings up how people in the psychedelic community must also be mindful of their own prejudices about drugs. He believes that many psychedelic users would still believe myths about heroin, thinking it shouldn’t be decriminalised in the same way that psychedelics should be – but Mike points out that many heroin users are functional and the risks of heroin use are often relative to set, setting and dosage. If we are serious about reducing drug harms, we need to keep an open mind about all substances; and in the same way that we’ve learned the truth about psychedelics, we need to ignore the myths and prejudices associated with other drugs.

Since Psymposia is known for giving psychedelic users a platform to speak about their experiences in person, Mike tells us one of his psychedelic stories – his first experience with LSD. It was his first use of psychedelics, and he was fascinated to try them; however he found the experience underwhelming. He explored a museum with a friend, and noticed subtle changes in his perception – everything became more interesting, and had more meaning. He had expected intense hallucinations, which he didn’t experience. But he had a great time, and gained some insights into his life.

Mike mentions that he’s also had bad experiences with psychedelics, seeing the paranoid, schizophrenia-like side of things, and that we need to be aware of the risks of psychedelic use. This is why, Mike says, it’s important to maintain an open dialogue about our experiences. Minimising the risks will help us to use psychedelics as the healing tools they are.

We talk with Mike about the general stigma surrounding drug use, and how its origins are in the Nixon administration of 1968. From the mouth of one of Nixon’s top aides:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968 […] had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people […] but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities”.

The war on drugs has resulted in the US having more prisoners than China and Russia combined, Mike says. Although drug policy has become more progressive, especially with the legalization of marijuana in several US states, it’s still harming minorities at a disproportionate rate. Mike tells us we need to be aware that, even though marijuana is legal to sell in Colorado, minorities are still being imprisoned for black market trade at disproportionate levels because they do not have the same opportunities and privilege that many others do. There’s still a lot of work to be done to break free from a drug policy that unfairly targets minorities.

Mike argues that we need to keep fighting for our basic freedoms, especially in our current conservative climate. We can’t rely on the FDA or the government to determine what substances we can put into our bodies and how – it should always be our fundamental freedom to use relatively harmless substances in responsible contexts. As Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.

Finally, Mike talks about the upcoming Psymposia event at April’s Psychedelic Science conference in Oakland. Psymposia will be hosting a “Psychedelic Stories” event and may also be recording some live podcasts. Psymposia will also soon be releasing an interview with Duncan Trussel, and will be publishing pieces about the globalization of ayahuasca and the growth of psychedelic societies around the world.

Psymposia are running a Patreon campaign – so if you want to see more great content and events, consider becoming a Patron!

Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarOnna Lee says

    I personally don’t think this is the place to talk about a very heated subject such as Trump, ( podcast with Ryan) as it takes away from the focus of what this is all about .

    • AvatarDr. Mark Gould says

      I liked the overall discussion and it’s relationship to our need as a society to wake up from the empty proposition that many of organized religions have offered us and awaken to the divine right in front of us that is possible through awareness brought about from plant teachers. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts is certainly no truer in plant medicines vs isolated components when applying them in a spiritual context vs a pharmacological model that is more accepted by the populas as a whole

      • AvatarHana Yoridango says

        you mentioned a study involving truffles in Amsterdam but there is no link to this study

      • AvatarCaitlin Moakley says

        Thank you for publishing this important conversation, Third Wave! I really enjoyed listening to Zoe Helene speak about Psychedelic Feminism and male allies. Zoe walks the talk. I recently spent some time in the Peruvian Amazon while on a Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Grant with Zoe – she holds space for other voices and encourages all to support each other and find space for healing. Zoe is a nurturer who has invested in helping bring me closer to my true nature, my strongest self. She has done the same for dozens of women, and with the support of more allies, Cosmic Sister can continue to support women through healing with plant medicine. Thank you Third Wave, thank you Zoe!

        • AvatarJacob Munro says

          Some people are always looking to hoard things for themselves and their clique, because they are the do-gooder type with “good intentions.” I am very skeptical of anyone who has used psychedelics but still believe in “good intentions.” Intentions, maybe. Good? Well, that is a word, and that means it is simply an arbitrary catch-phrase stimulus-response conditioned into certain primates. There is likely a genetic substrate there, too, but even this simply means that you have the do-gooders who want to control others deciding who should and should not get access to psychedelic materials.

          Let’s remember why the name was chosen, “mind-manifesting.” Any attempt to prohibit or to organize access to them is an admission, on the part of the organizing force, that they think they’re fit to decide whose mind should be made manifest, whose mind is important, whose mind is not.

          Leary and Co. with good reason had “self-selection” as the basis for use; the Acid Tests were freely advertised, at the Party, there would be a table with dosed sugar cubes and a sign that said “eat one or two many,” at least sometimes.

          Any attempt to curate who gets dosed, other than, perhaps, some sort of age requirement, which is objective, is simply a form of elitism, but not of the sort that is appropriate—the sort of elitism we want is self-determined elitism, not group-determined elitism, because, as anyone who is not a moron knows, groups have no minds, only selves have minds; that is, the idea that psychedelics make some “group mind” or “gaian mind” or horse shit like that “manifest” is bollocks, McKenna nonsense from after the Walls had gone up in International Conventions. Leary, who many regarded as a shameless, quasi-psychopathic self-promoter, said that, so I recall, Terrence McKenna is what he would have been if he had no scruples.

          So all of these people suggesting that “indigenous traditions” are somehow better, that we need to somehow integrate “intersectionality”, “critical studies”, “social values”, etc. etc. into all of this, no, we don’t. Like alcohol, you sell the product and the only legitimate limitation on its availability is an age.

          The people who are worried about this becoming the situation have established elaborate hokey cults, especially around ayahuasca. They carefully curate who they’ll dose, because they don’t want anyone who’s going to realize what they’re doing—whether they know themselves what they’re doing or not is another matter entirely. After all, the best salespeople have already sold themselves.

          Tribalism and identity-politics are big business. Exopolitics and liberation from the stasis imposed by the polis and its beneficiaries, well, it doesn’t take a weather man to know which way the wind blows….lots of very feral and venal animals have a lot to lose if people wake up to what has been done to them over the last 30+ years.

  2. AvatarJudith Haran says

    Re episode 49: I started off listening to this in the background of doing a task, but it was so important I had to stop the task and just listen to it. Everything James says is so true. It made me realize, yet again, how extremely rare this sort of thinking has become, and how very few people in our culture even know what adulthood really means. When you look at it in this light, it rather puts everything into a different perspective. Once you realize that almost all observable behavior (ours and others’) is an epiphenomenon, driven by barely-discernible memories, usually the limbic sort, it makes you rethink “What is the appropriate response to X?” – because so often our reactions are neither appropriate or helpful. Shades of Thich Nhat Hanh.

    Anyway, not the sort of thing one can discuss at a dinner party. Not the ones I go to, at any rate. (Not yet!)

  3. AvatarStuart Doss says

    Very disappointed to see this forum used as one to promulgate the weak notion that our society is grounded in patriarchical oppression. For me the psychedelic/mystical experience is one that has always provided a calling to be more loving and compassionate, but also to consistently seek the truth. This would include the universal truth that nature has constrained the structure and embedded roles of members of this society, and that not everything is about power. Its saddening to see this postmodernist/radical feminist activism framed in victimology and social constructionist philosophy dragged into the psychedelic community.
    Instead of promoting hatred, I think people would greater benefit from an honest conversation about the objective, biological differences between men and women and how that’s historically shaped our societal landscape. This hyperbole and anecdote just support a narrative guided by tribalism and identity politics.

    • AvatarAmi says

      It’s not a notion, it’s the reality of this particular realm. I don’t see what’s not loving and compassionate about calling out patriarchy and oppression. If anything it’s loving and compassionate to make light of the oppressive systems which effect certain people.
      Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean it’s not/has not been happening…since always. We need to know the reality of things to be able to fully deal with them. Also i don’t really understand how any certain topics could be dragged into the psychedelic community when it’s ALL connected. Who’s promoting hatred here?

  4. AvatarMichael says

    Living in a universe where most of us are unable to „see“ the interconnecting lines between all these energy fields we call (human) beings, all the influence we really have on the The whole that we share on conscious and unconscious (which as we know is deeper and more comprehensive) level and whether we want it or not, seems to me to be a serious factor that we should take into account.
    This includes political discussion, since with the hierarchical thinking that is firmly anchored in us, we grant individuals an influence in shaping the future reality that surrounds us that should not be underestimated.

    This is even of double effect, so on the one hand the ultimately virtual energetic basic patterns without substance (Maya the Hinduists call it) are brought into a form that firmly anchors the suffering of the ignorant individuals, but at the same time that is slowed down for every further development of the human species and dissolution of these structures.
    It is not without reason that one of the forerunners of the “psychedelic revolution” was classified as an enemy of the state.

    In this respect, yes, set and setting are important, but they only lead to success and an inner individual evolution of the mind if these steps are also applied in everyday life and the feeling for this deeper connection in which humanity as a whole develops into an undetermined infinity that is simultaneously interdependent in an infinitely diverse network and whose greatest freedom consists in developing more and more into a shining knot of conscious awareness.

    Whether this is done through m-dosing or another suitable method plays a lesser role than the willingness to embark on this journey into unknown territory with all one’s heart and mind.

    • AvatarUrsula says

      Sophia Rokhlin made a very interesting point, namely how we could participate in protecting the indigenous lands in e.g. the Amazon region by way of buying property and protect it from being bought by big corporations to be destroyed for their own commercial purposes. It sounds like it could be a collective cause – adding money to buy up land and protect it – it is a model that has been used already in the US (Western PA Conservancy e.g.) I would love to know more about that – if this is something already in process. I also think that it would be a great cause to advertise to those who are interested in protecting our planet from the horrifying, mindless, brutal exploitation without any care for Mother Nature or the inhabitants who are affected.

      • AvatarGraham says

        I’ve been saying that exact same thing for ages now Ursula. Bill Gates’ billions would be well spent buying up the rainforest instead of using it to vaccinate anyone. The real cures for ALL diseases is in the Amazon rainforest, of that i’m sure. That is the real reason why they are chopping it down. It would interfere with Big Pharma’s profits if people were to find out about the cures in the Amazon still to be found. If they aren’t suppressing cures already found, then they are working on blocking future opposition to their sales.

    • AvatarZoe says

      Hello Ursula. Sting and Trudie Styler have been doing this for decades… and they’ve made a difference. HOWEVER, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest — and other rainforests around the world — continues to accelerate. Ownership of land does not keep poachers and other extractive industry off the land, and laws are only as good as your means of enforcing them. Indigenous people who live in these rainforests also poach when there are no other viable economic options. Supporting respectful, sustainable economic opportunities in these regions is just as important as buying up lots of land.

      Sometimes donating to a reputable NGO is a great way to help. Maybe it doesn’t sound so sexy, but NGOs depend on donations to do their work in the world, and not everyone can be out there on the frontlines as their primary work. And even if you don’t have a ton of extra money to donate, many small amounts add up. They truly do.

  5. AvatarRafael Barajas says

    I think this whole conversation lacks of self criticism and objectivity, why does the white blonde, soon to be published, anthropologist only quotes other white authors who dare to profit from this abominable cultural appropiation, as she does? Why isn´t the white privilege and entitlement phenomenon discussed as a critical factor to evaluate and determine the outcome of an ayahuasca experience?and what about an honest analysis of the exploitation of ayahuasca, peyote and other life forms, from the perspective of the historical unethical and criminal resource exploitation of minerals, oil, natural gas, water and produce, inflicted by the US and europe on all this unique native communities from american countries like México, Peru or Brasil? How you even dare to speak about shamanism, while sipping on your toxic starbucks unicorn latte? This is the same BS going on since the 1930´s, you white people define yourselves as the experts on everything, LMFAO. I am a true shaman from México, my bloodline is ancestral and I disaprove the way you express yourselves, because my grandparents heard the same BS, it is only a monstruous ego disguised as political correctness that spills out from your lips. Next thing you´ll be discussing is that ayahuasca was discovered by the “indigenous” (deeply racist term) but perfectioned by some fucking white blonde scientist. This is horrible.

    • AvatarHaya says

      Hello Rafael, I understand your frustration with the cultural appropriation that can accompany modern-day conversations regarding psychedelics.

      I can assure you that at the Third Wave we do our best to address cultural appropriation in a constructive manner. Many of our podcasts address that issue.

      There are two recent podcasts that do just that. Podcast 56, titled “Should We Keep Psychedelics Weird?“, discusses the issue of respecting Ayahuasca and the people who have been using it as part of their traditional medicine for centuries. Sophia Rokhlin discusses the perils of commodifying such a sacred substance.

      Another podcast worth mentioning is Podcast 50, titled Navigating Between Worlds: Ayahuasca and Cultural Preservation,in which speaker Chris Kilham also addresses the difference between cultural preservation and cultural appropriation.

      Our goal at the Third Wave is to have a constructive conversation surrounding psychedelics. For that reason, we diversify our podcasts as much as possible and we exercise cultural awareness when tackling sensitive issues. Our team is comprised of diverse members and that allows us to have a multitude of representation; culturally, intellectually and experientially.

      Thank you for taking the time to write to us and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any further comments or concerns.

      • AvatarSophia says

        Hi Rafael,

        Thank you for your message. I hope I made it clear that I am an authority on nothing but my own experiences with ayahuasca and other psychoactive plants, as they are introduced into these neoshamanic, urban contexts. If I did not, I will be sure to do be clearer about that in the future.

        I recently wrote about the dangers of ignoring the historical context of unequal economic, racial, and cultural power that underpins the global spread of ayahausca and other sacred plants in the article below. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it:

    • AvatarBrett says

      Hi Rafael, what does Sophia Rokhlin’s hair colour have to do with this conversation? You twice mentioned that she was ‘blonde’, as if that was a relevant detail. Would you mention the hair colour if it was a guy speaking?

    • AvatarC.S. says

      You are getting caught up in shamanist ego now. Slow down brother. I feel your pain. We all have pain. I live in Mexico and work with healers. They don’t even call themselves shamans anymore. I am a white man from California. I have traveled to consume Iboga, Peyote, San Pedro, shrooms and more. For very specific reasons. I no longer suffer from drug addiction, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia and a long long list of others illnesses. Share the love. Focus on the healing. Not the politics. You will be able to do your work better that way.

    • AvatarVanessa says

      Have you ever had an encounter with God? True encounters with Him are real, nobody’s tripping. You sound like a New Age Guru.

  6. AvatarNadia says

    Thank you so much for this podcast! SO important and really great themes and issues were addressed. I have been working in psychedelia for about 8 years and I have also been working in anti-oppression work for the same amount of time and what Zoe brought up and addressed are SUCH important points and part of the psychedelic community. So many instances of harmful behavior have not been addressed in these communities, and I’m so pleased that they have been here. This is an honest conversation about the truth of the matter. Indeed, the whole rhetoric of the psychedelic community is that they are ‘enlightened’ that they are ‘feminists’ and that they do anti-oppression work, but like in many other communities, this hasn’t been the face at all and is only surface level a lot of the time. The critical work hasn’t been taken far enough and I’ve seen first hand the extent of damaging and oppressive power dynamics at work.

    I’m talking about instances of psychedelic gurus abusing their power, sexually abusing people, abuse in the communities by community members where nothing has been done, where work has been done to silence any mention of oppression happening. I’m talking about black and brown people being made to feel isolated and oppressed in psychedelic environments, and disabled and mentally unwell people also being discriminated again and harmed. There is little point in a psychedelic renaissance when we are not listening to the main things that it teaches us – that the ego is temporary, that everything and everyone is valuable and should be valued, it essentially implies the importance of equality. There is little point if we are only reproducing the harmful culture that we know is so dangerous (to individuals, to the biosphere, and human evolution). What is the point in that? That is not what we need as we progress. There is so much that can be gained from paying attention to feminism, psychedelic feminism and diversity, and this was by far one of my favourite podcasts and favourite guests on this show.

    Really fantastic episode! More of this please!

  7. AvatarRobert says

    Just because your ancestors used mushrooms for very important ceremonies and rites of passage. My people have a history of eating psychedelic mushrooms and I’m white. What makes you the authority on how or why people use mushrooms. I’m sure my ancestors had different visions that coincided with their beliefs just like the ancient shamans from Mexico to South America. There’s a 5,000 year old carving in EUROPE with a humanoid with a bees head and mushrooms growing all around his body. Its commonly known they used honey to store mushrooms. My point being they are for everyone. Whether you use it to microcode to help with issues or whether you use it for ceremony, it should be enjoyed by all.

  8. AvatarBobby ford says

    How dare people using psychedelics for pleasure and inner journey. They must be commodified and taxed so that our great hyper technological capitalist system can
    make rich people even richer. Lets make white nation great again.

  9. AvatarVanessa says

    Have you ever had an encounter with God? True encounters with Him are real, nobody’s tripping. You sound like a New Age Guru.

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