A Report from Psychedemia, 2012: Integrating Psychedelics and Academics

Originally appearing here. Although my stay in Pennsylvania was brief, I was fortunate to attend Psychedemia, and felt blessed to participate in the highest expression of the current Uranus-Pluto square, the transit defining the 2010‘s. Psychedemia was a 3 day conference at the University of Pennsylvania. The subtitle for Psychedemia was “Integrating the psychedelic experience in academia.” Now this is quite polarized to 60’s psychedelic guru Timothy Leary’s statement of “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” Instead of dropping out, Psychedemia was conceived and organized by a team of graduate and post graduate students, led by Nese Devenot, a fellow contributor to realitysandwich.com. Psychedemia accomplished the bold task of bringing together academic researchers, authors, teachers, students, psychedelic explorers, and visionary artists all seeking to expand their awareness of the evolutionary potential present in the psychedelic experience. Unfortunately, I did not get to attend Sunday or Friday’s amazing workshops and panels, such as “Visionary art symposium,” “Symposiums on Psychedelics and Ethics,” and “Psychedelics Innovation,” although I did catch a bit of the brilliant Android Jones sharing some of his software techniques for creating psychedelic art masterpieces. However, Saturday’s events were filled with insights and new connections, such as the psilocybin panel discussion. Psilocybin is the psychoactive component of mushrooms and is being studied by many academic researchers. Talks included “Psilocybin treatment of cancer patients,” and “Psilocybin treatment of drug dependence: smoking cessation.” Saturday also included poster sessions, an open hall display, and discussions with many researchers sharing their findings in various psychedelic topics, such as David Nickles representing the online DMT Nexus, and Peter Addy and others’ “Scientific Exploration of Subjective Experience: Salvia Divinorum.” Some of the research in the poster sessions seemed to have an overall theme of trying to gain some sense of objectivity to the subjective, personal experience of psychedelic travelers. Although I did not present a full poster session, I discussed with various individuals my own research and sentiments about the importance of time-mapping our ceremonies and psychedelic experiences by utilizing one’s personal horoscope. Since I began studying astrology in 2004, I have been bringing an astrological approach towards understanding the most opportune times of the month and year for doing specific shamanic work. I also stress the importance of one’s Moon sign for the approach and style of integration with one’s journeys into altered states. In addition, the deeper one understands the various interplay and dance of the psychic elements, represented by the planets, and their initiatory experiences, represented by their transits, the more easily and efficiently can the psychedelic experience be integrated and reflected upon through the symbolic language of the stars. Besides beautiful visionary art, authors and teachers were also highlighted at the conference. MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, was present with a table full of recent publications on psychedelics and consciousness, including titles such as Spiritual Growth with Entheogens, The New Science of Psychedelics, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, Visionary Plant Consciousness, and Psychedelic Healing. Evolver Editions, publisher of my book Codex of the Soul, was also present with a table and authors such as Charles Shaw, myself, and with a few presentations from Jonathan Talat Phillips, author of Electric Jesus, who spoke on Warrior Healing and the Santo Daime ayahuasca church. For sheer inspiration, and for your own further research, I highly recommend visitingpsychedemia.org to see the entire lineup of talks given at this monumental event. The organizers documented all of the lectures and plan to make them available in the near future. Overall, there was a sense of camaraderie, curiosity, community, and discovery throughout Saturday, especially present at the day’s close, as we mingled, networked, and celebrated the abundance with drinks and delicious food. Conversations were lively, and a fresh feeling of freedom to discuss, to probe, to wonder, to forge new synaptic comprehensions seemed to be the overarching vibe. I watched as what had previously been hidden and separated by institutional dogma, fear of change, and controlling forces (Pluto in Capricorn) was being liberated at last, tickled by the wild urge to innovate and individuate (Uranus in Aries). Saturday’s workshops and evening festivities were also marked by the presence of the Aries Full Moon. As the sign of the pioneer and brave explorer of the unknown, this was an ideal full moon under which to have this event. In my new book, Aquarius Dawns, released last April, I noted that: Uranus in Aries is consistently a restless, experimental, and culturally and scientifically exciting cycle of new discoveries. And importantly, Aries rules the head, and by extension the brain. Uranus is the planet of innovation and inventive thinking. It shocks us into the future. Thus, Uranus in Aries will invite more and more pioneers in the Piscean fields of the psyche and consciousness studies, and the role the brain plays as a receiver or antennae for consciousness. Those braving the cutting edge in these fields will ask what actually occurs in the brain as we dream, meditate, journey on psychedelics, etc. What chemicals are involved in what visionary experiences, and what parallels can be found? We are now literally mapping the psyche: the cartography of the dreamspace, the experience of dying, what occurs after we die, the womb state, our past lives, and the shamanic and visionary journey. Likewise, the “many-worlds” theory of physics, whereby each decision you make creates another universe and another and another, as overwhelming to consider as it may be, is becoming the most accepted theory on the nature of reality. A friend at the conference turned me on to the podcasts of psychonaut Martin Ball. I highly recommend his fascinating discussion, “Organs of the Mind” with Thomas Ray, Ph.D. This subject deals specifically with my point above about revolutionary neurological research applied towards a holistic study of the psyche, as Ray breaks down the various organs of consciousness, their functions, and how they are stimulated by certain psychedelic compounds. What I witnessed in the conference rooms, poster sessions, networking dialogues, and media which occurred at Psychedemia was the blossoming potential of the second exact Uranus-Pluto square, which took place the same week. This transformative power involves the collective will to liberate the veiled taboos, to dialogue openly about the previously hidden, and excite and accelerate the process of evolution in the process. I mentioned to organizer Nese Devenot that I felt this conference was a seed for many that should spread over the coming decade in different cities, that its documentation and dissemination were vital, and that the timing of it had been correlated exactly to the Uranus-Pluto square alignment. In the square, we take the more chaotic energies from the original conjunction, which took place in the 60’s, and we work on building more secure foundations and solid structures from which to build upon. Thus, our cultural revolution now is not a single moment, but a sustainable pulse. I also found out that another conference sponsored by MAPS — Psychedelic Science 2013 — is scheduled to occur April 18-22, 2013 in Oakland, CA, one month before the third exact square of Uranus-Pluto. As astrological researchers have found, when a major outer planetary transit occurs, artists and event organizers channel that quality.
Perhaps as we look ahead to May and to November 1 of 2013, the third and fourth exact squares of Uranus and Pluto, we can strategize our most catalytic and awakening events to harmonize with these r(evolutionary) peak moments. Reality Sandwich reports on Psychedemia, a conference focusing on integrating psychedelics and academics taking place September 27-30. The recap includes details about discussion panels that focused on scientific research into psilocybin, salvia, and more.