On the weekend of November 22 & 23, 1997, the cognoscenti of visionary plants and drugs convened in Berkeley, California, to participate in the Mind States conference. This event commemorated the 34th anniversary of Aldous Huxley's death and his final LSD voyage, as well as the 100th anniversary of the first human experiment with synthetic mescaline sulfate by Arthur Heffter.
Held at the stately International House, on the U.C. Berkeley campus, and sold-out with about 500 in attendance, the event brought together a remarkable group of people, who spoke about "Current Perspectives on Visionary Plants and Drugs," with attention to modern psychonautical, spiritual, and epistemological experiences.
PETER LAMBORN WILSON: the author of over twenty books, including The Drunken Universe, Sacred Drift, Scandal, and Ploughing the Clouds: the Search for Irish Soma. He lives in New York and works for Semiotext(e) magazine, Pacific Radio, and The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
Mr. Wilson was the Master of Ceremonies for the 1997 event.
ANDREW EDMOND: the creator of the Lycaeum, "One of the world's largest online databases for information about entheogens." With BA degrees in Botany and Computer Sciences, in 1997 Edmond was one of the leading figures in the "third wave" of psychedelic explorers in their 20s and 30s; cyber-psychonauts, surfing the Internet as well as their neural-nets.
"Entheogens and the Internet: A New Dimension in Alternate Realities"
"A new world of communication, information and community is being tentatively grasped by the entheogenic culture. Find out the history of drug information and entheogenic community on the Internet as well as where we are headed in this amazing and remarkably chaotic medium of communication."
Along with the history of drug culture on the Internet, Andy explored the potentials of this digital medium to enhance the freedoms of the entheogenic culture.
RICHARD GLEN BOIRE: a child with adult powers. As an attorney he defends users of shamanic inebriants. As an author he has written the books Marijuana Law, Sacred Mushrooms & the Law, and chapters in the books Psilocybin Production, and Peyote & Other Psychoactive Cacti. His essays and articles have been published in a wide-range of magazines, including: The Journal of Drug Issues, The Alternative Press Review, Magical Blend, California Lawyer, Crash Collusion, Eleusis, The Entheogen Review, and others pseudonymously. He was editor of The Entheogen Law Reporter, and is currently the Director of The Alchemind Society (www.alchemind.org) [Please note as of summer 2002 this is now the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics], a non-profit organization that seeks to defend cognitive liberty.
"Mind States in Police States"
Psychonautical exploration takes place on a topography of criminal law. Richard's talk guided us through the legal landscape underlying entheogen use. Pointing out certain landmarks along the way, and offering helpful orienting techniques, he led us to steady ground amidst the complex and polymorphic terrain of the law.
MYRON STOLAROFF: one of the great "psychedelic elders." Active in the psychedelic community for over 40 years, Myron has published numerous papers relating to psychedelics, as well as two books: Thanatos to Eros: Thirty-five Years of Psychedelic Exploration, which details Myron's own psychedelic explorations, and the recently published book The Secret Chief: Conversations with a Pioneer of the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement.
"The Trained User: Deepening Meditation Practice and Forestalling Aging"
"Learning to hold the mind still is a major factor in deepening meditation practice. Judicious use of psychedelics can be most helpful in developing the qualities for improving meditation." Myron also shared his thoughts on how the appropriate use of psychedelics can be extremely effective in overcoming symptoms of aging, such as tiredness, losing mental focus, sore and stiff muscles, and arthritic symptoms.
DAN JOY: coauthor of Better Sex Through Chemistry: A Guide to the New Pro-sexual Drugs and Nutrients and The Healing Magic of Cannabis. He was a writer and editor on the third edition of Peter Stafford's Psychedelics Encyclopedia and editor of the Shulgin's PIHKAL and TIHKAL. His articles have appeared in High Times, Brain/Mind Bulletin, bOING-bOING, Science Fiction Eye, The Resonance Project, and other magazines.
"Listening to Cannabis: The Future of Marijuana Therapeutics"
A wide-ranging, optimistic vision of the medical possibilities of Cannabis; Dan presented marijuana's medical action as operating through three primary channels: palliative, biological, and psychoactive. Topics included the further exploration and application of the medicinal properties of individual cannabinoids, recognition of the therapeutic value of psychoactivity, and the social impact of widespread medicinal use of Cannabis among the elderly. Dan looked at the limitations and pitfalls of medical as well as other major paradigms of approach to the use of Cannabis and other psychoactives.
JAMES KENT: writer, programmer, and archiver of underground information relating to altered states, entheogenic practice, and applied mysticism. He spent three years as the editor for Psychedelic Illuminations magazine, and also edited and published The Resonance Project (TRP), a sporadic periodical dedicated to psychedelics, technology, and the science of perception.
"Ketamine: Metaprogramming and Karmic Cleansing from within the Eye of the Storm"
"Ketamine may be one of the most powerful but least understood psychedelics known. At high doses it acts as an anesthetic, but at low doses it is a valuable tool for accessing and working within inner realms." Kent's talk focused primarily on the use of ketamine as a metaprogramming tool, and detailed various methods for exploring and fine-tuning the complex mechanisms that make up the self and psyche. Adjunctive "reality change" technologies such as hypnotherapy, neurolinguistics, and object-oriented programming were also discussed.
TERENCE McKENNA: spent the last twenty-eight years studying the ontological foundations of shamanism and the ethnopharmacology of spiritual transformation. He traveled extensively in the Asian and New World Tropics, and become specialized in the shamanism and ethnomedicine of the Amazon Basin. With his brother Dennis, he was the author of The Invisible Landscape and Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Growers' Guide. His own titles included Food of the Gods, a study of the impact of psychotropic plants on human culture and evolution, The Archaic Revival, a book of essays and conversations, and True Hallucinations, an autobiographical adventure tale. Sadly, Terence passed away in April of 2000, after a fight with brain cancer.
Terence prepared a short video presentation exclusively for the 1997 Mind States conference, which was followed by a live Question and Answer session broadcast via the world wide web from his home in Hawaii.
ALEXANDER T. ("SASHA") SHULGIN, Ph.D.: a pharmacologist and chemist who has synthesized and tasted hundreds of psychoactive compounds. Along with his wife Ann, Sasha coauthored the book Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved: A Chemical Love Story (PIHKAL). The long-anticipated sequel, Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved: The Continuation (TIHKAL), was released in October, 1997.
"The Process of Discovery"
The process that starts with a point of information (a psychoactive cactus) and ends with a pure chemical (a psychoactive compound) was described. The many traps and pitfalls usually encountered in such a process were described by Sasha, using a current research project as an example.
ANN SHULGIN: a researcher and writer, who-for a time-worked with psychedelics as a lay-therapist. Her unique insight into the beneficial effects that psychedelics can have is invaluable.
Ann discussed the numerous benefits of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy conducted with MDMA, 2C-B, etc. She also described the concurrent use of hypnotic trance, and presented the manner in which such therapy is done when it is illegal, as is presently the case in the USA.
DALE PENDELL: a poet, author, software engineer, and longtime student of ethnobotany. His poetry has appeared in many journals, and he was founding editor of KUKSU: Journal of Backcountry Writing. He has led workshops on ethnobotany and ethnopoetics for the Naropa Institute and the Botanical Preservation Corps. His critically acclaimed book Pharmako/Poeia has been called "a masterful blend of straightforward information, historical fact, poetic musings, alchemical instructions, and literary wit." The eagerly awaited companion volume, Pharmako/Dynamis, is due out in 2001.
"Plant Teachers and Spiritual Practice"
Dale spoke about the role (or lack thereof) of psychotropic plants and substances in traditional spiritual disciplines-with an emphasis on yogic traditions, such as Buddhism. Possibilities and misconceptions were addressed.
ALEX GREY: an artist whose work has appeared in numerous galleries worldwide; a collection of his works appears in his book Sacred Mirrors-a feast for the eyes, mind, and heart. The Summer 1997 issue of the MAPS Journal features Grey's 1995-96 piece, Nature of Mind. Grey has also written a book of philosophy, The Mission of Art, and his new art book, Transfigurations, will be out in 2001.
"How Psychedelic Mysticism has Transformed my Life and Art"
"[Over 20] years ago I took my first dose of LSD. The experience was so rich and pro found . . . that there seemed nothing more important in existence than this revelation of infinite love and unity. Being an artist, I knew that this essential teaching was the only subject worthy of my time and attention. Spiritual and visionary consciousness assumed primary importance as the focal point of my life and art. LSD was my first spiritual practice and portal into the divine imagination. Although my work has deviated from the artistic mainstream, I have joined the long and amazing tradition of visionary art."
JIM DeKORNE: is a writer, gardener, and explorer of the "imaginal realm." Experiencing the psychedelic movement of the late '60s firsthand while residing in San Francisco, DeKorne was struck by the immense value that psychedelics held when used as a catalyst for personal and social change. His book, Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation and Use of Psychotropic Plants, offers a theoretical foundation for voyagers of inner-space. As the founding editor of the underground classic journal, The Entheogen Review, DeKorne has presented cutting-edge information on the plants and preparations used by today's psychonauts.
"Shamanism-Psychedelic and Otherwise: Using Entheogens for Inner Work"
Jim related his personal experience with the use of entheogens in furthering spiritual practice, noting that Shamanism and Alchemy may serve one as models for the intentional navigation of hyperspace. Jim discussed how entheogens can help or hinder this quest, and shared his hypothesis for the creation of a "neo-shamanism" specific to the unique problems of our time