Calling all mystics
Researchers investigating beneficial new uses for psychedelic drugs have set their sights on what may seem an unlikely group of volunteer subjects — your local priest, minister or rabbi.
Scientists at New York University and Johns Hopkins University have already shown positive results in an expanding program where psychotherapists have used psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” to treat depression and acute anxiety in cancer patients.
Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, is leading the new research, which stems from findings that volunteers who’ve taken psilocybin in a wide variety of research settings often report profound mystical experiences.
Griffiths wonders whether these altered states of consciousness are the same as those reported by longtime meditators or highly religious individuals. And he now has a three-pronged research project that will attempt to answer that question.
The New Sexual
For most Americans, issues of sexual ethics and sexual morality have long been intertwined with the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But today, growing numbers of people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” along with more liberal members of the nation’s churches and synagogues, are looking for a new sexual ethic—one that goes beyond the “thou shalt nots” of organized religion.
Many are searching for a more joyous, sex-positive theology. They are looking to see what their own sexual experiences tell them about spiritual truth—and to connect their spiritual and sexual selves.
This exploration raises as many questions as answers in an era of rapidly changing sexual mores. Today, once-closeted gay couples are living happily ever after in marriage; pornography formerly restricted by obscenity laws is available 24 hours a day for mass consumption online; teens flirt by “sexting”; and online dating sites facilitate everything from quickie hookups to clandestine extramarital activities (“Life is short, have an affair,” suggests Ashley Madison.com, a dating website specifically for married people). Without the sexual rules that once governed our relationships, how do we separate right from wrong? What makes sex “sacred”? What makes it “profane”?
The Next Sexual
The Rev. Ted McIlvenna, whose pioneering work in the 1960s helped inspire the sexual revolution and the gay rights movement, has a new crusade.
Next month, the 80-year-old Methodist rebel will lead a delegation of 10 sex experts to China to help an emerging class of financially independent Chinese women achieve female sexual empowerment.
“The second sexual revolution is about female sexuality,” said McIlvenna, a San Francisco preacher who owns what may be the world's largest collection of sex books, erotic art and vintage pornography. “And the women of China are starting to say, ‘What about our sexuality?’ ”
“Hello” in Cairo
“Issallam ‘alaykum,’” I proudly proclaimed.
All of us aging hippies and unrepentant cannabis connoisseurs
will be forced to face the fact that “we” are “them.” If
Prop. 19 passes, and California legalizes the recreational use of marijuana,
we must face the (rock) music and accept the fact that the counterculture
is now the mainstream culture.
a testing ground
Patients in ecstasy clinical trial find drug benefitial
An Oakland attorney battling cancer and a Sausalito yacht broker with an equally terrifying disease sit side by side inside a cozy psychedelic psychotherapy center overlooking Mount Tamalpais. Andy Gold, the lawyer, and John Saul, the boat salesman, are perched on a piece of furniture both had gotten to know well over the past six months: “the tripping couch.”
Gold and Saul are among the first research subjects to complete a months-long clinical drug trial to determine whether psychological trauma sparked by life-threatening diagnoses such as theirs can be lessened through intense, five-hour sessions of talk and music therapy aided by MDMA —
Ecstasy therapy approved for trial in Marin County
Three decades after the U.S. government slammed the door on ecstasy, a team of Marin County therapists has gotten permission to use the popular party drug in a study designed to reduce anxiety among people with cancer or other life-threatening disease.
Dr. Philip Wolfson, a San Anselmo psychiatrist and longtime advocate of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, has begun recruiting for 18 people for his research project, which will be conducted over the next year in his cozy hilltop psychotherapy center overlooking Mount Tamalpais.
Effective Tool in
Nigel McCourry couldn’t sleep, and when he did, the nightmares about what he’d done in Iraq would wake him up.
McCourry, who had been there as a lance corporal in a weapons platoon in the U.S. Marine Corps, would stand at the window of his apartment in Asheville, N.C., until 4 or 5 in the morning, convinced someone was coming to get him.
The Second Coming of Psychedelics
Ric Godfrey had the shakes. At night, his body temperature would drop and he’d start to tremble. During the day, he was jumpy. He was always looking around, always on edge. His vibe scared the people around him. He couldn’t hang on to a job.
He started drinking and drugging, anything to numb out.
Years passed before a Department of Veterans Affairs counselor told him he had severe posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The former Marine had spent the early 1990s interrogating prisoners in Kuwait. Years later, he was still playing out the Persian Gulf War.
Counseling helped a little, but the symptoms continued. He went to rehab for his substance abuse, then tried Alcoholics Anonymous. “That went on for 10 years,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I hit rock bottom.”
To Forgive and
Transcending depression without a scriptAntidepressants Leveled Out the Highs and Lows. So I Found Ways to Supercharge Them – To Fully Experience the Agony and the Ecstasy. And that Feels Better. . .
“Didn’t the people in Brazil warn you about antidepressants and ayahuasca?” my friend asked as we sat down at the sushi bar in Berkeley. She’d already had several revelatory nights
drinking the psychedelic tea with a Peruvian shaman.
Former ‘Jesus freak’ traces the evolution of Christian rock
But all of a sudden, this was the devil’s music.
“I destroyed some of them with a hammer and took the rest to a used record store,” he recalled with a laugh. “I think I kept 10 classical music albums that I decided were not anti-Christian.”
Today, at age 65, Gersztyn’s religious fervor has mellowed; he rarely attends church and calls himself “an allegorical Christian.” But he has put together his love of pop music and photography to publish an illustrated, two-volume work titled “Jesus Rocks the World — The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music.”
Perched atop the rugged splendor of the California coast south of Monterey, the Esalen Institute is the mother church for people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Over the last five decades, hundreds of thousands of seekers have come to this incubator of East-meets-West spirituality looking for news ways to bring together body, mind, psyche and soul.
But today, as this iconic hot springs spa and retreat center celebrates its 50th birthday, a bitter dispute has broken out over its future. Like the many “seminarians” who come here after losing a spouse or a job, Esalen now faces its own midlife crisis.
Studying the art of gratitude
Publishers can't seem to print enough books with the words “gratitude” or “gratefulness” in the title. Scientists rake in millions of dollars in grants to study how feelings of gratitude might improve physical health and psychological well-being. And this weekend, hundreds are expected to attend a Pathways to Gratefulness conference at the Palace of Fine Arts to talk about cultivating gratefulness in their lives.
It was a decade of idealism
and divisiveness. Three years into the decade, Bob Dylan railed against
mothers and fathers throughout the land. Don’t criticize what you
can’t understand. Jim Morrison proclaimed we want the world, and
we want it … now. Much of this can be explained by demographics
and the arrogance of youth. Then there were the drugs, especially the
to be Chosen
Rabbi Capers Funnye, the spiritual leader of Beth
Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian
Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, doesn't look Jewish—at least
to some Jewish eyes.