May update

Posted Thu 5th May 2016, 6:01pm

Welcome to the May update.

1. Upcoming events

2. Psychedelic Experience Weekends

The Psychedelic Society's Psychedelic Experience Weekends are a way for groups to have safe, legal and affordable psychedelic experiences in a setting conducive to mystical/spiritual experience.

The psychedelic used at the weekend is the psilocybin-containing truffle. The weekends take place in the Netherlands, where psilocybin truffles are legal.

You apply as a group, specifying the size of your group, your preferred dates and your motivations. Experienced, sober facilitators will be on hand throughout, with no fewer than 1 facilitator for every 4 participants.

The cost (including food, accommodation, truffles and facilitation; not including travel) is £300/person for groups of 6 or more. Small groups may be invited to join up with others. Individuals are welcome to apply, but cannot be invited to join a group (it may still be possible to arrange a personal Experience Weekend).

Dates for Psychedelic Experience Weekends over the coming months:

  • 13-15 May 2016 (full, waiting list only)
  • 10-12 June 2016
  • 5-7 August 2016
  • 2-4 Sep 2016
  • 16-18 Sep 2016

Apply today!

3. What’s hot on Facebook

4. Other stuff

Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness Salon events:

5. Donate to the Psychedelic Society

The Psychedelic Society currently has 22 regular donors (thank you!) who donate an average of £7.45/month. This covers just half of our basic monthly expenses – desk space, website, email, mailing list and online accountancy software – leaving us reliant on income from events. (To this point, no one has been paid to work on the Psychedelic Society.) Willl you make a donation of £5 or £10 a month to help cover our expenses and put us on a stable financial footing?

6. And finally...

11 Beautiful, Psychedelic GIFs Created by a Math Whiz

Stephen and the Psychedelic Society team

April update

Posted Tue 5th Apr 2016, 6:33pm

Welcome to the April update.

1. Upcoming events

Our events tend to sell out fast nowadays, so be sure to get tickets sooner rather than later!

2. Psychedelic Experience Weekends

Group applications for our Psychedelic Experience Weekends are now open. You specify the size of your group, your preferred dates and your motivations. If your application is accepted, we will then work together to find a suitable venue (in the Netherlands), select experienced facilitators and fine-tune the timetable.

The weekends are a great way for groups to have safe, legal and affordable psychedelic experiences in a setting that maximises the potential for mystical/spiritual experience. Apply today!

3. What’s hot on Facebook

4. Donate to the Psychedelic Society

If you appreciate the work of the Society and agree that the world needs a healthy dash of psychedelic wisdom, will you make a donation to support us in our work? Your donation will allow us to put on more, bigger and better events, and accelerate the development of our Psychedelic Experience Weekends. With your help, we can make safe, legal psychedelic experiences available to all.

Stephen and the Psychedelic Society team

March update

Posted Mon 7th Mar 2016, 5:49pm

Welcome to the March update!

1. Psychedelic Experience Weekend

The last weekend of February saw the first, trial Psychedelic Experience Weekend. 23 people (including a journalist from the Guardian and two reporters from BBC Radio 4 Analysis) travelled to a beautiful forest retreat in the Netherlands for three days of yoga, meditation, dance, discussions on the nature of reality, and, for 16 people, a psychedelic experience with psilocybin truffles (legal in the Netherlands). Many of the participants had deep and moving experiences, with several people describing the experience as amongst the most profound of their lives.

We’re keen to open the events to the public as soon as possible, but we also realise the importance of getting this right, so we’re planning to hold a second invite-only trial weekend in early April.

You can express your interest in taking part in future weekends or make a donation to support the project.

2. Upcoming events

3. Global Psychedelic Dinners

MAPS are encouraging people to participate in Global Psychedelic Dinners this April to help make psychedelic therapy a legal treatment.

By hosting your own Global Psychedelic Dinner, you'll join people around the world in gathering your community, hosting an open conversation about psychedelic science and medicine, spreading the word, and raising funds for MAPS’ purchase of one kilogram of pharmaceutical grade MDMA for Phase 3 trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Find out more at

4. What’s hot on Facebook

"I've never seen such infinite beauty in all my life... Can't you feel it? Everything is so beautiful and lovely and alive. This is reality... I can't tell you about it. If you can't see it then you'll just never know." — footage of a woman taking LSD for the first time in the 1950s

Are psychedelics worth the risk? A speech delivered by the Stephen Reid to the Cambridge Union Society

5. Donate to the Psychedelic Society

If you appreciate the work of the Society and agree that the world needs a healthy dash of psychedelic wisdom, will you make a donation to support us in our work? Your donation will allow us to put on more, bigger and better events, and accelerate the development of the Psychedelic Experience Weekends to make safe, legal psychedelic experiences available to all.

Stephen and the Psychedelic Society team

Are psychedelics worth the risk?

Posted Sun 6th Mar 2016, 3:12pm

A speech delivered by Stephen Reid at the Cambridge Union Society's debate 'This House believes that taking Recreational drugs is worth the risk' on Thursday 18th Februrary

My name is Stephen Reid, and I'm the founder and director of the Psychedelic Society.

Psychedelics are a particular class of psychoactive substance that induce an altered state of consciousness sometimes compared to a 'waking dream'. The best known psychedelics are psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), DMT (found in ayahuasca), mescaline (found in peyote and San Pedro cacti), LSD and 2C-B.

I came to psychedelics rather recently in life, some time after obtaining a first-class degree in Physics from the Other Place and a masters in Complexity Sciences.

For a substance to be 'worth the risk' implies the possibility of reward.

Much has beeng said and written about the risks of psychoactive substances. Increasingly one also reads about the medical benefits. In this piece I would like to focus on what you might term as the 'spiritual' or 'existential' benefit. It is worth noting that there is no obvious distinction between the medical and spiritual, for we are all sick: "Life is a terminal disease transmitted via sexual intercourse" reads the graffiti in Warsaw.

I proceed with an edited passage from The Book by Alan Watts:

"As is so often the way, what we have suppressed and overlooked is something startlingly obvious. The difficulty is that it is so obvious and basic that one can hardly find the words for it. The Germans call it a Hintergedanke, an apprehension lying tacitly in the back of our minds which we cannot easily admit, even to ourselves...

"Myth is the form in which I try to answer when children ask me those fundamental metaphysical questions which come so readily to their minds: "Where did the world come from?" "Why did God make the world?" "Where was I before I was born?" "Where do people go when they die?" Again and again I have found that they seem to be satisfied with a simple and very ancient story, which goes something like this:

"God likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself: he pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

"Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that's the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do.

"He doesn't want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

"...[Now], though I have been talking about God as 'he' and not 'she,' God isn't a man or a woman. I didn't say 'it' because we usually say 'it' for things that aren't alive.

"God is the Self of the world, but you can't see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can't see your own eyes, and you certainly can't bite your own teeth or look inside your own head.

"You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn't really doing this to anyone but himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad."

"..the secret which my story slips over is that God, the Ultimate Ground of Being, is you. Not, of course, the everyday 'you' which the Ground is assuming, or "pretending" to be, but that inmost Self which escapes inspection because it's always the inspector. This, then, is the taboo of taboos: you're IT!

"...In fact, it isn't my story at all, for any student of the history of religions will know that it comes from ancient India, and is the mythical way of explaining the Vedanta philosophy. Vedanta is the teaching of the Upanishads, a collection of dialogues, stories, and poems, some of which go back to at least 800 B.C. Philosophers of Vedanta do not think of God as a special and separate superperson who rules the world from above, like a monarch. Their God is "underneath" rather than "above" everything, and he (or it) plays the world from inside...

"But Vedanta is much more than the idea or the belief that this is so. It is centrally and above all the experience, the immediate knowledge of its being so, and for this reason such a complete subversion of our ordinary way of seeing things. It turns the world inside out and outside in."

I end the quote. The next question we might ask, then, is how can one experience this unity, this sense of non-separation? I quote Watts again:

"There are innumerable recipes for this project, almost all of which have something to recommend them. There are the practises of yoga, meditation, dervish dancing, psychotherapy, Zen Buddhism, Ignation, Salesian, and Heyschat methods of "prayer", psychodrama, group dynamics, sensory-awareness techniques, Quakerism, Gurdjieff exerecises, relaxation therapies, the Alexander method, autogenic training, self-hypnosis... and the use of consciousness-changing chemicals such as LSD and mescaline."

And there we have it. The reason why I believe psychedelics are certainly 'worth the risk' for large numbers of people, is that they are a tool (amongst several) for awakening to the true nature of being. To quote Watts a final time:

"You suddenly see through the whole sham of things. You realize that you’re that. We won’t put a name on it. You’re that. And you can’t be anything else. So you are relieved of fundamental terror. That doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be a great hero, that you won’t jump when you hear a bang, that you won’t worry occasionally, that you won’t lose your temper. It means though that fundamentally, deep deep down within you, you will be able to be human, in the pains, difficulties, and struggles that naturally go with human existence — but to have no hang up. Seeing that all life is a magnificent illusion, a playing of energy, and there is absolutely nothing fundamentally to be afraid of.

Fundamentally. You’ll be afraid on the surface, you will be afraid of putting your hand in the fire. You will be afraid of getting sick. But you will not be afraid of fear."

January update & Psychedelic Experience Weekends

Posted Thu 14th Jan 2016, 3:51pm

Happy New Year! I hope it's started well for you. Since I haven't written in a while, I thought I'd give you an update of what I've been up to over the past few months.

In October, I attended the Science and Nonduality Conference in California, "a forum where preeminent scientists, philosophers, teachers, artists and a large, international community gather to explore and advance... the deep understanding of the interconnectedness of life." There I had the privilege of meeting Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, as well as hearing from Stanislav Grof and some of the world's most insightful nondual teachers.

In the days after the conference, I met Irina Alexander, co-founder of the Psychedelic Society of San Francisco (the original Psychedelic Society!), who introduced me to the brilliant MAPS trio of Brad Burge, Natalie Ginsberg and Bryce Montgomery, as well as plenty of colourful characters from the West Coast Burning Man scene. After a weird and wonderful weekend in Lake Tahoe, I made my way down to the Esalen Institute, the beautiful retreat centre on Big Sur started with the help of Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts. I spent three days there practising Sensory Awareness, a mindfulness practise, with the inspiring Lee Lesser.

Travelling north, I passed through Portland, Oregon, where I purchased my first legal joint from a cannabis dispensary. As I told the budtender, stepping into the store was like stepping into the future. I returned to the UK in late November to participate in a panel discussion on drug policy at the University of Oxford alongside Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and others.

The second Psychedelic Supper (Reflections on Life & Death) took place in early December. The final exercise was to write a postcard to a loved one after listening to Alan Watts' piece on the Acceptance of Death. I posted all UK-addressed postcards the next day - if you know someone that received one, do let us know what they thought!

For the New Year, I headed down to the South Coast to participate in the Purbeck New Year Happening, a 4-day co-created event guided by Nowhere's ten core principles. 120 of us put on a weekend full of yoga, meditation, dance, eye-gazing, music-making, new connections and new insights. (A practise that has become very important to me over the last months is 5Rhythms dance: a movement meditation practice that "puts the body in motion in order to still the mind". Sessions happen all over the UK; you can join the Psychedelic Society of London Facebook group to check out an extended list of sessions in London.)

In the first couple of weeks of the year, I've been busy confirming the details for the first, trial Psychedelic Society Psychedelic Experience Weekend. This will involve 20 friends travelling to a beautiful forest retreat in the Netherlands in late February for a weekend of yoga, meditation, dance, forest walks, discussions on the nature of reality, and, for some of us, a psychedelic experience with psilocybin truffles (legal in the Netherlands).

From March, we intend to open these nonprofit events up to members of the public to have safe, legal psychedelic experiences. It's an important step for the Psychedelic Society, marking an expansion from campaigning and events on psychedelics to actually facilitating psychedelic experiences. As far as we know, the legality, openness and proximity of this programme will distinguish it as the first of its kind in the UK. You can let us know if you're interested in participating, and/or make a donation to support us in this work.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be in touch again soon with details of the next supper and reading group.

Stephen Reid
Director, The Psychedelic Society

Stephen Reid, Director