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

September update

Posted Tue 15th Sep 2015, 3:02pm

Welcome to the September update (and magic mushroom season)!

1. Upcoming events

2. Submission to Home Affairs Committee inquiry on novel psychoactive substances

The Home Affairs Committee recently held a short inquiry into novel psychoactive substances in the context of the government’s proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill.

Our submission, prepared by the Psychedelic Society’s director Stephen Reid, argues for an exemption category for ‘Psychedelic substances used in a ceremonial or therapeutic context’, and for 1P-LSD to be exempt under this category. We’ll let you know if we hear back.

3. Legal psychedelic retreats

We’re putting together a list of legal, publicly advertised psychedelic retreats in the UK and Europe, for example,, The Sacred Voyage, and The Fasting Path. If you can recommend one, reply to this email and let us know.

4. Cannabis

Following the petition to legalise cannabis on the government’s e-petition site, a debate has been scheduled for 12th October. Write to your MP asking them to attend the debate.

5. Jeremy Corbyn elected!

Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Labour Party, called for “an urgent evaluation of our drug control strategies” as recently as June. We’ll be working to engage with Labour on drug policy over the coming weeks.

6. What’s hot on Facebook

"One of the interesting things about psychedelics is that there is an enormous amount of sympathy in the general public to their use, particularly as medicines,” explains Professor Nutt. “A lot of people are very angry that they have been denied to the public as medicines for over 50 years."

7. Donate to the Psychedelic Society

So far no one has been paid to work on the Society, and as the director, it's taking up increasing amounts of my time. Will you chip-in to cover the time I spend working on the Society at the London Living Wage?

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for details of a special event with Daniel Pinchbeck, the launch of the Psychedelic Society of Brighton and the next London social.

Best wishes,
Stephen and the Psychedelic Society team

Will you chip in £9.15 for the Psychedelic Society?

Posted Wed 12th Aug 2015, 4:29pm

Imagine this:

The year is 2023. You walk into the pharmacy and head towards the 'psychoactive substances' section. On the top shelf, there are pharmaceutically pure psychedelics including DMT, mescaline and LSD, all available legally, and at affordable prices. On the shelf below, dried magic mushrooms of many varieties. You pick up a pack of DMT and head to the checkout, where the pharmacist checks your age and asks you a series of questions to ensure you understand how to use the substance safely. As you head out of the shop, you bump into a colleague from work, who's just bought some 2C-B. She explains how she's felt calmer and kinder since she stopped drinking and started using psychedelics.

The Psychedelic Society is working to make this dream a reality.

We're in the midst of a 'psychedelic renaissance', and the Society is playing a key role. In just 10 months, we have:

  • created a buzz around psychedelics through our 30+ events and social media posts that reach more than 50,000 people a week
  • made headlines in the Guardian, Independent, BBC, ITV, Huffington Post, Sky, Buzzfeed and more
  • formed strong relationships with people and organisations including Prof. David Nutt, Transform, Release, The Beckley Foundation and UK Cannabis Social Clubs

So far no one has been paid to work on the Society, and as the director, it's taking up increasing amounts of my time. I'm writing to ask whether you'll chip in £9.15/month to cover an hour of the time I spend working on the Society at the London Living Wage.

I'm an experienced campaigner and organiser, having served as a board member of Greenpeace UK and co-founded the anti-austerity group UK Uncut and the New Economics Foundation's New Economy Organisers Network. With your support, I'm confident I can take the Society to the next level.

Click here to cover an hour of my time

Over the coming months, I'll be working with the many other brilliant people involved in the Psychedelic Society to:

  • push police forces to turn a blind eye to the possession of magic mushrooms (following similar moves on cannabis)
  • campaign for the rescheduling of psychedelics from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 to facilitate medical research
  • lobby political parties to ensure others join the Liberal Democrats and Greens in backing drug law reform
  • take further creative action over the government's illiberal and irrational Psychoactive Substances Bill
  • look into organising legal, professionally guided psychedelic retreats using 1P-LSD (in the UK) or mushrooms (elsewhere in Europe)
  • continue expanding our local groups programme and organise more quality events
  • grow the conversation about psychedelics through both social and mainstream media

The war on drugs is ending, and the dream of a 'psychedelic society' is absolutely achievable in this generation.

Cover an hour of my time and help turn the dream into reality.

Thank you,

Stephen Reid
Director, The Psychedelic Society

Stephen Reid, Director