Welcome to Afterglow, a newsletter that will change your mind. My name is Charles Bliss and I'm a psychedelic journalist from Norwich, UK.
In our third issue, we're taking a look at three of the most accessible magazine articles about psychedelics, which serve as fantastic introductions for the uninitiated. Let's go.
The second wave of research into psychedelic compounds and psychedelic-assisted therapy is bearing fruit — with a growing body of data demonstrating that drugs like psilocybin, LSD and MDMA can be effective in positively treating anxiety, depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers are also exploring how psychedelics can influence artists, scientists and writers, with studies on problem solving and the creative process.
But in order for these findings to take root in mainstream culture, it is essential that the research is communicated to the wider public. Psychedelic journalism is the way to spread these ideas — like spores on the wind.
The following three articles epitomise how psychedelic journalism can capture the imagination of the public and change the cultural weather.
Seeking the Magic Mushroom by R. Gordon Wasson
Published 13 May 1957 in Life
R. Gordon Wasson, a banker and amateur mycologist, is responsible for introducing psilocybin mushrooms to Western popular culture with this account of his initiation into an indigenous mushroom rite led by Mexican curandera María Sabina (named Eva Mendez in the article) where "divine mushrooms were first adored and then consumed".
Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary read the article and was compelled to travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1960 to try the magic mushrooms for himself. Afterwards, Leary launched the Harvard Psilocybin Project with Richard Alpert to study the therapeutic potential of hallucinogens. The project would conceive the infamous Good Friday Experiment in which divinity students were administered psilocybin in Boston University's Marsh Chapel.
The God Pill
Published 13 July 2006 in the Economist
A short piece exploring a landmark study led by Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University and published in Psychopharmacology, which demonstrated that psilocybin can induce mental states akin to religious and mystical experiences.
The article inspired lawyer Brian Muraresku to dedicate the next 12 years of his life uncovering the psychedelic foundations of the religion with no name (see link to the Lex Fridman Podcast below).
The Trip Treatment by Michael Pollan
Published 2 February 2015 in the New Yorker
This gorgeous long-form feature dives deep into the scientific history of the psychedelic renaissance, including the application of LSD and psilocybin to treat end of life anxiety.
The article inspired countless therapists and scientists to enter psychedelic research and served as the jumping off point for Pollan's best-seller, How to Change Your Mind. His book is a marvellous gateway to the world of psychedelics and we will be exploring it in detail in future posts.
Until next week,
🤯 Mind at Large
A breakdown of mind-blowing ideas I encountered this week:
📚 Book – Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich. I finally got around to reading what is perhaps the most famous book ever written in the fine city of Norwich. Revelations of Divine Love is considered the first English language works by a woman and an important mystical text in Christian theology. It also shines a light on the psychedelic experience. Look out for a post about Lady Julian in next week's newsletter.
🎙 Podcast – Brian Muraresku: The Secret History of Psychedelics by Lex Fridman. Muraresku's book The Immortality Key explores how wine spiked with ergot — a fungus that LSD is synthesised from — could have been an essential sacrament in the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece, which gave pilgrims access to the afterlife. This conversation explores psychedelics, religion, mysticism and the simulation hypothesis and is absolutely worth two hours of your time.
“Ecstasy! In common parlance ecstasy is fun. But ecstasy is not fun. Your very soul is seized and shaken until it tingles. After all, who will choose to feel undiluted awe? The unknowing vulgar abuse the word; we must recapture its full and terrifying sense.”
R. Gordon Wasson
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