Oxford Psychedelic Society
Welcome to the Psychedelic Society of the University of Oxford. We organise talks and events on medical research and public policy in psychopharmacology and psychedelic culture. Everyone is welcome! ♥
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WELCOME TO OPS!
Welcome to the Oxford Psychedelics Society! We are a community of researchers, artists, and students who believe in the transformative potential of psychedelics.
Among its many remarkable effects on human consciousness, psychedelics enrich our appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things. The academic study of psychedelics also embodies the spirit of interconnectedness; it strives to integrate a broad range of disciplines, such as neuroscience, mysticism, and policy, in order to explore the highly multifaceted nature of psychedelics. The Oxford Psychedelics Society aims to be an interconnected organization; we hope to create a platform for dialogues between speakers who approach psychedelics from completely different backgrounds and viewpoints. We want to put psychiatrists in conversation with shamans; we want electronic DJs to share the same stage as psychedelic sitarists; we want neuroscientists to speak alongside people who have had direct, first-hand experiences with psychedelics. We hope that the Oxford Psychedelics Society can serve as an alternative to the Oxford Union, holding space for a greater breadth of perspectives on thought-provoking subjects that deserve more mainstream attention.
Kenneth, OPS President 🍄✌
As founders and representatives of psychedelic societies across the globe, we assert that people have a basic liberty and freedom to responsibly use psychedelic substances: for healing, for growth, for fun, and for personal, collective and spiritual exploration.
We work to secure these rights in collaboration with allies within social, political and scientific institutions.
We support changes to existing national and international laws and governmental policies which would decriminalize and reschedule psychedelics, allowing for proper research and safe regulated access, to stop pushing people into clandestine practices and the risks of the black market and the penal system.
We resolve to change the cultural dialogue surrounding psychedelic substances to accurately reflect what is known, and steer it towards more productive and compassionate conclusions through education and information.
Like mushrooms emerging after the rain, the global network of psychedelic societies is rising up as a public forum and voice for all the people who appreciate psychedelics.
THINGS WE DO
We organise talks about the effects of psychedelia, medical applications and policy. We had the honour of hosting exciting speakers in the past:
James Fadiman, "Psychedelic Microdosing"David Nutt, "The New Psychedelic Revolution" [Video]Andy Letcher, "Magic mushrooms: past, present and future"Guy Goodwin, "A New Age for Psychedelic Drugs" [Video]Raphaël Millière, "Psychedelic science and consciousness"Robin Carhart-Harris, "Psychedelics, brain mechanisms, therapeutic potential"Dr Ben Sessa: MDMA as a treatment for PTSD [Video]
Throughout the academic year, we organise social events such as social gatherings and movie nights. Everyone is welcome!
Our biggest social event yet took place in June 2019. We organised the first OddBall, an alternative to the traditional college ball. A visionary summer celebration of the wondrous, the paradoxical, even the totally impossible. We had a fantastic day at the Isis Farmhouse, with art, workshops, fantastic costumes, and music. OddBall is a feast for the senses in the spirit of psychedelia, offering an opportunity to step out of everyday time and into an alternate world of possibilities. For more info see theoddball.org.uk.
Show your OPS love! We have psychedelic T-shirts, sweatshirts, buttons and posters. Our merchandise is proudly designed by one of the UK's most famous psychedelic artist Pinky Vision. We usually sell them after our events, and have a subset available in our webshop. Do get in touch if you're interested!
Prof Guy Goodwin
Guy Goodwin is a professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. His research interests include, among many others, the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs.
Check out this video of Prof Guy Goodwin talking about how LSD was discovered, why it became illegal and how psilocybin can help treat depression: "Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry".
Pinky Vision is a UK-based psychedelic artist, and we couldn't be more thrilled to have him as honorary member! He describes his art as "a surreal world where psychedelic skulls grin at radiating suns, apples go electric and owls get high". Most of the psychedelic art around OPS such as lecture posters and our amazing merchandise are designed by him. Learn about his art on his webpage pinkyvision.com.
Our previous president Raven
OddBall Launch Party at The Bullingdon
Summer Solstice Celebrations at Stonehenge
Prof David Nutt with OPS swag
Ken & Lucian representing OPS ♡
△▽△ OddBall △▽△
As a student-run society, we rely on donations for ensuring the continued organisation of talks, events, and spreading of our message within the wider community.
If you like what we do and would like to support us, please consider donating to us via PayPal or BTC.
Site designed, created, and first published by Reinis Reinholds Ruza on March 2021
This is a repository of the talks and events OPS has done in the past. To see everything contained here in a list format, please click the button on the right.
Accessing Other Dimensions on DMT
Andrew Gallimore, Chris Timmermann, Rick Strassman, 14/06/2021
Of all the psychedelics, DMT gives rise to the most extraordinary visions; those who have “broken through” on the drug have witnessed “machine elves,” super-intelligent aliens in “hyperspace,” a “never-ending fractal of infinite complexity,” God, and more. Because these visions are described as “realer than real,” some DMT users come to believe that the drug serves a tool for breaking out of “the simulation” - the artificial reality in which we spend our sober, waking lives - and entering a hidden dimension that contains ultimate reality. Is this hidden dimension real, or is it merely a hallucination? If the latter is true, then how is the brain capable of constructing an alternate universe that is so much richer and more vivid than the world as we know it? But if DMT is more than a hallucination, then what can DMT tell us about the nature of reality and our purpose within it?
Our first guest, Andrew Gallimore, is the creator of Alien Information Theory, which claims that “DMT provides the secret to exiting our Universe permanently -- to complete the cosmic game and to become interdimensional citizens of hyperspace.” He will be discussing the theory as well “DMTx,” a method that he co-invented for significantly lengthening the DMT breakthrough experience and thereby enabling a much deeper understanding of its rich phenomenology and profound therapeutic effects.
Chris Timmermann, our second speaker, has conducted pioneering research on the neurobiological effects of DMT, and he will be presenting both his findings and his trials of DMTx on human participants at Imperial College London.
Last but certainly not least, Rick Strassman, our third guest, conducted the first scientific tests of DMT on humans after the US government had banned research on hallucinogens for nearly two decades, and he recorded his results in the groundbreaking book DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Dr. Strassman will be introducing a novel philosophical framework for interpreting the effects of DMT on our imagination and on our ability to reason.
Varieties of Healing
Prof. Guy Goodwin, Hanneke Schots, Dr. Joe Tafur, 02/06/21
With growing scientific evidence for the efficacy of psychedelic drugs in treating mood disorders and shifts in regulatory attitudes, it feels as if we are on the cusp of seeing psychedelic therapies go mainstream. But how should psychedelic therapy be integrated into the Western medical practice? Who should be allowed to perform the therapies? And what can Western medicine learn from indigenous traditions which have used psychedelics for centuries to heal people?
“The Varieties of Healing" brings together Prof. Guy Goodwin from the University of Oxford, an expert in neuropsychopharmacology and the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs; Hanneke Schots from Guided Tripping, a psychodynamic therapist who uses psilocybin in her practice; and Dr. Joe Tafur, a family physician and Curandero who has helped establish an ayahuasca retreat in Peru and written about the interface between Western and Shipibo medicine in his book The Fellowship of the River to discuss the role of psychedelics in modern healthcare.
Alexander Beiner, Lars Wilde, 27/05/21
This moderated Q&A brings together Lars Wilde, President of COMPASS Pathways, and Alexander Beiner, co-director of the Breaking Conventions conference and co-founder of Rebel Wisdom.
The event focused on three main topics regarding psychedelic capitalism: 1) ethics: should psychedelic therapy be a for-profit enterprise? 2) feasibility: how will psychedelic therapy be distributed? 3) accessibility: how do ensure that people in need of psychedelic therapy receive it?
COMPASS Pathways is one of the leading for-profit psychedelic companies in the world and is currently developing psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Breaking Conventions is the largest psychedelics conference in Europe.
The Cutting Edge of Psychedelic Science
Andrés Gomez Emilsson, Carl Hayden Smith, Michael Schartner, 06/05/21
Andrés Gomez Emilsson
"Healing Trauma with Neural Annealing:
Is Annealing the Key Condition for Successful Psychedelic Psychotherapy?"
Mystical-type experiences mediate the therapeutic benefit of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (Griffiths, 2016; Ross, 2016). In this talk we will explore why this may be the case and how we might improve this effect. On the one hand we can interpret the effect of mystical-type experiences through the lens of belief and attitude change (Carhart-Harris and K. J. Friston, 2019). But beliefs that are not deeply felt are unlikely to have much of an effect. Why would mystical-type experiences in particular cause deeply felt belief changes? On the other hand, one can interpret the effect of these experiences to be healing at a low-level: they allow the reconfiguration of the microstructure of our experience in beneficial ways. The first lense suggests that these experiences change what we believe and think about, whereas the second lense suggests that the experiences change how we feel. In this talk we will unify these two lenses and argue that neural annealing (Johnson, 2019) underlies high-level changes in beliefs and attitudes as well as low-level microstructural healing of internal representations. This paradigm ties together the puzzling effects of mystical-type experiences by interpreting them as uniquely strong versions of neural annealing. We suggest that traumatic memories are indeed implemented with low-level microstructural dissonance in the internal representations (Gomez Emilsson, 2017). Not only are they about something bad, they also feel bad. In turn, neural annealing targeted towards these internal representations can heal and transform them from dissonance-producing to consonance-producing. More so, neural annealing also enhances the information propagation fidelity of the nervous system, allowing the healed representations to update the state of the rest of the nervous system. This insight, along with careful study of annealing dynamics under psychedelics, can allow us to target the annealing process in order to heal these internal representations more effectively. We conclude with empirical predictions for what to look for in order to identify the signatures of successful neural annealing under psychedelics and suggest methods to piggyback on the natural well-trodden paths of beneficial annealing (e.g. meditation, yoga, music, creativity) to optimize such experiences.
Carl Hayden Smith
"DMTX as a 21st Century Mystery School"
'This talk will focus on the prospects of being one of the first participants in the world to try DMTX (X=Extended) at Imperial College London (ICL). After being part of the DMT phase 1 and phase 2 trials (over the last 5 years) this research now moves into a whole new level of immersion. During this experiment the peak of the DMT state will be extended thanks to a continuous intravenous drip feeding of the entheogen. This arguably turns this ancient medicine into a new form of technology. Early findings of the research from Chris Timmerman (ICL) suggests that nnDMT produces the same brain signature as the dreaming state. During the extended state we may be better able to explore the hypothesis from Andrew Gallimore that nnDMT actually opens up an entirely novel, orthogonal reality.
The DMTX experiment potentially means that nnDMT could become the base layer of our subjective reality, being combined, exponentially, with everything in life. What are the implications of this? Is there a danger that the psychedelic state is being overly romanticised and that DMTX could be regarded as a new form of bio chemical VR? How will DMTX help with the integration problem? Maybe the problem of bringing our insight back from the liminal space isn't that these experiences defy verbalization, but that our languages are not yet sufficient enough to describe these experiences.
"Global states of consciousness - such as general anaesthesia or REM sleep - can be characterised by metrics of signal diversity, showing that diverse cortical activity is a hallmark of consciousness. We found that signal diversity is elevated in classical psychedelic states, possibly explained by a larger repertoire of brain states - which would be in line with reports about openness, novel associations and levelled salience of all experiences during psychedelic states. This coarse description of the brain as a dynamical system with various degrees of diversity in activity is only one dimension to characterise such global states of consciousness. Neural network models of visual perception and its pharmacological perturbation may provide a more mechanistic model, showing how the balanced integration of prior and sensory information into conscious perception is regulated by serotonin."
The Curious Tale of The Fly Agaric Mushroom
Andy Letcher, 17/02/2021
There is now considerable interest both within academia and in mainstream culture about the therapeutic and transformative potential of the so-called classical psychedelics, most especially psilocybin and the mushrooms that produce it. Amidst all this excitement, a distant fungal cousin, the Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, has gone almost unnoticed. Unmistakeable with its dramatic red and white-spotted cap, the Fly Agaric is if not exactly psychedelic then provocatively psychoactive. Its effects are capricious, ranging from visionary ecstasies through to increased stamina, optical distortions, muscle twitches and a coma like sleep. Largely shunned despite its legality in the UK, the very idea of it has nonetheless had a profound cultural impact, from its discovery by Western travellers to Siberia in the seventeenth century through to the present day. No other mushroom has generated so many myths.
In this talk, Dr Andy Letcher discusses the chemistry, effects, history and cultural impact of this strange, eldritch mushroom. He introduces and questions many of the stories that swirl and circulate about it with giddy regularity. Did Siberian shamans drink mushroom-infused reindeer piss to get high? Was Jesus a Fly Agaric mushroom? Had Lewis Carroll been chomping them when he wrote Alice in Wonderland? And is the red and white figure of Santa Claus actually a mushroom shaman bringing gifts from the Upper World with his flying reindeer?
Dr Andy Letcher has doctorates in Ecology (from the University of Oxford) and the Study of Religion (King Alfred’s College, Winchester). He is a Senior Lecturer at Schumacher College, Devon UK, where he is the Programme Lead for the MA Engaged Ecology. His research interests focus on the contemporary use of psychedelics with a particular interest in the discourses by which people frame their experiences and by which those experiences become meaningful. He is currently researching ritual and animistic usage of psychedelics by contemporary British Druids. He is the author of numerous papers on subjects as diverse as environmental protest, animism, fairies, the revival of the Heathen lyre, and the distribution of mammals across continents. He is the author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. In a quest for homegrown acoustic dance music (ADM) he plays English bagpipes and Dark Age lyre.
Coming Out Psychedelic
Julian Vayne, 21/01/2021
Plato claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living, and to examine life surely we must explore awareness itself? Over two millennia later Timothy Leary compared psychedelic drugs to the telescope in terms of their capacity to reveal hidden aspects of our minds. As psychedelic experience struggles to break free of the Drug War paradigm how can we integrate psychedelic use within our existing institutions and culture? While suitably distanced research work on psychedelics is increasingly acceptable, personal engagement with these substances often isn't. From mainstream medicine to academia and to politics - everywhere psychedelic substances are the teacher that dare not speak its name.
Join us for an evening with psychonaut, occultist and writer Julian Vayne to explore these issues. Julian was recently banned from addressing students at the University of Oxford because of his involvement with psychedelic drugs. He is the author of Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony and sits on the board of the Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Drugs at Dusk: DMT & the Near-Death Experience
Pascal Michael, 03/12/20
The breakthrough DMT experience, though brief in ‘real time’, is well-known to produce radical transformations in perception, including disembodiment, sense of translocation to otherworldly spaces and encounters with otherworldly beings. This core set of experiences is also shared with the ‘near-death’ experience (NDE), and the assumption that the soul hitches a ride on this Spirit Molecule at death thus triggering the NDE has been a lingering one since Strassman’s 2001 book.
Since this time there have been psychological and neurobiological studies in support of this hypothesis – however, alongside other significant work suggesting the NDE is a highly complex psychobiological phenomenon that certainly cannot be reduced to the singular release of this simple psychedelic indole. Akin to cross-cultural work on the near-death experience, it appears that DMT is capable only of simulating the basic structure of the NDE.
The central thrust of my qualitative analyses is to show that the specific content within the two states varies in its particular manifestation and is usually very idiosyncratic. Only infrequently are some core features ‘NDE-like’ in their presentation, and almost never is the broad NDE ‘syndrome’ evinced by DMT. There is most likely a constellation of differences, including psychological (such as context) and neurophysiological (such as neurotransmitter recruitment), to account for these phenomenological differences. As such, the facilitation of experiences with greater fidelity to the death process, for instance in the terminally ill, may make better use of other substances (such as psilocybin, as already being carried out).
While the precise neurobiology of the human experience of the NDE may only be elucidated by studies with logistical and ethical challenges (e.g. PET-imaging at the moment of death) – the reflection on two profound and life-transformative mystical experiences can afford us (though sometimes potentially contradictory) lessons on our belief-systems and behaviours in life.
Pascal received a BSc Hons (Aberdeen University) in Neuroscience and an MSc (University College London) in Clinical Mental Health Sciences. His current PhD at University of Greenwich with Dr. David Luke is ‘A comparative phenomenology of the psychedelic DMT and near-death experience’. His interests lie in the continuum of death – from the molecular to the humanistic, and from the anomalous to the transcendent – and its inevitable illumination of the nature of life.
Spinoza and Psychedelics: Eternity and Ecology
Dr. Peter Sjöstedt-H, 20/11/20
In this talk, philosopher of mind Dr Peter Sjöstedt-H will present a brief exposition of Spinoza’s metaphysics and its legacy, with an emphasis on its identification of ‘God’ with ‘Nature’, its view of the timeless eternal, and with its notion of the highest attainment of experience: ‘the intellectual love of God’ – a notion compared with certain psychedelic phenomenology.
The overview of Spinozism’s troublesome legacy will seek to reveal factors that have led us to both the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ and the ecological crisis, showing how a psychedelic resurgence may help mitigate both.
Dr Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes is a philosopher of mind and ontologist with research pertaining to panpsychism and altered states of consciousness – with a predilection for Spinoza, Whitehead, and Nietzsche. Peter is a research fellow and associate lecturer at the University of Exeter, as well as being the TEDx Talker on 'Psychedelics and Consciousness', author of Noumenautics, and inspiration to the Marvel superhero Karnak.
How Psychedelics Alter the Way We Think About Consciousness
James Cooke, 22/10/20
Throughout human history, psychedelic substances have impacted how we think about consciousness and the nature of reality. This class of substances can produce profound visionary experiences but also mystical experiences, characterised by profound changes in perspective rather than visionary content. These experiences typically point to contradictory metaphysical conclusions, however, particularly with regards to how consciousness relates to the material world. I will argue that modern neuroscience offers a perspective that validates the common metaphysical conclusions following mystical experiences while suggesting that the content of visionary experiences should not be taken as literally true. By understanding visionary experience as reflecting the deep programming of our minds, however, such experiences are in no way stripped of their meaning but are instead seen as revealing archetypal truths that exist within us, as opposed to existing outside of us.
Dr. James Cooke is a neuroscientist, writer, and speaker, whose work focuses on consciousness, with a particular interest in meditative and psychedelic states. He studied Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience at Oxford University and is passionate about exploring the relationship between science and spirituality, which he does via his writing, YouTube channel and podcast (Living Mirrors with Dr. James Cooke). He splits his time between London and the mountains of Portugal where he is building a retreat centre, The Surrender Homestead
Lockdown Psymposium #2
Jules Evans, Anna Ermakova, Tom Hatsis, 16/06/20
Jules Evans - “Spiritual Emergencies: When Trips Go Wrong and How to Deal With Them”
Author and broadcaster with books published on ecstatic and self-transcendent experiences, ayahuasca tourism, and spiritual emergencies.
Anna Ermakova - “Entheogenic Conservation”
A psychedelic scientist and board member of the Cactus Conservation Institute, currently undertaking research in the ecology and conservation of peyote.
Tom Hatsis - “A Trip Through Psychedelic History”
Psychedelic Historian and author of three books at the interface of psychedelia and magic.
DMT, Neuroscience & Beliefs
Chris Timmermann, 04/06/20
DMT is a psychedelic drug with powerful effects on human consciousness, with users reporting entering different dimensions and communicating with entities. This talk will explore the neuroscience of DMT and how psychedelics alter beliefs about the nature of reality.
Chris Timmermann is a neuroscientist and researcher at Imperial College London, where he is completing his PhD in neuropsychopharmacology, focusing on the effects of DMT in the brain and human consciousness.
Kambô: Sacred Frog of the Amazon Rainforest
Benjamin Mudge, 26/05/2020
Indigenous traditions with Kambô are believed to support physical and spiritual purification, liberation from “Panema” energy, and connection with the benevolent consciousness of an amphibian that has no predators. Kambô is applied through small holes burned into the surface of the skin. Kambô induces a strong detoxifying purge and is, therefore, a challenging process that is best received in a safely-held and compassionate setting.
This talk covers:
Traditional uses of Kambô by indigenous tribes in Brazil and PeruWhat to expect in a Kambô ceremony, and how to get the best resultsOverview of the history of Westernization of the Kambô tradition, from the first gringo encounter in Cruzeiro do Sul in Brazil, to the international proliferation of Kambô practitionersA discussion of the ideological issues and practical problems arising when an indigenous Amazonian tradition gets transplanted into a Western cityPersonal observations of working with Kambô since 2010...and more!
Benjamin Mudge is an empathic Kambô Ceremony Facilitator who has been training with Brazilians since 2010, including pajés from the Huni Kuin, Yawanawá, Katukina and Puyanawa tribes. He is also doing a PhD about ayahuasca and curated the London Psychedelic Society’s Ayahuasca Symposium.
Kerry Rowberry, Sam Gandy, Adam Knowles, 14/5/2020
Kerry Rowberry (Shamanism in the UK)
Kerry has been researching curandeirism (a traditional healing system from Latin America) in the UK, part-time since October 2011. Her research provides insight into various ayahuasca rituals, and accompanying treatments, and how they have found their way into the UK. She uses post-colonial principles, while exploring the phenomenon in terms of Deleuze and Guattari's principles of the rhizome. She founded the Psychedelic Society of Birmingham where she hosted Monthly talks and random events until the end of 2018.
Sam Gandy (the psychedelic-ecophilic connection)
Sam has a PhD in ecological science from the University of Aberdeen and an MRes in entomology from Imperial College London. He is a writer, speaker, amateur mycologist and has a lifelong love of nature and wildlife. He also has experience of working in the psychedelic field, as a past scientific assistant to the director of the Beckley Foundation, and currently as a collaborator with the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. His research is focussed on the capacity of psychedelics to (re)connect our increasingly disconnected species to nature, for the potential betterment of humanity and the biosphere at large.
Adam Knowles (Ayahuasca and Psychotherapy)
Adam is an existential psychotherapist researching the Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca and its potential to help those in the UK with insight and well-being. Undertaking a PhD on the phenomenology of ayahuasca experience at Birkbeck, Adam works with biomedical experts at King’s College London (Institute of Psychiatry), and embedded indigenous experts from the Ayahuasca Foundation in Peru.
Cannabis Use by Yogis in India
Dr. Matthew Clark, 10/03/20
In this talk Dr Matthew Clark will survey what is known about the use of cannabis in India from the earliest records until modern times. In his recent book, The Tawny One: Soma, Haoma and Ayahuasca (London/New York: Muswell Hill Press, 2017), one of the chapters was devoted to this topic. Although there are a few occasional references in the Vedas (the oldest religious texts of South Asia) to what may be cannabis, the plant does not appear in medical texts until around 1,000 years ago. The use of cannabis for recreational purposes was mainly introduced into India by radical Sufis (known variously as Qalandar, Heydari or Malang) in the 13th century. Some South Asian yogis use cannabis heavily as a form of tapas. The use of cannabis was made illegal in India in 1986, since when recreational use has declined. However, in some areas cannabis is still legal, and bhāṅg (a form of the plant prepared for oral consumption) is still widely available in north India. This talk will also look briefly at different kinds of cannabis preparations in South Asia.
Dr Matthew Clark is a Research Associate in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at SOAS (University of London). He specialises in yoga, sādhus, and the religious cultures of India. He is involved in the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies and is one of the editors of the Journal of Yoga Studies. His research in the last few years has focussed on soma/haoma, the ancient Asian ritual drink. His theory, presented in his recent book (The Tawny One: Soma, Haoma and Ayahuasca. London/New York: Muswell Hill