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Every enduring culture leans heavily on its tribal elders to nourish the younger generations with the wisdom that comes with experience. For better or for worse, the modern Western world has left many of its own traditions behind.

The baby boomers—today’s elders—were uniquely independent and did not want to carry on what many viewed as the tired, archaic cultural traditions of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Instead of walking blindly in lockstep with prior customs, they forged their own path through the 1960s and ’70s. In the process, they created what has been referred to as the counterculture.

The counterculture, however, might just as easily be called modern culture, as it spawned, among other liberations, the feminist and the civil rights movements, whose victories in the cultural arena characterize much of what is truly innovative about our modern era.

Plant Medicine’s Deep History and Tradition

Ironically, the counterculture’s attempt to escape from many of the strictures of the past was enabled by certain plant medicines, whose use in many parts of the world had a long and deep history; their use often put them in conflict with a number of our parents’ generation’s stale customs. While many of us experimented responsibly with these so-called psychedelics and sought to integrate them with sustainable alternative lifestyles in those years, there were also occasional excesses associated with them, usually stemming from their being used without concern for the context of traditional wisdom associated with their use.

President Nixon and others seized on the irresponsible actions of a few as justification for the War on Drugs—ushering in a decades-long Dark Age where information and science about these medicines were actively suppressed by the United States government and attached to significant penalties for people who were using them. Due to the stigma and legal consequences associated with this allegedly aberrant behavior, it is rare to hear eloquent firsthand accounts of psychedelic usage by mainstream individuals. Accordingly, today’s young people have been robbed of essential wisdom from their elders.

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In this book, however, prominent people in the arts and sciences reveal specific details of their courageous sub-rosa self-experimentation with psychedelics over the past several decades. My purpose in gathering these interviews has been to counter the half-century of disinformation that our country has led the world into believing about psychedelic medicines. I have interviewed dozens of distinguished professionals, contributing citizens, patriots, solid fathers and mothers, and civic leaders, who have risked their careers, their livelihoods, and their freedom, to learn about—and to learn from—these psychedelic substances.

Their combined living experience exceeds 1,500 years, with an average age of 73 years old. Their stories speak to the potential benefits and significant healing properties of these substances as medicines. Furthermore, we can glean from these responsible and informed elders how psychedelics have helped advance the arts and sciences by enhancing access to humanity’s innate creative powers. These confessions also reveal the humanity of highly educated, accomplished people who have been punished—and in some cases been deemed criminals—by a government that too often had ulterior and undemocratic motives.

War On Drugs -- War on Counterculture

In 1971 President Nixon formally declared the nation’s “War on Drugs.” In reality, this was a war against certain groups of citizens—namely, the leaders of the counterculture, people of color, and psychedelic scientists. America’s drug war policies, with roots in our puritanical alcohol prohibition period, significantly inhibited scientific research and personal experimentation, thereby depriving the citizenry of potential new medicines. Draconian laws were passed in the name of public safety.

It has been a dark period of history for a country claiming to be a beacon of light and freedom to the world. To understand the true motivation for the drug war, we need to look no further than the words of John Ehrlichman, White House counsel to President Richard Nixon: We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Nixon himself left the smoking gun of his prejudice in his own White House tape recordings. His comments would be risible were they not so despicably bigoted and serious: You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists.

My previous book, Psychedelic Medicine, covered the potential healing benefits of marijuana, for a number of physical and psychological difficulties, and of psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and Ayahuasca for many psychiatric problems like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. In that book, as well as this volume, several of the interviewees featured are, incidentally, Jewish psychiatrists—healers with a sincere desire to help their fellow human beings with whatever tools work.

Legal Narcotics and Pharmaceuticals

With powerful psychedelic, or entheogenic, therapies out of legal reach, America has long resorted to using legal narcotics like nicotine and alcohol, as well as street drugs—cocaine and heroin—plus OxyContin [a brand name of oxicodone] and a host of other legal and nonlegal opiates. These drugs are used to self-medicate and numb physical and emotional pains.

The public turned en masse to pharmaceuticals and has been given marginally effective and sometimes disruptive medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as well as extremely addictive pain medications such as OxyContin. Although it was controversial when I first remarked on it on-air twelve years ago, it is now widely recognized that the country is experiencing an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

All the while, amid the darkness and lack of information that has prevailed during the government’s War on Medicines, a small contingent of intrepid psychonauts have undertaken to heal and transform themselves through the use of illegal psychedelics, while working behind the scenes to change their legal status.

Many have focused their life’s work on reforming a broken system. People like Rick Doblin, PhD, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS); Ethan Nadelmann, PhD, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA); Rob Kampia, founder of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP); and Keith Stroup and Dale Gieringer, PhD, of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Law (NORML) have led a renewed push to fund medical research, enact legal reform, educate the public, and generate public and scientific interest in the potential health benefits of marijuana and psychedelics for healing and personal growth.

Due to the tireless efforts of these pioneers and the small army of dedicated people in their organizations, the rather benign chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, aka cannabis, broke new ground as the first legalized psychedelic substance—first as a medicine and now for recreational use in over thirty states. This rapid and widespread cultural acceptance of cannabis has ushered in a renaissance of interest in the psychedelic sciences that is resonating worldwide.

The United States, which led the way to the worldwide suppression and criminalization of psychedelic science, is now becoming a leader in scientific research of these remarkable substances. However, while there are several psychedelic science companies on the stock exchange, the majority of the public is still under the influence of President Nixon’s bigoted, paranoid War on Drugs—viewing psychedelics as useless, or even frightening, substances.

Experimenting with Psychedelics

During this fifty-year hiatus of research on psychedelics, forward thinking people were engaging in a march in the scientific desert, engaging in self-experimentation with psychedelics. It takes courage to come forward about decades of sub-rosa experimentation, but there is strength in numbers. It is my hope that the “confessions” by these eighteen thought leaders [featured in this book] can be the catalyst for hundreds of thousands of people—of all walks of life—opening up about their own experiences with psychedelics. Such a movement, especially when led by respected elders, will dramatically shift the perception of the media influencers, which, in turn, will shift the perception of the public. Their wide-ranging experiences speak for themselves. Their stories can help us understand the commonalities of the psychedelic experience, as well as the varied reactions that people can have using different substances, dosages, and contexts.

The names of a small number of world-renowned scientists recur throughout this book: Albert Hofmann, PhD; Aldous Huxley; Stan Grof, MD; Alexander Shulgin, PhD; Timothy Leary, PhD; and Richard Alpert, PhD, aka Ram Dass. While they could not be interviewed for this book due to their age or their passing from this life, these brave scientists provided a foundation through the scientific work they pursued, in spite of a climate that literally imprisoned some of them. Their perseverance reminded us that, as with the American Revolution, a small number of highly dedicated individuals can change the world. Standing on the shoulders of giants and amplifying the voices of the remaining psychedelic tribal elders, we can spark a genuine revolution in the exploration of consciousness.

Several elders faced persecution from their peers in the medical field, including “America’s Doctor” Dean Edell, and clinical psychologist and family nurse practitioner Mariavittoria Mangini. Some pioneers were even tried and went to prison for their activities, like Swiss medical doctor Friederike Meckel Fischer, and Tim Scully and Michael Randall, who manufactured and distributed LSD as founders of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.

Academicians like Thomas Roberts, PhD, and anthropologist Jerry Brown, PhD, lived quiet academic lives and suffered professional and personal isolation due to their undercover exploration of psychedelics. Author and documentarian Clif Ross healed the scars of past substance abuse with psychedelic medicines.

Clinical psychologist Allan Ajaya, PhD, continues to experiment even after completing nine hundred LSD experiences because, he says, “There is always more to learn.” The elders come from many different religious backgrounds. Through psychedelics, many discovered a stronger and more individualized sense of meaning, defining God apart from the version taught to them by their culture and conditioning, or refusing to define the Divine altogether.

Old Memories and New Research

The elders in this book have very sharp memories—recalling small details of their psychedelic journeys that might seem insignificant but which, for them, were life-changing epiphanies. Psychedelics frequently catalyze these peak experiences, which have continued to shine brightly in their minds and inform their lives. They also explore and redefine the notion of bad trips—learning what they can teach us and how the psychedelic guide can turn them into valuable experiences by transforming fear into an opportunity for growth and resilience. We learn the distinction between bad trips that lead to important learning and bad trips that are brought about by improper dosage, mental set, or physical setting.

You may find these confessions are trips in of themselves! These prominent Elders took the risk of experimenting with psychedelics. As new research expands our understanding into the healing mechanisms behind the psychedelic experience, it is my hope that this growing tribe of courageous elders will set off a cascade of curiosity and will embolden others to come out about their own personal experiences, which are themselves a valuable repository of data. If this happens, the fifty-year-long period of suppression of information is bound to come to a swift conclusion. In the words of the Beatles, “You say you want a revolution? Free your mind instead.”

Copyright ©2022. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted with permission of the publisher,
Park Street Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions Intl.

Article Source:

Psychedelic Wisdom: The Astonishing Rewards of Mind-Altering Substances
by Dr. Richard Louis Miller. Foreword by Rick Doblin.

book cover of: Psychedelic Wisdom by Dr. Richard Louis Miller. Foreword by Rick Doblin.In this profound book, Dr. Richard Louis Miller shares stories of psychedelic transformation, insight, and wisdom from his conversations with 19 scientists, doctors, therapists, and teachers, each of whom has been self-experimenting with psychedelic medicines, sub rosa, for decades.

Revealing the psychedelic wisdom uncovered in spite of decades of the “War on Drugs,” Dr. Miller and his contributors show how LSD and other psychedelics offer a pathway to creativity, healing, innovation, and liberation.

Click here for more info and/or to order this paperback book. Also available as a Kindle edition and as an Audiobook.

About the Author

photo of Dr. Richard Louis Miller, MA, PhD,Dr. Richard Louis Miller, MA, PhD, has been a clinical psychologist for more than 50 years. He is host of the syndicated talk radio show, Mind Body Health & Politics. The founder of the nationally acclaimed Cokenders Alcohol and Drug Program, he has been a faculty member at the University of Michigan and Stanford University, an advisor on the President’s Commission on Mental Health, a founding board member of the Gestalt Institute of San Francisco, and a member of the national board of directors for the Marijuana Policy Project. 

Visit his website at