Paul Lee at Tedx Santa Cruz: Thymos, The Thymus Gland, and Thyme

The Greeks had a word for it – thymos!: Paul Lee at TEDxSantaCruz

This is a 20 minute video of my friend Paul Lee giving a TED talk on Thumos, the thymus gland, and the herb thyme.

Paul Lee is a retired philosophy professor from UC Santa Cruz who has made a lifelong study of the Greek concept of “Thymos,” which means “courage to be,” the Thymus Gland, which is a part of our immune system, building up our immune system in response to stress, and the herb thyme, which is a mildly uplifiting culinary herb that boosts your immune system and promotes well being. Listening to Paul Lee’s talk about courage and Thumos will help you learn about this vital force to which we all have access.

 

My Essay Honoring Sasha Shulgin: MDMA, Empathy and Ecstasy

Here’s MDMA, Empathy and Ecstasy, my essay for the upcoming Commemorative Edition of PIHKAL and TIHKAL, due out in fall of 2014. Printed with permission by Joshua Marker, Editor.

From the essay:

The research with psychedelic drugs carried out during the 1960′s by the Harvard group around Leary, Alpert, myself and others, led to the hypothesis, now widely accepted by all researchers in the field,  that psychedelics (hallucinogens, entheogens) are nonspecific awareness amplifiers. Unlike all other mood- or mind-altering drugs, including stimulants, depressants, tranquilizers and opiates, the actual content of a psychedelic experience can only be understood and/or explained by considering the “set” (intention, preparation, attitude, and personality) and the “setting” (physical and social context, presence and attitude of others , such as friend, guide or therapist). The actual drug (whether synthesized chemical, or plant or fungal preparation) functions as a kind of catalyst for perceptual and mental changes that can lead to insight, healing,
learning, visions and delight – or confusion, anxiety, paranoia, delusion and depression.

Impeccable scientist that he is,  Alexander Shulgin understood this immediately after his first self-experiment with mescaline and incorporated that understanding into his two monumental contributions to the scientific study of consciousness, PIHKAL and TIHKAL. Recognizing that animal studies of new pharmaceuticals provide zero useful information of their action in humans, he opted instead for the time-honored method of self-experimentation. In the introduction to PIHKAL, he wrote “psychedelic drugs provide access to the parts of us which have answers. They can, but again, they need not and probably will not, unless that is the purpose for which they are being used.” He forcefully states the case against doing so-called “double-blind” studies, which in the case of psychoactive drugs, where the effects can only be observed in one’s own sensorium and state of consciousness,  “verges upon the unethical.”

Selected Clips From Russian Video Interview

These are selections from an interview for Russian Television recorded in Sonoma, California, in Fall 2013.

russian blog pic

Ways to incorporate what you learn during your “trip” into everyday life:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjT0NYhS-ek&feature=youtu.be#t=5m30s

How it’s time to reconsider reincarnation, and the likelihood of there being some form of being that exists after the death of our physical bodies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjT0NYhS-ek&feature=youtu.be#t=12m08s

The 1960′s – birth of the ecology movement (“Silent Spring”), Women’s Equality movement and anti-war movements, civil rights movements and the hidden role of psychedelics:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjT0NYhS-ek&feature=youtu.be#t=3m13s

New research on the potential benefits of psychedelics in the treatment of PTSD, accepting a terminal illness, alcoholism, and others:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjT0NYhS-ek&feature=youtu.be#t=11m01s

Changes of world view in the 1960s and how war is basically the breakdown of civilization:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjT0NYhS-ek&feature=youtu.be#t=16m51s

Learning to navigate states of consciousness for learning, healing and resolving conflict and interpersonal conflict:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjT0NYhS-ek&feature=youtu.be#t=19m31s

Expanded States of Consciousness – with or without drugs:
http://youtu.be/1oh60-lp-RU?t=6m28s

Fight or Flight and Toxic Responses and the importance of Set and Setting:
http://youtu.be/1oh60-lp-RU?t=10m37s

Ayahuasca, Spirits and Multidimensionality:
http://youtu.be/1oh60-lp-RU?t=15m18s

Politics, Society and Community:
http://youtu.be/1oh60-lp-RU?t=16m47s

“Omens For Our Planetary Future” – from “Spirit Soundings” CD:
http://youtu.be/1oh60-lp-RU?t=20m48s

spiritsoundingslg

The Railway Man – A true film of war, torture, healing, love and redemption

railwaymanThe Railway Man is a 2013 British-Australian film directed by Jonathan Teplitsky. It is an adaptation of the best selling autobiography of the same name by Eric Lomax.

The story concerns the British officer Lomax (played by Colin Firth), who seeks to heal his long-suppressed war-trauma from twenty years earlier, assisted by his new love (played by Nicole Kidman) and his best friend. During World War II both men had been captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp, forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway in the Malaysian peninsula.

During his imprisonment Lomax had built a radio and was brutally tortured by the Japanese, leaving him with PTSD which threatens to derail his new marriage. Supported by his new wife and best friend, Lomax decides to return to Burma to confront his war-time enemy and torturer and exorcise the trauma demons from his psyche.

I appreciated this film/story’s truthfulness and authenticity in many respects. While it does show the emotional and personal trauma of war-violence – it does not dwell on them more than the minimum necessary for the story (unlike the films of Quentin Tarantino and many war-movies). It shows the psychological truth that to really heal the effects of PTSD, rather than just cover them over, the empathic trust and love of a friend or partner is essential.

In the film, it is Lomax’s new wife who plays that role. His fellow-veteran from the war, who has no one he can trust, hangs himself.  In therapy situations that are successful, it may be the therapist can play that role. The empathy needs to be genuine – it can’t just be pretended – and for torture situations that’s really difficult. I also appreciated that the film and Lomax’s story do not use his confrontation with the Japanese officer who tortured him for revenge or pay-back, which would simply continue the karmic chain, but for truth-telling with sincere remorse.

This reminded me of the truth-and-reconciliation rituals developed in South Africa and other places; and of the movements, in the US and elsewhere, where families who have lost loved ones to murder, step out of the cycle of “an eye for an eye”, and seek to connect with the perpetrators, opposing the death penalty for all capital cases. See the film – you won’t regret it.

William Blake’s Visionary Poems Sung as American “Roots” Music

This CD  – Martha Redbone Roots Project – The Garden of Love –  is an enchanting  revelation, matching Blake’s visionary poetry with a contemporary folk-blues interpretation. From a review by Jonathan Widran:

Martha_Redbone  “A truly hypnotic and eloquent roots Americana exploration, The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake beautifully and unexpectedly matches two powerful voices, two centuries, continents, and cultures apart. The mastermind is Martha Redbone, an Independent Music Award winner, renowned for blending Native American vibes from her Cherokee and Choctaw background with R&B grooves, blues, and dashes of Appalachian folk.

Her muse is the compelling poetry of English poet William Blake, who died in 1827. One of the fullest expressions of her stark and powerful, stripped-down aesthetic, Redbone — working with producer John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — pits her vocal incantations and harmonic textures against a swampy ambient acoustic guitar background on the title track.

Her vocal modulation is interesting, as tunes like “Hear the Voice of the Bard” and the rollicking “I Rose Up at the Dawn of Day” feature urgent gospel-influenced shout-outs, while others like the lyrical, swaying singalong “How Sweet I Roamed” and the easy-rolling “A Dream” and sparsely eloquent “Sleep Sleep Beauty Bright” feature a sweeter, more romantic approach. Appropriate for its subject matter, “I Heard an Angel Singing” is a haunting, ethereal piece with chamber music instrumentation.”

A Scholar of Religion Looks At California Psychedelic History

This is a most interesting paper/presentation on the “California Religion of Psychedelia, 1960-1972″ by Professor Josef Chytry, who teaches at the University of California Berkeley and is a senior adjunct professor in critical studies at the California College of the Arts.

This paper was presented at the Religion in California Conference, UC Berkeley, April 2014:

From Castalia to Mowie Wowie

By Josef Chytry

One of the more provocative features of the decade of the 1960s (the so-called ‘”Sixties”) was the rise of the phenomenon of a “psychedelic culture,” often interconnected with the concept of a “counterculture” yet distinguishable from it.  An important aspect of such a psychedelic culture was its claims of helping to initiate a new religion or religiosity inseparable from the luminous experiences presumably granted by the effects of a host of psychedelic potions, including mescalin, psilosybin and particularly LSD…

This paper takes a look at such an ambition by focusing on some of the texts that played a key role in its development during the earlier stages.  The first set of texts covers the history of the idea of an alternative culture, (such as) … Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s account of a “pedagogical province” in Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years, Hermann Hesse’s vision of a future community called Castalia in The Glass Bead Game…

The second set of texts includes contemporary writings by such intellectuals as Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts during the 1950s and early 1960s that developed such themes and sometimes even envisaged possible “psychedelic” utopias such as Huxley’s Island. The final set of texts covers traditional ”sacred” writings that were seen as invaluable guides of what might emerge as the facets of a psychedelic religion.  Such texts included the Chinese I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te King, the Hindu Bhagavat Gita, and the Christian New Testament.

 

 

 

New Video Available: Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychedelic Medicines

Neurons to Nirvana (DVD)(DVD) Directed by Oliver Hockenhull. Featuring interviews with: Wade Davis, Rick Doblin, Julie Holland, Gabor Mate, Dennis J. McKenna, Ralph Metzner, Jeremy Narby and others.

(Get the DVD – $25)

Through interviews with the world’s foremost researchers, writers, psychologists and pioneers in psychedelic psychotherapy, Neurons to Nirvana explores the history of five powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) and their now established medicinal potential.

Strictly focusing on the science and medicinal properties of these drugs, Neurons to
Nirvana looks into why our society has created such a social and political bias against even allowing research to continue the exploration of any possible positive effects they can present in treating some of today’s most challenging afflictions.

For the first time in two generations, the use of these drugs is not being presented as harmful or as self-indulgent, but as a rational and valuable addition to therapeutic practice. Several well-respected researchers, are conducting clinical trials to treat a range of afflictions: PTSD, addictions, and the psychological stresses suffered by late-stage terminal cancer patients. The initial results of all these studies are remarkable.

The story extends beyond these trials however. Clients of licensed therapists are using psychedelics not as escape routes or addictive crutches, but in a quest for transformation, mental health, creativity, intellectual and spiritual enhancement, and insight.

Neurons to Nirvana explores the promise of these brave new advances in psychopharmacology and neuroscience, guiding the viewer in a thought-provoking journey, led by those determined to hold open the doors of perception.

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