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.

The devastating toll of PTSD in the armed forces and the need for healing

In a posting by veteran/psychologist Joachim Hagopian, in the Global Research newsletter, discusses the impact of untreated trauma in the armed services. I highly recommend everyone subscribe to the Canada-based subscriber-supported Global Research newsletter, which gives you truly independent news coverage and analysis unlike anything you will find in the mainstream corporatized English-language news media.

Here are some selections from his passionate and compassionate posting on PTSD in the American military:

No matter how much the US Army feebly attempts to sweep PTSD and mental illness under the rug in this latest tragic incident after a Muslim Army psychiatrist murdered thirteen servicemen at the same Army post in 2009, the commander instead focused on an alleged verbal altercation that spontaneously erupted just prior to the shooting. This is just another lame false excuse denying the epidemic of mental illness so rampantly out of control in the US military today…

More died from suicide in 2012 than fighting in Afghanistan. Once they return home and become civilians they are killing themselves at a rate three times that of military active duty personnel. The Veterans Administration (VA) reported that the suicide rate of veterans aged 18-29 jumped up by 44% in just two years from 2009 to 2011, suggesting that the longer soldiers experience the trauma of war, the more suicidal they become. Veterans are also twice as likely as the civilian population to commit suicide. The suicide rate of soldiers on active duty in just one year from 2011 to 2012 rose 16%…

It seems that the US military and VA are remiss then in not being proactive enough if so many are dying never having sought help. Programs logically should already be in place the moment a soldier returns from combat and continue after care once a civilian. Clearly just as the government failed to foresee the costly quagmires of its incompetent and disastrous war policies, the government is also guilty of not foreseeing the pressing need and demand to properly care for so many damaged soldiers that have been fighting for years at a time with virtually no break. Humans are ill equipped for adjusting to the insanity of war…

Rather than take any responsibility for causing so many needless deaths, official spin of propaganda customarily diverts focus to touting exclusively how patriotic and courageous American soldiers pay the ultimate sacrifice for their nation so that those living here at home can enjoy the freedom of democracy. Of course many Americans in uniform do display remarkable courage. But since 9/11 while they have been fighting and dying as unwanted imperialistic occupiers creating a wasteland of death and destruction on foreign soils, by a series of unconstitutional presidential executive orders and oppressive legislation, American civil liberties and freedoms have been virtually eliminated, stolen from US citizens along with over four billion of their taxpaying dollars to immorally finance two devastating war defeats. While corporations make record profits every year and pay virtually zero in taxes, and the super-rich get richer as war profiteers, the middle class has been decimated and the unjust disparity between the rich and the poor only grows exponentially like never before in the United States…

War’s damaging effects are not going away any time too soon. The overstretched American Empire agenda has pushed soldiers beyond their limit with multiple combat tours that repeatedly expose servicemen and women to unspeakable horrors that only they can know and bear. The trauma of suddenly seeing one’s buddies bleeding to death, blood gushing as they lay dying in their arms, helplessly watching the sacred thread of life fast slipping away, body parts strewn about… these horrific images, sounds and associated emotions never go away…

Subsequent to traumatic injury is a numbing desensitization process that fragments, compartmentalizes, and attempts to manage, control and most often bury the traumatic memories. This automatic defense mechanism operating through denial, repression, projection, and the least harmful sublimation allows PTSD victims to minimally function, but leaves them feeling empty, all too often missing and craving the adrenalin rush and camaraderie of combat, and merely going through the motions of life forever changed never for the better. The inescapable presence of traumatic memories and flashbacks are frequently triggered years and even decades after the traumatic events by thoughts, words evoked by others, sounds, emotions, internal imagery and/or visions and nightmares can all become sudden, intrusive symptomatic reminders of the painful past that cause veterans to relive their traumas…

Turning to veterans’ severe condition upon their return as combat trauma victims, typically they attempt to self-medicate their anxiety, depression and post-traumatic symptoms with alcohol and prescription and/or street drugs. Prescription drug abuse doubled amongst the military during the years 2002 to 2005 and nearly tripled from 2005 and 2008, again highly correlating with years of continued combat experience. Returning soldiers three or four months back in the States demonstrated that 27% were assessed and diagnosed with alcohol abuse. In the same study, mental illness (i.e., depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD) afflicted 42% of returning reservists and 20% of the active duty personnel…

As much effort a PTSD sufferer inflicted with such deep wounds may make trying to control the effects of combat, the memories are virtually never forgotten and at best only fade over time. Memories and associated negative emotions are repeatedly reactivated, abruptly bringing on anxiety, high impulsivity, severe depressed moods, confusion, impaired judgment, potential violence, alcohol/drug abuse, possible psychosis, suicidality, and in rare but increasing cases as at Fort Hood, homicidality…

Prescribed treatment through intensive individual as well as group therapy is essential. Reliving the trauma through talk therapy within the safety and care of a therapeutic setting facilitated by qualified mental health professionals provide necessary containment and support for the healing process to unfold. The capacity of traumatized individuals to express their painful experiences and accompanying emotions through a variety of treatment modalities is key always within a safe environment to produce effective, positive therapeutic outcomes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is utilized to assist the client in gaining self-insight and cognitive coping skills designed to modify and change faulty, self-destructive, irrational and negative thought patterns. By changing one’s thoughts and perceptions, replacing them with more positive, realistic thoughts and affirmations through self-talk, PTSD victims can learn to regulate their feelings and emotions that naturally follow and flow from their line of thinking, and thus begin to view themselves differently, not so much as trauma victims but empowered survivors who can ultimately learn to thrive given optimal treatment and support…

 

While Hagopian eloquently describes the devastation of PTSD in the military, and the increasing need for effective treatment, he does not seem to be aware of the new research demonstrating the amazing promise of MDMA-supported therapy for those suffering from PTSD, whether incurred in military or civilian settings. The use of MDMA (colloquially known in underground circles as “Ecstasy”) in the self-treatment of trauma has long been recognized in the underground and severalexamples of cases were reported in the book first published in the 1980s – Through the Gateway of the Heart – which has now come out in a new edition, edited by Ralph Metzner with Padma Catell. The psychopharmacological effect of MDMA appears to be a marked attenuation of the adrenal traumatic stress reactions, combined with an ease of self-expression and unconditional self-regard and self-esteem. There are no “visions” as with other mind-expanding drugs In Yoga terminology one could say it is an effortless opening of the heart-center. In psychological terms, the substance seems to naturally induce empathy for self and for others – hence the term empathogenic.For all these reasons I’m one of the therapists who came to the conclusion that this is in many ways the ideal treatment for trauma.

Because of the perverse and socially malignant drug laws, this most valuable of medicines is not available to those who could most benefit from it and to physicians who want to research it. It is of course available in virtually unlimited quantities in the countercultural underground – but often of dubious quality. And skillful guidance in its use can only be had, if at all, by cautious searching in the underground drug culture.

The MAPS organization completed a preliminary study of the use of MDMA in the treatment of female rape and abuse victims and has now engaged in a more extended study in the use of MDMA in the treatment of traumatized vets.

http://www.maps.org/research/ mdma/mdma_ptsd_u.s._study_veterans_of_war/

This study is well worth supporting – and it is also important that we work toward a revision of the American medieval drug prohibition system – so that new medicines that are found to be useful in application can be accelerated into treatment trials, while the basic research is still continuing. We should remind ourselves that the primary aim of medicine is healing, while the aims of science are to test and prove connections and correlations – but this aim should not hold up the needed healing possibilities.

Liberating A Drowning Whale

Liberating a drowning whale. This is an amazing 8-minute video of young humpback whale being freed from a huge tangle of fishing netting that was about to drown him. After a couple of boaters from the Great Whale Conservancy came upon this whale, they used small penknives to cut through the huge tangles mass of netting. When they had finally freed him, the whale swam off a quarter mile and treated his rescuers to a spectacular series of twenty or thirty leaps into the air.

 

 

How Wolves Change Rivers

How wolves change rivers is a beautiful 5 minute film, narrated by George Monbiot, on the complex ecological role –a so-called “trophic cascade” – played by wolves, as this was demonstrated when they were re-introduced in Yellowstone National Park.

 

More details about my new book: The Toad and the Jaguar

Here’s a description of my latest book The Toad and the Jaguar, A Field Report of Underground Research on a Visionary Medicine, Bufo alvarius and 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine:

In this monograph, I relate findings from more than 30 years of experiences and observations with this substance, in various user groups and individuals, both in the US and in Europe. I use the term underground in referring to the explorations with these substances, in the sense that they were hidden – out of respect for the restrictions and prohibitions of mainstream culture.

5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine is found naturally, along with its better known chemical relative DMT, as well as other indole alkaloids, in snuff preparations used by several Amazonian Indian tribes.  It produces an out-of-body, dissociated state, which shamans use ritualistically to connect with positive, life-supporting spirits for healing and divination. It is also found naturally occurring in the defensive venom produced by the Sonora Desert toad, Bufo alvarius, which is non-toxic when smoked.

What I am reporting here are ethnographic field reports:  first-hand observations from an underground sub-culture, accompanied by the experiences of a selected number of participant-observers. It is important to recognize that in research with these and other so-called psychedelic or entheogenic substances, one cannot limit the observations and reflections solely to their physical and psychological effects. As most of the people cited here emphasize,  the experiences they’ve had with these substances at times can go far beyond their physical and psychological effects into the deepest and highest dimensions of our existence, both the cosmic and  the spiritual.

I believe the descriptions and commentaries on this powerful medicine make it clear that this is an area of research on healing that, if pursued earnestly and carefully, could yield results of enormous benefit and potential applications in the alleviation of physical, mental and psychosomatic illnesses and distress.

It is also important to remember that, as with other so-called entheogenic medicines, the substances do not create the spiritual, mystical and cosmic dimensions of existence, but reveal them.

Solar panels on the church roof.

In the blog cited in the previous post (by citisvenFollow for DK GreenRoots), the author also gives examples of some other religious professionals who have come out in favor of a green economy. For example,

Pastor Peter Hasenbrink, whose church in Schönau Germany has 431 solar modules on its rooftops, generating more than 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, enough for eight churches of its size.

Follow me below the fold for a few statements from my interview with Pastor Hasenbrink about tying Christian theology into environmental action. Lutherans in Germany have long been on board with the Energiewende, but their Catholic brothers and sisters are starting to get into it too. So this is some of the “theosolar” language Francis could use.

“God has put a lot of love into this creation,” Hasenbrink says, explaining what he considers the natural affinity between faith and environmental stewardship. “When you look around, you can only be in awe of how well-conceived everything is, and we humans are called upon to not only be beneficiaries but to intelligently and responsibly sustain this creation.”

In his sermons, Hasenbrink would point to the importance of combining inner and outer work, citing St. Paul’s letters in Romans 8—“For the creation is eagerly awaiting the revelation of God’s children”—as a call to action for us caretakers to relieve the strain on the earth, to signal our participation, and to move toward salvation…

The name “Creation Windows” was a cinch. “We thought, wouldn’t it be a great metaphor of what a church should be doing anyway, transforming the power of God into energy for our daily life? Just as electricity is a symbol of light and power, faith is a symbol of the power that God gives us to have hope and trust in humanity, to help each other and to co-create.”

With Germany’s recent decision to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 and switch to 100 percent renewables by 2050, the small church community suddenly finds itself at the cutting edge of a new energy age. Together with EWS, the Schönau energy rebels’ cooperative, which today employs more than 50 people, provides renewable power to 115,000 homes and businesses throughout Germany, and earned Sladek the Goldman Prize. They are leading the way in a shift of both policy and consciousness that few could have imagined just a decade ago. “If we wait until powerful leaders start to do good, the train will long have left the station,” Hasenbrink says. “You have to start wherever you’re at, but if it’s many of us, then one drop will turn into a big lake. And that’s what happened here.”

Another story of how Pope Francis is living up to the principles exemplified by his illustrious 13th century namesake, appeared in an Associated Press story dated Nov 27th, 2013. Pope Francis urges finance reforms to aid world’s poor  was the headline. This refers to a document entitled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), in which he lays out a shift of the church’s emphasis from from a focus on doctrine to one of joyful welcome for all. His statement of priorities refer back to his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, who presided over the Second Vatican Council. Consistently with his denunciation of fracking, cited above, Pope Francis denounced trickle-down economic theories as unproven and naïve, based on a “survival of the fittest” mentality, “where the powerful feed upon the powerless” with no regard for ethics, the environment or even God.  “Money must serve, not rule!” he said in calling for political leaders to reform the system. “The Pope is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, protect and promote the poor.” While still adhering to the Church’s opposition to abortion, he stated that there is a hierarch of truths, in which mercy is paramount, proportion is necessary and what counts is that all are invited. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”  Truly, this homily of the Pope could apply to everyone… rich or poor, catholic, protestant or atheist.

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I suspect that this Pope is moving,  slowly and gradually, to awaken the Church to 20th century realities. If his luck and his strength holds, he may eventually be able to dismantle or at least relax a little its opposition to birth control including abortion – which would be a blessing for humanity and this overcrowded planet.

Pope Francis comes out against fracking, for the protection of all life and the poor

(article by citisvenFollow for DK GreenRoots)

 Pope Francis holding up anti-fracking t-shirts following a meeting with a group of Argentinian environmental activists to discuss water and fracking issues. The shirts read “No To Fracking” and “Water Is More Precious Than Gold.”

No fracking, says Pope.

Pope Francis holding up anti-fracking t-shirts following a meeting with a group of Argentinian environmental activists to discuss water and fracking issues. The shirts read “No To Fracking” and “Water Is More Precious Than Gold.”

This week Pope Francis met with Argentine filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas (La Guerra del Fracking — The Fracking War) and environmental activist Juan Pablo Olsson at the Vatican to discuss fracking and water pollution. Olsson posted the photo of himself, Solanas and Pope Francis.

Finally, a logical pope. If your belief tells you that God gave us the Earth to be stewards of, then injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground to fracture massive rocks for their extra oil and gas and in the process threatening the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend, seems like a really bad idea.

For a pope who has demonstrated that he is able and willing to connect some serious dots by coming out against poverty, inequality, and bigotry, stepping into the environmental arena is the next logical move. After all, it is the poor and underprivileged who have not only been taking the brunt of industrial pollution and environmental degradation that comes with the fossil fueled life but are also at the forefront of suffering the consequences of climate change. He reportedly told the group he “is preparing an encyclical about nature, humans, and environmental pollution.” Francis is actually living up to his name as the patron saint of the poor.  St. Francis was named the patron saint of ecology by John Paul II in 1979, because of his theological connection to poverty.

“It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of ‘fraternity’ with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created,” Pope John Paul II later explained. “And may he remind us of our serious obligation to respect and watch over them with care, in light of that greater and higher fraternity that exists within the human family.”

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