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Dennis McKenna Book Launch Event

Dennis McKenna Book Launch Event


Dennis McKenna Book Launch in Collaboration with City Lights Booksellers 

Join City Lights in conjunction with Synergetic Press for a free, virtual book launch event celebrating the release of the second edition of ethnobotanist, author, and psychedelic advocate, Dennis McKenna’s The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terence McKenna.

Dennis will be joined in conversation by psychedelic investigator Mariavittoria Mangini, PhD, astrobiologist Bruce Damer, PhD, and anthropologist Luis Eduardo Luna. Moderated by Jasmine Virdi, this intimate dialogue will unravel stories of the McKenna brothers’ adventures into non-ordinary states of consciousness and beyond, reflecting upon how such explorations are interwoven with today’s rapidly growing psychedelic movement in the West.

The book presents an autobiographical account of renowned ethnobotanist Dennis McKenna. He shares his reflections on psychedelics, philosophy, scientific innovation and his relationship with his brother, Terence McKenna, one of the single-most influential people in modern psychedelic culture, known as the “Timothy Leary of the 90’s”.

Register for free here

About the Panelists

Dennis McKenna is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer, author and younger brother of Terence McKenna. Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and natural hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two indigenous Amazonian psychedelic medicines. He completed postdoctoral studies at the Helicon Foundation in San Diego (1984-86), the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology at NIMH (1986-88) and the Department of Neurology at Stanford University (1988-1990). He worked at Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology from 1990-93, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist.

Dr. McKenna taught courses in Ethnopharmacology, Botanical Medicines and Plants in Human Affairs in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota from 2001 to 2017. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used as a sacrament by the UDV, a syncretic religious group in Brazil. From 2004 to 2008, he was the Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits. In 2017, with the collaboration of many colleagues, he organized and presented a landmark symposium, the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 years of Research. The conference commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original conference held in San Francisco in 1967. Synergetic Press published a limited edition of the Proceedings of both the 1967 and 2017 symposia as a double volume set in 2018. In the spring of 2019, in collaboration with colleagues in Canada and the U.S., he incorporated a new non-profit, the McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy – A 21st Century Mystery School, He emigrated to Canada in the spring of 2019 together with his wife Sheila, and now resides in Abbotsford, B.C.

Mariavittoria Mangini, PhD, FNP has written extensively on the impact of psychedelic experiences in shaping the lives of her contemporaries, and has worked closely with many of the most distinguished investigators in this field. She is a founder of the Women’s Visionary Council, a nonprofit organization that supports investigations into non-ordinary forms of consciousness and organizes gatherings of researchers, healers, artists, and activists whose work explores these states. Her long history with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic includes having been a barefoot patient, a lead clinician in the medical section, and the chair of the Board of Directors – all in the same lifetime. She has been a Family Nurse Midwife for 35 years, and was in primary care practice with Frank Lucido MD, one of the pioneers of the medical cannabis movement, for 25 years. Their practice was one of the first to implement the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the first state medical cannabis initiative. She is Professor Emerita of Nursing at Holy Names University in Oakland. Her current project is the development of a Thanatology program for the study of death and dying.

Luis Eduardo Luna has a PhD from the Department of Comparative Religion Stockholm University (1989) and was named 2002 Doctor of Humane Letters by St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. He retired in 2011 from the Department of Modern Language and Communication at the Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki. He was an Assistant Professor in Anthropology (1994-1998) at the Department of Anthropology of Santa Catarina Federal University (UFSC) in Florianópolis, Brazil. Dr. Luna is the author of Vegetalismo: Shamanism among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon (1986), a co-author with Pablo Amaringo of Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman (1991), and co-author with Slawek Wojtowicz, Rick Strassman and Ede Frecska of Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys Through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies (2008). He is also a co-editor with Steven White of Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine (2000, expanded second edition with Synergetic Press in 2016). Dr. Luna has been a curator of art exhibits in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. He is the Director of Wasiwaska, Research Center for the Study of Psychointegrator Plants, Visionary Art and Consciousness, Florianópolis, Brazil.

Bruce Damer, PhD, is Canadian-American multidisciplinary scientist, designer, and author. Dr. Damer collaborates with colleagues developing and testing a new model for the origin of life on Earth and in the design of spacecraft architectures to provide a viable path for expansion of human civilization beyond the Earth. He began his career in the 1980s developing some of the earliest user interfaces for personal computers, led a community in the 1990s bringing the first multi-user virtual worlds to the Internet, and since 2000 supported NASA and the space industry on numerous simulations and spacecraft designs. He has spent 25 years chronicling the history of computing in his DigiBarn Computer Museum and curates archives of counterculture figures such as Dr. Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna and others. He currently serves as Principal Scientist at DigitalSpace; Associate Researcher in the Department of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz; Associate of the NASA Astrobiology Center; Member of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, and Founding Director of the Contact Consortium. He also served as Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington and as a member of the Faculty at Charles University, Prague. He received his PhD from University College, Dublin; MSEE from the University of Southern California and BSc from the University of Victoria.

Jasmine Virdi, MA, is a writer, educator, poet, and activist based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Her work focuses on psychedelics, spirituality, and ecology and has been featured in DoubleBlind Magazine, Open Democracy, Psychedelics Today, Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, Psychedelic Press, and Lucid News. Jasmine is currently pursuing an MSc in Transpersonal Psychology and is in training to work as a psychedelic integration practitioner. Since 2018, she has collaborated with the independent publisher Synergetic Press, where her passions for ethnobotany, consciousness, and regeneration converge. Additionally, she volunteers for Fireside Project’s psychedelic peer-support line, aligned with their mission to provide compassionate, accessible, and culturally responsive support to all. Often breaking away into the wilderness, Jasmine can be found wherever there are birds singing.

This event was made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation.

Celebrating Ann Shulgin’s Legacy in Community

Celebrating Ann Shulgin’s Legacy in Community

A few of us at Synergetic Press recently attended an intimate community gathering held at the Shulgin Farm in Lafayette, California, celebrating the life and legacy of Ann Shulgin.

The Farm is an electric place that rambles up and down and lets you be, deeply. When we rolled up the hill to the “Last Gathering” after Ann’s passing, her wit and curiosity and gusto for living were present, scattered among her friends and long admirers in a constellation. You could catch someone wiping the juice of a homemade pickle or a crumb of almond cake from their lips without breaking meaningful eye contact with their companion. This place, that made so much wild history, remains approachable for Ann and Sasha’s love of the people.

These are the grounds of so much psychedelic invention and inner exploration, where Ann wrote extensively about the shades of emotion that vex us, elevate us, and teach us. This permission to face ourselves and each other permeated the gathering, which was full of ease and recognition. At the top of the hill, Ann’s daughter Wendy had placed a collection of Ann’s objects—bark art and painted ceramics and a whole table of fine perfume—offering them up to remember her. As I stood by, holding a small mauve butter dish in a Scandinavian style, I watched a man I’d just met lift a bottle of perfume to his nose, nod approvingly, and place it in his satchel. “For my wife,” he said, bringing Ann’s presence into an ever wider circle of wordless reverberation.

Doug Reil, Synergetic Press Associate Publisher & Managing Director, Sandy Balin, Sales And Publishing Operations Director, and Noelle Armstrong, Acquisitions and Senior Project Editor, in Sasha Shulgin’s Lab. Sales And Publishing Operations Director

Integrating Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness through Art

Integrating Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness through Art

​​I was both surprised and delighted when the editors of Psychedelic Integration: Psychotherapy for Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness by Marc Aixalà selected my mandala, ‘The Goose Boy’, to be on the cover of the book. It takes me right back to the place where I first met Marc over 10 years ago.

We were at Sant Feliu de Guixol in Spain, in a large hotel ballroom overlooking the ocean on all three sides. Half the room was breathing deeply with their eyes closed: turning their limbs this way and that, some chanting, some shaking, some laughing or crying. The other half were supporting them with completely focused, compassionate attention.

In this unique setting, we were collectively engaged in deep inner work at a Holotropic Breathwork residential training for facilitators. On many occasions, however, when I looked out across that room, I was reminded of accounts of the Greek mystery ceremonies where many multitudes would come together to commune collectively with the gods. There was something profoundly awe-inspiring and moving about the work that seemed both unique and centuries old at the same time.

The Story Behind the Cover 

The Goose Boy

The mandala on the cover image of Psychedelic Integration is effectively a polaroid snapshot of my psyche during one of those heart-opening Holotropic Breathwork experiences. It’s one of several mandalas featured in the book which highlight moments from my own three-decade inner journey through non-ordinary states of consciousness.

In this particular image, I ‘dream’ that I experience myself as a child being born, poised on the edge of a moment between both life and death, where it feels like time stands still and the mirror of my own self-image is shattering.

I experienced similar emotions in my twenties when I mistakenly thought I was enlightened and traveled barefoot as a guru, but I’d never really come to terms with the context of them fully. In the breathwork, these biographical elements are interwoven with stories of my ancestors, my unborn twin, and the collective heritage of myths and folktales that we all share.

I find myself shrinking (image 1) until I am tiny, barely large enough to fit in the stomach of a goose.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

In this protected place, I am called to be a witness to the felling of the Great World Tree, whose roots extend out beyond the other side of the planet like a pot-bound seedling (2). Each person in the room is a cutting from the main trunk (3), becoming their own tree. The branches make logs on the fire for storytellers’ gatherings, and the birds of the air take twigs to the four corners of the world to make nests for their own offspring (4).

In parallel, the whole drama takes place inside the womb-like belly of a snake (5). Some snakes are able to open their jaws extra wide to swallow wild animals whole in a series of hungry gulps, like a time-reversed birth sequence. It can then take them many months to digest what they have absorbed into themselves in the course of an hour or so.

Expanding the Circle

These are all wonderful metaphors for the process of integrating experiences in expanded states of consciousness, of course, both in oneself and in the wider culture. It takes me many months, sometimes years, to compose and create a mandala like this, making sure that I have exactly the right images, arranged in the right relationship with each other. I treat the process of making mandala images as a kind of sacred practice, honoring their wild nature and psychic ambiguity to the best of my ability. The aim is to capture a moment where multiple stories intersect in a way that might otherwise be almost impossible to put into words.

Professionally, I work as a senior support worker with a mental health homeless team, putting my own experience of having been barefoot on the streets of many of the UK’s inner cities to good use. Remembering what it felt like to be existentially adrift as a young man, overwhelmed by experiences that were sometimes too large or difficult to communicate to other people, is absolutely key to this work. Without him, I would neither be me nor capable of supporting others to be themselves either.

And that is kind of what this book is about too. For all these reasons, I’m proud to be a small part of it and to feel that I can contribute to the ever-expanding community of practitioners working with non-ordinary states of consciousness by sharing a little of what I have learned and experienced.



Jerry Mander and Friends

Jerry Mander and Friends

City Lights and Synergetic Press celebrate the publication of Jerry Mander’s 70 Ads to Save the World: An Illustrated Memoir of Social Change.

Moderated by Julie Lindow with appearances by Tom Butler, Annie Leonard, Carrie Pilto, Meenakshi Raman, and a video presentation by Vandana Shiva. 

Register here

Jerry Mander is the founder, former director, and distinguished fellow of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), a San Francisco-based think tank focused on exposing the negative impacts of economic globalization, and the need for economic transitions toward sustainable local economies. In addition to his role at IFG, Mander is the former program director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology, and founder and director of the Public Media Center. In the 1960s Mander served as president of a major San Francisco advertising company before turning his talents to environmental campaigns that kept dams out of the Grand Canyon, established Redwood National Park, and stopped production of the Supersonic Transport. His has authored, edited and co-edited many books including The Capitalism Papers; Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System (2013), Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1977), In the Absence of the Sacred (1991), The Case Against the Global Economy with Edward Goldsmith (1996), Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible (2004), Paradigm Wars, Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Globalization, and 70 Ads to Save the World: An Illustrated Memoir of Social Change (2022).

Tom Butler is a conservationist and writer who presently serves as senior fellow for Northeast Wilderness Trust. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of more than a dozen books including Wildlands Philanthropy, Plundering Appalachia, Protecting the Wild, and Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth. Butler co-curated the 2017 exhibit, “Douglas R. Tompkins: On Beauty” at the David Brower Center in Berkeley and coauthored the companion book On Beauty: Douglas R. Tompkins—Aesthetics and Activism, about the way that beauty was an animating force in the life and work of Doug Tompkins, cofounder of Tompkins Conservation. Tom Butler is a former editor of the journal Wild Earth, a founding board member and past president of Northeast Wilderness Trust, and former vice president for conservation advocacy for Tompkins Conservation. He currently serves on the boards of Tompkins Conservation and the Northern Forest Atlas Project.

Annie Leonard is the co-executive director of Greenpeace USA, an independent environmental organization which uses research, creative communication, non violent direct action and people-power to advance environmental solutions. Prior to this role, she was the founder of the Story of Stuff Project and author of The Story of Stuff (Free Press, March 2010). Annie Leonard has spent two decades working on international sustainability and environmental issues. She traveled to 40 countries, conducting research, collecting interviews and documenting impacts along the way. During this time, she worked for various environmental organizations, including Greenpeace International, GAIA and Healthcare without Harm. She is on the boards of Wallace Global Fund, The Story of Stuff Project, Inequality Media Project and Public Citizen. She is on the Advisory Board of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center in the U.S. She is currently partnering with Jane Fonda on their Fire Drill Fridays project and she is a co-founder of Families for a Future, a new campaigning platform designed to reach and engage the 70 percent of the U.S. public that is now worried about climate change but is not yet active. Annie speaks and writes frequently about environmental issues, with a focus on pollution, waste, consumerism, climate and activism. She has appeared on numerous media and TV and testified in front of Congress. She has received a number of awards for her work, including an honorary degree from Vermont Law School and was named Time Magazine’s Hero of the Environment.

Carrie Pilto is an independent art historian and curator based in Amsterdam. Before moving to Amsterdam, Pilto served as director of Musée Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France, project assistant curator at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and managing editor of Point d’ironie editions in Paris. She obtained her masters degree in Art History from the University of Paris-IV, La Sorbonne. Her recent exhibition projects and book contributions include: Curator, Values: Investing in the 21st Century, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (forthcoming February 2023); Contributing author, The Museum of Mistakes, Patrick Frey, Zurich (2020); Editor and contributing author, Living with Matisse, Picasso, Christo…, Teto Ahrenberg and His Collections, Thames & Hudson (2018), Arvinius + Orfeus Publishing, Stockholm (2018), Flammarion, Paris (2019); Curator and co-editor, Enrico Baj: Play as Protest, Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen (2017.)

Meenakshi Raman is a lawyer and expert on climate change, especially on global negotiations including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the Green Climate Fund (GCF). She is also one of the pioneers who helped set up a network of environmental lawyers around the world called Environmental Lawyers Alliance Worldwide or E-Law in 1989 to help support environmental activism using law as a tool. Currently, Raman is the president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia, a well-known environmental NGO based in Penang, which works with many grassroots communities including indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, farmers, rural communities etc. Also, she is legal advisor to the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), a well-known Malaysian NGO that has been advancing the rights and well-being of consumers. In addition, Raman is head of programmes of Third World Network, an international organization based in Penang, Malaysia from 2007 till now. From 2004 to 2008, she served as the Chair of Friends of the Earth International, which is an international environmental justice organization with 72 member groups around the world. These are just a few of her many accomplishments.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is an author, physicist, ecologist, and advocate of biodiversity conservation and farmer’s rights. Her pioneering work around food sovereignty, traditional agriculture, and women’s rights created fundamental cultural shifts in how the world views these issues. Along with Jerry Mander, Edward Goldsmith, Ralph Nader, and Jeremy Rifkin, Dr. Shiva is a leader and board member of the International Forum on Globalization and a prominent figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalization movement. Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya, an organization that promotes agroecology, seed freedom, and a vision of Earth Democracy, seeking justice for the Earth and all living beings. She has authored more than 20 books including Reclaiming the Commons: Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge, and Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture: Sustainable Solutions for Hunger, Poverty, and Climate Change (Synergetic Press, 2022) among others. Dr. Shiva has received numerous other awards and honors for her work including the “Save the World” award in 2009 and the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010. Dr. Shiva’s life and work is the subject of the award-winning 2021 documentary, “Seeds of Vandana Shiva.”

Julie Lindow is a life-long activist and a professional writer and editor. Her past work has focused on environmental and cultural preservation, and community building at the Foundation for Deep Ecology, International Forum on Globalization, and Headlands Center for the Arts. She is currently working for Physicians for Social Responsibility San Francisco Bay chapter. Julie is the editor of Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres.


Synergetic Press and MAPS Form Copublishing Partnership

Synergetic Press and MAPS Form Copublishing Partnership

Synergetic Press and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science (MAPS) are pleased to announce they have entered into a copublishing relationship effective May 1, 2021 which will greatly expand the availability of education about psychedelics and psychedelic therapy. 

Since MAPS began their mission to open pathways for legal, cultural, and medical contexts for people to benefit from psychedelics in 1986, they have published many pioneers in the psychedelic movement including Stanislav Grof, Albert Hofmann, Myron Stolaroff, Claudio Naranjo, Torsten Passie, Beatriz Cauiby Labate, Phil Wolfson, and Annie Oak. As with MAPS, Synergetic Press has been a leading publisher of cutting-edge books in the field of psychedelics and consciousness. The collaboration rests in the mutually held value to make these authors’ knowledge more accessible to a broader world-market. This newly formed alliance, along with Synergetic Press’ other copublishing partner, Transform Press, places Synergetic Press as the leading publisher in the field of psychedelics.

“Now that the psychedelic renaissance has overcome political and financial obstacles to research, public education is the most important need,” says Rick Doblin, Ph.D., founder and executive director of MAPS. “MAPS is delighted to partner with Synergetic Press to expand the reach of our publications so that people all over the world will be better prepared as psychedelics move into the mainstream.” 

The first title to be published under the copublishing arrangement is Psyche Unbound: Essays in Honor of Stanislav Grof, to be released in October 2021. Edited by Rick Tarnas and Sean Kelly, Psyche Unbound honors the life and legacy of Grof, a founder of transpersonal psychology and a pioneering figurehead in the practice of psychedelic therapy. Included are essays from a vast array of notable thinkers including Joseph Campbell, Huston Smith, Fritjof Capra, Frances Vaughan, Thomas Riedlinger, John Buchanan, Jenny Wade, Ralph Metzner, Paul Grof and Arlene Fox, William Keepin, Jorge Ferrer, Gerry Goddard, Ervin Laszlo, Christopher M. Bache, Tom Purton, Gregg Lahood, Jeffrey Kripal, Michael Mithoefer, and Charles Grob.

“I have watched Rick Doblin over three decades take on what seemed impossible, that is, to change people’s minds about psychedelics and pave a path to decriminalization, regulation, and medical research,” shared Deborah Parrish Snyder, Publisher, and CEO at Synergetic Press. “Today, he and his team have succeeded at getting very far down that road. The MAPS imprint has curated the leading voices of the industry, funding and publishing pioneering work in the field. We are proud to bring the groundbreaking books from MAPS into our catalog.”

With this agreement, the MAPS backlist and new titles will be distributed to the trade through Synergetic Press and their distributor, Publishers Group West, part of Ingram Publisher Services.

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