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Queering Psychedelics Book Launch

Queering Psychedelics Book Launch

Thursday, December 8th, 2022 from 6:00-10:00 pm PST

World of Wonder
6650 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028


We are excited to announce a free in-person book launch for The Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicine’s new book Queering Psychedelics: From Oppression to Liberation in Psychedelic Medicine. The event will include a panel discussion with Dr. Bia Labate, Dr. Alex Belser, Dr. Clancy Cavnar, Ariel Vegosen, and Behike Sensei Kevon Simpson where all of the speakers will talk about topics and issues addressed in the book. Afterward, we will also provide a space for socializing among participants and attendees, to whom we will be happy to offer delicious snacks and drinks for refreshment. Additionally, those who wish to purchase copies of the book will be able to do so on the spot. While this event is free, you must still register in order to attend. You can register for this event here.

Register here

Panelists Include:

Dr. Beatriz Caiuby Labate (Bia Labate) is a queer Brazilian anthropologist based in San Francisco. She has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of plant medicines, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, religion, and social justice. She is Executive Director of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines (https://chacruna.nethttps://chacruna-iri.org and serves as Public Education and Culture Specialist at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). She is also an Adjunct Faculty at the East-West Psychology Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) and Visiting Scholar at Naropa University’s Center for Psychedelic Studies. Additionally, she is a member of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board’s Research Subcommittee and an Advisor at the Synthesis Institute and at InnerTrek. Dr. Labate is a co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP) in Brazil and editor of its site since. She is the author, co-author, and co-editor of twenty-four books, two special-edition journals, and several peer-reviewed articles (


Dr. Alex Belser has been a leader in the psychedelic research community for the last twenty years, having served as an investigator on clinical trials of psilocybin and MDMA to treat depression, anxiety, substance use, OCD, PTSD, and end-of-life distress. Dr. Belser is a psychologist and Co-Investigator at Yale University.  He serves as the Chief Clinical Officer of Cybin where he leads their clinical programs in psychedelic therapeutics. He is also part of Chacruna Institute’s Women, Gender Diversity, and Sexual Minorities Working Group. Dr. Belser previously served as Chief Clinical Officer at Adelia Therapeutics, where he directed the clinical program investigating tryptamines and phenethylamines for a variety of treatment indications. Dr. Belser has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters. He worked as a therapist on studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of severe PTSD. Dr. Belser studied at Georgetown University, the University of Cambridge, Columbia University, New York University, and Yale University. Dr. Belser trained at Bellevue Hospital, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, and New York Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. See more here and here


Clancy Cavnar has a doctorate in clinical psychology (Psy.D.) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA. She currently works in private practice in San Francisco, and is Co-Founder and a member of the Board of Directors of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a research associate of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP). She combines an eclectic array of interests and activities as clinical psychologist, artist, and researcher. She has a master of fine arts in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, a master’s in counseling from San Francisco State University, and she completed the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). She is author and co-author of articles in several peer-reviewed journals and co-editor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of ten books. For more information see:


Behike Sensei Kevon Simpson is an international healer who uses mindfulness and shamanism to help people create positive changes in their lives. He is from a Jamaican lineage of spiritual healers and has over 15 years of healing experience in various modalities including movement, word, and sound. He specializes in cathartic poems and prayers for deep ceremonial soul retrieval sessions, while playing a hang drum, and other instruments. Trained in both Shipibo, and Quechua medicine lineages, hearing icaros or medicine songs can be expected in his company. Kevon cherishes ancient indigenous wisdom in regards to the use of plant medicines and their ability to heal, and awaken. He believes it to be a most promising route to building a better world for our future generations, and works to raise awareness in that regard through his group The Entheogen Integration Circle which primarily serves POC and their allies in NYC.


Ariel Vegosen is a professional justice, equity, diversity, inclusion workshop facilitator, consultant, writer, educator, ordained Kohenet ritualist, coach, performer, and public speaker. Ariel is the founder and director of Gender Illumination, CEO of Shine Diversity, co-founder of Queerdome, and ONCA Foundation Trainee. For over 20 years Ariel has facilitated workshops all over the world for corporations, non-profits, faith-based organizations, and psychedelic therapists. Ariel is proud to be queer, loves to play with pronouns, and brings joy into all aspects of life. Email:




White Gold is Back in Stock

White Gold is Back in Stock

A Historical Snapshot of the Brazilian Amazon at the Height of the Rubber Boom

We are pleased to announce that White Gold: The Diary of a Rubber Cutter in the Amazon 1896–1906  is finally back in print! The book presents the diary of an American man named John C. Yungjohann who went to seek his fortune cutting rubber in the Brazilian Amazon. However, instead of encountering riches, Yungjohann found himself struggling for survival in the toilsome ten years he spent working as a rubber cutter. 

Although somewhat dated in its language and expression, the book is of relevance today in that it offers a historical snapshot of the Brazilian Amazon which is undergoing rapid change due to ongoing environmental decimation.

Within his diary, Yungjohann writes in detail about the flora and fauna particular to the Amazon at that time as well as his encounters with the various Indigenous groups of the region. In particular, Yungjohann had extended encounters with both the Tupí and Yanomami peoples of which he relates their customs and traditions in detail. 

The Rainforest and Its Peoples Under Threat

With the days of the rubber boom long gone, new trajectories of economic exploit now threaten the health of the Amazon rainforest and its peoples. Since Brazilian president, Jaír Bolsonaro, was elected in 2019, deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon has reached an all time high and is at its highest level since 2006.

This is largely because Bolsonaro’s government has taken action to expand Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector, clearing away, and even deliberately burning, large swathes of rainforest in order to allocate more land to the production of beef and soya for international export. Even before starting his term as president, Bolsonaro stated that he planned to dissolve the Environmental Ministry and  merge it with the Agriculture industry, favoring the interests of those who have stakes in converting forest into farmland.

Recently the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-environmental Information (RAISG) conducted a study in collaboration with the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) which suggested that the environmental destruction of certain parts of the rainforest “is so complete that swathes of the rainforest have reached tipping point and might never be able to recover.”

What’s more is that Bolsonaro’s policies are not only pro-business and anti-environmental, but they are racist and discriminatory against Indigenous peoples. In 2021, Indigenous groups filed a request with the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Bolsonaro’s alleged crimes against humanity and Indigenous peoples, due to his failure to sufficiently protect Brazil’s Indigenous population from the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating illegal invasions of their reserves.

The Preservation of Indigenous Peoples Knowledge 

Due to ongoing economic exploitation and genocidal policies, the ways of life of Indigenous groups are on the verge of being lost, alongside many species, plants, and trees, having grave implications for the planet as a whole. It is important in today’s quickly changing world to make efforts to preserve and deepen our knowledge of the Amazon Basin and practice allyship with its peoples. Moreover, the Amazon is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions and is estimated to be home of 390 billion trees, among them 16,000 different species, let alone being the tribal home of 1.6 million Indigenous peoples.

Compared with the tragic fate of many other rubber cutters who met their deaths in the rainforest, Yungjohann was able to survive and even make his way back home only because of the help of the Yanomami peoples and their intimate wisdom and knowledge of the jungle. 

In order to help protect Indigenous peoples and their territories, please consider donating to our friends at The Amazon Conservation Team or Amazon Watch.


Psychedelic Integration: Psychotherapy for Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness

Psychedelic Integration: Psychotherapy for Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness

The following is an excerpt from Psychedelic Integration: Psychotherapy for Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness by Marc B. Aixalà:

My interest in psychoactive substances and non-ordinary states of consciousness began in the basement of my mother’s pharmacy, among the custom medications she compounded in her laboratory. As a child, I spent hours helping her weigh her powders, mixing them with her mortar, preparing and carefully cleaning the capsules to rid them of their bitter taste. In that room, I did my homework, and when the homework got too boring, I would get up and walk among shelves lined with containers full of active ingredients with unpronounceable names, imagining what they could be for. One afternoon I came across a book called Plantas medicinales: el Dioscórides renovado, by the Catalonian writer Pius Font Quer. In the book’s introduction, I read the story of the meeting between Gordon Wasson and María Sabina and the first magic mushrooms experience as told by a white man. That story had a profound impact on me, and for the next several weeks I immersed myself in the Dioscórides, reading about plants that had amazing effects. It became my secret passion.

In the year 2000, I had my first personal contact with the worlds that I had read about in the Dioscórides, at a time when I was a student of Telecommunications Engineering.

My first experience was one of sublime beauty, and it marked a before and after in my life. I was able to start overcoming some difficult personal circumstances that I was going through and I felt that my true vocation was in the study of non-ordinary states and their therapeutic application.

Throughout my time as a Telecommunications Engineering student, I continued to seek these experiences in different contexts and I began to learn from people who were dedicated to this type of work. In 2006 I went to Boom Festival for the first time (a psytrance music and psychedelic culture festival). This was another crucial experience in my life. I have attended every edition ever since, mainly as a volunteer for the psychological emergency service called Kosmicare. In later years, I have been a team leader and the trainer/supervisor of the volunteer teams. Being a part of this service has been an enormously formative experience since I have been able to observe and support the sort of difficult psychedelic experiences that can be the source of later problems.

Over the course of those years, I read the work of Stanislav Grof. I was completely baffled to see my most intimate experiences described in astonishing detail in his expanded cartography of the psyche. This encouraged me to learn more about his work and in 2005 I participated for the first time in a Holotropic Breathwork workshop. Grof’s proposed format of working with our breath became the backbone that structured all my previous experiences. I was able to contextualize everything that I had experienced up to that point, which led me to develop the concept of process and, within it, the need for integration. From 2006 to 2012, I trained as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator, later giving myself to offering workshops and training, also as a member of the Grof Transpersonal Training team.

In 2007 I spent a year in Peru, completing my degree’s final project on telehealth in rural areas. For a little over a month, I was able to visit different communities along the Napo river basin, where I met Shipibo communities and had my first contact with ayahuasca and traditional medicine practices. Shamanism has never been my path, but from that moment on, I developed a deep respect for these Indigenous traditions and their ancestral knowledge.

After finishing my studies—and working as an engineer for a few years—I realized that I needed to pay attention to all the signs and experiences that I had come across in my path and follow my true vocation. I decided to completely change professions and dedicate myself to psychology, psychotherapy and non-ordinary states of consciousness. So I went back to college to study psychology. I graduated in 2012, opened my private practice, and continued my training in integrative therapy, strategic brief therapy, and other disciplines.

In 2012 I also started collaborating with ICEERS (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service). My job was to provide support for the people who contacted us by email and phone. We received all kinds of questions about the use of psychoactive substances, as well as stories and reports of difficulties after complex experiences with ayahuasca and other substances. We created a support service that was then called the “Help Center” and later became the “Integration and Support Service.” Over the years, I have served more than 700 people who needed some kind of support, whether in the preparation or the integration of their experiences, or both. 

I was also fortunate when MAPS invited me to train as an MDMA-assisted psychotherapist in a seminar taught by Michael and Annie Mithoefer in 2015. And a few years later, I started working as a therapist at the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona, in a study that used psilocybin to treat major depression. I was thus able to gain a methodical and scientific vision of what research in this discipline implies.

I share this with the intention of illustrating, through my own story as an example, the progressive integration of my experiences over more than fifteen years. Only with time have I been able to materialize some of the realizations that happened during those singular hours.

Over the last decade, the need to integrate psychedelic experiences has become a matter of increasing interest. Without much forethought or planning, I began to specialize in this, gaining experience through my private practice, my work as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator and my work in the ICEERS’ integration service.

The field of integration is very young and is still underdeveloped. Although we frequently use the concept of integration nowadays, each therapist has their own idea of what integration means and how it should be carried out. We use the same word for totally different concepts and practices. Furthermore, when I began writing this text, there were no books dealing specifically with integration, and no schools that addressed this part of psychedelic therapy. If one wants to learn about integration, where should one go? This is a question that I had often been asked in my talks. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to try to summarize and systematize my understanding of integration in a book that could serve as an inspiration for other people to continue developing this field. I thought I had a lot of knowledge to bring to this field, with a head full of new and interesting ideas.

Marc B. Aixalà is a telecommunications engineer, psychologist, psychotherapist and certified Holotropic Breathwork facilitator specializing in supporting people who face challenging experiences with expanded states of consciousness. Since 2013, in collaboration with the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service (ICEERS), Aixalá has offered integration psychotherapy sessions for those seeking support after psychedelic experiences. At ICEERS, Aixalà also works to develop theoretical models of intervention and trains and supervises therapists.

Aixalà has served as a team leader and trainer in emergency psychological assistance at Boom Festival through the Kosmicare harm reduction program. He also worked on the first-ever medical trial on the use of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, a study chronicled in the 2018 documentary, “Magic Medicine.” He continues to work as a therapist in clinical trials researching psychedelic substances.

Aixalà is trained in the therapeutic use of Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness as well as in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD) by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Aixalà works as a psychologist in his private practice in Barcelona, Spain and offers trainings, lectures, and talks related to psychedelic psychotherapy and integration.





Remembering Ann Shulgin, The Matriarch of the Psychedelic Movement

Remembering Ann Shulgin, The Matriarch of the Psychedelic Movement

We are grieved by the loss of Ann Shulgin, an elder and beloved friend, often referred to as the matriarch of the psychedelic movement. Ann passed away peacefully on July 9, at home in the company of loved ones, crossing into the great unknown. She was 91.

Ann was an artist, lay therapist, researcher of consciousness, prolific writer and speaker, and much more. She was a shining light in the psychedelic community who brought people together. Her advocacy for the use of psychedelics in therapy played a vital role in introducing these substances to the fields of psychology and psychiatry.

Widow of the renowned chemist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, Ann was his life-long collaborator and co-conspirator. Sasha famously pioneered new psychedelic compounds which Ann and he researched experimentally together. In her work as a lay therapist, Ann provided psychedelic-assisted therapy with MDMA and 2C-B, compounds that Sasha synthesized, before they were illegal, to many in the San Francisco Bay Area using her expertise in Jungian psychoanalysis. The Shulgin’s lifework and legacy was commemorated in the 2021 documentary, Better Living Through Chemistry, by filmmaker Connie Littlefield, which she worked closely with Ann to complete. Ann fortunately was able to see the film.

⁠At Synergetic Press, we feel honored to have established a copublishing relationship together with Transform Press, the independent publishing company Ann and Sasha founded in 1991 now owned and led by Ann’s daughter Wendy Tucker, in order to ensure their research would not be lost or destroyed. Thus came two groundbreaking classics in psychedelic literature, PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story and TIHKAL: The Continuation, that she co-wrote together with Sasha Shulgin. More recently, we worked closely with Wendy to publish The Nature of Drugs: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact, Vol. 1, the first Shulgin book publication since 2011. 

Ann was guest of honor at the book launch for The Nature of Drugs—one of her last major speaking engagements—in which she participated in a panel reflecting on what a sane and healthy future for psychedelics could look like.

When asked about her vision for the future of psychedelics, Ann shared, “First of all, I agree that the War on Drugs has got to stop. The entire emphasis on law has got to end, the emphasis should be on medical use and spiritual growth. The laws must change and we have to work very hard on making them change. I’m very optimistic about the way things are going right now. I think there is a lot of hope.”

We will continue to work closely with Wendy and the Transform Press family to share and celebrate Ann’s wisdom, teachings, and insights for years to come. May you travel safely onwards, Ann. You will forever be in our hearts.

Ann Shulgin at desk

Reflections from the Synergetic Press Team 

“Throughout the last year, I’ve had the privilege of developing Synthesis, a forthcoming collection of Ann and Sasha Shulgin’s writings and a companion to PIHKAL and TIHKAL. It has been an awe-inspiring ride to live inside of Ann’s words: her thoughts about experimentation, psychedelic revelation, the work of therapy, the pleasure of the arts, building community, and extending oneself into the world with bravery and curiosity. What has struck me most, however, is Ann’s abiding love—for her beloved Sasha, for her children, for her friends, and for humankind itself. She nourished her own hope and, through this practice, the hope of those around her. Ann lived an extraordinary lifeone for the books, and there are several. Her steadfast commitment to writing and collaborating with Sasha has ensured that her legacy will continue far beyond today’s living generations. This was her gift to us all.” — Noelle Armstrong, Senior Project Editor 

“I had the honor of meeting Ann Shulgin in 2018, when my dear friend, author of the book The Secret Drugs of Buddhism for which Ann wrote the foreword, invited me to the Shulgin’s legendary Easter barbeque. At the time, I was still relatively young and new to psychedelics, finding myself overwhelmed to meet a foundational figure in psychedelic history. However, Ann’s kind, gentle, and loving essence quickly allayed any fears I might have had around meeting her.

Little did I know that years later, I would come to work for Synergetic Press and that we would sign a co-publishing deal with Transform Press. More than that, I now find myself pursuing a path in psychedelic-assisted therapy, and feel indebted to Ann, her wisdom, and the way in which she has laid the groundwork for the field.” — Jasmine Virdi, Marketing & Communications Associate

“When I started working at Synergetic Press, I had never heard of Ann and Sasha Shulgin. However, over the past two years I have had the incredible honor of spending time with Ann at her beautiful farm several times. We published the amazing The Nature of Drugs last year and Ann gladly signed hundreds of copies so that readers could enjoy a signed copy. How lucky they all are!

I was able to chat with Ann during my visits and I always left feeling happier than when I arrived.  I was even able to bring my son Jake (who is a huge fan of the Shulgin’s and their amazing legacy) to meet her. The fact that I could introduce him to Ann and allow him the pleasure of meeting her is such a blessing. I am honored to be a small part of the Transform Press family and we will continue to share their legacy and amazing contributions as we continue publishing their work.” — Sandy Balin, Sales & Publishing Operations Director 

“When I was first fortunate enough to attend one of the Easter gatherings at the Shulgin “Farm”, I only briefly met Ann Shulgin. What immediately struck me about the gathering was the strength and depth of the community. It was clear this group of people had connections built over time and a deep commitment to shared work that was cultivated at the home of Ann and Sasha Shulgin. So, it was a great thrill to visit the ranch again, this time while working with Ann’s daughter, Wendy Tucker, to explore a publishing partnership between Synergetic Press and Transform Press, the press Ann and Sasha Shulgin created to publish their much-celebrated classic, PIHKAL. Sitting with Ann and hearing her ideas and keen insights about the possibilities for new Shulgin book projects, it was clear that for her, the work was very much present and ongoing, a through-line from the work she’d engaged with for decades. It has been an inspiring experience to work with her and it is an honor to help amplify her lasting legacy.” — Douglas Reil, Associate Publisher/ Managing Director

Ann Shulgin and friends

“I first heard from Ann and Sasha Shulgin back in 1990 when they wrote to inquire if Synergetic Press would be interested in publishing this book they had been working on, PIHKAL. I was 32 at the time, and unfortunately, not in a position to publish the book with them. As such, they went on to start Transform Press. 40 years later, we began a copublishing relationship with Ann’s daughter, Wendy, now the owner of Transform Press. We all feel blessed to be working closely with the Shulgin family and associates to help publish their groundbreaking work in the fields of chemistry and the study of mind. I stand in awe at the life Ann led and the family she and Sasha cultivated around them. Ann glowed a way of life that was full of dedication, mastery, passion and persistence. Rest in peace, and know your glow persists in the eyes of many.” — Deborah Parrish Snyder, Publisher 

Reflections on the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (ESPD) 55 conference

Reflections on the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (ESPD) 55 conference

Last month, Synergetic Press was excited to attend the McKenna Academy’s Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (ESPD55) Conference in St. Giles House, Dorset, UK. 

A beautiful and inspiring gathering that came as joyous relief for many after months of being confined to communing through Zoom space, it was the coming together of old friends and the making of new ones. Not your ordinary psychedelic gathering, this conference’s focus was on ethnopharmacology: the pharmacology and biology of how people collaborate with plants and fungi in their respective contexts.

A Brief History of ESPD

The history of the conference harks back to 1967, when the first ESPD conference was held in San Francisco, California. A first of its kind, the symposium, brought together a diverse array of interdisciplinary specialists including notable figures some of whose careers would include them becoming Synergetic Press authors including Alexander Shulgin, Richard Evans Schultes, and Gordon Wasson.

At the time of the first symposium, Dennis McKenna was 16 years old. Sharing a burning fascination in psychedelics with his older brother, Terence, Dennis yearned to find a way to shape his career around the substances which sparked his curiosity and fed his inquiry. The 1967 conference proceedings were published in book form a few months after the event took place, and perchance, Dennis happened upon a copy in 1968. That book had a major impact on Dennis, serving to change his life that very day when he realized he could also pursue a path in this field.

The US Department of Mental Health who sponsored the first conference intended to have follow-up gatherings every ten years, but sadly, though not surprisingly, the War on Drugs slowly forced all such public conversations to a grinding halt. Fast forward 50 years to 2017, Dennis had long dreamed of having a second ESPD symposium in order to explore how the field had developed and evolved throughout the last half a century of psychedelic prohibition. The proceedings of the papers presented at that symposium held Tyrigham Hall, UK in were carefully curated into what has become a cornerstone addition to the Synergetic Press library, in this two volume box set, Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 Years of Research

Synergetic Press at ESPD55
This year, the second ESPD conference hosted by Dennis together with the McKenna Academy marked 55 years since the original conference, once again bringing specialists from far and wide to discuss their research and findings in a setting that encouraged the free and frank exchange of information and ideas on the last 55 years of research, and assess the current and possible futures for research in ethnopharmacology. 

We were delighted to be a sponsor of the conference and have the opportunity to showcase our books at the to the assembly of about 100 people. Synergetic Press Publisher, Deborah Parrish Snyder and Community Outreach Manager, Jasmine Virdi both attended the gathering. Several of our presented talks included keynote address by Monica Gagliano (The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence), Luis Eduardo Luna (Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine), and Wade Davis, Mark Plotkin, Glenn Shepard, Manolo Torres (all ESPD50 contributors), and of course, Dennis McKenna. We are getting the work underway to publish the ESPD55 conference proceedings with the McKenna Academy in the year ahead. 

Looking to the future of the field, there was a strong sentiment among conference organizers and researchers regarding the importance of keeping the fields of ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology alive, inviting young, emerging researchers to participate in and shape the dialogue, while acknowledging many ethnobotany programs at universities have, over the years, been discontinued for reasons that are not totally clear, as there are students looking for the training in these disciplines. 

In addition to the ethnopharmacology studies, there were talks that branched from the pharmacology of kratom to the use of psychedelics as tools for scientific discovery to the history of psychoactive plants in Chinese culture. We explored different spheres of the ethnosphere, the hydrosphere, the mycosphere.

Monica Gagliano, co-editor of The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence gave the opening keynote, a wonder-inspiring talk entitled Medicine for the future: if we listen, plants will teach us, gently inviting the audience to sense into the ways in which we conceive of and interact with plants and their intelligence, setting the pace for the rest of the conference. 

Through her studies investigating plant intelligence, Gagliano invites us to reconceptualize the ways in which we understand plants, shifting away from language that frames them as inactive objects, moving towards perspectives that honor their agency and influences upon the human world. 

“Denying non-human intelligence is bound up with colonial agendas,” she shared, in her presentation at ESPD55.

Another captivating talk was that of astrobiologist, Bruce Damer, who spoke about the use of psychedelics for creative problem solving, particularly as tools for scientific discovery and for accessing genius. 

Making a case for the necessity of genius and innovative thinking, he pointed to the compounded crises of our times. 

“I would suggest to you that if we don’t have more of it, or if we don’t use it, we won’t make it through the coming challenges,” Damer said. “And my tribe, the tribe of neurodivergent scientists and engineers, their close cousins, all nerdy peoples on the earth — we play hide and seek with genius. It is our job to come up with solutions to gnarly scientific problems, crack the code of some AI optimization, or look through a massive climate data set and find a solution.”

Paul Stamets raised our attention levels as he spoke of his latest insights and discoveries in the mycelium universe he works in, sharing eye-opening statistics on the performance of the “Stamets Stack” in treatment for depression and other ailments. 

Wade Davis, author, cultural anthropologist, co-editor of the ESPD box set and Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, gave a powerful closing keynote address, sharing his insights from traveling around the world and spending time with different traditions and cultures as well as delving deeper into his decade-long research on the history of the coca plant.

Davis re-emphasized the critical need to abandon the colonial, and furthermore unscientific, Victorian construct of the evolution of humanity from the savage to the barbarian to the civilized. 

“If we’re cut from the same genetic cloth, it means all cultures share the same genius,” Davis said. “And critically whether this genius is invested in technological wizardry or unraveling the complex threads of memory inherent in myth is still a matter of choice and cultural orientation.There is no hierarchy in the affairs of culture.”

All the conference talks are available to purchase and stream here.

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