What happens when all the witches and wizards of the world gather together? We talk about psychedelics, consciousness, the nature of the universe, clinical psychology, neuroscience and everything else in between.
Breaking Convention is a dynamic biennial event that celebrates the intersection of psychedelic consciousness and various other fields of study. With over 200 presenters from around the world, this conference is Europe’s largest gathering of its kind. This three day event showcases groundbreaking research and insights across a wide range of human and social sciences, law, politics, art, history, psychotherapy, neuroscience and philosophy. The conference also features a wide array of workshops, art exhibitions, a full cinema programme, curated museum exhibits and even a fantastical party for all participants to commune together.
The conference began on April 19th, otherwise known as Bicycle Day, an auspicious occasion for many in the psychedelic community. As witches, wizards, and magic-makers made their way through the picturesque halls of the University of Exeter, the excitement effervesced, a tangible feeling of our brain waves connecting through the ether, together entering the realm of liminnal possibilities, new knowledge, and osmosis.
Through the power of voice and dialog, we commenced the three days, jam packed with lectures that would inspire us with nuggets of knowledge from top researchers of psychedelia such as Paul Statmets, Amanda Fielding, Rick Doblin and beyond. The first day began with talks from our friend and author of The Rose of Paracelsus, Leonard Pickard, a hero in the world of psychedelia. Leonard’s humility, depth of awareness and consistent willingness to move through adversity catapulted us into presence, grounding us in the present moment in history and inviting us to understand the gravity of why we had all chosen to gather in community for the coming days.
The seminars were divided into five areas throughout the main buildings of the Exeter Campus. Each salon with its own kind of magic, the talks on Thursday began with a variety of talks touching the potent topics of psychedelic-assisted therapy, decolonization as well as the moral case against prohibitionist drug policies. We explored the origins and history of rave culture through stimulating talks with Chiara Baldini, Georgia Gaia, Jacqueline Anderson and Rupert Callender from The Green Funeral company about the subcultures that have emerged around the use of magic and non-ordinary states of consciousness. From chaos magic to acid house, the intertwined roots of ritual and rave culture reminded us all of how transformative states of consciousness can be attained through dance.
The following day was filled with inspiring interactions. Representatives from Synergetic Press, Lucid News, The Guardian, The Ukrainian Psychedelic Research Association and others took part in an intimate press conference where we had the opportunity to listen and ask questions to some of the greats in the industry.
Deborah Mash, neuroscientist, lecturer, and inventor, introduced the press conference by sharing about the opportunities and challenges in executing clinical trials and the current issues with funding for research with plant medicines, emphasizing the importance of real-world evidence in the evolving psychedelic landscape. Likewise, mycologist Paul Stamets spoke about the benefits of microdosing as well as the potential issues found in clinical trials with regards to the use of non-neutral placebos in psychedelic research in the U.S. Amanda Fielding, Founder of The Beckley Foundation, also referred to as the ‘Queen of Psychedelics’, presented her historical elements of life as testament of her life’s work within the realm of psychedelic research, her passion for the mystical being a driving force in her search for better medicines.
We also had the pleasure to meet David Erritzoe, qualified as a medical doctor at Copenhagen University Medical School, who has worked under the mentorship of Professor Ann Lingfor-Hughes and David Nutt at Imperial College London, conducting post-doc imaging research in neurobiology of addiction and major depression. We also spoke to Leor Roseman, a fellow researcher at the Centre for Psychedelic Research in Imperial College London, whose current work focuses on investigating the relational processes and group dynamics between Palestinian and Israeli activists using psychedelics with the intention of fostering peacebuilding, liberation and justice.
Through the discussions of the press conference, Synergetic Press got the opportunity to intimately dive into the panel’s expertise, allowing us to ask questions and immerse ourselves into their research, theories and stories. The trend towards a clinical, medicalised approach has been evident in the Western exploration of consciousness, and the discussion centered around the question of how we can merge the mystical-type experiences induced by psychedelics and plant medicines with knowledge and outcomes of current clinical trials in order to will help institutionalize psychedelics as future medicines.