The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has just made available Manifesting Mind , a new book that describes some of the positive uses of what a friend calls "mindful molecules." In contrast to both the war on drugs and across-the-board legalization, MAPS wants prescription medicine status for classic psychedelics and substances such as marijuana and MDMA.
This would be one middle way between free-for-all legalization and the prohibition that started under Nixon and has led, MAPS argues, to an era of false official information, criminal enterprises, and impure street drugs. A physician would prescribe such a substance and you could then buy it at a pharmacy.
The new book is co-edited by Rick Doblin, a Kennedy School graduate who started MAPS in 1986, and by a colleague named Brad Burge. They drew material from the MAPS Bulletin , a magazine that is sent to members and has included a dazzling array of articles, some gathered by guest editors such as David Jay Brown.
During the decades when society has generally been barred from the careful and legal use of pure psychedelics, MAPS has supported research in he U.S. and elsewhere on the use of mindful molecules in the treatment, for example, of post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety about dying from a disease such as cancer.
Like almost any other collection, the book is uneven (the Aldous Huxley interview, for example, is less than his very best statement), but the general level is high and the book contains many gems. It addresses the core question, "why use this stuff and in what ways?"
For example, one early section discusses "coming of age." It's no secret that millions of high school and college students have not found it difficult to "experiment," but this book offers heart-warming stories of parents who have initiated their own offspring, teaching patterns of what they consider wise use, in some cases sharing the carefully arranged experiences. Other sections focus on the arts, medicine, psychotherapy, sexuality, spirituality, ecology, and technology.
Near the end of his life, Terence McKenna co-initiated the AllChemical Arts Conference in 1999 on the Big Island of Hawaii. Like Manifesting Mind , the conference described positive uses of mindful molecules, and was addressed by some of the same people who also appear in the MAPS book, such as the novelist Tom Robbins, the "sex worker" Annie Sprinkles, and Mark Pesce, the co-inventor of VRML, virtual reality markup language.
At the risk of appearing less omniscient than reviewers often pretend to be, I confess to learning much even from early sections of the MAPS book. Perhaps if I were an "extreme athlete," I would have known, before being instructed by James Oroc, that low levels of psychedelics are routinely used by many mountain climbers, paraglider pilots, skiers, and surfers, to improve, they believe, balance, endurance, and reflexes. I was dazzled as a child by "Fantasia," but perhaps if I had followed independent films more closely, I would have seen many of the psychedelic movies discussed in this book by Evan Mantri. And if I had been an ayahuasca tourist in Latin America, I would not be learning so much from Jack Lieberman's chapter about taking that shamanic preparation with his daughter in the Amazon. All this and more is told in just two sections of Manifesting Mind .