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Brad Burge on 'Manifesting Minds'

Manifesting Minds
North Atlantic

1. What was the prime motivation and inspiration for assembling the book "Manifesting Minds A Review of Psychedelics in Science, Medicine, Sex, and Spirituality?"

We wanted to create a fun, accessible, and informative resource for people to explore the topic of psychedelic drugs. Mainstream interest in scientific research into the risks and beneficial uses of psychedelics has increased tremendously in recent years, and we wanted Manifesting Minds to be a point of entry for people to learn about this fascinating and decreasingly controversial topic.

2. Could you go into the contributors with us for the book?

The book includes 40 contributions, including a foreword by MAPS founder and co-editor Rick Doblin, Ph.D. All of the articles were drawn from past special theme editions of the MAPS Bulletin, our tri-annual magazine-style publication, and each one highlights in a different way how psychedelic ("mind-manifesting") experiences have been understood and appreciated by our culture. We selected a wide variety of articles, ranging from ecology and spirituality to neuroscience and psychotherapy. The articles in Manifesting Minds were published as far back as 2000 and as recently as 2013, so they also show how much changed in the last decade. Psychedelics just aren't the taboo subject they once were, but they're still just as exciting.

3. Would you share with us some information on what Ram Dass contributed in the Coming of Age section?

I think the Coming of Age section is one of the most interesting, and probably the most controversial, sections of Manifesting Minds. He points out that a lot of people in Western culture have lost contact with spirituality, so people are seeking out those kinds of experiences, sometimes using psychedelics. His proposal is that instead of indoctrinating young people with fear and misinformation about psychedelics, we create contexts—safe containers—for people both young and old to explore psychedelics and spiritual experiences. I think we're a few years or even decades away from this as a culture, which is exactly why it sounds so controversial. But I think it's a powerful point, and that we're moving towards it.

4. Would you go into some of the medical scenarios that psychedelics are contributing to when it comes to healing?

Medical research is the largest and fastest-growing part of psychedelic science right now, and it probably will be for the next 8-10 years. The most promising area is using MDMA combined with psychotherapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for which MAPS is currently in the midst of Phase 2 FDA trials; if all goes well it could be approved by 2022. Dr. Michael Mithoefer's article in Manifesting Minds explains the differences between MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and other forms of psychotherapy. Other medical uses for psychedelics that are currently being explored are psilocybin and LSD for anxiety associated with advanced illness, psilocybin for nicotine addiction, and ayahuasca and ibogaine for opiate and cocaine addiction. We're also about to start a new study of MDMA-assisted therapy to help reduce social anxiety in adults on the autism spectrum.

5. Annie Sprinkle has a chapter entitled How Psychedelics informed my Sex life and Sex Work. What does she mean exactly?

Annie Sprinkle, a former sex worker, writes about how she experienced altered states through both sex and psychedelics, and how psychedelics including LSD, mescaline, MDMA, ayahuasca, and others helped shape her sexual imagination, change her awareness of her body, and provide insight into her own desires and the desires of others. Her story boldly and articulately shows how, used carefully, both sex and psychedelics can be tools for transformation.

6. My biggest problem with psychedelics seems to be getting them. With the primitive laws in the USA it sometime isn't easy. What are your thoughts on this?

Maybe you just don't live in the right part of the country. I would say that the primitive laws in the USA surrounding drug use—namely, the criminalization of drugs and the incarceration of drug users—actually make getting drugs easier. Either regulated medical use or a legal market would create restrictions for who could and who could not buy and sell psychedelics. Currently anyone, regardless of age or intention, can buy them on the street.

7. This is a wild card question. What would you like to share with us from the book that our readers might enjoy?

I suspect that most people don't know about the connection between psychedelics and the invention of virtual reality. The final article in Manifesting Minds is an original interview by MAPS with Virtual Reality Markup Language co-inventor Mark Pesce. Also, since I'm an intellectual at heart, I'd like to also point out that the book also has a thorough index, so it's useful for researchers.

8. Do you have any links or future projects or books you'd like to share or departing words?

Manifesting Minds is an anthology, and we continue producing the MAPS Bulletin. Our next special edition will be on "Psychedelics and Education." I recommend that anyone interested visit www.maps.org/bulletin and see what's new in the field. There's always more to learn. The book is available at www.maps.org/store, and all sales support MAPS' psychedelic research and education programs.