by Steven Libowits
March 21, 2019
January 17, 2019
April 19, 2018
Back in 2016, EnthoMedicine founder Jacqueline Lopez not only had no interest or experience with psychedelic substances for medicine or any other uses, she was actively opposed. “I thought people who did this stuff were kind of crazy, probably living on the street because they were hooked on it,” she recalled. “Coming from Brazil, where the U.S. has a strong presence in trying to eliminate those kind of crops, I thought, ‘I would never do such a things, ever!'”
Then her life partner received a diagnosis that he had two types of cancer and at least one would likely be terminal. His health declined and made living their normal life next to impossible, as end-of-life fears produced intolerable anxiety.
Desperate for help, they decided to investigate entheogens – psychedelic medicines that have been proven in clinical settings to create mystical-type experiences that can lead to a spiritual awakening and vast improvements in mental health. Along the way, they discovered that they had friends who experimented with Psilocybin and other substances who weren’t addicts.
“They were just normal people, with regular jobs, very nice and friendly. They didn’t fit the profile I had in my head at all,” Lopez said. “So, I started questioning. And I realized I needed to investigate and read about it, not just believe what I’d heard all my life.”
By summer 2017, they were ready to dive in and traveled to an Indian reservation in northern California, where they could partake of sacrament as part of sacred ceremony. “The result was immediate”, Lopez said.
“I started seeing things that showed me all my BS, pointed out the negative stories I’ve been carrying with me since childhood – things like my mom not loving me, because I once heard her say I wasn’t doing well in school. The ego loves to feel victim and then wants to protect you and run the story over and over again. What happened is not something you can easily explain, but you just know – you realized the story is just an imagining. And the real you is a beautiful human being for whom nothing (is intrinsically) wrong. It’s like a big veil is lifted and you see things the way they actually are. And you know in your bones that is truth.”
Back in Santa Barbara, Lopez and her partner wanted to share their discovery with others but run into roadblocks. Or rather, no road at all.
“As a human being, when we experience something profound, we want to share with others since we’re social animals,” she explained. “I felt so compelled to share this wonderful life-opening experience with other people who could benefit – cancer victims, alcoholics, those addicted to substances. These medicines can help people. And there’s lots of research going on right now at the universities [that] shows people at the end of life can get some peace of mind knowing that death is only a transition. But I wasn’t aware of anyone else in town doing these things. I felt completely isolated.”
Lopez checked out the local MeetUp to no avail, and found no other official organizations where the subject was talked about – despite the fact that Santa Barbara had once been on the forefront of psychedelic research during the heart of the Reagan “Just Say No” era, even hosting the Psychedelics and Spirituality Conference (a.k.a Psychedelic Conference II) at UCSB 35 years ago, where Albert Hofmann, Terence McKenna, Andrew Weil, and other pioneers in the field spoke. An Timothy Leary was in attendance.
After getting guidance from out-of-town organizations, she decided to form one in Santa Barbara herself. Thus was born EntheoMedicine Santa Barbara.
Using her experience as an event organizer when she lived in San Luis Obispo, Lopez did a lot of research and created a bi-monthly series of events where speakers would be invited to discuss relevant topics. The organization made its debut back in March with a talk from Martin W. Ball (who was interviewed in this column), and will continue next Friday, April 27, with Robert Forte, a renowned and experienced entheogenic pioneer who worked with Leary and Stan Grof. He is a former board member of the Albert Hofmann Foundation.
Forte’s talk will explore entheogenic capacity for healing body and mind, take a trip through the vibrant history of psychedelics, and delve into the evidence-based therapeutic, creative, and spiritual potential of entheogens. “I’m only interested in bringing the best speakers on the topics,” Lopez said. “It’s not enough that they’ve published a book. I checked out their videos to make sure they know how to communicate what they know and can be engaging as a speaker. Most people don’t have the time to fool around with mediocre speakers”
Forte had no trouble passing the test, Lopez said. “He’s like a renegade, a rogue who has a true passion for this work. I really like his style.”
The event, will also feature a Q&A session and time for meeting Forte, and networking with organizers and other attendees. Admission is $30 in advance, or $40 at the door. Next up is Dr. Richard Miller, the author of Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Power of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca, who will speak on June 16th. Call 669-7226 or visit www.entheomedicine.com
by Steven Libowits
March 1st, 2018
I really can’t recall how many time shivers ran up and down my spine as I talked with Martin W. Ball last weekend about his upcoming talk at Unity of Santa Barbara this Saturday, March 3, when Ball – one of the world’s leading experts and oponents of entheogenic/psychedelic medicines and an authority on the relationship between entheogenic (which means “generating the divine within”) experience, nondual awakening, and personal transformation – will serve as the first speaker in a planned series from Santa Barbara’s new EnthoeMedicine Salon.
I was dumbstruck by his clarity, lack of pretension, grounded explanations peppered with passion, and his patience when I shared my own stories during 90 mi-minutes phone call with the self-described “Nondual” guy in the psychedelic world,” who in the name of scientific research recently underwent a brain scan while dosing with the powerful psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT, which is found in a wide variety of plant species as well as a toad.
Ball, a Santa Barbara native who later earned his PhD. at UCSB and now teaches religious studies at Southern Oregon University, will discuss how and why psychedelic compounds are both effective medicines and spiritual healing tools, the latter a special focus of his recent books and our phone call.
An extensive Q&A session follows the talk. Tickets are $30 and available at www.entheomedicine.eventbrite.com.
(Find more info on Ball at www.martinball.net, or Santa Barbara’s Entheomedicine atwww.entheomedicine.com)
Bellow are painfully truncated excerpts from our conversation.
Q. Lets assume a sizable percentage of my readers, like myself, have little to no experience with psychedelics. What is the most important thing for them to know?
A. Human culture have been using psychedelics for healing, growth, ceremony, and spirituality since the dawn of human history. People just don’t realize that. They think it was invented in the 60’s. Which can’t be further from the truth. an because of that history we can be assured that for the most part they are very safe. Now, it’s finally coming out in clinical trials and medical studies, although most of these drugs are still classify as Schedule 1, meaning a high propensity for abuse, addiction with no medical benefits. That is a lie!None of that is true. They’re safe, with multiple medical applications, not to mention the spiritual ones. cultures around the world have known this for thousands of years. We’re the odd ones out with our modern war on drugs. We’re the ones who are backwards and primitive in disrespecting these medicines that comes from the Earth.
But Western cultures is going thru a psychedelic renaissance. Research was suppressed. but the barrier has now been broken. Medical experts and universities are looking at how these medicines can be used to help people in many ways.
How is taking psychedelics, specially 5-MeO-DEMT, a spiritual experience?
It’s powerful energy and when you consume it, completely and totally overrides your sense of self – the ego.
From the ego perspective, it thinks “I’m dying. IT’s happening.” And that’s scary. But if you can relax into that and trust it, you get beyond the ego. There’s an experience of complete unity with all reality. I’m not religious, but this is where I use the world God. It’s about being of infinite energy, awareness, and consciousness that is all reality – that for me is God. Everything that exists withing reality is this one universal being that basically is acting, pretending to be someone named Martin or Jane. The ego convinces us that we are that person. But it’s a mask, a costume that we’re wearing. When you get beyond that, it becomes immediately obvious.
My interest is how to work with that as a tool, because it’s the ego – the narrative we create about ourselves – that causes 99 percent of our suffering, which dissipates when we realize that literally we are all one. It’s not a new age statement. It’s reality.
Isn’t there a danger in confronting the sense of the ego as the false sense of self? Trauma if you don’t surrender?
My most recent book is about learning how the ego exists and reacts and how to move beyond that, and more importantly, how to integrate the experience. Because the real question is, how are you living moment to moment, day by day? do you focus on what’s present, or are you lost in thought and the conflagrations of your ego?
But don’t ever let anyone talk you into taking psychedelic. If you want it for yourself, if you feel ready, that’s the time to do it. Not because you’re curious, or your friends are doing it, or even to support your lover or partner. Because this is about actualizing your own authenticity and taking responsibility for yourself. It’s a very self-centered practice, not in the egoic way, but in that you are in charge and there will be consequences. Your world view is going to be challenged. Your sense of self is going to be challenged. If you don’t want that, don’t do it. But if you do, find a good practitioner who can help guide you through, which makes a huge difference. And don’t let fear stop you. That’s the primary tool of the ego: to keep things under control.
If it’s such a great experience, why wouldn’t you want to just be on it all the time, and live in that space of nonduality?
Because there’s no sex or chocolate or Game of Thrones. It’s just infinite unity. Which is beautiful and wonderful, and gives you a baseline for understanding your experience of reality. But the joy of reality is the game! the goal of the game isn’t to get out of it and be absorbed in the infinite forever. It’s about being aware that you are the infinite enmeshed in this incredible game where everything you interact with is yourself. And it’s a lot of fun, and it’s scary, and it’s painful, and immensely pleasurable – a whole spectrum of stuff. So, it helps you to know who you are, so you can then move in the game with clarity and grace.
What about issues such as “bad trips” and flashbacks?
The biggest drawback is that it’s illegal. So there are no regulatory systems to ensure that you get treated by someone who knows what they’re doing. These are very powerful tools, and we should be able to do them above-board. Because in the hands of someone inexperienced, you can freak out and have trauma. It’s not common, but it is real.
Speaking of which, how are you able to be so open about these psychedelics given that they are still illegal?
I am a cultural renegade. I’m convinced of their value and benefit, as they’ve only improved and enhanced my life. So, I’m not afraid of the consequences. For a while, I had a sense that they’d come get me some day. But I’m well beyond that now. Truth is more important than my own personal well-being. That’s why I’m very open. I made this my job because with the gay culture just a few years ago, there’s a “coming out” of the psychedelic closet. It’s a human rights issue. People are afraid to be open about it, but it’s changing.