Latest Features


By Jacob Brant on 3.2.2024

Society Spotlight: Psychedelics

Towards the end of last year I walked into the campus shop to buy some milk and saw a young Anthropology undergraduate by the name of Dave King, whom I had shared a philosophy seminar with during my first term at UKC. We began to talk idly, as you do in Essentials, chewing the fat of such scintillating topics as ‘how we had been’ and ‘where we were living that year’.

That could have been that, and I could have never seen the man again, but I happened to make a passing reference to the Bardo Thodol; an ancient Tibetan funerary text that is commonly known by Westerners as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I saw a twinkle in Dave’s eye, and we began to discuss how in 1964, a book based upon the sacred manuscript, The Psychedelic Experience, had emerged. Written by three academic psychedelic researchers, Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience was a self-professed ‘manual’ for those undergoing a psychedelic experience.

I met with Dave several times throughout the next month, to further discuss our interest in psychedelic literature and research, and I found that we shared a lot of the same opinions towards psychedelics. He lent me a short book which he had written about psychoactive drugs – with the intention of educating and informing people about the potential benefits of these fascinating chemicals, in addition to reducing the media-led negative hype that have surrounded psychedelics since the late 1960s. By the time I had finished reading it I had realised that this skinny guy in some of the funkiest trousers I had ever seen was someone really quite special.

Dave King’s future lies in the study of psychedelics. He says that he plans to study pharmacognosy at the London School of Pharmacy after his degree, before eventually going on to continue past a doctorate into ethnopharmacological research involving hallucinogens. Before long, Dave told me of his plans to set up a ‘Psychedelics Society’ at Kent University in order to help springboard himself into a career in academic psychedelia, and that he would like me – along with fellow-dreamer, Oliver Genn-Bash – to help him to establish the society. I agreed instantly, and the UKC Psychedelics Society was born.

The aims and objectives of the Psychedelics Society are hard to pin down to any one or two areas, but can be summarised as follows: we want to provide an open-ended and unbiased forum for people who are interested in discussing the past, present and future of the use of psychedelic drugs. The society shall focus on using guest speakers to inform and educate its members on areas of psychedelic research as diverse as the law, history, anthropology, chemistry, the psychotherapeutic benefits and the philosophical implications of the psychedelic experience. We also want to focus on the spiritual, artistic and creative benefits which psychedelics have brought into the lives of many who have achieved a state of psychedelic enlightenment – our socials shall be extremely artistically themed.

The list of people who have expressed interest in giving presentations to the Psychedelics Society include:

Dr. Ben Sessa: Consultant psychiatrist and hallucinogen researcher.

Dr. Peter Brackenridge: Doctor running an ibogaine clinic in London.

Dr. Anna Waldstein: Lecturer in Medical Anthropology and Ethnobotany, and Convenor of the BSc in Medical Anthropology at the University of Kent.

Dr. Raj Puri: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology and Convenor of the MA/MSc programme in Environmental Anthropology.

Dr. Axel Klein: Lecturer in the Study of Addictive Behaviour.

Dr. Dan Lloyd: Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology.

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris: Research Fellow of the Neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College.

Alexander Beiner: Novelist, author of ‘Beyond the Basin’.

Andy Letcher: Author of ‘Shroom’.

Hattie Wells: Ethnobotanist specialising in ibogaine treatment and hallucinogens.

Robbie of Psychedelic Artist.

Dr. Matthew Watkins: mathematician who proved McKenna’s Timewave Zero theory to be flawed.

I spoke to Dave earlier this week, and posed him the following questions:

What motivated you to start the society?

“The typical responses to my mentioning the words ‘psychedelic’, or ‘hallucinogenic’ include two common reactions; a stigmatic reflex that automatically produces either conditioned apathy, cynicism, or derision; and the hallmark reaction of the hedonist whose interest in the substances in question are, however much to the contrary he might argue, limited purely to recreation. Both of these reactions are fully understandable, but both also indicate a poverty of knowledge about this very remarkable class of drugs. There is a wealth of psychedelic-associated knowledge that is of great importance across a host of disciplines, and much of this knowledge is either suppressed, ignored, or just poorly understood. My motivation to start the society was to address this poverty of knowledge, attempt to reduce the stigmatic response, and educate all who could benefit from a greater understanding of psychedelics. Simply, I feel that a lot of people would take great interest in learning more about this area, and if I can help, all the better.”

Which areas of psychedelic research interest you most?

“That’s a complicated question. The areas that surround psychedelics are incredibly numerous. There are the disciplines that can look at the science of how these drugs can affect our minds and bodies so profoundly; biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology. There are the disciplines that are relevant to the social history of psychedelic use; history, anthropology, criminology, law, theology. There are also areas that focus on contemporary, beneficial, medical implementation of psychedelics; the psychiatric disciplines. Psychedelics also have powerful implications in philosophical thought and artistic creativity. I have a great interest in all of these topics, and I find it hard to narrow that down, but psychiatric use, psychopharmacology and the relationship between psychedelic thought and religion are among my favourites.”

Which areas do you think are most important for people to be educated about?

“I think that those who dismiss psychedelics as ‘just drugs’ would benefit from education about the fragmentory and illusory definition of the term ‘drug’, and from information regarding the benefits of psychedelic use within medicine. Those who have never looked beyond the dionysian usage of hallucinogens could benefit from an understanding of how to apply their experiences to more productive paths. The society has no particular agendas, and there isn’t a specific curriculum that we’re trying to educate from. Everyone, the committee included, have different preferences and interests, and I think that there is a great deal that people would find very interesting – even if they weren’t expecting to. Everything ties into everything else, and psychedelics connect a vast number of subjects, all of which can be explored indefinitely. Huxley once said that “Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, … Nothing short of everything will do”. Nothing is ever fully understood unless everything to which it connects, and everything to which its connections connect, are also understood.”

The Psychedelics Society’s first meeting is on Wednesday February 3rd in Darwin Lecture Theatre 1

To sign up to the UKC Psychedelics Society: search ‘UKC Psychedelics Society’ on Facebook, or email to be added to the mailing list.


  • Great article, it’s really interesting to read what other societies are up to. Well done Jacob 🙂

    By Augustine Lofts on 4.2.2024

    If you are unhappy with this comment please refer to our terms and conditions and contact us with any any concerns.

Post new comment

    © 2007 inQuire | Terms and Conditions | Privacy | Designed by Move Ahead Design