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Developing Theory for My Thesis
Mushrooms, Salvia divinorum, Morning Glory & H.B. Woodrose
by Star of Atlay
Citation:   Star of Atlay. "Developing Theory for My Thesis: An Experience with Mushrooms, Salvia divinorum, Morning Glory & H.B. Woodrose (exp114115)". Jun 19, 2021.

    Salvia divinorum  
    oral Mushrooms  
    oral Morning Glory (seeds)


Writing a PhD While on Psychedelics:
Low and High Doses to Aid Understanding and to Enable Creativity

This experience report will describe how psychedelics helped me to write a PhD thesis and to publish academic papers in international peer-reviewed journals. Given that this is self-evidently a controversial thing for me to be writing about, I apologise in advance for where I protect my anonymity by being vague about the fields that I work in and the works that I have published. I would like nothing more than to speak openly on this subject, but this is sadly not where our culture is.

After recently reading The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman, I came to realise that some of my experiences with psychedelics might be of interest and, possibly, of use to others. I first encountered psychedelics while studying as an undergraduate science student 20 years ago. Back then, I understood that these substances had some intrinsic value from my reading of Aldous Huxley, Terence McKenna and others, but my approach was lacking in structure and was largely recreational (though, as is also written in Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics, I see no problem in them being used or described as such). Since then, both high and low dose experiences with psilocybin, salvia divinorum, morning glory and Hawaiian baby woodrose have resulted in profound and positive changes in the direction of my life. I shall keep this brief and only refer to a few of these instances below. But in summary, this describes a progression from recreational use when I was younger to more focused use that has supported my development of new academic theories in linguistics.

Using self-grown psilocybin mushrooms and salvia divinorum 5-15 times per year as an undergraduate around 20 years ago contributed to me eschewing my long-held desire for a career in an industry that I came to realise was contributing to environmental harm. I have always explained this as having developed an environmental conscience and this was supported by my use of these substances and the sense of connectivity and empathy for the world that they offered. In tandem with Huxley’s book, Island, I was offered the sense that we must do what we can to protect the here and now, but that we should not beat ourselves up when we fail. This is something that often leaves others surprised as they expect someone who is as politically active as I am to be made distraught by political defeat. However, while I often get uncomfortably stressed by social injustice that I feel that I can change, I readily accept situations that I cannot.

Since eschewing my earlier career choice, I have pursued a career in various branches of environmentalism over the last two decades – anonymity necessitates that I am vague on this. 5 years ago, a high dose experience with self-grown psilocybin mushrooms resulted in an epiphany about language and ultimately resulted in me pursuing a PhD in a branch of linguistics. The fundamental experience of this trip was that all meaning had fallen from everything. I was present but my understanding that the meaning of things came from our words rather than the things themselves allowed me to see the meaningless of the world outside of the language that we impose on it. My subsequent pursuit of doctoral research in this area was not only enabled by, but also enabled me to understand this experience better.

Writing a PhD involves a lot of reading, some data collection, theorisation that is informed by the reading and the data, and writing about all of this. The reading and data collection can take a lot of time, the theorisation is the most difficult, but the writing flows once the theory has been worked out. This means that there are times during a PhD when you are just thinking and don’t seem to be making any progress. At one stage during my PhD research, I had spent over two weeks trying to explain my data, but it did not seem to fit into the accepted theory. This was typical of the slow, thinking and/or theorising, stage. But, in this example, I was faced by a particularly difficult problem and I found myself unable to imagine a way through. Looking out into the garden from my study, I saw some morning glory flowers and this reminded me that I had previously read that morning glory seeds contain psychedelic compounds. Knowing that others have described the use of psychedelics for creativity, and feeling that my brain needed loosening up, I used the internet to read up on doses, walked out into the garden and ate two fresh seedpods of morning glory. The world took on a more vivid hue within minutes, I became more engaged in my reading and work, and I realised that there was an important factor that had been neglected from the theory that I was working with. This was the most profound theorisation that came from my thesis, but I have subsequently used similarly low doses of morning glory seedpods and flowers to help me in developing other theory for my thesis and for subsequent papers that have passed peer-review and been published.
I have subsequently used similarly low doses of morning glory seedpods and flowers to help me in developing other theory for my thesis and for subsequent papers that have passed peer-review and been published.

I was recently presenting my work at an academic conference and during the ensuing questions that were universally complementary of my work, I was asked how I came up with one of the more radical ideas that I was presenting. I suspect that I shall forever regret that I did not have the confidence to describe my use of morning glory seedpods to the few hundred academics gathered as they may well have been a receptive audience, the data in Fadiman’s book suggests that many academics are familiar with psychedelics. So, having been unable to describe this in a more open forum, I hope that this somewhat vague testimony, for it seems likely that there is a risk to one's career to speak openly on such things, might be of interest or use to others.

Part of me thinks that The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by Fadiman would have been of great use to me had I read it 20 years ago. His suggestions on set and setting for high dose experiences and his proposals for how creativity might be supported with low doses of these substances would have been a great help to me. But, given the suggestibility of the psychedelic experience, I am glad that my own experiences came before I read his book and have therefore been validated by Fadiman’s suggestion that they might lead to profound improvements in creativity and insight. Had I read his book first, I might forever have wondered if my experiences had been down to the suggestions of the book.

I continue to use psychedelic substances to aid my creativity.

Exp Year: 2000-2020ExpID: 114115
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: 40 
Published: Jun 19, 2021Views: 214
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Mushrooms (39), Morning Glory (38) : Alone (16), Performance Enhancement (50), Retrospective / Summary (11)

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