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Insights into Inner-Space: An Interview with Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Rick Strassman



NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently sent photos to earth of a previously unseen population of seven primitive galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 percent of its present age.  These photographs present a primitive portrait of the universe, 350-600 thousand years after the big bang. As our technological capabilities increase, with the help of instruments like NASA’s next-generation spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers and physicists will be able to penetrate even deeper into outer-space and pave the way for new insight into origins, primordial states of nature, and the history of physical reality to which we are descendents.
While physicists and astronomers reach further into the Cosmos, inching closer to the impression of the moment of creation, with eyes to the sky, instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope provide no vantage points into the invisible realities of dark matter and dark energy, which comprise 96 percent of the universe.  To physicists the landscape of inner-space or consciousness remains hidden and the contemporary models of physics that we use to think critically about reality, even those which acknowledge concepts like dark matter, dark energy, many worlds, and multiverses, lack the tools and vocabulary to describe the nature of the inferred invisible realities with any scientific credibility.

The field of psychedelic studies, however, is one branch of inquiry leading humanity to begin penetrating into the ocean of inner-space, which some hypothesize to be the house of much of the phenomena illustrated in today’s cutting edge theoretical physics.  However, psychedelic explorations fall awkward into the domain of science, religion, magic, and taboo.  And naturally, these violently adversarial superstitions germinate skepticism around ambitions of unification.

Psychedelic scientists study a colorful spectrum of topics.  From the effects of administered psychedelics on volunteers in spiritual, creative, meditative, therapeutic, etc, contexts to naturally occurring psychedelic experiences in similar sets and settings.

One special strain of psychedelic inquiry is the data collected on the effects of Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, the chemical cousin of psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms), ibogaine (psychedelic Tabernanthe Iboga root), mescaline (psychedelic Peyote cactus). In psychedelic circles the reputation of DMT precedes it.  DMT is known to be one of the most powerful and psychedelic compounds found in nature; and individuals who have experienced the compound vehemently testify to its unique effects.  For example, individuals have been known to experience a complete separation of mind from body, experiences of enlightenment, religious or mystical revelation, travel through multidimensional space, but also alien encounters.

Noted expert and pioneer of psychedelic studies Dr. Rick Strassman is the first scientist to revive psychedelic exploration in the United States since the 70’s.  Strassman’s research involved the powerful naturally-occurring compound, DMT – N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Led to this substance through his earlier study of the pineal gland as a potential biological locus for spiritual experiences, he administered several hundred doses of DMT to approximately 60 volunteers between 1990 and 1995. He wrote about this research in the popular book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which has sold over 100,000 copies, has been translated into 12 languages, and is now available as an audio-book. It also inspired an independent documentary by the same name, picked up by Warner Bros distributing in Fall, 2011. With three distinguished collaborators, he co-authored Inner Paths to Outer Space, which looks more carefully at the common ‘other worlds’ experience that volunteers frequently reported during his research.

In a recent conversation I was fortunate to have with Dr. Strassman we spoke in depth about the science and philosophy underlying his research.  According to Strassman, DMT exists in body fluids of every mammal that has been investigated, including those of human.  The fact that there is an endogenous [naturally occurring] compound that seems to provide access to, for lack of a better word, spiritual states, suggests that we are hardwired for such experiences. In addition, DMT may be the mediator between the physical and spiritual. By spiritual, I mean a complex of experiences that partakes of a number of variables which combined in a particular manner elicit a constellation of effects that people refer to as spiritual. For example, extreme emotions, novel insights, the seeming separation of consciousness from the body, visions, voices, and so on. A rabbi and I were talking about DMT several years ago and he wondered about its relationship to a particular Hebrew/Kabbalistic concept that has to do with the most spiritual of the physical and the most physical of the spiritual. Perhaps DMT fits into that definition.  Alex Grey [a visionary artist] referred to my labeling DMT as the ‘spirit molecule’ as a conundrum or a paradox. I think that is an accurate portrayal of the notion.”

Furthermore in scientific observations throughout Strassman’s research he subtly points to DMT’s chemical simplicity, as well as its apparent necessary role in the body.  Discussing the results of his study of DMT, Strassman explained to me that DMT is “made in the lungs of mammals and appears to be actively transported across the blood brain barrier using energy in order to get into the brain. The brain only expends energy in getting substances into its confines that it is unable to synthesize on its own and that are necessary for its function.”  Some of the Platonic arguments for the existence and immortality of the soul arise from similar principles of simplicity and necessity.  And while the jury may eternally be out, with regard to the reason for DMT’s influence on consciousness and history in humanity, Dr. Strassman teaches us DMT may be more productively understood as the biological common denominator underlying the soul and science.  So, from this context Dr. Strassman’s declaration of DMT as the ‘spirit molecule’ comes into focus, along with a tool set to prod into inner-space and the genealogy of the human experience of spirit and consciousness.

One of the biggest obstacles facing further research of DMT, other psychedelics, and inner-space in American culture is the issue of integration.  DMT enters boldly into mass culture beckoning as a potential light bridging the gap between the separate and conservative world views of church, science, and superstition, a tough line to take.

Nevertheless, Dr. Strassman in our discussion pointed out to me that “There are a number of ways DMT could be used in the West.  At one level, it can be used to help us understand the relationship between biology and consciousness; that is, what receptors are involved, what parts of the brain, etc., when DMT is drastically modifying consciousness. At another level, one could use DMT as a therapeutic tool to the extent that the therapeutic process, in whatever form, is enhanced through its administration.  If one looks at, for example, treating drug abuse like cocaine or methamphetamine within a spiritual context, one could see the spiritual properties of DMT having an effect. Or, if your model is primarily psychological, you could assess the effects of DMT on those functions of the mind that are involved in traditional psychotherapeutic change, and determine the effects of DMT on those functions. For those who are seeking religious or spiritual insights, or some acceleration of their spiritual practice, DMT could also be used in that context.  In fact, it is being used in that latter context, as in the case of the Brazilian ayahuasca-using churches that have legal permission to practice in the United States.”

However, the schedule 1 status of psychedelic drugs remains a powerful stigma negatively influencing conventional wisdom on DMT; and these influences stifle much of the momentum built around research aimed at realizing the benefits psychedelics could have in Western culture.  So instead of studying the capacity a psychedelic compound like DMT might have on creative, psychotherapeutic, or enlightenment experiences, it seems that major arms of the federal scientific research and drug regulatory apparatus would prefer to study and promote more lucrative endeavors, for example, stimulants, anti-depressants, and drugs to combat impotence.

Still, Dr. Strassman predicts that in time the West will be able to move past its deeply held cultural bias and integrate the study of DMT and other psychedelics using the models it is most comfortable with – the spiritual and the scientific. And as Dr. Strassman commented, “Generally, the scientific and the spiritual do not mix that well.  However, the psychedelic drugs are especially well situated to bridge that gap. For example, there are studies at Hopkins in Baltimore that are recently replicating and extending research that was done in the late 1960s and early 1970s suggesting that these drugs have spiritual import in those taking them who are inclined in those kinds of directions.  I think if the effects of DMT and other psychedelics are mostly kept within the spiritual and scientific models the West ought to be able to manage their effects relatively well. However, when one begins to assess and consider the role of endogenous DMT in our perception of reality, that is, more philosophic and epistemological point of view, things may get a little more controversial.”

The future for explorations into consciousness and inner-space is bright; and in our conversation Dr. Strassman explained the next wave of psychedelic research will entail repeating many of the first wave studies: terminal illness anguish/despair mitigation, substance abuse treatment, treatment of anxiety and mood disorders, and spiritual practice enhancement; “In addition, it would be of interest to assess effects of DMT in those who’ve had NDEs [near death experiences] or abduction experiences.  Or measure levels [of DMT] in people having those experiences, or those in spiritual states.  Another set of data might be to develop a camera that can photograph the contents of dark matter, and compare it to what a DMT subject reports at the same time and place.  We are getting close to being able to see the form and shape of images in one’s brain/mind using imaging technology.”

The road to a unified understanding of consciousness will lead us into the invisible dimensions of inner-space. And with eyes turned inward, psychedelic experiences may transform the human body into an instrument, like the Hubble Space Telescope, and allow the powerful machine that is the human body to collect impressions from the veiled horizons of our genealogy.  And, as Dr. Strassman concluded in our interview, beyond replicating past experiments, “Psychedelic centers ought to be established, where the full spectrum of the human scientific, religious, creative, artistic endeavor can be brought to bear on the psychedelic experience–where treatment, growth, aesthetic, heuristic studies can all occur under one roof.”    

By Matt Ramirez

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Denver’s Wes Watkins dynamic new future-funk EP is from another planet




Future-Funk Party Starter | Wes Watkins

Dreams Out from Denver’s best kept secret Wes Watkins wears so many musical hats it needs a rack; downtempo G-Funk homage and sweltering nee-Soul / Rn’B are all over this release, all covered with a thicc pop glaze and a penchant for electronic-sonic experimentation that keep every song fascinatingly adventurous while maintaining a danceability and groove that easily, easily warrants multiple listens. Don’t sleep on this one.

Lo-Fuzz Folkie | Hoi Ann

The beauty of Hoi Ann’s Tangenier lies in both what you can hear and what it may want you to not hear. Lo-fi folk and bedroom-pop are easily tangible on its surface, but the buzzy electronic tones that sparingly flourish the 5 songs of this release lie low and create a unique aural atmosphere for listeners, like hidden secrets for your ears only.

Indie-Punk Sweeties | Gestalt

The pop-punk shred-bois in Gestalt are back at it again; The irresistible combo of the Get Up Kids earnest midwestern-emo and smart pop-punk wit of the Wonder Years is strong on the tracks that encompass LongBoix, as is an acute fondness and growing appreciation for the finer indie rock of yesteryear. Well I guess this is growing up.

Psych-Rock Screamcore | Gone Full Heathen

On their criminally good self titled EP, Fort Collins heavies Gone Full Heathen friggin dare you to try and trap them in a single genre. Nice try, but they’ll just chew right through your puny ropes using a gnashing blend of crushing stoner-rock laced hardcore punk and overdriven psych-rock / post-metal induced bite like the righteous rock and roll wolves that they are.

All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days



There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

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Senators upend GOP health care bill in true Trump style… Twitter



WASHINGTON — When Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran decided they were in ready to disrupt the GOP rewrite of the health care law, they chose President Donald Trump’s favorite medium.

They could not support Senate Republicans’ plan, the somewhat unlikely pair of conservatives tweeted at 8:30 p.m. Monday night, giving no heads up to the White House or Senate leaders before pressing send.

The story behind the statement reveals two senators willing to be branded as bill killers and seemingly unconcerned with trying to soften the blow with party leaders.

The announcement, coming after some 10 days of conversations between the men, stunned official Washington and left Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate from being able to move forward with the GOP bill, effectively sinking the measure. It landed shortly after Trump dined with a group of senators to discuss strategy – unwittingly plotting a plan that would immediately become outdated.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican leader, found out about Lee’s defection after the White House dinner of rosemary-grilled rib eye and summer vegetable succotash. He “had no idea it was coming,” Cornyn said.

Another Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, found out from TV news.

Moran, a second-term lawmaker from Kansas who isn’t known for making waves, and Lee, a two-term senator from Utah who has clashed with Trump, have been talking over the past 10 days about the health care legislation and agreed the GOP bill did not go far enough to repeal Obamacare or address rising health-care costs. They decided to announce their position to make the bill’s fate clear and allow senators to move on, Moran said.

“It could have been prolonged for days or weeks while no one said anything,” Moran said in an interview.

Moran, who oversaw the Senate Republicans’ 2014 election campaigns, concluded last week he wouldn’t vote for the latest version of the bill but “gave myself a weekend in Kansas to think about it,” he said.

Lee had helped draft an amendment, along with fellow conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones to lower costs. Cruz agreed to some changes in wording by GOP leaders, but Lee thought the new language allowed too many Obama-era regulations to remain in place.

After talking again, Moran and Lee agreed Monday night on a statement drafted earlier in the day. They issued their statement shortly after a White House dinner attended by seven GOP senators – all likely yes votes on the health care bill. Neither Lee nor Moran attended.

A Lee spokesman said the statement – and its timing – “had nothing to do with the White House dinner. It was not a reaction in any way.”

The statement was made public as soon as it was ready, the spokesman said.

Neither Trump nor McConnell received advance warning about the statement, although it’s likely that neither the president nor the Senate leader was completely surprised.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend calling lawmakers, including Lee and at least seven other GOP senators, according to the administration. Trump talked politics, while Pence discussed policy.

Trump called Lee on Saturday, and Lee told the president he was leaning against the bill, for the reasons he later made public.

Lee told Utah’s KSL Newsradio that he had a great conversation with Trump, when he told the president his “consumer freedom” amendment had been weakened and that he wasn’t sure that he could support the bill.

“He was encouraging to me and said, you know, ‘Just see what changes you can make to it,’ ” Lee said.

Lee and McConnell did not talk over the weekend, but Lee spoke twice to Cornyn, R-Texas, the majority whip.

Trump, who frequently takes to Twitter to announce proposals or denounce opponents, was blindsided by, of all things, a tweet.

He told reporters Tuesday he was “very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape. But they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason.”

Moran said while he remained committed to repealing the health care law, Congress needs to make a “fresh start” on writing a replacement bill in an “open legislative process.”

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said, in a statement that followed the tweet.

In his own statement, Lee said the GOP bill does not repeal all the Obamacare tax increases and “doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

Both explanations were issued on social media.

“Twitter is a nice medium to get your message out,” Lee’s spokesman said.

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