“Our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Only when we touch our true nature can we transcend the fear of non-being, the fear of annihilation”
Thich Nhat Hanh
In this presentation, Drs. Anthony P. Bossis and Charles S. Grob will review the history and findings from psychedelic mystical experience research to relieve the psychological, existential, and spiritual distress associated with cancer or at the end of life. FDA-approved clinical trials have demonstrated safety and efficacy of a single psilocybin-generated mystical experience in helping individuals cultivate equanimity, enhance existential and spiritual well-being, and foster a greater acceptance of the dying process with less anxiety. Landmark published scientific findings of reductions in depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and demoralization along with improvements in spiritual well-being will be presented along with implications for palliative and hospice care. Psilocybin is the psychedelic compound found in specific species of mushrooms. Subjective features of a mystical experience include unity, sacredness, transcendence, awe, ineffability, and an enhanced awareness of positive emotions including that of love.
Psilocybin-generated experiences offer a novel therapeutic approach to promote meaning-making and an openness to the mystery of death. The phenomenology of psychedelic-generated states of consciousness shares common ground with the wisdom teachings found in Buddhist traditions, notably that of impermanence and the interconnectedness of all beings and phenomena. Other accounts include insights regarding mindfulness, compassion, and equanimity amidst suffering and difficult emotions. Psychedelic treatment does not solely rely on symptom reduction or a drug effect per se, but rather on insights and memories from the unique phenomenology of transpersonal experience that allows the possibility to discover new perspectives regarding the nature of self, death, and consciousness. Implications for the enhanced understanding of religious experience, consciousness studies, and inter-religious dialogue will also be addressed. Drs. Grob and Bossis are guest editors on a special series on psychedelics for the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (SAGE).
Special thanks to Geoffry D. White, Ph.D. for making this event possible.