Episode 2: Amanda Feilding, Director of the Beckley Foundation
“The door is ajar…”
In this episode Amanda Feilding, director of the Beckley Foundation, invited us to her beautiful home and hub in the Oxfordshire countryside. We had a wide ranging and fascinating conversation, where it became apparent that, after decades of tireless researching and campaigning, the foundation finds itself in the anteroom to major change in the world of psychedelic science.
The Genesis of the Beckley Foundation
Her work with a selection of fascinating scientific collaborators
The qualitative characteristics of the ‘mystical experience’
How she differentiates the mystical experience from ‘peak’ experiences
The utility and potential of psychedelics to briefly interrupt the axiom of negative rumination which is such a characteristic trait types of refractory mental illness
The role of psychedelics in palliative care
The issue with funding
Amanda Feilding has been called the ‘hidden hand’ behind the renaissance of psychedelic science, and her contribution to global drug policy reform has also been pivotal and widely acknowledged.
Amanda was first introduced to LSD in the mid-1960s, at the height of the first wave of scientific research into psychedelics. Impressed by its capacity to initiate mystical states of consciousness and heighten creativity, she quickly recognised its transformative and therapeutic power. Inspired by her experiences, she began studying the mechanisms underlying the effects of p zsychedelic substances and dedicated herself to exploring ways of harnessing their potential to cure sickness and enhance wellbeing.
In 1996, Amanda set up The Foundation to Further Consciousness, subsequently changing its name to the Beckley Foundation in 1998. She realised that the potential harms and benefits of cannabis and psychedelics could only be adequately assessed by developing a sound scientific understanding of their mechanisms of action. Through the Foundation, she set about using cutting-edge brain imaging technologies to examine the neurophysiological changes underlying altered states of consciousness. Her long-held aim is to further our understanding of consciousness and how changes in cerebral circulation and neuronal activity underlie the effects of various psychoactive substances, so that we can better harness their potential to improve the human condition.
Her body of work has two main strands:
Through the Beckley Foundation’s Policy Programme, Amanda has commissioned and published over 40 books, reports, and policy papers which have analysed the negative consequences of the criminalisation of drug use, and laid out possible alternatives which could protect public health, diminish violence and governmental costs, and protect human rights .The foundation’s seminal 2011 public letter has been signed by presidents, Nobel laureates, and other notables.
Through the Beckley Foundation’s Science Programme, Amanda has initiated much ground-breaking research and has co-authored over 50 scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals. She collaborates with leading scientists and institutions around the world to design and direct a wide range of scientific research projects (including clinical trials) investigating the effects of psychoactive substances on brain function, subjective experience, and clinical symptoms, with a focus on cannabis, the psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, 5-MEO-DMT) and MDMA. This pioneering research has not only shed light on the mechanisms of action and therapeutic potential of these substances, but also on consciousness itself. This has led to a groundswell of interest in, and recognition of, the possible benefits that careful use of these extraordinary compounds can bring. The research that Amanda has initiated has shown that psychedelics hold great promise in helping individuals with illnesses such as treatment-resistant depression and addiction. Furthermore, in her role as co-director of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, she helped generate the world’s first images of the brain under LSD, one of her long-standing ambitions.