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The Psychedelic Future of the Mind

How Entheogens Are Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values

Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Explores scientific and medical research on the emerging uses of psychedelics to enrich mind, morals, spirituality, and creativity

• Outlines a future that embraces psychedelics as tools for cognitive development, personal growth, business, and an experience-based religious reformation

• Presents research on the use of psychedelics to enhance problem-solving, increase motivation, boost the immune system, and deepen ethical values

• Includes chapters by Roger N. Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., and Charles Grob, M.D., on their psychedelic research on religious experience and alleviating the fear of death

As psychedelic psychotherapy gains recognition through research at universities and medical establishments such as the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute and Bellevue Hospital, the other beneficial uses of psychedelics are beginning to be recognized and researched as well--from enhancing problem-solving and increasing motivation to boosting the immune system and deepening moral and ethical values.

Exploring the bright future of psychedelics, Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D., reveals how new uses for entheogens will enrich individuals as well as society as a whole. With contributions from Charles Grob, M.D., and Roger N. Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., the book explains how psychedelics can raise individual and business attitudes away from self-centeredness, improve daily life with strengthened feelings of meaningfulness and spirituality, and help us understand and redesign the human mind, leading to the possibility of a neurosingularity--a time when future brains surpass our current ones. Roberts envisions a future where you will seek psychedelic therapy not only for psychological reasons but also for personal growth, creative problem solving, improved brain function, and heightened spiritual awareness.

Our psychedelic future is on the horizon--a future that harnesses the full potential of mind and spirit--and Thomas Roberts outlines a path to reach it.


Chapter 7
Psychedelic Psychotherapy Near the End of Life

“Death must become a more human experience. To preserve the dignity of death and prevent the living from abandoning or distancing themselves from the dying is one of the great dilemmas of modern medicine.”
--Sidney Cohen, M.D., 1965

For individuals approaching the end of life, severe and persistent spiritual and existential crises are common occurrences. Even though modern medicine has progressed considerably in developing effective treatments for advanced-stage disease, often extending survival time for months or even years, efforts designed to address the psychological distress of terminal illness have often been limited.

Surveys have found that up to 70 percent of individuals with advanced-stage cancer experience heightened and often clinically significant anxiety. Depression and despair in cancer clients is not uncommon and leads to poorer survival rates, suicidal preoccupation and behavior, desire for hastened death, and requests for physician-assisted suicide. Existential anxiety, while a universal phenomena, develops greater intensity and urgency at the end of life along with heightened perception of vulnerability and inevitable death. The profound spiritual suffering often experienced as individuals approach the end of life shares many features of severe depression, including hopelessness, worthlessness, meaninglessness, social isolation, anger, guilt, and remorse. Addressing such conditions of spiritual and existential distress encourages active life review along with a realistic appreciation of current realities and assists in recognizing purpose, value, meaning, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

The great challenge for individuals nearing the end of their lives is often one of sustaining a sense of meaning and purpose. As the physical body declines and approaches death, individuals are often overwhelmed with pain and suffering, psychological as well as physical, and they begin to lose the thread of meaning and coherence that had previously defined their lives. Finding and sustaining meaning and a reason for being alive become the central challenges when faced with life-threatening illness, and serve as a way to help deter end-of-life despair.


Psychedelic psychotherapy is a treatment approach that has been demonstrated to facilitate enhanced states of spiritual transcendence and well-being reliably when conducted under optimal conditions. The passage of time has allowed for a relaxing of restrictions imposed on research as a result of the cultural turmoil of the 1960s and has provided new opportunities to reexamine the range of safety and efficacy of this long neglected treatment model. Both the pioneers of psychedelic research several decades ago along with more recent investigations have made the practical determination that, when conducting hallucinogen-facilitated psychotherapy with advanced-stage cancer clients, adhering to certain structures that will increase the likelihood of positive outcome is important. To begin with, clients must be informed that the treatment will not cure their physical illness but may help them develop the emotional strength to cope with what lies ahead. A period of preparatory work is necessary to establish rapport and trust between the client and therapeutic team and to conduct a thorough life review, including an examination of past and current relationships. Communication issues are addressed, as are attitudes and fears of death and dying and concerns about the future.

The treatment session is conducted in a pleasant and private setting that is decorated with items such as tapestries, art, flowers, or objects that have meaning for the client. During the long psychedelic experience (4 to 6 hours with psilocybin and 8 to 12 hours with LSD), the client is encouraged to lie down wearing an eyeshade and listening to pre-selected music through earphones (the experience of listening to music helps the client to let go of usual ego controls and experience a heightened degree of emotional awareness). Immediately after the session, family and friends may visit as the post-session “afterglow” state often opens up the opportunity for gratifying emotional interchanges. The final element of the treatment process is the integration of the experience, preferably with ongoing support from the research team, which occurs in the days, weeks, and months that follow.

Historical Research Background

Among the most promising areas of study coming out of the “Golden Age” of psychedelic research from the late 1950s to the early 1970s were a series of reports describing the work of investigators exploring the use of a psychedelic treatment model with clients who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Although he was not a medical researcher, the English literary figure Aldous Huxley was the first Western intellectual to identify the potential application of psychedelic compounds at the end of life. During the final ten years of his life, Huxley developed a fascination with the range of effects of the newly discovered psychedelics, and particularly their potential to alleviate psychospiritual suffering. In his final work of fiction, Island, Huxley described the use of the moksha (Sanskrit for “enlightenment”) medicine to facilitate the passage of the terminally ill from life into death. True to his beliefs, Huxley arranged for his personal physician to inject him with 100 micrograms of LSD hours before he died.

Huxley was a close friend of Sidney Cohen, a prominent internist at the UCLA School of Medicine who developed the first program designed to examine the use of psychedelics to ameliorate the high levels of emotional distress often observed in patients dying of advanced medical illness. Unfortunately, the details of his findings were never reported. However, Cohen published the rationale for conducting this treatment in Harper’s Magazine in 1965 in an article titled “LSD and the Anguish of Dying.” Cohen fervently called for the development of a more effective intervention for individuals approaching the final stages of life, which he believed would one day alter the experience of dying.

About The Author

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University and a former visiting scientist at Johns Hopkins. The coeditor of Psychedelic Medicine and the author of Psychedelic Horizons, he has spoken at international conferences on psychedelics, consciousness, and psychedelic science. He lives in Sycamore, Illinois.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (January 23, 2013)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594775024

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Raves and Reviews

“Roberts provides us with a map of a healthy future and directions on how to get there. This important, practical volume should be on the must-read list of all citizens, including students, businesspeople, artists, legislators, regulators, and policy makers. We would all do well to follow Professor Roberts’s guidance into our psychedelic future.”

– Neal M. Goldsmith, Ph.D., author of Psychedelic Healing

“With the psychedelic renaissance now in full flower, this book provides timely insight into the many reasons that we should work to mainstream nonordinary states of consciousness for a range of beneficial uses and the practical ways we can do so.”

– Rick Doblin, president and founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAP

“With intelligence, keen insight, deep knowledge, and a wonderful ability to imagine a future illuminated by the powerful interaction between entheogens and the seeking human mind, Thomas Roberts pulls off a visionary book about the most fascinating subject imaginable.”

– Tom Shroder, author of Old Souls and Fire on the Horizon

“Tom Roberts is one of the few elder statesmen of the psychedelic world concerned with the inevitable social and medical repercussions arising from the continued worldwide use and growing medical and governmental acceptance of entheogens. I find his speculations and their implications wise and innovative.”

– James Fadiman, Ph.D., author of The Psychedelic Explorers Guide

“Roberts’s work in the area of entheogens--man’s use of psychedelic substances in the context of religious rite or spiritual growth--has sought to replace popular uninformed hysteria with actual facts and, through critical examination, illuminate the ways in which our brains process and interpret our perceptions. He has earned his place among the best inner explorers of our time.”

– Will Dresser, author of Sacrament of Fear and The Methuselah Man

“Roberts’s book is a tour de force in the nascent field of psychedelic studies. The Psychedelic Future of the Mind proposes bold new research directions and methodologies that intrepidly advance what psychedelic research can become. A guide for researchers and the general public alike, this book promotes paths to integrate the power of psychedelic insights into both careers and daily life.”

– Nese Devenot, founder of the Psychedemia conference and contributing editor for Reality Sandwich

“Tom Roberts may be an extraordinary academic thinker, but he presents the ideas in this book poetically and directly in ways that will allow everyone from artists and intellectuals to shamanic seekers and born-agains to understand the value of psychedelics as we map out the geography of the global future of consciousness.”

– David Biddle, Reality Sandwiches, March 2013

The Psychedelic Future of the Mind is the best exploration that I’ve ever seen on how mystical experiences can transform human lives, catalyze the evolution of spiritual intelligence, and help people to discover the hidden potentials of the mind. This valuable contribution to our understanding of the psychedelically-inspired mystical experience--and its consequences on physical, mental, and spiritual health--discusses the psychology of religion, and how we learn in non-ordinary states of consciousness, from a transcendental vantage point. Thomas Roberts’ magnificent new book also explores how the future evolution of consciousness will interface with advanced technology, and is simply a treasure trove of fascinating ideas, bursting with eye-opening insights on every page.”

– David Jay Brown, author of The New Science of Psychedelics

“In short, Roberts’ book offers a well-informed introduction to the broad spectrum use of psychedelics, a prospectus for community growth centers, and a vision of intelligence and creativity higher than what we now enjoy, plus news from one of the best thinkers and a pair of the most imaginative researchers in the field.”

– Alternet, April 2013

“Tom Robert’s new book is a tour de force in the nascent field of psychedelic studies. More than a seminal overview of psychedelic research to date, The Psychedelic Future of the Mind proposes bold new research directions and methodologies that intrepidly advance what psychedelic research can become...Roberts’ book will be a signpost of inspiration to current and future researchers in developing this field.”

– Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, April 2013

“One of the most important and powerful aspects of this book is that Roberts effectively bridges the gap between science and humanistic thought. He takes an ecumenical and very open-minded approach to the value of altered states. This book should be in every psycho-naut’s library.”

– Neurosoup, April 2013

“Our psychedelic future is on the horizon—a future that harnesses the fuller potentials of mind and spirit: raising intelligence, new intellectual frontiers, new ways to interpret history and philosophy, even designing new thinking processes...! This book will sprout fresh ideas in your mind.”

– Branches of Light, June 2013

“In conclusion, The Psychedelic Future of the Mind does what any great work of pharmacography should do i.e. make one think. It doesn’t simply prescribe an approach, posit a definitive vision or throttle any particular meaning around the psychedelic experience. It puts one to thinking about the potential for psychedelic substances, for the individual and for society. As such, it is very successful and, moreover, challenging in many of the ideas it puts out there. Very much worth a read!”

– Psychedelic Press UK, October 2013

“Roberts seeks to enlighten all who will listen about the many potential benefits of using entheogens for a variety of purposes, and to replace common misconceptions with facts. This book goes beyond science and mental health. It’s interesting and enlightening for any explorer of human potential. ”

– Alice R. Bernston, New Connexion, November 2013

“Roberts present his concepts and ideas clearly and coherently, yet does so with unmistakable passion and an underlying sense of humour. The main goal of this work is to stimulate a new way of looking at psychedelics; viewing them as potential allies in our evolutionary journey. While he remains optimistic for the future, he stops short of suggesting that psychedelics are a panacea or that social change will occur overnight. He emphasizes that obstacles to public education and academic research still exits and there will continue to be resistance in the public and political spheres. Nevertheless, Roberts’ conclusions and recommendations, especially with regards to education, are worthy of a wider audience. Considering Roberts has taught a course on psychedelics for over three decades, he has a commendable grasp of the logistics and significance of psychedelic education. We would be wise to take note of his suggestions so that we may develop new research questions and models; creative methodologies; engaging university courses; and future generations of psychedelic researchers.”

– Adam G. Van Hagen, South African Journal of Psychology, February 2014

“Those who can come across the word entheogens (psychoactive drugs used with a spiritual purpose) without needing a dictionary will have an easier time with the prose, but they might be the proverbial choir listening to the preaching. These folks can expect an informative, thoughtful, organized, and enjoyable spin through history, spirituality, religion, psychology, economics, and politics. They will find the classic allusions to many of psychology’s forefathers, including William James and Abraham Maslow, as Roberts details how the field has always flirted with mystical experiences and altered levels of awareness. Big names in the study of consciousness also get respectful tips of the hat. Roberts boils down complicated studies in an accessible way. Unlike comparable authors, he does not see hallucinogens as a panacea. An endearing section called Why You Shouldn’t Put LSD in Your Friend’s Coffee underscores the import of set and setting, emphasizes how the underground market undermines knowledge about any illicit drug’s actual content and potency, and elaborates on individual differences in drug reactions. The hallucinogens are clearly not for everybody.”

– by Thomas B. Roberts, American Psychological Association, February 2014

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