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Radiant Nexus of Psychedelic Neighborhood • The Berkeley Weblog

Ann Shulgin, matriarch of psychedelic-assisted remedy, widow of and co-conspirator with legendary chemist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, and anchor of an prolonged neighborhood of therapists, scientists, students, and explorers of the worlds opened by psychedelic substances, died at house within the firm of people that liked her on July 9, 2022. She was 91.

Ann was born Laura Ann Gotlieb in New Zealand on March 22, 1931. Her mom was a New Zealander and her father a U.S. Consul. On account of her father’s occupation, the household moved round a bit, and most of Ann’s childhood throughout the Nineteen Thirties was spent in Italy, first in Sicily after which Trieste. With the approaching of World Warfare II, the household moved to the US, on the Texas-Mexico border, and later lived in Cuba and Canada, earlier than returning to the U.S., this time to San Francisco, the place her father retired.

In San Francisco within the Fifties, Ann studied artwork, and explored the chances of business artwork as a occupation. She married a fellow artist they usually had a baby. There was divorce and a subsequent marriage to a medical pupil.  At this level Ann labored as a medical transcriptionist at UCSF. One other divorce was adopted by marriage to a Jungian psychoanalyst. They lived close to San Francisco in Marin County and had three kids, earlier than ultimately divorcing.

Ann Shulgin at house in 2019.

In 1978 Ann met Sasha Shulgin, and it was clear early on that this was a coupling meant to be. They have been married in a ceremony of their backyard on July 4, 1981, a shock occasion added into what was in any other case a standard vacation celebration. The particular person officiating their ceremony was an in depth buddy who labored as an official of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Sasha was already a famend chemist, well known as a genius in artificial chemistry, growing and testing new psychoactive (largely psychedelic) compounds, offering skilled session to academia and regulation enforcement, and educating an annual class in forensic toxicology at UC Berkeley. Among the many compounds Sasha had already created have been 2C-B and different associated molecules. And he had famously described the chemistry, psychoactive properties, and therapeutic potential of MDMA.

Rapidly, Ann and Sasha turned shut collaborators. As Ann would later say: Whereas Sasha was a genius in chemistry, it was she who understood folks and the complexities of the psyche. Ann turned a pioneer in exploring the therapeutic utility of MDMA and of 2C-B. Neither of those substances was unlawful on the time. As a lay therapist she developed strategies of working with these supplies and offered counsel and mentorship to many. Bringing ideas from Jungian psychoanalysis into her work with psychedelics, Ann turned expert in doing shadow work with purchasers and mentored different therapists on the method. A phenomenal presentation on doing shadow work was delivered by Ann on the 2019 Girls’s Visionary Congress.

Ann and Sasha have been equals of their relationship and muses for each other. They traveled collectively when invited to conferences and each typically gave shows, every chatting with their specific experience. They conceived and authored two celebrated books collectively – PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (1991) and TiHKAL: The Continuation (1997) – telling tales of their relationship and their neighborhood, interwoven with descriptions of exploring the properties of Sasha’s molecular creations, explorations typically achieved in collaboration with a small group of shut pals, generally known as their “analysis group.” When Ann and Sasha sought a writer for PiHKAL, nobody would take it on. It was thought-about too controversial, and each writer they approached was too fearful to publish the guide. In order that they began their very own press, Rework Press, to make PiHKAL accessible when nobody else would do it.

Photo of Ann

Ann Shulgin at a guide launch and signing occasion on the UC Berkeley Bookstore in 2011.

Among the many best of Ann and Sasha’s contributions was their anchoring of neighborhood. Their house, affectionately known as “The Farm,” was a gathering place for like-minded souls to assemble and speak, as pals, colleagues, and collaborators on a significant societal venture. The venture: to maintain alive and flourishing the neighborhood of scientists, students, and practitioners working with psychedelics; to supply a secure place for dialog and neighborhood connection. Their Easter Sunday and July 4th gatherings have been particularly nicely attended.

For a few years, a smaller collective of pals additionally gathered usually for potlucks that started within the Nineteen Eighties as “Wednesday Evening Dinners.” Sooner or later there was a shift to “Friday Evening Dinners.” The meals was scrumptious, as folks introduced ardour and care to creating actually tasty dishes to share. Till his loss of life, these dinner gatherings have been held on the house of Ann Shulgin’s ex-husband in Marin County, however on the middle of the gathering have been at all times Ann and Sasha.

Regardless of the shared curiosity of individuals attending Wednesday and Friday Evening Dinners and Farm gatherings, it was made very clear that there was to be no unlawful drug use of any type on the premises, and no change of unlawful supplies. With this they have been very adamant and strict. Ann made an announcement at first of each gathering. And people in attendance readily agreed.

Nowadays, with a lot constructive media consideration on the virtues of psychedelics, the favorable outcomes of scientific trials with MDMA and psilocybin, profitable decriminalization efforts in cities throughout the nation, and rampant commercialization of those supplies, it might be troublesome to understand that not way back psychedelics weren’t solely demonized by governments and the media, however the regulation enforcement associated to them was actually draconian. Lengthy jail sentences weren’t unusual. And one may, with out a trial, have one’s house and property confiscated merely for having unlawful supplies on the premises.

Ann and Sasha have been brave certainly for internet hosting such gatherings, and for talking publicly on quite a few events on the science and scientific utility of psychedelics, correctly and respectfully used. Following the publication of their first guide, PiHKAL, regulation enforcement invaded their tranquil house and Sasha’s yard laboratory, levied heavy fines, and prompted an excessive amount of disruption and misery. Their second guide, TiHKAL, opens with the story of those occasions.


Sasha and Ann Shulgin in 2004.

Nowadays it’s typically thought that though some scientific and scientific research with psychedelics did happen within the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, nothing a lot got here from that, and the nice science and scientific investigations are solely now occurring. On the contrary, wonderful science with psychedelics has continued all through all of the many years between the Fifties as much as as we speak. Sasha Shulgin was personally answerable for a few of this. And there have been many others: chemists, pharmacologists, ethnobotanists, neurobiologists, mycologists. What is generally new as we speak is the appliance of recent methodologies to the examine of those supplies. And the unbridled commercialization.

And whereas present scientific work has moved authorized availability ahead with scientific trials based on the FDA’s required protocols, one may argue that no new or sudden therapeutic properties have been found. Between the educational researches of the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, and the many years of underground remedy that has continued since, an awesome deal has been discovered and described and transmitted from mentor to pupil.

We owe an awesome debt to Ann Shulgin and quite a few others for persevering with the lineage of exploration, innovation, observe, and mentoring that has resulted within the progress that’s manifest as we speak.

Ann modeled the right way to reside as a superb citizen in psychedelic neighborhood. Sort, beneficiant, current in connection, moral, an exemplary therapist, and a talented mentor, her large coronary heart proven by within the sparkle in her eyes. She liked her household above all, her husband, her kids, and her grandchildren. And he or she liked these round her. In return she was surrounded by a circle of affection and care to the hours of her final breath and past.

Greater than 30 years in the past, Ann wrote in PiHKAL about an expertise she had had greater than 30 years previous to that, her very first psychedelic journey when she was in her 20s. Ann and a buddy have been strolling about in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.


“We stopped and seemed round us on the earth, the sky and one another, then I noticed one thing forming within the air, barely above the extent of my head. I believed that it was maybe just a few toes from me, then I noticed I couldn’t truly find it in house in any respect. It was a shifting spiral opening, up there within the cool air, and I knew it was a doorway to the opposite aspect of existence, that I may step by it if I wanted to be completed with this specific life I used to be dwelling, and that there was nothing threatening or menacing about it; in actual fact, it was fully pleasant. I additionally knew that I had no intention of stepping by it as a result of there was nonetheless an awesome deal I wished to do in my life, and I meant to reside lengthy sufficient to get all of it achieved. The beautiful spiral door didn’t beckon; it was simply matter-of-factly there.

“Any concern I may need had of loss of life, of the particular crossing of the border, was left behind at that second. I used to be seeing the way in which by, and there was nothing to be scared of. As I gazed up on the energy-charged patch of sky, I used to be once more conscious of being unsurprised, as a result of some a part of me remembered this.

“(I nonetheless have the concern of dying earlier than I’ve achieved all I need to, however I’ve no concern of the journey itself, nor of what lies on the opposite aspect of that opening. I do know that once I get there, I’ll acknowledge the territory very nicely certainly, and that will probably be actually a returning house.)” [PiHKAL, p. 129]


Ann modeled the right way to reside, and she or he modeled the right way to die. And he or she completed actually huge issues within the 60+ years between seeing that spiral and intuiting its significance, and her passing this month. Thanks, Ann, for the neighborhood you fostered and for all of the knowledge items and love transmitted to this neighborhood over such an expanse a time. The world is a much better place on your having been right here.

Picture credit: David Presti.



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