New Cal program examines role of psychedelics in society

University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University recently announced that the two institutions received funding to begin research into how psychedelics have influenced art, literature, and society.

The initiative, called “Psychedelics in Society and Culture,” will focus on the historical significance of psychedelics and will provide faculty and student researchers with grants of up to $100,000 to study related issues. The Flourish Trust, an organization that donates grants to research in topics such as healing, donated over $1 million to UC Berkeley to fund the grants.

The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) and the Center for Interdisciplinary Critical Inquiry as well as Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center will lead the initiative.

“The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics was founded to deepen our understanding of psychedelics,” said Imran Khan, executive director of BCSP.

“We can’t fulfill this mission without studying psychedelics from multiple angles, whether that’s scientific, journalistic, or humanistic. As one of the world’s leading research and public universities, with a rich community of scholarship across many disciplines, we’re proud to be supporting cross-disciplinary inquiry into psychedelics here at UC Berkeley,” Khan said.

Imran Khan with UC Berkeley’s Center for the Science of Psychedelics discusses the new research initiative. (BCSP/YouTube)

“Potential research topics could range from Indigenous communities’ contemporary use of psychedelics to ethical considerations surrounding patenting to the interplay of psychedelics with philosophical questions around the nature of reality, consciousness, religion and the human experience,” a news release stated.

“This new initiative of UC Berkeley and Harvard will delve into new areas of essential psychedelic inquiry,” said author and BCSP cofounder Michael Pollan. “How might psychedelics affect our relationship with death or the natural world or our understanding of consciousness? What roles have psychedelics historically played in social change or religion? The possibilities for research and collaboration are endless, exciting, and will have the potential to shed fresh light on these questions and so many others.”

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