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Radiant Nexus of Psychedelic Group • 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 knowledgeable therapists, students, and explorers of the worlds opened by psychedelic substances, died peacefully in her house on July 9, 2022.

Ann was born Laura Ann Gotleib in New Zealand on March 23, 1931. Her mom was a New Zealander and her father a U.S. Consul. On account of her father’s career, 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 Conflict II, the household moved to the USA, 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 probabilities of economic artwork as a career. 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 youngsters, earlier than ultimately divorcing.

Photo of person this essay is honoring

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 yard on July 4, 1981, a shock occasion added into what was in any other case a traditional vacation celebration. The particular person officiating their ceremony was a detailed good friend 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, creating and testing new psychoactive (principally psychedelic) compounds, offering skilled session to academia and legislation 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.

Shortly, Ann and Sasha grew to become shut collaborators. As Ann would later say: Whereas Sasha was a genius in chemistry, it was she who understood individuals and the complexities of the psyche. Ann grew to become 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 grew to become expert in doing shadow work with purchasers and in consulting and mentoring on the method. A fantastic 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 displays, every talking to their explicit experience. They conceived and authored two legendary 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 carried out in collaboration with a small group of shut buddies, generally known as their “analysis group.” When Ann and Sasha sought a writer for PiHKAL, nobody would take it on. It was thought of 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 biggest 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 discuss, as buddies, colleagues, and collaborators on a serious societal mission. The mission: 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 4th of July gatherings have been particularly nicely attended.

For a few years, a smaller collective of buddies additionally gathered repeatedly for potlucks that started within the Nineteen Eighties as “Wednesday Night time Dinners.” Sooner or later there was a shift to “Friday Night time Dinners.” The meals was scrumptious, as individuals 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 Night time Dinners and Farm gatherings, it was made very clear that there was to be no unlawful drug use of any sort on the premises, and no alternate of unlawful supplies. With this they have been very adamant and strict. Ann made an announcement at the start of each gathering. And people in attendance readily agreed.

Today, with a lot optimistic 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 the federal government and the media, however the legislation enforcement associated to them was really draconian. Lengthy jail sentences weren’t unusual. And one might, with no trial, have one’s house and property confiscated merely for having unlawful supplies on the premises. On a number of events of us from legislation enforcement have been seen photographing license plates of vehicles parked at Shulgin gatherings.

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. Once they revealed their first guide, PiHKAL, in 1991, it didn’t take lengthy for legislation enforcement to come back down onerous on them, raiding their tranquil house and Sasha’s yard laboratory, and levying heavy fines and quite a lot of disruption and misery. Their second guide, TiHKAL, opens with the story of this raid.


Sasha and Ann Shulgin in 2004.

Today 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 taking place. On the contrary, glorious science with psychedelics has continued all through all of the many years between the Fifties as much as right this moment. Sasha Shulgin was personally accountable for a few of this. And there have been many others: chemists, pharmacologists, ethnobotanists, neurobiologists, mycologists. What is generally new right this moment is the appliance of latest methodologies to the research of those supplies. And the unbridled commercialization.

And whereas present scientific work has moved authorized availability ahead with scientific trials in response to the FDA’s required protocols, one might argue that no new or surprising therapeutic properties have been found. Between the tutorial researches of the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, and the many years of underground remedy that has continued since, an ideal deal has been realized and described and transmitted from mentor to pupil.

We owe an ideal debt to Ann Shulgin and quite a few others for persevering with the lineage of exploration, innovation, follow, and mentoring that has resulted within the progress that’s manifest right this moment.

Ann modeled how one can dwell as a great citizen in psychedelic neighborhood. Variety, beneficiant, current in connection, an exemplary therapist, and a talented mentor, her large coronary heart proven by means of within the sparkle in her eyes. She beloved her household above all, her husband, her youngsters, and her grandchildren. And she or he beloved 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 good friend 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 assumed that it was maybe a couple of ft from me, then I noticed I couldn’t truly find it in area 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 might step by means of it if I wanted to be completed with this explicit life I used to be dwelling, and that there was nothing threatening or menacing about it; the truth is, it was utterly pleasant. I additionally knew that I had no intention of stepping by means of it as a result of there was nonetheless an ideal deal I wished to do in my life, and I supposed to dwell lengthy sufficient to get all of it carried out. The beautiful spiral door didn’t beckon; it was simply matter-of-factly there.

“Any concern I might 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 best way by means of, and there was nothing to be terrified 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 carried out all I wish 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 really a returning house.)” [PiHKAL, p. 129]


Ann modeled how one can dwell, and he or she modeled how one can die. And she or he really completed 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 presents and love transmitted to this neighborhood over such an expanse a time. The world is a much better place in your having been right here.

Picture credit: David Presti.



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