Greg Kasarik

"Act with Empathy"
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Scientific, Policy, Religious/Spiritual and Cultural Reasons for Regulation

There are many reasons for arguing that Transcendent Compounds should be made legal, particularly within the context of regulated access for religious and spiritual purposes.

Here I discuss issues of Science, Policy, Religion and Culture. 

Science and Health

Transcendent Compounds are without doubt the safest mind altering substances known to humanity. They are non-toxic, non-addictive and psychologically safe in an appropriate dose, set and setting. While I can understand that you may doubt my claims on this - and I encourage you to do so - a quick Wikipedia search of individual compounds, will easily confirm these claims.

After decades of research, the science on these substances is quite certain and there are two excellent reviews of the literature that anybody can read. The first is by David E. Nichols who currently holds the Robert C. and Charlotte P. Anderson Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at Purdue University and is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on hallucinogens.

His excellent 2004 review of the literature, “Hallucinogens” , discusses a breadth of topics, including history, pharmacology, toxicity, addictiveness and psychological outcomes and as such, is an excellent primer for any person who wishes to acquaint themselves with the accumulated research up until that date. Importantly, rather than addressing all hallucinogens, he focuses on the those three which are also the most commonly used Transcendent Compounds (all Transcendent Compounds are currently classed as hallucinogens, but not all hallucinogens are Transcendent Compounds), namely LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline. I have sourced this paper from the excellent Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies website, and one can find quite a few other papers available there as well

One of the really good things about the Nichols article, is that he is a well respected scientist and not an apologist, or activist for the use of these compounds. In his paper, he addresses the possible harms posed by the use of these compounds, including the potential for mental illness and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

With respect to the mental illness, he reports that "these drugs do not appear to produce illness denovo in otherwise emotionally healthy persons, but these problems seem to be precipitated in predisposed individuals". While with respect to HPPD, he indicates that "the incidence of HPPD appears to be very small".

Given the length of this paper and the technical nature of some of its contents, I felt it appropriate that I offer a commentary, highlighting those aspects of the paper which are relevant to the campaign for obtaining regulated access to Transcendent Compounds for religious and spiritual purposes. In reading my commentary, readers should remember that I am not a pharmacologist with over four decades of experience and that I have not yet been able to access many of the papers that he refers to.

Whereas Nichols' paper discusses LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline, the second article discusses DMT, or more specifically ayahuasca. It is a recent editorial from the International Journal of Drug Policy, entitled a "Statement on Ayahusaca", in which the journal's editorial board and other luminaries come out forcefully in support of the right to use the brew for religious and cultural purposes. Unfortunately, the published article lies behind a firewall (Hey guys, why make a “statement” and then hide it?), but I obtained an “in press” version, which can be viewed until such a time as I am told to remove it.

Furthermore, the American Anthropological Association has just released a freely available special Ayahuasca edition of their journal "Anthropology of Consciousness"
The Council on Spiritual Practices also has links to recent psilocybin studies that highlight the mystical experiences that people can experience in conjunction with these compounds. 
Additionally,research has also shown that these compounds can be of significant benefit to persons suffering from a variety of medical conditions:

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its well established link to mystical experience, research has also shown that the administration of LSD to terminally ill patients can result in a significant decrease in symptoms of psychological distress. 
Clearly then, not only are Transcendent Compounds non-addictive, non-toxic and psychologically safe, but they can also be of great benefit in a number of very real medical conditions. Few would argue that they are perfectly safe (nothing is), but any dangers are certainly within the acceptable limits for an educated and aware population. Any risk certainly lies within the limits that are already accepted in many of our daily activities.  

Irrespective of issues of religious freedom, I would suggest that in a sensible well functioning society, non-addictive, non-toxic and psychologically safe compounds are precisely the sort that we should be promoting as an alternative to the highly toxic, addictive and violence inducing legal alternative: alcohol. 

In allowing the use of safe mind altering substances, in controlled environments, governments will be doing more to effectively tackle the scourge of alcohol abuse in this country than any government thus far. While there is some research suggestive of LSD being an effective treatment for alcohol addiction, a person is highly unlikely to use Transcendent Compounds and alcohol simultaneously, especially if using them within a religious and spiritual framework. 

In allowing citizens to reduce their exposure to alcohol, by accessing safer compounds, we allow them a greater chance of resisting its addictive and toxic impacts and the severe social and medical harms entailed by its use.


It should be noted that the twenty years prior to the banning of many of these substances in the late 60’s, there was considerable, medical, academic and intellectual interest in their properties. Practitioners realised early on that the dose a person took, along with their mindset (set) and the environment in which the substance was taken (setting) were all important determinants of a person’s experience. Both psilocybin and LSD were used very successfully for psychological therapy and while there were some research abuses (most notably by governments giving it to unsuspecting people in the hope that they could be used as weapons of war) the compounds were acknowledged as being safe, although few advocated widespread use.

It was only after Timothy Leary had popularised its use, and after Owsley “Bear” Stanley began to manufacture literally millions of doses that uncontrolled, unsupervised and ignorant use of these compounds began. Two years after Owlsley commenced manufacture, they were illegal in the US. In following suit, governments around the world proceeded to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nixon’s futile and now seemingly eternal, “War on Drugs”, merely compounded the problem by institutionalising what is little more that religious bigotry and ignorance.

The result is that four decades later, governments around the world are trapped into dysfunctional drugs policies that they feel powerless to escape. They have spent billions of dollars demonising perfectly safe compounds, often while lauding the real demon: alcohol. The merest mention of being “soft on drugs” is enough to send most politicians scurrying in fear for more, and harsher anti-drugs legislation. Given that at least a third of all Australian politicians would have tried illegal compounds of one sort or another (unless of course they are “unrepresentative swill”), the prevailing attitude has been one of hypocrisy.

But the tide has changed. Magazines, such as The Economist and New Scientist along with organisations such as the Global Commission on Drugs Policy now openly support a more sensible approach. The lessons from Portugal, which has decriminalised most drugs and thereby reduced much drug related harm are filtering through. Many US states have legalised medical marijuana . After a very close referendum on the issue in 2010, California, the world’s 8th largest economy looks set to legalise it completely within the next several years.

Within Australia, the momentum for change has been delayed, but is gathering steam. Australia 21 have produced two excellent reports, decrying the failure of current policies, while legal and medical professional associations are calling for change. 

Of course, it is no secret that the profits from most illegal drugs (although not so much from Transcendent Compounds, as psilocybin, mescaline, DMT and Salvinorin A are all available in the wild and in Australian gardens) goes to criminals who inhabit an often vicious underworld that in turn corrupts police and infects the wider community. Indeed, so great is this recognition, that Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who has been a staunch supporter of draconian drugs laws, has recently suggested that the US “should seek market alternatives in order to cancel the criminals' stratospheric profits”.

It is sadly ironic the happenings in Victoria have been in such stark contrast to developments in the rest of the world. Recent banning of synthetic cannabis, without any scientific evidence of harm demonstrated the depressingly kneejerk reaction to mind altering substances that puts politics and fear of the media above leadership and good public policy. Similarly, the ban on the sale of bongs, is a pointless exercise that will do nothing to stop people smoking cannabis (joints anyone?) and everything to make the government seem out of touch and irrelevant on the issue. 

I understand the logic of these moves. Politics, is above all, the art of the possible. Over the years, I have spoken to members of parliament and staffers who agree that current drugs policies are not working, but acknowledge that nothing can be done because of the media and the cultural fear of “drugs” that decades of propaganda and misinformation have grafted onto our cultural outlook.  

What is needed is a circuit breaker. I believe that the religious use of Transcendent Compounds could be exactly the circuit breaker required. Any government introducing these changes could do so with impeccable justification: 

1. They are non-toxic, non-addictive and psychologically safe.
2. They will be only available within a regulated framework to authorised people. 
3. Their availability within this context is an indication of the Government’s commitment to human rights in general and Freedom of Religion in particular.
4. They are legal (with the admitted exception of LSD) in other parts of the world - particularly the US - for this purpose.

A circuit breaker such as this could allow the wider community to engage in a more nuanced and thoughtful debate on the wider implications of our current drugs policies and how these can be improved. Once the public had adapted to the idea that these compounds were available and the sky hadn’t fallen, Governments would be more easily able to implement better drugs policies by pointing to the program’s success. Similarly, they would be better equipped to fend off media allegations of being “soft on drugs”.

None of this is meant to attempt to pre-empt, or assume what an appropriate Victorian drugs policy should look like. This is a discussion for the Victorian people, but at the very least it should contain allowances for the recognised use of Transcendent Compounds for religious purposes. Furthermore, given the gradual, worldwide reorientation in drug policy perceptions, I would anticipate that forward looking politicians would seek to lay the groundwork for potential changes in law, rather than painting themselves into a potentially damaging corner. 

Religious and Spiritual

The use of Transcendent Compounds within religious contexts dates back to prehistoric times and there is much evidence to indicate that their use within these settings is highly beneficial. The powerful Entheogenic properties of these compounds, is apparent even in research conducted in secular settings such as that recently undertaken by America’s renowned John Hopkins Hospital. In a paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (see for links) the researchers reported:

At the 14-month follow-up, 58% and 67%, respectively, of volunteers rated the psilocybin-occasioned experience as being among the five most personally meaningful and among the five most spiritually significant experiences of their lives; 64% indicated that the experience increased well-being or life satisfaction; 58% met criteria for having had a ‘complete’ mystical experience. 

Ultimately, this issue of regulated access to Transcendent Compounds for religious purposes is a religious issue and revolves around a particular human right that has been recognised in one form or another for well over 2500 years, namely Freedom of Religion. It is no accident that religious freedom is held to be one of the most important rights in modern democracy. By ensuring that people are able to engage in safe religious practice that brings their beliefs to life, societies ensure that people are able to more harmoniously live together. Countries that abrogate these rights are more often dictatorships and police states, rather than well functioning democracies, such as Australia. 

There can be no doubt that my beliefs and the beliefs of the thousands other Victorians are religious in nature, whether defined in psychological, anthropological, or legal terms. The High Court of Australia, in its 1983 decision, “Church of the New Faith v Commissioner for Pay-Roll Tax (Vic)” has already defined a religion as needing two essential elements, “First, belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing or Principle; and second, the acceptance of canons of conduct in order to give effect to that belief”. Even a brief perusal of my philosophy and ideas will confirm that they meet both of the High Court’s requirements.
Our rights to practice our religion in a safe manner are sacrosanct; just like those of anybody else. As long as we are not harming anybody else, we am entitled to have my religious practices to be held equal under law to those of other citizens. 

Of course, this is not solely about my rights and my situation. It is also about the thousands of other Victorians who use these compounds as part of their religious practice, but are too afraid of government persecution, losing their jobs, or other disadvantage to discuss their beliefs publicly. Even despite the fact that I have been open about my beliefs and practices, even to the point of publically campaigning for them, I am often hesitant to discuss them with strangers, simply on account of the discrimination and unjustly adverse stereotypes that I encounter. For example, telling work colleagues can amount to career suicide. This, along with other forms of discrimination, needs to be challenged at the most fundamental level and the most effective way to achieve this is through legal recognition of the legitimacy of this form of religious expression.


The modern world can be a lonely, disconnected place. Despite the preponderance of social media, far too many people are disconnected, isolated and alone. They feel no connection with themselves, their families or with their communities and left unchecked their despair can easily reach the epic proportions that generate the sorts of riots that we have recently seen in London. 

While I don’t for a second believe that Victoria is ripe for that kind of civil disturbance, I have spent a number of years working with disadvantaged people, such as homeless and long term unemployed and have seen the disconnection of which I speak first hand.

Spiritual and cultural organisations are very good at bringing people together in order to provide a sense of community and belonging. In particular, I am impressed by the way in which traditional religions focus much of their work on charity and assisting those in need. Sadly, most new religious movements (be they Christian, New Age, or whatever) seem more focused on their own enrichment, rather than the betterment of society as a whole.

However, the answer does not lie in simply raising up more traditional churches and enforcing more traditional belief. People have rejected these outmoded and often nonsensical traditions for a reason and will resist having to pay homage to false gods. Rather, we need to be able to create our own institutions, so that we might better promote community, generosity, self respect and tolerance for others. 

But if our very sacraments are rendered illegal, we cannot build such a community. Living in fear of persecution, of losing one’s job and family are not contributing factors to participation in a stable community. Rather they are the first steps on the slippery slope to alienation, cultural isolation, mental illness and despair. 

Through allowing Transcendent Compounds to be available in a regulated manner for religious purposes, governments will also be promoting the growth of civil society and community in a manner that will benefit us all. 


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