William A. Richards (Bill) is a psychologist in the Psychiatry Department of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bayview Medical Center, a consultant/trainer at sites of psychedelic research internationally, a teacher in the Program of Psychedelic Therapy and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and also a clinician in private practice in Baltimore. His graduate degrees include M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, S.T.M. from Andover-Newton Theological School, and Ph.D. from Catholic University, as well as studies with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, where his involvement with psilocybin research originated in 1963.
From 1967 to 1977, he pursued psychotherapy research with LSD, DPT, MDA, and psilocybin at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, including protocols designed to investigate the promise of psychedelic substances in the treatment of alcoholism, depression, narcotic addiction, and psychological distress associated with terminal cancer, and also their use in the training of religious and mental-health professionals. From 1977-1981, he was a member of the psychology faculty of Antioch University in Maryland. In 1999 at Johns Hopkins, he and Roland Griffiths launched the rebirth of psilocybin research after a 22 year period of dormancy in the United States. His publications began in 1966 with “Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism,” coauthored with Walter Pahnke. His book, Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences was released in English by Columbia University Press in 2015 and has since been translated into 6 additional languages—hopefully, more coming.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: These plants and compounds are illegal in many countries, and even possession can carry severe criminal penalties. None of this post constitutes medical advice or should be construed as a recommendation to use psychedelics. There are serious legal, psychological, and physical risks. Psychedelics are not for everyone—they can exacerbate certain emotional problems, and there have been, in very rare cases, fatalities.
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Spotify playlist: Psilocybin Research: John Hopkins, Sacred Knowledge, William A. Richards
Stream the audio here
- The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions
- Siddhartha: A Novel
- Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences
Resources I read/listened to in the preparation of this interview:
- The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Hamilton Morris on Iboga, 5-MeO-DMT, the Power of Ritual, New Frontiers in Psychedelics, Excellent Problems to Solve, and More (#511)
- A minister, a rabbi and the man who gave them psilocybin
- Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Legend Bill Richards in conversation
This video depicts Bill assisting a cancer patient:
- Before we started recording, we were having a short video chat and I saw colorful painting at your back. Can you tell us about that painting or the context about that painting? Does that color signify anything?
- When did you meet your partner? I would like to ask you about the qualities that you see in your partner.
- What do you do as part of your work in your professional setting?
- When you were 23, you decided to be a research subject of psychedelics. So what was your motivation at that point to be the research subject at that time?
- Could you describe what is psilocybin?
- Why do you think the psychedelic substances are not meant for everyone?
- If my understanding is correct that this is a drug that is consumed once or many times. And after that we have to do our homework on what arises in that experience or in that trip. We have to integrate that as in the post homework.
- Did you have any sort of personal addiction ever?
- What is psychedelic psychotherapy and what is your role in that as a psychotherapist?
- If someone’s intention is to work on their spiritual awakening through the use of psychedelic substances versus psychotherapeutic experiences. So how should people approach?
- When you said that “trusting relationship” with a human being. So, who is that human beings? Let me give you an instance. Can that person be my friend who has never done psychedelic experiences or that person has to be a shaman or a psychotherapist?
- I want to ask you about the preparation. You mentioned that you have to prepare before you consume these substances. So when you work with patients who have anxiety problems or different kinds of problems, how do you prepare for those trips for the experiences?
- You mentioned about dragon and snake. Are those symbols of trauma or the real snake?
- Before you start the psychedelic therapy, do you ask specific questions to the patient?
- If our listener is interested in exploring psychedelic modalities, if they have not, what would be the first few steps to find a good or great psychedelic therapist?
- How do you prepare patients to do the inner work after that the trip?
- I have had many mindfulness teachers and meditation teachers on this podcast who are tending the world in different ways for the better. And I’m talking to you about psychedelics. Do you see any correlation between. Mindfulness and psychedelics?
- Besides psychedelic drugs, do you offer other healing modalities to your patients?
- I watched a video of you administering DPT to the dying cancer patients. I think that video is from 1970s, and you are helping a cancer patient dying, it’s called end-of-life psychedelic psychotherapy. Can you touch on that please?
- Why do you think the psychedelic research put up pause for almost 20 years?
- Do you have any formal meditation practice?
- I saw your picture sitting by the piano. What kind of music do you create?
- I would like to talk about some of the notes that I’ve taken from Tim Ferriss podcast with Morris Hamilton. Morris is an American journalist, documentarian and scientific researcher. And both these gentlemen say a lot of great things about you. So Tim Ferriss says that Bill deeply thinks about the philosophy theological. What kind of philosophy do you think about those? Can you tell us more on that?
- Could you recommend some of the books or resources on spiritual awakening and healing?
- Are you comfortable to talk about the grieving process after?
- You studied with Abraham Maslow in 1960s. What did you learn from him?
- You are 81 years old. What do you want to create in the upcoming years of your life?
- and much more!
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