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FOMO is the fear of missing out. For those who missed it, we are having it another event to continue the conversation ( $10 on May 31, 2018 in Pasadena, look below for details). And although the house was at capacity with about 300 in attendance, a lot more people wanted to be there. But we sold it out rather quickly. First Dr. Christiane Wolf came out and said a few niceties introducing the supposed-moderator Vince Horn.

• Vince made an important point that echoed throughout the night: There is no sense in boosterism or pessimism, people who are all for it no matter what, people who are all against it no matter what. That would be no discussion. Let’s meet in the middle. Who can tell an adult what to do or not do? Who can be so foolish to think there is no danger? Mindset and setting are key.


In between the extremes are the tolerant Buddhists. They don’t say yes, don’t say no, but say, We’ll see. They listen to the evidence, consider the potential, assess the risks, and do not fall prey to easy answers or magical thinking. This is about seeing reality, experiencing the fullness of consciousness, not checking out unmindfully. You are responsible for you.

There was no discussion as such, no conversation, so nothing to moderate. He said his peace, next person (Trudy) said her peace and then sort of took over, and before you knew it, the beloved and respected Ram Dass sucked all the air out of the room. Yawn. No one dared prompt or curtail him; he’s far too old and important for that. Even gentle Trudy didn’t dare.

Then came the most fascinating speaker of the night, psychedelic researcher Dr. Charles S Grob, M.D. He had as much good to say about MDMA as magic mushrooms (psilocybe) and has not studied LSD, as others do. Details below. The published research has been amazing, progressing apace, and confirmed to help with the psychological trait known as openness. One case dealt with the social anxiety of a high functioning autistic patient, who was relieved of his suffering.

There has been success in treating depression, palliative care for end-of-life patients, as well as giving meaning to life for those suffering existential issues. There are various phases in such research. Phase 1 protocols test the safety of a substance. Phase 3 attempts to heal. Various research facilities around the country, at the most prestigious universities in the land, are running simultaneous studies using the same protocol. Most satisfying for Dr. Grob has been how open other researchers and doctors have become to the very idea of using ancient substances — which we have thanks to the indigenous people of this country. Not all news is good needs, but Grob notes that in just the past week, four positive articles on the issue have been published, with articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle, which didn’t used to be very friendly or encouraging to this line of medical and mental health research. His research is published, and more is coming, and interest is growing.

Then Goodman brought out Ram Dass, who brought the show to a grinding halt. Our anticipation had been heightened to see the legend live (via Skype) by a short biographical video narrated by Oprah. She asked him if he continued to take psychedelic drugs after meeting his guru, having gone from being a secular Jew to a spiritual Buddhist to a kind of Hindu devotee of a maha rishi (great seer). Asked this right out of the gate, Ram Dass paused, hemmed and hawed, and paused some more and some more and some more. Wait, did the video screen freeze? No, he blinked. He’s just not answering.

No one warned us that he was suffering from a terrible case of Broca’s aphasia (a severe impairment in language function due to trauma of a certain portion of the brain related to the ability to speak fluently following a severe stroke that almost killed him 20 years ago, leaving him with only a 10% chance of survival). He was in a wheelchair, and now he lives with an attendant (seen behind him on screen) in Hawaii. Finally, he answered, Off and on, and everyone laughed uproariously to deal with the discomfort. Then it went on like that. Speaking now takes him between 30 and 40 times longer than it should. So each second of normal speaking now takes about 35 seconds. So there was time to nap. And 20 minutes later, after a long and rambling story (that if compressed must be as funny as it is interesting), he asked, Am I talking too much? Everyone laughed. He must have caught on, now that we were long out of time, that he might be taking too long to say a simple thing. He does not teach with words, he claimed. He had learned to teach with unconditional love eyes, just as his Himalayan guru gave him the first time they met.