Transcript of EP 225 – Bruce Damer on a New Path for Psychedelics

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Bruce Damer. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Hey, I’m going to do a little bit of shameless pluggery here before we jump in. When you’re done listening today, if you could give us a five-star rating on your podcast app, I’d appreciate it. It’s an unfortunate aspect of the podcasting ecosystem that the podcast apps give more visibility to podcasts that have more ratings and better ratings. Getting more visibility means we get a bigger audience, and getting a bigger audience means we can keep attracting the kinds of great guests that we have on the show. So when you’re done listening, please give us a five-star rating on your favorite app, and if you have time for it, a review is even better. Well, that’s enough of shameless promotion, on with the show.

Today’s guest is Bruce Damer. He’s the chief scientist at the BIOTA Institute, and he’s a research associate in molecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz, and he’s an astrobiologist working on the science of life’s origins and the future for sustainable paths for humanity. You can find out more about Bruce and his work at BIOTA, that’s B-I-O-T-A, .org. He’s also president of the recently formed Center for Minds at, and we’re going to talk about that a fair bit today. Welcome back, Bruce, I think this is probably your fourth or fifth appearance on The Jim Rutt Show.

Bruce: Indeed it is, and thank you, Jim, it’s becoming an ongoing conversation of sorts.

Jim: And I’ve enjoyed every one of them. It’s always informative and they’re always fun, Bruce is a wonderful guest. Today we’re going to at least start the conversation from an essay Bruce wrote called Downloads from the Modern Dawn of Psychedelics. And this thing was printed in something I’d never heard of, but I’m going to be following now, called Lucid News,, which calls itself, “Lucid News provides informed, honest and transparent journalism that covers the growing integration of psychedelics into society and their broad implications for human wellness.” That should be a good source for people to follow that are interested in this sort of stuff. So what’s your thesis about psychedelics and humanity?

Bruce: So why I went back to what I called the dawn of modern psychedelia in the West was an amazing history of psychedelic use, which has started really in Europe, it started in England in the 19th century, it carried on into America with the study of mescaline and tribal groups, peyote, mescaline practice, and that carried on into the 1940s and 50s. And one of the most amazing discoveries was that psychedelia, or the use of psychedelics, could have had a different start. It could have been introduced to the world by Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist, who is very much into it.

And it could have been introduced by Aldous Huxley, beyond his book Doors of Perception published in 1954 about his mescaline experience, because it turns out that he and Humphry Osmond, and I have in front of me, which the audience cannot see, a wonderful tome called Psychedelic Prophets: The letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond. Humphry Osmond was the man who brought mescaline to Aldous Huxley, who was a great man of letters. He had written fantastic books, which all of your listeners would probably know about, maybe they were forced to read them in high school. So his books in the 1930s and all the way through presaged the modern world. Huxley and Osmond were in a correspondence, Osmond came down from Saskatchewan to Huxley’s house to bring him mescaline and he had his first psychedelic trip, described in this book.

Shortly after that, Osmond and Huxley were trying to put together something they called the Outsight Project, and the Outsight Project would recruit, or what they called lure, they would lure 50 to 100 really interesting intellectuals, scientists, writers to take mescaline. So they would provide a set and setting, this is before the term was coined, and people like Carl Jung were approached, Albert Einstein, people of the time, and their experiences would be recorded and then reported openly. And this project never happened, in these letters they talk about approaching the Ford Foundation and a whole lot of other people to get the money to do this, and it just didn’t materialize.

And so I realized in looking at this that psychedelics were originally thought of as tools to power the mind, and perhaps by psychology as simulants of psychosis, or for the study and the treatment of psychosis perhaps, but also for tools of the powering of the mind. And Humphry Osmond coined the term psychedelic in 1956 in one of these letters in this book, which means it derived from the Greek mind manifesting.

So this was going on, and we hear about Clare Boothe Luce, who was a big proponent, she was taking LSD, who was a very famous Republican Congresswoman, and much more. And we have Cary Grant, quite possibly John F. Kennedy. So there’s this whole intelligentsia on acid, in some sense, or mescaline or other substances in the 50s. And in the early 60s it was proposed in an article by Gerald Heard that these things be looked at, because the high degrees of concentration are the very mark of genius functioning, and he felt that LSD gave you that. It gave you a sort of concentration without it being overtly limiting. Today we call this convergent versus divergent thinking. If we’re noodling around on a thing for a long time and you’re banging your head against a wall, as I know you probably do, Jim, as we all do, you just can’t get a solution. But divergent thinking allows your mind to go out and do free associations.

Jim: Yeah, one of the things we know about at least some psychedelics, particularly LSD and psilocybin, is they appear to promote, upregulate long range connections in the brain. When you look at a brain that’s brain imaging studies you see a very significant increase in long range, so it makes sense that your brain is now integrating further afield than it does when you’re in your normal mindset.

Bruce: Precisely, and this was the hypothesis of Willis Harman, Jim Fadiman, Myron Stolaroff and a group at San Francisco State College when they invited 23 professionals to come and use mescaline or LSD and work on creative problem solving in the lab. And they published a preliminary pilot study in 1966, Psychedelics as Agents for Creator Catalysts for Creative Problem-Solving. And then the hammer came down, the governors of California and Nevada criminalized LSD, and that was a nationwide role of criminalization across… Because there was a panic around LSD, as you know. And so letters went out to these researchers basically saying cease and desist, and a whole branch of science was made illegal, of clinical science, of psychiatric research, and creativity.

And so as we know, after that it was a long climb back to any kind of respectability within the scientific community, studies starting up in the early 90s again, and then we have MAPS, Heffter Research Institute, and they finally, we’re probably a year away from at least MDMA coming into clinical use through the good graces of all the research community and MAPS as the sponsor, so it’s a long climb.

And so what I decided, I had had my own psychedelic practice, I started it with Terence McKenna, who provided my first mushroom trip, the good graces of the bard Terence. And then we compared notes about the thing and it was quite the share. And then a year later he was gone, he had passed away from a very wicked form of brain tumor. And some of the questions that I had raised with him, we had these all night conversations about novelty and complexity and his ideas from the big bang on up, and how did complexity work? This is your bailiwick too, Jim. Terence was a prognosticator, in a sense a popularizer of the idea of concrescence into novelty, Whiteheadean thinking, and all this stuff, he peppered all his talks with it.

Jim: Didn’t he also believe that humans became humans from tripping monkeys, or actually it would’ve been apes.

Bruce: Yeah, in fact, when asked he said, “That may be my only serious proposal, was that humans came to consciousness in some ways by eating saprophytic mushrooms on the plains of Africa, the stoned ape theory.”

Jim: Yep, yep, it’s an interesting theory.

Bruce: By the way, Aldous Huxley’s great novel, and us old guys have a twenty-minute recall problem, is Brave New World.

Jim: Of course, of course, yeah.

Bruce: Published in the ’30s, and it features soma, this feel-good pill that people take, they take soma holidays, and it’s a stratified society with genetic engineering and babies in bottles, and it’s an amazing read for the 1930s, for goodness sakes.

Jim: Yeah, that was one with the alphas, betas, epsilons, this caste system based on intentionally poisoning the embryos to make them less developmentally strong so they could be slaves, and all this kind of creepy ass shit. I have to go back and read that, I haven’t read it since high school probably.

Bruce: And then the last novel that Huxley wrote was called Island, and it was about this basically psychedelically infused community on an island where things are just going really groovy. Now this is all published and written before the hippies rose, because Huxley passed away, famously, on the day that Kennedy was shot. And he asked his wife Laura, as he was on his way out, to inject him with 100 MICs of LSD intravenously, and he went out that way, on that very auspicious day in the sense when the ’60s were launched by the crazy event of that day in November 1963.

Jim: So if you got exposed to psychedelics for the first time late in McKenna’s life, he died around 1999, didn’t he? Something like that.

Bruce: 2000, April 3rd actually.

Jim: So you were late to come into the psychedelic party. I think I dropped acid for the first time, it would’ve been in 1973, something like that. And only did it six times, but that was enough. I did everything from a light sub-hallucinogenic trip at about 50 or 75 MICs, which was great, I skied all day. Best skiing I ever did in my life. My best friend at the time was a professional ski acrobat, and normally he would just humor me when we’d go skiing together, he’d have to slow down, “Oh, where’s slow-ass Jim coming down the hill.” But man, I skied as good as he did that day, and he was amazed, “What the hell happened? When’d you get some new ski in?” “Nope, I dropped 75 MICs of acid.”

Bruce: A famous major league pitcher pitched a no hitter supposedly on acid in the 60s.

Jim: Yeah, as long as you keep the dose down under 100 you can function. I did like 150, and then I did one ego death trip at about 300 or 400. Of course this college kid street drug so you didn’t quite know exactly the dosage.

Bruce: Yeah.

Jim: But I will say something funny, MIT at the time had a student health service that would let you take any drug you wanted, put it in an envelope, peel a label off this thing on the wall, put the number on the envelope, push it through a slot in the door, and then you could come back a couple days later and the number would be up on a chart on the wall and it would tell you what the assay was. So we had a fair idea of what the dosages were by taking one of our pills and pushing it through into the health service, it was a service they offered, right? Said, “All right, that one has 350 MICs of acid and a little bit of PCP,” that was the one that I did for the really strong trip.

Bruce: Are you sure the health services wasn’t taking a little lick of that on the way?

Jim: Well, I will say the pills never came back, let’s put it that way.

Bruce: Oh, there you go, okay.

Jim: Yeah, the other interesting thing I can say that’s generally related is in my tech business dude career in the ’80s, I was fortunate enough to get to know many of the baby boomer vintage tech gods, the Bill Gates’s and the Larry Ellison’s and the various other ones, and essentially all of them had tripped at one time or another. I expect that was not a coincidence.

Bruce: Yeah, so this is actually part of the thesis for Minds, the Center for Minds, that under the table, behind closed doors, or however you have it, a lot of our tech leadership, our genius inventors, designers, even science people like me, were either experimenting with psychedelics, especially the tryptamine psychedelics, which tend to inspire thoughts, they’re not the downers, they’re more of the uppers in some sense, and they’re not really reporting it.

And so in 2019 I decided to come out of the closet. Our origin of life work was in the can, if you will, it was in major publications, on the cover of a couple of one leading scientific journal, on the cover of Scientific American, the subject of documentaries, and there were teams working on the hot-spring hypothesis all over the world, as there are today. And I spoke to my colleague, Dave Deamer at UC Santa Cruz, and I decided to do a speech. And it was an invited speech for Dennis McKenna, the brother of Terence McKenna, who was holding an ethnobotany conference in England.

And he asked me to do a keynote and I said, “Okay, here’s the idea, It’s High Time for Science,” where I would tell not only my story of using ayahuasca to work on the problem of the origin of life, and I made multiple breakthroughs there, but also other people who had been doing this work behind closed doors or under the table, and call for a return to the research. Let’s try to validate whether this really works, and then if it does let’s valorize it into society. Let’s make it okay, just as it will soon be okay to go for psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, let’s make it okay to even consider psychedelic assisted innovation in our boardrooms, from leadership all the way into the tech labs. Because we need more breakthroughs, we can’t leave a drop of genius in the jar, right Jim?

Jim: Absolutely, and we have a unbelievably big universe to think through and figure out. That’s a mission for a billion years, probably, we might as well get started on it.

Bruce: Yeah, and I think somebody said that if you didn’t tweak the light coming through the microscope, your eye could not see the moons of Saturn, through the telescope, rather, or a microscope too. You have to bend the instrument and change the way even nature comes to you. So perhaps psychedelics are the shaping of the lens of the mind so that we can focus and we can receive new things, new patterns, new associations. So perhaps if we see our minds as malleable lenses.

Jim: This reminds me of a saying at the Santa Fe Institute that, “Science is a process for converting caffeine into papers.” We consumed a gigantic amount of good quality coffee at the Santa Fe Institute, we had these giant coffee urns that were kept rolling all day. And while coffee is an acid, it’s on the upper spectrum, and I’ve seen other arguments that western civilization itself was actually catalyzed by the introduction of coffee and tea into Western Europe around 1500, something like that. Except both of those premises, there’s certainly some reason to believe that adding a new part to our psycho technology in the form of brain modifying chemicals could have quite substantial impacts on the emergent effect in terms of what the human race is capable of doing.

Bruce: Precisely. And one of the reasons, I know you alluded back to I was no spring chicken when I first did psilocybin through the good graces of Terence. That is absolutely true, I was 37 years old, and the reason being is that I had a trippy brain on the natch, naturally in a sense. I would’ve been called a spectrum-y, or even an autistic kid, in the 1960s, except they didn’t have a classification for autistic kids. My mother just declared me to be in my own world and to be left alone to my own devices. So I did that, and I used to notice when I would close my eyes to take a nap or to go to sleep, I would notice all this color, or flashing, gouaches, going behind closed eyelids, and psychologists call that hypnagogia.

But what I did was I learned to tune a little knob of my awareness so that I shut down my thinking mind, because I wanted those things to resolve into color images. Like we would have a color TV, we didn’t even have a color TV at the time. And I was able to do it, and I was able to turn that knob and see worlds. And so then I drew thousands of drawings of these landscapes and creatures and spacecraft and whatnot, and then that tunability, that natural ability to download, if you will, became my job, my profession in writing software operating systems and virtual worlds, and then spacecraft simulation design for NASA, it all required, that internal simulant process that was going on, and I didn’t want to mess with it, I didn’t want to mess with that, what I now call endo-tripping, or endogenous internal induced tripping, I didn’t want to mess with that machinery. So I avoided even aspirin, for goodness sakes. I was a staunch non-druggy until I met Terence.

Jim: Interesting. And I think on an earlier podcast you made the case pretty convincingly that geometric thinkers like Einstein are also likely to have been endogenous trippers.

Bruce: Yeah, I think definitely. He describes his gedankenexperiment experiment, “Riding alongside a beam of light,” for example.

Jim: Yeah, the way he came to special relativity in particular was like, whoa, you had to be able to think almost a literal simulation point of view to get there. And it wasn’t that hard once you were able to do that, but nobody else had ever done that before. And once he got there he wrote down some relatively simple math which described it, but you would never have found it without that gedankenexperiment experiment.

Bruce: Yeah. So it started out, I mean, some of his thought experiments were pretty crazy, like two trains are coming at each other at night and the beams of light are coming, are they twice the speed of light, or the waves or particles of light? And it’s a great tradition in physics, and it turns out that in chemistry and biochemistry, thought experiments and trippy visions are a classic, from the benzene ring discovery through a dream, all the way through supposedly Crick’s experimentation with LSD to see the double helix, although I think it’s not that conclusive, but that he was actually using LSD in the ’50s is conclusive.

And then we have Kary Mullis and his discovery of PCR gene sequencing in the ’80s, which he talked about using LSD. And perhaps I’m on that lineage of becoming the chemicals, for goodness sakes. Talk about a drug tale, becoming the chemicals so that you can actually see what the chemicals do, and in this case it was protocells full of polymers that I became that night in the Peruvian jungle.

Jim: Interesting. And of course there’s another very interesting example from ancient history, the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were held 11 miles outside Athens for what, a thousand years, something like that. They’re not quite sure, but it seemed to have been a combination of a very powerful dramatic presentation with lighting and darkness and shadows and all, and the elixir that they used was called-

Bruce: Kukeon, the kukeon.

Jim: Yeah, it was thought to of have been perhaps a rye ergot type thing that might’ve had lysergic acid in it or something. But the number of people that were participated in that illustrious-

Bruce: Eleusinian Mysteries.

Jim: Yeah, they Eleusinian Mysteries, absolutely. I got absolutely fascinated with those about 20 years ago and tracked out all the books I could find, which weren’t very many at the time, there’s been a bunch more since. Aeschylus, Plato, probably Augustus, Plutarch, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, and one of my faves, Julian the Apostate, are all thought to have been initiates into the Eleusinian Mysteries. And no one knows, because there was a death penalty for disclosing, and nobody ever did disclose. At least the disclosures never made it into that part of the record from antiquity that was recorded. But if you think about, these are the high water marks of names, but just think of the influence that the Eleusinian Mysteries must have had on that Greco-Roman culture.

Bruce: And in fact, right after the recording a podcast with you, I’m speaking with Brian Muraresku who wrote a book called The Immortality Key. It just came out about a year and a half ago, it’s a best-selling book about Eleusis and the new science of archaeochemistry, where at a site, at a Eleusinian style site in Spain, they had goblets, stone goblets, that weren’t cleaned and fixed up for museum preparation, so they had actually intact chemicals. And you could scrape it off and do archaeochemistry and they found something derivative of ergot, which is that little purple fungus on barley that is the source, of course, for LSD lysergic acid. He of course did the research you did, he read the books by Hofmann, Ruck, and Wasson from the late ’70s, early ’80s. In fact, I spoke with Karl Ruck last year when he was out here. He’s the sole survivor of that trio that created that hypothesis. And so Brian’s book is really worth getting.

Jim: If I like the book I’ll invite him on the show.

Bruce: He definitely would be an excellent guest, and I’ll be speaking with him shortly.

Jim: Tell him I said, “If he wants to be on the show, he’s here hereby invited.” How bad could a book about Eleusis be, right?

Bruce: What Brian argues is that not only were all of the, 1000 people at a time, in the Telesterion temple, took this potion after months of preparation, and perhaps the entire of antiquity, the civilizational invention of antiquity from the polity, democracy, aqueducts, sporting events, theater, mathematics, the academy, all came from, in a sense, what was described as an initiation of humanity, turning it from a hunter-gatherer civilization of fishermen and living just after the ice ages in Europe, into this city building, thinking, a little bit literate civilization that then Rome copied. And we’re still living in the Roman grid, we are in that designs that came out of the Greek experiment in how to build a world.

Jim: Now I would love to know did he address, and I’ll read the book and we’ll see, but the greatest, in the West at least, the greatest collapse of civilization was not the collapse of Rome, it was the late Bronze Age collapse in the whole eastern Mediterranean, where Mycenae and Crete, Knossos, all that, the equivalent societies in Egypt, et cetera, around 1400 B.C., little bit after the times of the Trojan War, maybe it was 1200 B.C., they all simultaneously collapsed. And Greece, for instance, actually lost literacy. That’s an amazing thing to consider, these were quite literate societies, but for several hundred years Greece lost language, and when it reinvented it 300 or 400 years later it was a different written language, unrelated entirely to the previous one.

And perhaps it was Eleusis and similar things, like the Delphi Oracles were also thought to be driven by hexane gas hallucinations, kind of like doing ether or something, that maybe these were the reboot from the decline rather than from the end of the ice age, but rather how Greece came back from the late Bronze Age collapse. I would be very interested in seeing if he thought that through and addressed that in his book.

Bruce: That will be a good question for Brian. So we put all this together, it may be that hallucinogens, or psychoactive compounds of all sorts, not just the classic ones we’re talking about here, powered civilization, it powered the rise of spirituality, of science, of philosophy, of even how we treat each other perhaps. And so they’ve been interwoven in human history deeply, and in fact, with the enlightenment and the rise of industrialism perhaps, it was a period that ended up being dominated by alcohol. We see those terrible paintings of the late 18th and into the 19th centuries of the drunkenness from distilled alcohol which hit society in Europe like an atom bomb.

Jim: And the US too, people don’t realize this but on the frontier in particular, where it was very expensive to ship your corn back east, and there were no decent roads, no canals or anything, the main product from the frontier in the early 19th century was corn liquor, and the locals consumed it in bodacious quantity. It’s thought that there was always non-drinkers, but the drinkers were more numerous than the non-drinkers on the frontier. It’s thought the average male person on the frontier, say around 1810, 1820, was consuming a quart of corn liquor a day. That’s serious ne’er-do-well alcoholic level of boozing, to drink a quart of hard liquor a day, that was thought to be the approximately average adult consumption. No wonder it was famed for its outlaws and its decadence and its filth, and everything else.

Bruce: The technology of distillation, which meant you could get alcohol at levels that humans had never experienced, and then it became toxic. The poison path sometimes this is called by thinkers in this area, that poisons at a lower dose, they’re homeopathic, they’re healing, or they’re vision-inspiring, but at higher doses they’re anything but. They could be completely toxic, and alcohol being a good example.

Jim: Yeah, two other good examples of that one, of course, that are well-known, coca. There are people who have chewed coca for thousands of years, and it’s an interesting stimulant, et cetera, but it doesn’t produce the derangement that extracted and refined cocaine does, let alone crack cocaine. So the other one, I’ve smoked opium a few times, it was actually pretty nice, and it didn’t turn me into a degenerate or an addict or anything else. This was the actual native opium goo that was extracted from some poppies. But then you refine it down to morphine, or even more, heroin, or you build chemical analogs like OxyContin, then it becomes this extraordinarily powerful drug that 40% of people fall into the web very quickly. I will say that smoking opium is probably not a good thing to do every day, but it’s much easier to escape than the much more concentrated forms.

Bruce: Yeah, so in we come, we have a chemical cocktail civilization with, of course, antidepressants and thousands of prescribable drugs that alter our consciousness, and now we have the return of the original ones, and an admixture of new ones. Because MDMA is laboratory produced, but there are analogs from safrole, there’s some natural sources there. So probably, and I think I saw an article recently that AlphaFold, which does the protein folding, they think it will be able to predict thousands of new psychedelics, thousands. So we’re going to enter a period, I think, by the 2040s when we have more exquisite understanding of our neurochemistry, our emotional inspirational neuro fabric, if you will. We can juice it up, we can not only heal some of our internal traumas but we can totally open up new worlds, either individually or in group, and we can evolve humans this way.

Because it’s a two-edged sword, as you pointed out with OxyContin. This is where Minds comes in, we’ve established the organization to sit in the liminal zone, right in the center. We’re not really talking to your traditional Merry Prankster psychodelicists, the artists and the counterculture kind of rebels. Those are well-known. But the quieter people who sit and build the server networks to the large language models, the people who structure supply chains, and the people who run companies who try to work on the problem of scientific solutions for cancer. All of those kinds of people, they’re very hardworking, mostly quiet, mostly internal people who have vast capacities in their intellect in a sense, and they know it, and perhaps they’ve already tapped into it.

But are there ways to provide them both a healing and a revealing? Because all of us need a little bit of healing, we’ve always got the blocks. And early on in my whole quest, after meeting Terence, my psychedelic quest, I realized I had a hard block in my system, a hard little painful knot in my stomach that I had to work on dissolving. And once I had dissolved that, then I was a free flow at that point. I resolved that, my own healing, and therefore my powers of revealing grew. And I think that that’s probably a good protocol for anyone. People like me who are on the spectrum, until my 30s I found it difficult to make eye contact. And I’m sure you’ve come across this, Jim, and if you can’t make eye contact, you’re really cut off from a whole level of emotional response and the feeling of belonging.

Jim: Give a person a potential romantic partner and gaze into their eyes for five minutes and it’ll either happen or it won’t at that point.

Bruce: Yeah, yeah. And I was really shy, I was kind of withdrawn, people found me difficult to deal with at my first jobs. I was super internalized and I had to work my way out of that so I could have partnerships and I could find intimacy. But it was a long climb, and psychedelics came in about halfway through that process about, in my 30s, and helped me make those last few steps. And at the same time I became a better scientist and a better designer. So this is why in 2018 I came out of the psychedelic scientist closet, because I thought this could help others like me in a careful way to undergo this transformation. They may find that their productivity really is improved. That’s what the Minds group is about.

Jim: And on the Minds page there’s useful information, and one of them is a graph that shows the decline of breakthrough research over the last many years. That’s always a difficult thing to measure, but tell us about your methodology there, what did you take away from that graph that shows across multiple domains including life science, physical science, social sciences and technology, a secular reduction year by year pretty much in the high impact publications.

Bruce: Yes, this was published through Harvard, and it’s a real stunner because since 1980, the number of disruptive patents and papers, meaning that they create disruption in the field of instrumentation or new thinking, devices, approaches for medical science has dropped precipitously. We sit here and think, well we have our smartphones and we have this and that, but the rates of actual innovation have plummeted by the measure of disruptive patents and papers. Even though there are hundreds of times more papers published daily than there were in 1980, and this is laid at the feet of many causes, which one of them could be we over specialize people.

One of them could be laid at the cause of the commercialization of the university and the lack of freedom to broadly search for things. But for my money, it’s definitely a little bit of both of that, but primarily it’s because people of a nature of a solutioning type personality find very few places they can call home. So they go to college, they have a good time, they get into graduate school, then by the time they get to their PhD they’re ground to a pulp by doing something very narrowly specialized, crossing a T or dotting an I on some previous result to get their PhD successfully.

The problem is that if they have broad thinkers, if they have the magnificent mind able to relate many, many things together, like geochemistry with planetary formation with such and such to explain the dynamics of a world where life can start, they can’t find a job that way, they can’t get funding to work on that, they can’t get their PhD on grand thinking, integrative, holistic thinking. And so they go off and they’re not satisfied by being a specialist, a narrow specialist, they go off and they work in tech, which has its own way to grind you down. If you’re sitting there running the server farm, it’s not going to be very gratifying. So the creativity component of working in a tech job is not very high either, and yet companies are starved for problem-solving capability, innovation, but we’re cutting it off at the past, just as our young people come out of their teen years into their 20 years.

And so one of the things that Minds wants to do is establish a third route for them, which is through a mentorship program where they can get guidance and guardrails and peer review and due diligence in and training on their system of creative visioning, and they can get some support. Because I found that support kind of at random from various, my advisor, my first boss a little bit, and then finding Dave Deamer at UCSC, finding colleagues at NASA, I was able to get that mentorship, but piecemeal, and through great fortune and luck sometimes finding those people. And I realize there are people like me out there that will never find that, they’ll never find that exact path, and their capacities will never realize, they’ll never be able to self realize some of their gifts for the rest of us.

Jim: Yeah, it sounds like a very amazing and potentially very valuable trajectory for a lot of people. What is the current state of play? I know some states are just starting to legalize psilocybin, for instance, or at least decriminalizing it. Is there any place where your organization could actually be pointing people to today?

Bruce: Well, what we’re doing is we’re hoping to start our first studies this year. We’re talking with several major university groups and several donors, and we’ll start in laboratory, we’re going to start with surveys. And in fact, the way you begin research in the psychedelic field, and in fact in many fields, is you ask the public to tell their stories, to share their stories. So at, you can go in and tell us your story anonymously if you want, are you using these practices somehow? And it doesn’t have to just be psychedelics. One of the things we decided when we formed the organization is that mindfulness practice is as important as tripping every weekend. Breath work, yoga, a walk in the woods, for me, have helped me as much if not more than the very rare use of a psychedelic to help me over that edge.

So mindfulness practice really matters, and in fact, it’s an endogenous way to make changes. Your vagus nerve system, and there’s a lot of science. You listen to Andrew Huberman and Sonnenberg’s reports from Stanford on what just breath work alone does to your system in seconds, doing breath work. So there are many, many, many practices, and it’s a blend of all those practices that might lead to breakthroughs.

So we’re asking the listenership, if you’ve had a beautiful breakthrough and you’ve tied it to some specific thing you’ve done, it doesn’t have to be psychedelic, it could be just good old caffeine, let us know about it, because we are building a map of how creativity is sparked out there. And once we have that map we’re going to be able to work with our university partners to do studies in the field, to do interviews and surveys called introspective surveys, and then to work toward studies in the laboratory, just as was done in the mid-60s by Willis Harman and colleagues, bringing that kind of work back.

And that work actually is back and it’s being studied at three or four universities now, that’s being taken up University of Greenwich, there were two studies published in the last three years of using fMRI scanners while people are under the influence of psilocybin to watch brain activity. So those sorts of studies are actually back constituting a kind of opening of a new branch of psychedelic research.

Jim: Interesting. Now, I actually took your survey and I did tell a story, and this is advice I give to business people, hard-charging entrepreneurs like I used to be. I had a very intense career from 25 or so to 48 when I basically cast out my chips and went home. And what I recommend for people in that power band, though I stopped probably the last five years, is it wasn’t psychedelics, et cetera, because the machinery had to run better than what psychedelics, I don’t know, maybe I just was a wimp. But I found for me that worked great was about once every six to eight weeks doing as strong a dose as you could force down of sativa-style THC, and get it to the just close to hallucinating stage where your brain is just out of control and exploring.

Why I described it as so useful was it got you out of the box. When you’re in this super intense mode of doing stuff, you see to the left and to the right a bit, and you’re grinding, you’re hill climbing, you’re optimizing, and that’s all good. And when you’re building stuff, you need to do that. But it helps a lot to take the box and shake it, then open the top and throw the pieces up in the air for a couple hours and then get back to work. But then now you’re saying, whoa, wait a minute, maybe it’s not all hill climbing, maybe there’s a valley that needs to be crossed. And for me, I found about 25 milligrams of sativa THC would do the job about once every six to eight weeks.

I’m totally deaf on everyday THC smoking, I know there’s some people it’s probably good for them, for their neurotype, et cetera. But most people I think daily THC is an abomination, it’s terrible. But occasional heavy duty acute THC is, at least for me, and I’ve given this advice to other people and they’ve told me it was very transformational for them, to do it on something like a six to eight week intermittency.

Bruce: And Jim, in my heavy periods of design where there’s spacecraft design, or origin of life, I’ve also done something about every quarter, sometimes only twice a year, but what I’ve done is what I call, in my own protocol, setting and setup. So the setup is loading the problem into my mind, loading the questions, reading the articles, working through drawings of designs and coming up to the stop point where I just can’t get past that. And then the setting, of course, is the place you do it. It shouldn’t be in the middle of a shopping mall, for example, or even a festival, it’s the wrong place, too distracting. And then the set is your mindset going in.

And what I find is that if I have the intention of working on the problem, I take whatever I take, and I may not remember even. You get into what’s called the acute phase, and in the acute phase all kinds of amazing things are happening, it might be to do with yourself or opening to worlds, and it may be so extraordinary that you’ve completely forgotten that you had made a request to work on the problem. And then on the down slope, the far down slope, as you’re coming down and all this has happened in your system, the little thing might show up, a little voice or a picture might show up, and you realize it’s here, my intention carried through this whole dishwasher of acuteness, and there’s something, I’m seeing something, like the design for a new medical thing, like a new molecular recombinator, which is what happened on the last journey that I did.

It just all flowed out, it was like sandwiches of lipids with reagents going in the sideways and coming out through nanopores, and it was a fantastic vision. It was a completely working machine that ran in front of me, almost like in the third eye, and I was able to sketch that out, describe that, and share it with a colleague to stress test the idea of this, will this work? So that’s a modality of how to get this thing to work, but it’s only one of many protocols. And thank you for filling in our survey, it’s a datum of what is going on out there.

Jim: Indeed. And for people who want to fill out the survey, why don’t you give us the link that people can go to?

Bruce: Oh, it’s right on the homepage at So you can either get our newsletter, fill out the short survey. And it’s a really brief survey, it’s not one of those big science-

Jim: I was going to say, it took three minutes or something, not one of these annoying things that gives you 45 questions about how are you toilet trained in Germany in 1944 or something, right?

Bruce: Yeah. Where are the others? I think, was it Tim Leary talked about the others, or was it Terence McKenna? If you’re one of the others, the people who have been in that secret room, been in that strange place and find their compadres who’ve also been in those strange places, and most of us now, or many of us have been in these strange worlds.

Jim: And admitting, frankly, I believe how gay liberation occurred when a few brave gay people came out of the closet, and then you said, wait a minute, they’re perfectly normal good people, what the hell? And then other people said, that was stupid to be discriminating against gay people. Then more people came out of the closet, and in a remarkably short period of time, a feedback loop of a few pioneers, and then other people reacting positively to that, more and more and more. And then in a short period of time people said, wonder what the hell was all that homophobia about? What a stupid ass thing. One could see the same happening with psychedelics, as more and more people are willing to raise their hands and say, “Oh yeah, I tripped, what the hell?” Where I find at every six week heavy duty dose of cannabis sativa to be a useful thing, more and more people are willing to do it, and maybe we’ll see a growing wave of people who will do it.

On the other hand, we also have to be honest that these drugs can be bad attractors for some people. LSD, I know the street wisdom in the ’70s, and I believe it’s been more or less confirmed, is that might have a 1% chance of inducing psychosis. And whether that’s psychosis you otherwise would’ve had or not I don’t think is clear yet, but there are some risks, and 10% of people are susceptible to becoming addicted to even marijuana, et cetera. So one needs to be doing this with some attention, I guess I should say, discernment into what is right for themselves.

Bruce: Yeah, and this is why it’s so wonderful what MAPS has done with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy that’s coming out, they’re training thousands of people right now, thousands of practitioners that will help with creating the set and setting and running these sessions. And one of the things that can happen as a result of that, because we’ll have legal availability of these practices and therapies across the nation probably in 2025, is that you can also try a creativity component to it. So for instance, perhaps not the same day, but in subsequent days there could be a measure of people’s creative flow, flow states, if you will, a lot of community talks about being in flow. Are people more in flow? And if they’re working on technical jobs or administrative leadership jobs, did it make their job better?

And I’m sure there will be numerous studies of the population, because what if we can both heal PTSD in our population and we can also create better humans who are really actually better at their jobs too, they’re better human beings to each other, to themselves, their families, but then they’re actually capable in a beautiful sort of way in their jobs or in their technical work or their solutioning. Why not? And so we can start tracking that. We can start tracking that actually with you, with your THC.

Jim: I don’t do it anymore, it was years ago, but it worked at the time. Just another one I’m just curious about, MDMA I know for PTSD, the other one that’s starting to leak out into moderately widespread use is ketamine usage on depression and anxiety. As someone who’s quite the opposite of either depression or anxiety I had no interest in such things and so I haven’t really looked into it, but you know anything about ketamine? I don’t even know what the hell, ketamines like an animal tranquilizer or something.

Bruce: Yeah, I mean, ketamine was never schedule 1, it was never considered illegal because it was used as an anesthetic. We used it here when we had pigs and we used ketamine to knock out the pigs so we could cut their toenails, for example, here on the farm. I know of people who’ve used ketamine for all kinds of things, for treatment of depression, of basically treatment resistant depression, it’s really been a boon. There are clinics all over the country, there are online clinics as well for ketamine. Even people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis experiencing many, many days, or even a couple of weeks of no pain.

So ketamine is a huge area, and ketamine is definitely a dissociative. It’s not considered a classic psychedelic, but it puts you into an altered state, but it seems to do things to the nervous system that are very beneficial. There is a danger point that’s called the K-hole if you take too much ketamine, or together with something else, you can actually stop breathing. That’s a dangerous thing. So there’s an LD50, which is the lethal dose killing 50% of the mice in the trial. LSD, on the other hand, has no LD50, so it’s safer, it’s much safer than alcohol, for example. But ketamine definitely has, MDMA is a little, has an LD50. All of this really should be done with careful supervision or people in the know. And for Minds, what we’re going to be reaching out to are those practitioners who have very, very good professional practice.

And you mentioned some states have decriminalized, Oregon being one of them. People are setting up clinics in Oregon for psilocybin, for example. And it could well be that there could be corporate retreats there for problem-solving or better teaming in Oregon where they can do it. Federally it’s still a schedule 1 substance, but state-wise it has protections. So we’ll see that emerge, and we want to be there to study it. We want to be there to capture the data and see if we can get publications and documentaries made and really see what’s going on.

Jim: Sounds great. Well, Bruce Damer, it’s been a wonderful conversation, glad to have you back on The Jim Rutt Show.

Bruce: Always a pleasure Jim.