Ban on Julian Vayne lecture at Oxford University

In 2019 I was invited to speak at an event organized by the Oxford Psychedelic Society. ‘The Odd Ball‘ turned out to be a fabulous occasion. An intense one day extravaganza featuring art, talks, food and music including a suitably cosmic performance by The Sun Ra Arkestra. Having chatted after the gig with the lovely organizers, we hatched a plan for me to return to Oxford and address members of the Psychedelic Society (composed largely of university students) the following year. Sadly 2020 saw my proposed return to the city of dreaming spires scuppered, although not for the usual pandemic reasons you might expect…

It proved unusually difficult for the Society to secure a room in the university in which I could speak. Very difficult in fact, strangely so. My contact investigated and it turned out that a minor official at the college in question had decided to ban me from speaking there!

Now this is very amusing to me for many reasons. Not least of which is the fact that 90 years earlier my cultural ancestor, occultist Aleister Crowley, was also banned from Oxford. In his case no reason seems to have been given by the university authorities, but in a statement to the press in 1930 Crowley speculated:

“Perhaps the refusal to let me lecture has come because Gilles de Rais [the subject of Crowley’s proposed lecture] is said to have killed 500 children in ritual murder and in some way this was connected with myself, since the accusation that I have not only killed but eaten children is one of the many false statements that have been circulated about me in the past.”

Same old story ninety years later eh? Well no, not quite. In an email that provided my own little slice of cancel culture, the university clerk explained “…we will not be able to accept this booking given your speakers statements on the record about illegal drug use and our duty of care towards our students.”

This story is delightfully bonkers in so many ways. For starters; I get banned from addressing a psychedelic society because I’ve taken psychedelic drugs – is that really a thing? Meanwhile several major surveys, as well as day-to-day experience of student life, suggests that many of those crazy kids are already using ‘illegal’ (more correctly ‘unlicensed’) drugs, even without my pernicious influence! And, as any fule kno, illegal drugs do not exist! Demonstrating any ‘duty of care’ would presumably include harm minimization education and open conversations rather than blanket banning of discussion. Something of particular relevance given the increasing numbers of young people using illicit drugs and the avowed free-speech policy of Oxford University itself. Finally, over the last decade, I’ve taught in a variety of other university settings and hold a position on an academic peer review publication. Oh, and that’s a journal about, er…psychedelic drugs!

Ninety years before me Crowley decided to stand up for free speech by publishing his banned lecture and donating the profits to the Poetry Society. I’ve done likewise by publishing The Banned Lecture of Getting Higher, available for pre-order now through Psychedelic Press, Copies will hit the streets – including those of Oxford – on November 16th.

And there’s another even more hilarious level of irony in our story. Something concerning the actual subject of my talk, which of course the administration didn’t have the wit to ask about… But no spoilers! All will be revealed in my introductory essay and the text of the lecture itself. You’re sure to find it highly amusing! Order your copy now before it’s er…

Happy mushroom season everyone!

Julian Vayne

XxX


I’m doing lots of workshops via the fabulous Treadwell’s Books. Check here for details.

Locked down but still want to develop your magic? Check out my Core Magical Skills course and the free Imagination and Wellbeing course on my teaching site.

The Mind’s Eye – Psychedelics vs Hallucinogens

As the psychedelic renaissance continues the language we use about these substances frames how they emerge from ‘traditional’, underground and research contexts and into wider culture.

For example, it’s worth pointing out that psychedelic substances, indeed all drugs for that matter, are not and have never been ‘illegal’. While this point may seem like splitting hairs to some it’s vital to understand how drugs are controlled, by whom and for what reasons (mostly Richard Nixon’s paranoia). Sure, in day to day parlance, we may speak of ‘illegal drugs’ but understanding the deeper truth of their juridical status helps us appreciate key nuances. What we are dealing here with isn’t outlaw substances, but rather the politics, policy and underlying ethical positions that support prohibition.

Another important aspect of pharmacolingistics is how we choose to describe the class of drugs being investigated in clinical and academic settings world-wide. While ‘hallucinogen’ has been used in this past this term has serious flaws.

Hallucinogen is now, however, the most common designation in the scientific literature, although it is an inaccurate descriptor of the actual effects of these drugs. In the lay press, the term psychedelic is still the most popular and has held sway f,or nearly four decades.”

molecule pic

Psychedelic drugs, not just active in the mind’s eye…

The comment above is from David Nichols, one of the leading psychedelic chemists on the planet, who knows a thing or two about such matters (see hallucinogen in Wikipedia). Luckily David’s wish to change that ‘inaccurate descriptor’ has been granted.

The quote from Professor Nichols dates back to 2004. These days a brief glance at contemporary research shows how ‘psychedelic’ has now become the preferred nomenclature in scientific circles . There is for example The Journal of Psychedelic Studies, a leading academic peer-reviewed publication that brings together scientific research concerning these medicines. Then there is Psychedelic Press Journal that publishes ethnographic research, rare historical material and experimental writing. There’s nothing remotely equivalent out there with the ‘hallucinogenic’ tag and for very good reasons, as I explain here…

The book I name check in this video is Mike Jay’s wonderful Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic; a meticulously researched and moving account, especially in relation to the development of peyote ceremony within Native American communities. Highly recommended.

Wishing you all a fabulous December Solstice!

Stay high! Stay free!

Julian Vayne

 


Yuletide shopping opportunity!

I’m really pleased to announce that Getting Higher has been published in Polish! You can get your copy here 🙂

Polish version Getting higher

I’m also running a workshop at Treadwell’s Books in London on Spaces and their Spirits on the 1st of February where I’ll be sharing techniques to enable us explore a metamodern animism. Expect spirit beings of all sorts, from genuis loci and faeries to chaos magic servitors and ancient deities!

Nikki and I will be running more Deep Magic retreats in 2020. If you want to be kept up to date with our plans please get in touch and we will add you to our mailing list.

I’ll be presenting at the Conjuring Creativity conference in Stockholm in March. The theme for the conference is art and the esoteric in the age of the anthropocene.

Have a magical 2020!

Jx