Psychedelics and the Seminary Lecture Series

In the Spring of 2021, Professor Ayize Jama-Everett of Starr King’s Sacred and the Substance course interviewed some of the top writers, practitioners, and religious leaders in the psychedelic movement. The final interview featured a roundtable of Starr King graduates who all work within the field of psychedelics.

Introduction

As the psychedelic revolution begins in earnest throughout the country, more and more seminarians, religious leaders, and people of faith are presented with questions about the role of sacred substances when it comes to religion. Educational institutions from Harvard Divinity to the Naropa Institute are beginning to create theologically oriented psychedelic study programs. As the ever-growing “spiritual but not religious” demographic begins to encounter direct experiences with the divine, the role of the preacher, priest, and spiritual advisor becomes more nuanced. And as issues of cultural appropriation, ethical boundaries, and spiritual bypassing become more evident, the need for open and respectful dialogue becomes even more critical.

Lectures

February 15 – Brian Muraresku

Brian C. Muraresku graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University with a degree in Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. As an alumnus of Georgetown Law and a member of the New York and DC Bars, he has been practicing law internationally for fifteen years. In arbitration with the NFL in 2018, Muraresku represented the first professional athlete in the United States to seek a therapeutic use exemption for cannabis.

In 2020, his debut book The Immortality Key became a New York Times Bestseller. Audible named it Best of 2020 in the History category. Following the launch on Joe Rogan, Muraresku appeared on CNN and NPR, and has now been featured in Forbes, the Daily Beast, Big Think, Vox, VICE and Los Angeles Magazine, as well as the Jordan Peterson and Lex Fridman podcasts. Muraresku lives outside Washington D.C. with his wife and two daughters.

Photo by Moshe Zusman

March 1 – Mary Ann Eddowes

Mary Ann Eddowes began studying and recreating rituals based on Traditional Medicine from the Andean and Amazonian Regions in Peru, and also from North America, 28 years ago. She performs shamanic ceremonies with Wachuma and runs Sweatlodge, as well as Sound Healing, Offerings to Mother Earth, Flower Baths, and other rituals for the spiritual healing of humanity and the planet. She offers Spiritual Counselling. Since 2009 she travels to the US to offer her healing ceremonies and rituals, where she has a growing spiritual community.

She has 34 years of experience in Convention Management at national and international levels. At present she works independently as Event Organizer, now specialized in meetings and gatherings on Traditional Medicine, Spirituality and Sacred Plants. From 2005 to 2016, she has organized seven versions of the International Coca Leaf Forum, in Perú, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, to promote the good use of our Sacred Coca Leaf as part of our Ancestral Andean Traditions, for Rituals, as Medicine and Nutritional Supplement and for Industrialization as a licit means of using this amazing natural resource.

March 29 – Hunt Priest and Zac Kamenetz

Hunt Priest is an Episcopal priest and the founding Executive Director of Ligare: A Christian Psychedelic Society, a non-profit network of Christian leaders educating themselves and those they lead about the intersection of open-hearted Christianity and the Psychedelic Renaissance. A participant in a psilocybin study in early 2016, he had two life-changing mystical experiences under the care of a research team. His encounters with psilocybin opened him to the healing and consciousness-raising power of psychedelic medicines and changed the landscape of his work. Hunt believes the healing power of psychedelics should be in the toolkits of all who are healers of bodies, minds, and souls and can’t wait to provide access for legal, safe and guided experiences in a Christian setting. This past April Hunt took an extended break from full-time parish ministry to expand his priesthood out into the emerging psychedelic landscape.

Zac Kamenetz is a rabbi, community leader, and aspiring psychedelic-assisted chaplain based in Berkeley, CA. He holds an MA in Biblical literature and languages from UC Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union and received rabbinic ordination in 2012. In 2017, he was a participant in the Johns Hopkins/NYU Religious Leaders psilocybin study. As the founder and CEO of Shefa: Jewish Psychedelic Support, Zac is pioneering a movement to integrate safe and supported psychedelic use into the Jewish spiritual tradition, advocate for individuals and communities to heal individual and inherited trauma and inspire a Jewish religious and creative renaissance in the 21st century.

April 19 – A Roundtable of Starr King Graduates: Celina De Leon, Anthony Graffagnino, and Rev. Emily Webb

Celina De Leon, M.Div, has extensive experience in the field of psychedelics and contemplative practice with particular experience working with indigenous and spiritual lineages. She received an M.Div from the Graduate Theological Union- Starr King School for the Ministry and is broadly interested in the application of psychedelic plant medicines from the lens of spiritual care. Her long-standing relationship with the Kamentsa indigenous community of the Putumayo of Colombia informs her perspective on valuing how indigenous knowledge contributes to our understanding of the spiritual and therapeutic uses of psychedelics. Celina is a leader on the training team at the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) and also consults on indigenous reciprocity and DEI. She is also the founder and director of Circle of Sacred Nature Church, the Chair of the board of directors of Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, and the program director of Posada Natura retreat center in Costa Rica.

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Rev. Emily Webb has a M.Div degree from Starr King School for the Ministry and a B.A in Sociology/Anthropology from Lewis and Clark College. Her professional experience is as a hospice chaplain, a community organizer and as an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. Her professional interests include the intersection of spirituality/religious traditions and Western medical practice; with a focus on addressing moral injury among healthcare and mental healthcare providers.

In 2021, she completed a graduate certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research from the California Institute for Integral Studies. Her professional practice supports clergy, healers and healthcare professionals to access inner resources for sustaining themselves and to live more authentically.

Anthony Graffagnino, MDiv, is an Interfaith-Quaker Chaplain who currently provides end-of-life care at Hospice of the East Bay. He attended Starr King School for the Ministry from 2014-2018, during which he completed a field internship at the Maitri Compassionate Care Center in SF, a Spiritual Direction Certificate at the Interfaith Chaplaincy Institute, a CPE internship at Kaiser Walnut Creek, and a year-long residency at UCSF Medical Center. While at UCSF, he completed a specialization project under the mentorship of Clinical Researcher Dr. Brian Anderson, developing a spiritual assessment model for chaplains serving in psilocybin therapy contexts. Anthony has continued to expand his work in psychedelic chaplaincy by serving as a night-attendant in MAPS’ clinical trials of MDMA for PTSD and as a clinician in Hospice of the East Bay’s Ketamine for End-of-Life Anxiety study. He has published an article focused on the Enneagram as a vital tool for psychedelic journeying and continues to write on the subject. He will be attending the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) Psychedelic Therapy and Research Certificate program in Summer 2022 in order to create further in-roads for spiritual care practitioners within the emerging field of psychedelic therapy.