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I am writing this letter in an attempt to inspire right action. As many of you may already know, Ann and Sasha Shulgin are currently suffering from financial distress largely due to Sasha’s increased medical expenses. This lamentable state of affairs is well within our collective powers to redress, and I feel that it is high time for the the psychedelic community to shower our heroic pioneers with a tangible demonstration of our everlasting gratitude.
Everybody knows who the Shulgins are. It’s pretty much impossible to overstate their collective contribution to psychedelic culture, and indeed to the very fabric of human society at large. They not only brought us most of our favorite alphabetamines, they tested them on themselves and published their extensive notes so that the rest of us could benefit from their groundbreaking discoveries. Sasha is the greatest psychopharmacological chemist who ever lived. Ann is a pioneer in the field of empthogen-assisted therapy. Their love story has inspired millions of people. And that’s just for starters. Plus they’re also about the kindliest little old couple you’d ever be ridiculously honored to meet! On the few occasions when I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with the Shulgins, I have been deeply moved by the warm affection that flows so palpably between them, as well as by their consistently graceful interactions with awkwardly starstruck admirers like myself.
So naturally I was quite shocked when I recently learned that they were genuinely struggling to make ends meet. I was so upset, in fact, that I asked a few close friends of the Shulgins why they didn’t have some kind of a donation link set up or something. Surely, I thought, if they were to appeal to the larger community…
It turns out that they’ve been actively soliciting assistance for a while. But so far, the collective largesse of the millions of people who have personally benefited from the Shulgins’ invaluable research hasn’t actually added up to enough to keep pace with one old man’s medical bills and ongoing caretaking costs.
I’m going to give the psychedelic community the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that the vast majority of the Shulgins’ innumerable beneficiaries are simply as ignorant about the true nature of the situation as I was. This is obviously at least part of the problem, and this letter is a quick first effort to shine a brighter spotlight upon the matter.
However, my letter also endeavors to serve as a frank counterpoint to the immaculately tasteful cries for help that are currently to be found on the Shulgins’ websites. It seems that Ann and the rest of Team Shulgin are simply too reserved, humble, and self-effacing to say some of the things that really need to be said.
The Teafaerie, however, suffers from no such conspicuous excess of good manners…
Electrical engineer Nicola Tesla was one of the fathers of our time, yet he died in abject poverty. There’s no retirement plan for wizards, it seems; at least not for the kind who are focused on creating change rather than making money. I feel like I’m watching history repeat itself as I write this; except for this time it’s even worse, because there’s no easy scapegoat like Edison in the picture. Everybody knows about the staggering debt we owe to the Shulgins.
I feel that failing to take action would reflect pretty poorly on us, actually. Worse yet, I fear that it would reflect poorly on the validity of the Work itself. I mean, if MDMA (for instance) genuinely helps to make us into better, more compassionate people, then how come we’re collectively failing to take care of even the most revered of our elders? Where is all the overwhelming love and the bottomless gratitude that psychedelic aficionados are always waxing so eloquent about?
I personally have the Shulgins to thank for many of my most profound and life-changing experiences. Their discoveries and techniques have helped me to heal some of my deepest wounds. They’ve also opened me up to suppressed aspects of my true nature, allowed me to explore and integrate past traumas, catalysed positive transformations in my intimate relationships, showed me how to love myself, humbled me, and taught me how to dance. Nobody can put a price tag on those kinds of things, but I can assure you that no amount of money would persuade me to delete any of those experiences from my memory banks. To be perfectly honest, if it hadn’t been for the Shulgins I sincerely might have killed myself shortly after my best friend passed away a couple of years ago. So I guess that you could say that I owe them just about everything, when it comes right down to it.
And I’m just one little person, right? I mean if the Shulgins literally had a dollar for every priceless epiphany that their work has ever helped to bring about, they would obviously be set for life many many many times over. Likewise, if they had a dime for every heart that has ever been opened. Or a nickel for every minor miracle of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual integration. And, of course, if they had even so much as a single penny for every ecstatically transcendent moment on the dancefloor… Well!
Paying to see a psychologist for therapy these days usually costs over $100 per 45-minute “hour”. If you are one of the countless thousands of people who have benefited from embracing the DIY alternative to mainstream treatment that Ann and Sasha’s research has helped to facilitate, I encourage you to consider how much money you might have saved over the years. Couldn’t you afford to send the Shulgins a mere 1% of that savings?
Plus I know that there are thousands of people out there who have made quite a tidy fortune for themselves in the underground market. Sasha totally could have made big money by creating patentable products for some gigantic pharmaceutical company, you know. But the Shulgins were committed to the open source ethic before it got trendy. Instead of cashing in on their enormously lucrative discoveries, they decided to make their data freely available for the sake of science and society, and at a not-inconsiderable risk to themselves. Wasn’t that ever so progressive of them? And wouldn’t it be aesthetically satisfying if everybody who later made heaps of money off of that data considered just tossing the original content creators a little tip?
Ironically, dementia can present exactly like a challenging drug experience at times. And now that Sasha’s legendary mind has been unsettled by this all too common affliction, it feels to me like we’ve collectively been offered a rather poetic opportunity to return a gratuitous grace. MDMA has provided therapeutic benefits to millions of people, allowing them to pull themselves out of very difficult headspaces. And wouldn’t you feel just awesome if you could help to provide the person whose discoveries once brought you some much-needed comfort with quality palliative care and an around-the-clock tripsitter?
There’s nothing wrong with enlightened self interest, and charity is the gift that gives back sevenfold. Big donations can get you invited to all the best parties, too! Imagine being introduced as the philanthropist who set the Shulgins up! Or maybe you’re a celebrity yourself, and you’re looking to donate to a cause that you know your fans will be especially proud to support. Social media would certainly be all atwitter about such a simultaneously edgy and genuinely heartwarming display of respect.
I know that not everyone can afford to donate as much as they would like. (I can only spare $50 myself at the moment.) There are lots of other ways that you can help, though! How about setting up a “Support the Shulgins” table at your next event, party, conference, or festival? At the very least you can help to raise awareness by reposting this letter. Or, better yet, you could write to your friends and tell them how you feel about this important matter in your own words.
We must not let History say that the psychedelic community stood idly by shaking its many heads and clucking its many tongues while Ann and Sasha Shulgin were reduced to poverty. And make no mistake! The eyes of the future are upon us. What we do (or do not do) now shall long be remembered, just as what happened to Nicola Tesla is remembered by us today. Because if there is going to be any kind of a human future at all, I strongly believe that the exploration of consciousness is going to end up being pretty central to its success.
Let us act quickly, before we miss our chance to right our collective karma. Let us stand up and show our heroes that they are not forgotten. Think of it as giving them the standing ovation they so richly deserve. Think of it as giving them both a big hug and thanking them for the priceless gifts that they have bestowed upon you, and upon our entire species.
This is something that we can accomplish, people. We can even do it fast, if we harness the power of our networks. It’s obviously the right thing to do. And now is the right time to do it. It is our great honor and privilege to be the ones who are in a position to help to give this truly epic love story a happy ending.
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