In part one of Cover Story: Power Trip, we took you on a tour of the psychedelic underground with stories of cultlike gurus and manipulation of a kind you might expect from some trippy underground leaders, but maybe not the same leaders who are now being trusted to lead the psychedelic renaissance. In part two we go fully aboveground and visit the researchers and labs that are testing and monitoring MDMA-assisted therapy as a cure for trauma. These labs should be cleaning up the hippie mess and keeping vulnerable people safe. Instead, we find a whole other kind of mess.
But before we go there, here are some highlights from part one.
Lily Kay Ross takes us from the car accident that left her motherless, to her attempts to fill the parent-shaped hole with drugs, to her induction into the underground world of psychedelic guides. They all take a mutual vow to keep quiet, but Lily doesn’t. Why? “The most immediate answer is, like, I see a shit show, and I see coverups, and I see the possibility that … a lot of people could get hurt, and get really deeply hurt. And if this progresses, there are so many people who will live through something like what I lived through.”
While in graduate school, Lily joins a project in the Ecuadorian Amazon to help a local leader tell his own story. She arrives and he … drugs and rapes her. Lily makes it out alive and spends the next many months trying to let her friends and mentors in the psychedelic community know what happened to her. But the overall message she gets is: Quiet! Not now! At Burning Man, the Silicon Valley types have discovered the hippie trippers, and a renaissance is born. Lily can only get in the way.
We cross through a portal to the underground, where “Susan” goes through training to be a psychedelic therapist. Her mentor, Eyal, crosses way too many boundaries. It’s funny sometimes, like when he insists he is the wolf in her dreams. But mostly it’s not. And we meet Françoise Bourzat, the honey-voiced trainer of trainers.
Our trippiest episode. We go to the source, a Mexican psychotherapist named Salvador Roquet, known as the “master of bad trips.” In his sessions he projected images of war and porn and played earsplitting music to mess with your mind. (We replicate some of it. You should blindfold yourself and listen.) “Susan” starts to realize that boundary crossing is not just Eyal’s thing. It’s baked into the therapy.
Françoise tries to defend herself in the same way all guru types do: by claiming she is the one who is persecuted. We also hear more stories from the underground about her husband, who has a bad habit of meddling in relationships.
By the end we are sure the underground needs to be purged and we need to call in the professionals. We take a look at them in part two.