Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

Veteran psychedelic researcher William A. “Bill” Richards

Pastor James Lindberg was unmoored by his first trip on psilocybin. “I’m a pretty normal middle aged white guy who found myself involved in things that were a bit larger than I intended them to be,” says Lindberg, who leads a Lutheran church in an Omaha suburb. He questioned his place in the church but, after some soul-searching, recommitted “to the tradition that has been entrusted to me.”

Rabbi Zac Kamenetz’s first journey on psilocybin led him to “light, connection, warmth, gratitude and the sense that all is well,” he says. “I left that experience inspired, energized and grounded, in the sense that the path that I was on was a noble one.” His next trip brought “darkness, emptiness and a void.” Nevertheless, Kamenetz, who lives and works in San Francisco, has become an evangelist for psychedelics.

Pastor Lindberg and Rabbi Kamenetz are participants in an FDA-approved study to examine the effects of psilocybin-facilitated experience on the psychology and effectives of religious professionals. The research aims to deepen understanding of what are called mystical, transcendental or awe-inspiring experiences because, some argue, such encounters can have profound benefits for those who experience them, their family and friends and, ultimately, for the world as a whole.

The man helping to guide this mashup of science and the sacred — William A. “Bill” Richards, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research — is uniquely qualified to do so. A clinical psychologist who has investigated psychedelics since the 1960s, Richards is an ordained minister (though he never pastored a church) with advanced degrees from Yale Divinity School and Andover-Newton Theological School. He has for many years been guiding volunteers on drug trips on weekdays at Johns Hopkins and singing bass in the choir on Sundays at the Episcopal church where he worships in Baltimore.


You can read the rest of this story at Medium.

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