Picture the scene. You are queuing up to receive a psychedelic sacrament. Once you and your fellows have all received a spoonful of magic mushroom extract, together you sit to consume it. You have all earlier in the evening discussed your intentions for this experience. Lying, listening to the sounds of soothing music, following the breathing exercises, you begin to feel a change wash over you.

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Those around you start to writhe and cry out as the music intensifies. Some people are crying — one person is cartwheeling. You are transported. Just as the room seems to be reaching fever pitch, the music slows and becomes gentle — sending a calming ripple throughout the space. 

As one you return to your breathing exercises, absorbing what you have just experienced. Later, as the night goes on, you gather around the fire and watch the flames dance. 

It sounds rather like a mystical ceremony deep in the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico, or some such. An ancient indigenous ritual presided over by a curandera, who has absorbed generations of hidden psychedelic wisdom… right? 

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The Sacred Tribe

Well, not quite. You’re actually in a large brick building in downtown Denver, in early 2022. The man handing out your ‘sacrament’ is the so-called psilocybin rabbi Ben Gorelick. Sporting a technicolor mohawk, the 42 year old rabbi is the founder of The Sacred Tribe. A spiritual community which has amassed more than 270 members since its founding in 2018. The aim of the group is to connect and explore “the relationship to self, community and God”. 

Although based in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, with Gorelick referring to his group as a ‘synagogue’, many who attend have no religious affiliation. It’s just as much about spiritual exploration, self discovery and growing community bonds. 

Denver Started The Decriminalization Wave

The group has greatly benefited from Denver’s trend-setting decriminalization of possessing and consuming psilocybin in 2019. This has encouraged many more people to become open to, and interested in, its uses. However, as Gorelick explains; 

“The goal is not to blast people to the moon. It’s to give people just enough of a threshold dose that they have that openness to connecting.”

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Infact, you have to be an official member to take part in these psychedelic ‘retreats’, that occur around once a month. Gorelick finds himself rejecting around 15% of applicants. Mainly ones who seem to only want to join to get their hands on some shrooms. 

The group is funded mainly by donation, and they hold many other workshops which do not include psychedelics — and thus are open to all. 

The Catch-22 of Decriminalization

Despite this approach, it hasn’t stopped Gorelick from ending up on the wrong side of the law. On January 10th police raided the group’s mushroom cultivation facility, where 35 different strains of mushrooms for use at events were growing. Police removed the mushrooms and official documents. A few weeks later Gorelick was arrested on ‘suspicion of possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance’.

Gorelick however, isn’t scared. He states that he believes The Sacred Tribe will be protected by religious exemption, and he has never sold or distributed mushrooms beyond the group itself. 

It brings to light the frustrating Catch-22 of decriminalization. As Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds puts it — “We’re not trying to get the dealership pipeline going here, but if it is decriminalized to possess it, well, how do you get it?”

A New Vote As Early As November

Luckily for The Sacred Tribe, and Denver-ites in general, several ballots have been filed by campaigners that they may get to vote on as early as this November. These would legalize the use of plant-based psychedelics in therapeutic settings. 

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It could mean that more communities like this could pop up — and that can only be a good thing. As member Amy Bliss explains – 

“The level of acceptance is radical acceptance. Bring who you are. And all of your faults and your, you know, impurities and ugliness and all of it. Bring it all. It’s all welcome.”

A Collaboration With Divergence Nuero

Despite his legal battles, Gorelick has more projects on the horizon. Later this year he will be collaborating with Divergence Neuro, a Canadian company that will collect biometric data of the human brain and body when on psilocybin mushrooms. They will use extractions of alkaloids, including psilocybin, from the shrooms grown by The Sacred Tribe using their own proprietary method. One of the astounding things about this method is that it uses real mushroom extract, whereas most studies use synthetic psilocybin. Gorelick explains – 

We are, as far as I know, the only people in the world who have come up with a particular process that allows us to have a consistent dosing, but based on full mushroom extract. So I can say, not only is it 20 milligrams of psilocybin, it’s also 3 milligrams of psilocin, 12 milligrams of baeocystin, etc.”

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This means the team is able to study the effects of the other alkaloids too, not just psilocybin. Testing on 29 ‘experienced psychonaut’ volunteers, Gorelick has been able to link baeocystin to feelings of connectedness, and aeruginascin to euphoria. Through this research, trips could be tailored to what the user wants to achieve — whether it’s a more spiritual, emotional, visual experience or anything in between!

Spiritual and Scientific

Pretty thrilling stuff! Rabbi Gorelick and The Sacred Tribe are sure to continue to inspire and plow psychedelic furrows for us all. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on their spiritual and scientific activities!

*Based on an article originally published in the Denver Post.