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Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, is a British artist, scientist and drug policy reformer. In 1998, she founded the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust that i) promotes a rational, evidence-based approach to global drug policy; ii) initiates, designs and conducts pioneering neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and cognition and iii) investigates new avenues of treatment for mental and physical conditions as well as the enhancement of creativity and well-being.
Early Life and Education
Feilding is the youngest child of Basil Feilding (himself a great-grandson of the 7th Earl of Denbigh and the Marquess of Bath) and his wife and cousin Margaret Feilding. The Feilding family is descended from the House of Habsburg and came to England in the 14th Century. Since then the family has intermarried in the British aristocracy, and is directly descended from two illegitimate children of Charles II of England by his mistresses Barbara Villiers and Moll Davis. She grew up at Beckley Park, a Tudor hunting lodge with three towers and three moats situated on the edge of a fen outside Oxford. The family had no money, so her upbringing was eccentric and isolated.
From an early age she was fascinated by changing states of consciousness and the lives of the mystics. Her godfather, whom she never met, became a renowned Buddhist monk in Ceylon. Having won the school science prize, but being forbidden her chosen prize of books on Buddhism and mysticism, she left school at 16 and went travelling towards Ceylon with £50. The travels ended in a series of adventures in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, etc. Back in England, she studied Comparative Religions and Mysticism with Prof. R.C. Zaehner, Classical Arabic with Prof. Albert Hourani, and sculpture. She later concentrated on research into altered states of consciousness, psychology, physiology and later neuroscience. She gave up sculpture and took up painting.
In 1966 she met and had a long-lasting relationship with a Dutch scientist of genius, Bart Huges, who inspired her with a passion for science and the unravelling of the physiological roots of consciousness and its altered states. Since the late 60s she lived with Joseph Mellen with whom she had two sons, Rock Basil Hugo Feilding Mellen (born 1979) and Cosmo Birdie Feilding Mellen (born 1985). She and Mellen separated in the early 90s and on 29 January 1995, she married James Charteris, 13th Earl of Wemyss, 9th Earl of March, son of David Charteris, 12th Earl of Wemyss, 8th Earl of March under the Bent Pyramid in Egypt.
She gained notoriety in 1970 when she performed trepanation on herself, about which she made a short cult art film entitled "Heartbeat in the Brain", shown only to invited audiences. Trepanation was part of her exploration into the effects of different techniques to alter and enhance consciousness. During this period, she wrote Blood and Consciousness, which explored the hypothesis of changing ratios of blood and cerebrospinal fluid underlying changes in the conscious state, and the theory of the "ego" being a conditioned reflex mechanism controlling the distribution of blood in the brain. During the 1970s and 80s she painted, and produced conceptual artworks to do with consciousness, which were exhibited at the ICA in London, PS1 in New York and other galleries in the US, as well as having to make a living.
Feilding has long had interest in exploring different ways of modulating consciousness for the benefit of the individual and society. She has investigated many different ways of altering consciousness from meditation to the use of psychoactive substances and trepanation.
Feilding learned about the ancient practice of trepanation from Bart Huges, whom she met in 1966, and who published a scroll on the topic,. The hypothesis that she investigated proposes that trepanation improves cerebral circulation by allowing the full heartbeat to express itself, which Feilding hypothesises cannot normally occur after fusion of the cranial bones. To compensate for this theorized decrease, she hypothesizes humanity developed an internal system of controlling blood flow in the brain, a development that Feilding identifies with the origins of language. Trepanation, Feilding hypothesises, allows people to achieve higher states of consciousness that she theorizes children experience before their cranial bones fuse. Recent research carried out by Feilding on patients with cranial lesions in collaboration with Prof. Yuri Moskalenko has provided evidence of blood flow changes. This is part of a larger research programme investigating how intracranial dynamics change as we age, and what can be done to increase cranial compliance which they theorize might to help limit some of the detrimental changes associated with aging. Through this research, a new, non-invasive means of assessing intracranial dynamics, "The Moskalenko Method", has been developed by Moskalenko, Feilding, et al.
Feilding ran for British Parliament twice, on the platform 'Trepanation for the National Health' with the intention of advocating research into its potential benefits, but received few votes (40 in 1979 and 139 in 1983). 35 years later, she is funding this research at the Sechenov Institute for Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, St. Petersburg.
Feilding is also the founder of the Trepanation Trust.
She is also collaborating on other psychedelic research projects. These include: investigating the efficacy of using psilocybin as an aid to psychotherapy in overcoming addiction; a set of brain imaging study investigating the effects of psilocybin and MDMA on cerebral blood supply and the recall of distant memories; the neurophysiology underlying the effects of cannabis that the users find beneficial; the effects of cannabis on the creative process; the effects of the different components of cannabis and the importance of the THC/CBD ratio in mental health.
Feilding is also active in drugs policy reform, arguing that benefits as well as harms should be considered in forming policies. In 2007, Feilding convened the Global Cannabis Commission Report, authored by a group of leading drug policy analysts, which lays out a blueprint for possible reforms of cannabis control policies at national and international levels. The Report was presented at the 10-yearly UN General Assembly Global Drug Policy Review in Vienna in March 2009 (the Beckley Foundation is a UN accredited NGO). The Cannabis Commission Report is being published by Oxford University Press and the Beckley Foundation.
Beckley Foundation Press
The Beckley Foundation’s Global Cannabis Commission was convened by Amanda Feilding in 2006. Its findings were presented at a Meeting at the House of Lords in 2008. The findings were initially published in Report form as: The Global Cannabis Commission Report, subtitled Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate. The Global Commissioners were Robin Room, Benedikt Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton, Peter Reuter and Amanda Feilding. The authors of the Report were Robin Room, Benedikt Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton and Peter Reuter.
Hofmann’s Elixir: LSD and the New Eleusis Edited by Amanda Feilding Talks & Essays by Albert Hofmann and others Beckley Foundation Press (2010).
Reviewing the UN Drug Conventions: Cannabis and Psychedelics, Amanda Feilding. In Controversies on the Regulation of Traditional Drug Use, Bia Labate and Clancy Cavnar (eds), Accepted by Springer-Wiley.
The Resurrection of Psychedelic Research, Amanda Feilding. In Harm Reduction in Substance Use and High-Risk Behaviour, Richard Pates and Diane Riley (eds), Wiley-Blackwell (2012), pp. 246−51.
Amanda Feilding's Scientific Papers and Publications
Beckley Foundation/Imperial College Psychedelic Research Programme: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Prof David Nutt and Dr Robin Carhart-Harris Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin Carhart-Harris RL, Feilding A, Nutt DJ et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 2012, 109(6) 2138–43.
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with University College London: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Prof Valerie Curran and Dr Celia Morgan Investigating the interaction between schizotypy, divergent thinking and cannabis use Schafer G, Feilding A, Morgan CJA et al. Consciousness and Cognition, 2012, 21:292–98.
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Dr Paul Morrison Cannabidiol inhibits THC-elicited psychosis and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment Englund A, Morrison P, Feilding A et al. In proof, 2012.
Disruption of Frontal Theta Coherence by Δ(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol is Associated with Positive Psychotic Symptoms Morrison PD, Nottage J, Stone JM et al. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2011, 36(4):827–36. (Beckley Foundation-supported study)
Opposite effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on human brain function and psychopathology Bhattacharyya S, Morrison PD, Fusar-Poli P, et al. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2010, 35(3):764-74. (Beckley Foundation-supported study)
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences: Non-Invasive Evaluation of Human Brain Fluid Dynamics and Skull Biomechanics in Relation to Cognitive Functioning Moskalenko Y, Feilding A and Halvorson P. Published by Beckley Foundation Press (2009)
Relation of Age Cognitive Disorders with Cranial Compliance, Cerebrospinal Fluid Mobility and Cerebral Circulation Moskalenko Y Feilding A et al. International Journal of Pathophysiology, 2008, 69(3):307.
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with Freiburg University: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Prof Thilo Hinterberger Neurophysiological correlates to psychological trait variables in experienced meditative practitioners Thilo Hinterberger, Amanda Feilding et al. In Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality, H. Walach, S. Schmidt & W. Jonas (eds), Berlin: Springer (2011), pp. 129−57.
- Homo Sapiens Correctus, Bart Huges, self-published scroll
- Feilding, Amanda. 2001. Blood and Consciousnes: The Search for Expanded Consciousnes from Paleolitic to Modern Man. Speech given at Mind States Conference, Berkeley, Ca, USA.
- The Effect of Craniotomy on the Intracranial Hemodynamics and Cerebrospinal Fluid Dynamics in Humans. Yu. E. Moskalenko, G. B. Weinstein , T. I. Kravchenko, S. V. Mozhaev , V. N. Semernya, A. Feilding , P. Halvorson, and S. V. Medvedev. Human Physiology, 2008, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 299–305. Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2008
- Levy, Geoffrey. Cannabis Countess, Daily Mail UK, April 10, 2010.
- Stix, Gary; LSD Returns--For Psychotherapeutics: LSD makes a comeback as a possible clinical treatment Scientific American
- Lim HK, Andrenyak D, Francom P, Foltz RL, Jones RT. Quantification of LSD and N-demethyl-LSD in urine by gas chromatography/resonance electron capture ionization mass spectrometry. Anal Chem. 1988 Jul 15;60(14):1420-5. PMID 3218752.
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