The psychological experiences that have been most dismissed in Western Culture are the states we deem ‘mental illness’, especially anxiety and depression, as well as the ecstatic and mystical states of primary religious experience. In both cases, we have systematically pathologized the sensations from deep within our own bodies and those from beyond ourselves, which are resultantly experienced as aberrant, painful, and meaningless suffering. When we reject these callings, not only do they fester and aggravate, but we equally deprive ourselves of  source of psychic fulfillment.


Since 2008, RSF has been funding research into the class of compounds known as ‘psychedelics’ as among the most promising tools for reinstilling access to vital and often repressed parts of our psychic lives. Psychedelics lower our perceptual filters and can provide meaningful expression to relinquished and unbidden material within ourselves and the world around us, allowing them to speak to us through the language of images, archetypes, and emotions, bypassing the defensive or socially conditioned mind. 

RSF Grants: Psychedelic in Clinical Use [expand]

Clinically, when used in a supervised therapeutic setting, psilocybin and MDMA have been shown to be effective treatments for cancer-related anxieties, a host of addictions, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They may be effective therapeutically because they amplify and enliven the psychically agitating material which perpetuates their suffering- the notion of death and cancer, the difficult sensations addictive substances are used to avoid, and the traumatic memories that sustain PTSD. In doing so, the psychedelic amplification can offer an opportunity to expand one’s relationship to these difficulties and diffuse their charge. Riverstyx Funded Projects: -Psilocybin for Cancer Anxiety (Phase 2) -Psilocybin for Major Depression and Cancer Related Depression (Phase 3: Beginning 2018) -Psilocybin for the Treatment of Alcoholism -Psilocybin for the Treatment of Smoking Cessation -Psilocybin for the Treatment of Alzheimers (pledged) -Psilocybin for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder -MDMA for PTSD (Phase 2) -MDMA for PTSD (Phase 3: Beginning 2018) -MDMA for Anxiety Related to a Life-Threatening Illness

RSF Grants: Psychedelics and Spirituality [expand]

Research has also shown that when used in a similarly therapeutic context, psychedelics can reliably occasion mystical type experiences. The psychedelic experience can offer transcendence from one’s normal perspective and concerns, and can reorient perspective towards the sacred and what is felt to be most important in life. Through the immersive exposure to beauty and that which is felt to be greater than oneself, the experience can lead to enduring increases in feelings of awe, wonder, and gratitude in life. Riverstyx funded research has shown that psychedelics can help foster persisting increases in feelings of well-being and spiritual openness both in normal volunteers, as well as religious clergy and long-term meditators. Riverstyx Funded Research: -Psilocybin for Religious Clergy -Psilocybin for Long-Term Meditators

Partner Organizations


The Heffter Research Institute promotes research of the highest scientific quality with the classic
hallucinogens and related compounds (sometimes called psychedelics) in order to contribute to a greater
understanding of the mind leading to the improvement of the human condition, and to alleviate suffering.

MAPS’ mission is to treat conditions for which conventional medicines provide limited relief—such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, drug dependence, anxiety and depression associated with end-of-life issues—by developing MDMA into prescription medicines; to cure many thousands of people by building a network of clinics where treatments can be provided; and to educate the public honestly about the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana.

Usona Institute is the primary sponsoring organization of the phase 3 multi-site research study focused on psilocybin as a treatment for depression and anxiety, including in cases of cancer-related psychological distress. Usona is collaborating with Heffter, MAPS, and the FDA to design the pivotal trial to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of psilocybin as a prescription medicine.

Additional Grantees

One of the really vivid images that I had was a sketch of a dinner table—it was almost this round circle that represented a dinner table—and at the table was cancer, but it was supposed to be at the table. And the feeling I had was cancer is a part of everything. It isn’t this bad separate thing; it’s something that’s part of everything, and that everything is part of everything. And that’s really beautiful. It was just a sort of acceptance of the human experience.

-- NYU study participant during her psilocybin session to address cancer-anxiety