The Foundation

About the Foundation

The Beckley Foundation’s purpose is two-fold:

  1. To scientifically investigate the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and consciousness in order to harness their potential benefits and minimise their potential harms; learn more about consciousness and brain function; and discover and explore new avenues for the treatment of illnesses.
  2. To achieve evidence-based changes in global drug policies in order to reduce the harms brought about by the unintended negative consequences of current drug policies; and develop improved policies based on health, harm reduction, cost-effectiveness, and human rights.

Scientific Programme

Through the Scientific Programme, we collaborate with leading experts and institutions to design, initiate, and direct scientific research projects, including clinical trials. The studies focus on cannabis, MDMA, and psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT), and explore how these substances act upon the human brain, using the latest developments in neuroscience and brain imaging technology. The purpose of the research is to increase our scientific understanding of consciousness itself, and to explore new avenues for treatment and well-being.

Policy Programme

Through the Policy Programme, we collaborate with a network of political leaders and drug policy analysts to develop evidence-based global drug policies. Our policy initiatives open up discussion on taboo issues surrounding the complex subject of drug policy, and they explore new regulatory models which aim to reduce the disastrous collateral harms caused by the policies of prohibition.


About the Founder & Director

Amanda Feilding is the Founder and Director of the Beckley Foundation. Realising the transformative and therapeutic potential of many of the substances forbidden by the policies of prohibition, Amanda established the Foundation in 1998, and has since been called the ‘hidden hand behind the renaissance of psychedelic science and drug policy reform.’

Fascinated by consciousness since childhood, Amanda studied comparative religions and mysticism under the tutelage of the renowned Prof. R. C. Zaehner, author of Mysticism, Sacred and Profane. She then travelled widely in Egypt and the Middle East, living with the Bedouin among other adventures.

In the 1960s, at the height of the first wave of scientific research into psychedelics (over 3000 studies were run) – and while they were still legal – Amanda was introduced to LSD. She was amazed by its power to initiate mystical states of consciousness, including enhanced creativity and heightened awareness, and by its potential to expand and deepen perception and a sense of union. She realised the transformative and therapeutic potential of psychedelics, and dedicated herself to exploring ways of harnessing this potential for the benefit of society.

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In 1966, Amanda met the Dutch scientist Bart Huges, who was at the time developing two new hypotheses: 1) that changes in blood supply to the brain governed altered states of consciousness, and 2) that the ‘ego’ was a conditioned physiological reflex mechanism, directing blood to those brain areas most essential for survival while suppressing blood flow to other parts of the brain. This was the first time that a mechanistic explanation of the ‘ego’ had been given, and it provided the first explanation of how psychoactive substances might alter brain function: psychoactive substances could bring about a change in blood supply to the brain, loosening the repressive control of the ego over consciousness. Inspired by these new ideas, Amanda worked with Huges over the following years on developing these hypotheses. She studied how cannabis and the psychedelics can alter brain function, how to use these compounds as tools to better understand consciousness itself, and how they can increase self-awareness as well as mental and physical well-being.

In the 1970s, she wrote a booklet entitled Blood & Consciousness and gave exhibitions around the topic of consciousness and its changing states at galleries including PS1 in New York and the ICA in London, where she also showed her film Heartbeat in the Brain.

From the 1970s onwards, Amanda watched with dismay the development of the War on Drugs, and felt duty-bound to do whatever she could to draw attention to its devastating unintended consequences, and to create a scientific evidence-base to help reform global drug policy to protect health, reduce harms, be cost-effective, and respect human rights.

Amanda knew that the only way to re-integrate the censored substances into society and to overcome the taboo on them was by developing the best scientific research to understand their mechanisms and utilise them more fully. After many years of studying physiology, psychology, and neuroscience, Amanda established the Foundation to Further Consciousness in 1996, which in 1998 became the Beckley Foundation. The work produced since then has been very influential in changing attitudes among thinkers and policy-makers internationally.

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