Course Syllabus

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ANT4461: Psychedelics and Culture; Section RVC

Instructor Information Table

Professor Photo

Jerry B. Brown, Ph.D.

Founding Professor of Anthropology

Welcome! I am an anthropologist who writes and teaches about the role of psychedelics in psychotherapy, in passion & purpose, and in shamanism and world religions. 

Instructor Information

  • Email: Canvas Inbox
  • Office Hours: By Appointment only via Canvas
  • Turn Around: I check my course e-mail 2-3 times/week and usually reply in 48 hours.

Additional Notes: Due to a high volume of e-mails, I respond only to e-mails which relate  to  the  course  content or  questions  which  cannot  be  answered  by  other available course-related resources (e.g., FIU Tech Support, Syllabus, Class Announcements, etc.). If I experience an overload of e-mails, it may take several days before I can respond. All e-mails must begin with “Hi Professor Brown” and end with your “Full Name”; otherwise they may not be read.

Course Time Zone | Eastern Standard Time (EST). Course due dates are according to this time zone.

Course Description and Purpose

Multidisciplinary survey of role of psychedelics in shamanism and world religions, and in research on addiction, depression, creativity, and spirituality.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify, summarize, critique, discuss, and provide examples of theories, research, and issues related to psychedelics and culture, past, present, and future, at the national and global levels.
  2. Identify, summarize, discuss, and provide examples of the relationships between psychedelics and culture in historical contexts and in current research.
  3. Apply their knowledge of psychedelics and culture in written assignments related to discussing key issues in the field.

How Non-FIU Students Can Enroll and Take This Course for 3-Credits

Students who are not enrolled as degree-seeking students at Florida International University (FIU) can take up to 15 credits as Non-Degree Seeking Students (NDSS) without formally applying for admission to FIU, by filling out the Non-Degree Seeking Students Application and paying a non-refundable Application Fee of $30.  If you are taking an online course, you do not need to submit Immunization Records. Spring 2021 course enrollment for NDSS opens on January 7; classes start on January 11. FIU is a fully-accredited U.S. university based in Miami, Florida, USA.


Before starting this course, please review the following pages:

Special Notice Related to Illegal Activity, Posts, and Discussion Forums

  • Many of the psychedelic chemicals and plants discussed in the texts and in this course are illegal substances under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 as amended.
  • This course does not encourage, either explicitly or implicitly, the sale, purchase, or use in any form of illegal substances.
  • Students are prohibited from posting materials or discussion posts that promote the sale, purchase or use of illegal substances.
  • In addition, please be advised that any posts you make in this course are in the public domain, which means they may be copied and reposted for viewing by any party, now or in the future.
  • FIU is a Drug Free Campus that maintains a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol by students and employees.

Course Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for this course.

Textbook and Course Materials

You may purchase physical copies of these books at the FIU Bookstore. You may also purchase these textbooks online at the FIU Bookstore or any other bookseller such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. There are used copies available online and I encourage you to look for good quality used books, if you can. Also, there are online text rental services that are quite affordable if you do not plan to keep the book.

Both of the texts below are required for the course and we will use them immediately and extensively, so please do not hesitate in purchasing or renting your books.

Textbook Table
Psychedelic Gospels Text

The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity (Required)

Jerry B. Brown, Ph.D., and Julie M. Brown, M.A.

ISBN-9781620555026 (paperback print)    

ISBN-9781620555003 (e-book, available on Kindle)

You may purchase your textbook online at the FIU Bookstore.
Change Your Mind Text

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence (Required)

Michael Pollan

ISBN-9781620555026 (paperback print, also available in hardback)

ISBN-9780525558941 (e-book, available on Kindle)

You may purchase your textbook online at the FIU Bookstore.


In each Module, additional power points, articles, videos and films may be posted. If any of these additional posts are “Required Readings,” they will be clearly marked.

Expectations of this Course

This is an online course, which means most (if not all) of the course work will be conducted online. Expectations for performance in an online course are the same for a traditional course. In fact, online courses require a degree of self-motivation, self-discipline, and technology skills which can make these courses more demanding for some students.

Students are expected to:

  • Review the “Getting Started” information located in the course content
  • Self- Introduction - Introduce yourself to the class during the first week by posting an introduction (and a picture, please!) in the appropriate discussion forum. This introduction will serve as the Discussion Post required for Week 1 of the class (see Course Calendar).
  • Take the Non-Graded Practice Quiz to ensure that your computer is compatible with Canvas.
  • Interact online with instructor and peers.
  • Review and follow the Course Calendar found at  the end of this Syllabus, as well as in the weekly Course Modules.
  • Log in to the course at least 3 times per week.
  • Respond to emails/messages/announcements within 2 business days.
  • Graded Exams (Quizzes) - Take the three (3) course exams by the corresponding deadlines. Each 90-minute exam has 25 multiple choice questions.
  • Graded Discussion Posts – Each week during Weeks 1 through 15 of the course, post one (1) Discussion Post in the Discussion section on Canvas, either commenting on or raising a question about the assigned readings. Each Discussion Post should be a minimum of 250 words (not spaces). 
  • Review the Course Calendar, which is found in the weekly Course Modules and and the end of this Syllabus for the due dates for Self-Introduction, Syllabus Review, Practice Quiz, Exams and Discussion Posts. Late work will not be accepted. No extensions will be granted to make up exams, discussion posts, or to complete the course at a later date.

The instructor will:

  • Log in to the course 2-3 times per week on business
  • Respond to e-mails/messages within 2 days, when possible (see “E-mail” info on page 1 above).
  • Grade exams within 6-10 days of the exam deadline
  • Post Mid-Term Grades and activate Early Alerts if necessary.

There are several activities within each of the fifteen (15) modules to assist you in building knowledge of Psychedelics and Culture. The fifteen modules are organized on a weekly basis. 

Course Communication

Communication in this course will take place via the Canvas Inbox. Check out the Canvas Conversations Tutorial or Canvas Guide to learn how to communicate with your instructor and peers using Announcements, Discussions, and the Inbox. 

Discussion Forums

Each week, during weeks 1 through 15 of the Course Calendar, students will post one Discussion Post. In these posts, you will either comment on or explore a question about any topic in the Required Readings (see Course Calendar in the weekly Course Modules and at the end of this Syllabus for Required Readings, pp. 9-11). In Week 1, the “Self-Introduction” post will count as the required Discussion Post for this week.

Example of a Comment. Module 7: Psychedelic Renaissance - I would like to comment on why the medical and scientific advances in psychedelic research, which have taken place since the year 2000, are known as the Psychedelic Renaissance. [Insert Your Comment].

Example of Question - Module 3: Fathers of Shamanism - I would like to explore the question of why the Siberian Reindeer Herders are known as the “fathers of shamanism.” [Insert Your Comment].

Discussion Forum Expectations:

  • Each Discussion Post should be a minimum of 250 words (not spaces). While longer comments – as long as you like – are welcome, there is no Extra Credit given for longer comments. Each Discussion Post should begin with the words "Module X" (i.e., Module 1, 2...15) to indicate the Module-week, followed by a brief title in bold that describes the Post.

Keep in mind that your discussion forum postings will likely be seen by other members of the course. Care should be taken when determining what to post.

Total Points: 10 Points for each weekly Discussion Post = 10 points per week x 15 weeks = 150 points (See Online Discussion Post Rubric for Grade Scale).

Practice Quiz 

Required by Sunday, January 17, at 5:00 pm EST for everyone!

In order to mitigate any issues with your computer and online assessments, it is very important that you take the Practice Quiz from each computer you will be using to take your graded quizzes and exams. Assessments in this course are not compatible with mobile devices and should not be taken through a mobile phone or a tablet.

For more information, please review the important information about quizzes page.

Total Points: Non-Graded / No Points Awarded

Three Exams

There are three graded exams with due dates listed in the Course Calendar in the Course Modules and at the back of the Syllabus. Exams will be based on the weekly Required Readings listed in the Course Calendar plus any additional Required Materials (Power Points, articles, videos, etc.) that may be posted by the instructor. Late or make-up exams will not be accepted.

All exams assessments will auto-submit when (1) the timer runs out OR (2) the closing date/time has been reached, whichever happens first. For example, if an exam has a closing time of 5:00 pm but the student begins the exam at 4:55 pm, the student will only have 5 minutes to complete the exam.

Exams provide the opportunity for you to gauge your growing knowledge about Psychedelics and Culture, including understanding vocabulary, summarizing major topics, and the application of theoretical perspectives/concepts. Exams are structured within the following parameters:

  1. Ninety (90) minutes is allotted for twenty-five randomly assigned multiple-choice questions (taken from the question pool). Exams exceeding the closing time deadline will be late and not accepted.
  2. You are required to download and utilize Respondus Lockdown Browser for taking exams online. The browser and instructions for using it are provided here as follows:
    1. Review the Respondus LockDown Browser Instructions on how to install, access your assessments and view your
    2. After installing the browser, please take the Practice Quiz to familiarize yourself with the testing environment and to ensure that you have downloaded the Respondus Lockdown Browser correctly.
  3. Exams will only be reset with an emailed report from FIU Online technical support.
  4. If you encounter any technical difficulties during an exam, please immediately contact the FIU Canvas Help Team

Total Points: 3 Exams, 25 questions/exam, 2 points per question = 50 Points/Exam x 3 = 150 Points

Early Alert

In an effort to help you succeed in your academic courses, FIU utilizes an Early Alert system. Instructors are now able to notify students’ Academic Advisors if there are concerns about class performance. If an alert is submitted, your Academic Advisor will send you a message via your Student Dashboard (accessed via your MYFIU page) to discuss ways to improve your performance. Please respond to any communication you receive from your Academic Advisor about an early alert. Our goal with this program is to help you to be successful by identifying any issues as early on as possible and working to address them. Specifically, if you have not fulfilled any of the course requirements by the end of the first two weeks of classes, I will recommend that you drop or be dropped from the course.

Midterm Grades Posted

The Provost’s Office, in conjunction with the Student Success and Advising Center, will collect midterm grades. The midterm grade is simply the percent derived from your points/the total graded at the time of midterm. This data is collected in an effort to identify students that may need assistance at the half-way point in the course.

Missed or Late Assignments

Excepting religious holidays and/or dire circumstances (which should be reported to the Disability Resource Center), under no circumstances will missed or late assignments (including Exams and Discussion Posts) be accepted. Late work will be awarded zero grade points. In addition, no extensions will be granted to complete this course at a later date. On the bright side, you may work as far ahead as you can or wish!


Course Grades Distribution Table

Course Requirements

Number of Items

Points per Item

Total Points Available





Weekly Discussion Post









Letter Grade Distribution Table










A 95 or above 285-300 B 83 - 84 249-254 C 70 - 74
A- 90 - 94 270-284 B- 80 - 82 240-248 D 60 - 69 180-209
B+ 85 - 89 255-269 C+ 75 - 79 225-239 F 59 or less 179 or less

Notes about the course

  • The schedule and syllabus may be altered by the instructor once the semester has started.
  • Recommended Readings and Assignments, which include the Required Readings, are provided within the weekly Course Modules.
  • Classes Begin: Mon, Jan 11, 2021 / Classes End: Sat, May 1, 2021
  • All weekly Discussion Posts are due by 11:59 pm EST on the Sunday at the end of that Week
Course Calendar


Topics Covered

Required Readings

Due Dates

 Module 1

Week begins Mon, 1/11

Class Overview, Textbooks, Requirements, and Syllabus Review

  • Brown text on psychedelics in shamanism and world religions
  • Pollan text on Psychedelic Renaissance and Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
  • Pollan Glossary of Key Terms


Practice Quiz to be completed by 5:00 pm EST, Sunday, January 17, 2021

Brown: Preface (Invitation, Map, Sacred Mushroom Seeker), and  Ch. 1.

Pollan: Prologue, Glossary

Discussion Post on “Self-Introduction" due:

Sunday, 1/17

Module 2
Week begins Mon, 1/18

Soma in the Hindu Rigveda

  • Indus River Valley, India – 1400 BCE
  • Identity of Soma as plant-juice-god
  • Landmarks in ethnomycology

Last Day to Add/Drop Class with out paying fees: January 19

Brown, Ch. 2

Discussion Post on Weeks 1 or 2 Readings, due: Sunday, 1/24

Module 3

Week begins Mon, 1/25

Reindeer Herders of Siberia

  • Arctic Circle, Russia – 2000 BCE
  • Amanita muscaria in shamanism
  • Nomadic Reindeer Herders as the “fathers of shamanism”


Jan 25, Dr. M.L. King Day, FIU Closed

Brown, Ch. 3

Discussion Post on Week 3 Reading, due: Sunday, 1/31

Module 4

Week begins Mon, 2/1 

Maria Sabina, Mazatec Shaman

  • Oaxaca, Mexico – 1955
  • Initiatory call to shamanism
  • Psilocybin mushroom ceremonies

Brown, Ch. 5

Discussion Post on Week 4 Reading, due: Sunday, 2/7

Module 5

Week begins Mon, 2/8

Unravelling the Eleusinian Mysteries

  • Eleusis, Ancient Greece – 1500 BC
  • LSD-like fungus in sacred potion
  • Ritual taboo and death of Socrates

Brown, Ch. 4  

Discussion Post on Week 5 Reading, due: Sunday, 2/14

Module 6

Week begins Mon, 2/15

Psychedelics in World Religions

  • Europe and Middle East, 1000 to 1300
  • Mushroom icons in Christian Art
  • Psychedelic references in Old Testament and Gnostic Gospels

Brown, Chs. 7, 8, 11.

Discussion Post on Week 6 Readings, due: Sunday 2/21

Module 7

Week begins Mon, 2/22

Psychedelic Renaissance

  • Johns Hopkins Research from 2006 on
  • U.S. Supreme Court ayahuasca decision
  • Psilocybin and Mystical Experience

Exam #1 on Weeks 1 – 6 Readings, Opens 2/22 and Closes 5:00 pm EST, Sun, 2/28

Last Day to Drop with DR Grade, Mar. 22

Pollan, Ch. One


Brown, Ch. 6

Discussion Post on Week 7 Reading, due: Sunday, 2/28


Exam #1, due: Sunday, 2/28

Module 8

Week begins Mon, 3/1

Natural History of Psychedelic Mushrooms

  • Neurochemistry of magic mushrooms
  • Stamet’s Guide to psilocybin species
  • Fungi as nature’s neurological network

Pollan, Ch. Two

Discussion Post on Week 8 Reading, due: Sunday, 3/7

Module 9

Week begins Mon, 3/8

1960s Psychedelic Movement

  • Leary: High Priest of Acid Generation
  • CIA MK-Ultra Research Project
  • Backlash and Federal Ban: 1970 Controlled Substances Act

Pollan, Ch. Three

Discussion Post on Week 9 Reading, due: Sunday, 3/14

Module 10

Week begins Mon, 3/15

Psychedelic Underground

  • LSD: royal road to the unconscious
  • DMT: the Spirit Molecule
  • Fadiman’s Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

Pollan, Ch. Four

Discussion Post on Week 10 Reading, due: Sunday, 3/21

Module 11

Week begins Mon, 3/22

New Neuroscience of Psychedelics

  • MRI brain imaging, Imperial College
  • Impact on serotonin neurotransmitters
  • Carhart-Harris’ Default Mode Network


Exam #2 on Weeks 7-11 Readings, Opens 3/22 and Closes 5:00pm EST, Sun, 3/28 

Pollan, Ch. Five

Discussion Post on Week 11 Reading, due: Sunday, 3/28


Exam #2, due: Sun, 3/28

Module 12

Week begins Mon, 3/29

Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy

  • Alleviating Addiction and Depression
  • Anxiety in terminal cancer patients
  • FDA Breakthrough Therapy Trials

Pollan, Ch. Six

Discussion Post on Week 12 Reading, due: Sunday, 4/4

Module 13

Week begins Mon, 4/5

Creativity, Spirituality and Well-Being

  • Scientific Problem-Solving Research
  • Top-Five Life Spiritual Experiences
  • Steve Jobs: LSD and Innovation

Brown, Ch. 15

Discussion Post on Week 13 Reading, due: Sunday, 4/11

Module 14

Week begins Mon, 4/12

Psychedelics and Public Policy

  • Therapy, Law, and Religious Freedom
  • Medical Model vs. Decriminalization
  • City and State Decrim. Initiatives

Pollan, Epilogue

Discussion Post on Week 14 Reading, due: Sunday, 4/18

Module 15

Week begins Mon, 4/19

Future of Psychedelics

  • Roberts’ Mind Apps & Multistate Theory
  • Enhanced Cognition and Performance
  • Potential Neuro-Singularity


Career Opportunities in Psychedelics

  • Pharmacology and Clinical Research
  • Psychedelic Therapy Guides
  • Nonprofit Global Psychedelic Movement
  • For-Profit Psychedelic Businesses

Handouts posted on Canvas

Handouts posted on Canvas

Discussion Post on Week 15 Handouts, due: Sun, 4/25

Exam Week

Week begins Mon, 4/26

Finals Week – No Modules or Classes

Exam #3 on Weeks 12-15 Readings, Opens 4/26 and Closes 5:00pm EST, Saturday, May 1, 2020


Grades Posted, May 6, 2021


Exam #3 due: Sat, 5:00pm, 5/1

In each Module, additional class handouts (power points, articles, or videos) will be posted and linked to the course website via Canvas. Most of these will be supplemental course materials to enhance your knowledge of the field. If any of these are “Required Readings” they will be clearly marked.

No extensions will be granted to make up Exams or Discussion Posts or complete the Course at a later date.

No late Exams or Discussion Posts will be accepted and any late work will be awarded zero grade points.