Amanda Feilding – From “Crackpot Countess” to “Queen of Consciousness” 

Once dismissed, mocked, and known as the “crackpot countess” for her progressive views on psychedelics and altered states of consciousness; now, Amanda Feilding’s theories and studies are being examined under a new scope, and with the emergence of psychedelics as therapeutic compounds, she has now been dubbed the “queen of consciousness” or “first lady of LSD”.  

Let’s take a closer look at the intriguing life of Amanda Feilding, what her research consisted of, and how she became a trailblazer of the modern-day psychedelic renaissance. 

Who is Amanda Feilding? 

Born Amanda Claire Marian Charteris in January 1943, also known as the Countess of Wemyss and March, and later taking the name Amanda Feilding, is an English drug policy reformer, psychedelic advocate and researcher, and lobbyist for legalization. Amanda is the youngest child of Basil and Margaret Feilding and the great-granddaughter of the 7th Earl of Denbigh, William Basil Percy Feilding. She grew up in a Tudor hunting lodge at Beckley Park outside of Oxford, England.  

Source:, Photo by: Robert Funke

Amanda showed an interest in mysticism and altered states of consciousness from a very young age and at only 16 years old, she took off a solo adventure across the world to learn more about these concepts. Starting in England, she planned on hitchhiking to then Ceylon (currently Sri Lanka) where her godfather lived as a Buddhist monk. Although she didn’t make it all way to her destination, she got to the Syrian border where she spent some time with Bedouins, nomadic Arab tribes who have historically inhabited the desert regions around the middle east and northern Africa.  

Upon her return to the UK, Amanda began studying Comparative Religions and Mysticism with Professor R.C. Zaehner, and Classical Arabic with Professor Albert Hourani. After that, she shifted her focus to researching altered states of consciousness, as well as psychology, physiology, and neuroscience. At the age of 22, Amanda Feilding had her first psychedelic experience. Although it’s not exactly how anyone hopes their first time will go (her coffee was spiked with a huge dose of LSD), she was amazed at the power of these drugs and wanted to learn more about them, although she did need a couple months to recover after her trip.  

She went on to start the Foundation to Further Consciousness (later renamed Beckley Foundation) in 1998. The goal of her institution was to “promote a rational, evidence-based approach to global drug policies and initiates, directs, and supports pioneering neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and cognition.” 

The main focus of her research was finding different ways to expand the consciousness by use of psychedelics (including cannabis, LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and MDMA), meditation, and some other, more unconventional methods, to treat different mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and drug/alcohol addiction. They also looked at these alternative treatment options as ways to enhance creativity, focus, and well-being.  

From the Crackpot Countess… 

As is often the case with brilliant and unorthodox individuals, Amanda was frequently called crazy for her work to alter and enhance consciousness. But she truly became infamous in 1970 when she performed a trepanation on herself (drilled a hole in her head) with a dental drill.  

Trepanation was a substantial part of Feilding’s research on the mind. She made a short film about the process called Heartbeat of the Brain, which has been featured in a handful of other documentaries including the well-known 1998 one, A Hole in the Head. She also wrote an essay about it titled Blood and Consciousness, in which she hypothesized that “changing ratios of blood and cerebrospinal fluid underlie changes in consciousness” and that “the theory of the ‘ego’ as a conditioned reflex mechanism that controls the distribution of blood in the brain”. 

In her 20s, so still around the early 1970s, she began microdosing with LSD, psilocybin, and other hallucinogens that were legal at the time. She went on to study these and similar compounds for decades, but it wasn’t till recently that she received the recognition she deserved. A quote from the guardian sums up how she came to have the “crackpot countess” reputation: “It would be fair to say … that her credibility as an advocate has not always been helped by her storied history with self-experimentation”.  

…to the Queen of Consciousness  

In my opinion, self-experimentation is brave and noble, and honestly, one of the most ethical option when testing out new treatment methods. I mean, if one truly believes in what they’re promoting, and they suffer from the conditions that their experiments are working to resolve, why wouldn’t they test it out on themselves. Albert Hoffman, Terrence McKenna, and many other prominent names in our industry learned through self-experimentation.  

And eventually, it worked out for Amanda Feilding too. She is now regarded one of the pioneers of the modern-day psychedelic renaissance, with New Scientist magazine naming her the “Queen of Consciousness”. She led many novel studies on various hallucinogenic compounds, worth noting are the following that are frequently referenced by other researchers: 

Feilding was also very prominent in activism and drug reform, focusing on research-based policy changes. In 2007, she hosted the Global Cannabis Commission and presented a report authored by lead drug policy analysts from around the world. They discussed better ways to regulate cannabis at both national and international levels. Then in 2011, Amanda brought together members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Reform along with political leader from 14 different countries who were trying to change laws in their nations. The gathering took place at The House of Lords, which is the upper house of the UK parliament. At the event, they launched the Beckley Foundation Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform.  

Final thoughts 

It’s interesting how much public perception played into Amanda Feilding’s life. Although she clearly never cared what people thought about her, their ideas of her being eccentric and “crazy” made a huge impact on how her message was received. When people weren’t too keen on psychedelic therapy and expanded consciousness, she was the “crackpot countess”, but when the world began to view psychedelics under a new light, Amanda became the “queen of consciousness”.  

Regardless, Feilding helped pave the path for future psychedelic research to flourish, and not only that, she showed us that women could be whoever they wanted to be, even during a time when that was extremely difficult to do.  

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Beckley Foundation Announces LSD, Microdosing Research

A series of three new research projects announced this week will seek to illuminate our understanding of microdosing LSD.

The research is being spearheaded by The Beckley Foundation and its founder, the experienced psychedelics researcher Amanda Feilding.

“The first study will assess the brain changes that take place during the mystical experience—that is, a profound sense of connection or unity that can occur following ingestion of high doses of psychedelic compounds and which is proving to be associated with the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy…The second study is a collaboration between Feilding and physicians at the University of Basel—the city in which Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD. This study will examine the therapeutic potential of microdosing LSD for the treatment of apathy and depression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions…A third study co-led by Beckley and Cornell University will use advanced optical imaging to investigate how LSD alters cerebral blood flow and the connection between neurons and their associated network of blood vessels,” according to Benzinga

The first study leans on research “developed by Feilding and neuroimaging experts from King’s College London and UCL, [and] seeks to expand understanding of the neurobiology of consciousness,” Benzinga reported. All three projects “are part of a larger multi-armed research program developed and led by Feilding and are focused on the use of the latest generation of neuroimaging technologies.”

Microdosing psychedelics has exploded in popularity over the last decade, as many have adopted the approach to alleviate depression and other conditions. 

As such, research into the practice has also blossomed. A study published this past summer found that “psilocybin microdosers demonstrate greater observed improvements in mood and mental health at one month relative to non-microdosing controls.” 

The study, authored by researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology, examined more than 1,100 subjects over a two year period. Researchers observed “small- to medium-sized improvements in mood and mental health that were generally consistent across gender, age and presence of mental health concerns … improvements in psychomotor performance that were specific to older adults.”

Founded in 1998 by Feilding, the Beckley Foundation “has been at the forefront of global drug policy reform and scientific research into psychoactive substances.”

“We collaborate with leading scientific and political institutions worldwide to design and develop ground-breaking research and global policy initiatives,” the group says on its website

Feilding, meanwhile, is an authority on psychedelic research. 

According to her biography on the Beckley Foundation website, she “has been called the ‘hidden hand’ behind the renaissance of psychedelic science, and her contribution to global drug policy reform has also been pivotal and widely acknowledged.”

“Amanda was first introduced to LSD in the mid-1960s, at the height of the first wave of scientific research into psychedelics. Impressed by its capacity to initiate mystical states of consciousness and heighten creativity, she quickly recognised its transformative and therapeutic power. Inspired by her experiences, she began studying the mechanisms underlying the effects of psychedelic substances and dedicated herself to exploring ways of harnessing their potential to cure sickness and enhance wellbeing,” the website says. 

Through the Beckley Foundation, she has “initiated much ground-breaking research and has co-authored over 80 scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals.”

“She collaborates with leading scientists and institutions around the world to design and direct a wide range of scientific research projects (including clinical trials) investigating the effects of psychoactive substances on brain function, subjective experience, and clinical symptoms, with a focus on cannabis, the psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, 5-MEO-DMT) and MDMA,” the website says. 

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