|Born||30 January 1943|
|Other names||Amanda Neidpath|
|Known for||Beckley Foundation|
|Notable work||Heartbeat in the Brain|
Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, is an English 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 interested in states of consciousness and mysticism. 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.
In 1966 Feilding met and had a long-lasting relationship with Dutch scientist Bart Huges. 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.
Feilding gained notoriety in 1970 when she performed trepanation on herself, about which she made a short cult art film entitled Heartbeat in the Brain. 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 hypothesized that ratios of blood and cerebrospinal fluid underlie changes in the conscious state, and the theory of the "ego" 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.
Feilding has long had an interest in modulating consciousness for the benefit of the individual and society. She has investigated 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 one ages, and what can be done to increase cranial compliance (which, they theorize, might to help limit the detrimental changes associated with aging). Through this research, a 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 has developed research into the physiological effects of trepanation and cranial compliance at the Sechenov Institute for Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, St. Petersburg.
She has also collaborated 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. Current collaborations which she is involved in include: The first ever brain imaging study investigating the effects of LSD on the brain; an investigation into the link between LSD and creativity; an investigation into the use and efficacy of psilocybin in the treatment of recurrent depression; investigating the molecular sites of action of ayahuasca using ketanserin; a brain imaging study investigating to what extent glutamate release is involved in the DMT experience; a study investigating the use of cannabis in the treatment of brain gliomas.
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. In 2013, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala asked the Beckley Foundation to advise on his government's policy on drugs.
- Feilding, Amanda (2001). Blood and Consciousness: The Search for Expanded Consciousnes from Paleolitic to Modern Man (PDF). Mind States Conference. Berkeley, California, USA.
- Huges, Bart (6 January 1965). "Homo Sapiens Correctus". International Institute of Social History.
- Moskalenko, Yu. E. et al. (May 2008). "The Effect of Craniotomy on the Intracranial Hemodynamics and Cerebrospinal Fluid Dynamics in Humans" (PDF). Human Physiology (Pleiades Publishing) 34 (3): 299–305. doi:10.1134/S0362119708030055. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
- Moskalenko, Yu. E. et al. (2008). "Biomechanical Properties of Human Cranium: Age-Relayed Aspects" (PDF). Journal of Evolutionary Biochemistry and Physiology (Pleiades Publishing) 44 (5): 605–614.
- Levy, Geoffrey (10 April 2010). "The Cannabis Countess: Why is eccentric who drilled a hole in head to get high supported by the Government's drugs czar?". Daily Mail. DMG Media.
- "Amanda Feilding and the Beckley Foundation". Beckley Foundation. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- Stix, Gary (21 September 2009). "LSD Returns—for Psychotherapeutics: LSD makes a comeback as a possible clinical treatment". Scientific American. Nature Publishing Group.
- Lim, H. K.; Andrenyak, D. et al. (15 July 1988). "Quantification of LSD and N-demethyl-LSD in urine by gas chromatography/resonance electron capture ionization mass spectrometry". Analytical Chemistry 60 (14): 1420–5. PMID 3218752.
- Room, Robin; Fischer, Benedikt et al. (September 2008). "Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate" (PDF). Beckley Foundation.
- Amanda Feilding at the Beckley Foundation
- Amanda Feilding at The Guardian
- Amanda Feilding at the Internet Movie Database