Midnight Water: A Psychedelic Memoir

Midnight Water: A Psychedelic Memoir by Katherine MacLean, Ph.D. is a story of grief and redemption by a groundbreaking scientist who led the way in psychedelic research. In Dr. MacLean’s first year on the faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, her path takes an unexpected detour following the death of her younger sister from cancer. After leaving her faculty job, MacLean travels the world —bringing medical and humanitarian aid to remote Himalayan villages and creating sanctuary spaces for psychedelic support — until she settles on an organic farm. While birthing and raising her two children, leading workshops, psychedelic retreats, and training to become an MDMA therapist, MacLean’s traumatic past and the loss of her sister continue to haunt her. When her father is dying, MacLean realizes that she must dive straight into the heart of her own labyrinth in order to forgive him. Midnight Water is not only a personal story of psychedelic healing but an inspired vision for a psychedelic future that positions women and family caregivers at the center of home-based healing, from birth through death.

Author’s website: www.katherinemaclean.org

Psychedelics have officially re-entered mainstream consciousness, through clinical research trials at major universities, corporate-sponsored pharmaceutical drug development, and decriminalization efforts in major American cities. Everyone from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Michael Pollan now has a story to tell about how mushrooms can save humanity. But let’s not forget the original love stories that the mushrooms have been quietly sharing with humans for millennia. 

Watch the author’s TEDx Talk: https://youtu.be/ZljALxpt3iU

Articles/interviews About the Author

Trust, Let Go, Be Open: Psychedelic Harm Reduction in the Desert & Beyond

Women Lead the Field in Psychedelic Psychotherapy

The Trip Treatment, by Michael Pollan

How to Return to Normal Life After a Crazy Trip

How Meditation Works

Professional Articles by the Author

Advance Praise for Midnight Water

“In her vividly rendered memoir Midnight Water, Katherine MacLean invites us into a journey through grief, ecstasy, rejection, trauma, and triumph. This life-changing, entertaining read traverses the bardo, with much of the story arising in the spaces in between birth and death, childhood and parenthood, suffering and joy, blame and forgiveness, resistance and acceptance. Along the way, we follow MacLean through the grueling terrain of so many deaths—of sister, of father, of ego—and the ultimate rebirth of our author-heroine, who has become a spiritual warrior with the tenacity of an athlete and the scrutiny of a scientist (both identities she has worn). . . . MacLean’s beautiful sharing of her quest for understanding and peace is a page-turner, much like a riveting novel, but stranger, as the truth often is. How will our heroine prevail? What might her next trip reveal? Will she find the answers she seeks?
What unfolds is not a manual for self-discovery, but a psychedelic-fueled example of how one woman chose to live an examined life, with no time to lose. Like great fiction, this book changed my existential view. Katherine MacLean‘s courageous efforts to transform her path unavoidably compel us to examine our own.”
Erika Rosenberg, Ph.D., Founding Faculty, The Compassion Institute; Consulting Scientist, Center for Mind and Brain, UC Davis

Midnight Water is a truth-telling, paradigm-busting, open-hearted scholarly memoir. If that’s not already a genre, then Katherine MacLean has made it one. A story told in a whip-smart, authentic, and sometimes raw voice, it alternately brought tears to my eyes, fist pumps of support, and closing the book and staring into space for a while— sometimes in the span of only a few pages. It’s also an adventure story, tracing the author’s journey of healing through realms made accessible by plant medicine and entheogens. Definitely read it.”
Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., Director of Research, Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, cofounder, Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative, University of California, San Diego; Senior Fellow and Past President, Institute of Noetic Sciences

“I had intended to ski this afternoon under the beautiful blue sky, but I started to read Katherine MacLean’s Midnight Water and I haven’t been able to put it down. I’m only halfway in and intend to finish it tonight, to have my life back. Profound, honest, somber, often makes me laugh out loud. Really some of the best writing on the psychedelic experience in all its aspects, sacred to profane, from the perspective of a mystic, psychologist, and psychedelics researcher.”
Robert Forte, editor of Entheogens and the Future of Religion

“A moving and mysterious memoir of life, death, and rebirth from the frontlines of the psychedelic renaissance.”
Jules Evans, author of The Art of Losing Control: A Philosopher’s Search for Ecstatic Experience

“Through the gift of Midnight Water, Katherine MacLean shares a story that offers meaningful help for readers who have lost a loved one, faced an unbearable truth, or yearned to find meaning in chaos. It is a beacon for those of us who have had to learn how to keep going after profound loss, and then make the return journey to joy and awe.”
Alicia Danforth, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and psychedelics researcher

“I truly enjoyed reading Katherine MacLean’s memoir. It was a pleasantly easy read; it went down smooth, like an iced, aged whiskey. What was in this cocktail? Not just her challenging experiences at Johns Hopkins, holding space for, and sometimes wrangling her research participants, her triumphs in publishing groundbreaking work on the personality component of ‘Openness,’ but also in moving the needle, pushing the whole psychedelic ecosystem forward, championing end-of-life care, caregiver support, and especially: accountability and equity.”
Julie Holland, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics

“With prose that is both irreverent and numinous, honesty that is both scathing and tender, and vulnerability that is both brave and hypnotic, Katherine MacLean has shared a story that is unique and deeply personal and yet somehow also my story. For those who dare to read this book you will be rewarded with a funny, bracing, and profound glimpse into the depths of a soul grappling with the pain, mystery, and beauty of human incarnation.”
Margaret Cullen, MFT, meditation teacher; founder of Compassion Corps, Founding Faculty of Compassion Institute, Founding Board Member of Compassion Education Alliance

“In Midnight Water, neuroscientist and noted psychedelics researcher Katherine MacLean, Ph.D. has crafted a gripping personal narrative of grief, trauma, and healing. She welcomes the reader into her interior life with grace and bold honesty, revealing how her journey with a variety of entheogens, along with meditation and other therapeutic modalities, has brought her to a wise and liberating understanding of the harms and loss that have powerfully shaped, but not determined, her life. Bookended by her accounts of the early death of her twenty-nine-year-old younger sister and six years later the death of her father, the story draws on her experience as a guide during psychedelic research sessions to become an inspiring spiritual guide for loved ones in their final days. This remarkable account will surely resonate with a broad readership, from those who seek a career path of meaning and whole-person embrace, to those challenged with the unhealed effects of deep trauma. It will be of particular note to those in the helping professions interested in integrating psychedelic therapy into their practice. This is an eye- and heart-opening book for anyone interested in forging their own spiritual path and exploring what can be learned when that path includes entheogenic medicines.”
Clifford Saron, Ph.D., neuroscientist at Center for Mind and Brain and MIND Institute, University of California, Davis

“Katherine MacLean, in her professional life, has helped guide people on life-changing psilocybin journeys, and this relentlessly raw, deeply compassionate, and heart-wrenching memoir takes us on a kaleidoscopic tour through birth, death, sisterhood, motherhood, and the non-ordinary spaces where real magic happens. And, like the best psychedelic trips, her journey leaves us quaking in awe at the fearsome depths and exquisite ecstasies we carry within. Jump into the dark waters and trust that currents will carry you through to the heart of a beautiful mystery. Highly recommended.”
Michael M. Hughes, author of The Blackwater Lights trilogy and Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change

“This brutally beautiful book takes you on a wild and wise journey of heartbreak, insight, and awe. Dr. Katherine MacLean’s words are like the psilocybin she describes: captivating, connecting, and transportive. Make sure to clear your schedule and pay attention to set and setting because once you begin the journey of reading, you will be unable to put it down.”
Amishi Jha, Ph.D., neuroscientist and author of the national bestseller, Peak Mind

“Katherine MacLean didn’t just influence the field of psychedelic therapy with her impeccable science and unyielding care of those suffering, she herself is an embodiment of fierce compassion and authenticity, transformed in the very fires that almost took her down. This book is a testament to the power of psychedelics to heal and help us all grow.” ”
Michael Sapiro, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and psychedelic psychotherapist

“Katherine MacLean gives us a wild ride through a life devoted to discovering what truly matters. She describes her scientific work at Johns Hopkins elucidating the importance of psychedelic mystical experience in healing, while also revealing the fear, trembling, and joy of her own underground psychedelic explorations. She brings us into the birth experience, with all its pain and joy, as well as into the world of the dying, where she holds space for presence and compassion during her sister’s and father’s passings—fiercely protecting them both from the routine medicalization of death in hospitals. In this very personal and sweeping revelation of life, we meet a Mother Bear who is stubbornly devoted to her parents, children, husband, and friends—and to searching for the magic that makes our time on this planet truly meaningful.”
Erik F. Storlie, Ph.D., author of Nothing on My Mind: Berkeley, LSD, Two Zen Masters

About the Author

Katherine MacLean, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist with expertise in studying the effects of mindfulness meditation and psychedelics on cognitive performance, emotional well-being, spirituality, and brain function. As a postdoctoral research fellow and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she conducted clinical trials of psilocybin, the primary chemical found in “magic mushrooms,”  and other psychedelic compounds. Her groundbreaking research on psilocybin and personality change suggests that psychedelic medicines can enhance openness to new experiences and promote mental health and emotional well-being throughout the lifespan. Dr. MacLean co-founded and directed the first center for psychedelic education and training in New York, was featured in the New Yorker article entitled “The Trip Treatment” by Michael Pollan, and her TED Talk has been viewed nearly fifty thousand times.
Author photo by Amanda Temple

About the Cover Artist

Eileen Hall Is an Ecuadorean/Scottish creative director, artist & explorer based in London. She is the Founder of Tayos, an organization supporting the protection of endangered habitats in Ecuador as well as exploring our relationship to nature and its role in our well-being through art, music & science. Tayos was inspired and ignited by the work of her late father Stan Hall who sought to uncover the lost history of the Americas and the Tayos treasure legend. In her paintings, she enjoys exploring the numinous, luminous, liminal, and elemental qualities of consciousness & our inner landscapes. Inspired by the wild landscapes of her home country of Ecuador, alongside her love of music and psychedelics, she creates dreamscapes and dreamseeds that combine these threads of her imagination. Learn more about Eileen and her work at www.eileen-hall.com.

330 pages; 6 x 9 / Trade Paperback
$19.95 print / $9.99 e-book; audiobook
ISBN: 979-8-9865324-7-9
Publication Date: JUNE 2023
Distributor: IPG / Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights contact: Dede Cummings

Publicity Contact: Kourtney Jason at Pacific & Court—President & Co-Founder, ​kourtney@pacificandcourt.com​; ​P: 917-397-0140; C: 916-206-5674​ ​@pacificandcourt

Distributor: IPG; also available through Ingram, Follett/Baker & Taylor, and other wholesalers.

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