Renegade scholars in the 1970s claimed the Greek potion was psychedelic, just like the original Christian Eucharist that replaced it. In recent years, vindication for the disgraced theory has been quietly mounting in the laboratory. The rapidly growing field of archaeological chemistry has proven the ancient use of visionary drugs. And with a single dose of psilocybin, the psycho-pharmacologists at Johns Hopkins and NYU are now turning self-proclaimed atheists into instant believers. No one has ever found hard, scientific evidence of drugs connected to Eleusis, let alone early Christianity. Until now.
The Falling Sky is a remarkable first-person account of the life story and cosmo-ecological thought of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon. In a close collaboration with anthropologist Bruce Albert, a friend since the 1970s, Davi Kopenawa paints an unforgettable picture of Yanomami culture, past and present, in the heart of the rainforest
A shaman and visionary—not a poet in any ordinary sense—María Sabina lived out her life in the Oaxacan mountain village of Huautla de Jiménez, and yet her words, always sung or spoken, have carried far and wide, a principal instance and a powerful reminder of how poetry can arise in a context far removed from literature as such. Seeking cures through language—with the help of Psilocybe mushrooms, said to be the source of language itself—she was, as Henry Munn describes her, “a genius [who] emerges from the soil of the communal, religious-therapeutic folk poetry of a native Mexican campesino people.” She may also have been, in the words of the Mexican poet Homero Aridjis, “the greatest visionary poet in twentieth-century Latin America.” These selections include a generous presentation from Sabina’s recorded chants and a complete English translation of her oral autobiography, her vida, as written and arranged in her native language by her fellow Mazatec Alvaro Estrada. Accompanying essays and poems include an introduction to “The Life of María Sabina” by Estrada, an early description of a nighttime “mushroom velada” by the ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson, an essay by Henry Munn relating the language of Sabina’s chants to those of other Mazatec shamans, and more.
MDMA, or as it is commonly known, “ecstasy,” has a pardoxical double role in contemporary society. As the party-drug ecstasy, it is consumed by tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of people at “rave” dance parties in the United States, Europe, and the Far East. In its other role as a promising adjunct to psychotherapy, MDMA is currently being researched as a treatment for many conditions, including PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and interpersonal anxiety. This book, originally published in 1985 before MDMA became illegal, is a compilation of experiences conducted in supportive and/or therapeutic settings. The vignettes are not part of a formal research study, and there is no control group. These accounts illustrate the value and potential of MDMA for generating insight, facilitating empathic communication, and supporting spiritual practice. Although the use of MDMA remains illegal (except in the limited context of research), the editors of this book, like many professionals in the field of psychotherapy, believe that a fresh look at this very promising substance is warranted.
For Aldous Huxley it was the next step in human evolution; for the CIA it was a potential tool for mind control; for Timothy Leary it was the liberator of humankind (a belief that led to his being branded “the most dangerous man in America”); for Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters it fueled the notorious Acid Tests; and it was the improbable common denominator that united such disparate figures as Allen Ginsberg, Cary Grant, G. Gordon Liddy, and Charles Manson. In this brilliant, riveting, and exhaustively researched book, Jay Stevens relates the history of that “curious molecule,” LSD. He unearths a story of Pynchonesque complexity, tells it with novelistic flair, and irrefutably demonstrates LSD’s pivotal role in the cultural upheavals that shook America in the 1960s and changed the country forever.
With the F.D.A. agreeing to new trials to test MDMA (better known as Ecstasy) as a treatment for PTSD—which, if approved, could be available as a drug by 2021—Acid Test is leading the charge in an evolving conversation about psychedelic drugs. Despite their current illegality, many Americans are already familiar with their effects. Yet while LSD and MDMA have proven extraordinarily effective in treating anxiety disorders such as PTSD, they still remain off-limits to the millions who might benefit from them. Through the stories of three very different men, award-winning journalist Tom Shroder covers the drugs’ roller-coaster history from their initial reception in the 1950s to the negative stereotypes that persist today. At a moment when popular opinion is rethinking the potential benefits of some illegal drugs, and with new research coming out every day, Acid Test is a fascinating and informative must-read.
When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists inadvertently catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research. A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan’s “mental travelogue” is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.
Half an hour after swallowing the drug I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights . . . Among the most profound explorations of the effects of mind-expanding drugs ever written, here are two complete classic books—The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell—in which Aldous Huxley, author of the bestselling Brave New World, reveals the mind’s remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness.
Alexander (better known as “Sasha”) and Ann Shulgin’s PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story has become a foundational work in the genre and was the first book to fully impart the how-to chemistry, and convey the effects, of many of the entheogenic drugs that are currently being studied and used to heal trauma and deal with death. An acronym for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved”, the book spans autobiography, organic chemistry, politics, ethnobotany, and psychopharmacology, and the cultural impact is likely to be profound for decades to come, as it has already. PiHKAL is divided into two parts, the first of which is a fictionalized autobiographical ‘novel’ – the main fiction is that it is fiction. This first half of the book is The Love Story, about two people named Shura and Alice who fall in love, though one of them is already in love with someone else. This love triangle is a painful ordeal they must go through, and that process unfolds before the reader with grace and great insight into human nature. Shura is a brilliant chemist who has dedicated his career to making psychoactive drugs, in the story they go through many experiences with the psychedelic compounds that Shura has discovered and has made in his lab, all of which have been bioassayed himself. The reader will find themselves going on this journey with them, experiencing what they experienced, both in their hearts and in the psychedelic journeys they have. The second half of PiHKAL is called The Chemical Story, and it contains detailed instructions for, and effects of, the synthesis of 179 psychedelic phenethylamines which were mostly discovered by Shulgin himself. For each substance there is information on its synthesis, suggested effective dosage, duration, and detailed commentary on the subjective effects that were experienced. This book appeals to adults of all ages and cultures, and to the psychedelically experienced and inexperienced alike.
TiHKAL: The Continuation is the sequel to PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story but can stand alone to any reader. Where PiHKAL focuses on a class of compounds called phenethylamines, TiHKAL is written about a family of psychoactive drugs known as tryptamines with TiHKAL being an acronym for “Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved”. Like its predecessor PiHKAL, it is divided into two parts. The first part of the book begins with the story of Alice and Shura, a fictionalized autobiography, which picks up where the similar section of PiHKAL left off. The book opens with the story about the DEA raid that occurred a few years after the publication of their first book, PiHKAL. It’s a window into the DEA, the institutional aspect and human side of it as well, and the price that Shura and Alice pay for doing what they do, including exercising their first amendment rights. It then continues with a collection of essays on topics ranging from psychotherapy and the Jungian mind, to the prevalence of DMT in nature, ayahuasca, the War on Drugs, and even the Big Bang. It is a blend of travel, botanical facts, scientific speculation, psychological and political commentary. It is fascinating getting to know the mind of the man behind the compounds – his thoughts on science, technology, law, and society. And the mind of the woman who brought his work and their story into the light of the world. The second part of TiHKAL is “The Chemistry Continues”. It is a detailed manual for 55 psychedelic compounds (many discovered by Shulgin himself). For each compound there is information on synthesis, effective dosage, duration of effects, and commentary on the subjective effects that were experienced. The Shulgins’ two big books span autobiography, organic chemistry, politics, ethnobotany and psychopharmacology and the cultural impact of these works has been profound and will continue to be so in the future.