LSA is an Ergine closely related to LSD, and Indigenous communities in Mexico have used it since immemorial times.
To many people, the words psychedelic and spiritual are dissonant on first hearing. Yet the use of psychoactive sacraments in shamanic and religious practices is found throughout history. The word entheogen, used to describe certain plants and chemicals when used for spiritual purposes, emphasizes this long-established relationship. Following is a survey of the most historically prominent and widely used entheogens.
This introduction to the special issue reviews research that supports the hypothesis that psychedelics, particularly psilocybin, were central features in the development of religion. The greater response of the human serotonergic system to psychedelics than is the case for chimpanzees’ serotonergic receptors indicates that these substances were environmental factors that affected hominin evolution. These substances also contributed to the evolution of ritual capacities, shamanism, and the associated alterations of consciousness. The role of psilocybin mushrooms in the ancient evolution of human religions is attested to fungiform petroglyphs, rock artifacts, and mythologies from all major regions of the world. This prehistoric mycolatry persisted into the historic era in the major religious traditions of the world, which often left evidence of these practices in sculpture, art, and scriptures. This continuation of entheogenic practices in the historical world is addressed in the articles here. But even through new entheogenic combinations were introduced, complex societies generally removed entheogens from widespread consumption, restricted them in private and exclusive spiritual practices of the leaders, and often carried out repressive punishment of those who engaged in entheogenic practices.
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.