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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Trips: How Hallucinogens Work in Your Brain

Pellerin, Cheryl (1998)
New York: Seven Stories Press.

ISBN: 1-888363-34-7

Description: paperback, xxvi + 262 pages

Contents: Preface, 12 chapters in 3 unnamed parts, appendices - Drug Use & Abuse: Internet Respources, Hallucinogen Profiles: Clocking Your Ground Speed, bibliography, notes, index, picture credits.

Contributors: Contributing artists: Vaugh Bode, R. Crumb, Kim Dietch, Rick Griffin, Rory Hayes, Greg Irons, Jack Jackson, Harvey Kurtzman, Jay Lynch, Andy Martin, V. Moscoso, Ralph Reese, Spain Rodriquez, Gilbert Shelton, art spiegelman, H. Vogrin, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Yossarian. Contributing scientists (often interviewed or quoted at length): George Aghajanian, Katherine Bronson, Abram Hoffer, Mark Geyer, Richard Glennon, Charles Grob, Geraline Lin, Raphael Mechoulam, Ralph Metzner, Mark Molliver, Dave Nichols, Steve Petroutka, George Ricaurte, Stephen Szara, Rick Strassman, Curtis Wright.

No hard answers, nothing etched in stone. So what you'll read about is how neuroscientists and pharmacologists and medical chemists and psychiatrists think LSD and other hallucinogens work in the brain. In language I hope everyone can understand. With cartoons and science illustrations, interviews and research findings, jokes and gags. And every now and then - in chapters describing federal attitudes and actions related to drug inforcement, regulation and public information - ACTUAL OPINIONS. (page x)

Chapter 2 Just Think of it as Evolution in Action
The Paleolithic Age was a cultural period that started with the earliest chipped stone tools, about 750,000 years ago, and lasted until the Mesolithic Age, about 15,000 years ago. Many experts agree that, near the end of the Paleolithic, migrant nomads must have traveled from Siberia to the Americas through the Bering Strait, which at that time - luckily for them - was probably a continuous land bridge instead of water. the nomads had what's now called a strong shamanistic tradition based on the ritualistic use of Amanita muscaria - a hallucinogenic musroom called fly agaric because it was first used to kill flies.

FLY AGARIC In tribal societies, a shaman is psychotherapist, clergyman and doctor. Shamans were the earliest medicine men and women, and a tribe's link to the spirit world. Hallucinogenic plants and other trance-inducers were their toll-free hotline to the gods. Ceremonies began when a shaman took the magic drink or snuff and went into a trance. Tribe members gathered around to sing, dance and clap their hands. The shaman's trance deepened. The tribe members shook; their arms and bodies vibrated. As most high-dose hallucinogen users can confirm, tripping on powerful psychedelics can put people face to face with overwhelming visions and experiences. You can see how, in nonliterate people, such experiences tended to strenthen their belief in the spirit world.

Shamanism based on Amanita started in prehistoric times, before the fist nomadic tribes surfaced in the Americas. it might even have been Soma, a sacred hallucinogenic mushroom that the tribes of ancient India "considred a gift of the gods, if not the gods themselves." This 'god-narcotic' was introduced 3,500 years ago by Aryan invaders who worshipped the hallucinogen and drank its extract during sacred rites.

When the immigrants finally stumbled onto the American continent and approached the equator, they found more plants than anyone had ever seen. Thanks to the warm, humid weather, the density of plant species here that had psychotropic (mind-changing) properties was higher - no pun intended - than anywhere else on the planet. Of the botanical hallucinogens used in shamanistic rituals and for healing, almost 100 kinds came from the Americas. Only about 12 came from Old World cultures. So it's no accident that even today some South American Indians know more than the gods about growing, harvesting and using botanical hallucinogens.

Investigators in the Sahara Desert found ancient mushroom paintings that a group of pre-Neolithic Early Gatherers in Algeria's Tassili region may have made between 7,000 and 9,000 yeara ago. The paintings could represent the first documented ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms by Paleolithic people. And, investigators at Chile's San Pedro de Acamata archaeological site found the remains of hallucinogenic snuff and paraphrenalia dating from 320 to 910 A.D.

Shamans and others used hallucinogens mainly to channel declarations of divine will - like translators in the United Nations - from the gods to the spiritually challenged tribal flatlanders. An example might have been the Oracle at Delphi. Oracles were divine prophecies, usually told as stories where each person, place and thing symbolized some spiritual idea or moral principle and had to be tortuously interpreted. The Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece was at one of the temples of Apollo - the mythological god of the sun, prophecy, music, medicine and poetry. At the Oracle, a spiritual guide went into a trance, breathed a vapor - maybe smoke from hallucinoigenic henbane seeds - that came from cracks in the rocks, and delivered messages from Apollo to knowledge seekers.

Something like 9,000 years later, in another temple - this one built to honor Sandoz and the gods of chemistry - a hard-working researcher named Albert Hofmann breathed a vapor and in time became a spiritual guide. Today, half a century later, the message he delivered is still being tortuously interpreted. With no resolution in sight. True this is mainly because:

  1. Citizens of the late 20th century industrial cultures are fragmented and paranoid about religious and spiritual practices unknown to them, although segments of these populations readily believe in things like Psychic Hotline.
  2. If that isn't enough, their very ignorance has led to a great misunderstanding of drugs and their spiritual application and effects.
  3. Even scientists only know some very tiny percentage of what could be known about a) drugs and how they work, and b) the brain and how it works. But they're working on it and they know lots more than they used to. (pages 15-16)
To protect their rights, American Indians organized the peyote cult into a legally recognized religious group, the Native American Church. This movement, unknown in the U. S. before 1885, had 13,000 members in 1922. Today, membership is 250,000. U. S. Indians who live far from peyote's natural habitat use mescal buttons, which they legally buy and distribute through the U.S. postal service. (page 130)

From my side of the bunker, spreading misinformation about LSD and the other hallucinogens is just as damaging as the Thalidomide-chromosome break rumors that survive today. The worst consequence of spreading misinformation is that it steals time and energy from the true job - making sure qualified researchers have access and permission to investigate the real problems associated with hallucinogens, and getting that information to as many people as possible.

That's what happened with hallucinogens and chromosome damage and flashbacks, and that's why I wrote Trips. Not to promote drug use or chemistry careers or to trash the Feds. But to describe in plain language, for anyone who's interested, what researchers are learning about psychedelics and the brain.

Some people wont get it because it's based on something they don't associate with drug information - the TRUTH.

Everyone else will need it where they're going - past the last exit before the toll plaza, under a new kind of warning sign (THINK OR DIE), heading into that 21st century.

And hey - whatever you decide about hallucinogens and other drugs be careful out there. (page 200)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2003 CSP

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