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Summary

A definitive history of mescaline that explores its mind-altering effects across cultures, from ancient America to Western modernity

Mescaline became a popular sensation in the mid-20th century through Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, after which the word "psychedelic" was coined to describe it. Its story, however, extends deep into prehistory: The earliest Andean cultures depicted mescaline-containing cacti in their temples.

Mescaline was isolated in 1897 from the peyote cactus, first encountered by Europeans during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. During the 20th century, it was used by psychologists investigating the secrets of consciousness, spiritual seekers from Aleister Crowley to the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, artists exploring the creative process, and psychiatrists looking to cure schizophrenia. Meanwhile, peyote played a vital role in preserving and shaping Native American identity. Drawing on botany, pharmacology, ethnography, and the mind sciences and examining the mescaline experiences of figures from William James to Walter Benjamin to Hunter S. Thompson, this is an enthralling narrative of mescaline's many lives.

©2019 Mike Jay (P)2019 Tantor

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what a beautiful narrative

I loved every minute of this book. of you Gabe any interest in psychedelic history this book is so fascinating. i wish it never ended.

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An astonishing book

If ever a book was thoroughly researched and written, this is that book. It's interesting as much for the context that it puts the subject in, as the subject itself, and the storytelling is sufficiently compelling that I'm actively curious as to what will happen next, in the story of Mescaline- clearly it's not over.

There's a lot of reported speech in the book, and the narrator doesn't go out of his way to make you aware of when that is happening, which is quite annoying, but you get used to it. And his pronunciation of anything French is terrible.

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  • Christopher
  • 21-03-20

SO CLOSE to being the book we needed...

...but falls just short. The half of the book dealing with centuries of sacred use of peyote by the native American tribes amidst the suffocating and cruel oppression of the US government is riveting. And the little known history of the doctors, collectors, artists, poets, priests, writers, socialites, philosophers, and pharmaceutical companies as they scrambled to profit in so many varied ways from the ingredient extracted from the peyote is fascinating and incredibly researched. Much mention is also rightly made of LSD as a rival to mescaline and the comparisons are fair. Unfortunately, the book loses its way and resorts to useless filler as it rambles through the escapades of William Burroughs, Carlos Castaneda, and Hunter Thompson. Even the addition of a few pages on the brilliant and brave Alexander Shulgin are besides the point as it drifts into off-topic drug selections. Egregiously, the author makes nearly no mention of the far older and much more popular source of mescaline steeped in hundreds of more years of conflict between colonials and natives, the San Pedro cactuses of South America. So promising a text with an ultimately disappointing finish yet still an important and great resource for the parts it succeeds in.

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  • Daniel Zechmeister III
  • 04-03-21

The Grandfather of Psychedelic Books

💚💚💚💚🌵🌵🌵🌵a MUST read for anybody interested in psychedelics and/or botany. Filled with details that form a crisp image of mescaline's rich history

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  • Steven J. Gelberg
  • 11-12-20

first rate


a work of both scholarship and great storytelling, with a smooth, warm, easy on the ear speaker.