Neuropolitics

The "Godfather of Ecstasy," whose name is Alexander Shulgin (though his friends call him Sasha ... and his critics, much worse). Image © Brian Vastag

Ecstacy: The MDMA Story

Bruce Eisner

With large numbers of young people taking illegal drugs, it wasn't long before Parliament had passed a number of increasingly harsh laws against MDMA and against raves themselves. To avoid police harassment, raves moved from traditional nightclub venues to less predictable locations such as empty warehouses and open fields along the "Orbital," the highway encircling London.

Publisher: Ronin
Paperback: 196 pages
Illustrated

Reviews

The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears and Anxieties

Ronald M. Doctor, Ph.D., and Ada P. Kahn

“Poetry, fear of: Fear of poetry is known as metrophobia. Some individuals have fearful and even aversive feelings about poetry because of its basic nature and because of the way it is taught and analyzed. Spartans banned certain types of poetry because they thought it promoted effeminate and licentious behavior. The rhyme and figurative language of poetry is odd and distracting to some people. Frequently, poetry contains words, allusions and obscurely stated thoughts and feelings that are confusing or incomprehensible to people who lack a scholarly, academic background.” And 1,998 more, from common to kooky to crazed. GR

Publisher: Facts on File
Hardback: 500 pages
Illustrated

Essays in Radical Empiricism

William James

If one idea characterizes America, it is the “the spirituality of matter” (as Edgar Alan Poe called it in his philosophical dialogues). This theme can be traced through creations considered most American: rock’n’roll, process-oriented jazz and the primacy of the individual's encounter with things (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”). Even the much-maligned “Protestant work ethic” becomes less ridiculous when seen in the context of being an attempt to find enlightenment (“salvation”) through an active engagement with the material world (“work”). This idea is also central to the philosophy of William James, the definitive American philospher. James systematically articulates the spirituality of matter by dissolving traditional philosophic distinctions between mind and matter, things and their relations, and facts and values. RP

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 304 pages

Ethnobotany

Richard Evans Schultes

“This collection of 36 articles (most of them written specifically for this book) presents a truly global perspective on the theory and practice of today’s ethnobotany as a way of understanding past human history as well as the future. Considering the impact of plant use throughout history in the human social structures of economics, politics, religion and science, this book contributes immeasurably to one’s understanding of human history and the world today. The diminishing rain forests may well hold unknown keys to conquering devastating new diseases, and peoples native to those regions can often lead the way with their herbal knowledge. Experimentation with as-yet-unstudied plants may provide new solutions to expand food and energy reserves for our overpopulated planet. From tropical forest conservation to basketry made from cured stems of grass as well as a huge list of psychoactive plants and their uses, this book covers it all.”

Publisher: Timber
Hardback: 414 pages
Illustrated

Extra-Sensory Powers: A Century of Psychical Research

Alfred Douglas

Chapters include “Mesmer and Animal Magnetism,” “The Birth of Spiritualism,” “The Society for Psychical Research,” “The Early Work of J.B. Rhine,” “Investigations Into Precognition,” and “ESP and Altered States of Consciousness.”

Publisher: Overlook
Paperback: 392 pages
Illustrated

The Faber Book of Madness

Edited by Roy Porter

This book “endeavor(s) to present a rich miscellany of the experience of madness from the viewpoints of numerous parties: psychiatrists, nurses, friends, family, writers, artists, theologians and philosophers.” The writings span several centuries and vary from a couple of pages to the occasional well-placed one-liner (for instance, in the section on depression, Susan Sontag writes: “Depression is melancholy minus its charms”).
What could have been a tedious discussion of the various aspects of mental illness is rendered with deft editing into a seamless train of varied ideas. There are 19 major categories, many devoted to a single malady (possession, delusion, depression, etc.). The editor has managed to tie together the various accounts and perspectives with a sentence or two between each entry so that each section flows together as if the individual writers had been discoursing among themselves. He has a special knack for punctuating the dry and serious with a bit of Sylvia Plath or Woody Allen. There are also contributions from Charlotte Brontë, Antonin Artaud, Nietzsche, Poe and William Seabrook. SA

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Paperback: 572 pages
Illustrated

Fire in the Brain: Clinical Tales of Hallucination

Ronald K. Siegel

“The cartography of the hallucinatory world through 17 riveting case histories… a young girl who insists that a dragon named Chopsticks is her frequent companion; a pool shark desperate to discover the trigger for his horrifying LSD flashbacks; and a nurse who sees swastikas on her patients' bedsheets as the result of sleep deprivation… the commonalities of the hallucinating brain, whether our hallucinations are induced by drugs, dreams, severe trauma or the delirium of the illness.”

Publisher: Plume
Paperback: 275 pages

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Flickers of the Dreamachine

Edited by Paul Cecil

This book includes full construction plans for the Dreamachine seminal essays by its creators Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville; extracts from W. Grey Walter's The Living Brain; and a number of pieces by folks who have worked with the brain-wave stimulator including Ira Cohen, Andrew McKenzie, Genesis P. Orridge, Simon Strong, Terry Wilson and others. AK

Publisher: Codex
Paperback: 130 pages

Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge

Terence McKenna

The thesis of Food of the Gods basically states that the psilocybin mushroom is the missing link in the evolution of human consciousness and the basis for all religions. The use of drugs is generally not discounted in the formation of ancient rites like those in Eleusis, but what is most frustrating in this book is McKenna's stubborn refusal to cite any primary historical sources in his text. Some of his conclusions lack the solid ground they need to survive. Some of his more specious ideas—such as, psilocybin mushrooms are from alien intelligences in outer space—can only be accepted as highly stylized metaphors. While McKenna claims to support only the use of plant drugs like the mushroom, etc., and disdains the use of chemical substances like LSD and MDMA, he still avidly advocates DMT. The same contradictory notions are also found in his contempt for all he terms “New Age” and for gurus. His belief that everyone should be self-reliant for their spirituality is commendable, but McKenna's self-styled “archaic revival,” with its embracing of the mother goddess and aliens from outer space, appears too much like the work of other New Age manqués for this reviewer’s comfort. MM

Publisher: Bantam
Paperback: 311 pages
Illustrated

The Freud Journal

Lou Andreas-Salomé

Friedrich Nietzsche once said of Lou Andreas-Salomé that he had “never known a more gifted or understanding creature” and is said to have based his idea of the übermensch on her personality and their experiences and discussions together. The poet Rilke, for a time her younger lover, wrote that “she moves fearlessly among the most burning mysteries.” Andreas-Salomé and her book The Freud Journal, written during 1912 and 1913 when she was 51, are vital links between Nietzsche's philosophy and the origins of psychoanalysis: “Cruel people being always masochists also, the whole thing is inseparable from bisexuality. And that has a deep meaning. The first time I ever discussed this theme was with Nietzsche (that sadomasochist unto himself). And I know that afterward we dare not look at each other.” SS

Publisher: Quartet
Hardback: 211 pages

The Great Book of Hemp: The Complete Guide to the Commercial, Medicinal and Psychotropic Uses of the World's Most Extraordinary Plant

Robert A. Nelson

This book focuses on some of the most interesting aspects of the diverse plant known as hemp or Cannabis sativa. This complete guide to hemp covers not only the spiritual-enlightenment applications but also its role as a fiber crop and its past and present commercial, medical and environmental uses. “With new technology it is possible to make anything from hemp that we now make from petroleum,” such as paints and plastics. Europe has lifted bans on the cultivation of industrial hemp and many items made from it are showing up in the marketplace, from jeans to sneakers, tree-free paper to insulation. The author discusses hemp’s role in Hindu culture and other religions, and studies the effects of smoking marijuana, both physical and mental. Also featured are little-known truths about hemp and its role in American history. For instance, entries by George Washington in his farming diary about sowing and harvesting hemp, and Washington’s letters to overseer William Pearce about Indian hemp in particular are included. The bok goes on to discuss the “prejudices and coverups behind the marijuana hysteria of the last 50 years.” Includes appendix of hemp resources and the hemp marketplace. DW

Publisher: Park Street
Paperback: 256 pages
Illustrated