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📙 Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources and History by Jonathan Ott, Albert Hofmann (Foreward) — download pdf


I had to rate this book 4 stars because of its esoteric nature. If you have a background and interest in chemistry, physics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, etc., this book definitely warrants 5 stars; but be forewarned, it is so esoteric in terms of the detailed chemistry of the subject compounds that the anthropologico-philosophical aspects risk becoming muddled. It is a bit dry due to the sheer focus on chemistry, but, should a non-chemical or biological sciences reader care to wade through the technical jargon, this book contains many sociology and anthropology oriented gems of note; especially in the proemium. Beyond the book's chemical analysis of entheogens, the socio-anthropological content is rewarding on its own merit, but is structured in such a scientific and choppy fashion that the philosophical statements easily get obscured in the technicality of the chemical presentation. On the other hand, the author, Jonathan Ott, is the founder of a chemical manufacturing firm that produces neurotoxins for biomedical research, so if you do in fact like viewing reality through chemical eyes, this book is indeed a great book, filled with chemistry, legal logic, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, etc. In any case, here are some of the striking comments this book makes: i) Entheogens, drugs, plants, etc., that mediate deeper social meanings and are used in many religious ceremonies, are socio~pharmacological agents that go far back into the history of medicine and anthropology, but which western bio-medicine generally under-emphasizes. For example, an American physician is unlikely to prescribe THC as a therapeutic agent, regardless of whether it is an effective treatment for symptoms of illness, nor will she utilize social aspects of healing, or generally healing itself, due to western cultural taboos. The gaps created in the social fabric due to entheogen use in many ceremonial settings are normal and constructive behaviors, and are found universally in human cultures diachronically. Age-old entheogen use among humans is often ignored by modern western medical practice, despite its efficacy in healing and socialization. ii) Philosophically, entheogens are characterized by the author in a quote by the great biblical scholar and pantheist Spinoza, in that, "[entheogens] incite the desires and passions of men ... [they] incite men's thoughts the more toward those very objects ... [that are] forbidden." This implication by Spinoza is an example of the link between the feelings and social settings engendered by entheogens, and what we call holiness. It is also at the same time a critique of myopic drug laws and medical practices. Holidays from reality, whether by drugs, religion, or travel adventures, fit in with our innate thirst for novelty, regardless of whether Protestant or Muslem asceticism approves of them or not; nature demands these divine and necessary holidays. Whole religions are founded on such dynamics. For example, the ego dissolution caused by mescaline is similar to that sought in buddhism, or in the sacrifice of self found in the ideal of Jesus's sacrifice. Are such human events safe? arguably no, but highly useful and quite natural in any event. iii) Legally, Ott elucidates the simple maxim that 'tobacco addiction is 'no different from heroine or cocaine' "; an ethical pill likely too hard to swallow for high level law makers or the average subjects of law: but irrefutably true in terms of raw biochemistry. Ott justifiably critiques the irrational and ineffective politics of the "war on drugs;" a politics as absurd and misleading as the current "war on terrorism." iv) Pharmacologically, Ott underscores again and again, through chemical empiricism, that drugs merely mimick what already occurs naturally and by necessity in human physiology. As he states, "we're all on drugs, all of the time." Those not getting this simple fact are sorely unaware of, not only the essential mechanisms of organic emotion and their relations to psychopharmacology, but the wellsprings of their own existence as well. The documentation and indexing of this book is extensive and could be a reference source for psychopharmacology for some time to come, although current ethical, legal, and cultural attitudes will likely assure that this valuable source material remains buried. To recap, if you're not really into hard chemistry this book may bore you and be confusing and possibly meaningless. If, on the other hand, you have a background in chemistry and science, and are not fear-whipped by puritanical guilt, this book is a fairly insightful chronicle of the history, mechanisms, and sociology of our innate physiology in terms of religion, emotion, and the biochemistry of human/environmental interaction. Ott delivers this significant information in ways that have been present time and time again in many cultures across time, and buried as many times hence. The book is arguably a chemical manual of the origins and function of human spirituality; two phenomena seemingly at odds with one another: body and soul.

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