The Mescaline Phenomena

“To fathom hell or soar angelic,
Just take a pinch of psychedelic”

– Dr. Humphry Osmond, 1956

The script of Hollywood movie ‘Constantine’ came so close to the reality of human mind the way it conceptualizes heaven, hell and beyond.  Apparently  its nothing beyond unless one is ready to loose the definiteness and gravity of his own self. Well after such an irrational start the flow of this article will get back again to where it started. But for the time being we need to illuminate some of the most distinctive period of the study of a new class of drugs.  These are badly called hallucinogenics and goodly called Entheogens. *Though this article would use the term Entheogens as is, while throwing light on their hallucinogenic nature in its true aspect  devoid of any commercial despise.  Out of the closet of Entheogens the  divine and the most revered one is Mescaline.

Mescaline is a naturally occurring natural psychedelic  alkaloid obtained from the a small, spineless cactus Peyote (Lophophora williamsi). The presence of this drug in the scientific(psychologist and pharmacologist) community is not very old. The first systematic study of mescaline was first published in 1886 by German pharmacologist , Ludwig Levin.

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But the impact of this drug on earlier civilizations and human settlements is quite ancient. In North American desert cactus was subjected to customary consummation   during religious ceremonies of Native American Tribes.  This root was venerated and worshipped as deity. Mescaline was found to be an active component of the root extract.

This interesting chemical came under the influential study of many big league psychologists and psychiatrists since late 19th century till mid 1960’s . The most famous amongst them was Dr Humphry  Osmond. His quite eccentric research played an important part in for inspiring researchers who saw drugs like L.S.D. , mescaline and psilocybin as potential treatments for psychological ailments.

It was also discovered that if ingested in suitable dosage, Mescaline can alter the quality of consciousness in most profound manner while still being considerably less toxic than any other substance in pharmacologist’s  repository . Therefore it was assigned the honor of being most distinctive chemicals amongst the others in its class.

By the end of 19th century it was well known that mescaline shows close similarity with adrenaline. The discovery that adrenochrome which is a by product of adrenaline can produce symptoms almost identical to mescaline intoxication carried an enormous impact on the scientific fraternity. Since adrenochrome is a naturally occurring substance in human body, it could be inferred that each one of us is capable of producing a drug ,minute doses of which are actually known to cause acute changes to the human consciousness  thus giving scientific credibility to the experiences of eastern mystics.

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The person administered to this drug feels his sense perception being played in a very intermittent way. A faithful  inclination and understanding of Bergson’s theory of memory and sense perception proved very much helpful in understanding the rules with which this drug plays with human mind.  He suggested that the function of brain and nervous system, lungs, heart, and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.” According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this Particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language. The various “other worlds,” with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large. Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary bypasses may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate “spiritual exercises,” or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows, not indeed the perception “of everything that is happening everywhere in the universe” (for the by-pass does not abolish the reducing valve, which still excludes the total content of Mind at Large), but something more than, and above ah something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality. The brain is provided with a number of enzyme systems which serve to co-ordinate its workings. Some of these enzymes regulate the supply of glucose to the brain cells. Mescaline inhibits the production of these enzymes and thus lowers the amount of glucose available to an organ that is in constant need of sugar. When mescaline reduces the brain’s normal ration of sugar a very interesting process initiates.

  •  The ability to remember and to “think straight” is little if at all reduced.
  •  Visual impressions are greatly intensified and the eye recovers some of the perceptual innocence of childhood, when the sensum was not immediately and automatically subordinated to the concept . Interest in space is diminished and interest in time falls almost to zero.
  • Though the intellect remains unimpaired and perception enormously improved, the will suffers a profound change for worse. The mescaline taker sees no reason in doing anything in  particular and finds most of other causes for which , at ordinary times he was prepared to act and suffer as uninteresting for he(as the subject says) has better things to think about.
  • These better things may be experienced “out there ” or  ” in here” or in both world’s outer and inner, simultaneously and successfully. 
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The above four effects or better say Symptoms are observed similarly in the majority of mescaline takers.

The admission of this drug empowers the subject to impair the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve. When brain runs out of sugar, the undernourished ego grows weak .  The most important sensitivities on which man is so much dependent for getting on this world i:e the spatial and temporal relationship is lost interest in. As the Mind At Large seeps though  ‘no longer water tight’ valve, biologically useless things begin to happen. Extrasensory perceptions, glimpses of visually enchanting scapes . Some are revealed the eternal value and meaning-fullness of of naked existence of an unconceptualised events. In the ultimate stage of egolessness  there is an obscure knowledge that “all is in all and that all is actually each”. “Tattvam assi”, as the Vedas says. This is as near a finite mind ever comes perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. Mescaline also heightens the color perceptions  to an enormous levels such that it males the percipient aware of innumerable fine shades of difference to which at ordinary times he is completely blind. During the mescaline trip all secondary character of things seems primary. This color perception to him becomes even more important and better worth attending to than masses , positions and dimensions.  There is a very strong longing to be left alone to the eternity avoiding any personal contacts. To the subject every thought of the self it had seemingly cease to be and the his relations to near and dear ones feels not indeed distasteful but utterly irrelevant. For him all the others belongs to the world of self assertion, over valued words and idolatrously worshipped notions.

A complete dissociation of body with mind takes place, the awareness of the transfigured outer world is no longer accompanied by an awareness of the physical body. Still the body looks like to be able to quite properly looks after itself as in general reality it normally does. All that the ‘conscious ego’ does is formulation of its wishes , which are then carried out by forces which it controls very little and understands not at all. When it does anything more and tries too hard for example when it worries and becomes apprehensive about the future , it lowers the effectiveness of those forces and may even cause the devitalized body to fall ill.

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Most takers of mescaline experience only the heavenly part of the trip . This drug also brings hell and purgatory , but only to those who have had a recent case of jaundice and the patients of periodic depression and chronic anxiety. But for reasonably healthy person , this drug is completely  innocuous, and its effects wears out  within eight to ten hours leaving no hangover and consequently no craving for the renewal of its dose. Even a regular dose of this chemical subsides absolutely no addiction on the habit of its consumer.

Most people today lead lives at worst , painful and at best monotonous ,poor and limited in experience. In prevalent lifestyle state of humanity has transformed to that of human doing from the original self pristine state of human being.  A natural urge to bridge the difference of our initial self from acquired self and self transcendentalism has always been on of the principal appetite of the soul. For nourishment of this need man invented many rituals such as art, music, religion, saturnalia, carnivals , orgy etc. For everyday feed chemical intoxication such as alcohol, naturally occurring sedatives, narcotics and hallucinogenics served the purpose since time immemorial. To these natural modifiers of consciousness modern science has added a quota of synthetics such as benzedrine , barbiturates and LSD.

Out of these some are nearly as harmless but others very much poisonous. But our legal system has permitted only alcohol and tobacco for unrestricted use . All others (including the harmless and non addicting ones) are labeled as dope. Propagation of alcohol and tobacco smoking as the only escape from selfhood and dissatisfactory environment is making them thrive in a rampant manner. They are advertised as a noted act for demonstrating valor and gut. Lethal yet legal these two devils have engulfed the psyche of most human mind in a manner  that in spite of the growing army of hopeless alcoholics, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of persons annually maimed or killed by drunken drivers  and in spite of alarming lung cancer and asthma rates due to cigarettes ,alcohol consumption and smoking tobacco are practically considered hardly less normal and natural than eating.  

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Alcohol is incompatible with health of population and safety on roads, and tobacco  jinxes virtual sterility of millions acres of fertile farmland. Despite of all the banes these atrocities bestows on our civilization , it is very much obvious that their problem cannot be just solved by simply prohibition. The universal and ever-present urge to self-transcendence  is not to be abolished by slamming the currently popular Doors in the Wall. The only reasonable policy is to open other, better doors in the hope of inducing men and women to exchange their old bad habits for new and less harmful ones. Some of these other, better doors will be social and technological in nature, others religious or psychological, others educational and athletic. But the need for frequent chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings will undoubtedly remain. What is needed is a new drug which will relieve and console our suffering species without doing more harm in the long run than it does good in the short. Such a drug must be potent in minute doses and synthesizable. If it does not possess these qualities, its production, like that of wine, beer, spirits and tobacco will interfere with the raising of indispensable food and fibers. It must be less toxic than opium or cocaine, less likely to produce undesirable social consequences than alcohol or the barbiturates, less inimical to heart and lungs than the tars and nicotine of cigarettes. And, on the positive side, it should produce changes in consciousness more interesting, more intrinsically valuable than mere sedation or dreaminess, delusions of omnipotence or release from inhibition. To most people, mescaline is almost completely innocuous. Unlike alcohol, it does not drive the taker into the kind of uninhibited action which results in brawls, crimes of violence and traffic accidents. A man under the influence of mescaline quietly minds his own business. Moreover, the business he minds is an experience of the most enlightening kind, which does not have to be paid for (and this is surely important) by a compensatory hangover. Of the long-range consequences of regular mescaline taking have not been observed yet so far.  Although obviously superior to cocaine, opium, alcohol and tobacco, mescaline is not yet the ideal drug. Along with the happily transfigured majority of mescaline takers there is a minority that finds in the drug only hell or purgatory. Moreover, for a drug that is to be used, like alcohol, for general consumption, its effects last for an inconveniently long time. But chemistry and physiology are capable nowadays of practically anything. If the psychologists and sociologists will define the ideal, the neurologists and pharmacologists can be relied upon to discover the means whereby that ideal can be realized or at least more nearly approached.

Our fundamental duty now is not let ourselves to fall prey to forced oblivion under the influence of false propaganda. By  sedating our inherent urge for righteousness we’ll just imitate the last minute act of  that pigeon which on encountering the cat closes its eyes under an assumption that danger is averted but disregards from the fact that ‘ it’s my last god gifted chance to survive this peril or else perish forever’.

-team Vantage

(excerpts mixed from “The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell” by Aldous Huxley