CHEMISTRY and some STORIES
Gives us Mescaline or synthetically 3, 4, 5-trimethoxy phenyl ethylamine.
The peyote plants contain more than fifty-five
alkaloids and related compounds. Some of these alkaloids have been studied
and when ingested, affect the mind in interesting ways.
The miraculous entheogenic peyote cactus has
been claimed to hold curative properties for ailments as diverse as
toothache, pain in child birth, fever, breast pain, skin disease, rheumatism,
diabetes, colds, blindness, neurasthenia, hysteria and asthma. The original
cactus from where mescaline was first isolated, peyote has also been
shown to have antibiotic activity against a wide variety of bacteria
including some penicillin resistant strains. This famous sacred cactus
is the centre of many ancient and modern churches and religions and
is a truly fascinating species to grow.
The chemists, ever on the lookout for new worlds
to conquer, had taken the divine plant into their laboratories, bent
on determining the nature of those substances that endow it with its
vision-provoking properties. The brown malodorous decoction of the mescal
buttons was progressively purified and one crystalline compound after
another was separated from the crude material. No less than nine alkaloids
were finally crystallized, several of which influenced the behaviour
of experimental animals. Most poisonous of these alkaloids was lophophorine,
which, in doses of about 12 milligrams per kilogram body weight, would
produce in rabbits violent convulsions of the type seen in sufferers
from tetanus or strychnine poisoning. The substance pellotine
produced in man a drowsiness suggesting that it might be of use as a
sedative. Anhalonidine, on the other hand,
had a stimulating effect on the central nervous system.
But of all the substances isolated from this curious cactus the most
important and interesting was called mescaline. To this substance and
to this substance alone the extraordinary visions of the peyotl eater
could be attributed. Mescaline is not a complex substance. It belongs
to the large and important group of chemicals known as amines, many
of which (for instance, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline) have a powerful
action on the chemistry of the body. To be more specific, mescaline
is a derivative of ammonia (NH3) in which one
of the hydrogen atoms has been replaced by a chain of carbon atoms.
Chemically it is 3, 4, 5-trimethoxy phenyl ethylamine, a substance which
can be synthesized without too much difficulty so that those who wish
to enjoy the peyotl-induced visions need not depend on the cactus for
their supply of the drug.
With pure mescaline available, investigators of the properties of the
drug no longer had to chew the nauseating cactus or swallow revolting
decoctions brewed from its buttons. They left such questionable pleasures
to the Indians and continued their studies with the purified essence
of the sacred plant, either swallowing or injecting the solution into
their persons. Research continued vigorously. From the laboratory of
Dr. Beringer in Heidelberg emerged a tome, three hundred and fifteen
pages in length, a worthy example of German Wissenschaftlichkeit,
which remains a most valuable contribution to the subject. Dr. Beringer's
subjects generally took their mescaline in the form of an injection;
the dose employed being usually 400 milligrams. Their experiences had
much in common with those described by Weir Mitchell and Havelock Ellis,
but the metaphysical bent of the Teutonic mind, its tendency to seek
the ultimate, the infinite, the inexpressible, added to the already
rich spectrum of the mescal experience, certain deeper hues not noted
by the earlier investigators.
Soon there began on the carpet before me
a wonderful display. From the edge of the field of vision there crept
across the green carpet beasts like the monsters from a fairy tale stretching
out tongues and claws. I watched their play with pleasure only regretting
that the beasts appeared in various shades of grey. Scarcely had this
thought passed through my mind before the eyes of the beasts glittered
with green or red lights. Soon their tongues and claws became touched
with crimson and began to flicker like the play of flames in a fire
. . . Somewhat later I fixed my eyes on a point on the ceiling on which
were a few small flies in the web of a spider. Suddenly the flies began
to multiply lit up by beautiful colours within the ever-changing form
of the spider's web.
Now there appeared before my eyes splendid architectural forms, which
seemed to hang from the ceiling divided into hexagonal segments like
honeycombs. Above the ceiling each honeycomb rose up and developed into
a painted Gothic arch. While I delighted in the upward striving of these
slender arches they towered to ever-greater heights before my eyes.
Extraordinary joy overcame me; a strong and beautiful feeling of eternity
and infinity. This so overwhelmed me that soon everything appeared infinite.
There they were again, the deep beautiful perspectives which I had seen
during my first experience with mescaline, but now they never stood
still, they grew constantly deeper, as with space so with time. The
ordinary human concept of time seemed contemptible. I would not even
think of it. The sense of drifting in the infinite, of flowing into
the ocean of eternity occupied me entirely and was most closely and
intimately associated with my self-awareness. I experienced a unique
pleasure from exploring the endlessness of my own ego, the boundlessness
of every one of my psychic functions . . .. My psychological equilibrium
was constantly changing. At one moment I would experience pleasure because
I could go to sleep in my own little world; at another I stood astounded
by profound riddles, by the mystery of the magic play within me. I even
felt fear at the thought of that wild secret force at work within my
Similarly pervaded with what Baudelaire has called
'The Taste of the Infinite" were the experiences of another of
My ideas of space were strange beyond description.
I could see myself from head to foot as well as the sofa on which I
was lying. About me was nothingness, absolutely empty space. I was floating
on a solitary island in the ether. No part of my body was subject to
the laws of gravitation. On the other side of the vacuum, the room seemed
to be unlimited in space; extremely fantastic figures appeared before
my eyes. I was very excited; I perspired, shivered and was kept in a
state of ceaseless wonder. I saw endless passages with beautiful arches,
delightfully coloured arabesques, grotesque decorations, divine, sublime
and enchanting in their fantastic splendour. These visions changed in
waves and billows, were built, destroyed, and appeared again in endless
variations first on one plane and then in three dimensions, at last
disappearing into infinity. The sofa island disappeared. I did not feel
my physical self; an ever-increasing sense of dissolution set in. I
was seized with passionate curiosity; great things were about to be
unveiled before me. I would perceive the essence of all things; the
problem of creation would be unravelled. I was dematerialized!
Aldous Huxley, a representative of that "universal
man" commoner in the Renaissance than in our overspecialized age,
has studied the mystical aspects of the mescaline experience from the
standpoint of a creative writer who is at the same time a mystic and
a scientist. His own experiences, after swallowing 400 milligrams of
mescaline, involved a change not in the identity of things perceived
but in the content of perception. He describes no fields of gorgeous
jewels, none of the Gothic arches so popular with the German investigators,
none of the strange beasts, the "delightful dragons balancing white
balls on their breath," which visited one of Havelock Ellis's poets.
There is nothing in Aldous Huxley's account that even suggests mescaline
might be, as some have described it, a hallucinogen- that is to say,
an agent capable of generating hallucinations. The essence of a hallucinogen
is that it causes those under its influence to hear, see, or feel things,
which are not present. Havelock Ellis's rotating flower beds, Weir Mitchell's
tower dripping jewels, these were hallucinations in the true sense of
the word. No such phenomena are described in Aldous Huxley's book.
The change, which for him, was brought about by mescaline, concerned
the manner in which familiar objects were perceived. "How wonderfully
supernatural and how miraculous this," wrote the Zen patriarch,
"I draw water and I carry fuel!" It was exactly this transformation
of simple things that Aldous Huxley described, and this element of the
miraculous, haloing ordinary objects, was
for him far more significant than any colour vision or elaborate fantasy.
Certainly he experienced that enrichment of colour values which is an
almost universal feature of descriptions of the mescaline experience.
His books, for example, took on a gemlike glow.
Red books, like rubies; emerald books; books
bound in white jade; books of agate; of aquamarine, of yellow topaz;
lapis lazuli books whose colour was so intense, so intrinsically meaningful,
that they seemed to be on the point of leaving the shelves to thrust
themselves more insistently on my attention.
But this enrichment of the quality of colours
was secondary to the extraordinary significance with which simple objects
became endowed. An hour and a half after taking mescaline Aldous Huxley
found himself looking intently at a small glass vase.
The vase contained only three flowers; a full
blown Belle of Portugal rose, shell pink with a tint at every petal's
base of a hotter, more flamed hue; a large magenta and cream-coloured
carnation; and pale purple at the end of its broken stalk, the bold
heraldic blossom of an iris. Fortuitous and provisional, the little
nosegay broke all the rules of traditional good taste. At breakfast
that morning I had been struck by the lively dissonance
of its colours. But that was no longer the point. I was not looking
now at an unusual flower arrangement. I was seeing what Adam had seen
on the morning of his creation, the miracle, moment by moment, of naked
What the rose, the iris, and the carnation so
intensely signified when viewed with perception modified by mescaline
.nothing more, and nothing less, than
what they actually were, a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual
perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute particulars
in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be
seen in the divine source of all existence.
I continued to look at the flowers, and in their living light I seemed
to detect the qualitative equivalent of breathing, but of a breathing
without returns to a starting point, with no recurrent ebbs but only
a repeated flow from beauty to heightened beauty, from deeper to ever
deeper meaning. Words like "grace" and "transfiguration"
came to my mind, and this, of course, was what, among other things,
they stood for. My eyes travelled from the rose to the carnation, and
from that feathery incandescence to the smooth scrolls of sentient amethyst,
which were the iris. The Beatific Vision, Sat Chit Ananda, Being-Awareness-Bliss,
for the first time I understood, not on the verbal level, not by inchoate
hints or at a distance, but precisely and completely to what those prodigious
The foregoing descriptions of the effects of
mescaline will probably have left the reader with the impression that
this purified product of the sacred cactus offers the key to a very
remarkable world. To many people it does indeed offer such a key and
its virtues have been summarized very clearly by Havelock Ellis:
Mescal intoxication may be described as chiefly
a saturnalia for the specific senses and above all, an orgy of vision.
It reveals an optical fairyland, where all the senses now and again
join the play, but the mind itself remains a self-possessed spectator.
Mescal intoxication thus differs from the other artificial paradises
that drugs procure. Under the influence of alcohol, for instance, as
in normal dreaming, the intellect is impaired, although there may be
a consciousness of unusual brilliance; hashish, again, produces an uncontrollable
tendency to movement and bathes its victim in a sea of emotion. The
mescal drinker remains calm and collected amid the sensory turmoil around
him; his judgement is as clear as in the normal state; he falls into
no oriental condition of vague and voluptuous reverie. The reason why
mescal is of all this class of drugs the most purely intellectual in
its appeal is evidently because it affects mainly the most intellectual
of the senses. On this ground it is not probable that its use will easily
develop into a habit. Moreover, unlike most other intoxicants, it seems
to have no special affinity for a disordered and unbalanced nervous
system; on the contrary, it demands organic soundness and good health
for complete manifestation of its virtues. Further, unlike the other
chief substances to which it may be compared, mescal does not wholly
carry us away from the actual world, or plunge us into oblivion; a large
part of its charm lies in the halo of beauty which it casts around the
simplest and commonest things. It is the most democratic of the plants
that lead men to an artificial paradise. If it should ever chance that
the consumption of mescal becomes a habit, the favourite poet of the
mescal drinker will certainly be Wordsworth. Not only the general attitude
of Wordsworth but many of his most memorable poems and phrases cannot,
one is almost tempted to say, be appreciated in their full significance
by one who has never been under the influence of mescal. On all these
grounds it may be claimed that the artificial paradise of mescal, though
less seductive, is safe and dignified beyond its peers.
The author, however, would not be doing his duty
as an impartial reporter if he did not add that even the glamorous world
of mescaline has its darker side. Not everyone can enter its colourful
"Along with the happily transfigured majority of mescaline takers,"
writes Aldous Huxley, "there are a minority that finds in the drug
only hell and purgatory." This is undoubtedly true, nor is it easy
to be sure just how correctly we can claim that the "happily transfigured"
are in the majority. The following description by Tayleur Stockings
of the general appearance of a group of individuals under the influence
of mescaline seems hardly that of "happily transformed beings":
The lips and tongue become dry and coated
with sordes; the skin is flushed at first,
and later becomes dry and harsh with an earthy pallor; the conjunctiva
are injected, and the eyes appear unnaturally bright. The urine is scanty
and highly coloured, and there is absolute insomnia, anorexia (loss
of appetite) and in the later stages, restlessness . . .. There is always
nausea and occasionally vomiting in the early stages.
This nausea may not interfere with the subject's
enjoyment of his strange experiences. As Kluver points out, "In
spite of marked nausea many subjects 'have a good time'; being in a
state of mental exhilaration they become talkative and jocular, they
commit social errors and enjoy committing them, harmless remarks, even
a potato salad or a catsup bottle, are considered unusually funny."
In other subjects, however, the unpleasant symptoms produced by the
drug are unrelieved by any consoling experience, visual or otherwise.
One might suppose such individuals to be degraded types whose "doors
of perception" are so hopelessly muddied that even the potent cleansing
action of mescaline makes no impression on the encrusting grime. This
can hardly be true. That prince of psychologists, William James, was
certainly no stranger to the realm of mystical experience. He remains
one of the few psychologists of any standing who has ever taken the
trouble to investigate religious phenomena. Yet William James, who received
peyotl from Weir Mitchell, derived from the sacred cactus nothing more
than a stomach-ache. "I ate one bud three days ago," he wrote
in a letter to his brother Henry, "was violently sick for twenty-four
hours, and had no other symptoms whatever except that and the Katzenjammer
the following day. I will take the visions on trust." Even Weir
Mitchell, whose experiences were much more promising, commented, "These
shows are expensive . . .. The experience, however, was worth one such
headache and indigestion but was not worth a second."
Quite apart from the nausea, anorexia, and insomnia, the mescaline visions
themselves are by no means always divine:
In some individuals the "ivresse
divine" (good trip) of which Rouhier speaks comes nearer to being
diabolique." (Bad Trip) Vague tenors and the sense of impending
disaster often mingle with the cosmic experiences. The immensity of
the new realms perceived may frighten more than they enlighten the mescaline
taker. . The experiences in the mescal state are not easily forgotten.
One looks "beyond the horizon" of the normal world, and this
"beyond" is often so impressive or even shocking that its
after effects linger for years in one's memory. No wonder some subjects
are disinclined to repeat the experiment . . . [Kluver].
For this reason it is improbable that mescaline
will ever become widely popular as a means of fleeing the drab realities
of the ordinary world. The artificial paradise to which it holds the
key is too strange a realm to appeal to the average taste and the cost
of getting there, in terms of unpleasant physical reactions, would seem
excessive. Many, in fact, would agree with William James that the experience
is not worth the Katzenjammer. This expressive German word means, literally,
caterwauling. In the sense used above it describes the unpleasant symptoms
left by an alcoholic debauch, in short a "hangover."
As a euphoriant it is unlikely to replace
alcohol, though its effects are infinitely more interesting, and it
"does not drive the taker into the kind of uninhibited action which
results in brawls, crimes of violence and traffic accidents" (Huxley).
It has no addiction forming properties. Indians who have consumed it
for years can still manage perfectly well without the drug. It seems
to have no lasting ill effect on any organ in the body, including the
liver on which falls the task of detoxifying this particular poison,
for mescaline is poisonous, albeit the effects are interesting and the
toxic symptoms rarely alarming. It belongs to the class of poisons that
the great toxicologist, Lewin, labelled phantastica,
a class of materials now more commonly referred to as hallucinogens.
It is probably one of the most harmless members of this group of drugs,
but is nonetheless quite toxic for certain people.
As regards the way in which mescaline exerts its effects, we have to
admit that we are almost entirely ignorant. Quastel and Wheatley have
shown that mescaline and several related substances interfere with oxidative
processes in minced brain tissue. Aldous Huxley has accepted this finding
as the explanation of mescaline's mode of action. He envisages the brain
as a kind of reducing valve that protects our little human minds from
the overwhelming pressure of "Mind at Large." When the efficiency
of the reducing valve is impaired by mescaline "Mind at Large,"
or the mind of the macrocosm, pushes its way into the mind of the microcosm,
which explains the overwhelming character of certain mescaline experiences.
To assume, however, that mescaline exerts its characteristic action
simply by lowering the brain's capacity to utilize oxygen would not
seem warranted by the evidence. The barbiturates also cut down oxidation
in brain slices but these substances do not produce the colour visions
or other experiences typical of mescaline. They merely put the one who
takes them to sleep. Further, it must be emphasized again that between
minced brain in a test tube and living brain in a man's skull there
is a very wide gap. We dare not even assume that mescaline taken by
mouth or even injected into the blood necessarily enters the brain itself.
It may be checked by the blood-brain barrier. It may be transformed
in the liver into something chemically different. This, say the German
workers Patzig and Block, is actually what does happen. When mescaline
is "labelled" by building into it an atom of radioactive carbon,
its presence can be detected in the liver but hardly a trace of the
substance can be found in the brain. Its effects, these workers believe,
are due to its combining with liver protein to form a toxic substance
which, like a number of other toxic substances, interferes with brain
function and causes hallucinations.
F. M. Sturtevant and V. A. Drill, who injected mescaline directly into
the brains of cats, thus forcing the drug past the blood-brain barrier,
have shown that it produces dramatic effects on the animal's behaviour.
The cats began a loud continuous yowling that was unlike any normal
cat sound. They retched, they salivated, they defecated, and their breath
came in short gasps. Particularly noticeable was the change in their
behaviour toward mice. Cats, which, before treatment with mescaline,
had instantly caught and killed a mouse, merely ignored the animal while
under the influence of the drug. Indeed, so great did their forbearance
become that one submitted placidly to having his ears and nose nibbled.
The drug evidently made pacifists out of the cats and filled them with
brotherly love that extended even to mice. They appeared to derive enjoyment
from rubbing their cheeks against the mice and allowing them to crawl
over and under their bodies. The happy state foretold by the prophet
was thus realized; the lion lay down with the lamb and did not hurt
nor destroy. For the next eighteen to twenty hours the peace continued,
after which the fondling became progressively rougher, ending with typical
cat and mouse play in which the mice were killed and eaten. It is clear
from this work that mescaline does have some direct effect on the chemistry
of the brain; the nature of this action is still under investigation.
This site may look ancient
It is the result of an evening class in Dreamweaver 4 website construction
I attended in 2002.
But it is current and working, thank you very much.
Now in Feb. 2015.
They are all having their winter sleep.
This is a good time to travel to a new home with no disruption to growth.