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Peyote 51. conserve

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPERIENCES, EXPERIMENTS and DESCRIPTION

Peyotl = Peyote = Lophophora williamsii.

It was not until the end of the nineteenth century that Western scientists became aware of the existence of peyotl and began to wonder what properties this insignificant cactus possessed to cause the Indians to encompass it with so splendid a halo of veneration. Earliest of these investigators to describe his own experiences was the American physician, Weir Mitchell, who swallowed "on the morning of a busy day," one and a half grams of an extract of mescal buttons, followed by further doses in the afternoon. By 5:40 P.M. Mitchell found himself "deliciously at languid ease," and observed floating before his eyes luminous star points and fragments of stained glass. Going into a dark room, he settled down to enjoy the performance, evoked by the mysterious action of the drug, on the cells of his visual cortex.

The display that followed for an enchanted two hours, was such, as I find it hopeless to describe in language which shall convey to others the beauty and splendour of what I saw. Stars, delicate floating films of colour, then an abrupt rush of countless points of white light swept across the field of view, as if the unseen millions of the Milky Way were to flow in a sparkling river before my eyes; Zigzag lines of very bright colours; the wonderful loveliness of swelling clouds of more vivid colours, gone before I could name them.
A white spear of grey stone grew up to huge height, and became a tall, richly furnished Gothic Tower of very elaborate and definite design, with many rather worn statues standing in the doorways or on stone brackets. As I gazed; every projecting angle, cornice and even the faces of the stones at their jointing were by degrees covered or hung with clusters of what seemed to be huge precious stones, but uncut; some being more like masses of transparent fruit. These were green, purple, red, and orange, never clear yellow and never blue. All seemed to possess an interior light; and to give the faintest idea of the perfectly satisfying intensity, and purity of these gorgeous coloured fruits, is quite beyond my power. All the colours I have ever beheld are dull in comparison to these. As I looked; and it lasted long, the tower became a fine mouse hue, and everywhere the vast pendant masses of emerald green, ruby reds, and orange, began to drip a slow rain of colours.
After an endless display of less beautiful marvels I saw that which deeply impressed me. An edge of a huge cliff seemed to project over a gulf of unseen depth. My viewless enchanter set on the brink a huge bird claw of stone. Above, from the stem or leg, hung a fragment of the same stuff. This began to unroll and float out to a distance that seemed to me to represent Time as well as the immensity of Space. Here were miles of rippled purples, half transparent, and of ineffable beauty. Now and then soft golden clouds floated from these folds, or a great shimmer went over the whole of the rolling purples, and things like green birds fell from it, fluttering down into the gulf below. Next, I saw clusters of stones hanging in masses from the claw toes, as it seemed to me, miles of them, down far below into the underworld of the black gulf. This was the most distinct of my visions.


In his last vision, Mitchell saw the beach of Newport with its rolling waves as "liquid splendours, huge and threatening, of wonderfully pure green, or red or deep purple, once only deep orange, and with no trace of foam. These water hills of colour, broke on the beach with a myriad of lights, the same tint as the wave."
The author considered it totally impossible to find words to describe the colours. "They still linger visibly in my memory, and left the feeling that I had seen among them, colours unknown to my experience."

News of the remarkable properties of peyotl spread to Europe, where Havelock Ellis, famed for his pioneer studies in the field of human sexual behaviour, decided to experiment with this singular drug. Having obtained in London a small sample of mescal buttons, he settled down in his quiet rooms in the Temple and prepared a decoction from three of the buttons, which he drank at intervals between 2:30 and 4:30pm.

The first symptom observed during the afternoon was a certain consciousness of energy and intellectual power. This passed off, and about an hour after the final dose I felt faint and unsteady; the pulse was low, and I found it more pleasant to lie down. I was still able to read, and I noticed that a pale violet shadow floated over the page around the point at which my eyes were fixed. I had already noticed that objects not in the direct line of vision, such as my hands holding the book, showed a tendency to look obtrusive, heightened in colour, almost monstrous, while, on closing my eyes, afterimages were vivid and prolonged. The appearance of visions with closed eyes was very gradual. At first there was merely a vague play of light and shade, which suggested pictures, but never made them. Then the pictures became more definite, but too confused and crowded to be described, beyond saying that they were of the same character as the images of the kaleidoscope, symmetrical groupings of spiked objects. Then, in the course of the evening, they became distinct, but still indescribable, mostly a vast field of golden jewels studded with red and green stones, ever changing. This moment was, perhaps the most delightful of the experience, for at the same time the air around me seemed to be flushed with vague perfume, producing with the visions a delicious effect and all discomfort had vanished, except a slight faintness and tremor of the hands which, later on, made it almost impossible to guide a pen as I made notes of the experiment. It was however, with an effort, always possible to write with a pencil. The visions never resembled familiar objects; they were extremely definite, but yet always novel; they were constantly approaching, and yet constantly eluding to the semblance of known things. I would see thick, glorious fields of jewels, solitary or clustered, sometimes brilliant and sparkling, sometimes with a dull rich glow. Then they would spring up into flower-like shapes beneath my gaze, and then seem to turn into gorgeous butterfly forms or endless folds of glistening, iridescent, fibrous wings of wonderful insects; while sometimes I seemed to be gazing into a vast hollow revolving vessel, on whose polished concave mother-of-pearl surface the hues were swiftly changing. I was surprised, not only by the enormous profusion of the imagery presented to my gaze, but still more by its variety. Perpetually some totally new kind of effect would appear in the field of vision; sometimes there was swift movement, sometimes dull sombre richness of colour, sometimes glitter and sparkle, once a startling rain of gold, which seemed to approach me. Most usually there was a combination of rich, sombre colour with jewel-like points of brilliant hue. Every colour and tone conceivable to me appeared at some time or another. Sometimes all the different varieties of one colour, as of red, with scarlets, crimsons, pinks, would spring up together or in quick succession. But in spite of this immense profusion, there was always a certain parsimony and aesthetic value in the colours presented. They were usually associated with form, and never appeared in large masses, or if so, the tone was very delicate. I was further impressed, not only by the brilliance, delicacy, and variety of the colours, but even more by their lovely and various textures; fibrous, woven, polished, glowing, dull-veined, semitransparent. The glowing effects, as of jewels and the fibrous, as of insect's wings, being perhaps the most prevalent. Although the effects were novel, it frequently happened, as I have already mentioned, that they vaguely recalled known objects. Thus, once the objects presented to me seemed to be made of exquisite porcelain, again they were like elaborate sweetmeats, again of a somewhat Maori style of architecture; and the background of the pictures frequently recalled, both in form and tone, the delicate architectural effects as of lace carved in wood, which we associate with the mouchrabieh work (the light-filtering woods screens on the windows) of Cairo. But always the visions grew and changed without any reference to the characteristics of those real objects of which they vaguely reminded me, and when I tried to influence their course it was with very little success. On the whole, I should say that the images were most usually what might be called living arabesques. There was often a certain incomplete tendency to symmetry, as though the underlying mechanism was associated with a large number of polished facets. The same image was in this way frequently repeated over a large part of the field; but this refers more to form than to colour, in respect to which there would still be all sorts of delightful varieties, so that if, with a certain uniformity, jewel-like flowers were springing up and expanding all over the field of vision, they would still show every variety of delicate tone and tint.

Weir Mitchell found that he could only see the visions with closed eyes and in a perfectly dark room. I could see them in the dark and with almost equal facility, though they were not of equal brilliancy, when my eyes were wide open. I saw them best, however, when my eyes were closed, in a room lighted only by flickering firelight. This evidently accords with the experience of the Indians, who keep a fire burning brightly throughout their mescal rites.
The visions continued with undiminished brilliance for many hours, and as I felt somewhat faint and muscularly weak, I went to bed. As I undressed being impressed by the red, scaly, bronzed and pigmented appearance of my limbs whenever I was not directly gazing at them. I had not the faintest desire for sleep; there was a general hyperaesthesia of all the senses as well as muscular irritability, and every slightest sound seemed magnified to startling dimensions. I may also have been kept awake by a vague alarm at the novelty of my condition, and the possibility of further developments.
After watching the visions in the dark for some hours I became a little tired of them and turned on the gas. Then I found that I was able to study a new series of visual phenomena to which previous observers had made no reference. The gas jet (an ordinary flickering burner) seemed to burn with great brilliance, sending out waves of light, which expanded and contracted in an enormously exaggerated manner. I was even more impressed by the shadows, which were in all directions heightened by flushes of red, green, and especially violet. The whole room, with its whitewashed but not very white ceiling, thus became vivid and beautiful. The difference between the room, as I saw it then, and the appearance it usually presents to me was the difference one may often observe between the picture of a room and the actual room. The shadows I saw were the shadows that the artist puts in, but which are not visible in the actual scene under normal conditions of casual inspection. I was reminded of the paintings of Claude Monet, and as I gazed at the scene it occurred to me that mescal perhaps produces exactly the same conditions of visual hyperaesthesia, or rather exhaustion, as may be produced on the artist by the influence of prolonged visual attention. I wished to ascertain how the subdued and steady electric light would influence vision, and passed into the next room; but here the shadows were little marked, although the walls and floor seemed tremulous and insubstantial, and the texture of everything was heightened and enriched.
About 3.30am I felt that the phenomena were distinctly diminishing, though the visions, now chiefly of human figures, fantastic and Chinese in character, still continued-and I was able to settle myself to sleep, which proved peaceful and dreamless. I awoke at the usual hour and experienced no sense of fatigue or other unpleasant reminiscence of the experience I had undergone. Only my eyes seemed unusually sensitive to colour, especially to blue and violet; I can, indeed, say that ever since this experience I have been more aesthetically sensitive than I was before to the more delicate phenomena of light and shade and colour.

So impressed was Havelock Ellis by his experiences that he persuaded an artist friend to try the drug. After consuming four of the buttons this artist became violently ill. Paroxysmal attacks of pain in the region of the heart were combined with a sense of imminent death while so great were the dread of light and the dilation of the pupils that the eyelids had to be kept more or less closed. The coloured visions did indeed begin at this time but so preoccupied was the artist with his other less pleasant sensations that he had little opportunity to enjoy the strange hues he now perceived.

I saw an intensely vivid blue light begin to play around every object. A square cigarette box, violet in colour, shone like an amethyst. I turned my eyes away and beheld this time, on the back of a polished chair, a bar of colour glowing like a ruby. Although I was expecting some such manifestation as one of the first symptoms of the intoxication, I was nevertheless somewhat alarmed when this phenomenon took place. Such a silent and sudden illumination of all things around, where a moment before I had seen nothing uncommon, seemed like a kind of madness beginning from outside me, and its strangeness affected me more than its beauty. A desire to escape from it led me to the door, and the act of moving had, I noticed, the effect of dispelling the colours. But a sudden difficulty in breathing and a sensation of numbness at the heart brought me back to the armchair from which I had risen. From this moment I had a series of paroxysms, which I can only describe by saying that I felt as though I were dying. It was impossible to move, and it seemed almost impossible to breathe. My speedy dissolution, I half imagined, was about to take place, and the power of making any resistance to the violent sensations that were arising within was going, I felt, with every second.
The first paroxysms were the most violent. They would come on with tingling in the lower limbs, and with the sensation of a nauseous and suffocating gas mounting up into my head. Two or three times this was accompanied by a colour vision of the gas bursting into flame as it passed up my throat. But I seldom had visions during the paroxysms; these would appear in the intervals. They began, with a spurting up of colours, once of a flood of brightly illuminated green water covering the field of vision, and effervescing in parts, just as when fresh water with all the air bubbles is pumped into a swimming bath. At another time my eye seemed to be turning into a vast drop of dirty water in which millions of minute creatures resembling tadpoles were in motion. But the early visions consisted mostly of a furious succession of coloured arabesques, arising and descending or sliding at every possible angle into the field of view. It would be as difficult to give a description of the whirl of water at the bottom of a waterfall as to describe the chaos of colour and design which marked this period.
Now also began another series of extraordinary sensations. They set in with bewildering suddenness and followed one another in rapid succession. These I now record as they occur to my mind as haphazard: (1) My right leg became suddenly heavy and solid; it seemed, indeed, as if the entire weight of my body had shifted into one part, about the thigh and knee, and that the rest of my body had lost all substantiality. (2) With the suddenness of a neuralgic pang, the back of my head seemed to open and emit streams of bright colour; this was immediately followed by the feeling as of a draft blowing like a gale through the hair in the same region.
(3) At one moment the colour, green, acquired a taste in my mouth; it was sweetish and somewhat metallic; blue again would have taste that seemed to recall phosphorus; these are the only colours that seemed to be connected with taste. (4) A feeling of delightful relief and preternatural lightness about my forehead, succeeded by a growing sensation of contraction. (5) Singing in one of my ears. (6) A sensation of burning heat in the palm of my left hand. (7) Heat about both eyes, which continued throughout the whole period, except for a moment when I had a sensation of cold upon the eyelids, accompanied with a colour vision of the wrinkled lids, of the skin disappearing from the brow, of dead flesh, and finally of a skull.
Throughout these sensations and visions my mind remained not only perfectly clear, but enjoyed, I believe, an unusual lucidity. Certainly I was conscious of an odd contrast in hearing myself talk rationally with H.E., who had entered the room a short time before, and experiencing at the same moment the wild and extraordinary pranks that were taking place in my body. My reason appeared to be the sole survivor of my being. At times I felt that this, too, would go, but the sound of my own voice would establish again the communication with the outer world of reality.
Tremors were more or less constant in my lower limbs. Persistent also, was the feeling of nausea. This, when attended by a feeling of suffocation and a pain at the heart, was relieved by taking brandy, coffee or biscuit. For muscular exertion I felt neither the wish nor the power. My hands, however, retained their full strength.
It was painful for me to keep my eyes open above a few seconds; the light of day seemed to fill the room with a blinding glare. Yet every object, in the brief glimpse I caught, appeared normal in colour and shape. With my eyes closed, most of the visions, after the first chaotic display, represented parts of the whole of my body undergoing a variety of marvellous changes, of metamorphoses or illumination. They were more often than not, comic and grotesque in character, though beautiful in colour. At one time 1 saw my right leg filling up with a delicate heliotrope; at another, the sleeve of my coat changed into a dark green material, in which was worked a pattern in red braid, and the whole bordered at the cuff with sable. Scarcely had my new sleeve taken shape when I found myself attired in a complete costume of the same fashion, mediaeval in character, but I could not say to what precise period it belonged. I noted that a chance movement-of my hand, for instance-would immediately call up a colour vision of the part exerted, and that this again would pass, by a seemingly natural transition, into another wholly dissimilar. Thus, pressing my fingers accidentally against my temples, the fingertips became elongated, and then grew into the ribs of a vaulting or of a dome shaped roof. But most of the visions were of a more personal nature. I happened once to lift a spoon of coffee to my lips, and as I was in the act of raising my arm for that purpose a vision flashed before my closed (or nearly closed) eyes, in all the hues of the rainbow, of my arm separated from my body, and serving me with coffee from out of dark and indefinite space. On another occasion, as I was seeking to relieve slight nausea by taking a piece of biscuit passed to me by H.E., it suddenly streamed out into blue flame. It was a sight of wonderful beauty. But this was not all. As I placed the biscuit in my mouth it burst out again into the same coloured fire and illuminated the interior of my mouth, casting a blue reflection on the roof. The light in the Blue Grotto at Capri, I am able to affirm, is not nearly as blue as seemed for a short space of time the interior of my mouth. There were many visions of which I could not trace the origin. There were spirals and arabesques and flowers, and sometimes objects more trivial and prosaic in character. In one vision I saw a row of small white flowers, one against the other like pearls of a necklace, begin to revolve in the form of a spiral. Every flower, I observed, had the texture of porcelain. It was at a moment when I had the sensation of my cheeks growing hot and feverish that I experienced the strangest of all the colour visions. It began with feeling that the skin of my face was becoming quite thin and of no stouter consistency than tissue paper, and the feeling was suddenly enhanced by a vision of my face, paper-like and semitransparent and somewhat reddish in colour. To my amazement I saw myself as though I were inside a Chinese lantern, looking out through my cheek into the room.

This artist particularly noted the curious dualism; the split of personality, so often observed by those who enter the strange world to which peyotl is the key. On returning to the normal state he experienced that sense of unreality that sometimes assails the spectator of a particularly fascinating play who emerges suddenly into the grey light of the everyday world.

As one pours out with the crowd into the street, the ordinary world, by force of contrast with the sensational scenes just witnessed, breaks in upon one with almost a sense of unreality. The house, the aspect of the street, even the light of day appears a little foreign for a few moments. During these moments everything strikes the mind as odd and unfamiliar, or at least with a greater degree of objectivity. Such was my feeling with regard to my old and habitual self . . .. It was as if I had unexpectedly attained an objective knowledge of my own personality. I saw, as it were, my normal state of being with the eyes of a person who sees the street on coming out of the theatre in broad day.
This sensation also brought out the independence of the mind during the period of intoxication. It alone appeared to have escaped the ravages of the drug; it alone remained sane during a general delirium, vindicating, so it seemed, the majesty of its own impersonal nature. It had reigned for a while, I now felt, as an autocrat, without ministers and their officiousness. Henceforth I should be more or less conscious of the interdependence of body and brain; a slight headache, a touch of indigestion, or what not, would be able to effect what a general intoxication of my senses and nerves could not touch.

As the year continued Havelock Ellis was tempted to use more of his friends as human guinea pigs to unravel the mysteries of the world of peyotl. One, a poet, with an interest in mystical matters and knowledge of various vision-producing drugs, found the effect of peyotl mainly unpleasant and decided he much preferred hashish. Another poet was particularly impressed by the "sound-colours" which flowed about him as he played the piano. Havelock Ellis himself found that music had a potent effect on his visions. This was particularly true of Schumann's music, especially of his Waldscenen and Kinderscenen.

"The Prophet Bird" called up vividly a sense of atmosphere and of brilliant feathery birdlike forms passing to and fro, "A Flower Piece" provoked constant and persistent images of vegetation, while "Scheherazade" produced an effect of floating white raiment, covered by glittering spangles and jewels. In every case my description was, of course, given before I knew the name of the piece. I do not pretend that this single series of experiments proves much, but it would certainly be worthwhile to follow up this indication and to ascertain if any light is hereby thrown on the power of a composer to suggest definite imagery, or the power of a listener to perceive it.

After Havelock Ellis, the next student of peyotl was the French pharmacologist Alexandre Rouhier, who described the reactions of one of his subjects to a dose of 2 grams of peyotl extract. The subject, who took the drug at 8 pm. experienced visions which began an hour and forty minutes later and which "continued to unfold without interruption for the next twenty-three hours, nor did the pleasure with which L. contemplated the unfolding of these colourful scenes decrease during this time." The visions were complex and varied. Only a few examples will be given here.

In an ornate ring of diamonds, the large central stone emits great quantities of green, violet, or rose-colored fire that inundates the whole scene with a strange glow, complex in colour, the product of the fusion of the multiple fires. One of the diamonds opens revealing within it a little angel that leaps from the ring, picks it up and carries it with an effort. A woman appears, "beautiful as a goddess." Her features are noble, her nose aquiline, and her colour yellowish bronze; her curly auburn hair floats unrestrained. She plays with the little angel. A group of women appears, of which some are clad in pink and some in blue robes. In the midst of them is a dancer who makes rhythmic movements. Soon all of them are dancing, sometimes in couples, sometimes in varicoloured groups. The little angel dances on her hands, her legs in the air. She goes and fetches a placard on which is written, "I am love." She flies up onto a cloud.
The dancers are going. The goddess remains alone; her features bear the marks of infinite sorrow; she weeps, and then throws herself onto the ground, sobbing, "as if she would die." She grows dim and disappears.
Visions of a virgin forest; luxuriant tropical vegetation; trees with trunks draped with giant creepers, the soil covered with tall dense grass. Hanging from a branch there appears a monkey holding a coconut. Below there appears a large beast; strange and ferocious of aspect, its mouth agape, displaying terrible white teeth. Above appears another monkey and plays with the first.
A glade illuminated by the light of the sun, which sifts through the thick foliage. Beautiful tone contrasts are seen in the shadows. In the middle is a pond covered with water lilies whose leaves are filled with toads. Frightened, they all jump briskly into the water. A vermilion coloured man approaches carrying a bow and a quiver. His hair is ornamented with feathers. A fine graceful antelope emerges from the undergrowth and comes to drink at the pond "with infinite delicacy." The Indian kills and dismembers it and departs, carrying its head. L., overwhelmed by the intensity of the visions, cries with indignation. "What a brute! He cannot understand the beauty of nature! How graceful the animal is even in death."


Alexandre Rouhier, who worked with what he called "Panpeyotl" extracts, i.e. preserving the diversity of alkaloids found in the cactus, mentioned a rise or no effect on blood pressure with a slowing of cardiac rhythm.

For mescaline, which is only one among dozens of alkaloids in the whole plant, Edward Anderson summarized as follow: "Slight increase in blood pressure and pulse rate".

 

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.




 

 

Plea to conserve home of the peyote cactus

from the UN Environment Programme

25 March 2006 - New Scientist