No mind-altering substance has been described from such a variety of perspectives as mescaline.
Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception (1954) made mescaline world famous. But it had already had many lives, from the ancient cultures of the Americas to the radical fringes of western science, art and spirituality. In this talk, Mike Jay offers a global history of the first psychedelic, following it from its natural sources, the San Pedro and peyote cacti of Andean South America and Mexico, to the adoption of peyote by the Plains tribes in late 19th century America, where it came to the attention of pioneering Western doctors and ethnologists.
During the 20th century it was synthesized in the laboratory and investigated by psychologists, artists and philosophers - among them W.B. Yeats, Arthur Symons, Aleister Crowley, Jean-Paul Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Antonin Artaud, Katherine Mansfield, Arthur Lee, Jimi Hendrix and Hunter S. Thompson, before being adopted by psychiatrists searching for the cause of schizophrenia and launching the psychedelic counterculture. Whether viewed as a medicine, a brainwashing tool, penicillin for the soul, an instrument of spiritual dismemberment, or a gateway to the sacred, mescaline's bewildering spectrum of effects has made it persistently fascinating, tantalising and frustrating.
MIKE JAY is an author and curator who has written widely on the history and science and medicine, particularly the mind sciences and the history of psychoactive drugs. His previous books include High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture, which accompanied the exhibition he curated at London's Wellcome Collection. He writes regularly for Wall Street Journal and the London Review of Books. More at mikejay.net
Copies of Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic will be available for purchase and signing.