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    The Second Psychedelic Revolution 
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    Aug 2016
    Frostbite Falls, MN

    The Second Psychedelic Revolution

    by James Oroc

    The End of Acid

    In 2000, a DEA sting dubbed Operation White Rabbit arrested William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson while they were moving an alleged LSD production laboratory from a renovated Atlas-E missile-silo in Wamego Kansas to an undisclosed location. Many questions remain regarding the case and the involvement of the DEA's informant Todd Skinner, and the DEA now claims that no LSD was ever produced at this silo. Both statistical analysis and anecdotal street-evidence agree with the DEA's claim that this one bust resulted in a 95% drop in the worlds LSD supply at that time, making it seem possible that there might actually be An End to Acid.

    A year later almost to the day (Nov 10th, 2001) LSDs original Merry Prankster, Ken Kesey, died. With Timothy Leary's ashes already orbiting in outer space and the Grateful Dead disbanded for more than six years following Jerry Garcias death, one could have been tempted to believe that the Psychedelic Revolution that had begun somewhere in the mid-1960s, with the widespread societal introduction of LSD, had finally come to an end. The world had been changed in many ways thanks to the rediscovery of psychedelics. But like most revolutions, its dreams were never fully met, and its heroes were passing into legend.

    Ironically, as disrupted and antiquated as The Psychedelic Movement may have appeared to be at that moment, the seeds of the Second Psychedelic Revolution were already planted more than a decade earlier. These seeds bloomed in the desert of that LSD drought.

    This was a profound example of how ineffective prohibition can be at extinguishing interest in a potent substance. The possibility of a world without acid inspired a younger generation to seek out a plethora of alternative psychedelics, some old, some new. In the process, they rediscovered and reclaimed the original entheogenic experience, the mystical taste of the Other, the FLASH outside of space and time, that LSD had provided for the 1960s pioneers.

    Now, little more than a decade later, we can witness psychedelic research slowly but surely re-entering the universities and research labs, thanks to: the vision and persistence of Rick Doblin and MAPS; the global spread of the Burning Man meme; the rapid growth of the entwined Visionary Art movement and the transformational Art-and-Music festival culture; Electronic Dance Music, which is the first popular musical form to venerate and popularize psychedelics since the 1960s; the birth of hundreds if not thousands of websites (Erowid, DMT-Nexus, etc.) that either promote psychedelics or are directly influenced by them; the dizzying number of new books on psychedelics on the shelves (or at least on Amazon); and the greatest array of psychedelics and entheogens, both natural and man-made, that has ever been available to any society in history. It can be said that the psychedelic/entheogenic revolution in Western culture is alive and well. In fact, it is now entering a renaissance.

    So how did this Second Psychedelic Revolution come about? What are its goals and its ideals? Are they different from the First Psychedelic Revolution of the 1960s, or is this just fashion reinventing itself?

    As someone who accidentally had his own personal Second Psychedelic Revolution in 2003 after smoking the rare entheogen 5-MeO-DMT purchased legally off the Internet, and as the author of a widely-reviewed book on psychedelics, and as one of the founders of FractalNation, a Burning Man camp known for its music-performance-visionary art gallery and speaker series (which has arguably been the high-point of psychedelic culture on the planet for the past three years, more on that later), I believe that I am in as good a position as anyone to examine and help define this shift in our societal attitudes toward the potential of psychedelics, as well as our Movements hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations.

    By doing so, I hope to bring greater awareness of the opportunity now presented to us, along with the warning that even as its popularity rises, this Second Psychedelic Revolution is already under threat. I also want to promote the possibility that psychedelics, which once seemed like a formula for instant societal change in the 1960s, may turn out to be a life raft for whatever society manages to emerge from the chaos that population growth and environmental change will undoubtedly wreak on the second half of this 21st century.

    The birth of this Second Psychedelic movement began a decade before the Kansas Silo bust with the publication of four very different books in the early 1990s: Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey (1990); PiHKAL; A Chemical Love Story, by Sasha and Ann Shulgin (1991); and Terence McKenna's The Archaic Revival and Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution (1992). These books would provide the philosophical foundation for this new psychedelic movement. This movement has largely been created by the popularization of a new form of non-stop electronic music that had been percolating around the full-moon parties in Goa, India. By the early 90s, this music began to spread out to clubs and remote, often desert locations around the world. Also formative was the popularization of the Internet, which for the first time allowed the widespread dissemination of psychedelic culture without fear of censorship or repercussion.

    The five cultural developments that distinguish the Second Psychedelic Revolution from the 1960s LSD and rock music revolution are:

    1. The introduction of a wide number of new psychedelic compounds and analogues, and especially phenethylamines from the 2-C family such as 2-CB, 2C-I, and 2C-E.

    2. The rediscovery of sacred natural plant entheogens, especially ayahuasca, and the publication of simple methods of extracting DMT from plant sources.

    3. The birth of Visionary Art (which is often a deliberately sacred form of psychedelic art), and its two-decade integration into contemporary festival culture (most notably at Burning Man in the USA and BOOM! in Portugal).

    4. The emergence of psychedelic trance music that integrated sacred chanting from various cultures with non-stop, repetitive Acid House beats. (May all my Trance DJ friends please excuse this gross simplification.)

    5. The popularization of the Internet, which allowed for the rapid and widespread dissemination of psychedelic culture.

    Anyone who has experienced the worldwide growth of transformational festival culture over the past decade, or stumbled into the Do Labs section of Coachella (one of the last great rock festivals), attended one of the academic MAPS conferences in California, or the World Psychedelic Forums in Basel, Switzerland, or even just surfed the Internet and discovered psychedelic information sites such as Erowid and DMT-Nexus, will easily recognize the influence and prevalence of some, if not all, of these new developments in psychedelic culture. However, during the waning days of the 20th century, and at the end of the First Psychedelic Era if you like, none of these factors were yet popular or commonly known. And while it is somewhat irrelevant to rank the importance of the very different contributions of the three main architects of this new psychedelic age, Alex Grey, Terence McKenna, and Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, I think that most historians and educated observers would agree that Sasha's contribution, the publication of PiHKAL and later TiHKAL, was undeniably both the bravest and the most essential first act.


    Alexander Shulgin, The Psychedelic Godfather

    If there is ever a Psychedelic Hall of Fame, the section on chemists will be small, since there have only really been two giants in this field, Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized LSD-25 and psilocybin (and later isolated that compound from the magic mushroom specimens provided by R. Gordon Wasson), and Sasha Shulgin, who seems to have invented nearly everything else. (So great are the shadows of these two men that twin statues of them facing each other should be the Halls entranceway arch.) However when the remarkable volume PiHKAL; A Chemical Love Story, first appeared in 1991, few people outside of the psychedelic community in California knew about Sasha and the quiet existence that he and his wife Ann (the co-author of both PiHKAL and TiHKAL) lived; and those that knew of him knew mostly the fact that he was the popularizer of the empathogen MDMA.

    MDMA had first been synthesized in 1912; it was later used by in the CIAs Project MK-ULTRA studies in 1953-54; these reports were declassified in 1973; Shulgin then synthesized the compound and tried it himself in 1976 for the first time after hearing accounts of its effects from his students at the University of California, Berkeley. Shulgin liked to call MDMA his low-calorie martini, and introduced it to numerous friends and colleagues, including the noted psychotherapist Leo Zeff, who was so impressed with the compound that he came out of retirement to train psychotherapists in its use.

    MDMA grew in popularity in the early 1980s amongst psychologists and therapists until it was made illegal in 1985 due to it rising popularity as a recreational drug, most commonly known by its street name Ecstasy. By the late 1980s MDMA use had become prevalent in Englands rapidly blossoming electronic music or Acid House scene, with the smiley face logo becoming identified with both the drug and the new youth culture. Despite being made illegal more than twenty years earlier, the UN estimated between 10 and 25 million people took MDMA in 2008.

    An entire article could be written about the similarities and differences between empathogens, and psychedelics, and while this is an important conversation for our community, it is also territory I do not intend to cover in this article. What is important for the purposes of this article however is that empathogens like MDMA and perhaps the oldest known psychedelic/entheogen, mescaline, are phenethylamines, which is to say they are variations around the same basic phenethylamine-ring shape. Thanks to this simple fact, when the Shulgins wrote PiHKAL and released it to the world in 1991, Sasha provided not only the greatest known resource on MDMA and its older cousin MDA (the original 60s love drug), but he also revealed a catalogue of over 200 previously unknown psychedelic and empathogenic compounds that he had discovered, including the entire 2-C family, which included the psychedelics 2C-B and 2C-I, and the empathogens 2C-E and 2C-T-7 amongst others.

    Sasha was a giant of a man, both physically and intellectually, reputedly with an IQ that matches Einstein's. Early in his career he developed the first biodegradable pesticide for DOW Chemicals, a patent that made his employers millions and garnered him a certain degree of independence, allowing him to relocate his laboratory to his home near Lafayette, California in 1965.

    From this remarkable home-lab that looked more like a garden shed, Shulgin would discover, synthesize, and bio-essay over 260 psychoactive compounds during the following 35 years, often publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature and The Journal of Organic Chemistry.

    While clearly a libertarian in his views, Shulgin somewhat paradoxically developed a professional relationship with the DEA, who granted him a special license to synthesize Schedule 1 compounds and used him as a consultant and legal expert on certain cases, and in 1988, Shulgin published the then-definitive volume on illegal drugs for Law Enforcement for which he received numerous awards.

    Then in 1991, in an effort to ensure that Sasha's discoveries wouldn't be lost or oppressed due to contemporary society's prohibition of psychedelics, the Shulgins released their book PIHKAL. It is both the story of Sasha and Anns love affair, and a detailed manual of how to synthesize nearly 200 psychedelic compounds that reflects Sashas stated belief that psychedelic drugs can be valuable tools for self-exploration.

    In the history of literature, there are few braver acts than the publishing of PiHKAL by the Shulgins, and ironically this could probably only have happened in the United States, the country that has effectively made psychedelics illegal world-wide, thanks to the protection of the First Amendment. (The mere possession of PiHKAL in many other countries is a crime.) When copies of PiHKAL started turning up in busted underground labs all over the world, the DEA were outraged to discover that one of their own contractors (and occasional-court expert) had published what they considered to be an illegal drug-cook book (complete with Shulgin's own rating scale). In response, in 1994 the DEA raided the Shulgin's home and lab, fining him $25,000 for the possession of anonymous samples that they (the DEA) had actually sent him, and revoking his Schedule 1 license. The Shulgins responded by publishing TiHKAL; The Continuation, in 1997, Sasha's seminal work on the tryptamine family that includes LSD, DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT.

    Raiding Shulgin's lab after the publication of PiHKAL was something of a case of trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted, and by the mid 1990s a number of previously rare or unknown and most importantly unscheduled compounds began to become available on the street, and, in a new development for psychedelic culture, online via research chemical companies websites. By the time of the LSD drought of the first few years of the 21st century (and during a period of considerable media attention about the low purity of ecstasy pills), many of these compounds and especially the 2C family were well-established as the psychedelics of choice for a new generation who had never had the opportunity to try synthetic mescaline, psilocybin, or DMT, and now even LSD.

    While the Federal Analogue Act had been passed in 1986 as a response to these so called designer drugs, the sheer number of different compounds and ambiguities in the Act made it difficult to contain these new compounds, just as federal and state authorities were struggling to deal with the new international factor of the Internet.

    In July of 2004, a DEA operation called Web Tryp arrested 10 people in the United States associated with 5 different research chemical companies, effectively closing all remaining companies or driving them further underground. In an interesting act of synchronicity, at around the same time, the web-info site published (with his permission) all of the Shulgin formulas contained in PiHKAL and TiHKAL, an act that effectively allows anyone around the world access to them, and virtually ensures that they will never be lost or repressed.

    When attempting to assess Shulgin's legacy and importance to psychedelic and underground culture, it is impossible to calculate the importance of the popularization of MDMA (Ecstasy) to the global rise of Electronic Dance Music, other than to note that the drug and electronic dance culture were synonymous with each other in England for at least a decade, and while the music was originally often called Acid House, it was the Smiley Face logo of Ecstasy that defined it, just as LSD had defined the rock music of the late sixties.

    Nor can the fact be ignored that after the LSD Silo bust of 2000 and during the half-decade LSD drought that followed it, thanks to Sasha's staunch libertarian views and the brave publication of PiHKAL a decade earlier, 2C-B became the preferred (and available) psychedelic of choice, while a number of other Shulgin creations such as 2C-E, 2C-I, and 2C-T-7 (to name just a few) became prominent, breaking open the Pandoras Box of psychedelic analogues and guaranteeing that the Second Psychedelic Revolution would not be dependent upon the same 4 compounds that started the first, mescaline, psilocybin, LSD, and DMT, as defined by Leary, Metzner, and Alpert in The Psychedelic Experience, but via a veritable alphabet soup of new compounds, all based around the structure of these original classics (as I like to call them).

    For these two considerations alone, Sasha's importance to modern psychedelic culture would seem obvious and without equal. But incredibly, there may be even more than is commonly known, a coda if you like that would mean that Psychedelic Culture owes Alexander Shulgin a debt even greater than we had ever imagined. The full story goes something like this:

    At a testimonial dinner for the Shulgins in 2010 at the MAPS conference in San Jose, CA, the underground chemist Nick Sand (who had only recently been released from jail), and who (along with Tim Scully, who was Owsley's chemist) is often credited with the invention of Orange Sunshine LSD, revealed that in 1966, after LSD had been made illegal in California thanks to the newly elected Governor Ronald Reagan, the precursors required for creating LSD under the methods of the day dried up, and for a short time LSD actually disappeared and much like would happen some twenty four years later in 2000, it appeared as if there could be an End to Acid.

    According to the historical record, Sand and Scully then started manufacturing DOM (street name STP), an extraordinarily powerful psychedelic phenethylamine invented by Shulgin in 1964. Five thousand doses of this new compound were given away at the first Human Be-In in San Francisco (Jan 14th, 1967) in an effort to promote the new drug as a replacement to LSD, but unfortunately they (Sand and Scully) had apparently developed a tolerance to DOM, and reputedly made the dosages too high. This combined with the fact that the onset of DOM was much slower than LSD, with many people reportedly making the mistake of taking a second hit after an hour or so with little effect, caused numerous users to overdose and sent scores of tripping hippies to the city's emergency rooms. The press then further demonized LSD by reporting that this was the compound responsible.

    Perhaps due to the aftermath of the Human Be-In debacle, Nick Sand and Tim Scully were then given a formula for a new method of manufacturing LSD that got around the constraints of the old method; they were told that it was from a friend, an ally who believed in what they were doing, but couldn't be revealed at that time. At the MAPS testimonial dinner for the Shulgins in 2010, in a startling revelation whose importance somewhat slipped by most of the gathered audience and as far as I know has never been reported, Nick Sand identified that mysterious friend as Sasha.

    Assuming this is true, and obviously Nick Sand would have no reason to make up a story like that, this means that along with popularizing MDMA, and inventing literally hundreds of psychedelic and empathogenic compounds that have surfaced with increasing regularity in the 21st century, Alexander Shulgin was also the inventor of Orange Sunshine LSD, which was by far the most commonly manufactured LSD from the late 1960's onward (Orange Sunshine is estimated to have been over 75% of the worlds LSD). Or to put it another way, while Albert Hofmann invented LSD, it can now be said that it was thanks to Sasha (and the bravery of Nick Sand, Tim Scully, and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love) that it was available from 1967 on!

    From what I can remember, Sasha just sat there with an obvious twinkle in his eye and a wicked grin throughout Nick Sands testimonial as if to say, What can they do to me now!? But that's classic Sasha Shulgin for you, looking out over an adoring audience on what was hopefully one of the happiest nights of his incredible life, with the same singular mix of humor and intellect that made him our one and only Psychedelic Godfather, and the most irreplaceable architect of contemporary psychedelic culture.

    James Oroc and Alexander Shulgin


    Terence McKenna, The Rise of the Plant Shaman

    Metaphorically, DMT is like an intellectual black hole in that once one knows about it, it is very hard for others to understand what one is talking about. One cannot be heard. The more one is able to articulate what it is, the less others are able to understand. This is why I think people who attain enlightenment, if we may for a moment co-map these two, are silent. They are silent because we cannot understand them. Why the phenomenon of tryptamine ecstasy has not been looked at by scientists, thrill seekers, or anyone else, I am not sure, but I recommend it to your attention. ~ Terence McKenna

    The publication of PIHKAL and TIHKAL by Alexander and Ann Shulgin resulted in a plethora of new psychedelics that are now commonly available largely thanks to the scarcity of Acid after the Y2K Kansas missile-silo LSD bust. However, unlike the First Psychedelic Revolution, which was sparked primarily by the artificial psychedelic LSD and to a lesser extent laboratory synthesized mescaline, psilocybin, and DMT, (as listed in the introduction of The Psychedelic Experience: A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Leary, Metzner, and Alpert in 1964), the Second Psychedelic Revolution cannot be defined purely by synthetic drugs alone. For although the LSD drought resulted in the popularizing of 2-CB, 2-C-T-7, 5-MeO-DIPT, and other previously unknown laboratory-discovered psychedelic compounds, it also accelerated an ongoing rekindling of interest in naturally occurring plant entheogens and the popularization of the previously little known concept of plant shamanism and the idea that these plants were not so much psychedelic drugs, as they were spiritual medicines.

    The Shulgin's first volume, PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story, focused on Sasha's work with the phenethylamine family of compounds, and while these include many true psychedelics such as mescaline and the numerous 2C-x compounds, it was his work with the popular empathogens MDMA and MDA that bought Sasha's work to the attention of the burgeoning rave culture of the early 1990s. The Shulgin's second volume TIHKAL: The Continuation, however, dealt with Sasha's work with tryptamines, the class of compounds that includes important neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, powerful natural and synthetic psychedelic/entheogens including psilocybin (5-OH-DMT), LSD, and ibogaine, and the only endogenous psychedelics, dimethyltrpyamine (DMT) and 5-methoxy-DMT.

    Long regarded as the Holy Grail of psychedelics, DMT was comparatively rare on the illicit drug market even in the 1960's, its scarcity adding to its fearsome reputation. Grace Slick, the singer for the Jefferson Airplane, once famously said that while Acid was like being sucked up a straw, DMT was like being shot out of a canon, and it had effectively disappeared from general psychedelic culture long before TIHKAL was released. However, it was not the publication of TIHKAL, but a pair of books in 1992, (a year after PIHKAL) by a little-known author with no training in either organic chemistry or cultural anthropology that would ultimately be most responsible for popularizing DMT in contemporary psychedelic culture. But unlike the DMT use of the 1960s, which utilized DMT either by IM injection or in its smokable salt form, this authors primary interest in DMT was as the active ingredient in an obscure Amazonian shamans brew that was at that time still primarily known by its Spanish name yage, rather than it is now, by the phonetic approximation of one of its many indigenous names, ayahuasca.

    When both The Archaic Revival (a collection of Terence McKenna's essays and speeches) and The Food of the Gods (his magnum opus on psychedelic plants that includes his Stoned Ape theory) were published in 1991, it had been nearly two decades since Terence and his younger brother Dennis McKenna had written The Invisible Landscape (1975), a strange alchemical volume describing their 1971 expedition to the Amazon in search of oo-ko-he, a shamanic snuff that contained DMT. (Terence was seeking a natural source to the synthetic DMT experience that as both a linguist and psychonaut he had become utterly enthralled with). This first McKenna book was originally not long in print and became something of a collectors item for psychedelic bibliophiles, due to both the extraordinary tale of the expedition and the numerous radical ideas contained within its pages. (These ideas included an early compilation of speculations about time and casuality, which Terence developed into his Novelty Theory, as well as his prediction of the arrival of the eschaton: a singularity at the end of time, which he eventually predicted would occur in December of 2012.) While this now-legendary expedition was unsuccessful in finding the DMT-snuff that they were searching for, the McKenna brothers did find a species of very psychedelic psilocybin cubenis mushrooms, and in a now-lesser recognized part of the McKenna story, brought the spores of these mushrooms back to the United States and spent the next few years developing effective methods of indoor cultivation, the results of which they published in 1976 in the popular Psilocybin: A Magic Mushroom Growers Guide.

    For this act alone, the introduction of readily available plant-entheogens that anyone could cultivate and the first book on how to do so, the McKenna brothers would deserve a mention in this essay, but this would only be the beginning of extraordinary careers in the psychedelic arena for both men. Dennis McKenna returned to University, and has become a widely respected ethnopharmacologist. While over the last decade of his life, and now through the first decade of the 21st century, the philosopher, memetic engineer, and entertainer, Terence Kemp McKenna (1946-2000) has become the most popular and recognized spokesperson for psychedelics since Timothy Leary. It is Terence who is most responsible for evolving contemporary psychedelic culture into its current state, thanks to his writings and lectures, many of the latter now having been transmogrified into a seemingly infinite number of internet podcasts since his death, a brand new medium that he had embraced enthusiastically in life as a new mode of communication and artistic expression, and that has now has fittingly immortalized him.

    The publication of The Archaic Revival and Food of the Gods in fact coincided synchronistically with the nascent years of both the Internet and electronic music; and while Timothy Leary was truly an early pioneer of the Web, it was Terence McKenna that the global rave culture of the 1990s emphatically embraced. In the last years of his life Terence was often the most popular speaker and draw at the various conferences he attended, as well as a main attraction at the raves themselves, the self-declared Mouthpiece for the Mushroom, Terence had the rare ability that could make a packed dance floor sit down between DJs to listen as he waxed eloquently about the wild beauty of psychedelics, often for hours on end. His extraordinary capacity for the spoken word and the discovery of an often-captivated audience once again coincided with the Internet revolution, and many in Terence's audience were technologically advanced for the time (there is a long-going relationship between the psychedelic and silicon communities) resulting in an incredible number of recordings and pod-casts, often set to electronic music.

    Terence's unexpected and untimely death at 53 also happened to coincide with the LSD drought that followed the Kansas-Silo bust of 2000, and the period where many psychonauts were forced to consider new psychedelic options. Magic mushrooms thus increased in importance to psychedelic culture, and interest grew in both ayahuasca, which had first begun to appear on North American shores in the late 1990s, and, DMT, which after being incredibly scarce for decades, had also by the mid-2000s begun to be more widely available. This interest in Terence's central ideas, along with his popularity with both the electronic music and cyber-communities has thus increased McKenna's influence exponentially since he died. A process only amplified by his bold prediction of the arrival of the eschaton on December 21st, 2012, the prediction that most ironically (and unfortunately) he did not live to see.

    Now over a decade since Terence's death, and more than a year after the aftermath of the 2012 hope and hysteria that he helped create, there can be no denying of McKenna's influence on contemporary psychedelic culture, or even on the fringes of popular culture itself. The veneration of magic mushrooms and the reintegration of the Goddess figure; the current interest in DMT in all its various forms; the often-debated supposition that natural plant entheogens are inherently superior to synthetic or artificial compounds, most notably LSD; our concepts about plant spirits, shamanism, and the corresponding rise of ayahuasca tourism; modern festival cultures interest the idea of an archaic revival to reinvigorate spirituality in Western society; the comingling of psychedelics and virtual culture; alien abductions and UFOs; and of course the viral spread of the 2012 meme; these are all now well-known themes that have been either born or popularized due to Terence's own ideas and interests, even though he ironically lived to see very little of the shift that he in many ways created.

    In the decade following his death, the focal points of Terence McKenna's lifes work have become, for better and for worse, something of a blueprint for the rise of a global neo-tribal, techno-shamanic culture, evidenced in Burning Man, the BOOM! Festival, and the now countless other events that represent it. Terence's ideas have now influenced psychedelic fashion, the music we listen to, the psychedelics we take (and the way we take them), the countries we are visit, even the way we use the Internet. His bold prediction of a Singularity at the end of time within our lifetimes (if not his own) provided a modern coda to the ancient Mayan translation, and helped generate worldwide interest in what would have otherwise been an insignificant archeological date. But now that we are on the other side of Terence McKenna's 2012 Omega Point and everything is still standing, it is Terence's championing and popularization of ayahuasca that is most worthy of our attention.

    Check out the rat trap on the rail next to the statue...

    Over the past decade the rise in interest in ayahuasca has been extraordinary; not since the original advent of LSD in the 1960s has there been a psychedelic that has so captured the artistic and spiritual imagination of the time, and ayahuasca use, while still nowhere near the numbers of LSD users in the late 60s, has become common enough that it has started to penetrate the mainstream media. (Marie Claire, a popular women's magazine, is the latest unlikely publication to include a feature article on ayahuasca circles). Previously only known to psychedelic culture through William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg's slim booklet of correspondence The Yage Letters published in 1963, it was Terence McKenna's popularization of this unlikely Amazonian shamans brew through the late 1980s and early 1990s that would subsequently give birth of an international ayahuasca culture. Once the first South American shamans and Santo Daime members started to visit Europe and the US in the late 1990s, ayahuasca use spread rapidly throughout the psychedelic community in the early 21st century, a process that I believe was accelerated by the corresponding LSD drought that followed the Kansas silo bust, as many psychonauts looked for other pathways to the psychedelic experience. (There has also been a renewed interest in San Pedro and Peyote, while smokable forms of DMT have reappeared in the underground market-place for the first time in decades, greatly aided by plant-based extraction recipes that are commonly available on the internet.)

    Prohibition, it would seem, only creates diversification, and one noticeable difference that separates the Second Psychedelic Revolution from the First is the incredibly wide variety of psychedelics and empathogens, both natural and synthetic, that are now widely available.

    Ayahuasca culture itself has, in several ways, begun to develop outside of the traditional psychedelic community; many in the yoga community for example, have openly embraced ayahuasca, with independent yoga centers around the world hosting South American shamans and their ceremonies that attract many spiritual seekers with little or no connection to the psychedelic community, since they do not view ayahuasca as a psychedelic drug, but as a sacramental medicine.

    While ayahuasca contains DMT, a Schedule 1 drug just the same as LSD, ayahuasca use itself has (so far) not been prosecuted in the United States. Favorable federal court rulings in favor of the Brazilian synchretic Christian churchs Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) and Santo Daime (who use hoasca, the Brazilian form of ayahuasca, in their ceremonies) in the early 2000s has been interpreted as a loophole in the law for many, and has undoubtedly been a factor in ayahuasca's rapid and wide spread rise in popularity. As more and more celebrities willingly endorse their life-changing experiences on the Amazonian brew, and more and more psychiatrists and psychologists speculate on the therapeutic value of the experience, the rhetoric around ayahuasca increasing resembles the tremendous excitement that LSD inspired before it was made illegal in 1966.

    It is virtually impossible to quantify the psychedelic experience; ayahuasca has gained a special reputation due to the intense colorful visions that it can induce, while the LSD pinnacle is generally represented as dissolution into the mystics white-light. When compared from a strictly phenomenological perspective, both have reputations for being able to induce heaven or hell, and both experiences are long and physically taxing. Both have been described as true entheogens, capable of inducing life changing spiritual conversions; both have been successfully used to break addictions; and both have originated as medicines. (LSD was originally a legal medicine.) Many of the extraordinary properties attributed to one, telepathy, an increase in everyday synchronicity, artistic flowering, deeper connections with nature, mystical and transpersonal experiences, have also been attributed to the other, as has the special-ness of the communities that form around them. So where is the difference between these two Psychedelic Revolutions, or have we merely traded high dosages of a potent entheogen once manufactured in a Swiss laboratory for a natural equivalent haphazardly harvested from the Amazonian rain forest?

    The difference, I would argue, lies not so much in the phenomenology of the internal psychedelic experience, but in the external container; the experience of the shaman and their icaros, and the ritual provided in the ceremonies themselves. When LSD use really exploded in the 1960s after it became illegal, what the First Psychedelic Revolution ultimately lacked was a safe container for the experience itself. Too many young people slipped through the cracks of the Prankster model, and in the aftermath, psychedelics themselves became illegal. What we learned from the First Psychedelic Revolution is that in the West we lack the Mystery Schools needed to successfully and beneficially integrate the use of psychedelics into our society. Thus, much of the evolution of contemporary psychedelic culture has been a process of investigating and integrating ancient wisdom and techniques with the hard-won underground anecdotal psychedelic experience that the last fifty years have generated.

    First looking for knowledge and direction in altered states of consciousness from the Gurus and Rinpoches of India, then the shamans of the Amazon Basin, and now from a wide-variety of traditional shamanism from numerous cultures, modern psychedelic culture has adapted to the entheogens on hand, and moved willingly back-and-forth between the laboratory and the ancient plant knowledge in search of the undiluted entheogenic experience. Terence McKenna's enthusiastic advocation of the shaman as a spiritual psychedelic guide (as opposed to the homeopathic healer that could be argued to be closer to the truth) has resulted in thousands of Americans and Europeans journeying to Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil in search of that guidance, and a wave of South American shamans having journeyed to foreign shores, a psychedelic innovation which has inevitably spawned a horde of local imitators, and unfortunately made shaman one of the most abused words in the modern vernacular. Sung ayahuasca icaros (guide-songs) can now be found melded into electronic music, the woven icaros found transmuted into festival clothing, and the habit of attending ayahuasca circles has begun to approach a cult status in places as diverse as Asheville, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Portland, and Santa Fe.

    During this same period, academics studying Western history and anthropology have had to reconcile the fact that many of the worlds major civilizations and religions, including the Greeks, Hindus, and Buddhists, utilized psychedelic plants. This is an idea that has been extremely unpopular, but is now increasingly obvious to the generations of psychedelically savvy anthropologists and mythologists born since the 1960s, many of whom can be assumed to be familiar with Terence McKenna's work. It is now increasingly realized and accepted that the Amazonian ayahuasca (and DMT-snuff) culture can in fact be considered the last remaining sacramental entheogen of a great planetary era marked by at least five known distinctly entheogenic cultures, all of which lasted more than two thousand years; the others being the Soma of the Hindu Vedanta (India), the kykeon of the Eleusian Mysteries (Greece), the San Pedro culture which peaked in Chavin de hunatar (Peru), and the astonishingly broad variety of entheogens (cubenis mushrooms, morning-glory seeds, peyote cactus, and toad venom) used by the Mayan-Toltec-Aztec cultures (Mexico). Plant shamanism is now recognized to be the primary shamanic model world-wide, not a vulgar substitute for (the) pure trance of shamanic methods such as drumming and chanting, as Mircea Eliade originally supposed in his classic 1951 text Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy. (Eliade himself changed his mind at the end of his life, pointing out to Peter Furst in an interview not long before his death that prior to the 1960s anthropologists didn't have enough of a psychedelic perspective to recognize the significance in the various local rites, and so the evidence simply wasn't there.

    Terence McKenna was one of the first writers who really grasped the psychedelic history of humanity and ayahuasca's link to our own ancient past. It was largely his writings that have helped bring the beauty, myth, and magic of the Amazonian people and culture a wider audience, and despite his association with the 2012 phenomenon and the unfortunate comingling of the two, his championing of plant entheogens, and reintroducing the shamanic process to the modern Western World will ultimately be remembered as his enduring contribution to psychedelic culture. Even his Stoned Ape Theory, the idea that spoken language evolved as our primate ancestors developed a diet that included psilocybin mushrooms, may still one day be mainstream enough to be given serious consideration. His untimely death at the too young age of 53, both robbed the psychedelic movement of its most charismatic spokesperson, and guaranteed Terence's immortalization thanks to the emerging technology of the Internet which he had enthusiastically embraced, and of which he will one day surely be remembered as one of the early pod-cast stars.
    Last edited by mr peabody; Yesterday at 15:00.
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