I was always fascinated by hallucinogenic plants and shamanic practices. Terrence’s book “Food of The Gods” contains some of the most fascinating ideas on this topic.
I highly recommend you complement it with “Plants of the Gods” co-authored by Albert Hoffman, who changed the world by discovering LSD.
Both books offer tremendous amounts of useful knowledge about plants and their uses in traditional cultures.
Best ideas and quotes from Terrence’s Food of the Gods
1. Whole empires were built on sugar, tobacco, and alcohol
As I walked down the streets of imperial Madrid, I realized that the wealth that surrounded me was not only built with gold stolen from the Spanish West Indies. It was also supported by slavery and the widespread drug trade. Most people don’t see sugar, tobacco, and alcohol as drugs, but they should. These are just culturally sanctioned drugs that are causing death all over the world.
Interesting Fact: Consumption of drugs by smoking them was introduced only after the discovery of tobacco.
Governments are still involved in the drug trade (cocaine, heroin), yet, they place hallucinogenic plants in category no. 1, marked as the most dangerous ones.
“Alcohol is used by millions of people, both men and women, and I will make no friends by taking the position that alcohol culture is not politically correct. Yet how can we explain the legal toleration for alcohol, the most destructive of all intoxicants, and the almost frenzied efforts to repress nearly all other drugs?” – Terrence McKenna
2. The perils of the dominator culture
The dominator culture is based on male dominance, religious orthodoxy, hypocrisy, and ego. One of the main goals of the dominator model is the subjugation of women and the never-ending chase after power and land.
Monotheistic religions have always been guilty of that. Treating women like possessions, using force to dominate them, and the fear of sexual acts tainted our civilization for at least two thousand years. And it still persists.
This tendency is countered with what McKenna named “the archaic revival” – or coming back to the primordial state of connection to nature. Just like the Renaissance polymaths came back to ancient Rome and Greece, we are now reaching even further.
3. As humans, we are always addicted to something
Just like many other animals (including the infamous drunken monkeys), we naturally like to indulge in altered states of consciousness. Since times immemorial we had a relationship with neuroactive plants. These might have been Amanita Muscaria or Psylocibe Cubensis mushrooms, the Syrian Rue, Blue Water Lilies, San Pedro Cactus, Bhang, and dozens of others.
Then it all faded because of Christian dogma and the raise of the dominator society model which hates anything which dissolves boundaries. The hallucinogens have been replaced by substances that fit this authoritarian, hierarchical culture – tobacco, alcohol, sugar, coffee, tea, and red meat.
Choose your addictions wisely. You don’t have to addict to drugs, but you will surely be addicted to something.
Interesting Fact: There is a multitude of hallucinogens available to humans, but the most effective and easiest ones to metabolize are cannabis, mushrooms, ayahuasca, LSD, and DMT.
4. The longing for The Lost Paradise
The subtitle of McKenna’s book is “The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge”. In each human and in what Jung described as “the collective unconscious” there is an urge for the search of the Garden of Eden – or The Lost Paradise. According to Christianity, we were expelled from paradise for munching on the forbidden apple. Yahweh did it because of jealousy (of course):
“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” – Genesis 3:22
McKenna’s thesis is that now, through contact with the Food of the Gods, we can regain access to this previously forbidden realm.
Interesting Fact: In the Hindu Vedas there is the ancient drug Soma which let you enter the realm of the gods and achieve immortality. It’s interesting to note that in Sufi Islam, there is the mystical ceremony of Sema which can be roughly translated as “listening”. It was first developed by Rumi and helped practitioners to get closer to God.
5. Gaia – The Mother Goddess
You don’t notice it on the surface but Earth seems to be operating almost like a single organism. It’s a rich ecosystem containing millions of interdependent species. But since the industrial revolution, we treat our planet with disregard – as something to be exploited without any concern for future generations. If we don’t do something soon, we will be punished for our arrogance.
In the times of yore, we had the “partnership model” where humanity lived in harmony with nature and plants. Of course, civilizations were tiny and didn’t have a global impact, but they got one thing right – planet Earth is a friend that needs our respect and attention.
Interesting Fact: For hundreds of years, THC was consumed through eating, not smoking and in that way, it can cause true hallucinations.
6. Relationship between art and the psychedelics
McKenna was trained as an art historian and he speculated that the architectural motifs of Isfahan and Mughal India may have been inspired by the visions caused by hashish.
We have a similar situation in the art of Tibet, aboriginal Australia, and many other places around the world.
Now we have modern art famously inspired by magic mushrooms or Ayahuasca – Alex Grey and Pablo Amaringo are great exemplars of this school.
7. The war on drugs is a futile endeavor
The war on drugs was lost even before it started and it’s the pinnacle of the hypocrisy of western civilization. There are many case studies (Portugal and Switzerland being the most famous) where the legalization of drugs such as heroin minimizes the addiction within the population.
“We can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long. Let us declare Nature to be legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.”
8. Culture is not your friend
The Internet and social media are means of extending the mind control held by television. You can search whatever you want, but the majority of people still swipe their screens, look at stupid pictures, watch stupid videos, and are de facto a product sold to major corporations. Please read “The Attention Merchants” on this topic – it will change how you approach media.
We have to wake up and wake up fast. We need to become producers, not consumers. As Terrence said: “Create your own roadshow!”
“Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coercion, brainwashing, and manipulation.”
There’s a lot of controversy about McKenna’s views, but this short talk really sums up his desire to help save the planet:
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