“The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization”, by D.C.A. HILLMAN [Ebook + Documentary]

HILLMAN, The Chemical Muse

HILLMAN, The Chemical Muse [DOWNLOAD EBOOK // PDF]

“The last wild frontier of classical studies.” — The Times (UK)

The Chemical Muse uncovers decades of misdirection and obfuscation to reveal the history of widespread drug use in Ancient Rome and Greece. In the city-states that gave birth to Western civilization, drugs were an everyday element of a free society. Often they were not just available, but vitally necessary for use in medicine, religious ceremonies, and war campaigns. Their proponents and users existed in all classes, from the common soldier to the emperor himself. Citing examples in myths, medicine, and literature, D. C. A. Hillman shows how drugs have influenced and inspired the artists, philosophers, and even politicians whose ideas have formed the basis for civilization as we know it. Many of these ancient texts may seem well-known, but Hillman shows how timid, prudish translations have left scholars and readers in the dark about the reality of drug use in the Classical world.  Hillman’s argument is not simply “pro-drug.” Instead, he appeals for an intellectual honesty that acknowledges the use of drugs in ancient societies despite today’s conflicting social mores. In the modern world, where academia and university life are often politically charged, The Chemical Muse offers a unique and long overdue perspective on the contentious topic of drug use and the freedom of thought.

You might also enjoy:

Cannabis in Ancient Greece: Smoke of the Oracles?

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“We are faced with the urgent task of changing the direction of global civilization if we want to avoid biospheric collapse and species burnout.” – by Daniel Pinchbeck

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“As the pioneering psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin (1927-2014) has pointed out, the idea that the Earth moved around the Sun was radical heresy at one time. A century later, it was a commonplace truism. The prospect that the inner exploration of consciousness with psychedelics might be recognized as, in itself, a positive and worthy endeavor is another radical heresy that may be seen as self-evident in the future. Rather than collapsing into anarchy, a civilization that supports the adult individual’s right to utilize these chemical catalysts for self-discovery and spiritual communion might advance to a more mature and stable state. Much of the anxiety and negative conditioning around the subject could be dispelled with logical argument based on evidence for the relative safety of psychedelics, especially natural ones, compared to other drugs. The point is not that everyone needs to take psychedelics but that the minority of people who find themselves compelled to make this exploration could be permitted to do so. (…) In a culture that is awash in prescription chemicals, drugs of abuse, and mood-altering SSRIs, it seems increasingly odd to ban a handful of plant substances and related compounds (even LSD is closely related to a chemical found in ergot fungus) that have been used by human beings for untold thousands of years.”

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“To a large extent, the cultural and social movements of the 1960s developed in reaction to the Cold War, which nearly reached a devastating nuclear climax during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The awareness of humanity’s hair-trigger proximity to self-inflicted annihilation inspired individual acts of courage and brilliance, and mass movements for social and personal liberation. It also led to widespread interest in psychedelic exploration as a fast track to self-knowledge and spiritual illumination. Rather than leading to instant “enlightenment”, the visionary insights, temporary dissolution of ego boundaries, and deconditioning from proscribed social codes often induced by entheogenic explorations helped some people to reevaluate their own role in society at that time.

Today, we are faced with an intractable and unpopular war in Iraq that has already continued longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II, a rise in terrorism, and a global ecological crisis of terrifying magnitude. Just as the 1960s generation had to confront the militaristic insanity of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, our generation has to reckon with the individual and collective mind-set that has brought us to this critical threshold, quickly approaching the point of no return. While it would be the height of silliness to consider psychedelics, in themselves, as the Answer to the massive problems now facing us, they continue to offer some individuals a means for looking at the world from a different vantage point, integrating new levels of insight.”

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“When we cast a cold eye on the current planetary situation, we discover that the industrial culture and excessive lifestyle of the affluent West masks an intensifying scarcity of resources that is unsustainable, even in the short term. According to scientists, 25% of all mammalian species will be extinct within the next 30 years. Our oceans are 90% fished out, with the potential for an irreversible collapse of many fisheries. As accelerating climate change leads to an increase in natural disasters, the polar ice caps are melting at rates that exceed predictions, potentially leading to a significant rise in global sea levels, causing coastal flooding. At current rates of deforestation, there will be no tropical forests left on the planet in 40 years. According to many geologists, we are on the verge of ‘peak oil’ – the highest possible production of oil, after which procution must decline – leading to higher prices and potential scarcity of energy in the next decades… Our efforts to find short-term technological fixes for the problems we create often lead to deeper errors and more dangerous unintended consequences. We are faced with the urgent task of changing the direction of global civilization if we want to avoid biospheric collapse and species burnout.

Without romanticizing native cultures, we can recognize that in many cases their intimate and sacralized relationship to the natural world kept them from overshooting the carrying capacities of their local ecosystems. The modern fixation on abstract, quantifiable, and rational modes of thought has profoundly alienated us from the directly sensorial and mimetic forms of knowing and relating maintained by indigenous cultures, allowing us to treat the natural world as something separate from ourselves. The entheogenic experience can temporarily reconnect the modern individual with lost participatory modes of awareness that may induce a greater sensitivity to his or her physical surroundings, beside raising a psychic periscope into the marginalized realms of mythological archetype and imaginative vision. It is not a question of forfeiting our mdern cognition for fuzzy mysticism, but of reintegrating older and more intimate ways of knowing that can help us find a more balanced relationship with the human and nonhuman world around us.

It may seem unlikely that psychedelics could be rehabilitated, but who knows? Profound shifts in consciousness and culture happen in surprising ways, overturning the smug certitudes of academic experts and media commentators. New forms of awareness develop below everyday consciousness, gestating in hidden reaches of the collective psyche, long before they are allowed to be articulated and manifested as new social realities. What was once scandalous and impossible can become acceptable and obvious to a new generation, and doors that long seemed securely padlocked may swing open at the merest touch. As new paradigms of knowlege emerge, breaking through the crust of old habit and received conditioning, change becomes possible – and sometimes inevitable.”

Daniel Pinchbeck,
Introduction to The Psychedelic Experience, by T. Leary, R. Metzner and R. Alpert,
Penguin Classics, 2007.

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Art by Alex Grey, portraying the chemists Alex and Ann Shulgin. Watch below a documentary about them, “Dirty Pictures – The Creator of MDMA (Ecstasy) ” (90 minutes):

 

Toronto Chronicles: The Easter Sunday of the Potheads

Easter Sunday It was Easter Sunday in Toronto (April 20th, 2014) and thousands of potheads took to the streets, gathering at Yonge and Dundas, for a pro-cannabis demonstration. In the photo above, the misty cloud you see is not a sign of pollution, but the result of more than a thousand joints burning simultaneously (at 4:20, of course!). Canada was the first country in the world to legalize medicinal cannabis (in 2001) and hemp farming is also legal (since 1998). Even tough marijuana is still outlawed, the pressure from the streets is intense and is quite possible that soon Canada will become the second nation – after Uruguay – to legalize it. The disastrous policy known as The War on Drugs, with its racist underpinnings, its obscene rates of mass incarceration, its empowerment of criminal drug cartels and black markets, seems to be more than ever doomed to imminent collapse.  “If Canada legalized marijuana, the annual estimated revenue from taxing marijuana would be somewhere around $2 billion. And that’s not counting savings from enforcement…” [http://bit.ly/1i080ev]

See the whole album with lots of other photos

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Recently,  Toronto’s NOW Magazine published a cover-story about how are matters nowadays in Canada concerning hemp and cannabis. Here are some excerpts from this excellent survey, and also links to the full articles – enjoy!

“Although there are no federally regulated clinical trials involving medical marijuana, and Health Canada and the Canadian Medical Association don’t currently encourage doctors to prescribe the untested drug, CBD and medical marijuana have been used with success to treat epilepsy, autism, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, lupus, fibromyalgia and a host of other disorders including Tourette syndrome. Talk to the mother of an epileptic child and you’ll understand that medical marijuana is a lifesaver.”  [http://bit.ly/1teHZN4]

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“Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the 60 active, naturally occurring ingredients in marijuana that have more medical uses than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high. CBD has demonstrated anti-seizure and pain management properties and seems to have neuro-protective qualities – meaning it reduces the rate of neuron loss over time. A 2012 Israeli study also showed promising outcomes when CBD was used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, liver inflammation, heart disease and diabetes.” [http://bit.ly/1eR3dMZ]

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“Arrest patterns tend to follow racial lines. The 1995 Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System identified a continued pattern of racism in drug enforcement, with blacks 27 times more likely to end up in jail awaiting trial on drug charges than whites.”  [http://bit.ly/1i080ev]

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 “It’s nearly impossible to overdose on weed. You’d have to smoke 800 joints in, like, 15 minutes.” [http://bit.ly/1i080ev]

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“Weed makes you smarter. Cannabinoids in pot increase the rate of nerve cell formation in the hippocampus, the part of brain associated with memory and learning, by a staggering 40 per cent.” [http://bit.ly/1i080ev]

[http://bit.ly/1i080ev]

“Hemp is an annual plant whose foot-long taproot helps stabilize soil and provides a vital ecosystem for microflora and fauna. Colorado’s first commercial hemp farmer, Ryan Loflin, comes from an experienced farm family. He told me hemp uses half the water his wheat crop did. Imagine the implications for drought-ravaged parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa.” [Interview with journalist Doug Fine http://bit.ly/1i6GPdg]

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“Five times more – that’s the amount of climate-cooking CO2 hemp absorbs compared to trees, according to Agriculture Canada.” [http://bit.ly/1i6GPdg]

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May 3rd is the day scheduled for the Global Marijuana March in Toronto. Awestruck Wanderer will be there and will report back with the news, images, videos and stories. Stay tuned!

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You might also enjoy:

 “THE UNION – THE BUSINESS BEHIND GETTING HIGH” [http://youtu.be/0YWaCTjX94U]
One of the greatest docs ever made about Hemp in Canada