Considering the fact that this whole thing is in the prohibition domain, and our region’s laws dealing with religious communities are not flexible enough to regard psychoactive plants as they regard communion wafers or anointing oil (containing cannabinoids), I will remain silent about where and when I became a part of this story. The only thing I can say is that the ritual took place close-at-hand. As the title suggests, this time I decided to consume mescaline, the cult substance from Carlos Castaneda’s and Aldous Huxley’s works, as well as in a very popular film adaptation of a book by Hunter S. Thompson called Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Due to fact that I have received quite a lot of questions about psychoactive substances, this is my advice – I don’t recommend this kind of experience to anyone unless they would recommend it to themselves; short and simple. Because I wouldn’t pressure anyone to jump into the wild blue yonder either, even though I don't doubt it is a “divine” experience.
Peyote, San Pedro and Peruvian torch
Mescaline is a psychoactive substance that can be found in several types of cacti. The most famous ones are peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi). It is classified among phenethylamines, which makes it quite different from the more dominant group of psychedelics – indoles – such as LSD, psilocybin, harmaline or DMT. On the other hand, it is relatively similar to MDMA (the main ingredient of ecstasy) and to 2C-B substance, both of which can be bought on the black market. However, those are synthetic, because of which a consumer is deprived of important aspects of the psychedelic essence – a “psychiatrist” personality rising out of one’s consciousness, as well as experiencing “decoding the Matrix” with dwindling intensity. Moreover, those two substances work more as an empathy booster, while mescaline is in charge for mystical experiences.
Naturally, mescaline can also be produced by chemical synthesis; still witnesses say that peyote and San Pedro experiences are quite different. These experiences also depend on cactus’ size, as well as on how long it was grown. Peyote is small, intense, loaded with mescaline and needs up to several decades to reach maturity, while San Pedro is a big fast-growing cactus and has lower mescaline content, but matures within one year. The later characteristic makes it a far more acceptable candidate for western use. Experts recommend Peruvian torch (Echinopsis peruviana), as the best option for group gatherings, due to its ratio of mescaline amount, growth rate, and size. I participated in a ritual where San Pedro was used, which will be discussed in details soon.
Aldous Huxley and Hunter S. Thompson as promoters
Let’s start with a brief history of mescaline use for ceremonial and recreational purposes. The plant originates, just like Castaneda wrote, from America – it was most commonly used in cultures that resided in the territory between today’s Mexico and Texas. The oldest historical written record illustrating San Pedro’s consummation (by the way, its Christian name – “Saint Peter’s cactus” – is an attempt of tradition preserving, after the arrival of conquistadors and destroying of “demonic” peyote) dates from 1300 BC and originates from Peru’s territory, while Peyote can be traced back to 500 BC. American Indians weren’t familiar with mescaline until the 18th century. Just like any other psychedelic, mescaline is also forbidden, primarily by all more dominant religions (Tonkawas, Mescaleros and Lipan Apache are the original mescaline religions) as it achieves reconnection with God without spiritual middlemen, or priests, because of which they lost their significance.
Mescaline is the first psychoactive substance extracted and isolated from a plant, way back in 1896, and it became the first synthesized psychedelic. Nobody in the West knew about all of its characteristics until 1953, and Aldous Huxley, whose epic work The Doors of Perception opened a window for mescaline rituals, as well as for unconquerable recreation. I have already mentioned Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and an interesting fact is that this “gonzo” classic was released the same year when the US and the UN decided to obey religious dogmas and prohibit psychoactive substances, along with rigorous prison sentences for all producers, growers and consumers. However, if you choose to consume it legally, Utah is one of a few states in the world where it can be used in religious practice. Mescaline has also been used as an incredibly successful resource in dealing with alcoholism and depression, but because of prohibition, all scientific research on its medicinal welfare was interrupted and disabled.
Wine and cocoa balls consuming
Mescaline dosage is elaborated all over the internet, so I will only denote that 350 milligrams is a quite sufficient amount; the liquid is consumed two times with a thirty-minute break. Unfortunately, our ritual was marked by rain, cold, wind and every other weather trouble. But, that was in our cards for that night, so after a long delay which made me feel like a child waiting for a chocolate (nearly two hours had passed between entering the circle and consummation), and smoking mapacho tobacco (Nicotiana rustica), we each received a dose of the liquid from a big jug. As our group was a larger one, waiting somehow became the basis of the entire ritual, along with the mentioned cold. Liquid’s taste wasn’t similar to ayahuasca’s austerity, but it definitely wasn’t delightful, either – it reminded me of some kind of wine, the kind I don’t prefer. After the liquid we received small balls which contained cactus’ cross-section and its “meat”, and were covered with 100% pure cocoa in order to be remotely digestible. I’ve found out that peyote is even harder to swallow due to its bitterness and intensity.
As mentioned, after some time shortened by songs similar to ayahuasca’s ikaros whistling songs and various stories, we received our second dose. Some people, under stomach cramps attack, already started throwing up into paper bags, while my gut felt a bit irritated, but as I already said in one of my earlier texts – I got used to every liquid imaginable, over many years of partying. I had to force myself into drinking what was left and observed the rest of the group, noticing facial expressions of what was being experienced. For a longer period of time I almost didn’t feel it “working”; I was relaxed, so I managed to tuck myself in my sleeping bag, close to the fire, but still felt freezing and cramped up among the crowd. Shamans did their job by the book, and I was under the impression that (possibly because of their youth and training process) spontaneity is still an unreached virtue of the ceremony. This became distinctively obvious when I wasn’t allowed to listen to my own music through earphones in order to experience my own personal quest – I got an explanation that it would disrupt the ritual, even though, according to my own experience, the plant itself knew I had great respect for it, and this is the only crucial aspect of the ceremony, anyway.
Monochromatic encounter with an animal protector
Anyway, I will put my proverbial criticism aside and focus on the experience itself. As time passed, the fire became more and more luminescent, and seemed alive in its own unique way. Unlike LSD, which is rather cold, analytical, metallic, and technologically boosted, San Pedro created a warm atmosphere, charged with lucidity, deep contemplation, and a different feeling of space surrounding me. Contrary to my previous psychedelic experiences, in which I drifted away from my body, saw quivers of space and time, and felt so alienated from what we call “reality,” this one made me feel the world around me more intensely, more universally, and more powerfully – as if everything gained significance so profoundly that I started to perceive everything I couldn’t so far. And then came a crucial moment: my view of the world became monochromatic, with black and white shaded flashes, people’s faces started to look inane, along with having big black eyes, and the fire began bursting with life as shiny silhouettes appeared popping out from it, finding their way up to the smoke hole of the gazebo we were sitting in.
Sounds obtained mystical attributes, smells reached an almost abstract potency, and suddenly, within this claustrophobia-like feeling of space confining me, I felt and overheard the sound of a crow. Just like thunder above our heads and the fire, a black shadow of this animal appeared, cawing as if it wanted to tell me something. An interesting thing is that, unlike ayahuasca, I still haven’t managed to interpret those impressions and visions (in real time, or now; they weren’t something inapprehensible or paranormal, however, they were created on the edge of reality itself like some sort of a sober hallucination, or a mirage, appearing as disfigurations of our universe. Synesthesia combined with introspection, followed by round and light elements similar to fractals, are the basis of this vision which, by itself, was not that intense or very long, to my great regret. Then, unknown symbols started to appear, and due to fact that I wrote about this subject in my book Subliminal Messages and therefore should be able to recognize those archetypes, I had no success, and still have troubles with their depiction. Everything described so far happened in few minutes, up to the point when the shaman, or his assistant, shook me up and repeated a leitmotif sentence of the evening: “Family, can I have your attention, please?” This was when I had to rub my eyes and interrupt an amazing vision to return to the ritual.
Peyote, You Are Next!
After that, a thought “This ritual is not for you!” constantly ran through my mind, and all my following visions, which were like disturbed short sleeps, featured a great white silhouette above us, draining our energy. Fire was compressing it; its glow fluctuated towards gazebo’s hole, while some participants were recharging by it. What was actually going on? Honestly, I have no idea, and I am not sure what such images mean. Just before the end of the ceremony, another round of balls was offered and I ate it; I should also mention that, during the ritual, a potion made of psilocybin mushrooms was served, and combining psychoactive substances probably wasn’t a smart move, but I drank it anyway. Unfortunately, not only nothing happened, but I also fell asleep (?!), which happens almost never when you drink the equivalent of dozen coffees. Later on, people around me told me that I was snoring as if it was the last sleep in my lifetime. Considering that I never asked the exact dosage of mescaline used in this story, the simplest explanation could also be the most logical one – the group had a large number of newcomers and first-time consumers, so the dosage was standardized for them, and too small for me.
Be that as it may, the ritual was over, I came back to terms with myself relatively quickly, and we drove away towards the highway after lunch. My final impression is that I felt very relaxed and satisfied with the fact that almost everyone felt complacent, but at the same time, I had this feeling that the whole event lacked intensity and that everything started and ended with around 30% of DMT, LSD, or psilocybin. Every time the space started quivering harshly, I felt as if the energy field of the ceremony itself dragged me back to my body, along with some kind of an imperative. Through talking with other, more experienced participants, I found out that all of them had a feeling of being chained to the ritual’s space – cramped within the chains of environment. The mystical aspect, as well as uniqueness really do exist, however, a “but” remains. What I do know is that mescaline owes me one, and I will undoubtedly have an encounter with its charisma again – but my next time is reserved for peyote. Come what may, as the elders say - I know I will not see fear, nor loath, but Las Vegas – more likely.
My experience with Mescaline – a mystical surrealism all around us
After a few very successful and visually incredible adventures on ayahuasca (DMT), shrooms (Psilocybin) and acid (LSD), I decided to take part in an authentic shamanic ritual with competent leadership, collective experience, and a standardized dosage of the psychoactive substance.