I was recently watching the short documentary series “How to Change Your Mind” on Netflix. It was made after the book of the same name by Michael Pollan, and featured the author as a presenter. It was all about the medicinal and religious uses of psychedelics, the positive aspects of mind-expanding chemicals and so on.
In one episode he talks about the discovery of LSD by Albert Hoffman, who was one of an old school of experimental chemists who would try a little of whatever chemical he synthesised. A fascinating story followed of Hoffman cycling home while hallucinating on LSD, which seems to have been very trippy.
But Pollan also talks about how the psychedelic Peyote cactus has special significance for the North American Indians and is a key sacrament in the Native American Church. Much like Ayahuasca in South America it has a religious status. So it seems that these substances have long been part of religious traditions in the Americas. Also there was a story of a Native American man who cured his addiction through a peyote ceremony.
That then put me in mind of the mention of Soma and “enlightenment through light-filled herbs” which were mentioned in the Veda’s, although the tradition and the plants seem to have died out in India. It’s fascinating to me that this kind of mind-expanding way to the religious experience seems to be making a comeback in the global expansion of ayahuasca.
Anyway, very interesting docu series! Well worth watching.