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Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution Paperback – January 1, 1993


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Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution + The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell (Thinking Classics) + The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Citadel Underground)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553371304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553371307
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

The ethnobotanist co-author of Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide (not reviewed) puts forth the theory that magic mushrooms are the original ``tree of knowledge'' and that the general lack of psychedelic exploration is leading Western society toward eventual collapse or destruction--controversial statements, to say the least, though the argument's details often prove fascinating. In the beginning, McKenna tells us, there were protohumans with small brains and plenty of genetic competition, and what eventually separated the men from the apes was an enthusiasm for the hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew on the feces of local cattle. Claiming that psilocybin in the hominid diet would have enhanced eyesight, sexual enjoyment, and language ability and would have thereby placed the mushroom-eaters in the front lines of genetic evolution--eventually leading to hallucinogen-ingesting shamanistic societies, the ancient Minoan culture, and some Amazonian tribes today--McKenna also asserts that the same drugs are now outlawed in the US because of their corrosive effect on our male-dominated, antispiritual society. Unconsciously craving the vehicles by which our ancestors expanded their imaginations and found meaning in their lives, he says, we feast on feeble substitutes: coffee, sugar, and chocolate, which reinforce competition and aggressiveness; tobacco, which destroys our bodies; alcohol, whose abuse leads to male violence and female degradation; TV, which deadens our senses; and the synthetics--heroin, cocaine and their variations--which leave us victimized by our own addiction. On the other hand, argues McKenna, magic mushrooms, used in a spiritually enlightened, ritual manner, can open the door to greater consciousness and further the course of human evolution- -legalization of all drugs therefore is, he says, an urgent necessity. Provocative words--often captivating, but not often convincing. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

He has a very unique way of thinking about things that is just astonishing.
Joey
Great historical knowledge on all sorts of drug and plant use from primates to Bush administration.
Brian Behlen
And I certainly appreciate the fact that many points of view are represented in this book.
R. Harden

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

166 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Evans on December 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Food of the Gods explores mankind's connection with the Earth as an organism. The author's speculations on our long lost mutualist relationship with plants has deep implications in science and offers sound insight into modern conditions of human iniquity.

To give you an idea, McKenna postulates that:
- The loss of the feminine in today's 'dominator' cultures
has been further catalyzed by our abuse of plants, drugs,
and nature as a whole
- The psychedelic experience, with its ego dissolving effects
represents an important component of the symbiosis of man
on Earth
- The striking similarities in the chemical structures of
neurotransmitters in the brain and indole compounds in
hallucinogenic plants are no coincidence
Despite the exhaustively researched and largely scholarly presentation of this work, unfounded criticism ensues when the subject matter stands as evidence in the indictment of many commonly held belief systems. However, most often the tone of McKenna's opponents caries the confident smirk of one safely distanced from his fierce intelligence, by their lack of experience with psychedelics.
Terrence McKenna didn't write for the amusement of those unfamiliar with the psychedelic experience. It was well within his mental capacity and scholarly abilities to legitimize his work for an audience of intellectual indifference. I wont say it's easier, but it certainly displays less integrity and truth of cause for one to cater to the lowest common denominator when attempting to relate ideas of this scope, even if they are only speculative.
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180 of 198 people found the following review helpful By J. Brad Hicks (jbhicks@inlink.com) on September 22, 1997
Format: Paperback
Terence McKenna (Food of the Gods), Julian Jaynes (Evolution of Consciousness ...), Camille Paglia (Sexual Personae), and Ruth Eisner (Chalice & the Blade) all look at the same evidence, and come to radically different, but equally radical, conclusions about the origins of what we call civilization (while trying to keep a straight face). Reading all three is an interesting, fun, and maybe useful exercise in juggling different world views. Ask yourself: why did each of them see the same evidence differently?

Or, perhaps, it's just a matter of trying to make too much soup from too little stock. The reason we CALL prehistory "pre-history" is that there's so little history to work from, so each brilliant (or not) author gets to project their own interpretation of what they'd LIKE the evidence to mean.

In McKenna's case, by the end of the book, it is obvious what he wants the evidence to mean. Terry McKenna wants us all to get off of what the Church of the SubGenius calls "Conspiracy Drugs," the ones that America got rich off of, like tobacco, caffeine, white sugar, distilled alcohol, and television. If we need to get high or drunk or trashed or whatever, he says that we need to go back to the drugs that first made human beings strong, fast, smart, sexy, and spiritual: organic psychedelics.

Of COURSE this is a weird and controversial view point. That's half the fun of this book. You know that only the trippers and the stoners are going to come out of the back end of this book fully convinced. But even if you're not one, you just mind find yourself a teensy bit convinced, and that, my friend, is a strange sensation.

Besides, it's a rollicking fun read.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Ross James Browne on June 2, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
_Food of the Gods_ by Terence Mckenna is an excellent addition to anyone's "alternative anthropology" library. New ideas regarding the origins of intellegent life are always very interesting. Mckenna also has some valuble sociological insights regarding the history of drug abuse, and reminds us that sugar, coffee, and chocolate are potent psychoactive substances that are just as addictive and just as unhealthful as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or psilocybin. It is refreshing to see someone try to level the playing field with regards to drug use, and finally admit that almost every adult in the entire western world is highly dependent on a variety of different drugs. It seems that Mckenna is taking a step in the right direction from a civil rights standpoint by lessening the taboos associated with certain drugs that are associated with the counter-culture, while reminding us of the caffeine and sugar addiction epedemic that is going on right under our noses. This book made me realize that drugs which are widely accepted and advocated by civilized society are not that much different from those which are outlawed. Overall, this is a fascinating anthropological and counter-cultural manifesto. Highly recommended.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Alistair Nexus on December 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
Before reading Food of the Gods, I thought that I was paranoid concerning western civilization. After I finished it, I became aware of all these little and big things which McKenna ties to the ego-dominator complex. McKenna has a way of putting things which describes human civilization as no one else I have read has. He does not write about the psylocybin experience, its effects on the human mind, but the impact of its effects on our civilization, across millions of years. I expected this to be a book of his theories about the Stropharia cubensis species being part of the cosmic gateway of data and consciousness transference, but this is about us, humanity, and what we have done with our minds, our bodies and our planet. This book kind of brings it all back home. I enjoyed it immensely. Get it :)
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