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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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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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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 (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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185 of 194 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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186 of 206 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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46 of 49 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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "fearnog" on June 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you are looking for a thought provoking book that is a bit left field, but well written, this book is for you. The main premise of the book is that due to climate changes homonids were forced to adapt eating habits to include previously untried foods, such as psychoactive plants and mushrooms, and that this led to an evolutionary jump for the species. McKenna then shows historically how and why certain drugs have become dominant and what this could mean for humanity. McKenna's idea concerning the origin of the human species is an interesting conjecture but the evidence seems too thin to me, but on the other hand his analysis of the effects of drugs on western civilization hits the nail on the head. Alcohol, tobacco, coffee, chocolate, sugar and television (yes, television) are all promoted or are tolerated by society. McKenna shows you why this is and what it could mean for our future. A previous reviewer said that McKenna promotes the annihilation of the mind, which is patently false. I can hardly believe he read the book. Whether you agree or disagree with the theories presented in this book it will make you think and entertain you in the process. The mind is what got humanity to this point in history and it is the key to our collective future. That is what this book represents, being responsible for our own consciousness and the world that we create.
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