- Paperback: 311 pages
- Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (January 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553371304
- ISBN-13: 978-0553371307
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 213 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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“Deserves to be the modern classic on mind-altering drugs and hallucinogens.”—The Washington Post
“Terence McKenna is the most important—and most entertaining—visionary scholar in America.”—Tom Robbins
“The culture’s foremost spokesperson for the psychedelic experience . . . Those who know and enjoy Joseph Campbell’s work will almost certainly appreciate McKenna.”—L.A. Weekly
“An eloquent proposal for recovering something vital—a sense of the sacred, the transcendent, the Absolute—before it’s too late.”—Larry Dossey, M.D., author of Meaning & Medicine, Recovering the Soul, and Space, Time & Machine
About the Author
Terence McKenna, author and explorer, has traveled the world to work and live with shamans. He has added to their shared knowledge of rituals his own efforts to preserve the plants used in these ceremonies. Coauthor of The Invisible Landscape and Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, Terence mesmerizes his many lecture audiences with tales of science and shamanism. He lives in Occidental, California, and is co-manager of a botanical garden in Hawaii for endangered tropical plants.
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I was familiar with ethnobotanist and revered psychonaut, Terence McKenna, through his lectures, though this is my first time actually reading any of his work. Food of the Gods was a great place to start. Within, McKenna guides the reader through a history of psychedelic plants (and other indole hallucinogens) and how they affected the cultures that interacted with them. He touches on his 'stoned ape' theory, which I've always found intriguing (now more than ever), and which (if proven) would certainly indicate that the effect these ancient plants had on humankind was immense. McKenna goes on to describe the crumbling relationship humans have had with these plants and substances across thousands of years; the shift we have enacted from 'partnership societies' to the 'dominator society' in which we currently find ourselves. Thus, the book can be seen as a sort of call to action; to return once more to the realm of empathy, partnership, and freedom of consciousness which once went hand in hand with the consumption of ancient, shamanic plant substances and other consciousness-expanding drugs.
McKenna is extremely verbose, and very intelligent, to the point that some sections of the book were relatively hard to understand for me, requiring a second read. Regardless, I found his arguments strong, and his research thorough and enticing. Terence and his brother Dennis are both individuals that I have looked into before as free thinkers and advocates of personal freedoms currently denied to all of us. He brings to light many things in this book that are more and more obviously astounding. Our love affair with alcohol for example, while cannabis (a proven medicinal plant) remains illegal and ostracized. He would be happy to see the progress made in that area (way to go, Canada) but nevertheless there is much work to be done; and on more than just cannabis. How can we as human beings ever claim true sovereignty over ourselves if our freedoms do not include the freedom of our own consciousness?
I am reminded here at the close of Graham Hancock's TED Talk. I think that he and McKenna see eye to eye on a number of issues. I'd like to provide a link to the video here, but Amazon will not allow external URLs in reviews. I urge you to look it up yourself. This talk was actually banned by TED after its release, and removed from their content offering. Shocking, for a forum that promotes itself as forward thinking and open-minded. But more evidence that there is work to be done. A paradigm shift must occur.
I look forward to reading more of McKenna's work.
Most people are immediately going to reserve themselves in the position of dissenting, more or less because this is not what has been spoon fed to them by the conventional education machine. If you want the truth, or unbiased information, seek knowledge with an open mind, independently and from a multitude of perspectives. Especially, in the frame of the history, but even more so with his theory of how consciousness developed through prolonged exposure to entheogens. His theory for the catalyst for consciousness is very novel and pushes the paradigm on conventional theories. Nonetheless, McKenna's theory is highly controversial and many are likely to disagree without considering its probability. In actuality, Tim Leary attempted to study the effects of drugs on the mind while he was a Harvard professor, so these ideas are not intellectually destitute. Even if you disagree with everything he writes about, the subject matter will at least give you an adverse perspective that is in existence, but is not the orthodox.
In reference to the effects of drugs (natural drugs, not pharmaceuticals and alcohol) on the consciousness and the "journey" into your subconscious, I emphatically agree with McKenna and it is something that is simply experiential. It is an invigorating experience if you allow it to be, you must search within yourself to find answers. I personally like McKenna's rules for experiencing entheogens (as evident on pg. 248), "one sits down, one shuts up and one pays attention"-especially alone in the dark, no TV and no radio. It may not be for all, but it is quite effective for the psyche and intellect. Unfortunately, do to the politics of the scholarly realm and the laws from the "drug war" his theories will merely lie in ruin as an anecdotal hypothesis, but has much potentiality for a concrete conclusion.
The only reason I did not give this book five stars is due several things I disagree with McKenna on. Throughout this book, and his lectures, he seems to advocate a very socialistic and communist lifestyle, which to me, politically is an issue of dissonance. With this subject I guess we differ on a polarity, but I still enjoy his very eloquent philosophy. At times he also references the "barriers" that we create to create individual territory, and that we would be wiser to dissolve those and live communal lives. I like capitalism, the harder you work the more capital you receive; in a socialist society those who work hard gain nothing, because everything is of neutral division, and in the end it stifles ingenuity and innovation; and, in the same system the laziest are parasites that reap the rewards. Along with those ideas, he also bends over backwards to force a square dowel into a circular hole, and because of this there are times that makes it hard to concur with him. There are also periods in his book that there exists not enough evidence for the clarity of his postulants.
Here are some quotes I found resonance with:
Pg. 147 "Wife beating without alcohol is like a circus without lions." - So true, but we find that marijuana, an innocuous substance is outlawed.
Pg. 148 "Yet how can we explain the legal toleration for alcohol, the most destructive of all intoxicants, and the almost frenzied efforts to repress nearly all other drugs?"
Pg. 163 "The "recreational" context for substance use, as currently understood in the United States, is an atmosphere that trivializes the cognitive impact of the substance used."
Pg. 272 "If mere preaching of virtue could provide the answer, then we would have arrived at the threshold of angelic existence some time ago. If mere legislation of virtue were answer, we would have learned that a long time ago."
In conclusion, it is odious and criminal for me to desire and endeavor to experience mushrooms or marijuana in my own home, but it is ok for America to line up at the pharmacy for their $4 monthly prescriptions for various absurdities; and aside to that, the most corrosive substance, alcohol, in society is ubiquitously supported and served as a nuance of fermented passion, and because of this, the atrocities that it induces America retains a superficial relationship with. - D.R.Thomas