Advertisement

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 159–170 | Cite as

Sacred plants and visionary consciousness

  • José Luis Díaz
Article

Abstract

Botanical preparations used by shamans in rituals for divination, prophecy, and ecstasy contain widely different psychoactive compounds, which are incorrectly classified under a single denomination such as “hallucinogens,” “psychedelics,” or “entheogens.” Based on extensive ethnopharmacological search, I proposed a psychopharmacological classification of magic plants in 1979. This paper re-evaluates this taxonomy in the context of consciousness research. Several groups of psychodysleptic magic plants are proposed: (1) hallucinogens—psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline cacti, dimethyltryptamine snuffs, and the synthetic ergoline lysergic acid diethylamide induce strong perceptual changes, affective intensification, and cognitive enhancement. Their ethnobotanical uses include long lasting divination rituals, prophecy, and sacramental practice. (2) Trance-inducers—ergoline Convolvulaceae and South American Banisteriopsis produce quietness, abstraction, lethargy, mild sensorial and cognitive changes, and salient visual imagery changes used in trance rituals and specific divination practices. (3) Cognodysleptics—marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other terpene-containing plants induce changes in thought, imagination, and affective functions and are used in short-term divination or oneiromancy. (4) Deliriants—tropane-containing Solanaceae, wild tobacco, and Amanita muscaria (muscimol) induce a delirium characterized by dim and clouded consciousness, stupor, confusion, disorientation, perception distortion, difficulties in recollection, anxiety, irritability, excitation, and behavioral disorganization employed in sorcery, purification, or exorcism rituals. The core mental effects required for a drug to be used in shamanistic rituals include light-headedness, enhanced imagery, and experience intensification. This constellation was the reason why, in his classification of psychoactive compounds, the pioneer German psychopharmacologist Louis Lewin established in 1924 a group of drugs under the appropriate name of Phantastica.

Keywords

Psychoactive plants Hallucinogens Trance-inducers Cognodysleptics Deliriants Psychedelic experience Psychedelic visual phenomena 

References

  1. Aghajanian, G. K., & Marek, G. J. (1999). Serotonin and hallucinogens. Neuropsychopharmacology, 21, 16S–23S.Google Scholar
  2. Díaz, J. L. (editor) (1975). Etnofarmacología de las plantas alucinógenas latinoamericanas. México: Centro Mexicano de Estudios en Farmacodependencia (p. 223). Editorial Libros de México.Google Scholar
  3. Díaz, J. L. (1977). Ethnopharmacology of sacred psychoactive plants used by the indians of Mexico. Annual Review of Pharmacology & Toxicology, 17, 647–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Díaz, J. L. (1979). Ethnopharmacology and taxonomy of Mexican psychodysleptic plants. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 11, 71–101.Google Scholar
  5. Díaz, J. L. (1989). Plantas Mágicas y Sagradas de México. In: Psicobiología y Conducta (pp 106–145). México City: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Google Scholar
  6. Díaz, J. L. (2003). Las plantas mágicas y la conciencia visionaria. Arqueología Mexicana, X(59), 18–25.Google Scholar
  7. Díaz, J. L. (2007). La conciencia viviente. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Google Scholar
  8. Fisher, R. (1971). A cartography of the ecstatic and meditative states. Science, 174, 897–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grof, S. (1980). LSD psychotherapy. New York: Hunter House.Google Scholar
  10. Heim, R., & Wasson, R. G. (1958). Les Chamignons Hallucinogenes du Mexique: Etudes Ethnologiques, Taxonomiques, Biologiques, Physiologiques et Chimiques. Paris: Editions du Muséum National d´Histoire Naturelle.Google Scholar
  11. Huxley, A. (1954). The doors of perception. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  12. James, W. (1900/1974). The varieties of religious experience. London: Fontana.Google Scholar
  13. Klüver, H. (1966). Mescal and mechanisms of hallucinations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Lanteri-Laura, G. (1994). Las alucinaciones. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Google Scholar
  15. Laski, M. (1961). Ecstasy in secular and religious experiences. Los Angeles: Tarcher.Google Scholar
  16. Lewin, L. (1964). Phantastica. Narcotic and stimulating drugs, their use and abuse. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. First edition in German, 1924.Google Scholar
  17. Osmond, H., Smythies, J., & Harley-Mason, I. (1952). Schizophrenia: a new approach. Journal of Mental Science, 98, 309–315.Google Scholar
  18. Schultes, R. E. (1992). Plantas de los Dioses. México City: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Google Scholar
  19. Shanon, B. (2003). The antipodes of the mind: charting the phenomenology of the ayahuasca experience. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Siegel, R. K. (1977). Hallucinations. Scientific American, 237, 132–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Siegel, R. K. (1989). Intoxication: life in pursuit of artificial paradise. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  22. Siegel, R. K. (1992). Fire in the brain: clinical tales of hallucination. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, A. L., & Tart, C. T. (1998). Cosmic consciousness experience and psychedelic experiences: a first person comparison. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 5, 97–107.Google Scholar
  24. Tart, C. T. (1972). States of consciousness and state-specific sciences. Science, 176, 1203–1210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wasson, R. G. (1980). The wondrous mushroom; Mycolatry in Mesoamerica. New York: McGraw & Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine, Faculty of MedicineNational Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)Mexico CityMexico

Personalised recommendations