Plants of the Gods
The use of hallucinogenic or consciousness expanding plants has been a part of human experience for many millennia, yet modern Western societies have only recently become aware of the significance that these plants have had in shaping the history of primitive and even of advanced cultures. In fact, the past thirty years have witnessed a vertiginous growth of interest in the use and possible value of hallucinogens in our own modern, industrialized, and urbanized society.
Hallucinogenic plants are complex chemical factories. Their full potential as aids to human needs is not yet fully recognized. Some plants contain chemical compounds capable of inducing altered perceptions, such as visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory hallucinations, or causing artificial psychoses that, without any doubt, have been known and employed in human experience since earliest man’s experimentation with his ambient vegetation. The amazing effects of these mind-altering plants are frequently inexplicable and indeed uncanny.
Little wonder, then, that they have long played an important role in the religious rites of early civilizations and are still held in veneration and awe as sacred elements by certain peoples who have continued to live in archaic cultures, bound to ancient traditions and ways of life. How could man in archaic societies better contact the spirit world than through the use of plants with psychic effects enabling the partaker to communicate with supernatural realms? What more direct method than to permit man to free himself from the prosaic confines of this earthly existence and to enable him to enter temporarily the fascinating worlds of indescribably ethereal wonder opened to him, even though fleetingly, by hallucinogens?
– Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hoffmann & Christian Ratsch, Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers