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Psychedelics Reimagined
by Thomas Lyttle (ed.)
Publisher:
Autonomedia 
Year:
1999 
ISBN:
1570270651 
Reviewed by K. Trout, 4/9/2006

With Psychedelics Reimagined, Thomas Lyttle has assembled a diverse collection of writings, and as has been consistently true for his past works, this book will be of great interest to anyone with a love for this field. However this particular work also has substantial value for many other people. While it could just as easily have been entitled Psychedelic Monographs and Essays, Volume 7, the underlying thread running through most of the writings presented stresses the importance of the psychedelic experience as something of immense value that has been mistakenly overlooked, abandoned, or rejected in our culture. It also presents a number of refreshing “new” views on this very old subject. The result is an enjoyable and informative work, which features a foreword and introduction by Timothy Leary and Hakim Bey, respectively prefacing writings by a diverse set of authors.

Many of the articles stress the importance of the visionary experience and the fruitful partnership these plants have long held with the human race—including the often maligned but widely employed Cannabis and Brugmansia. However, there are also articles that readers will find of interest for their meaningful perspectives on older subjects. These include an early interview with Carlos Castañeda that perhaps illuminates some of the reasons why he did not do more interviews. Whether the reader loves or loathes Castañeda, they are certain to find this candid (and rare) glimpse of him to be fascinating.

An enlightening essay on Fitz Hugh Ludlow elaborates not just the role Ludlow’s writings played in later people’s perceptions of drug use, but also the role that drugs played in Ludlow’s own perceptions. As well, there are also fond memoirs of Baba Ganesh; reasonable lamentations by chemist Otto Snow on the insanely restrictive burdens placed on neuroscience by overzealous legislators; Iona Miller’s fascinating “Chaos as the Universal Solvent”—discussing personal transformation as viewed from within the thoroughly psychedelic framework of an alchemical perspective; interesting recollections on the beginnings of the rave movement in California; and various short papers featuring the nuggets of thought-stimulating information that Lyttle has become well known for collecting into eclectic books.

For some readers, this work would be worth buying just for John W. Allen and Jochen Gartz’s most welcomed overview of psilocybian mushroom occurrence and use in Southeast Asia and other Third World countries. After the seeming glut of more popular articles published in recent years that paint Thailand as a magical and trouble-free place to seek out mushrooms, this informative, detailed and well-referenced discussion is a welcome breath of reality.

Despite its wealth of information, Psychedelics Reimagined would have been much more useful to many readers had several of the individual articles been more completely referenced (or referenced at all!). After reading Chris Bennett’s interesting “Scent of Lebanon To The Wise,” an essay attempting to demonstrate Cannabis use and familiarity in the Bible—largely on a linguistic basis—the reviewer was left with many questions and no indication how to pursue in any greater detail. Even Joan M. Bello’s long overdue and well-written piece elaborating the many benefits of marijuana use was often curiously short in providing much more than general references. While it was found to be an important and informative article, it was also a little disappointing for not providing the reader with any clear indications of how and where to learn more about some of the specific claims that were made.

Lyttle also includes an extensive annotated review of many publications and organizations that exist (or have existed) related to this area but, oddly missed Trout’s Notes and only lists The Entheogen Review. Of course this is currently almost the norm in such compilations, as recently indicated as well in the excellent compilation Tripping, by Charles Hayes, which missed both publications. (Perhaps this is due to neither ER nor Trout’s Notes having a web presence?) Despite this small oversight, Psychedelics Reimagined is highly recommended and I hope that Lyttle sustains a long and productive career in order to allow us to enjoy many more such works.

Originally Published In : The Entheogen Review, 2000

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