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Psychedelics Encyclopedia
by Peter Stafford
Publisher:
Ronin Publishing 
Year:
1992 
ISBN:
0914171518 
Reviewed by JF, 6/24/2001

The Psychedelics Encyclopedia, by Peter Stafford is an excellent general reference work on the subject. I recommend it strongly as a first purchase for anyone interested in visionary drugs; it should be part of every entheogenic library.

Stafford divides his book into sections by drug class (see below), and takes the reader through all “the usual suspects,” as well as some lesser-known entheogens. His style is accessible and extremely informative, and he provides even (and evenhanded) coverage of the botany, chemistry, history, and preparation and use of each class of drugs. He cites liberally from applicable primary sources, but ties everything together into an effective narrative. I find his lucid accounts of the modern history of entheogens, with his emphasis on first-person narratives, to be particularly interesting. The text is interspersed with many wonderful pictures. What emerges is not just a compendium of information but a complete and fascinating picture of how the world has used and reacted to entheogens throughout history, especially the shifting attitudes of Western culture in this century.

The principal weakness of Stafford’s otherwise excellent book is that is in need of a comprehensive revision. For the present, third edition, Stafford precedes the encyclopedia proper with an update, covering subjects that became of interest relatively recently, principally MDMA, but including also more detailed coverage of ketamine. This prefatory material needs to be incorporated into the rest of the text, which should be updated where appropriate to encompass current entheogenic research. The text would also benefit from an expansion of the “Contrasting profiles” chapter, as each section could support an independent chapter, particular the one devoted to dissociative anesthetics.

Nevertheless, these are, on the whole, minor criticisms of an otherwise excellent reference work. I am looking forward to a fourth edition.

5 Comments »

  1. This is a great book, but as has been stated by the original reviewer, some the information is somewhat out of date and is need of a serious update. Besides the new material for the newest edition that isn’t even intergrated with the rest of the book, the majority of the book was written in the early 80’s. Stafford needs to take some newer scientific findings and rewrite the whole thing. For example, the chemistry sections in each chapter have extremely little information about the neuropharmacology of these drugs, because the information simple wasn’t known at the time. And in my opinion, he needs to add a section about the dissociative drugs (ketamine,PCP,nitrous oxide) and a few other scattered groups like the tropanes which he barely delves into in the chapter titled “Contrasting Profiles”.

    Unfortunately, instead of a rewrite of the entire book, Stafford is releasing a bunch of seperate books about each group of substances. To my knowledge there is one with a general psychedelic introduction titled “Psychedelics” and another book about psilocybian mushrooms. There may be more available that I’m not aware of. Anyway, I’m not to impressed with these newer books. It seems like the information has changed little and the books are very short. So instead of buying a single volume at a reasonble price, you are forced to buy a bunch of new books if you want a sort of updated edition.

    Comment by monoamine — 5/7/2005 @ 7:43 pm

  2. I first discovered The Psychedelic Encyclopedia when I was 17 years old. I’m 33 now and the book has been a great asset to my psychedelic exploration. I whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone with a real interest in the history of these incredible substances and the experiences they have to offer.

    Comment by Vincent Christ — 9/10/2005 @ 3:52 am

  3. This piece of literary work can be a very helpful tool for anyone who is looking to make decisions based upon their own knowledge of what is good for them then this could really help. Anything that can help provide us with more knowledge on the things we know nothing about is a true life saver.
    Narconon

    Comment by kyle sandes — 10/8/2008 @ 1:39 pm

  4. Unfortunately, instead of a rewrite of the entire book, Stafford is releasing a bunch of seperate books about each group of substances. To my knowledge there is one with a general psychedelic introduction titled “Psychedelics” and another book about psilocybian mushrooms. There may be more available that I’m not aware of. Anyway, I’m not to impressed with these newer books. It seems like the information has changed little and the books are very short. So instead of buying a single volume at a reasonble price, you are forced to buy a bunch of new books if you want a sort of updated edition.

    Comment by chess sets — 4/23/2010 @ 9:59 pm

  5. I’m the author of the artwork in this book and have as my sole compensation an autographed copy of the first edition. I still would have liked to supply better camera work of my paintings, which I still own, to the second and third edition.

    For anyone who would like to go straight to root of being with out the need for this book or the substances it catalogues I recomend Prem Rawat and the words of peace global wopg.org there is a universe within us, turn around and look

    Comment by glenn perry — 8/11/2010 @ 12:05 pm

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