Esteemed psychotherapist Ralph Metzner was part of Leary’s team in the early days of psychedelic research and has written over a dozen books. His latest, The Toad and the Jaguar, is basically a primer on the mindful exploration of the many facets of the psychedelic molecule 5-MeO-DMT.
Like its better-known entheogenic cousin N,N-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT can be produced synthetically in a laboratory or extracted from natural sources. The difference is, unlike the former, which is often derived from a variety of plants, 5-MeO-DMT is found both in plants and the parotid glands of the North American toad Bufo alvarius. The author goes into fascinating detail on the process of having tracked down these critters in the Arizona desert, and with a friend, ‘milked’ the venom onto glass plates, to be scraped and smoked later (while always treating the toads gently and with respect, of course).
Metzner makes the point that, after years of personal research and through working with others, he has found that 5-MeO-DMT is an effective shamanic tool. Careful administration can lead users to access deep meditative states and a profound sense of oneness with the cosmos. Some convincing arguments are made that this substance has some potentially important ramifications for both psychological and spiritual research. In addition, he has explored a serendipitous effect observed in many experimenters; 5-MeO-DMT seems to exert a pronounced relaxing effect on skeletal muscles, perhaps paving the way for further research with neuromuscular disease, or at least with one’s yoga practice!
Although there is much here to make this substance almost seem like a magic bullet of a tool, to Metzner’s credit, he provides a lot of information on potential pitfalls and examples of negative experiences. The importance of ‘set and setting’ along with an experienced or very aware guide (and/or group) are described, plus the fact that he has seen that up to about 10% of users may have an adverse reaction. Concise suggestions are given on how to deal with difficult experiences.
The author recounts how, in his early explorations with his peers, they would refer to the use of 5-MeO-DMT as ‘the jaguar process’, a coded reference evoking ancient Mayan images of a human face peeking out from within a jaguar’s open jaws. They initially referred to the smoked combination of N,N DMT and 5-MeO-DMT as ‘the Mayan Twins’ , but eventually dropped the first molecule as they felt that it was too much of a visual distraction. After several years of intensive group exploration and research, it was finally found that the most beneficial way to work with ‘the other spirit molecule’ (this reviewer’s expression!) was to inhale/snort it in slightly smaller doses as a snuff. This elicits a more gradual and yet more lengthy and workable experience. Plus, as an Amazonian shaman would say, “Jaguars don’t smoke!” Also notable, of course, is that natives of the Amazon region have been insufflating 5-MeO-DMT-containing snuffs for thousands of years, so they must know something about its efficacy!
The Toad and the Jaguar is an excellent book, and an instant gold standard on current 5-MeO-DMT information. I really enjoyed the overall tone of the writing, which is conversational in contrast to some of the author’s more academic-style texts. The book makes an excellent companion to author James Oroc’s Tryptamine Palace, which recounts a man’s journey into spirituality using this same medicine. Metzner is to be congratulated on this relatively short but information-dense work, which ties in practical usage, all the possible red flags, and multiple angles of approach to the subject matter.
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