The Entheogen Review
Citation: Lux. "The Entheogen Review: A Retrospective". Erowid Extracts. Nov 2008;15:20-21.
After sixteen years at the leading edge of unauthorized research into visionary plants and drugs, the final issue of The Entheogen Review was published at the end of 2008. Its editor, David Aardvark, granted an interview for this article.
In 1992, former English teacher and entheophile Jim DeKorne was busy researching Psychedelic Shamanism, a book that would soon become a milestone in psychedelic literature. To help gather information for his book, and to spark discussion regarding data that he had already come across, DeKorne started The Entheogen Review (TER), a self-described clearinghouse for "hard-to-find empirical data on growing techniques, extraction procedures, dose information and subjective results experienced by readers."1
As only a few pamphlets and small-press books touching on psychoactive substances were in circulation at the time, DeKorne believed that a well-researched source of information would be a valuable addition. In the inaugural issue DeKorne noted, "The season is long overdue to shed a little light on this topic and separate a few facts from what appears to be a limitless mythology."1 Inspiration for early issues of the publication came from sources such as the 1960s journal The Psychedelic Review and Thomas Lyttle's Psychedelic Monographs and Essays. Later influences included PIHKAL, TIHKAL, and Pharmacotheon.
During DeKorne's six-year tenure as editor-in-chief, TER established a solid base of readers, some eager to share their own findings. Intrepid explorers described experiences with substances that were poorly documented at the time, including 2C-B, Salvia divinorum, and assorted ayahuasca analogs. One such enthusiastic subscriber was David Aardvark.
New Leadership"Before taking over as editor, I had regularly corresponded with Jim DeKorne, and he had printed a few of my letters in The Entheogen Review", Aardvark recalls. "That history between us gave Jim enough confidence in me to pass the torch." Aardvark took over in 1998 when DeKorne decided to step down, and the publication quickly doubled in size. Aardvark shared DeKorne's commitment to facilitating dialog in the psychedelic community. This helped make TER a platform for people to describe their own backyard research and bioassays. "Like Jim, I was interested both in learning and in helping other people learn."
While the Internet was increasingly becoming a source of drug information (Erowid first went public in October 1995), most online data sources were unmoderated and unedited. In his first issue at the helm Aardvark lamented, "Because virtually anyone with a computer can post anything they want (without the benefit of editors or peer review), information found on the Internet is suspect by nature."2
The commitment to careful editing of submissions distinguished TER from many other information sources. Aardvark critiques the penchant of authors like Adam Gottlieb, who penned several slim publications on the topic of legal highs, for passing along too much speculation. In discussing how smoking banana peels might get you high (it doesn't), Gottlieb wrote: "[s]ome experts believe that combustion converts some of the banana's chemistry into bufotenine..."3 Let the smoker beware!
Expert AssistanceDeKorne and Aardvark communicated with many experts to help answer some of the questions that came up. "I enlisted Keeper Trout as technical editor when I took over the publication", Aardvark recalls. "Over the years we've received advice from Richard Boire, Jim DeKorne, Earth and Fire Erowid, Jon Hanna, Albert Hofmann, Terence McKenna, Jonathan Ott, Dale Pendell, Giorgio Samorini, Nick Sand, Sasha Shulgin, Rick Strassman, D. M. Turner, and Leander Valdes, just to mention a few of the more well-known names in the field."
The psychedelic community attracts a large number of researchers, mind-hackers, and explorers who boldly experiment in botany, chemistry, and pharmacology. Yet due to prohibitionist policies, this subculture is often shrouded in secrecy and anonymity. As a result, enormous amounts of important data are in danger of being lost. Jonathan Ott puts the problem this way:
What's the difference between the ethnomedicine of the Ladakhis, and the ethnomedicine of the Sacramento suburban residents? I mean, scientifically speaking, they're both valid subjects of study. And in fact, now we have this very thriving, active home experimentalist scene, of which The Entheogen Review is really one of the strongest elucidators, because that's where some few of these people come forward and talk about what they might have done.4While the scientific data generated by this anonymous cadre of citizen-scientists and basement shamans is important, the societal phenomenon is interesting as well. Since its inception, TER has devoted pages to psychedelic culture and arts. Aardvark believes visionary art serves a unique role in documenting altered consciousness:
Art inspired by entheogenic voyages may evidence shared mental states, providing maps for inner space. Some mind states induced by entheogens may be protolinguistic; as such they would be ineffable through written or spoken language, yet visual art may allow their expression. Most traditional entheogen-using cultures produce art depicting the territory accessed via psychotropic plants [...][and] this has also been true in our own culture [...].The diversity of content–first-person trip reports, scientific discoveries, art, music, and reviews of psychedelic conferences and cultural events such as Burning Man–all helped make TER a source of cross-pollination, relentlessly fascinating to the generalist. "People who never intend to manufacture LSD might still enjoy skimming a piece that relates a novel synthesis approach", Aardvark notes. "People who don't believe in parallel dimensions may nevertheless find reported visions of 'discarnate entities' to be engaging."
Spanning ErasIn its 16-year span, The Entheogen Review witnessed and documented deep changes in the cultural and political climate of the United States. Aardvark speculates that interest in altered states of consciousness may have grown during the life of TER, and certainly, access to information has changed dramatically. "A 2002 AltaVista search for the word 'entheogen' resulted in 3,000 hits; today the same search provided 702,000 hits. In 2002 'psychedelic' returned 140,000 hits, and today it got 65,200,000 hits." Another metric of that change is the explosion of interest in Salvia divinorum, which transformed during his time as editor from an obscure entheobotanical to a multi-million dollar industry, and which is now increasingly banned across the United States.
Several prominent figures in the psychedelic world have passed away during the magazine's run, including Timothy Leary, William S. Burroughs, Terence McKenna, Humphry Osmond, Richard Evans Schultes, John Lilly, and Albert Hofmann. Aardvark notes that replacements do not seem to be on the horizon:
[S]o far no one particularly stands out in a 'leadership' position in the same way that Leary and McKenna filled that role. Perhaps this simply indicates that the field has reached a new level of maturity–one that supports many different voices and ideas, without requiring a solitary figurehead or spokesperson to rally the troops or inform the mainstream media. I'm optimistic about the future.
|Important TER articles||Noteworthy because...|
|"Plants Containing DMT"|
|One of the earliest articles to mention the use of Phalaris grasses in ayahuasca analogs.|
|The first published account of the "quid" method of ingesting Salvia divinorum.|
|"Mimosa Active Without MAOI?"|
|Early account on the oral activity of Mimosa tenuiflora ( = M. hostilis) sans MAOI.|
|"Terence McKenna Speaks..."|
|Terence interviewed by J. Hanna and S. Thyssen, one of the last interviews he gave.|
|"Moving Into the Sacred World of DMT"|
|A now-classic discussion of DMT by Infinite Ayes.|
|Features a new technique for growing Psilocybes without using sterile procedures.|
|"Introducing The Moksha Method"|
|Includes a simple psilocybin extraction process via precipitation by Yachaj Paye.|
|"Outdoor Mushroom Cultivation"|
|Excellent article on growing mushrooms outdoors by Tyler D. Flyer.|
|"DMT for the Masses"|
|Simple DMT kitchen extraction tek for Mimosa tenuiflora by Noman.|