Medicine: Mescaline & the Mad Hatter

Like many a researcher before him (including the late great Havelock Ellis), British Psychiatrist John Smythies was fascinated by the extraordinary visions he had after taking mescaline, an alkaloid derived from a Mexican cactus.* Unlike opium and other drugs, which bring on hallucinations, mescaline seems to leave the power of critical observation intact. And what the subject sees, says Dr. Smythies after comparing notes with his friends, are visions of "the utmost poetical integrity."

If the mescaline taker keeps his eyes closed, he sees riotously colorful "mosaics, networks, flowing arabesques, interlaced spirals, wonderful tapestries . . . great butterflies gently moving their...

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