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Alexander and Ann Shulgin

certain characteristics to what you’re working with. Is this talking to leprechauns? No. But it has some of the smell of that.(laughter)

Ann: I think that there are forms of energy that some people see as elves or fairies. Whether they see these or not seems to depend more on whether the culture they live in allows for seeing such things. The Irish are famous for it. Is this because a certain kind of energy associated with natural things is translating itself telepathically into an acceptable form for the human who is looking at it? It’s an open question.

Alexander: How do you discover the action of a molecule? A molecule when it’s hatched is like a baby. There’s no personality there. As the baby develops, your relationship to the baby develops, and eventually it forms into something of its own shape and character.

The first time I made MDOH I distilled it as I like to do before I make the salt. I found that it began a threshold activity at around 80mg, but I didn’t know that something was amiss. I ran some tests and discovered that when I did the distillation of MDOH I had gotten it sufficiently hot to split up the hydroxy group. I had made a mixture of the base without the hydroxy group which had gone on to the MDOH and become an oxine. The material I was left with was MDA. So I had accidentally rediscovered the property of MDA.

I went back and made MDOH again keeping the vacuum temperature down, and I came out of it with a brand new compound that I never would have made before. So from a divorced position I had to come back and reinstitute a rapport because the material I had thought I had met, I had not met. You don’t discover these things, you interact and develop them together. If you want to incarnate elves into the materials that’s fine, but either way it’s a relationship.

Rebecca: That sounds very similar to the way alchemists viewed their work.

Alexander: Very much so. I was listening to Terence McKenna years ago at Esalen. He was talking about how if a drug comes from nature it’s okay, but if it comes from a lab it’s suspect. Suddenly he realized that I was sitting in the audience. (laughter) In essence I said, “Terence, I’m as natural as they come. To me it’s not any different making a chemical in the laboratory that’s new and that you can get to learn and interact with than it is interacting with a plant.”

David: As John Lilly said, “Plants are chemists too.”

Ann: Exactly, and some of them will kill you. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s benign.

Alexander: I’ve studied alchemy a bit and it’s very much about feedback. Who cares if you melt and fuse lead ten thousand times? At the end of it you don’t come out with anything but ten thousand times melted and fused lead! But the doing of it – that’s meditation.

David: Do you see a relationship between alchemy and shamanism?

Alexander: Yes. They are both teachers. A shaman is a person who allows you to be healed by the interaction with himself, and alchemy is the same way.

Rebecca: Rupert Sheldrake proposes the idea that the characteristics of a compound develop through time creating a morphic field which influences all similar forms. Because of this idea people like Terence McKenna suggest that newly developed drugs are soulless compared to something like psilocybin which has been used by shamans probably for thousands of years. How do you respond to this?

Ann: That’s like saying a newborn baby is soulless. There is a soul there, it just has to learn to relate.

Alexander: Initially I had a scientific reluctance to Rupert’s theory, but I’ve seen how he does it and I’ve grown to like the idea. He has complete candidness and honesty. He’s trying to find things that don t fit into his theory – and that I like.

Rebecca: Have you experienced parallel discovery?

Alexander: Secrecy is anathema. Everything you do you share. But I remember the first time I got into sulfur. Nothing was going right, just black tars and terrible smells. I was working with a person in Indiana along the same lines and about the same time we both developed separate psychedelics. It was almost as if the stars had aligned.

Rebecca: Both of you emphasize an omnijective view of reality rather than a strictly objective or subjective view.

Alexander: I’m reading a marvelous book at the moment which talks about how up to the time of Galileo there was a complete synthesis of religious orthodoxy and science because it was part and parcel of the church. They broke apart because of Galileo and Copernicus’ contributions, and in a sense we’ve reconverged back to a synthesis of Genesis and the Big Bang, to a dogma which everyone takes on faith. And you don’t allow the slightest challenge!

Rebecca: I interviewed the head of the Flat Earth Society, and I found it very liberating to allow myself to question something so engrained as the roundness of the earth!(laughter) In your book you both describe many mind-expanding experiences when you developed a sensitivity to the sacred life-forces. With this consciousness in mind how do you feel about the practice of vivisection?

Alexander: I believe there are times when it is necessary. I used to do all my studies on rats and dogs but I wasn’t learning enough to justify it so I stopped entirely. I think if it’s possible to extend a person’s life at the expense of an animal then I think it’s justified. Until recently pigs were essential to maintain the life of people with diabetes. If you were a total vegetarian would raising pigs to obtain insulin be justified to protect the lives of people who have diabetes?

Rebecca: No it wouldn’t. I know of a woman who claims to control her diabetes without insulin by eating something called `bitter melon,’ which is native to Sri Lanka. There is much evidence to suggest that there is a vast reservoir of untapped medical lore and resources on the earth.

Ann: One of Lauren Van der Post’s books is about a race of pygmies in Africa. Before they kill an animal, they send out a deep thanks and gratitude to it asking to be forgiven for the fact that they are going to kill it. In a sense they enter an emotional contract with that animal. My feeling is that animal experimentation is necessary in this culture but I would pass a law that the only people allowed to work with animals in a laboratory would be those who love animals. If you love an animal you are not going to be able to stand giving it pain.

In laboratories people are encouraged to not form any kind of attachment to the animals they’re using. I think the opposite should be the case. Using an animal’s pain to develop cosmetics is inexcusable, but when it is to save lives I think that is a different question. I believe that the whole environmental movement started with the taking of psychedelics in the `60’s, because the first experience that everyone has is the oneness of nature.

Rebecca: Do you believe that there might be a teleological reason for why psychedelics exist?

Ann: Sure. How on earth did anyone ever discover the psychedelic properties of the peyote cactus or something that’s only active as a snuff? Have you ever tasted peyote? Your instinct says, that’s poisonous! Considering the fact that we create consensual reality, some part of us may have assigned certain plants the ability to open those doors.

Alexander: The evolution of the animal and plant kingdoms seem to be complementary to one another, but whereas you have the origin of the human in the Old World, 90 per cent of psychedelic plants have been seen natively only in the New World. It’s certainly not from a lack of diligence in searching for them!(laughter)

Rebecca: That’s interesting. What procedures do you use when testing out a new drug and what do you do if everyone’s experience is different?

Alexander: When I test a new drug on myself I use extremely small levels with much space between each time to eliminate the effects of tolerance. When I get up to a level that I feel comfortable with, Ann and I share it and see if indeed we have the same responses. Then we introduce it to individuals within the research group.

We often find that some of the materials have radically different responses within the group. I had to abandon a whole family of compounds which I called the Alephs because they were too erratic. Someone would have an over-stimulating experience on 2 mg and someone right next to them on 7 mg would experience nothing at all! We also have the occasional idiosyncratic difference from day to day of one person to one chemical.

TMA6 was a compound I had worked on and abandoned because it was not that interesting. We were exploring it because it was an opening to a new family of compounds. It was clearly active. You

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