preparations would induce a stupor or coma, or slowly kill the person all of which, in many esoteric circles, might have been interpreted as success inachieving the abode of the gods or some subtle spiritual immortality. Theingestion or inclusion of toxic, literally intoxicating, substances intentionallyor inadvertently became a spiritual tradition that spanned ancient India andChina into the Arab and European alchemical cults. This paper wouldconfine the research to instances of induced poisonings that were interpretedin a religious or of conveying a sense of health or aphrodisiac or similar effects. This is in contrast to examples of ancient miners being poisoned bynoxious fumes compared with Daoists mystics that would intentionallyconcentrate these fumes and derive spiritual inspiration from the effects. Itmay well be that a decline in spiritual ascensions and magical flights wouldcorrespond with the diminished use of toxic substances. A further speculation is that the yoga of India and the similarly yogic features of Daoists evolved to mimic the effects of these substances or to brace the bodyfor their effects.It can then be said the tradition of inner alchemy (
) in Chinawas born of the gradual frustration with elixirs and the recognition that theseinitial profound and positive effects belied dangerous and fatal outcomes, aselixir-poisoning deaths became stock endings in Chinese literature. Thoughthe use of dangerous metals and minerals persisted even unto the time of Newton whose late-life madness has been linked to mercury, arsenic, lead,antimony and gold in his occult alchemical experiments all which can induce psychiatric symptoms (Klawans 1990; Grosbois
1980; Endtz 1958).This article would argue that examples of Tantric/Daoists and mad Sufialchemists bent over retorts to Paracelsus and the divine ecstasies of holyfools may have been inadvertently toxic effects from alchemically preparedmetals and minerals. The neurological effects of poisoning may produceanything from visions and inebriation, such as are experienced with tropanealkaloids or alcohol, to endorphin-released highs from systemic toxicity.Tropane alkaloids are linked to witches flight, or transvection, and it’sinteresting to note that Ayurvedic and Rasayana alchemists of India describecertain preparations of mercury as having the same effects of the tropanecontaining
(Puri 2002). These are often described in various mythsof smiths or alchemists taking magic flights, to fully visionary episodesreplete with demonic hells and colorful immortal inhabited heavens.