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Forged in Ecstasy: A Brief Survey of Psychoactive Metals and Minerals Part 1

Forged in Ecstasy: A Brief Survey of Psychoactive Metals and Minerals Part 1

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Published by gourdgardener
This is part one in a series of sacred metallurgy. In some ways, the material presented here may actually highlight alchemical failures amidst a true alchemical tradition, a toxic dead end of poison induced fantasy. This is not to paint all with one brush, as some legitimate alchemical traditions existed and continue to exist. The data here connects with Daoist and Tantric entheogens overlaid on previous monographs on psychoactive botanicals to more toxic drugs containing metals and mineral substances. This is a type of visionary mysticism that runs through alchemy. Many scholars may be said to overreach with the entheogenic hypothesis, suggesting their given plant candidate and considering the case closed. We do not see it as so black and white and will address these concerns in the second part.
This is part one in a series of sacred metallurgy. In some ways, the material presented here may actually highlight alchemical failures amidst a true alchemical tradition, a toxic dead end of poison induced fantasy. This is not to paint all with one brush, as some legitimate alchemical traditions existed and continue to exist. The data here connects with Daoist and Tantric entheogens overlaid on previous monographs on psychoactive botanicals to more toxic drugs containing metals and mineral substances. This is a type of visionary mysticism that runs through alchemy. Many scholars may be said to overreach with the entheogenic hypothesis, suggesting their given plant candidate and considering the case closed. We do not see it as so black and white and will address these concerns in the second part.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: gourdgardener on Sep 27, 2012
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Forged in Ecstasy: A Brief Survey of Psychoactive Metals and MineralsPart 1
By Frederick R. Dannaway www.sacredmetallurgy.com
 
 Intoxicating Visionary Ethnometallurgy and Ethnomineralogy
 
In the ancient world, the lines that divided poison and medicine blurred to correspondences of magical power-substances either ingested or 
 
 
used symbolically. Novel plants, minerals or metals were likely assayed byingesting small amounts and noting the effects or else giving it to theinfirmed among them and observing the reactions. Those that could navigatethe threatening natural world and safely mediate telluric currents spoke tothe gods or became immortals or the gods themselves. Such a mythology isfound in China with the Divine Farmer Shennong who tasted and classifiedhundreds of herbs by their safety, instituting civilization to a population atthe mercy of their own ignorance of the natural world and it’s poisons.Outside but overlapping the realm of nourishment and medicine weresubstances of strange energies that became enshrined in the ceremonies of  priests, the alchemical temples of elixir-cults, and the mystery traditions of archaic metallurgical guilds. The noted sinologist and biochemist Joseph Needham logically stated that “plant cults preceded metal cults” and whenthe magico-medical theorists turned to the depths of the earth, the cults of metals and minerals was born. The role of the ancient shaman-priest-smithas “master of fire” and civilizing hero knows the secrets of creation (Eliade1962). Yogis and Daoist hermits could, like the blue-throated Shiva,swallow poisons and transcend the mundane world with their focused asceticfury.The modern terms describing psychoactivity and psychopharmacological properties are sometimes too neat and distinct tocontextualize the exploitation of toxic substances in the ancient world. Therewas little to no demarcation of a substance’s inherent classification as a poison or panacea or substances relegated to the shamans or the gods. Theearly texts of medicinal effects describe entheogenic herbs with acutely toxicmetals and dangerous minerals that were prescribed for effects that must beclassified as being “psychoactive” in nature. Although the modernconnotations of the term
 psychoactive
deal with primary actions onneuroreceptors, the term fails with certain toxins (like arsenic and nicotineand the tropane alkaloids) that are potentially deadly poisons and yet exhibitdrastic pharmacological effects from erotic stimulation to the entheogenic tothe infernal. These would include compounds and elixirs ingested toachieve senses of well-being (antidepressant) which must be largelyunderstood as an experienced phenomena since the toxic substances in manycases were further dooming the patient.The holy fool or divine madmen of India, Arabia and China mighthave some pharmacological basis in their ingestion of toxic elixirs. Other effects would today be classified as inducing ecstasy, or having anaphrodisiac effect or to what may be called a “nootropic” giving a definitive psychoactive response in terms of cognition or altering moods. Other 
 
 
 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 (
 Neidan
) 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
et al 
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
 Datura
(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.

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