Mescaline by Mike Jay review- a global history of the first psychedelic.

Mescaline- a global history of the first psychedelic is probably the most detailed and concise account of the psychedelic heavyweight that is mescaline. The most significant works to my mind to explore the mystical substance prior to Mike Jay’s account, were Aldous Huxley’s The doors of perception (1954) or indeed who could forget Don Juan’s famous ‘power’ deity ‘Mescalito’ in Carlos Castaneda’s The teachings of Don Juan (1968). However, author Mike Jay goes beyond providing a singular account or story. Indeed Jay provides a detailed journey and history, which explores both ceremonial and medicinal uses of the substance, from the indigenous to the scientific.

Above author Mike Jay.

What is mescaline?

Mescaline is a a derivative of phenethylamine and is found in sacred cactus such as the Peyote or the Trichocereus Pachanoi which goes by several names such as San Pedro, Wachuma, Bolivian torch, Peruvian torch and the like.


The book is named after the notion that mescaline was the first psychedelic substance to be studied by Western scientists. Jay’s historical account begins detailing early use in the High Andes of Peru as far back as 1200 BCE in ritual ceremonial settings, later moving to it’s use in Mexico where-by it was demonised by the Spanish and indeed prohibited in 1620. We also learn of various Native American rituals and settings, which really provide an excellent cultural and spiritual perspective. From here Jay guides us through mescaline’s discovery in the West and its use by those such as James Mooney, Silas Mitchell and William James. As well as scientists and religious figures, Jay also introduces us to its use by philosophers and artists such as Walter Benjamin and Aldous Huxley. Jay also reveals his own ceremonial use of Wachuma highlighting how ‘the hangover comes first’ and describing the beautiful visuals he experienced of ‘honeycombs of green and violet.’


Jay’s work sets out a map of many diverse religious, scientific and indigenous framings of the use of mescaline. In this way providing a balanced and objective narrative. One can discover the spiritual and ritual based systems based around the use of peyote and Wachuma adopted by various Native American tribes. Or indeed read the accounts of Western academic and scientific minds such as Silas Mitchell or William James. Furthermore, Jay provides a balanced account of the use of mescaline revealing the demonisation of its use by early Spanish invaders of the 16th century whose perspectives were ‘framed in religion.'

Ultimately what makes Mescaline-the world’s first psychedelic so appealing and subtle in wisdom, is that for anyone who has used peyote or Wachuma, they may be able to observe a beautiful lesson often gifted and framed by mescaline itself. The lenses through which we see life are created through various thought and brain patterns built and layered through education, religion, upbringing and the like. These layers of patterns give us a sense of identity and form the ego. Essentially what mescaline provides is relief from these illusory layers and patterns (default mode) to reveal the real pure self. Through the introspection and detachment provided by Wachuma, one can see the many masks we wear and thus Jay beautifully reveals this message by providing the different lenses or masks, through which we can see peyote, to illustrate that all these accounts are all valid and true, every path is the right path. Silas Mitchell beautifully acknowledges this from his perceived ‘Western scientific’ perspective in noting ‘rational consciousness is but one form of consciousness’.

An excellent read. We recommend!

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