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'Stoned' robins, drawing by Kim*

Not only mankind uses mind-altering substances. Our close cousins the gorillas, the mandrills, the baboons and the orangutans are also known to enjoy a good trip, as do the tigers and the elephants, all our farm animals and the rabbits that cross their paths. That's just for starters, because all the birds studied are known to fly higher with drugs: the dove becomes more peaceful, the parrot cannot stop talking and the canary will sing for as long as it's trip lasts. And what to think about the enormous flocks of robins, partying after getting drunk on toyons, better known as Christmas berries? Or the bees, the spiders, the flies and the mosquitoes experiencing their own moments of bliss?

The use of mind-altering plants and products seems to be the way of nature to cleanse the nervous systems of the animal world from all culturally developed behaviour that on the one hand helps survive living creatures, but on the other are experienced as a burden. For that reason, all the animals, insects and birds that have been observed using these substances obtain such an overwhelming amount of satisfaction from its use that they will repeat the experience whenever possible, often at the peril of their physical survival.

Indigenous folklore tells about people learning the use of mind-altering substances from the animals. In particular instances that might indeed be the case. But there is no reason why man, having been another animal till he developed a bit more than his fellow animals, should not have known the use of the mind-altering plants all along, only to lose the habit when civilization set in. This was the moment that people became aware that the experience of going beyond the mind, allowed by the mind-altering plants, bestowed knowledge. That's why we see around the world how shamans first learned to control these experiences with their minds and with the insight gained started to control the minds of the rest of the community. They invented divinely decreed commandments, having the local god giving them the monopoly on - or prohibit completely - the use of the substances that induce the mind-altering experience.

Starting in Mesopotamia, the study of civilization teaches us that this process of mind control was accomplished by fear and force. A pivotal moment in the process was the divine prohibition of the fruit of knowledge in the Jewish Torah and its universal dissemination through Christianity, which culminated in our days in the War on Drugs.

With an appeal to divinity to uphold the validity of prohibition having become redundant, the legitimation for continuing prohibition centered on the dangers to the health of the consumers of the various substances. As that line of argumentation started being seriously questioned from within the academic world, the US government, mainstay of the War on Drugs, prohibited scientific inquiry of prohibited substances altogether. And even though as of late, research has been reinitiated, the 2017 request by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for the US government to stop erecting barriers to cannabis research, is testimony to the ongoing manipulation of the public understanding about mind-altering substances.

Unlike the world of academia, we can not wait at the doors of power to get the go-ahead on studying what for us is a matter of life in liberty, or one in misery. Having experienced physically the benefits of the use of mind-altering substances, we are forced to advance in our personal quest for understanding, with or without official consent or the valuable contribution of science.
It is from this perspective that we offer you our insight on the spirituality of the marihuana high and the peyote quest for life.

* In "Animales que se drogan", by Giorgio Samorini, 2000, Cañamo Ediciones, Barcelona, Spain