February 3, 2014
Breaking Convention / Somahuasca?
Now Playing: Pat Kilroy & New Age

One of the most interesting presentations at the Breaking Convention 2013 came from Matthew Clark, a British researcher who has taken the old Soma horse out for another stroll around the pastures of psychedelia. As he remarks, not much has happened in the field the past 20 years, with those concerned lining up with Wasson or McKenna (soma was a mushroom) or Flattery & Schwartz (soma/haoma was Syrian Rue+Ephedra). After looking into the case for my Psychedelia book I still found Wasson's 1968 fly agaric theory the most credible, even if the psychotropic effects of the mushroom when taken "neat" are poor. My guess, which I put into the book, was that something in the preparation brought forth a new entheogenic profile from the Amanita, providing the clearly psychedelic effects bespoken in the hallowed 9th Chapter.

Matthew Clark does not buy the Wasson theory, or any mushroom theory at all. His main argument against is that the description of the soma plant as being crushed with heavy stones to produce juice does not match the preparation needed for a fly agaric shroom at all. This is a rather reasonable objection, although the forceful crushing, like everything else in the Vedic interpretation labyrinth, could be explained away as a figure of speech, or an exaggerated gesture put on for show, or elements borrowed from another ritual, etc. However, if we go along with it as an accurate description of the preparation of soma, the mushroom case is considerably weakened.

Clark (and probably others too) has developed another theory, which is inspired by his ayahuasca studies. Rather than just one plant, he suggests that soma was an early "anahuasca" potion; meaning a combination of two plants where one is a DMT source and the other a MAO inhibitor to allow the DMT to reach the brain. The theory elegantly combines two fairly recent paths in entheogenic research; the Syrian Rue hypothesis from Flattery & Schwarz (whose proposed Efedra is not psychedelic) and the "DMT everywhere" revelation of DMT's presence in common field grass made by Jim DeKorne in the Entheogenic Review 1993.

Since the Syrian Rue already has a fairly strong case in the Soma literature (although neither Wasson nor McKenna bought it) it needn't be argued for, but reinterpreted as an harmala alkaloid MAOI rather than a "vision" plant. DMT or maybe 5-MeO-DMT extracted from various grasses would provide the psychedelic effects, just like chacruna/Psychotria viridis does in the Amazon. The result: a Central Asian ayahuasca, carried both Eastward to India and Westward to Persia, where the potion lived on as soma and haoma, respectively, until at some point the knowledge is lost or the plants become inaccessible.

This offers some food for thought, and I'll leave it like that for the moment, although there is clearly more to say both in advance and against the hypothesis. See Matthew Clark's presentation here:

Posted by Patrick at Lysergia at 19:21 CET
Updated: February 3, 2014 20:07 CET

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