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attracted the attention ofAmerican writer William S. Burroughs and, in 1953, Burroughs traveled with Schultes in the Colombian Amazon. Burroughs recorded this experience in letters to fellow writer and poet Allen Ginsberg that were published as an epistolary novel, The Yage Letters. In the early 1960s, the American LSD advocate Timothy Leary sought out Schultes, but Schultes did not endorse Leary's crusade . Schultes opposed state persecution of drug users, but never advocated casual drug use, and warned that even ceremonial uses had dangers. OneRiveris both biography and elegy .The Amazon that Schultes explored half a century ago is under assault and many of the peoples that he visited are vanishing, along with their realms of knowledge. Davis portrays these passing worlds and chronicles his own travels with Schultes' protege, Tim Plowman, who untangled the taxonomy of coca (the source of cocaine) before his untimely death from AIDS in 1989. These stories flow in and out of one another , and mingle along the waywith science, history, drug visions and Amazonian mythologies. What is most remarkable about OneRiveris how scrupulously Davis gives each perspective its due, yet how easily he moves from one to another. He never abandons science, but he does not let it destroy poetry, interfere with youthful exuberance, deny the revelatory power of hallucination or diminish his respect for the knowledge of cultures in which hallucinogens are used in sacred contexts. OneRiverdoes not attempt to chart a way out of our culture's drug morass, but it does provide vantage points from which to survey the situation. Despite the differences between Amazonian and Western peoples, we can learn much from them about the use of drugs. The ancient cultures that Davis describes illustrate the wisdom of legalizing hallucinogenic drugs for medical use, including treatment of mental disorders and emotional problems. The use of hallucinogenic drugs in Amazonian cultures also confirms the wisdom of legalizing all religious uses of hallucinogens. Traditional cultures have less to tell us, however, about our most serious drug problems, which are associated with recreational use. Very few traditional peoples use drugs recreationally (although some of the ceremonial uses that Davis describes sound a little like coffee breaks or Friday-night parties). Still, partial legalization, at least of long-used hallucinogens like peyote, marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms would be a big step in the right direction . Drug use is partly what we make of it-Davis relates story after story of what traditional peoples have made of it, and most of their practices put Western prohibitionary violence and mindless consumerism to shame. Davis tells of an encounter between Schultes and a missionary in Oaxaca: the missionary had tried to explain the concept of Heaven to a young woman, and assured her that it was a beautiful place where there were no tears. The Oaxacan woman then asked whether the missionary had been there. The missionary answered no-"I explained that only the dead know heaven. Then [the young woman] looked at me with the saddest face. She said that she was so sorry for me. And she left almost in tears." The young Oaxacan woman had attended mushroom ceremonies. Davis records destruction of traditional cultures and knows the disastrous effects of drug wars, especially in the coca-growing regions of the Eastern Andes. Although he presents no evidence that U.S. drug policies will be informed soon by scientific evidence, compassion, enlightened self-interest or willingness to learn from those outside the "New World Order," he is not bitter. OneRiveris hopeful about life in much the same way thatJack Kerouac's On theRoadwas hopeful-in spite of everything , we can still see angels. Note: An earlier version of this review was published in Helicoptero, No.2 (Nov. 1997). AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ARCHETYPAL SYMBOUSM, VOLUME 2: THE BODY by George R. Elder. Shambhala Publications , Boston, MA, U.S.A., 1996. 452 pp. ISBN: 1-57062-096-2. Reviewed byIstvan Hargittai, Budapest Technical University and Hungarian AcademyofSciences at Eotvos University, H1521 Budapest, Hungary. E-mail: . Volume two of the Encyclopedia ofArchetypalSymbolism is a beautiful, large-format coffee-table volume whose 100 entries can be read and enjoyed one by one. The first volume of the Encyclopedia appeared...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 153-154
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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