HANGING OFF THE MOLECULE: A BRIEF MEETING WITH ALEXANDER SHULGIN

BitsPlan

I met Alexander Shulgin after a lecture he gave at the Mindstates conference in Berkeley, in November of 1997. He was seated unobtrusively on a stoop in front of the Berkeley lecture hall, The International House, minding his own business, a burly avuncular old man, no doubt unwinding after the lecture he gave to a packed audience on mescaline-containing cacti, a passion of his for many years. In fact, it was mescaline that opened the doors of perception for not just Huxley and Sartre, but Shulgin as well: “Mescaline: a magic name and a magic compound. It was not until April 1960 . . .that a friend of mine provided me with the opportunity to be “baby-sat” on an experience with 400 milligrams of mescaline sulfate. It was a day that will remain blazingly vivid in my memory, and one which unquestionably confirmed the entire direction of my life.” PIHKAL pg. 47.

It fascinated me that the twentieth century’s greatest alchemist was seated alone, no groupies or mobs attending him, and I sidled over, trying to conceal my glee. Although I found a lot of the chemistry he had mentioned during his lecture hard to follow, I complemented him on his

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