I picked up this book because of an interest in drug culture and history. The premise sounds interesting enough: we stopped doing shrooms and got worse as a society.
I’ll summarize the book in case the premise sounds interesting to you, so you can get the gist without reading it:
– Some ancient cultures used mushrooms.
– Lots of cultures MAY have used mushrooms but we’ll never know
– Mushrooms may have helped the human brain evolve and help us evolve language
– Ancient orgies on mushrooms are good for society because they dissolve social boundaries
– He goes into a history of sugar and says it’s just as addictive as heroin.
– He goes into a history of lsd, cocaine, dmt, heroin, tea.
– He suggests we have become male dominated, loss of feminine societies because we removed drugs from everyday society
The wikipedia article on shrooms is far more interesting than this book, and better written. That’s right, a wikipedia article is more coherent than this book. That should send you running.
Terence will present a pseudo idea, and then ramble off into barely related topics until you want to die. It is a chore to read. Instead of any kind of solid research, he glues together tangents into a a rickety web of boredom.
Let’s look at an example gem from Terence’s writing:
“The drive for unitary wholeness within the psyche, which is to a degree instinctual, can nevertheless become pathological if pursued in a context in which dissolution of boundaries and rediscovery of the ground of being has been made impossible.”
Did you zone out while reading that sentence? Imagine 300 pages of that. He has a remarkable way of presenting ideas in a fog of poor writing. It’s the same style of writing as a highschooler with a thin grasp of an essay topic and too much access to a thesaurus. It’s as if Terence knows his ideas don’t hold much water, so he throws in as many slightly related things as possible to make it look like he has a solid theory. The worst is when he gets into his own head without relying on any external sources. When that happens, expect to be liberally skipping paragraphs.
This book suffers terribly from not having an editor. Easily 90% could be cut out and not lose any substance. And once you realize that Terence can’t even provide interesting accounts of drug trips, you start to think very hard about your life and why you’re 200 pages deep in hell.
Some of his theories, like mushrooms helping our brains evolve language, are completely unfounded, and he has no research to back it up. This would be fine if he didn’t devote dozens of rambling pages to them.
You should also probably know that Terence McKenna stopped doing mushrooms in 1998 after a bad trip.
To get a full understand of how poor of a communicator Terence is, listen to him speak. Some of his lectures are online. If you can suffer through it, I dare you to try to come up with one thing you learned from hearing him speak. Anyone who claims he is an eloquent speaker, or that the audio book is better, has been tricked by Terence’s ability to ramble for hours, and isn’t aware they aren’t learning anything and that he has no coherent ideas.
I don’t think ideas about mushrooms and societal integration are bad. I started reading to become more familiar with drug culture and history and potential good uses of psychedelics. But 10 pages in I regretted it. If you think you enjoyed the book then you haven’t read any good nonfiction. Compared to persuasive, organized, well researched, non fiction books, Food of the Gods is a pile of trash.
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