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Books - The History and Natural History of Ephedra as SOMA
Written by S. Mahdihassan   

Soma is an energizer as the body experiences it; it is euphoriant as the mind experiences it. Being an energizer it minimises the need for rest, which thus makes it antisomnolent. These three properties can well be conceived as three links of a chain, one logically connect ing the other. Moreover Soma, as ephedra, is easily comparable with the Khat of Yemen and with the Coca of South America, both of which also share the same propertiies., Ephedrine, being an alkaloid, is bitter and so are also the active principles of the Coca plant and of Khat. Soma was fragrant, which allies it to the pine, ephedra belongs to the same family and this helps to specify it. However, the odoriferous principle, which occurs in traces, can be overlooked, even though Miss Mulholland specifies it as the real active principle. Thus we can place three plants in the same class:The Coca plant, Erythroxylon Coca, Khat or Catha edulis, and Soma or the Ephedra  species. All three are energizers-cum-ephoriants. Now also of this class, though milder in nature, would be coffee and tea. Everyone knows how these drinks, containing caffeine, make one alert and make one easier to do work and further, if tired, help to refresh one. However, -being energizers, they are all habit formers. This feature is best recognized with the strongest of them all, which is cocaine. But we know that even tea drinkers become addicts. With this consideration, we have reached at another property of Soma which is addiction.Soma being ephedra, we may look for confirmation of addiction in a book of reference like the British Pharmaceutical Codex of 1968. On p. 294 we read, on the contrary, that with ephedrine "Insomnia is produced in adults, its effect lasts for about four hours". But, on p. 293, it states that, even "the prolonged administration of ephedrine has not cumulative effect, nor does it give rise to habit formation although tolerance may develop." This statement clearly contradicts what we know of even a mild energizer like tea. However Panse (1964) and Klages as clinicians, have shown ephedrine to be a habit former. Let me here emphasize the fruitful nature of the method used in the present study. Schiffeler (1979; 287) points out that, the Greeks "interpreted each isolated fact from a general conception which gave its position and meaning as part of whole." Such a statement in our case would suggest that an energizer should lead to addiction and this has been found to be the case with ephedrine along with other drugs already considered. Now in ancient times abstract ideas were expressed as concrete entities. Then accepting that Soma was deified as god Soma, correspondingly "addiction deified" became Indra. To personify addiction was to assign Indra his main virtue, as the consumer of Soma. Indra was sky god and when he patronized Soma there could not be a better personification of addiction. The Romans, as licentious people, made their gods likewise, in order to justify their own life of pleasures. The Aryan nomads, better to enjoy their drink made their highest deity, the sky-god, the patron of Soma. RV. 7.98.5 says,"Soma became Indra's own entire possession". This would be a complementary way of saying Indra is "deified addiction." When Indra becomes an addict, the common consumer would enjoy the drink as what was dearest to the highest god. In English they say, give a dog a bad name and hang him. The poets of Rigveda seem to have said: give Soma the best name and enjoy the drink. Here we have to focus, attention on the psychology of the hymn composer. The drink, or rather its source, the herb, was deified as god Soma, which meant the consumer of Soma became the protege of god Soma. This was his evolution as consumer. But the drug led to addiction and addiction also had to be deified, whence arose Indra as the deification of addiction. Thus were connected the consumer and the addict, the Soma drinker and Indra. Unless we accept that Soma induces addiction there is no explanation fo the creation of Indra as its patron-consumer. Now the nomad had to go hunting early in the morning, and at that time it was not easy for him to prepare the Soma juice with additives to make it palatable. He had to drink it neat, but the juice was bitter. There was however the alternative of making onself believe that it was nevertheless worthwhile drinking the juice as something indispensable in the life of the nomad-hunter. Thus arose the idea of dedicating the neat juice to Vayu and he, according to RV. 10.85.5., became "Soma's guardian god." Then to induce his protege to drink Soma neat and bitter, according to RV. 7.91.4., "ye (Vayu) pure-drinkers, drink with us pure Soma" so that we shall not feel its bitterness. But returning from the morning hunt, at noon, he made up for it by _drinking Soma tasty and euphoriant and, above all, dedicated to Indra. Thus Vayu, Soma and Indra were all connected with one another as gods.


Our valuable member S. Mahdihassan has been with us since Sunday, 24 March 2013.

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