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Written by Weston La Barre   
Friday, 14 January 2011 00:00



Since the alkaloids of peyote fall into two classes with regard to physiological action, the strychnine-like (increased reflex-irritability to the point of tetanus) and the morphine-like (sedative-soporific) and since there are important ethnographic considerations concern-the supposed "sex" of peyote, we discuss the action of each alkaloid before characterizing pan-peyotl physiologically. The two groups are somewhat antagonistic in action; ethno-graphic indications seem to point to the earlier action of the strychnine-like alkaloids, and a delayed reaction of the morphine-like. However, the size of the dose and the continued ingestion of buttons during the night cause variations in the length of the different periods of intoxication.

The peyote-alkaloids might be arranged in a scale, with mescaline at the morphine-like extreme and lophophorine at the other: (morphine-like) mescaline, peyotline, anhaline, anhalatnine, anhalonidine, anhalonine, lophophorine (strychnine-like). Peyotline, however, has a variable effect on different individuals, while anhalonine has been accounted of the the morphine-like group by Rouhier.' The color-visions so conspicuous in peyote-intoxica-tion are chiefly produced by mescaline.2 Lophophorine is the most toxic.' Physiologically the effects of the individual alkaloids are:4

Mescaline: slowing of pulse, slight headache, sensation of heaviness in the limbs lasting one to several hours; heavier doses, feeling of discomfort and fullness of stomach (even when injected intravenously) in addition to the above symptoms; still heavier doses, accentuation of symptoms and appearance of color-visions.

Peyotline: in about an hour reduces the pulse approximately one-quarter the normal number of beats; two hours after ingestion, heaviness of eyelids, sensation of fatigue, aversion to all physical or mental effort ; has no marked analgesic action but is a fairly good sedative and has a very apprecia-ble hypnotic and anodyne action.

Anhaline [ = hordeninel :5 exercises a paralyzing effect on the central nervous system. Anhalamine: this has not been adequately studied physiologically. Nor have Anhalinine and Anhalidine.

Anhalonidine: only slight sleepiness and dull sensation in head; pulse not affected.

Anhalonine: produces no sensible effect, except perhaps a slight sleepiness.

Lophophorine: the most toxic, has no narcotic action; a quarter-hour after ingestion an accentu-ated sickening feeling in the back of the head, with hotness and blushing of face, slight pulse dimi-nution; symptoms disappear after 4o minutes.

"In short," says Rouhier, 6 "save for anhalonidine which, in strong doses, provokes in the frog paralysis of the motor nerve-ends (which is not observed otherwise in mammals), the alkaloids of peyote act on the central nervous system. . . . [Mescaline] acts on the brain, which it paralyzes. [Lophophorine] is antagonistic in action to this, augmenting the irritability of the spinal cord and its elongations. . . . Peyotline, anhalonine and anhalonidine hold a middle place between the two preceding. They produce in the frog a soporific effect (due to the paralysis of the brain or central nervous system), followed by an effect of tetanus. Anhalonidine and anhalonine have identical physiological effects. The paralyzing effect of the former is of long duration. That of the second is much reduced and is lacking in warm-blooded animals."


The native use of peyote, however, involves of course the whole series of alkaloids, and we must discuss the physiological effect of pan-peyotl preparations. Since antagonistic alkaloids are at work, it is not surprising to find several stages of physiological action with the whole plant. Dixon writes :7

The action may be divided into a preliminary stage and a stage of intoxication. In the former there is excitement, a feeling of exhilaration, and diminished kinaesthetic sensations, performances involving effort being hardly noticed; the face is flushed, and the pupils dilated; there is a tendency to talkativeness, which may become wandering later, when the patient begins to feel "lightheaded."

This stage quickly passes away, and is followed by one of intoxication, in which there is a great inclination to lie down, although there is never any tendency to sleep. The pupils are now widely dilated, but act slugg ishly to light. On attempting to walk, the gait closely resembles that in al-coholic intoxication, and in all bodily movements requiring precision, the incoördination is evident. The body is generally in a tremulous condition, the tremors showing well when the attention is fixed on anything held in the hand. Reflexes over the whole body are much increased, including the skin reflexes, although there is considerable blunting of painful and tactile sensation. Twitching of muscles occurs in various parts of the body, especially noticeable in the face, and there is a curious feeling as if the face, lips, tongue, etc., were much swollen.

As in cannabis indica, time is ovevestimated, possibly as a result of the rapid flow of ideas8 and the inability to fix the attention. Perception of space is also modified,8 on one occasion giving the impression that the ground sloped away in all directions.

Perception may be considerably delayed; for example, one may look at a person one knows well, and it is only after scanning his features for what appears to the experimenter a considerable time, that recognition occurs ;" it is possible, however, that this may be expla ined by the increased time-relation. The attention cannot be fixed, as the least stimulus is sufficient to alter the train of thought; thus it was found impossible to fix the attention on a book, and a subsequent examination of notes attempted during intoxication showed incoördination both as regards language and writing.

On two occasions when deeply under the influence of the drug, there was an indescribable feeling of dual existence; thus after sitting with closed eyes subjectively examining the color visions, on suddenly opening them for a brief space one seems to be a different self, as on waking from a dream we pass into a different world from that in which we have been. This may be to some extent comparable to the rhythmical rise and fall of the "physical waves" in Indian hemp intoxication.0

But by far the most remarkable of these subjective phenomena are the sensory hallucinations," especially visual. These arise gradually, and are at first only seen with closed eyes .... The visions rapidly become more marked, until on closing the eyes a regular kaleidoscopic play of colours can be seen with either eye, precisely the same; hence the condition must be central.

These colours may assume all kinds of fantastic shapes ; they are never still, but constantly in motion, sometimes in a circular or to-and-fro manner, but more generally there is a kind of pulsation somewhat similar to that in the cinematograph."

Both native visions and white observations testify abundantly to the phenomena of synaesthesis, or the perception of the data of one sense in terms of another. Rouhier figures a painting made by an experimenter in which the sound of a bell is seen as a surréaliste aggregate of flowing, pulsating lines; and a subject of Havelock Ellis had a "curious sensa-tion of tasting colors." Crichtly mentions a color-taste synaesthesia also." All these phe-nomena are physiological constants, as indicated by comparison of native visions with white experimenters' observations.

After visual hallucinations far the commonest are auditory ones. The writer, with a number of other observers, has noted the preternatural resonance, hollowness, discreteness and far-away quality of one's own voice; if vocal disfunction were involved one would expect a raising of pitch here, hence it is probably auditory. On this point Dixon bears critical evidence :"

The whole effect of the sound of the piano was most curious and delightful, the whole air being filled with music, each note of which seemed to arrange itself around a medley of other notes which appeared to me to be surrounded by a halo of colour pulsating to the music. Nasal hyperaesthesia was also present, though less evident than either the visual or auditory phenomena.

The more strictly physiological effects may be summed up as follows :16

Skin : no local irritation on injection of pan-peyotl; one observer reports partial skin anaesthesia, but this does not affect cutaneous reflex-excitability, which is much increased.

Respiration: moderate amounts in Rana esculens produce no effect, but in toxic doses respiration becomes quicker and shallower, death ultimately occurring from paralysis of the respiratory center. In man respiration is ordinarily not affected, but some observers report shallower and more rapid breathing with "occasional long-drawn and deep sighs, and a painful feeling of suffocation." Still another observer states that "respiration slows immediately after injection but is not influenced in a durable manner.""

Circulation: in the frog a marked effect on heart-beat : diminished rapidity, but increased dura-tion; in the dog a small dose causes a slight rise in pressure, stronger doses considerable depression on the heart and vasodilation; in the cat mescaline causes initial lower pressure, slowly rising, and with a larger dose a greater initial fall, more marked slowing in beat, with variable promptness in recovery. In man .o5 gr. of lophophorine causes marked slowing of beat but a rise in pressure and force. An ordinary dose of four "buttons" produces a 15-25% fall in the number of beats, with a slow recovery from a sharp drop unless more are eaten. But death in guinea pigs and frogs comes through paralysis of respiration, not of the heart, since in Wiley's experiments it would beat r 5-2o minutes after the death of the animal. "All this evidence points to the conclusion that the main effect of these alkaloids is a direct one on cardiac muscle . . . [since] very large doses, quite non-therapeutic in amount, are . . . required before the colour visions . . . are observed.

Salivation: increased in the cat, whether administered by mouth or subcutaneously ; the alka-loids are secreted in the saliva (one cc. of cat saliva produces the same symptoms in a frog); in man salivation is somewhat increased.

Digestive system: in small doses pan-peyotl is constipating, according to some. In the cat large doses produce diarrhea and blood in the feces. In man and the quadrupeds all sensations of hunger are suppressed or absent during the period of intoxication, but the appetite returns somewhat in-. creased after recovery; on first injection or ingestion there is a marked nausea and feeling of fullness in the stomach which passes off, without, however, hunger arising.

Blood, secretions, etc.: no increase in the coagulability of the blood; pancreatic and biliary secre-tions unaffected.

Kidneys: peyote alkaloids chiefly excreted by the kidneys; experiments show increased renal blood supply, and pan-peyotl is markedly diuretic.

Eyes: in the later stages of intoxication the pupils are widely dilated, accompanied by lack of accommodation and consequent photophobia.

NerVOUS system: sizeable doses produce their most marked effect on the nervous system: wake-fulness (despite cardiac and muscular depression), exaggeration of all reflexes (due to selective action on the spinal cord). A frog injected with pan-peyotl became "exceedingly susceptible to stimuli, until even the slightest touch or even a breath of cold air is sufficient to give rise to a little nervous explosion, with the resulting contraction of several muscles"; the frog became rigid in tetanus as the reflexes degenerated. Convulsions are produced in the dog with 1/5 cc. of pan-peyotl, sometimes light, sometimes as violent as those of strychnine; death in convulsions with r cc. per kilogram of body weight. Pan-peyotl immediately kills a rabbit with a dose of 2 cc. per kilogram of body weight, injected intravenously; 2 cc. injected in the lymphatic sac paralyzes a frog. An injected cat shows "ataxic gait, with jerky and stiff movements"—a staccato effect in an animal notable for the legato quality of its movements—with "irregular twitchings of muscles over the whole body." The same effects, less marked because of relatively smaller doses, appear in man as in other mammals. Ex-traordinary doses cause qualitatively and quantitatively the same reactions: the writer has seen a child, quite ill and suffering from malnutrition, brought very fretful into a peyote meeting and fed peyote "tea" tmtil rigid in strychnine-like tetanic opisthotonos.

Psychic state: exceedingly variable, varying culturally, with the stages of intoxication, and in the individual himself at different times. Mexican visions sometimes have a frightening tone, sometimes one of hilarity. The writer had marked confirmation of this while still ignorant of this ethnographic fact: in an Oto meeting in 1936 visions were of monstrous animals so ridiculous and hilariously funny that proper self-restraint in meeting was difficult; yet, in a control experiment comfortably conducted in New Haven, the psychic state developed into one of stark, galloping, psychotic terror, quite inexplicable on realistic grounds (later, parallels were found in Winnebago material and in white observations). Curiously enough Dixon noted in a cat photophobia, dilated pupils and a fixed "stare . . . [and] most of the physical elements of 'terror.' . . . The ears were drawn back, the hair over the body, especially the tail, becomes erected, there is twitching of the superficial muscles, the respiration being shallow and hurried, and the heart weak and irregular." One experimenter's subject became possessed of the fixed idea that he was being poisoned, when the intoxication had thoroughly developed. This experience, once felt, is so strikingly physiological that one is tempted to wonder if there is any hypersecretion of adrenalin, perhaps in adjustmental reaction to the effect of the alkaloids on the heart. Dixon thought Lophophora differed from Cannabis indica in never provoking merriment; yet Wertham and Bleuler had one subject who achieved a state of to him quite meaningless hilarity. Fear states are present among native users also, to judge from the content of some visions recorded ; conceivably these might be the psychic end-results of the intensified reflex-excitability induced by the strychnine-like alkaloids. However, one should bear in mind throughout the antagonistic effect of the alkaloids, which together with individual, cultural and other differences (physiological state, amount eaten, the form in which the drug is taken—infusion or solid, dry or green—the continued eating of it in late stages of intoxication, etc.) contribute to widely variable reactions. The experiments of Wertham and Bleuler are impressive in this connec, tion." This variability for the same subject at different times, Indians explain, is conditioned by what one starts thinking about when the intoxication begins."


We have previously noted the use in Mexico of teo-nanacatl, Cacalia spp. and Can-nabis spp. for their supposed aphrodisiac virtues. Peyote too has become involved in this use, but it has been as warmly defended as attacked, some indeed maintaining that it is a specific anaphrodisiac. It can hardly be both. The present writer, as a matter of fact, con-siders this less a problem of physiology than one of ethnology, psychology or even psychia-try, and is persuaded that in the pharmacological-physiological sense there exist neither aphrodisiacs nor their opposite, anaphrodisiacs.

The matter is not to be settled off-handedly by resort to experiments on white subjects; it is a more intricate question of culture and personality. If white subjects argue heatedly for peyote's aphrodisiac and anaphrodisiac virtues, this proves nothing physiological. It merely indicates the long notorious fact that given the somewhat anti-sexual tradition of west Euorpean culture, the typical anxiety of its culture,bearers is sexual. This is scarcely the case with the Plains Indians I have observed. As expressed in ritual, symbolism and prayer, the typical anxiety of these natives is that about life itself—and the culture-his-torical background out of which this has grown will be readily recalled by students of Plains ethnography (constant warfare, prestige symbolisms, the coming of the Whites with new diseases, superior weapons, etc.).

We shall merely cite here, therefore, instances showing up the order of "proof" so far adduced to support these contrary stands about peyote. Lumholtz leads the anaphrodisiac school:

Another marked effect of the plant is to take away temporarily all sexual desire. This fact, no doubt, is the reason why the Indians, by a curious aboriginal mode of reasoning, impose abstinence from sexual intercourse as a necessary part of the hikuli cult.2°

Wertharn and Bleuler also write of subjects thatn "efforts to conjure up an erotic scene were unsuccessful." Fernberger,22 however, exhibits a still more naive sense of evidence:

[An ethnographer] reports that in the Peyote Cults investigated there is no actual, implied or even symbolic eroticism" which marks these ceremonies off from practically every other known American Indian ceremony of any tribe or group [!]. In order to test the validity of some of these reports, nine mature members of the faculty . . . submitted together to extreme peyote intoxica-tion." [The experiment was performed in a group because it] gave the opportunity for suggestion of one observer upon another [and permitted a ceremony complete with rattles and drum. Con-sequently") one unexpected and unforeseen result of this investigation is the evident strongly anti-aphrodisiac" effect of the drug. This would again explain, for social psychology and for anthropology, the purely and totally unerotic character27 of the ceremonies of the Peyote Cults so unusual to American Indian ceremonies.28

It seems alike profitless to enter into a discussion of those who argue the aphrodisiac properties of peyote." These have often enough been missionaries and administrators whose use of the argument in bitter attacks on the Native American Church shows them to be scarcely disinterested. Certainly from the evidence so far at hand we can only heartily endorse the opinion of Kliiver" that "the drug apparently does not influence the sexual sphere in any specific way."


From the physiological relation of the peyote alkaloids to strychnine and morphine, considerable enthusiasm was early shown about their pharmacodynamics and possible therapeutic uses. Jolly" in 1896 experimented on pellotine [ = peyotline] as a hypnotic and soporific, for when used in small doses in man the fall of the pulse initially is accompanied by sleepiness. Heffter" likewise reports a marked heaviness of limbs and eyelids. Loaeza," apparently using pan-peyotl preparations, maintained that peyote and Cereus serpentinus (organillo) had value as tonics or cardiac regulators, but variable action and individual idiosyncrasy is marked. Henry" says the therapeutic dose of pellotine is one-third to two-thirds of a grain, but that it is only "slightly narcotic." The high toxicity of lophophorine discourages its therapeutic use. Rouhiern wrote in 192,6 that "properly speaking, thera-peusis by peyote does not yet exist. Although the drug was introduced in the American pharmaceutical market" for twenty years, from which it has since disappeared, it is still unknown to the great medical public." On the whole, however, the therapeutic possibili-ties of Lophophora seem unimpressive.37


Because peyote produces what has been described as a "mescal psychosis," it has been suggested that it might be a useful approach for the psychiatrist in the study of schizo-phrenia. The production of "horrible depressions" in a subject of Prentiss and Morgan and "fear that his life was leaving him," as well as the unaccountable hilarity of Wertham and Bleuler's subject, suggests a similar value, if any, in the study of manic-depressive psychoses too. No doubt psychoses may be exteriorized with increased facility in peyote intoxication, but this strikes one as a crude method and subject to the introduction of extraneous factors over which there is no contro1.38

Hutchings used pellotine as a hypnotic on psychotic patients in the St. Lawrence State Hospital. Pilcz likewise reports this use of peyote as a sedative for the insane, but Warburg states that these experiments have met with little success, on account of the by-effects of the alkaloids. Dr. Goodall of the Carmarthen Asylum, according to Havelock Ellis, tried peyote on melancholic and stuporous patients, but "beyond dilation of pupils and rapidity PI of heart action, the results were nil." Martindale and Westcott report that formerly peyote was used in neurasthenia, hysteria and asthma; it is hard to see in some cases where the cure is any superior to the disease, however. Briau employed peyote in "anxiety states," but the extremely variable emotional states under peyote intoxication make even tentative conclusions precarious." Indeed, peyote would be cakulated to ag-gravate asthma and anxiety states under some circumstances!

Bensheim found different mescal reactions in cycloids and schizoids, but Wertham and Bleuler somewhat surprisingly discovered both reactions in a single person, and argued for the inconstancy of the formal structure of the "personality." Probably, however, peyote had no definitive importance in either case though the former used only mescaline and the latter pan-peyotl. Zucker induced mescaline intoxication in the hallucinated insane, but far too many variables appear to be involved here. Zador conducted experiments on the blind and patients with disordered vision, using mescaline, the chief hallucination-producing alkaloid of peyote. Kliiver discussed color predominance in reported visions (red-green in the initial phases, blue-yellow later). This suggests selective action of the alkaloids on vari-ous regions of the retina, evidence bearing on the Ladd-Franklin phylogenetic theory of color vision. Possibly, too, colors predominant in peyote-symbolisms of natives may have a physiological meaning. Kliiver's "form-constants" in peyote-intoxication may have simi-lar significance, but he dealt largely with White visions only."


Of more concern, however, to those who interest themselves in the welfare of Indians is the possible ill effect or habit-forming nature of the drug. On this point we quote the opinions of those better qualified than the writer to speak.
Briau,41 in his psychiatric study, emphasized

the innocuousness of peyote. . . . No signs of grave intolerance were ever exhibited, nor any ace' dent more disagreeable than vomiting, all too frequent at the beginning of a treatment with opiates. There was no notable organic upsetment produced during the time of action of the medicament-The effects on the circulation, respiration, digestive system and excretory functions have not ap peared noxious. We have frequently examined urine for the existence of abnormal constituents revealing some derangement of the liver or the kidneys. In short, never during our researches have distressing secondary phenomena been manifested (headache, obnubilation, confusion, psychic and physical depression, or gastrointestinal disturbances).... No brutality in the action [of pan-peyotl] can be remarked,

Briau believes the drug non-habit forming. Rouhier expresses himself more guardedly: That peyote-mania can sometimes exist, we will not dispute. We merely remark, to explain our optimism on the subject, that the drug does not seem to provoke that irresistible physiological appetite, nor that -state of need," purveyors of the great toxicomanias which opium, cocaine, heroine or akohol create.

Havelock Ellis expresses himself as follows:

The few observations recorded in America and my own experiments in England do not enable us to say anything regarding the habitual consumption of mescal in large amounts. That such con-sumption would be gravely injurious I cannot doubt. Its safeguard seems to lie in the fact that a certain degree of robust health is required to obtain any real enjoyment from its visionary gifts.

The last statement is somewhat gratuitous, if not erroneous.42 Hrdli&a" writes as follows:

My views . . . are that any substance which is capable of producing such effects on the brain and nervous system if abused is bound to produce harm. Fortunately peyotl is rather scarce, is used on special occasions only—in a large majority of cases—and thus it is probably quite free from any permanent injury." The drug can perhaps be likened to nicotine, and like the latter will doubtless not affect different individuals to the same degree. Also, as with nicotine, it may be quite impossible with our present means to detect the harm it has done. Besides which it is quite possible that the system may build up some resistance or safeguard against it and thus prevent any substantial injury. I should by no means join myself to those who se_e in it any great danger.

1 Rouhier, Monographic, 231.

2 Kobert, Lehrbuch, tooS-too9; Rouhier, op. cit., 227; Henry (T. A.), The Plant Alkaloids, 199: Dixon (W. E.), The Physiological Action, 71. Rouhier (op. cit., 228, 23i) places peyotline in the strychnine group; it has a narcotic and tetanic effect on animals, to be sure, but in man, according to Jolly, it causes slight hypnosis, but no anaesthesia. Schmiedeberg puts it in the morphine group, which we have followed (cf. Kobert, Lehrbuch, loop).

3 Henry (T. A.), ThePlant Alkaloids, too; Rouhier, op.cit., 238; Dixon (W. E.), The Physiological Action, 71.

4 Condensed from Rouhier, op. cit., 217-3a. Note "pellotine" is the same as "peyotline."

5 Henry, loc. cit. Staub and Grassmann (Ober die Wirkungsgrenze, 336) state, in dogs, increased heartbeat and pressure.

6 Rouhier, op. cit., 2,31. I have modified and added to Rouhier's classifications. Ellis (Mescal: A New Artificial Paradise) describes the effects on the central nervous system as "acute cerebrasthenia." The lethal dose of anhalonine hydrochloride for rabbits is o.16 to 0.2 grams per kilogram of body weight; lophophorine kills frogs by a dose of only o.ot grams per kilogram of body weight. (Henry, op. cit., 199).

7 Dixon (W. E.), The Physiological Action, 79-81. Rouhier (op. cit., /68-69): "Intoxication by peyote in man comprises two very distinct phases, one, general superexcitement, contentment; euphoria, the other of nervous sedation, of more or less accentuated physical indolence, and of hypocerebrality; this last phase is almost entirely filled with the production of color-visions." Henry (op.cit., 199) likens this preliminary stage to akoholic intoxication.

8 Fernberger (Observations, 27o) mentions "a very clear but rapidly changing focus of attention"; see also his Further Observations, 367. Crichtly (Some Farms, io2) notes the "rapidity of change," though visions "lasted many hours." It is in this that the "indescribability" of the visions lies (Ellis, Mescal: A New Artificial Paradise).

9 Fernberger (Observations, 269) notes "distortion of time and space"; and (Further Observations, 367) a "grave upsetting of space and time . . . space was extremely extended and time extremely slowed." Maggen-dorfer (Intoxikationspsychosen, 355-56) notes for mescaline a time and space derangement, similar to those in other "intoxikationpsychosen." Crichtly (op. cit., io5) describes micropsia and megalopsia, or gravely deranged perception of size.

10 In these careful statements by Dixon (on a subject not notable for the accuracy of all observers) many physiological bases for ethnographic observations I have made may be found, e.g., the mistaking in a Kiowa meet-ing of the medicine-man Tonakat by an informant for a hideous alligator-like monster; he believed then he had seen this witch "for what he was."

11 The writer testifies to the accuracy of Dixon's somewhat amazing statement. So marked have been the physical effects of the first stage of intoxication, that when these pass off to give rise to the feeling of physiologi-cal normality (introspectively), one almost has a distrust of the existence of these spectacular mental displays particularly if the observer is of a markedly non-"psychic" or skeptical cast of mind. The visions arise in the midst of a psychological state I can only describe as one of perfectly plausible "epistemological orientation," sometimes acutely felt in alcoholic intoxication. The feeling of dissociation with this unfamiliar and spectacular side of ones peyote-intoxication experience has suggested to some observers incipient schizoid psychoses Small wonder natives often exhibit curiously ambivalent attitudes toward their visions, and sometimes explicitly reject and disclaim them as "bad," the result of trickery by the peyote power ("he's testing me") or by some hu-man witch present. Hoebel in conversation has insisted on the Northern Cheyenne attitude of suspicion of peyote's "trickiness." But I wholly disagree with Havelock Ellis and others who have argued for the "ineffabil-ity" of visions, and even less do I see in peyote-intoxication any approach to the mystical state of the epistemo-logical convincingness of the visions. It is this concomitant state of seeming objectiveness and reality-orientation which accounts for the marked feeling of duality. On this point, cf. Drs. Monakow and Morgue: "[Peyote produces] a particular state of dreaming, without losing, relatively, the idea of orientation, accompanied by pseudo-hallucinatory phenomena."

12 Ellis (Mescal: A Study of a Divine Plant, 6o) reports a "vague olfactory hallucination"; Fernberger (Observations, 269) and the writer have noticed kinaesthetic derangements which have parallels in native visions. Hearing is very acute (Fernberger, ibid.; Further Observations, 371), but subject to hallucination and synaesthetic derangement.

13 Some fifty native peyote "visions" were collected in the original dissertation from which this paper is derived.

14 Rouhier, op. cit., 315, fig. 44; Ellis, Mescal; A Study, 68; Crichtly, Some Forms, 106.

15 Dixon (W. E.), The Physiological Action, 81.

16 Based largely on Dixon and Rouhier, with additional data from Jaensch, Wiley, Crichtly, Prentiss and Morgan, Ellis, Femberger, Wertham and Bleuler, Lewin, Maggendorfer, Staub and Grassmann.

17 Rouhier, op. cit., 232. But Dixon writes, "In man the nervous effects are extremely interesting, but on account of the respiratory depression which is liable to occur it is not desirable to experiment too freely; it is necessary to remember that this substance, like Indian hemp, varies considerably in its effects on different in, dividuals, and that the element of idiosyncrasy is marked."

18 Wertham and Bleuler, Inconstancy of the Formal Structure of the Personality, The general thesis of these experimenters was that personality types might be studied as they were exteriorized in mescaline intoxication via the Rorschach test. One of the observers described two personalities in a normal subject in two periods of intoxication, not knowing that it was the same person. They conclude, interestingly: "It is suggested that these observations indicate that the form of a personality is not a constant, but that it may be influenced by outer cir, cumstances, and that the usual psychologic "type" of a person does not necessarily exhaust the description of the formal structure of his personality."

19 "What an excellent use for a medical congress," Sir Francis Galton dryly wrote Havelock Ellis (Mescal: A Study, 71, note), "to put one half of their members under mescal, and to make the other half observe them."

20 Lumholtz, Unknown Mexico, z : 359; cf. Explorations in Mexique, i8t--82. It is a curious west-European mode of reasoning that leads one to expect in all psychic upsetments such as this the emergence of the sexual anxiety—more particularly in the case of peyote intoxication, which provokes marked fall of heart-beat, physical and mental depression at one stage, uncomfortable "stomach fullness" and acute nausea!

21 Wertham and Bleuler, 6o. The presence of prior suggestion is blatantly obvious. Cf. Karwoski, 212: "To the sexologist an easy way of obliterating temporarily the genital response is offered since mescal is a powerful an-aphrodisiac . . .. My own experience confirms the an-aphrodisiac properties of mescal, but the fact that under its influence I found my imagination turning to erotic situations, although temporarily impotent, is an illustration of the persistence of conditioning that offers an interesting suggestion with reference to the extirpation experiments reported in the controversy over the James-Lange theory of emotions." Unfortunately, culture cannot be extirpated.

22 Fernberger, Further Observations, 368. But Fernberger misunderstood his informant, Petrullo, who (The Diabolic Root, 8, note) of course disclaims this statement from "which" on.

23 Field workers protest privately, but not often enough explicitly, against the projection of these cul-turally- and personally-subjective values into other cultures. The envisaging of primitive cultures as unspoiled Arcadias where one's frustrated dreams for one's own culture come true, is at least as old as Tacitus' "Germania," and is still going on, not alone among laymen.

24 We repeat that results either positive or negative for white observers have no bearing on the problem as regards natives, as this problem is cultural.

25 Fernberger, Further Observations, 377.

26 All but one vomited.

27 It is scarcely surprising that one does not find in Indian ceremonies what is not there.

28 Had Fernberger investigated such of his predecessors as Lumholtz, the novelty of his results would have impressed him less. And had his experiments been more critical he would not be superfluously supplied with an "explanation" to a problem where no data to be explained exist (compare the a-priorism of the "para-psychologists"). But Fernberger continues: "For every one of the observers the anti-aphrodisiac effect of the drug was marked and continued, in most cases, for at least /4 hours after the period of intoxication. Efforts at erotic stimulation proved ineffective. In several cases physical automanipulation of the genitals failed to produce the usual physiological effect. The calling up of erotic images—visual and verbal—were equally ineffective."

29 An able and sincere field worker has told the writer of an experience at a meeting which ended for him in orgasm. But he would agree that detailing of similar White "aphrodisiac" experiences is edifying more as regards individuals than the drug. This paper aims to deal with the native peyote cult.

30 Kliiver, Mescal, the Divine Plant, tot; but peyote is a complex of physiologically antagonistic drugs of quite variable reaction.

31 Jolly, Ober die schlafmachende; Ober Pellotine, 375-76. This effect is all the more remarkable since Heffter in similar experiments noted that pellotine produced in the frog excitability and reflex tetanus.

32 Heffter, Ober Pellotin, 327-28.

33Loaeza, in del Campo, Peyote, 145. Koang-Hobschette (Les Cactacées, 41) says cactine, the active element of Cereus grandiflorus Mill. is used like digitalis as a cardio-tonic, strengthening the systole and diminishing the diastole like strychnine.

34 Henry (T. A.), The Plant Alkaloids, 199.

35 Rouhier Monograhie, 34o.

36 Parke Davis and Co. formerly manufactured the drug. See their Newer Pharmacology.

37 But not to all persons! The typical over-enthusiasm with which new materia medica are received is it-self an interesting ethnographic commentary. Prentiss and Morgan (Therapeutic Uses, 4-5) prescribed it vari-ously for "cramps, griping and colic . . . [and] nervous headache" as well as "tickling in the throat." They also report (The Alkaloids of Anhalonium, 123-37) uses by other doctors. Two brothers, doctors, prescribed peyote for their brother who was suffering from "softening of the brain." He died a few months later, uncured. Never-theless, they prescribed peyote for their sister, who was "very low and out of her head;" she later recovered. Richardson (D. A.), (A Report, 194-95) reports still more spectacular sequelae. He administered peyote to a man with "frontal cephalalgia." "Expecially would I remark," he says, "on the clearing of the skin of pimples over the chest and back, and a marked softening of the hair, which before the exhibition of the anhalonium was dry, with a tendency to break easily." It nevertheless also decreased the abnormal oiliness of the skin. Further, he thought it was a solvent for uric acid, likely to be of value for stones in the bladder. Lastly, "In my opinion, anhalonium is a superior cardiac tonic, and, like nitroglycerine, its effects are prolonged after the administration of the drug is withdrawn."
The efficacy of peyote in native doctoring seems as little established also. Reasons of ethnographic nature have already been cited for doubting the anti-alcoholic virtue of peyote. Indeed, the leader of one meeting I attended I visited in jail later in the week; he had been arrested for drunken street-fighting. I could uncharitably cite half-a-dozen similar cases, but it seems amply enough demonstrated that there is no relation of exclusiveness between peyotism and alcoholism.

38 Kliiver, Mescal, The "Divine" Plant, 97, io8. Prentiss and Morgan, Anhalonium    581; Wertham and Bleuler, Inconstancy in the Formal Structure, 52,6o.

39 Hutchings, in Harter, Ueber Pellote, 409; Pilcz, Ueber Pellotin, 1121-224 Warburg, in Bennett and Zingg, The Tarahumara, 136; Ellis, Mescal: A Study, it; Martindale and Wescott, The Extra Pharmacopoeia, 836; Briau, in Koang-Hobschette, Les Cactacées. Karwoski (Psychophysics, 2,12) suggests that peyote might heighten rapport in psychoanalysis; cf. Deschamps.

40 Bensheim, Typenunterschiede, 121; Wertham and Bleuler, Inconstancy in the Formal Structure, 7o; Zucker, Versuche, ro7; Zador, Meskalin-wirkung bei Störung, 3o; Meskalinwirkung; Kliiver, Mescal, The "Di-vine" Plant, 36-39, 41; Ladd-Franklin, Colour and Colour-Theories, passim.

41 Briau, in Koang-Hobschette, Les Cactactes, 73-74; Rouhier, Le Peyotl, 337; Ellis, Mescal: A New Arti-ficial Paradise, 141.

42 An editorial Paradise or Inferno? (Editorial, 39o) sharply rebuked Ellis for the attractiveness which he had ascribed to mescal intoxication, basing the criticism on grounds of medical ethics.

43 Letter to Schultes, Feb. 21, 1936. My own experience leads me fully to endorse Hrdli6ka's careful state-ment. Elsewhere in the text are cited numerous cases of natives who, in good faith I believe, gave up the use of peyote entirely upon the rising of special or acute anxieties. My informants, on the other hand, quite as frankly admitted that there were some individuals who showed signs of addiction, in the sense that they consumed the plant often and abundantly, but these are not clear uncomplicated instances of drug-addiction; I trust such na-tive candor implicitly. Besides, peyote is not wholly pleasant ("You must suffer to peyote").

" The issue of the native religious use of the drug is indeed a complex one. But whatever else may be said, it is only fair to the Indians to state that the bitterest and most unmeasured condemnations of the drug have issued from quarters which are scarcely disinterested. Whatever the merits of the case, those persons are con, cerned with the deculturation of the Indian, and see in the peyote religion a formidable obstacle to their progress in inducting the native into modern life. The doubtless good intentions of such persons have on occasion, how, ever, led them into errors of judgment when, for instance, they would argue that peyotism is merely out-and-out drug addiction in religious guise (e.g. Daiker, Hughes, Newberne and Burke, Seymour, Watermulder, and the writers in the Indian Rights Association and Literary Digest articles ;) Lindquist, for example, feels free to commit numerous errors of fact yet still pontificate on the "false gods" of "the cult of Death" which is "nothing but an evil" (The Red Man, 72, 73, 75). For, given the Plains religious and ideological background, the peyote cult is entirely plausible as a religion, and the issue is properly one of religious freedom.

The intellectual "authority" in west European culture is, of course, the empirical and pragmatic (or puta, tively), while that of the Indian in this religion, as elsewhere, can correctly be termed mystical, if we understand by this a super•normal knowledge•technique transcending ordinary epistemological considerations. For there can be no shadow of a doubt concerning the deep and humble sincerity of the worship and belief—and sincerity perhaps, even in the absence of other ingredients, is the chief component of a living religion. And if the chief function of a religion is the liquidation of the anxieties and the solution of the fears and troubles of its adherents, then surely the peyote religion eminently qualifies as such.

The issue then balances somewhat delicately on the point of "authority," which is really at bottom a mat-ter of comparative ethnography. If, as we believe, the scientific is truly the most mature knowledge-technique man has yet perfected, then facile and offhand condemnation of peyotism on its basis is even less possible. Aside from the probable ultimate disappearance of the Native American Church, a generous and libertarian philosophy would condemn present attacks on it as often misguided and even oftener uninformed. The chief human diffi• culty in the world today is the adjustment of one culture to another, of one absolutistic ideology and Weltan, schauung to another. But the scientific spirit itself would protest against the dictatorship of any one ideology, of whatever sort; there is too much chance that any self,contained scheme be dangerously wrong, when un, checked by modifying differing beliefs. Science, indeed, has been lifted above the level of folklore precisely be, cause the spectacle of variously conditioned culture,historical outlooks has necessitated self,criticism and an objective comparative survey of beliefs. A fetishistic attitude toward science and its tentative pronouncements, therefore, is itself folkloristic in tone. This however, is not to suggest any distrust in the ability of the scientific method to obtain such sound results as have been so far achieved; but it is intended to point out the real limi, tations in our information.

Although the best modem scientific knowledge would indicate that the alkaloids in peyote do not perform the manifold therapeutic miracles which natives ascribe to it, one might still well wonder whether harsh sump, tuary laws would not work more positive hardship and harm than the drug itself. If not the injustice then cer, tainly the inexpedience of such exercise of civil authority has been amply demonstrated in the Eighteenth Amend, ment and its sorry consequences. We may not presume therefore to judge what should be the administrative fate of the peyote cult. The emotional and ideological side of the religion is not open to judgement; and on the properly scientific and physiological side of the question the simple fact is that we actually don't know enough about it.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 January 2011 12:06

Our valuable member Weston La Barre has been with us since Sunday, 09 January 2011.

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