Saturday, September 7, 2013

Calling All Wizards

The wizard archetype is one of the most beloved and truly inspiring that humans have come up with. Who doesn't love Merlin, Gandalf, Dr. Strange... even Dumbledore?

They are wisdom personified, and the perfect model of a powerful older person.  Someone whose knowledge and personal life force make them more than a match for any dozen people half or a third their age.  Someone who wouldn't surprise you if they lived to 10,000.

A wizard has to have been around for quite some time to even earn the title.  To be wizened implies being of great age.  It is not a young man's game. No offense to Harry Potter, but if you don't have more grey or white hairs than you can count... you aren't really a wizard are you?

The wizard is also a lonely character.  It is nearly always the case that wizards live alone and only tolerate the company of lesser mortals when necessary.

They can enjoy creature comforts and festivities, and are steadfast friends to those they see something in... but they don't really have peers to a large degree.  Sure, you might find the occasional guild of mages, or a few secretive orders, but even there the individual wizards don't seem to hang out much.

Another thing about wizards, that people tend to overlook... is that they like to get high.

Elminster Aumar

You rarely see a wizard without a pipe in the folds of his robes.

Gandalf and Dumbledore are both shown smoking often and deeply.

And before you go suggesting that they smoke tobacco in those long Dutch style pipes... remember the words of Saruman to Gandalf

"Your love of the Halfling's leaf has clouded your mind."

Tobacco does many terrible things, but clouding the mind is not one of them.

Also, in Tolkein's Unfinished Tales essay "The Hunt For The Ring" Gandalf tells Saruman

"You should not wonder, if you used the herb yourself. You might find that the smoke blown out clears the mind of shadows within. Anyway, it gives patience, to listen to error without anger."

(they were having a rowdy council meeting)

And, of course, the Hobbits who use pipeweed all have voracious munchies, and are a jolly folk, even in the face of danger.

Of course, the image of wizards mixing up potions and brews that cause hallucinations and clearly psychoactive effects is well known.  Much of the magic in fantasy and fairy tales revolves around alchemy of some sort.  And, a wizard will rarely pass a toadstool or mushroom without scooping it up for one of his draughts.
This brings me to my point.

Two of our modern and most worthy wizards, Ann and Sasha Shulgin, found themselves in dire straights earlier this year. Sasha is among the greatest psychopharmacological chemists who ever lived. Ann is a pioneer in the field of empathogen-assisted therapy. Their love story has inspired millions of people.

They are most famous for being the inventors of hundreds of psychedelic compounds which they then tested on themselves.  This research makes up the 2 huge volumes TIHKAL and PIHKAL, and many of the most famous and well loved chemicals on the planet come from them.  Formulas for the bulk of modern recreational substances, by and large, come from these two books and the Shulgin Index.

Sasha's illness and rising medical costs had gotten so bad that these lovely alchemists found themselves struggling to make end's meet.  Considering how many people owe a great debt to them, this made many of us sad.  Outrageous to think that people who gave away the formulas for many of the most popular recreational substances around... including MDMA, should be going broke.  The Teafaerie said, correctly, that it seems there is no retirement plan for wizards.

I have to say I was heartened when the community responded by helping out.  An unprecedented grassroots crowdsourcing rose up and has made a big difference for these two giants.  I urged my friends to contribute at the time, but I am writing this now to encourage people to continue to donate. If you have ever had a transformative healing experience with a psychedelic compound... chances are that these two had something to do with it.

Us wizards and future wizards have to stick together.  The climate isn't quite so hostile now, but real life wizards are still an oppressed and often reviled community.  Despite the fact that wizards are the coolest and sweetest people you would ever hope to meet, there is still a lingering stigma attached to people who take responsibility for their own neurochemistry.  People fear the power of these masters and their compounds... and rightly so, in many cases.

However, without pioneering and courageous explorers like these, the world would be a sadder and far less interesting place than it is.  Without Hoffman's problem child, much of the art, music and culture of the 2nd half of the 20th century would never have happened.  You can't have Sgt. Peppers without Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

So, please consider helping.  Even a little show of faith will mean a lot them.

Donations can be made via credit card or PayPal at:

Cash, check, or money order can be sent to:

Sasha Shulgin
c/o Transform Press
PO Box 13675
Berkeley, CA 94712

shulgin art

(give it up for the awesome portrait of them by the ever enchanting Alex Grey)

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