Lophophora williamsii (2014)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (July 2014)

To see, to touch. A smell, a taste, a sound. A perception is an awareness gained through our senses. Intuition can also be gained through perception, yet the process remains a mystery.

My favorite example of perception is from an old Vincent Price movie. In the movie, we see a frail girl with long hair. She walks through the halls of a castle with an evil man. As they walk, they stop for a moment before two carved wooden doors. The doors silently open inward. Then they enter a bright yellow room.

There are long, yellow curtains in the room and lit candles in ornate candlesticks. There is also a small translucent yellow window. They next enter a purple room, then one that is white. The purple and white rooms are the same as the yellow room. These rooms also have one small window each, purple and white, respectively.

Late that night, the girl returns to the rooms alone. Again, she walks through the yellow room, the purple, the white. Now she prepares to enter a room she has not seen before.

Nothing happens to the girl. Still, something her now-absent companion said earlier fills her with dread. She knows before she enters there is evil within, yet she enters. The room is dark, and the window is red.

A Lophophora williamsii is a dumpy, lumpy, clumpy plant. It lacks beauty, but not mystique, because of the alkaloid mescaline. Atropine, cocaine, quinine, morphine, nicotine — the list of plant-derived alkaloids used by humans is quite extensive. Some are quite addictive. Some are used to treat illness or pain.

Mescaline is different. It is taken to attain enlightenment by altering perceptions. It is somewhat curious that when using mescaline, nausea will generally precede euphoria. Still, I suppose, that might seem normal when using a substance that alters perceptions.