Alexander Shulgin: The Godfather of Psychedelics

Alexander Shulgin: The Godfather of Psychedelics
Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, chillin' like a chemistry villain in his home lab about to embark on another journey of discovery.

Hey, you.

You might be already familiar with who I'm going to talk about today, but if not...

It is often said... there are only two people responsible for the existence of most of the psychoactive compounds on planet earth: God & Alexander Shulgin.

I tend to agree... and in my opinion, he might even hold a more venerable position than God since he has single-handedly made astronomical contributions in research, insights, and novel synthesis of an impressive library of psychoactive compounds — while God, despite creating a handful of psychoactive compounds, has arguably caused far more discord and conflict in our world.

So, if the metric is net utility to society, I'd pick Sasha > Any God — just kidding, but not really 🙃

Oh, yes I did, baby... Yes I did

Thus, I figured it would be appropriate to dedicate the very first edition of Not So Profound (NSP) to one of my favorite people ever: Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin.

Not just because I adore the guy, but because he's what I consider a Jedi-level psychonaut, thus, it would be more than appropriate to start the party with him.

If you're not familiar, his magnum opuses are:

  1. PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story
  2. TIHKAL: The Continuation
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PIHKAL & TIHKAL are acronyms that stand for Phenethylamines (P) and Tryptamines (T) — I Have Known And Loved (IHKAL) 

Also, more recently, The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact was published posthumously.

Those contain a lot of technical content, but there are plenty of opportunities for the layman to appreciate the rest, like:

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Funny, I’d forgotten that what comes to you when you take a psychedelic is not always a revelation of something new and startling; you’re more liable to find yourself reminded of simple things you know and forgot you knew — seeing them freshly — old, basic truths that long ago became cliches, so you stopped paying attention to them.

—Alexander Shulgin, PiHKAL: A chemical love story

So... I'd highly recommend having them in your library to peruse whenever you're in the mood.

Sasha Shulgin is to psychedelics what Albert Einstein is to physics, and in my opinion, one cannot consider themselves to be a psychonaut to any degree if they do not have serious reverence for him.

Alexander Shulgin, cleaning a Florence flask in his gangster-ass home chemistry lab

A single newsletter won't do justice when covering Sasha, so don't worry: I'll be covering him countless times in the future, so stay tuned buttercup.

Until then, other than recommending some pivotal books by the man, how else can I give you a fairly comprehensive overview of Sasha?

I know.

Go watch a dope documentary called Dirty Pictures (2010) — which, in my opinion, along with his books, will get you familiar with Sasha better than 95% of the muggles running around claiming to be 'psychedelic experts' out there in the wild.

It's excellent, and in it, he proposes one of the most interesting theories as to why we humans have receptors in our brain that interact so well with psychedelics.

It goes a bit like this:

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We have receptors in our brain for psychedelic drugs. We don’t actually have psychedelic drugs inside of us, but why do we have the receptors, but not the drugs?

Perhaps at one time, we DID have the drugs — as part of our metabolic process, we generated the drugs and maybe the psychedelic state was THE natural state.

If the psychedelic state was THE natural state, these people would then see the tooth of a saber tooth tiger and say “oooh look at the pretty designs of this tooth,” and as a consequence of dropping their defenses against an enemy, be removed from the gene pool.

So, perhaps, those people who were endogenously/naturally in a psychedelic state were removed from the gene pool and are no longer here.

The drugs are not made in the body, but the receptors are still here — because the receptors were not the hazard, it was the drugs that were generated that were a hazard for survival.

That is maybe why some of these plants, with their psychedelic components, TURN YOU ON because the receptors are intact from generations ago, but the natural psychedelic metabolite in the body no longer exists.

—Alexander Shulgin, Dirty Pictures (2010)

Fascinating stuff.

I mean, it's not as bat-shit crazy as some of uncle Terence McKenna's theories — and since Sasha has a scientific background, his hypothesis actually sounds grounded and plausible.

By the way, I love Terence McKenna — and I'll be covering him in future issues of NSP as well.

But, going back to Sasha...

He's the reason we have MDMA, mescaline, and countless brand-new substances including the wonderful 2C* family of compounds — of which, 2C-B happens to be one of my all-time favorites.

I  mean, the guy was one of the few — if not the ONLY person to have a Schedule I license from the DEA to experiment with, synthesize, AND possess virtually any illicit drug.

Plus, homeboy cooked up all sorts of new compounds in his improvised garage lab — which, let's be honest, looks like a slightly better quality street meth lab (pictured above) and tested them on himself and his wife Ann — yes, that's correct, he would admit himself to his own one-man human trial and then give those compounds to his wife and later to his friends to observe effects.

That's what I call a full-stack psychonaut — from synthesis to trials.

It's like farm to table, but a LOT more fun, because you get to get high from your own supply with your wife and friends like Biggie Smalls, said not to.

I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if Sasha played Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta by the Geto Boys while sporting Thug Life glasses as he cooked up psychedelics from scratch in his improvised home lab — at least, I'd like that to be true in my imagination.

Actual footage of Sasha about to get down and dirty with his chemistry

Like I said, to me, Sasha is like the Jesus of Psychedelics, so don't worry — I'll be covering him and many others like him many many times from different angles and vantage points in future editions of NSP.

Other than that...

That's all for today.

I hope you enjoyed the first edition of NSP, and if you have any suggestions or feedback on making NSP even better, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Until next time...

With gratitude & blessings...

Your friend,

—Dr. D

P.S: If you're interested in learning all of the fundamentals of psychedelics, you might be interested in The Fundamentals of Psychedelics Course by MAPS. It's a great way to upgrade your understanding and support a great organization as well.

Mustafa's Meme
Mustafa's Bulletin
What Mustafa is reading
  1. Isomorphic Laboratories — Interesting early-stage drug discovery startup. This same technology is very likely going to be used for psychedelic research in the near future  
  2. I Tried Ibogaine, the Psychedelic Anti-Addiction Drug by Mattha Busby (VICE) — Interesting case study of Ibogaine.
  3. Berkeley is one step closer to decriminalizing LSD (NBC) — Not quite there yet, but definitely in the right direction.
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Mustafa's Art Corner
From digital artist @pinel.marcelo on Instagram
Mustafa's Meditation
All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts.  
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the beast that draws the wagon — If a man speaks or acts with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.
―Gautama Buddha