Scientists, Cracudos and Hipsters in Search of Soma

Evangelicals and stoner anthropologists are at odds over drugs. Marijuana anthropologists say that drugs are an integral part of traditional cultures; evangelicals say that drugs are the bane of countless families. Both are right. Thus, it would be up to competent social scientists to abandon proselytizing in defense of their favorite substances and ask themselves why drugs play an important role in traditional societies and an antisocial role in ours.

The ordinary people, little interested in scientific investigations, are more concerned with the morality of the matter. So, another thing that pot-smoking anthropologists usually say, quite rightly, is that alcohol is a drug with great destructive potential for families and there is no talk of banning it. If the husband beats the wife after drinking, the husband is wrong, not alcohol or social drinkers. Of course, there is a moral dimension to crimes committed under the influence of drugs. Saying it’s “the drug’s fault” is a way for families to say that their children don’t have the slightest bit of responsibility for their own actions, and that when there’s a police officer on every corner keeping an eye on the children, homes will be happy. Parents and children are acquitted; it’s the drug’s fault or the state’s fault.

Prohibition of ritual drugs in the modern world

Alcohol itself is a ritualistic drink of a traditional religion, which happens to be the shaping religion of the West. Prohibition constituted a threat to the freedom of worship of Catholics, since it takes wine to have communion. Prohibition came, as usual, from progressivism. The first progressive US president, Woodrow Wilson, signed it in 1920. Considering that the pressure came first from pietist Protestants (starting precisely from family degradation), and that immigrants considered white trash usually came from Catholic countries (Ireland and Italy), it is possible that it was even an anti-Catholic and eugenics measure at the same time. Another community affected was the German one. Most Germans are divided into Catholics and Lutherans, who also make liturgical use of wine. During World War I, the US promoted strong anti-German propaganda, focused even on immigrants, considered to be agents of the Kaiser (see Jonah Goldberg’s book on progressive tyranny).

Anyway, after about two years with the freedom of worship threatened, the Church got permission to make liturgical wine, and thus became targeted by criminality and corruption.

During the prohibition era, the US pushed for the prohibition of various drugs around the world. In Brazil, alcohol has never been banned. Around here, we had marijuana for a long time, probably brought from Angola in the 17th century by blacks who used it ritualistically, and coca, which is only born in three countries in the world: Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. To reach us, he had to take a balloon in Europe.

The coca of the Incas and that of Freud

As we are told by Dr. Freud in his “Über Coca” (1884), the Incas believed that coca was given to men by the son of the Sun. In possession of the divine gift, mortals would no longer feel hungry and feel strong. Freud’s source is the historian Garcilaso de la Vega, a mestizo descendant of the Incan aristocracy. He also reports that coca was once elite, but when the Spaniards arrived, the drug was already within everyone’s reach. The Spaniards wanted to ban it because of its role in pagan rites. They changed their minds when they saw that the captives worked more under the influence of the plant. The liturgical use meant that the Incas could fast for long periods, and it would also have profane use in saving the lives of users in a great famine that occurred at the end of the 18th century. Freud notes that Garcilaso defended coca. What could go wrong if its use were widespread in Europe, right? “It is true that Poeppig painted a terrible picture of the physical and intellectual decay that is supposedly the inevitable consequence of habitual coca use. But all other observers claim that moderate coca use is more likely to promote health than harm it, and that coqueros live to old age”, ponders Freud. He himself, however, would become a cocaine addict and battle addiction.

It is possible that a sincere researcher, from a culture unfamiliar with alcohol, would do research with old people from the Mediterranean who are in the habit of drinking wine and make ritual use of it and extrapolate the conclusions, in order to become an alcoholic. What happened to Freud?

In the famous essay “Über Coca”, Freud defends only the physical therapeutic effects of the plant, and promises another article, in which he talks about the main effects therapeutics: those about the soul. For Freud, cocaine was a stimulant that made some people happy and talkative without causing depression. In the article by 1825, on the general effects, he defends that cocaine be used in psychiatric patients to treat depression, melancholy, hypochondria, hysteria, among others. Freud aimed to solve precisely the problem of addiction, as psychiatrists used to prescribe morphine and patients became addicted. In addition, the remedy proved to be effective in curing alcoholism. So cocaine made its way into modern European society with psychiatry. And since Freud himself was talkative and turned on, he himself used the drug to dream and write. He ended up getting addicted.

Instrumental use and thoughtless use

The old people of the Mediterranean who drink wine don’t drink wine for because of the findings in papers. They take it because they like it, they like it because they learned from their parents, and they know that it can cause addiction, because they have drunkards in sight. They have balanced lives and it is possible that the wine has been good for their health. But it is more reasonable to attribute its longevity to a set of factors (ranging from the famous diet to psychosocial aspects) than to wine. Now let us imagine that the scientist interested strictly in the benefits condensed the alcohol into a distillate and took it as if it were a medicine to achieve a certain good.

In fact, looking at common experience, we see that good drinkers can even drink routinely, but they do so without having in view the achievement of a given objective. They drink for taste, or to strengthen ties with friends. No one drinks to reach a higher state of consciousness, or to become a more effective worker, or to achieve longevity. If it did, it would be expected that alcohol could be replaced by drops or pills. On the other hand, we are well acquainted with the type who drinks to achieve the feeble lightheartedness caused by alcohol: the alcoholic. To stay calm, you have to be drunk.

It is not an extravagance to say that the instrumental and conscious use of a drug to achieve a certain effect that the user deems necessary for life is the difference between an addictive drug and a banal drug. This applies both to the truck driver who uses coca derivatives to drive without sleep for many hours, as well as to the model who needs to lose weight or the depressed person who needs to feel some spiritual comfort.

E Well, if I say that psychiatric drugs used to treat depression and anxiety are addictive, that wouldn’t be an extravagance on my part either. Nor would it be an extravagance on my part to say that health professionals go out prescribing medication before thinking about “non-pharmacological solutions” – that is, any solution that excludes the use of medication, as if depression and anxiety only had physical causes (already I told you here that I could live high if I went into too many offices – and a lot of people come into offices wanting a fancy diagnosis and drugs). In other words, if a mental patient decides that such a drug is the solution to his problems, it will become the biggest of his problems.


A little plant that went unnoticed for a long time by both the prohibitionist rage and the mentally ill was ayahuasca. It’s a small Indian plant in the middle of the Amazon, it’s cheap and it’s not good enough to put everyone to work, not even to relieve hunger. Therefore, it attracted less attention from a rich country.

Shielding themselves in ritualistic use, urban people created churches with the aim of consuming the drug (it is clear that they cannot give right, since traditional ritual drugs are never the purpose of the ritual. Mass is not a pretext for drinking wine, and friends gathered together over wine are not a church). The plant became nationally known when an adept of one of these churches, high on ayahuasca, killed the cartoonist Glauco. Was the homicidal madman the only drug addict? Will it be?? This was in 2010.

In 1993, however, the chronicler -philosopher Olavo de Carvalho recorded, in ‘O imbecil colectivo, that an influential intellectual announced the good news that the Santo Daime (another name ayahuasca) was an important doctrine for humanity. I quote: “A Mr. Armando Daudt de Oliveira, a political scientist who holds a fair number of degrees, including some from prestigious foreign universities, appeared some time ago on the editorial page of Jornal do Brasil to inform us of an ‘important contribution to humanity in the 21st century’. : the Santo Daime. It is an invention, or discovery, capable of leading the successors of the present generation ‘to the knowledge of the deepest causes of all things’, which, let’s face it, is not a little crap in terms of intelligence”. Olavo’s text, entitled “Vegetable Ideas”, is all about making fun of the fact that Santo Daime is both tea and doctrine, and no summary of it is presented.

This month Folha gave us another news about ayahuasca. A community of newly ripongas urbanites decided to give up their careers and lead a humble life based on ayahuasca on the coast of Bahia. Sounds like a great idea… If you have a degree in communication. Either anthropology or psychology, two courses that are crazy lightning rods. Let us read the lines typed by the Folha columnist: “More than a third of these sufferers does not find relief in conventional antidepressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as escitalopram. For some, at least, a molecule like dimethyltryptamine (DMT) — secreted in the brain itself and present in ayahuasca — can pave the way for new brain connections and other ways of looking at their problems, particularly if the drug is taken in a welcoming context. . This was Purna’s proposal [a autoridade místico-científica] for the experience of the last day of the Equinox, Sunday (). Dressed in white, with a sign painted on his forehead, he sets up an altar in the Oca of Casa del Mar where crystals, flasks of scented water, tarot cards, stones, feathers, incense and oriental bells are gathered.”

Quod erat demonstrandum.

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