The Divine Hallucinogen 
by David L. Spess 

ISBN 0-89281-731-3
Park Street Press
208 pages, 6 x 9
20 b & w

Cloth, $30.00 (CAN



About the Book
The definitive work on the ancient Hindu soma rituals
mentioned in the Vedas and debated by scholars for

* The first book to identify the mysterious soma
* A breakthrough book that reenvisions the role of
psychoactive plants in religion. 

Soma has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. It is
simultaneously a sacred hallucinogenic plant used in secret
rituals, a personified God, and an important cosmological
principle. Summarizing all previous research on the subject,
David Spess goes far beyond his predecessors and shows that
soma provides an important key to the understanding of the
earliest systemized methods of medicine, psychology, magic,
rejuvenation, longevity, and alchemy. Most significant is
that his intensive research provides the most compelling
case yet for actual identification of the plants that served
as the basis for the divine hallucinogen Nelumbo
, the sacred lotus of India, as well as some
members of the Nymphaea genus. 

With the renewed interest in the ritual use of
psychoactive substances, shamanism, psychic phenomena, and
alternative modalities of healing, Soma provides a
much needed bridge between Eastern and Western esoteric
traditions. Contained within the enigmatic verses about soma
in the Rig Veda is a secret about ourselves and the nature
of our relationship to the world and cosmos. Soma
makes this knowledge available to us once again.

About the

David Spess has a master’s degree in microbiology/mycology
and studied Sanskrit at the Naropa Institute. David has
traveled throughout India and the Middle East researching
this book. He was formerly a research mycologist for the FDA
and has taught at the University of Colorado. He lives in
New Mexico.

“In this meticulously researched, always scholarly but
eminently readable study of Soma, the “elixir of
immortality” and enlightenment of ancient India, David Spess
takes us on a fascinating intellectual and spiritual journey
way beyond Wasson’s narrowly focused case for Amanita
muscaria, the inebriating fly agaric mushroom of ecstatic
Siberian shamanism. In a book thankfully free of both
scientific and New Age jargon Spess presents convincing
evidence that Soma’s devotees knew of many different kinds
and even colors of soma drinks with different associations
and purposes, so that soma botany and taxonomy cannot be
reduced to a single sacred plant species. A valuable
contribution to both historical ethnobotany and comparative
religion—-and a good read.”
Peter T. Furst, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Author of Flesh
of the Gods: The Ritual use of Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens & Culture; and People of the
Peyote: Huichol Indian History & Religion

“Spess makes a daring thesis–that Indo-Aryan ritualists
created an entheogenic ceremony that eventually spread
throughout all of Eurasia–and he argues cogently that soma
and its rituals reached all of the great civilizations,
creating alchemy and magic.  This book reveals the
history of the divine soma, not just in India, but in all
subsequent searches for the golden germ and the elixir of
immortality.  A well-argued and convincing book, worth
reading many times over!”
Willard Johnson, Professor of Religious Studies, San
Diego State University
Author of Poetry and Speculation of the Rg Veda and
Riding the Ox Home

“This fascinating tour de force of impeccable
scholarship, written with enviable elan, succeeds
brilliantly in disclosing the elusive identity of the soma
plants of India and their impact on the cultural history of
China, Europe and the Near East.  Provocative,
intriguing, and sure to generate scholarly debate, this
seminal work is absolutely essential for anyone interested
in soma and hallucinogenic plants.”
Frank H. Lipp, Ph.D., Author of New Plant Sources
for Drugs and Food
and Herbalism: Living

Soma brilliantly completes the enquiry on the
scientific and botanical aspects, as well as the
anthropological and cultural development, of this very
important subject. A magnificent book destined to become a
Oscar Ichazo, author of Psychocalisthenics and
Between Metaphysica and Protoanalysis

“By far the most thorough survey of both the botanical
and the psycho-spiritual aspects of the soma plant that I’ve
ever seen. All I can do is congratulate the author.”
Wendy Doniger, coauthor of Soma: The Divine
Mushroom of Immortality

“A noteworthy addition to the research on
Joan Halifax, author of The Fruitful Darkness and
Shamanic Voices

of Contents

The Divine Hallucinogen

1. Soma and Sacred Herbalism in the Ancient World
2. Light, Ecstatic States, and Other Effects of Soma
3. The Identity of Plants Used as Soma
4. The Asvins and the Elixir of Immortality
5. Soma and the Origins of Alchemy
6. Soma and the Origins of Western Magic
7. Soma and European Alchemy

Buy the book: Inner Traditions’