Giorgio Samorini – ‘Animals and Psychedelics’

Giorgio Samorini - 'Animals and Psychedelics' (Park Street Press)(USA • Park Street Press • 2002)

‘Animals and Psychedelics – The Natural World and the Instinct to Alter Consciousness’ is a slim yet hugely exciting volume from ethnobotanist and ethnomycologist Giorgio Samorini. Originally published in the author’s native Italian (in 2001), America’s Park Street Press (a subsidiary of the Inner Traditions publishing house, responsible for essential works on DMT, psilocybin mushrooms, Ayahuasca, and more) here offers an impeccable English language translation for the first time, and in doing so has provided a great service for both the psychedelic and wider research community.

Exploring his tantalising ideas in an engagingly brisk yet informative style (props to the translators), Samorini offers the reader various fascinating examples of (questionably) intentional psychoactive plant use in the animal and insect kingdoms. Describing apparently hedonistic species as varied as slugs, goats, ants, reindeer, caribou, flies, elephants, snails, cats, birds, cows, rats, koalas, baboons, moths, bees, and butterflies getting down with their preferred psychoactives, ‘Animals and Psychedelics’ paints a vivid and attractive picture of decadent nature.

Samorini’s basic premise is “evolution by inebriation” – that the drive to alter consciousness is common to all living beings, and encourages evolution by creating new patterns of behavior, potentially then adopted by others of the species. Although undoubtedly intellectually stimulating (it definitely convinced me that this field of research is well deserving of rigorous exploration), the majority of the evidence examined here does seem more anecdotal than scientific, and the book relies heavily on the work of Ronald K. Siegel – albeit acknowledged upfront by the author.

With that said, I have no hesitation in recommending ‘Animals and Psychedelics’. While I’m steeped in the psychedelic ‘canon’ – Shulgin, Lilly, Stafford, Ott, Rätsch, Hoffman, Leary, Watts, Jansen, McKenna… – this book literally blew my mind; it’s piqued my interest and I’m currently awaiting delivery of more books on the subject. Top marks!