Dr. S. Weir Mitchell's 1896 Essay on Mescaline Intoxication

Publication Year: 
1997

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My first vivid show of mescal colour effects came quickly. I saw the stars, and then of a sudden, here and there delicate floating films of colour—usually delightful neutral purples and pinks. These came and went—now here, now there. Then an abrupt rush of countless points of white light swept across the field of view, as if the unseen millions of the Milky way were to flow a sparkling river before the eye. In a minute this was over and the field was dark. Then I began to see zigzag lines of very bright colours, like those seen in some megrims....
When I opened my eyes all was gone at once. Closing them I began after a long interval to see for the first time definite objects associated with colours. The stars sparkled and passed away. A white spear of grey stone grew up to huge height, and became a tall, richly finished Gothic tower of very elaborate and definite design, with many rather worn statues standing in the doorways or on stone brackets. As I gazed every projecting angle, cornice, and even the faces of the stones at their joinings were by degrees covered or hung with clusters of what seemed to be huge precious stones, but uncut, some being more like masses of transparent fruit. These were green, purple, red, and orange; never clear yellow and never blue. All seemed to possess an interior light, and to give the faintest idea of the perfectly satisfying intensity and purity of these gorgeous colour-fruits is quiet beyond my power. All the colours I have ever beheld are dull as compared to these....
After an endless display of less beautiful marvels I saw that which deeply impressed me. An edge of a huge cliff seemed to project over a gulf of unseen depth. My viewless enchanter set on the brink a huge bird claw of stone. Above, from the stem or leg, hung a fragment of some stuff. This began to unroll and float out to a distance which seemed to me to represent Time as well as immensity of Space. Here were miles of rippled purples, half transparent, and of ineffable beauty. Now and then soft golden clouds floated from these folds, or a great shimmer went over the whole of the rolling purples, and things, like green birds, fell from it, fluttering down into the gulf below. Next, I saw clusters of stones hanging in masses from the claw toes, as it seemed to me miles of them, down far below into the underworld of the black gulf....
But it were in vain to find in words what will describe these colours. Either they seemed strangely solid, or to possess vitality. They still linger visibly in my memory, and left the feeling that I had seen among them colours unknown to my experience....
I was at last conscious of the fact that I was at moments almost asleep, and then wide awake. In one of these magic moments I saw my last vision and the strangest. I heard what appeared to be approaching rhythmical sounds, and then saw a beach, which I knew to be that of Newport. On this, with a great noise, which lasted but a moment, rolled in out of darkness wave on wave. These as they came were liquid splendors huge and threatening, of wonderfully pure green or red and deep purple, once only deep orange, and with no trace of foam. These water hills of colour broke on the beach with myriads of of lights of the same tint as the wave. This lasted some time, terror of these huge mounds of colour would continue....
For the psychologist this agent should have value. To be able with a whole mind to experiment mentally upon such phenomena as I have described is an unusual privilege. Here is unlocked a storehouse of glorified memorial treasures of one kind....
I predict a perilous reign of the mescal habit when this agent becomes attainable. The temptation to call again the enchanting magic will, I am sure, be too much for some men to resist after they have once set foot in this land of fairy colours, where there seems to be so much to charm and so little to excite horror or disgust. (Mitchell 1896, pp. 1626-1628)

pp. 96, 97 Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered by Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar (1996)

Dr. S. Weir Mitchell
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