The Daily Grail is all about surfing the edges of science and history, and navigating those strange seas can sometimes be fraught with danger – there’s no shortage of publicity seekers and frauds out there more interested in their wallet or the public spotlight than in the search for knowledge. As such, one of the things I try to do on TDG is bring some focus to the honest, knowledgeable researchers and writers out there that *should* be getting more attention than the slippery sensationalists (but sadly aren’t). An example is Mike Jay, whose research and writing I can’t say enough good things about. Mike has contributed to four of the five Darklore volumes released so far, on everything from ancient pyramids and shamanism to the origins of the Illuminati and Sherlock Holmes’ drug habit. I also have a couple of his books, and recommend them heartily. As such, I’m really happy to see that he has a new book out: High Society: The Central Role of Mind-Altering Drugs in History, Science, and Culture, available now from Amazon US and Amazon UK:
Here’s a really nicely done ‘book trailer’ for High Society, followed by the synopsis:
High Society explores the spectrum of mind-altering substances across the globe and throughout history. Beautifully illustrated with rarely seen material, this striking, lyrical and rigorously researched book puts its controversial subject into the widest possible context.
Every society is a high society. Every day, people drink coffee on European terraces and kava in Pacific villages, sniff cocaine in American suburbs and petrol in Aborigine slums, chew betel nut in Indonesian markets and coca leaf on Andean mountainsides, swallow ecstasy tablets in the clubs of Amsterdam and opium pills in the deserts of Rajasthan, and smoke ya’aba in Thai nightclubs, hashish in Himalayan temples and tobacco in every nation on earth.
Acclaimed cultural historian Mike Jay paints vivid portraits of the roles that drugs playas medicines, religious sacraments, status symbols and coveted trade goods. He traces the understanding of intoxicants from the botanicals of the classical world through the mind-bending self-experiments of early scientists to the present ‘war on drugs’, and reveals how the international trade in substances such as tobacco, tea and opium shaped the modern world.
Mike’s also currently curating the High Society exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London – for those not in the vicinity make sure you still head to the weblink, which features some great image galleries (from cartoons satirising the 19th century ‘laughing gas’ parties to the brilliant LSD blotter art of recent decades).
You can get a glimpse of the inside of High Society by heading to the Inner Traditions website and downloading the PDF excerpt. Sounds like a must for my bookshelf, a likely perfect companion to Paul Devereux’s The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia.