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Interview with Andy Letcher, author of 'Shroom'

Andy Letcher is a writer of non-fiction, specifically psychedelics, paganism, shamanism and evolution, a lecturer and a folk musician. He is the author of 'Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom', an evidence-based research project examining human relationships with psilocybin and Amanita mushrooms. He's also had an academic essay -- Mad thoughts on Mushrooms -- published in the Anthropology of Consciousness journal, wherein he uses a Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine psychedelic consciousness and mushrooms....
Posted By psypressuk at 2010-02-18 10:31:38 permalink | comments
Tags: psychedelic interview mushrooms discourse
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psypressuk : 2010-02-26 14:48:00
@anonynous - measured... I like it x
Anonymous. : 2010-02-22 08:16:05
"...the problem as I see it isn't that Letcher has an opinion that offends my delicate sensibilities....it's that's he's plain wrong."

But wrong about what? He makes a lot of claims in his book: is he wrong about all of them?

As an example, he asserts that the context in which mushrooms are ingested is an important factor in how the experience is perceived, and as evidence he quotes some well-documented writing on accidental shroom ingestion in 19th century Europe. Is he wrong about this? Are shrooms perceived as spiritual messengers regardless of cultural context? Is the whole "set and setting" thing bogus?

He makes the case some some paleolithic "shrrom art" which has been widely reproduced (most famously by Kat Harrison, if I'm not mistaken) is much more ambiguous when viewed in photographs, as opposed to the interpreted copies. Is he wrong about that, too? Franky, when I look at the photos as opposed to the iconic depictions it seems a lot more ambiguous to me, too.

Lewis Carroll ate shrooms? It's possible I guess, but when you look at it in the historical context it seems unlikely, and I think AL is reasonable in pointing out that unreasonableness.

And as far as I'm concerned, while he was aware of the difficulty, McKenna never satisfactorily addressed the Lamarkian aspects of his Stoned Ape theory. (And on the subject of TM: Christian Ratsch once said in an interview that McKenna once admitted to him that even he didn't really believe his theories in a literal sense. Just an anecdote, but something to consider.)

As I said before, I think some of his arguments against Wasson are thin (for example, he seems to want to dismiss much of what Wasson wrote because he had a relationship with one of indigenous informants -- that seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater).

I think if one wants to debate the merits (or lack thereof) of the book, one has to do so specifically, and not with broad claims that "he's wrong." Maybe TN's paper will do so.

soma_junkie. : 2010-02-20 04:01:31
@agreed....you've got the idea. I have great hope that you too can be a psuedo-intellectual! Just whatever you do, don't mention that the Tibetan word for cannabis is So.Ma.Ra.Dza which is obviously taken from the sanskrit, Soma Raja (King Soma).
agreed . : 2010-02-19 15:41:05
Once science finds the DNA link to humans and mushrooms all the disbelievers will have to face the music. Simple as that.

I'm gonna write a book about Hemp being only a recent phenomenon, and that there's really no evidence it was ever used in the past for any purposes whatsoever. I think that will work into this new way of thinking rather nicely. While I'm at it I'll write a book about LSD/LSA only being a recent phenomenon, and that prior to the 60's there is little evidence to show that humans ever ingested anything LSD-like. I think writing books about alcohol, opium, cocaine, etc etc and how before the 1960's no one ever even did these drugs, and that the hippies ruined everything would make excellent case studies. Think about how rediculous an argument it is that over the course of our evolution we haven't had widespread drug use of all kinds. Hey everyone write an antithesis book just to be an intellectual asshole. I'm gonna take Hemp cause it's plain as day we've never had anything to do with that plant until the blacks, mexicans, and hippies started growing it. All the other drugs are up for grabs-everyone get to work on your manuscripts. What a fun project. Reminds me of "opposite day" in elementary school.

TardNarc : 2010-02-19 14:29:26
> Better finish it up quick "Tard"

Well, there was a two month period where I could not work on it due to all sorts of personal drama, and then before that there was the period of feeling nauseous every time I opened the book to jot down more notes on its errors. I promise to have it done soon.

> because this guy needs to be exposed, pronto

Agreed. I agree with JamesK and Anonymous that the book provides a somewhat useful corrective to the flightier aspects of psychedelic culture(s), but I also think that it swung far too much in the direction of "single vision and Newton's sleep," and did so without much in the way of evidentiary justification.

TardNarc : 2010-02-19 14:15:01
> @TardNarc, I would rather see something original
> than critique of someone else's work

Isn't 'Shroom' itself largely just a critique of other people's work? It seemed that way to me.

> but if you think ripping on 'Shroom' is worth the
> intellectual effort

Totally.

> then by all means, we'd be happy to post a link.

My critique will probably be going up on the Invisible College website (hi Gwyllym!), among other places, and I will be sure to post a link to the finished document, but I was specifically asking you if you would like to look at the rough draft and give me feedback on it. Believe it or not, I like you a lot, and value your opinion. I also love arguing with you.

Anonymous. : 2010-02-19 12:29:05
"he's a poser. he's basically just denouncing mushrooms, and trying to get mushroomheads sucked in to buy his book. Glad I never did, and nor will I read it because...who has he got to back him up? No one. He's a douche He makes Daniel Pinchbeck look smart. What a crappy bargain bin book Shroom is. Andy Letcher you are a sham."

Just to be clear: He's a sham, a poser, stupid, a douche, and has probably never eaten a mushroom.... but you haven't read his book? Am I reading this sentence right?

Perhaps the I Ching told you these things? I hear when it speaks (especially ender the guidance of Shroom Voice) it says some pretty amazing things!

soma_junkie. : 2010-02-19 11:38:28
@Anonymous......the problem as I see it isn't that Letcher has an opinion that offends my delicate sensibilities....it's that's he's plain wrong. That, and he tortures reason and distorts the words of others to support his thesis. Go, Tard, go! Rah rah rah!
soma_junkie. : 2010-02-19 11:04:33
Better finish it up quick "Tard" because this guy needs to be exposed, pronto. I think a whole book *could* be written on the epic suckness that is "Shroom", it's that bad.
Anonymous. : 2010-02-19 11:01:54
"he's a poser. he's basically just denouncing mushrooms...

I really, really don't see that, and I'm not sure why you would think that way. As far as I can tell he is a fan of mushrooms, just not some of the bit historical claims.

If I had to summarize this thesis in a sentence, I'd say that he feels that the wide-spread spiritual use of mushrooms is a new phenomena (although there were isolated instances of it in central America), but that in no way diminishes the value of the experience.

People fond of entheogenic practice have felt marginalized for so long that they yearn for the validation of history. But what if history doesn't provide it? Does that mean the practice is worthless? Since when are psychedelic aficionados such traditionalists? Must something be validated by history to be worthwhile?

In Lecher's opinion (and in mine) one doesn't need all of these claims of historical usage to validate the meaning of the held experience.

I'm sorry if people feel invalidated by is work, but he didn't mean it personally, and he didn't mean to invalidate the practice. That is unambiguously clear if you read the book and don't let your hurt feelings get in the way.

psypressuk : 2010-02-19 03:49:01
Would love to see the critique @TardNarc.... definitely post it up..
Rob Dickins. : 2010-02-19 03:48:02
@TardNarc - I would love to read your critique of the book, please do put a link up to it....
jamesk : 2010-02-18 22:33:58
@TedNarc, I would rather see something original then critique of someone else's work, but if you think ripping on 'Shroom' is worth the intellectual effort then by all means, we'd be happy to post a link.
TardNarc : 2010-02-18 20:01:26
> I, for one, would love to see a serious debate.

Already on it! :)

TardNarc : 2010-02-18 20:00:33
> I will stand by 'Shroom' as a valuable addition to
> the literature in this field.

You may change your mind when you read my rejoinder.

> Anyone who wants to dump on Letcher better
> show me a manuscript half as good or they are
> simply blowing hot air. Posers.

I have a still-in-progress critique that currently stands at 30 typed pages. Wanna read the rough draft?

jamesk : 2010-02-18 18:36:00
I will stand by 'Shroom' as a valuable addition to the literature in this field. It is not 100%, but I see it as a leveled reaction to some of the more outlandish claims that shroom people make. Anyone who wants to dump on Letcher better show me a manuscript half as good or they are simply blowing hot air. Posers.
agreed. : 2010-02-18 18:32:57
he's a poser. he's basically just denouncing mushrooms, and trying to get mushroomheads sucked in to buy his book. Glad I never did, and nor will I read it because...who has he got to back him up? No one. He's a douche. He makes Daniel Pinchbeck look smart. What a crappy bargain bin book Shroom is. Andy Letcher you are a sham. And "Sham" should actually be the title of his book because he just did it to try and make some $$$. He's probably never even eaten mushrooms.
luke. : 2010-02-18 16:19:11
This guy is really a know nothing. His book is really one of the worst books on mushrooms. Don't buy his terrible book!
Anonymous. : 2010-02-18 12:56:41
"People in the mushroom community love falling for poorly substantiated assertions."

:)

I've read a lot of criticism of his book in the "mushroom community," but I don't think I've read any that specifically addresses many of his main points directly. It's one thing to say his assertions are unfounded; it's another to say, well, which assertions are unfounded, and why the evidence he presents is invalid.

Honestly, I love reading McKenna, but I'm surprised by "shroom"'s reception. I mean, if you accept McKenna, I would think you could accept anything!

A.L. went to some lengths to explain why he thought the evidence for wide-spread, historical mushroom use was flimsy, and I have yet to see that really addressed, beyond "huh uh!"

What little specific criticism I've seen of the book is somewhat periphery (for example, MJ Shroomer's assertions that his portrayals of PWN shroom culture have an inaccurate timeline). And I personally think is critiques of Wasson were more ad hominen than substantive, so I think he largely failed in his rejoinder against Wasson's ideas. Even so, I think he presented a community that prides itself on open-mindedness with a lot to chew on. As far as I can tell there has been little chewing, and a lot of denial. I, for one, would love to see a serious debate.

Gwyllm. : 2010-02-18 11:19:05
Yeah, but his band is cool.
Oscar. : 2010-02-18 11:16:22
People in the mushroom community love falling for poorly substantiated assertions.
TardNarc : 2010-02-18 10:56:11
Mr. Letcher's book certainly managed to give the appearance of scholarly rigor, but the substance was sadly lacking. I'm surprised so many people have fallen for his poorly substantiated assertions. IMNSHO, YMMV, etc.

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