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PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story

By Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin and Ann Shulgin

Alexander (better known as “Sasha”) and Ann Shulgin’s PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story has become a foundational work in the genre and was the first book to fully impart the how-to chemistry, and convey the effects, of many of the entheogenic drugs that are currently being studied and used to heal trauma and deal with death. An acronym for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved”, the book spans autobiography, organic chemistry, politics, ethnobotany, and psychopharmacology, and the cultural impact is likely to be profound for decades to come, as it has already.

Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin

The late Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin was undoubtedly one of the most pioneering chemists of this century. Completing his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1955,Shulgin went on to get a job at the Dow Chemical Company, where he invented a highly lucrative, biodegradable pesticide by the name of Zectran and ultimately pursued his own research program, synthesizing psychoactive substances after an experience with mescaline. Shulgin left Dow in 1966, setting up a home-based laboratory on his ranch in Lafayette, California, where he synthesized more than two hundred novel psychoactive compounds. A bold explorer of the frontiers of neurochemistry, Shulgin tested the majority of the substances he synthesized on himself, his wife and co-researcher Ann, and a small circle of trusted friends. He and his friends kept diligent notes on their experiential research forays. He and his wife Ann co-authored the psychonautic tome, PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story in 1991. In 1996, the Shulgin’s published TiHKAL: The Continuation, a sequel to PiHKAL, standing for “tryptamines I have known and loved.” Shulgin is most often remembered for his rediscovery and synthesis of a chemical known as MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, and Shulgin suggested that MDMA would be a powerful aid in therapy. (Photo by Charles R. Lucke)

Ann Shulgin

Ann Shulgin co-founded Transform Press in 1991 with her husband, Sasha Shulgin, out of their shared passion and commitment to an uncensored examination of psychoactive compounds. Through the Press they co-authored and published PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (1991) and TiHKAL: The Continuation (1997), the two cult classics based on their psychedelic experiences. The publications generated regular discussion groups on psychedelics and psychopharmacology which the Shulgins led together for many years. They also contributed jointly to several other publications including, The Secret Chief, The Secret Chief Revealed, Entheogens and the Future of Religion, and Ecstasy: The Complete Guide.

Ann has served as a lay therapist facilitating the use of MDMA and 2CB in therapeutic settings while those substances were still legal. She brings a Jungian orientation to her examination of psychedelic experiences, with a particular emphasis on the integration of the Shadow and an overarching theme of spirituality and unification with the divine in all things.

Since Sasha’s passing, Ann serves as the advising authority on the Shulgin research legacy and the Shulgin estate. She continues to write and give talks within the psychedelic community.

Description

Alexander (better known as “Sasha”) and Ann Shulgin’s PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story has become a foundational work in the genre and was the first book to fully impart the how-to chemistry, and convey the effects, of many of the entheogenic drugs that are currently being studied and used to heal trauma and deal with death. An acronym for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved”, the book spans autobiography, organic chemistry, politics, ethnobotany, and psychopharmacology, and the cultural impact is likely to be profound for decades to come, as it has already. PiHKAL is divided into two parts, the first of which is a fictionalized autobiographical ‘novel’ – the main fiction is that it is fiction. This first half of the book is The Love Story, about two people named Shura and Alice who fall in love, though one of them is already in love with someone else. This love triangle is a painful ordeal they must go through, and that process unfolds before the reader with grace and great insight into human nature. Shura is a brilliant chemist who has dedicated his career to making psychoactive drugs, in the story they go through many experiences with the psychedelic compounds that Shura has discovered and has made in his lab, all of which have been bioassayed himself. The reader will find themselves going on this journey with them, experiencing what they experienced, both in their hearts and in the psychedelic journeys they have. The second half of PiHKAL is called The Chemical Story, and it contains detailed instructions for, and effects of, the synthesis of 179 psychedelic phenethylamines which were mostly discovered by Shulgin himself. For each substance there is information on its synthesis, suggested effective dosage, duration, and detailed commentary on the subjective effects that were experienced. This book appeals to adults of all ages and cultures, and to the psychedelically experienced and inexperienced alike.

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