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Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  8,621 ratings  ·  438 reviews
A journey to some of the Earth's most endangered people in the remote Upper Amazon. . . . a look at the rituals of the Bwiti cults of Gabon and Zaire. . . . . a field watch on the eating habits of 'stoned' apes and chimpanzees - these adventures are all a part of ethnobotanist Terence McKenna's extraordinary quest to discover the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. He wonders ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 6th 1999 by Rider & Company (first published 1992)
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Alden Yes, he actually references Mckenna's Food of the Gods in his book How to Change Your Mind.
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 ·  8,621 ratings  ·  438 reviews

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Feb 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is trash.

I picked up this book because of an interest in drug culture and history. The premise sounds interesting enough: we stopped doing shrooms and got worse as a society.

I'll summarize the book in case the premise sounds interesting to you, so you can get the gist without reading it:

- Some ancient cultures used mushrooms.
- Lots of cultures MAY have used mushrooms but we'll never know
- Mushrooms may have helped the human brain evolve and help us evolve language
- Ancient orgies o
Mario the lone bookwolf
The book covers a very wide range of topics, from the description of legal and illegal synthesized drugs, natural drugs, history of drug use, and it´s influence on human evolution and history.

Alternative ideas of how something might have developed are always interesting and in this case, two interesting questions come to mind. First how the whole human and before primate evolution, biochemistry, neurological functions, brain development, etc., might have been shaped by coincidence or by conscio
Feb 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: seekers
I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to convince you why this book is FUCKING AMAZING - so you'll just have to trust me. This guy is an ethno-biologist, meaning he studies the interactions of "substances" and world cultures (past and present), and how the two have influenced each other; both biologically, mentally, spiritually, and culturally. This is truly a mind-fuck for those in search of knowledge; even making the (well supported) case that the original "fruit of Eden" was something ...more
Nick Stibbs
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first encountered McKenna in a New Age bookshop in Brighton, whilst perusing for material to flesh out an essay on Shamanism I was writing. I came home with 'The Archaic Revival', which introduced me to ideas such as the Logos (a rather more funky formulation than the Christian use of the word), the Mayan Calendar and 2012. My humanistic psychology professor, Brian Bates, suggested that McKenna was rather difficult to deal with academically, but nevertheless I proceeded to give a talk on how I ...more
Gabriel Garcia
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot of people write off Mckenna as a charlatan or performer, but having just discovered him, I'm impressed by his creative thinking and pathos. I encourage everyone to read him, I think his voice is necessary in a world where addictions run rampant and our understanding of ourselves has hit a trough where value is measured by productivity and consumerism. Some of his ideas are way out there, but if you give him a chance and go there with him, without judgement, the ideas will inspire some pret ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to No by: Joe Rogan (
     This is a pretty amazing book and a lot of new subject matter for me, and also my first encounter with Terence McKenna's work. I will probably read this again someday and learn just as much as I did the first time. Interesting subjects such as shamanism, evolution, philosophy, language, DMT, cave art, classical art, addictions, religion, rituals, and also very old short stories and the authors interpretation on how they relate to the mind altering mushrooms that give us that glimpse. TV as ...more
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is great-much more than a treatise on "shrooms" and dope. Have you ever thought about the mind altering power of purified sugar, the politics of coffee, and the parallels between these and what we consider to be more dangerous drugs like cocaine?
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great book! The decision to close out 2008 with this book was made easier by my last McKenna review. In Food of the Gods, McKenna takes a historical look at the relationship between plants and human beings. This relationship is described in four parts: I. Paradise II. Paradise Lost III. Hell IV. Paradise Regained?

The first part of the book explains the conditions in place that forced human evolution. Namely, psylocybin mushrooms. Soma, a conscious-expanding, ecstacy-inducing drug of prehi
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The greatest books I’ve ever read on the subject of drugs, evolution and culture. I’ve thought a a lot about some of the ideas McKenna shares in this book, but this book brought it all together.

McKenna was way ahead of his time as he anticipated modern developments and provides the only real solution to our modern problems. This solution involves returning to a partnership culture by rekindling our relationship with nature and ourselves with psychedelics, putting an end to the dominator culture
I have listened to several lectures and interviews by and with McKenna but this is the first book by him I have read. With McKenna there are always things I agree with, disagree with, think to myself well maybe and some things I write off as sheer kookery but I always found him and his ideas interesting.

There is a lot I totally or partially disagree with in this. He really pushes his theory that early man injesting Psilocybin mushrooms caused the brain to evolve to a state where man was able to
Павел Степанов
This one is no doubt one of my personal favourites, and i recomend it to every open-minded person. I sincerely hope, that every reader will understand it correctly, yet i understand that this is impossible. Whenever you would like to discuss the book, i would like to join the discussion.
Mitch Lindgren
Aug 21, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not care for this book.

There were a few parts I did like, including a wealth of historical information about the use of psychedelics in various cultures throughout history, and some interesting theories about their role in the development of both ancient and modern religions. In fact, there are many interesting theories throughout the book, the most famous of these being the "stoned ape" theory. Unfortunately, that theory, and likely many of the others McKenna presents, is nothing more tha
This guy really likes drugs. A lot. He mostly just alternates between talking about how great drugs are, giving an overview of historic cultures and people who thought drugs were great, and developing an ideology around how great drugs are.

Before I rip it to shreds, I'll talk about the good points this book makes. For a society so scientifically advanced, which is devoted to objective research to understand our world and ourselves, it is strange how little we understand drugs, its effects on hum
Nati S
Sometimes I ask myself some weird questions like what would a new color look like? Or what exists outside the universe? Or what happens when I die? And sometimes I wonder about the existence of reality itself.

Psychedelics are super interesting. Society considers them as drugs in a similar way as cigarettes or some other stimulants. But this book shows that they are quite different. For a start, these things are naturally occurring in plants and in our bodies, plus, current and archaic societies
Erik Graff
Oct 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Michael Miley
Shelves: history
I picked this book off Michael Miley's shelves while visiting him in Sonoma having read previously McKenna's Archaic Revival. Since reading that and Food of the Gods I've enjoyed many hours of listening to recordings of McKenna's lectures.

This book is a highly speculative, yet plausible, account of how human evolution may have been influenced by psychoactive mushrooms. McKenna's claims that low dosages of psychedelics enhance visual acuity and therefore confer reproductive advantage to those pop
Adrian Sprague
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
among the things really enjoyed about this book would be the authors mentioning of lesser thought of drugs like coffee, chocolate, sugar, and television. i enjoyed the open minded approach towards often not conventional forms of thinking and really enjoyed the in depth arguments made for each point. overall i enjoyed the book, despite its dense middle section that seemed to stretch forever, and really appreciated the dedication to talking about the control of drugs and the drug trade by governme ...more
Bon Tom
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is some 90% right on the money, I'm just not sure about part which correlates availability of psychedelics in an area with evolution of consciousness. This is a bit of a far stretch, but who knows. Very interesting read that's for sure. Especially parts about drugs which are not considered so hard core in today's society, or aren't considered drugs at all: tea, coffee, tobacco, sugar, TV...
Jason Cihelka
thanks Terence, i'm gonna go do shrooms now...

But seriously, on second reading I applaud how concise and descriptive this book truly is. It might take a few times to get into it, but you'll come away with a very interesting perspective.
If we were ever truly enlightened, you would recollect skimming this tome with me from time to time.

Now pass the coffee.
Mitch S
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first when I saw the title of the book I expected a list and history of the worlds drugs. It includes that, but so much more. The book is basically a history of humanity thus far and our relationship with drugs. It was only recently in our history (~100 years) that drugs became taboo. What was the crucial turning point for mankind? Did we suddenly become smarter and realize drugs are bad? No, the dominator society decided introspective drug taking interfered with consumer culture. (Read this ...more
Decent book, McKenna is fun but kind of full of it.

Sometimes to support his claims he quotes family members.

He gets some things hilariously wrong, with regards to the development of language he says that women developed language more than men because men don't need much language to hunt whereas women needed lots of language to describe edible plants (as if men didn't go on days long hunts and didn't also forage for food).

Some of the points are spot on, he includes television as one of the dru
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McKenna neither validates nor condemns drug use. He seems to focus heavily on mushrooms and Cocaine. Like they have a special place in his heart for one reason or another. Boomers more for its exploration of the soul, and Cocaine for its long history of human use. He's a little less insane than his reputation made him out to be. So intellectual. Clearly, he hasn't yet lost his mind. I feel like if McKenna had his way, a mushroom experience would be a requirement for life, and nicotine and alcoho ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Danceswithcats by: My dealer
Ha! I read this at university, when I was hanging around with a load of deadheads. It's one of those labours of love by someone who has a good idea that's probably unprovable. At the time, I thought it was really, like, wow, man, but, having been around people who have found anything but wisdom from their relationships with drugs, I am fairly sure it would piss me off if I read it again.

I can still recite the first line of the CD he did with the Shaman:

Human CONSCIOUSNESS represents such a RADIC
Fanciful ideas and interesting concepts, but at the end of the day chuck-full of new age psycho-babble.
Some of the things he asserts are interesting and engaging to think about and entertain, but most of what he says seems to be fueled by his own adventures as a psychonaut and not concepts that are based in any measurable reality.
There was a lot of really cool stuff in here about dominator culture and historical systematic oppression of minorities, immigrants and indigenous peoples via drugs and hallucinogenic plants (or the lack of). The writing itself was kind of boring, and sometimes hard to follow since it’s presented in a non-linear format. But over all, it’s good food for thought.
Chris C
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
forgot I even read this until I stumbled upon it earlier- will be re-reading in between novels-
Reminds you, Man has always required food, shelter, precreation and of course, getting out of ones' head.

Shridhar Sp
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this one after having heard about it as a suggestion by Steven West in his 'Philosophize This!' podcast. The premise of the book is to clear our the stigma against plant based psychedelics, especially the psilocybin mushrooms, by explaining the evolutionary, historical and religious basis of usage of mushrooms and then what suddenly happened, that turned the tide against it, in the contemporary societies.

Terence McKenna weaves the story of human experience with psychedelics and altered
Dustin Duncan
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't say I had a great time reading this all the way through, but I did towards the end... probably because I haven't read a book in so long, or I've been stressed all around and I was relieved to be almost through with it. BUT, I was expecting to read more about the magical effects of mushrooms, as used in shamanism and old-world paganism, so it was hard to stay interested when the book turned into a politically persuasive commentary on society every few lines, rather than the mysterious and ...more
Timothy Ball
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tim-s-shelf
"The evidence gathered from millennia of shamanic experience argues that the world is actually
made of language in some fashion. Although at odds with the expectations of modern science,
this radical proposition is in agreement with much of current linguistic thinking.
"The twentieth-century linguistic revolution," says Boston University anthropologist Misia
Landau, "is the recognition that language is not merely a device for communicating ideas about
the world, but rather a tool for bringing th
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terence writes poetry masked as non-fiction. Although the evidence for the stoned ape theory is lacking, he nonetheless provides a compelling history of our relationship to mind altering substances. It's the sort of book that holds up a mirror to our own pharmo-cultural background, which at first is shocking due to the pervasiveness of 21st century drugs (alchohol, coffee, sugar, etc.) but ultimately liberating in that it provides a historical background to reflect from. The history of what Tere ...more
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Terence Kemp McKenna was a writer, philosopher, psychonaut and ethnobotanist. He was noted for his knowledge of the use of psychedelic, plant-based entheogens, and subjects ranging from shamanism, the theoretical origins of human consciousness, and his concept of novelty theory.

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“Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coersion, brainwashing, and manipulation.” 174 likes
“We can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long. Lets us declare Nature to be legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.” 95 likes
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