- The First Psychonaut?
- Louis-Alphonse Cahagnet's Experiments with Narcotics
- International Journal for the Study of New Religions
- Volume | Issue number
- 7 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH)
This article calls attention to the important but neglected French Mesmerist,
Spiritualist, Swedenborgian, and occultist Louis-Alphonse Cahagnet
(1809–1885), while concentrating on his significance as a forgotten pioneer
of modern entheogenic esotericism. Like other occultist practitioners during
the period prior to modern Theosophy (notably Emma Hardinge Britten
and Paschal Beverley Randolph), Cahagnet was convinced about the spiritual
potential of narcotics as a powerful tool for inducing transcendental vision.
The article describes and contextualizes his systematic experiments with narcotic suffumigations made from plants traditionally associated with necromancy and witchcraft, as well as his spiritual visions induced by the eating
of Hashisch dissolved in coffee. Cahagnet appears to stand at the origin of
an underground tradition of visionary practice that would be continued and
further developed by Britten, Randolph, and other esoteric practitioners since
the 1860s. While most scholars have tended to play down the role of narcotics
in these contexts, these may well have been crucial to how spiritual vision
came to be understood in the occultist movement.
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