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“Over the past year, my study of alchemical elixirs in the Tibetan tontras had brought exotic substances into my kitchen larder. Concoctions of lotus seeds and wild honey, sautéed caterpillar fungus (Corvyceps sinensis), Indian snake-root (Rauwolfia serpentina), and preparations made from purified mercury, silver and gold became a regular part of my and Hamid’s diet. Some of the elixirs were only to be used in conjunction with specific Tantric practices. One, a formula from the Chandramaharoshana Tantra, caused eruptions of light in the frontal cortex when combined with certain yogas. A rarer recipe contained in the Nyingtik Yabtsi, a fourteenth-century compendium on Dzogchen meditation, prescribes a concoction made from the tropane-rich seeds of Himalayan datura for opening the body’s subtle energy channels and cultivating visions, the final distillate to be dropped into the eyes through the hollow shaft of a vulture’s quill. (European varieties of datura, or thorn apple, were principal ingredients in the flying ointments and magical salves of medieval witches which promoted out-of-body experiences.)” (Baker, Ian. The Heart of the World. New York: The Penguin Press; 2004:194)

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