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  Book Review: In Place of the Self: How Drugs Work

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By: Nancy McMahon
In Place of the Self: How Drugs Work by Ron Dunselman. Hawthorn Press, 1995, Stroud, England. 304 pp. Hardback. $52.95. Trans. from Dutch by Tony Langham and Plym Peters. Distributed in USA by Anthroposophi-cal Press, RR4, Box 94A1, Hudson, NY 12534. Tel: 518-851-2054. Fax: 518-851-2047.

In preparation for writing In Place of the Self, Ron Dunselman entered intensively into a study of the worlds of each of the substances he presented. By this means, he was able to bring to life his description of the history, being and effects of each of the substances presented - LSD, mar-ijuana/hashish, opiates, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy. In the chapter on LSD, for example, he describes the fungus, ergot, from which LSD is derived and the dramatic place of ergot poisoning -"Saint Anthony's fire" - in human history. He does not limit his description of the experienced, physiological effects of these substances. He goes deeper into relevant descriptions of Rudolf Steiner's threefold and fourfold man, including a description of the four ethers and the differential effects of the various substances on the human being.

The author describes the gradual transition from man's living with the gods in ancient times to the present situation, where even tradition has receded: "When the formative strength of tradition disappears, this not only leads to freedom, but also to the need to create an inner relationship between ideas, feelings and desires, using one's own resources.... the question arose as to whether we had enough strength to do this on our own with the resource of our own Self. However, drugs can also do this for us. Drugs can temporarily activate, strengthen or emphasize one or more of these three forces of the soul. Drugs can stimulate (associative) thinking, direct our feelings in a particular direction, or strengthen the will and our performance.... In this case, the drugs solve the inner challenge for us, taking the place of the Self, which is put out of action to a greater or lesser extent. Because of this, the Self is less able to develop..." (pgs. 31 and 33).

Relevant sources, including Rudolf Steiner and other anthroposophical writers as well as the literature about the drugs described, are well documented throughout the book. Descriptions of effects of the substances are illuminated by quotations from both historical and contemporary sources. In addition, graphs showing incidence and amount of drug and alcohol use are presented and explained. These statistics refer mainly to the Netherlands; but in the English translation, statistics from the USA and the UK are included in the Appendix.

Careful thought was given to the choice of terminology for the anthroposophical picture of man. In some cases, at least in the English translation, the usual words were not used.

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