Book Review:  In Search of the Ultimate High Spiritual Experiences through Psychoactives
by Authors
 Nicholas Saunders, Anja Saunders & Michelle Pauli

"We aim to contribute to an open discussion about the potential of psychoactives within spiritual practice."
Anja Saunders

"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
donít go back to sleep
you must ask for what you really want
donít go back to sleep
people walk back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch
The door is round and open
donít go back to sleep."


Reviewed by J. N. Sterling

In Search of the Ultimate High is an analysis of the cross-cultural and spiritual implications of psychactive experiences. It features a fascinating collection of accounts from hundreds of truth seekers around the world, and the insights the individuals obtained from thoughtful and reflective use of psychoactives.

The original author of the book, Nicholas Saunders, died in a car accident while researching the book. His wife Anja and her associate Michelle Pauli completed the book, which features a preface by Alexander and Ann Shulgin. Here is a brief excerpt from the Shulgins that aptly both sets the tone, and suggests the purpose, of the book:

Many humans are born with the ability to sense and sometimes see and hear the flow of spiritual energy throughout our world. For most, the ability to perceive this companion reality is lost with the firming of the ego and focusing of the physical senses which come about when babyhood grows into childhood.

Three- and four-year-olds often speak of past lives, but their memories dim and eventually fade as they participate more and more in the busy world of the five- and six-year-old child. As adults, they usually have no conscious access to these early experiences, unless something happens to allow the memories of long ago to resurface.

One of the ways in which the early memories of a spiritual reality can be recaptured is by the ingestion of a psychedelic drug. It is certainly not the only way. The practice of meditation, holotropic breathing and yoga, to name a very few, can also release these memories, as well as making it possible for the adult to see again the emissions of light from plants and the flow of atoms across surfaces. How often have we who make use of psychedelics heard the phrase, ĎI found myself in a world that was completely familiar, although I had forgotten it for years!í

We all know, but it has to be said again and again, that these special consciousness-expanding drugs are not for everyone...."

In Search of the Ultimate High is an excellent book for people who want to know more about the spiritual uses of psychoactives, and to explore this subject in a 21st century context. Saunders conceived of this book after studying the current rave culture extensively. He self-published three books and a popular website,, inspired by his experiences during the 1988 "second summer of love" in England, and his subsequent research on MDMA and the shamanic roots of the rave culture.

Ultimate High is a quick and fascinating read. It is certainly worth checking out, for both new readers to this subject, as well as researchers, doctors, therapists, spiritual teachers and anyone who has sincerely asked existential questions such as: What is the meaning of life? What is the nature of reality? Are mood-altering experiences [whether chemically or non-chemically induced] reality-based?

Saunderís book is divided into categories itemized below, eight chapters and seven short but useful reference sections. The book runs 272 pages in length.

More notes on each of these eight categories will be coming soon to this web site.

At that time, you will be able to click each chapter listing below for more notes on that portion of the publication.

Chapter One: Drugs and Spirituality

Chapter Two: A Different Kind of Church

Chapter Three: Psychoactives in World Religions

Chapter Four: Contemporary Shamanism for Westerners

Chapter Five: Home Users of Psychoactives

Chapter Six: Rave Spirituality

Chapter Seven: Before, During and After

Chapter Eight: Practical Information

Annotated Bibliography

About this reviewer: J. N. Sterling is a certified yoga and meditation teacher, a pop culture journalist, and a consultant for the Albert Hofmann Foundation. Sterling is a featured book reviewer for many well-known publications and websites, and an award-winning web designer, writer, and fine artist with 31 international awards.

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