The use of plant-based psychedelics to attain altered states of consciousness has been known to man for as long as … it’s anyone’s guess. Our psychedelic history which remains unknown to most who have settled for the easy answer, Drugs, … with little or no awareness of mind-altering substances and the fact that they have been known to the ancients as ‘Food of the Gods’, ingested to awaken the divine presence within … Plant-based psychedelics have in fact been the catalyst in human evolution and continue to nourish the soul’s need for wholeness.
There are some of us who have had the courage and curiosity to venture into the unknown and they are the ones that have come back to tell us about their magical experiences in the realms of the metaphysical. Everything changes once we make the unknown, known!
Ancient medicine men or Shamans have always known the power of attaining altered states of consciousness to heal, have visionary experiences, see the future, astral travel and time travel to other worlds and commune with divine entities, nature spirits … transdimensional non-physical beings of light!
Here is the foreword from the book “The Ecstatic Adventure: Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World” by Alan Watts followed the introduction by Ralph Metzner …
MANY ARE DOUBTLESS hoping that the current surge of interest in consciousness-changing chemicals will prove to be a passing fad. If so, it will only be through the discovery of simpler and more enduring ways of altering man’s perception of his own existence. For it is increasingly clear to those who study ecology, sociology, biology, and even physics, that the individual organism is not what it usually feels itself to be: a bag of skin stretched around bones, muscles, and other organs as the temporary vehicle of a distinct and particular self or ego.
The sensation of oneself as a separate centre of consciousness and will, confronting an external world in which one is an alien and an intelligent fluke, is quite clearly a hallucination. It bears no resemblance to man, or any other organism, described in the above-named sciences, all of which see beings, events and things as processes which, however clearly distinguishable, are inseparable from the processes which surround them and constitute their environment.
This is simply because one can hardly begin to describe the process, the behaviour pattern, of an organism without at the same time including some description of the behaviour patterns of its environment. The scientist is therefore bound to recognize that what he is describing is not a solitary organism but a vast and theoretically limitless field of relationships which he calls (rather clumsily) the organism-environment. This is not a merely deterministic situation in which the organism responds like a puppet to environmental influences. It is rather that they are two aspects, or poles, of a single process: they transact mutually, almost like the left and right sides of a moving snake.
If this situation were to become an actual perception or sensation, it would be obvious that the usual identification of oneself as an independent ego is a social institution rather than a physical reality, having, therefore, the same kind of reality status as a minute or a verbal definition. The individual would perceive his physical existence more clearly and cease to hallucinate his ego as a natural entity. Instead, he would find himself in a state of consciousness closely resembling the common form of mystical experience known as “cosmic consciousness.”
Experiences and sensations of this kind are described in the following pages by people under the influence of such consciousness-changing (or psychedelic) chemicals as LSD-25, psilocybin and mescaline. Questions are therefore raised as to whether these chemicals are properly called “hallucinogens,” whether their effects should be considered “religious” or “spiritual,” or whether they simply inhibit a perceptual grid or screening imposed by cultural and social indoctrination or brainwashing. In the latter event, their overall effect would be to clarify rather than confuse perception. However, so radical a shift in one’s way of seeing things might, through its unfamiliarity, be confusing or even frightening to some people.
From my own experiments with these chemicals, and from others’ descriptions, it has struck me that a dominant feature of the psychedelic consciousness is a polar form of thinking and perceiving. The usual gestalt mode of perception, where the figure is noticed and the ground ignored, seems to be modified. one sees instead the figure-ground as a totality. In the same way, it appears that things inside the skin and things outside “go together” as aspects of one process: a push from the inside is a pull from the outside and vice versa.
Conceptually, it appears obvious that such opposite categories as being and non-being, light and darkness, good and bad, solid and space are related mutually in the same way as front and back. This may come as a shock to the kinesthetic sense, a threat to one’s identity, and a disturbance to standards and habits of judgment. The individual unused to this situation may interpret it onesidedly: he may feel utterly helpless, wondering whether he can continue to think logically or even speak correctly, or conversely, he may imagine that he is God almighty, in charge of the whole universe.
Thus I feel it unwise for anyone to ingest these chemicals without first having some clear theoretical understanding of this polar, or transactional, relationship between organism and environment, perceiver and perceived. I might add that, for lack of such ecological understanding, the natural mystical experience may be as confusing as any chemically induced change. One knows of many so-called mystics who make the most fantastic claims to divine power and knowledge, and those who conceive the Godhead as a personal and literally omniscient and omnipotent being are especially prone to such delusions when under psychedelic influences, whether natural or chemical.
On the other hand, modern man could very well benefit from a clearer perception of his physical situation, and continuing experimentation with psychedelic chemicals may produce ways of achieving it without undesirable side effects. At a time when technological power is bringing about vast changes in our natural environment, some of which lead to the fouling of our own nest and reckless waste of resources, it is quite urgent that we learn to perceive ourselves as integral features of nature, and not as frightened strangers in a hostile, indifferent or alien universe. This book is a big step in exploring one approach to this fundamental and vital problem.
Introduction by Ralph Metzner
THE ORIGINS OF man’s use of visionary, mind-changing plants and preparations is lost in the obscurities of prerecorded history. Perhaps some Neolithic shaman, sampling new specimens for his herbal pharmacopoeia, stumbled across and ingested an innocuous-looking weed; in a short time, he found himself in the company of the tribal ancestors, spirits of water, thunder, rock and earth, trembling with stark awe and terror at the mysterious energies flashing through his eyes and ears, marveling at the intricacies of the relationships between man and animal, man and man, struggling with the subtle entrapments of his own fantastic concepts and visions.
The ubiquity of the shamanistic use of psychedelics has been amply documented by Richard E. Schultes, R. Gordon Wasson, Michael Harner and others. In the Amazonian jungles today, the tribe’s shaman still takes his young apprentice out into the forest and lets him drink the brew of the yagé vine, day after day, perhaps for forty days or however long it takes for him to confront and explore the numerous heavens and hells of his own inner being, systematically reviewing the genetic and personal memories, the states of consciousness which puzzle and confuse his fellow tribesmen.
This plant does not cure the infections of the physical body, but for relief of the strange, intractable sufferings of the psyche induced in sensitive souls by the seething cruelty of jungle life, the shaman’s visionary brew may provide the beginnings of insight and interchange between the waking ego and the inhabitants of inner, mythic dimensions, totems, animal spirits, gods and devils—a dialogue which modern man has relegated to the “unconscious” realm of dreams and fantasy at the cost of his psychic well-being.
Joseph Campbell has charted the monomyth or archetype of the hero-path in all ages: everywhere it is the same. The hero leaves the tribe to search for the Elixir, the Golden Fleece, the Holy Grail, the Ring—the essence of immortality that will enable him to transcend mortal life. He traverses deserts, mountains, fights monsters or demons, encounters the wise guide, rescues the princess (the anima, the soul) from the imprisonment of the dragon (conscience), finds the immortal seed and returns to pass on the message. With variations this pattern is found everywhere: it is the trip beyond the mind, that collection of fragmentary perception and half-baked concepts we call the normal world, to liberation and re-entry.
In the great Mystery Religions of Egypt, Babylonia and Greece, a psychedelic potion was probably used to confer on the initiate the direct, immediate experience of death and rebirth, the separation of the individual self from physical identity with the planetary body, the merging into the common, all-pervasive nuclear web of energy, followed by the slow and agonizing return to everyday existence in a physical incarnation. This was the esoteric, firsthand confrontation with the Mystery in one’s own inner being; the exoteric, secondhand knowledge was made possible through mythic rites, dramatic light-sound presentations, the symbolic re-enactment of stories of Isis and Osiris, Demeter and Persephone.
Even those unprepared or unwilling to undergo the core experience could thus get some inkling of its meaning and import. Perhaps it was in the caves at Eleusis, in cool subterranean chambers to which initiates were brought for the final rite, that Plato conceived and experienced his image of the chained prisoners watching the flickering shadows on the wall of the cave; until one of the slaves of illusion gets out and is blinded by the fierce radiance of the interior sun. Through the Greek Mysteries, men became gods and celebrated their divinity in the ecstatic light-space geometries of the great temples and the jewelled agonies of heroic dramas.
When the nomadic Aryans invaded India five thousand to ten thousand years before Christ, they brought with them from Central Asia the cult of the sacred Soma plant. The legend says that it grows a petal every day until the full moon and then loses one every day until the new moon—imagery suggestive of magic and the “dark moon power” of a woman. The learned Brahmins worshipped it and sung its praises in the Rig Veda: “I have drunk of the Soma and now half of me is on earth, the other half in the heavens.” Aldous Huxley has suggested that the effects of Soma might have been like a mixture of mescaline, hashish and reserpine—high, smooth and serene. The Soma cult died out, either because the plant became impossible to obtain in India or because (as Gary Snyder suggested) as the tribes passed from food-gathering to agriculture they lost contact with natural herbs and plants. Hashish and ganja became and still are the preferred psychedelics of religious adepts following the chemical yoga in India.
The rhythmic physiological callisthenics of Hatha Yoga counteract the passivity tendencies of this drug. It is taken according to elaborate rituals with postures, mudras and mantras; or in the solitude of the Himalayan cave, tuned in to the ringing energies of rock and ice; or as I saw it, in the ghats of the cities, the holy burning-grounds where Hindu dropouts spend months and years contemplating the destruction of the physical frame of man by fire, worshipping in their hearts the Great Lord Siva, the Destroyer and Transformer of Universe, the Master of Yogis, whose arms and legs annihilate in relentless dancing movement all perishable things, and whose quiet smile and radiant eyes draw you to the centre, the source, the common origin, where Destroyer, Creator and Preserver are one with each other and one with Kali, the Mother, the Supreme Female Principle, the Womb of Space, the Eternal Primal Sound, the Ommmmmmmmmm.
Ganja is a mild psychedelic, not normally capable of producing the ecstatic death-and-rebirth experience. The more powerful substances known to earlier civilizations, the Soma of the Vedic Hindus, the sacred mint of the Greek Mysteries, the divine mushroom of the Aztecs, disappeared from public view and, so far as recorded history is concerned, ceased to exist. But the “psychedelic movement” continued underground. Small groups of devotees, adepts and magicians kept the flame alive. In Tibet, protected from outside interference by the rock wall of the Himalayas, energetic Buddhists set up a whole social structure centred on the cultivation of enlightenment and higher consciousness, systematically applying Buddhist principles to the development of a superconscious elite of consciously dying, consciously incarnating lamas.
The old lama locks himself in a cave with his disciple and they practice sending and receiving until the signals come through. The mind has to be completely clear. Decades of systematic meditation are involved, and selective use of long-acting “samadhi medicines.” The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the most advanced psychology book ever written: its detailed descriptions of the step-by-step process of dying and being reborn can be verified by any LSD user. The altitude in Tibet and its distance from man-made vibrations may help account for the extraordinarily high development of its lately unfortunate people.
In Europe, the persecutions of the established church drove the gnostic God-seekers, Hermetists, Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Kabalists and other explorers of consciousness underground. The alchemists veiled the results of their experiments in the realm of psychedelic method by using a sealed language, a code known only to other members of the sect. Under the pretext of the quest for material gold they were developing the necessary psychedelic catalysts for the “transformation of coarse matter into fine,” the transformation of material consciousness into “spiritual gold.” Their work was hidden, yet their influence is concretized in the vibrating space harmonies and dazzling colors of the Gothic cathedrals, built most likely by anonymous groups of Freemasons.
In Mexico, the vicious persecutions of the Spanish Catholic Church eliminated the proud and cruel magic of the Aztecs, leaving only a small handful of remote mountain tribes cherishing their mushrooms, morning glories and cactuses. Simple powerful rituals of taking the sacred plants in an atmosphere of reverence and harmony with nature were handed down through generations of curanderos. From these “primitive” Mexican hill tribes, through the mediation of the ethnomycologist Robert Gordon Wasson, the psychedelic movement, the chemical visionary quest, resurfaced in the middle of the prime energy hub of the Western world in the mid-twentieth century and almost immediately became one of the dominant mythic phenomena of our time.
Not, however, without a couple of false starts, one in the psychiatric, one in the military establishment. Given the universal tendency of the human mind to interpret the new in terms of the old, and the deliberately inculcated conservatism of the psychiatric-medical mind, brainwashed through many years of arduous academic training to perceive any change in functioning as pathological, particularly changes in the functioning of consciousness for which no precedent exists in Western academic literature, it is not difficult to understand the initial anxious explorations of LSD by psychiatrists and their subsequent irrational fear at the use of LSD by non-medical human beings. Psychiatrists in the United States are generally not happy: recent studies show that their suicide rates are four times as high as the national average for comparable age groups. Their approach to the unusual experiences induced by LSD is marked by fear and negative thinking. The dissolution of ego boundaries, prized by mystics as a step toward unitive perception, is labeled “psychotic disintegration.”
Here is an imaginary, but typical, experiment from the early days of “psychotomimetic” research: an advertisement appears on the medical school bulletin board for subjects to participate in an experiment for $20 a day. The eager medical student arrives early in the morning in the psychiatric research lab of the hospital, is interviewed, given some physiological and psychological tests, and then handed a small pill and a glass of juice and left alone. At half-hourly intervals a team of doctors, nurses and psychologists give tests, ask questions, observe pupil size, pulse rate, etc., and confer with each other about the “subject.”
They are normal, you are mad. Mad because the walls of the room are starting to writhe, objects are swimming in pools of light, colors are becoming sullenly vibrant. What are these uncontrollable tremors in the extremities, why is everything suddenly so overbearingly intense? The furniture is gesticulating menacingly, a strange slippage of reality seems to be occurring, bizarre complexes of sensation are closing in from all sides. The next time the doctor appears his face seems abnormally red and the ears look pointed, and what is that strange odor of sulphur?
Some of the “subjects” undergoing this experiment would fortunately be able to flip their consciousness to the level of detached humorous observation, laughing at the incongruity of the situation, and perhaps begin to explore LSD on their own. Others, probably the majority, would get terrified at the dissolution of reality, cling grimly to rational control by adopting a paranoid stance (“I am being victimized by crazy scientists,” I am being poisoned,” “This is a conspiracy to drive me insane”), and as the effects wore off or were terminated by a tranquilizer, dismiss the whole experience as crass delusion and nightmare. The psychiatrist goes home and writes his research report on the psychotomimetic properties of LSD.
The other false start, the military exploitation of LSD, resulted from the reflex attitude of the military establishment to any new technology—to see what possibilities the new energy form has for killing, maiming or otherwise incapacitating “enemy populations.” Buckminster Fuller has estimated that it usually takes about twenty years for a new invention to seep through into civilian applications after the military have had their secret games with it. The Army made the first LSD film in the early fifties.
It shows an unsuspecting soldier, who had been given LSD in his morning orange juice without his knowledge, with a bewildered look on his face as he attempts to reconstruct his familiar personality sufficiently to answer the routine questions of the officer-experimenter. However, the unpredictability of LSD reactions apparently led to a diminution of military interest in this type of chemical warfare.
Those psychiatrists and psychotherapists who had taken the obvious preliminary step of trying the new chemical themselves soon began to pursue different objectives from their psychosis-oriented colleagues. Could not the multi-level perception of LSD, the ability to see what you see and to see yourself seeing at the same time, be used in a therapeutic context? People reported “insights” and breakthroughs in emotional blockages. Could the alcoholic cut through the vicious cycle of self-pity and self-destruction, the neurotic come to terms with his crippling anxieties, the convict grow beyond the monotonous seesaw of crime and punishment, the dying cancer patient forget his miseries for a few hours and contemplate the inevitable ending he so much feared?
Papers reporting rapid positive personality change with LSD began to proliferate in the scientific literature. It seemed as if the judicious use of psychedelic drugs might overcome the basic limitation of psychoanalytic and related methods of personality change: the limitation that no matter how subtle and accurate the analysis of the “complex,” a merely mental-verbal-cognitive insight is not enough; even Freud himself despaired that the energy available in the therapeutic situation was not sufficient to overcome the massive negatively charged energies locked up in the original complex. You could not get out of the mind by using only the mind. Some external reinforcement or catalyst was necessary. LSD is such a catalyst.
In the meantime, adventurous painters and musicians discovered that LSD was also a catalyst of a different sort, an impetus to startling new rearrangements of vision, to a bubbling, ecstatic, seemingly inexhaustible pool of images and ideas, to a new-old kind of harmony between the artist and his medium. A lively boost to this kind of paramedical use was the publication of Huxley’s books Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell; his enormous erudition and lucid explanations put the whole business of taking a drug to change your consciousness on a totally new level. Artists now sought the experience as a means of expanding their vision.
In 1965 an artist friend of mine is sitting in his studio in New York’s lower East Side. He smokes a couple of lungfuls of mint soaked in DMT and looks at the face of a man sitting across the table. The man’s face starts to change almost immediately; it separates out into four or five planes of light intersecting at various angles in a constant rhythmic pulsation, with tendril-like multicolored organic flakes breathing through the skin and over the whole an incredibly fine mesh of perfectly organized moirépatterned lines of light which extend out from the head into the air, shimmering, sparkling and quietly humming. In a few minutes the colors begin to fade, the movement slows down, the painter feels as if a holy moment is occurring and swiftly copies the vision down on paper.
In the early sixties several major research projects began systematically exploring the effects of LSD and psilocybin on “normals,” i.e. non-therapy patients. At Harvard, Timothy Leary, awed by the radiance of his first trip out of the mind with the Mexican divine mushroom, and his colleague Richard Alpert began giving psilocybin to graduate students, professors and laymen without imposing either a medical-therapeutic or a psychological-experimental model on the situation.
The purpose: to see if a “natural,”. unforced way of ritualizing psychedelic experiences would develop. Although medical and psychiatric screening was performed while the project was at Harvard, it attracted the animosity of faculty colleagues and local psychiatrists. A prisoner rehabilitation project was also initiated: “Let’s go to Concord and give the convicts mushrooms and make them into Buddhas.”
I was a third-year graduate student in clinical psychology at the time, and the thing that most aroused my interest was the tone and contents of what my classmates who had taken the drug were saying. They talked to each other in stunned, excited voices about love, sharing, identity, unity, death, ecstasy-topics not generally discussed by psychology students except with cynical flippancy or heavy academic seriousness—but certainly never from experienced confrontation, as was happening now. Timothy Leary’s enthusiasm was the more impressive, since the year before, in pre-mushroom days, he was one of the very few members of the faculty who communicated a sense of integrity and conscience toward the subject matter of psychology and toward people. He was looking for ways to break out of the traditional professional modes, and refused to regard people as objects of experimentation or clusters of symptoms.
He had quit his job as research director of a large psychotherapy factory, the Kaiser Foundation, when his own research indicated that therapy did no better by people than the mere passage of time, combined with the instinctual regenerative programs of the human nervous system. He had dropped out and was ready to turn on. I saw American psychology as a cynically professionalized pseudo-science, and was ready to turn on too. So were most of the graduate students. Almost all tried the experience at least once. About half stopped when they realized that their “careers” would be negatively affected by further ingestion of the mushrooms.
A small handful continued to work on the project after it left Harvard and became the improbably titled International Federation for Internal Freedom—an organization whose avowed purpose was to turn on the country by supplying groups of mature adults with psychedelic chemicals and helping them to set up a research project whose results would be acceptable to the academic-psychological-religious community. A check for $10,000 was actually mailed to the Sandoz Co. in Switzerland for a million doses of LSD. But social reprisals crashed about IFIF’s bead before the transaction was completed, and the whole project moved to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, probably one of the world’s most beautiful places, where a group of about twenty students and teachers spent four weeks intensively turning on and tuning in to the tropical energies of ocean, sand, sun and stars.
On the West Coast, a group of mind explorers centered in Menlo Park pursued an alternate approach to the utilization of psychedelics. A medical clinic for guided self-therapy was established, called International Foundation for Advanced Study, in which the attempt was made to work within the traditional medical-psychiatric framework while pursuing the positive, i.e. psychedelic-transcendent goal in the experience. Clients were charged fees commensurate with the amount of time spent by professional doctors or nurses.
Preparation included psychological tests, interviews, autobiographies and one or more “trips” with carbogen (30 per cent carbon dioxide, 70 per cent oxygen), which produces a very brief ecstatic state, but requires the same basic inner gesture of self-surrender as LSD. (Making this gesture is the key to a “successful,” i.e. liberating, voyage with LSD; without it the experience can turn into a prolonged struggle with unaccepted sense energies.) Timothy Leary was at first on the board of trustees of this foundation, but they later disagreed with his espousal of the non-medical use of LSD. (We are merely noting some of the controversial points of view which have divided psychedelic mind explorers from the establishment and from each other—this is not the place to discuss or evaluate these controversies.)
The Menlo Park group pursued a strategy of extending the boundaries of the medical-therapeutic model: individual sessions were run for patients, but also for normal persons who wanted to experience transcendence. Later, groundbreaking studies in the enhancement of creativity were done by this group, using professional architects and engineers as subjects. The Harvard group had left the medical-academic game altogether and was concentrating on the religious applications. A major study on the experimental production of religious experiences with psilocybin was done at Harvard by Walter Pahnke. This was the group’s last “experiment” in the traditional sense. After that the primary effort went into the development of training methods for self-exploration with LSD.
These two organizations represented a transitional stage, when it was still believed that the psychedelic experience could be integrated into American life by modifying the traditional medical-psychological methods somewhat. Neither of these institutions survived the prohibition of mind-changing chemicals, which began with the imposition of increasingly stringent requirements for obtaining LSD for research investigations in 1963, and was formalized on the federal level by the Drug Abuse Control Amendments of July 15, 1965. This law made sale and manufacture of LSD illegal, but not possession for one’s own use. Many states have since that time enacted more stringent rules, in some cases going so far as to declare LSD a narcotic and making possession of it a felony.
One of the criteria proposed by the FDA for determining whether a drug has “potential for abuse” and should therefore be placed under the DACA is if “individuals are taking the drug on their initiative rather than on the basis of medical advice from a practitioner licensed by law to administer such drugs.” In other words, self-administration is being equated with abuse. It is unfortunate that federal and state legislatures have felt constrained to rush into law prohibitions which, based as they are on ignorance of the nature of the psychedelic drugs and on fear fostered by psychiatrists and newspapers, do nothing to solve the problem of real abuse, which can be countered only by information and training, and only serve to create a situation of great aggravation for hundreds of thousands of people, predominantly young, intelligent and from middle-class homes, who are expanding their consciousness and hurting no one.
At the mid-sixties we have the following situation: legitimate research on humans with psychedelics has dwindled to a small handful of studies, mostly on alcoholism, repeating work done a decade before in Canada. Possession and use of LSD is completely illegal in most states, carrying felony penalties in some. A nationwide average of between 10-20 per cent of college students have taken LSD; in some colleges the figures run as high as 40-50 per cent. An inestimable number of citizens from all walks of life—certainly in the hundreds of thousands, probably over a million, possibly several million—have taken one or more trips, and the number is increasing at an accelerating tempo. Only a very small number of people are apparently aware of the profundity of the social change that is occurring.
In the early sixties, when the work of the Harvard group was just beginning, small communities of LSD users were starting to operate, particularly on the West Coast. Some of these centered around psychiatrists who had started using LSD in therapy and then became more interested in the psychedelic-transcendent experiences. At that time, it was still fairly easy to obtain relatively large quantities of the drug from Sandoz. Such groups of paramedical mind explorers flourished more in California than elsewhere. Perhaps this is related to Marshall McLuhan’s observation that California never had the nineteenth century—it jumped straight into the twentieth-century electronic world, while the ivy League, European-influenced East is still trying to disengage itself from nineteenth-century typographical puritanism.
Whatever the reason, psychedelic cults flourished in California and, when the legal situation became more difficult, spread south into Mexico. Some of the ecstasy cults moved to country estates, and in discreet privacy attempted to reconstitute the natural, happy life—lusty, dignified and productive. Others, the younger ones, populated the dance clubs and discotheques of Sunset Boulevard and now Haight-Ashbury, seeking release from self in the pounding electronic sonorities of rock-and-roll groups, and communion of shared ecstasy in bright capricious costumes and liquid, rubbery dances, Behind all these visible phenomena, lie the unseen—the “acid trip,” the group of friends in a small apartment sharing the disintegration and reconstitution of reality. The centre of such activities has become San Francisco, where at the time of writing (April 1967), informed estimates are that one-fifth of the city has taken LSD. One-fifth of a major American city tuned in to experiences and values on sensory and spiritual levels which are diametrically opposite to the materialist power orientation of the American mainstream.
We were invited to a party on a ranch about an hour’s drive outside of San Francisco. The ranch had been rented for the summer by a rock-and-roll group with a mystical name, whose chief backer was a major manufacturer of high-quality black market LSD. The group had their powerful electronic instruments, bought with the proceeds of drug sales, on the lawn and were sending pulsing, vibrant drones reverberating through the surrounding hills. Like almost all the major rock-and-roll groups in the country, this group has taken LSD often and occasionally perform under doses as high as 250 or 300 gammas. In such states, the sounds tend to become more detached and eerie, less tied to the structure of songs.
About 300 people are scattered around the lawn. By the end of the afternoon, there are about 700—they arrive in jeeps, trucks, exuberantly colored buses and cars, in family groups of ten or more, with children, animals, wearing improbable costumes, flowers, beads, headdresses, waving banners, laughing and jumping. About half the people are naked but there is no pressure to remove clothes; everything is remarkably unforced—a strange sight to see the bobbing genitals and breasts of naked dancers, and others sitting or lying peacefully immobile, entranced, gazing with wide-eyed ecstasy at these Dionysian revels. In the house, LSD is being passed out, only to those known personally to the source. Although an occasional couple may wander off into the woods or the house, this is no orgy, but a family-tribal celebration; a deep feeling of joy pervades the gathering, a kind of luxuriant affection for everything living.
Lately, such gatherings are taking place on another scale. Tens of thousands of persons assembling in Golden Gate Park, or Central Park, New York, to be, to love, to celebrate, not to protest, but to manifest joy. No one who attends such a gathering can fail to be affected by the energy and vitality being released here. It is as if some very ancient human needs and longings are being articulated and expressed for the first time in aeons, instinctual resonances are set up even in those who have never taken LSD, long-buried impulses and long-stifled hopes are finding a new freedom.
No one can say for sure what the nature of the social changes that are happening will turn out to be. There is radical experimentation going on with utopian ventures and new approaches to economic exchange, such as The Diggers’ non-monetary resourced distribution projects. The utopianism of the psychedelic generation is based not on philosophy, but on necessity stemming from disengagement I from the Great American Accounting System.
It is a very hard-headed utopianism, which draws on the wisdom of the native inhabitants of this continent, the Indians, for information on the harmonious, non-destructive utilization of the land’s resources. “Peyote and LSD,” said Gary Snyder, “are the Indians’ revenge on the white man.” They affirm precisely those values cultivated by the Indians over many centuries and blindly overlooked and ignored by the white men in their reckless exploitation of the physical energy resources of this now much polluted, much-eroded land.
It is important to realize that America is now going through a “trip”—that is, the general culture is responding to the psychedelic phenomenon with all the same reactions that one can observe in the individual who takes LSD: the bewilderment at sudden change, the incessant attempt to explain, to rationalize, the delight and astonishment at aesthetic, sensory beauty, the growth of tolerance and the growth of fear, the springing up of love and the intensification of pain and confusion, the exuberant sharing of happiness and the aggravation of isolation, the multiplication of new artistic communications and the growing gap of understanding between old and young.
America’s “trip” is not a particularly happy one; the murder of a well-liked president and the continuing racial suicide of an insane war against sixfold more populous Asia are the outer manifestations of a deep spiritual trouble. But there are hopeful elements also, and it may well be, as a writer in Look magazine put it, “that these people will end by turning all the rest of us on, releasing energies that we have become too cynical or too embarrassed to use.”
We see on the part of young people directly or indirectly involved with the psychedelic scene an affirmation of positives, not an “escape from reality,” or a refusal to face the facts of our grim situation. It is precisely those youngsters who have lived all their lives under the cypher of universal destruction—they and not their elders—who will look the prospect of the end of man straight in the eye and then go on. And to go on means to embrace everything, to accept the negatives as well as the positives, to realize these two polarities are inseparable at all levels, and to glorify in acts of beautification and service the divine spark in man.
Which is not to deny the existence of problematic tendencies within the psychedelic movement. The vision of the supreme illusory nature of life’s play and of the deceitful artificiality of man’s games can induce in some unprepared minds a kind of lethargic indifference, a moral and intellectual apathy. The shocking advice—”drop out”—is erroneously taken by some to mean “don’t work.” LSD is a too], not a method. One has to learn to use it with discrimination. “Seeing” something under LSD is no guarantee of its conceptual or moral validity.
As Timothy Leary emphasized repeatedly, every man has to become his own Moses, his own Galileo. He has to evolve his own moral code, he has to grasp the essential nature of his universe. Nothing can be taken for granted anymore. None of the old social or intellectual structures will stand. We have to start all over again from scratch. We have to ask ourselves the basic questions: What is life? Where are we at? What are we doing with each other on this (now) small planet? The real evolutionary challenge posed by the existence of chemicals such as LSD is whether man can finally learn to become a wholly responsible human being.
TRUE SANITY ENTAILS in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality; the emergence of the “inner” archetypal mediators of divine power, and through this death a rebirth, and the re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer.
~ RONALD D. LAING
FURTHERMORE, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
~ JOSEPH CAMPBELL
INTERVIEWER: “Are you afraid of drugs?”
SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: “No, I’m not afraid of drugs. I’m more scared of everything else that’s going on in the world.”