by Skip Stone
Hippies & Drugs
"But I would not feel so all alone, everybody must get stoned."
In the 1960s the hippies, en masse, undertook the largest uncontrolled experiment with drug use in the history of mankind. In those days it wasn't unusual to be handed a pill, and swallow it with the only instruction "You'll dig it, it's groovy." You trusted your fellow hippy and you wanted to get high and have a new experience. This was freedom. This was rebellion. This was cool. We discovered that Pandora's stash box was full of drugs!
Purple Haze all in my brain, lately things don't seem the same.
From laboratories in pharmaceutical companies, on college campus and bathrooms around the country came a plethora of new drugs with names like LSD 25, DMT, purple haze, MDMA, orange sunshine, synthetic mescaline, psilocybin, STP and many more. The purity and action of these drugs got more dubious as time went on, as unscrupulous dealers sought to capitalize on the drug craze. Along with methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, even heroin, hippies tried whatever they could get their hands on.
If you can remember the '60s, then you weren't there.
Why did hippies use drugs so extensively without concern? Let's look at the history of drug use leading up to this situation. After World War II, the pharmaceutical industry exploded with research into new drugs. They produced drugs to prevent disease, to cure disease, to alleviate pain, to relieve upset stomachs, to keep you alert, to help you to sleep, to lessen worry, to reduce hyperactivity in children, to remove the symptoms of psychological disorders. Thanks to the industry's aggressive campaigns in the media and the doctor's office, every medicine cabinet filled up with drugs for every sort of ailment.
One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small.
I remember when I was a child of eight or so, having a headache or toothache, and my mother giving me an aspirin saying it would make it feel better. I like many of my generation was curious about drugs even at that age. I asked my mom "If it makes you feel better when you hurt, what does it do when you feel fine?" My thought was that it would make you feel really good! Yes, I had what it takes to be a drugstore cowboy even then.
Better living through chemistry.
Drugs were portrayed as wonders of modern technology. We were led to believe that soon all diseases would be conquered by taking some drug. It was a time of unbridled optimism and the pharmaceutical propaganda worked well on us young children. After all by the time I was eight, I'd downed thousands of vitamins, hundreds of aspirins, had vaccines on sugar cubes and in needles, drank colorful syrups for coughs, taken antibiotics to kill bad bugs inside me. And I was a very healthy child!
Not feeling right? - Take a Pill!
So in the early 60s, drugs were not seen as evil. Yes, heroin was that bad drug that junkies were addicted to. But all the rest were good and helped heal us, or at least made us feel better. It's taken a prolonged, decades long, anti-drug propaganda campaign to undo the pro-drug pharmaceutical company brainwash. Now kids are more confused than ever. Many eagerly spout the politically correct line "drugs are bad," while they wash down their Ritalin with caffeinated colas, then sneak a cigarette or a beer between classes.
Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.
In the 1950's the Beats were fond of marijuana and wrote and sang about it, often in veiled terms. Illegal since the 30s, it was underground and occasionally someone famous would be busted with it. But the Beats were far fonder of alcohol as were most people. Alcohol was and is the true gateway drug, if any actually exists. We all have a drink before our first date with Mary Jane.
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed
The Beats were aware of the effects of marijuana: increased sensitivity and creativity. Artists, poets, writers, musicians, all felt inspired under its influence. It would usually surface at parties and along with alcohol (usually wine), helped lower inhibitions and get the party moving. It was in this group context where the uninitiated would usually encounter their first joint.
I get by with a little help from my friends,
With the hippies, the group scene was just as important and influential. When you saw your friends all participating in an illegal act without negative consequence, and lots of positive ones, who could resist? Peer pressure at its most effective. I smoked my first joint with my fellow cabin mates at a summer camp where I worked when I was 16. A few months later, I was at college smoking it every day, and had already taken my first LSD trip.
Feed your head!
It's interesting to speculate what might've been had LSD not become available to us. How much was it responsible for? More powerful than either mescaline or psilocybin, and far easier to mass produce, its impact cannot be underestimated. Many of today's technological wonders including the personal computer and the Internet are due to the inspiration and enlightenment of LSD (and marijuana). Carl Sagan has admitted (posthumously) his use of marijuana to inspire his best-selling books Contact and Cosmos.
Avoid all needle drugs.
Colorful fashions, several art movements and of course the incredible outpouring of musical talent in the 1960s was directly due to the impact of psychedelic drugs. Having such open minds, hippies were the ones who experimented with and experienced the insights these drugs provide, thus unleashing a barrage of new ideas upon society.
LSD melts in your mind, not in your hand.
What is it about LSD that makes it such an inspirational experience? I'm having a hard time coming up with an analogy for those who haven't had the LSD experience. But I'll try one. If using marijuana encourages thoughts about God, and mescaline is like seeing or talking with God, then an LSD trip is experiencing the world as God. That is its mind-blowing potential.
Aldous Huxley - It's widely known that Huxley experimented with psychedelics including mescaline and LSD. In fact as he lay dying, he asked for and received his last dose of acid. His great works of fiction include 'Brave New World' about test-tube babies, consumerism and Soma, the drug of choice. I'm still longing to take a "Soma Holiday." Huxley's 'Doors of Perception of Heaven and Hell' is a classic of psychedelic literature. It's based on his experiences with mescaline and how it "opened the doors" of the mind. The Doors named their rock group after this book.
Timothy Leary - The high priest of LSD, Leary is clearly the King of Shamans. His role as professor at Harvard University soon took a back seat to his public persona once he discovered for himself the powerful insights available through psychedelics. Unable to restrain Leary's enthusiasm, Harvard dismissed him, allowing Leary to experiment with psychedelics under his own terms. Once freed from clinical restraints, Leary determined which factors enhanced and promoted "good trips." He was quick to realize that the LSD trip was a religious experience that transformed the tripper for life. He encouraged clergy, scientists, artists and many others to experiment with LSD and recorded their experiences. His legendary sessions in Millbrook, N.Y. yielded much data, but more importantly pioneered the personal and interpersonal psychedelic experience as never before.
Leary became the focus of public debate about the use of drugs, leading to the criminalization of LSD and other psychedelics. Leary himself became the target of governmental repression, with Richard Nixon calling him "the most dangerous man in America." Imprisoned, escaped, on-the-lam, returned from exile, Leary remained unfazed in his efforts to promote the psychedelic, shamanic experience. His numerous books exhort the reader to discover for himself the mind-expanding potential of psychedelics.
John Lennon - While John Lennon might have considered himself foremost an artist and musician, he nevertheless met the criteria of a shaman in today's society. His great influence among young people was due to his charisma and talent. Lennon's experiences with psychedelics, particularly LSD, changed his view of the world and the way he expressed himself through his music. Not only did he become more experimental and inventive, but his lyrics took on an otherworldly nature. His songs inspired countless thousands to open their minds and experiment with psychedelics. Some of his tunes were actually composed and recorded under the influence of LSD. John was a tireless promoter of the hippy/shamanic message of peace, love and understanding. His message reached the far corners of the planet.
Jim Morrison - Morrison, the songwriter and lead singer for the Doors, was an iconoclast who used his fame to get his message across. A poet and philosopher, Jim felt it necessary to push the envelope and society as far as you could to find freedom. He knew that drugs were just "Doors" to other worlds where few explorers ventured. His music, his lyrics and his passion took us to some dark places in our personal and collective psyches. Like any good shaman, Jim's real talent was taking us along on his journeys into these forbidden realms and opening our minds with his vivid perceptions.
Carlos Castaneda - Steeped in the shamanic tradition of the Nahuatl Indians of Mexico, Castaneda weaves a tale of initiation, revelation, power and transcendence in his series of books. The story of how Carlos meets and accepts his apprenticeship under the tutelage of brujo Don Juan is a masterpiece. The endless debate about whether it's a work of fact or fiction is notwithstanding. The teachings underlying the work have great merit, as they give meaning to existence and provide a path, the warrior's, for those souls brave enough to confront their own weaknesses and transform themselves.
Terence McKenna - Terence McKenna is a man who, like Gordon Wasson, lived with the natives and learned their shamanic ways. Along with his brother, Dennis, they added much to our knowledge of ethnobotany, the native uses of psychedelic plants. McKenna's book, Food of the Gods, was a landmark in this field. Terence is well known for his work with Ayuhuasca and DMT as well as his lectures on these and other subjects.
Alexander & Ann Shulgin - This husband and wife biochemist team have explored the whole range of psychedelic drugs including some that few, if any, have tried. They are known as the parents of Ecstacy. Their books Tihkal and Pihkal are filled with their psychedelic experiments and experiences as well as how-to make your own.
Ken Kesey - In contrast to Timothy Leary's experimental approach to psychedelics, Kesey explored the experiential. Along with his Merry Pranksters, Kesey felt that psychedelics were a new way to experience the world. Inviting diverse friends from Allen Ginsberg to the Hell's Angels to his place in La Honda he was able to transform groups of people via the communal "trip." After turning on hundreds of mind travelers, he decided to take his show on the road in a Day-Glo bus. Kesey and the Pranksters went on a psychedelic cross-country "trip" that inspired many including the Beatles (Magical Mystery Tour) to try to duplicate. The Pranksters' famous Acid-Test parties where LSD laced Kool-Aid was dispensed accompanied by music (by such notables as the Grateful Dead) and light shows were modern day correlates to the shamanic rituals of old.
The War on Drugs
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach
is more so.
In my opinion, the real reason for the War on Drugs, and the particular emphasis on marijuana is that it is a way to control freethinking individuals. This works by either denying access to mind-liberating substances, or by imprisoning those who use them. Just as the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover maintained a list of subversive enemies of the state, today's enemy list includes anyone who uses (not necessarily abuses) drugs that are not beatified by our medical/industrial/political machine.
If they can't control our minds, they must control our bodies, thus prisons multiply. They fear a loss of control over the workforce, the primary consumers, the taxpayers, and their political constituents. For if we stop obeying our masters, it's tantamount to a slave rebellion. That is all we are, slaves working for the next dollar. We are no longer individuals with freedom to delve beyond the system's programmed parameters.
This threat is real, since the system offers no alternatives. You're either on the bus or you're one of them. If you happen to be one of the 700,000 American Citizens who get arrested for a marijuana offense each year, you know which side you're on. Likewise, if you're one of the millions who live in fear that one day your illegal toke will get you busted or fired, paranoia is your constant companion.
This is an issue that no hippy or freedom loving American can ignore. It's symptomatic of a disease that has been growing within our system of government since Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey took LSD out of the lab and put it into the hands of the people. LSD would've been a great counter-espionage tool if the CIA could have controlled it. But it's precisely this lack of control, over the thoughts in peoples' minds that the established order fears.
This is one issue hippies can unite on. Our brothers and sisters rot in jail while we debate whether we should legalize industrial hemp. AIDS and cancer patients live their last days in pain and nausea, some also in jail, while we hide our past and/or present illicit activities from families, friends and co-workers. Did your conscience and reason leave you somewhere back in the '70s? Does the word hypocrite ring any bells?
We must act on this issue, now! We must get beyond politically correct attitudes and realize our government has declared war on freethinking, freedom loving Americans. Only a sustained, well financed, organized, united effort can possibly change peoples' thinking about marijuana. Marijuana must be recognized for what it is: a medicinal herb, an effective pain reliever and anti-nausea agent for critically ill patients, a plant with 1001 industrial uses, a sacred sacrament for many religions, and a safe, alternative soft drug that can replace alcohol as a relaxing, non-aggressive recreational activity for millions of people.
In addition our government should finance research into the medical and cultural uses of other psychedelic chemicals. The shamanic and ritual use of plants for personal exploration has been an accepted part of society for thousands of years. To repress this use not only ignores an important element of human culture, but the lack of knowledge about these substances endangers the well being of those who seek self-discovery.