Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In Memoriam Albert Hoffmann

O nobly-born, that which is called death being come to thee now, resolve thus: 'O this now is the hour of death. By taking advantage of this death, I will so act, for the good of all sentient beings, peopling the illimitable expanse of the heavens, as to obtain the Perfect Buddhahood, by resolving on love and compassion towards them, and by directing my entire effort to the Sole Perfection.'
-- The Tibetan Book of the Dead

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru' narrow chinks of his cavern.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


TGGP said...

I've never done any drug other than booze. Have you used LSD? If so, how were your experiences?

mtraven said...

Heh, well, I guess the statute of limitations has passed on my youthful follies.

My experiences were pretty damn good. Whether it made me wiser or not, remains to be seen. But I wouldn't be exploring ideas like this if I hadn't fried my brain back then.

There is a vast and mostly useless literature on drug experiences. One that made sense to me back then was Alan Watt's The Joyous Cosmology. But if the mystical shit doesn't resonate for you, it's also been described as being as drunk as you could possibly be without getting stupid.

mtraven said...

Actually, if you want an entry into that world I recommend the Illuminatus! trilogy, which combines psychedelia with black magic and combat among various forms of libertarian cults...and its predecessor, Principia Discordia, which ought to be on the web somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Having no acquaintance with psychedelia I perhaps did not see much but casual pop-cultural reference to it in "Illuminatus." What I did detect was a broad and surprisingly deep acquaintance with Western occultism and fringe freemasonry. This is not so much the "black magic" of the medieval grimoires as it is the residue of Hermeticism, astrology, and the Christian adaptation of the cabala by Pico, Reuchlin, Giorgi, Knorr v. Rosenroth, etc. - mostly as filtered through Eliphas Lévi.

Of course there are nineteenth century occultist precedents for the 'sixties drug culture. Mme Blavatsky and the masonic degree-peddler John Yarker used hashish, Crowley used opium, anhalonium (peyote extract), etc. Crowley has often seemed to me a sort of 'sixties type avant la lettre. He certainly had his admirers among them, e.g. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, who lived at Boleskine for a while. Page's friend and Crowley's bibliographer, Timothy d'Arch Smith, wrote a novel "Alembic" that evokes this particular constellation better, I think, than do Shea and Wilson.

I met Bob Shea once, something more than 25 years ago. He seemed a fairly level headed sort at least in my very brief acquaintance. I have heard that Wilson was the crazy one.

mtraven said...

Oh, there is tons of explict drug stuff in Illuminatus, along with the Masonic conspiracies, Crowley, H.P. Lovecraft, contemporary poliical satire, and bad puns. In the climactic scene, if I remember correctly, everyone is tripping their head off in some kind of Nazi Woodstock.

Someone did indeed put together a very nice webified version of Principia Discordia. And of course, The Subgenius Foundation is a treasure trove, but that's the hard stuff. (I actually put up the very first subgenius web page back in the prehistory of the Internet).

Anonymous said...

I don't deny the 'explicit drug stuff' in "Illuminatus," but it appears more to me just to allude to the contemnporarily prevailing drug culture than it does to give much insight into the actual psychedelic experience. Perhaps you have to have had one to see it in the book, and that's where I am at a disadvantage.

On the other hand, d'Arch Smith's book has convincingly - to me - hallucinatory episodes in it. Maybe he's just a better literary craftsman than Shea and Wilson were.

TGGP said...

I read the Illuminatus! trilogy when I was a freshman in college. Good, crazy stuff.