psychedelic books, psychedelics, chemistry, LSD, THC, MDMA


An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic adventures
introduction by Charles Hayes
In Tripping, Charles Hayes has gathered fifty narratives about unforgettable psychedelic experiences from an international array of subjects representing all walks of life - respectable baby boomers, aging hippies, young ravers, and accomplished writers such as John Perry Barlow, Ann Waldman, and Tim Page. Specifically featured is an interview with Terence McKenna, perhaps the preeminent psychedelic spokesperson of our time.
470 pages 6" x 9"

Price $17.95


High time we cleaned up on drugs

In search of the ultimate high: spiritual experiences through psychoactives

Nicholas Saunders, Anja Saunders, Michelle Pauli. London: Rider Books, Random
House, 2000. Pp 256. £12·99. ISBN 0712670874.

Tripping: an anthology of true-life psychedelic adventures

Let's face it, we're all on drugs, and we're all messed up. Even a casual
glance at the statistics of use and abuse, the inadequacies of drug services,
the costs of prevention, and the effects of a multibillion dollar global
criminal drug industry, would suggest that society is in a spot of bother
about its stance on drugs. Yet although most of us desire to vary our state
of consciousness at times, most commonly through drugs, individual views on
drugs are confusingly diverse. And the loudest voices still eschew
fundamentalist positions that most recently re-emerged around the 1960s: "all
drugs are harmful and should be banned", or "all drugs are beneficial and
should be available".

Of course, by "drugs", I don't mean those things that doctors prescribe,
(well, mostly not). I mean all substances that reliably vary consciousness,
including the socially promoted and illicit, street, recreational, addictive,
dependent, narcotic, stimulant, inebriant, intoxicant, delirient,
fantasticant(!), psychotomimetic, hallucinogenic, psychedelic, psychoactive,
and entheogenic substances, not forgetting the shamanic, ritualistic, and
sacred or power plants, "medicine", and sacraments. The diversity of language
reflects the diversity of agents, situations, agendas, and motivations
involved in such mind-alteration (drug use, administration, ingestion,
misuse, abuse, and so on), yet society still lumps everything together as
"drugs", barely differentiating between a heavily-dependent crack user and a
psychonaut who uses LSD monthly for self- development.

Confused? Seems mostly everyone is, even the scientific and medical
communities, which should be able to offer a better-informed perspective. The
paradoxes, inconsistencies, and dilemmas that are the consequence of our
mixed up attitude to "drugs" are everywhere. For despite the fact that our
children apparently know more about getting blissed out than we do (whirling
around with arms extended is a favourite method), the biomedical community
largely denies the possibility that a desire for altered states is innate,
perhaps even necessary. So, each generation is left to their own devices to
learn about the most common system adults use, and users who encounter
clinical services are often stigmatised and marginalised. Despite the evident
likelihood that some "drug"-induced states may not only be therapeutically
beneficial (especially for addiction) but that they may offer profound
insights into the "holy grail" of neuroscience, consciousness, most
researchers, with the exception of a few notable mavericks, focus on the
adverse effects of "drugs". So, the increasing groundswell of people who find
the official line confusing or naive have to rely on popular culture for
evidence and experience. And, the rising number of people who are interested
in trying "drugs" for increasingly specific purposes most commonly learn by
taking them. Isn't it time that we developed a clearer perspective on this
dirty topic?

One of the most welcome efforts to illuminate the ever-more muddy waters
sadly has not come from biomedical research institutions but from the
collation of "drug" experiences on the Internet and in popular literature.
Two recent additions are Tripping and In search of the ultimate high, a
coincidental duo of books whose authors differ somewhat in their aims and
views, yet take a similarly sensitive and responsible approach to documenting
profound experiences with "drugs". The results of this informal research are
both informative and highly moving. While Tripping presents a broad anthology
of psychedelic states or "trips", In search of the ultimate high is more a
manual for the seeker of specifically spiritual experiences through
psychoactives. Both texts also represent personal journeys for the authors
(for example, after Nicholas Saunders died in a car accident, In search of
the ultimate high was completed by his wife and his researcher), in which
they freely contribute their own "drug" experiences. These are not
"trip-heads" or "junkies" but free-thinking individuals who are fully engaged
in the mainstream of life, and whose experiences undoubtedly add to their
books' abilities to provide both education and entertainment on a practice
that is both relatively common and relatively hidden.

For Hayes, his first psychedelic experience opened him up to "shimmering new
sensibilities that shook my petty mortal concerns like so many scales from my
skin". His subsequent belief that factual, unbiased information on such
phenomena should be widely available led him to compile this warts-and-all
global collection of 50 astounding trips. Together with essays on the history
and basic features of the psychedelic experience and a conversation with the
late psychedelic guru Terence McKenna, this is Hayes' bid, not to glorify or
demonise tripping, but to "set the leper-crazies free". And here they all
are: George, the author who was given insight into the soul's journey through
the universe, then chided when he asked what it all meant; Kenny, the farmer
who still believes that the only reason he suffered 60% burns after he lay in
a fire was the "hyper-rational" reaction that took him out of the protection
of the "group mind" generated within his circle of tripping army buddies;
Julian, the inventor who once attended a London casualty department believing
he was a first-stage rocket taking off and later was inspired in his
inventions by LSD; and Alice, the financial adviser who asked to see God
after eating cannabis cake and was rewarded with the most ecstatic experience
of her life.

In the cases collected by Hayes in which the original purpose of the tripper
was recreational, many have subsequently eschewed psychedelics. In search of
the ultimate high, however, specifically details experiences of those on a
spiritual quest, who consider psychoactives as sacraments, and who believe,
as Anja Saunders says, that "there is more than the material reality, visible
in everyday life". The basis of In search of the ultimate high is that
"drugs" and spirituality are certainly not mutually exclusive; in fact,
psychoactives are a longstanding method to access the sort of transpersonal,
mystical experiences that we call spiritual, whatever their catalyst. Indeed,
on one LSD trip, Nicholas Saunders had the insight that mankind invented
religions to provide an explanation or framework for experiences of
non-ordinary consciousness. Religious contexts therefore feature prominently,
including organised groups that base their religion around a psychoactive
sacrament, the classic world religions, and other spiritual ways of life,
from shamanism to rave spirituality. Readers may be surprised to learn of
Buddhist monks who use Ecstasy for meditation, or of social worker Lee, who
was led to evangelical Christianity through LSD, then later secretly used the
legal cough suppressant dextromethorphan for trips that rejuvenated his
spiritual weariness.

No doubt by now, most readers will be buzzing with questions: Do we really
need such profound experiences, and do we need drugs to access them? What
about abuse or insanity? What should be done about drug laws? And, how can we
make progress on the issue? Again, these authors offer some insight. In
search of the ultimate high emphasises the need throughout for information
(which they admirably provide), preparation, caution, appropriate guidance
(for example, in accordance with the Council on Spiritual Practices
guidelines), and integration of the experience. Hayes wholly concurs, placing
what he calls "reassimilation" as a particularly high priority, to mend
trip-induced schisms between non-ordinary and ordinary consciousness. Perhaps
this is why he is anything but a libertarian on the issue, believing that
"most individuals do not need to experience something as intense and
'otherly' as a psychedelic experience can be". Instead, he prefers the idea
of institutionalising such enterprises for those in need, for example,
through psychiatry.

But to really further the debate, evidence more rigorous than anthology is
surely needed, as championed by the Multidisciplinary Association for
Psychedelic Studies ( In his recent PhD thesis for Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government, MAPS president Rick Doblin delineates both
appropriate research protocols to investigate the therapeutic effects of
psychedelic substances and a potential regulatory framework for prescribing
psychedelic psychotherapy. For example, he proposes four- arm studies that
compare three groups receiving high, medium, or sub-threshold (placebo) doses
of psychedelic psychotherapy with an unblinded group receiving the best
alternative treatment. If found effective, he suggests that such treatment
could be prescribed within a similar framework to that used for methadone or
electroconvulsive therapy, with prescribing authority restricted to
specially-licensed and trained psychiatrists working within clinical settings
meeting minimum standards.

When valuable case series are being published as popular literature, when
research is being led from outside the mainstream scientific community,
surely this is a wake-up call to move the debate forward in an open-minded,
rational way, whatever our personal views on "drugs", however complex the
issue. If these authors can respect the potentially negative effects that
non-ordinary consciousness can have on the fragile mind, and nevertheless
appreciate the need for further exploration, research, and debate on the
issue, then why can't the biomedical community? We should not make our
whirling children re-discover the truth about "drugs" on their own.
Kelly Morris