Something wonderful happens when we human beings share personal information with each other. Seeing someone's screen come down inspires us to drop our own.
Jim replied to your request for our "drug memoirs" with a very important reminder, through the example of his experiences, that the drug culture had, and of course still has, a decidedly dark side.
It could be said that drugs were the core reason for the "hippie movement" to have failed as a viable lifelong lifestyle alternative.
I'm considerably older than Jim. I am 49, and so it places my drug experiences in a different historical period than Jim's.
When talking about drugs, the years during which one took them greatly influenced the nature of one's participation.
I smoked grass from 1968 until the mid '70's. Smoking it with friends was an essential part of the social glue that kept us together. I rarely bought any--grass was something always there among friends to be shared.
The primary activity when stoned on grass was listening to music. During those years it seemed to me and my friends that being stoned was an essential mind-tweak, though many of us would try to find ways to have access to that kind of altered state through non-drug ways--such as meditation, and by studying whatever esoteric literature we could find---like Claude who wants to study "The Art of Astral Projection" in HAiR.
Grass smoking was really analogous to having beers with the gang. Lots of laughter, dancing, listening to and playing music. And eating brownies---can't forget those!
Taking LSD was a different story.
I took Acid for a period of maybe two and half years, taking a total of about 50 trips. Those were never the casual "let's get high" daily occurrences like smoking grass. For me and most of my friends, taking an Acid trip was something to be planned---the way you would pack your bags to fly to another planet.
Typical to the ritual of taking Acid was arranging for as comfortable an environment as possible, with plenty of favorite records pre-selected and ready to play. The right kind of incense had to be burning, interesting objects to look at were set in plain sight so they could be easily found and contemplated during the trip. A child's kaleidoscope was a favorite.
It was essential to have at least one friend there who wasn't on Acid, as a guide and "reality post" if the need came up---and the need DID come up.
The idea of taking acid to go downtown shopping, out eating, or to go to a party---wasn't done by me. It was always a purposeful meditative journey.
Some of the things that happened on trips I still vividly remember. Most of all, the oceanic experience of truly being aware how I am part of the Universe has never left me.
I had a break through in my understanding of music while on LSD. I remember I was listening to The Rolling Stones' "Their Satanic Majesty's Request." Suddenly I saw that the sounds created by instruments added up to uniquely colored shapes in space which move, rush towards each other, dance together in an ever shifting pattern. Music is energy which is harnessed and displayed aurally to us but also has shape and size. Never again was the note of an instrument just the sound of "a guitar" or "a piano." The instruments are far less important than the unique way they sound a particular note.
I believe it was due to drug experiences that so many people resonated to the timbres of synthesizers when they started being used. Those electronic sounds were closer to "the music of the spheres" we were hearing and seeing while high on LSD.
I also distinctly recall my last LSD trip.
I truly forgot what my name was. I saw the mystical "white light" of the Universe. I knew I was God and roared with laughter over the plaything I had created---the Earth.
Parallel to this experience is how other people were reacting to me. I was at the home of a friend, and his girlfriend, who wasn't stoned in any way, became terrified by my psychotic ravings and locked herself in her bedroom. When I started pounding on her door screaming that we had to have sex, my friend had to pick me up and haul me to his van to get me out of the house. I was naked and yelling about how Argentina would be a good place to go to and that we should just "be" there at that instant. Having a "body" was a concept I had left far behind. Back at my house, my friend stayed with me as the trip became ugly.
He and I were the only two parts of God left in the Universe. As the trip wore on, I "knew" that I had accidentally destroyed the world in my careless playing with it. I saw the earth, and then the Solar System, and then the Universe shut down like an infinite Chinese box, collapsing into an ever smaller container.
I saw my friend turn into a thousand year old man and then crumble to dust. I "realized" I had destroyed him accidentally also. The Beatles' pictures from The White Album which hung on my wall were the last human images I saw before crashing into sleep. I remember looking at the picture of George Harrison and bitterly weeping over how he and I had together been Jesus Christ and that we'd died without people comprehending why.
When I woke up the next afternoon, I was astonished to see the earth again. There was a sun in the sky and people were moving about as if nothing had happened! I hadn't accidentally destroyed the Universe after all!
But I had destroyed my previous misconception about God and man being separated in the Universe.
I had gone through what Leary and others accurately called the "death of the ego" and gotten the longest, most intense look I was capable of enduring of the realms mystics have tried to give us glimpses of in their writings from centuries ago.
I stopped smoking grass when I reached the stage of usage where social paranoia sets in. What was once a fun pastime with companions became a source of horrible paranoid discomfort. No need to keep experiencing that--so I stopped smoking.
I described my last Acid trip---it was enough. I knew I was flirting with powers and mysteries I was too fragile to keep visiting without becoming broken.
Coincidentally to my story, it was George Harrison who said about LSD that it was something that after a number of trips he could see he didn't need to do any more.
There's always the danger of romanticizing about the '60's drug culture and our peronal involvement. There is no way to be honestly black and white about the issue. To say "It was bad, so never take drugs" would be just as dishonest as to say "I came out okay, so go ahead."
There are no easy answers to give young people about all of it. I do know that the environment now, the social milieu, is completely different than when I was 17, 18, 19 and experimenting.
I, along with my friends , truly felt the world was changing permanently and for the better because of the discoveries we were making with drugs. We were so innocent in our unafraid embracing of altered states of consciousness---just like The Tribe in HAiR. Nowadays that innocence is gone--that spiritual quest we were on is much more rare to find. Drugs are now seen as party and sexual stimulants instead of Keys to the Kingdom.
And there's also this. I have read a number of excellent things that admit that the areas we were reaching into through drugs back then were indeed the same as the ones visited by saints and mystics through the ages. But human beings aren't strong enough to go to Heaven and back, to go to Hell and back and remain as capable of living the kind of material life required of us on Earth.
Perhaps if we could live as monks in contemplation, there would be room in us for such cosmic knowledge. But, I've read it strongly argued, that such profound journeying into the spiritual realms is for the later years of our life when death is inevitably closer, not for the minds of young people still in formation.
I believe that so much lethargy and disdain for the essentials of day to day living was created in us back then because we saw too early in life, from our drug induced "cosmic perceptions" just how meaninglessness most things required of us on earth are. Drugs too easily robbed us of a good sense of humor about our physical existence.
We were too young to understand this fundamental truth: "Before enlightenment, a man works, eats, sleeps. And after enlightenment--------a man works, eats, and sleeps."
Looking back and looking into myself now, I know there were positive results of my having taken drugs. Music is still energy moving in the sky like multi colored clouds. If it wasn't, I would never have the same joy in writing and playing it. And I still know that everyone is quite distinctly a part of myself and part of God.
But I also know that the changed world I thought was coming didn't come in the way I thought it would---and at the age of 49 I am a very ill equipped adult in the way of functioning in this material world. The artistic side of me has been developed disproportionately to my "adult" "practical" side. Friends often say of me that I need a "keeper"---perhaps that wouldn't be true if I had paid more attention to learning THis life instead of that Cosmic life drugs side-tracked me in to.
The only thing I have ever excelled at is Theatre. Without it, I could very well be drifting in the astral zone that fascinates the mind but can leave one out of touch with other human beings and our mutually experienced day to day living.
All of this helps explain why HAiR is a show I especially resonate with, and why I have never been more thrilled with a directing project. I am re-visiting my youth in a way that is touching my soul.
And your request, Joe, makes me glad all over again to be passionately involved in my art rather than in the quest for more drug induced highs.
Life, as explored through Art offers us all the Highs we need.
Jan 27, 2000, 3:45pm (PST+2) From: Joseph Sullivan
I have always been interested in knowing about the drug culture from the '60s. I am too young to have personally expierence any of it so I have to rely on other sources of information. I know that there are members on this list that did live through this era and I was wondering if anyone would like to share any kind of information with me, whether it be general information of personal expieriences. If anyone doesn't want to do this through the list please feel free to send info directly to me at email@example.com. Thank you all very much.
I have always been interested in knowing about the drug culture from the '60s. I am too young to have personally expierence any of it so I have to rely on other sources of information. I know that there are members on this list that did live through this era and I was wondering if anyone would like to share any kind of information with me, whether it be general information of personal expieriences. If anyone doesn't want to do this through the list please feel free to send info directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you all very much.