Psychedelics Reimagined

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Psychedelics Reimagined (Autonomedia, 1999) ISBN 1570270651

This collection of writings on contemporary psychedelic culture covers a huge range of material, including biographical material on Casteneda, Ganesh Baba, and Fitz Hugh Ludlow, the Biblical history of certain plants, the intersecting of science and institutions in the drug world, rave culture, drug tourism, alchemy and more. Also includes preface material by Hakim Bey and Timothy Leary, the editor's extensive networking contacts, and many book and journal reviews.


Review by Trout, 2006


With Psychedelics Reimagined, Thomas Lyttle has assembled a diverse collection of writings, and as has been consistently true for his past works, this book will be of great interest to anyone with a love for this field. However this particular work also has substantial value for many other people. While it could just as easily have been entitled Psychedelic Monographs and Essays, Volume 7, the underlying thread running through most of the writings presented stresses the importance of the psychedelic experience as something of immense value that has been mistakenly overlooked, abandoned, or rejected in our culture. It also presents a number of refreshing “new” views on this very old subject. The result is an enjoyable and informative work, which features a foreword and introduction by Timothy Leary and Hakim Bey, respectively prefacing writings by a diverse set of authors.

Many of the articles stress the importance of the visionary experience and the fruitful partnership these plants have long held with the human race—including the often maligned but widely employed Cannabis and Brugmansia. However, there are also articles that readers will find of interest for their meaningful perspectives on older subjects. These include an early interview with Carlos Castañeda that perhaps illuminates some of the reasons why he did not do more interviews. Whether the reader loves or loathes Castañeda, they are certain to find this candid (and rare) glimpse of him to be fascinating.

An enlightening essay on Fitz Hugh Ludlow elaborates not just the role Ludlow’s writings played in later people’s perceptions of drug use, but also the role that drugs played in Ludlow’s own perceptions. As well, there are also fond memoirs of Baba Ganesh; reasonable lamentations by chemist Otto Snow on the insanely restrictive burdens placed on neuroscience by overzealous legislators; Iona Miller’s fascinating “Chaos as the Universal Solvent”—discussing personal transformation as viewed from within the thoroughly psychedelic framework of an alchemical perspective; interesting recollections on the beginnings of the rave movement in California; and various short papers featuring the nuggets of thought-stimulating information that Lyttle has become well known for collecting into eclectic books.

For some readers, this work would be worth buying just for John W. Allen and Jochen Gartz’s most welcomed overview of psilocybian mushroom occurrence and use in Southeast Asia and other Third World countries. After the seeming glut of more popular articles published in recent years that paint Thailand as a magical and trouble-free place to seek out mushrooms, this informative, detailed and well-referenced discussion is a welcome breath of reality.

Despite its wealth of information, Psychedelics Reimagined would have been much more useful to many readers had several of the individual articles been more completely referenced (or referenced at all!). After reading Chris Bennett’s interesting “Scent of Lebanon To The Wise,” an essay attempting to demonstrate Cannabis use and familiarity in the Bible—largely on a linguistic basis—the reviewer was left with many questions and no indication how to pursue in any greater detail. Even Joan M. Bello’s long overdue and well-written piece elaborating the many benefits of marijuana use was often curiously short in providing much more than general references. While it was found to be an important and informative article, it was also a little disappointing for not providing the reader with any clear indications of how and where to learn more about some of the specific claims that were made.

Lyttle also includes an extensive annotated review of many publications and organizations that exist (or have existed) related to this area but, oddly missed Trout’s Notes and only lists The Entheogen Review. Of course this is currently almost the norm in such compilations, as recently indicated as well in the excellent compilation Tripping, by Charles Hayes, which missed both publications. (Perhaps this is due to neither ER nor Trout’s Notes having a web presence?) Despite this small oversight, Psychedelics Reimagined is highly recommended and I hope that Lyttle sustains a long and productive career in order to allow us to enjoy many more such works.

Originally Published In : The Entheogen Review, 2000


What's New with My Subject?

Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.

Psychedelics Reimagined

Lyttle, Thomas (Editor) (2000)
Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.

ISBN: 1-57027-065-1

Description: Paperback original, 256 pages.

Contents: Editor's note, Foreword by Hakim Bey, Introduction by Timothy Leary, 13 unnumbered chapters, periodical and book reviews, Psychedelic Networking: A World Directory, afterword, notes on contributors. Illustrations 134-145.

Contributors: John W. Allen, Joan Bello, Chris Bennett, Hakim Bey, David Christie, Donald Peter Dulchinos, Philip H. Farber, Jochen Gartz, Dale Gowan, Desmond K. Hill, Timothy Leary, Thomas Lyttle, Paul Meyer, Iona Miller, Bartlett J. Ridge, Lizbeth Rymland, Otto Snow.

Editor's Note
Psychedelics Reimagined contains articles done in a variety of editorial styles. These styles include the journalistic, the interview, the academic, the biography, the poetic free-form, and so on. ...

Throughout all my books, I have attempted to place the raw against the polished, the dense against the whimsical, and the sophisticated against the naive. I believe this approach presents a more lifelike, realistic and authentic portrait of the psychedelic movement and its artists. Thomas Lyttle, page 7)

Psychedelics were the question, not the answer. The CIA, and the even deeper placed Illuminati, heard the question, and their answer to the question was NO. Ever since then, everything that has happened in Babylon (that welter of images and media which we believe to be history) - every "event" and all "power" must be situated in the cognitive space created by that NO. It is as if that word were a spell, or an anti-drug with its own flood of anti-hallucinations, anti-insights, anti-"vibes. It's the BIG NO concept.

MEANWHILE - as they say in narrative history - what about the millions of people who answered YES to the question? (I was one of them - no more than a buck private in Generalissimo Leary's "Army of the Hudson Valley" at Milbrook in the Regiment of the late Col. Bill Haines of the Sri Ran Ashram Brigade, in the company of a very small psychedelic cult called the Moorish Orthodox Church of America - which, Im glad to say, is still alive - from the Upper West Side of Manhattan.) (Hakim Bey, page 9).

The Physical, Psychological, and Spiritual Benefits of Marihuana
In the area of private values, marihuana may offer benefits beyond the personal ego, which reach the dimension referred to by mystics and saints as the ever-present "now." The experience addresses states of consciousness not common to the common man, and resembles Maslow's "peak experience." Rather than being a concrete, stable reality, this realm approaches intuition and ecstasy, but apprehends an unusual connectedness with the whole of life. Daily existence becomes but an invisible script where what matters is the attitude by which one lives.

In the world of thought and relationship, honesty and compassion are the prime motivators, while material gain and loss are secondary. This is really an ascension to religious values, not familiar or even welcomed within the context of modern society, but certainly containing great benefits for individual happiness, Our culture has become antireligious. Our society is based on getting, not giving, and even though our worlds uphold virtue and love as worthy goals, hardly anyone even tries to live by such a philosophy. The regular use of marihuana, however, can often set the stage for this receptivity.

Higher Consciousness / The Science of Vibration

To ascend the ladder of higher consciousness, human beings need as much help as they can get, because states above concerns of personal survival and power are neither necessary for human life nor even visible from ordinary states of mind. (And because these states threaten the power structure, means to them are outlawed.) If we are not taught by some older, wiser person that deep and timeless perceptions really exist, or unless we ourselves fortuitously catch a glimpse of these subjective realities, we remain ignorant of their existence, and thus are all the more easily molded in the lower social goals of materialism, competition, and power. But deep within each of us, an essential need for a higher meaning of life is waiting to be awakened. Because of its ability to unlock this yearning and allow us that glimpse of the deeper reality, marihuana is both feared by the establishment and loved by the user. (Joan M. Bello, page 56)

Ganesh Baba: A Memoir
... Shiva is the god of yogis and saddhus (wandering holy men), worshipped by those who aspire to attain the highest states of cosmic consciousness. Among the means for attaining these states are not only physical practices of sitting, breathing, meditating, etc., but also the use of psychoactive plant materials, especially hashish, to induce enhanced states of consciousness.

Traditions of spiritual practice in India may be divided into the "Swami" tradition and the "Naga" tradition. The Nagas smoke hashish to help them attain the conscious state of the Lord Shiva, whereas, the Swamis refrain. The Swamis look down upon the Nagas, and take a puritanical attitude, holding themselves to be superior to the Nagas. The Nagas laugh this off. Genesh Baba received spiritual instruction in both of these traditions.

In the 1960s Ganesh Baba spent much of his time in Varanasi (also known as Benares), the holiest city in North India. He was there when the first hippies arrived, and he and they discovered that they had something in common; they liked to smoke hash. The hippies would come down to the holy Ganges River, sit by the burning ghats where the dead were cremated, smoke dope and meditate on the impermanence of worldly life. Ganesh Baba was there and liked to talk. he discovered that they brought with them something they called "acid." He tried it and was very favorably impressed with its effects. Thereafter he would often expound on the virtues of psychedelics as an aid on the spiritual path.. ... (pages 66-66)

... Baba harangued us with admonitions to keep our backs straight while smoking - and at all other times - this was his first and primary teaching. He condemned "bloody slouchers," saying that people who slouched have no self-respect. Only by maintaining ourselves in an erect and upright posture, he said, could we create the conditions for maintaining our "biopsychic apparatus" in "optimal operating condition." (Peter Meyer, page 67)

MDMA and Hypnotic Anchoring
My introduction to MDMA came while I was very much into practicing and studying yoga. This was in the early '80s, when Ecstasy (MDMA) was still legal and the hype which accompanied the appearance of the substance concerning heart chakra activation and so forth was very appealing to an aspiring yogi.

I noticed, during my earliest MDMA experiences, that some of the chakras that I had been working with during my yoga practice "lit up" spontaneously while I was on the drug. This included, but was not limited to, the heart chakra, as had been promised. Whether I was responding out of suggestibility to the drug's advance press or not was immaterial; the experiences were very real. The next logical step, for me, was yoga meditation practice while under the influence of MDMA, which produced extraordinary results; meditation on a single chakra that could be far beyond what I had previously accomplished. The experiences were largely kinesthetic and visual, with some auditory phenomena; that is, I could feel strong sensations in the area of the chakra was "activated," could see the aura infused with brilliant light, and occasionally heard tones or a kind of white noise associated with the experience. (page 87)

I decided to explore this phenomenon further, and set up specific hypnotic "anchoring" routines for some of the more interesting altered states of consciousness encountered through the MDMA/yoga work.

Anchoring routines are the basic tools for producing post-hypnotic responses. It is based on an idea much like classical conditioning, and can be easily demonstrated with humans. A particular cue, in any representational system, is associated with a specific action or experience. Thus, Pavlov's bell is the anchor which activates the experience of salivation in Pavlov's dog. (pages 87-88)

What I find particularly suggestive about this course of experimentation is the idea that powerful and unusual altered states of consciousness can be, in a sense, filed away for later use, then activated at will, when necessary or useful. There are also some provocative suggestions concerning the functioning of memory in general, and in relation to all psychedelics. I tend to think that some of the phenomena that have been lumped together under the heading "flashbacks" actually might be a memory effect created by the random anchoring and then cueing of an altered state, rather than any permanent biochemical change or damage to the user. To this end, I've made some small, less thorough experiments with anchoring using other psychedelics, with encouraging results. (Philip H. Farber, page 89)

The Scent of Lebanon to The Wise
For cannabis hemp, what Pliny referred to as "the first tree in the forest," has been with mankind far longer than it has been given credit. In his book The Dragons of Eden Carl Sagan has speculated that early man may have made the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture with hemp. Sagan used the African Pygmies to demonstrate this point. Their first planted crop was cannabis, which they began using as a religious sacrament, and then cultivated as a crop. Religious scholars Mircea Eliade and Sir James G. Frazer have both written that early religion has its roots in agricultural fertility cults. (page 108)

Cannabis use in the Old Testament was again looked at in 1936, by Sula Benet, who stated that the original Hebrew text contains references to hemp as both intoxicant, incense, and holy oil. Similar results were found in 1946 by Sara Benetowa of the Institute for Anthropological Science in Warsaw, referring to the Old Testament Hebrew word "kane bosm" (fragrant reed). This word appeared in Exodus 30:23, Isaiah 43:24, Jeremiah 6:20, Ezekiel 27:19, Song of Songs 4:14. An ancient Hebrew religious requirement was that the dead be buried in hemp (referred to as Kaneh) shirts. For some unknown reason this word disappeared from the text. "The error occurred in the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, in the third century B. C., where the terms kaneh, kaneh bosm were both incorrectly translated as 'calamus'. And in the many translations that followed, including martin Luther's, the same error was repeated" ... . Interestingly, it was at this same point in history, 300 B. C., that the Gnostics are thought to have formed and the Jewish Prophets stopped producing Holy writ.

This research, was confirmed by other researchers much more recently.

Around 1980, etymologists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem confirmed that cannabis is mentioned in the Bible by name, Kineboisin (also spelled Kannabosm), in a list of measured ingredients for "an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary" to be smeared on the head. The word was mistranslated as "calamus," in Exodus 30:23. (Latimer, D. "Crimes of the Ancient Mariner" in High Times. May 1988, pp. 21-22.)
Matthew 26:7-12 states that "Mary Magdalene anointed Christ for his burial, by pouring a holy ointment on his head, in the time honored custom used to anoint a sacred king."

This research has shown explicitly that Exodus, the story of Moses, has references to kane bosum (hemp). I am sure most readers are aware that the Angel (from angellos, Greek for messenger) of the Lord appeared to Moses in "flames of fire from within a bush," Exodus 3:2. It is interesting to note that the use of incense in the Bible was instituted by Moses. It is also interesting to note that early East Indian legends maintained that the Angel of mankind lives in the leaves of the hemp plant, and the Zend-Avesta (Zoroastrian Holy Books) refers to soma, a possible Hemp beverage, as both a plant and an angel. (page110)

Ganja and the Goddess
Another biological oddity that links cannabis with humans - especially the feminine aspects of our species - is that the active compounds of marijuana have certain molecular resemblance to Estrogen (female hormones). This is the reason why, in vary rare cases, men will develop breasts from using cannabis; their bodies mistake it for the actual hormone. But in the vast majority of cases this lowers testosterone level in men slightly. And since high testosterone levels correlate more with aggressive behavior than sexual adjustment, it could well be said that some men in our society could use a reduction in this hormone (as Andrew Weil has pointed out in The Marriage of the Sun and Moon). One recent study states that there was found to be a direct correlation between automobile accidents and high testosterone levels, Also, the fruit of the cannabis plant (it seeds) contains nourishing gamma-linoleic acid, found only in two other rare seed oils; spiralina and human mothers milk. (pages 120-121)

The Resurrection
In 1860 the Ohio Medical Society concurred with biblical scholars that "the gall and vinegar or myrrhed wine offered to our savior immediately before his crucifixion was a preparation of Indian Hemp.

That statement is very interesting when compared with the following information:

In the 1950's the U. S. Army conducted experiments with powerful cannabis extracts, in which they succeeded in putting dogs into a deep state of hibernation for 9 days, and then successfully bringing them back. The Army felt this would revolutionize battlefield medicine, injured soldiers could be kept in storage until the proper medical help was made available. A scientist involved with this study fought the Army in the courts for twenty years to have this information released. - Sex and Drugs, by R. W. Wilson. (page 128)
Is it too much to suggest that perhaps Christ was familiar with the catatonic state which could be induced by hemp and had someone arranged for him to receive a drink containing a powerful cannabis extract? The resulting cataleptic state of hibernation being mistaken for death by the Romans? The limbs stiffening, the heartbeat slowing down to an occasional thud, the breathing dropping off to a faint whisper, the blood coagulating and flies landing on a still body that resembled a corpse .... I suppose one could always return to the model held by the vast majority of Christians, the literal work of resurrection. (Chris Bennett 777, pages 128-129)

The Occurrence and Use of Entheogenic Fungi in Third World Countries
Over the last thirty-five years, the use of entheogenic mushrooms spread from Mexico and the United States across the ocean from one continent to another. The ever-growing, popular non-traditional use of entheogenic mushrooms by western civilization as a recreational drug has become pandemic.

Entheogenic mushrooms are available in food preparations in many third world countries. This is a direct result of tourist influence on third world peoples. Although some third world countries have enacted laws which prohibit the sale and consumption of entheogenic mushrooms prepared in foods, this has not deterred sale or use. (John W. Allen and Jochen Gartz, page 164)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2002 CSP