ACCELER8OR

Oct 05 2012

Your Friday MONDO – Pull Quotes (Nuggets) From High Frontiers #1 1984 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #32)

Share/Bookmark

Here are some pull quotes from the first ever 1984 issue of High Frontiers — predecessor to MONDO 2000  — for you to chew over.

The taboo against the intelligent, purposeful use of psychedelics is beginning to lift.  R.U. Sirius

 

I believe that the human biocomputer occassionally wants a big… carnival blast. Precisely controlled excess is absolutely necessary for sanity.  Timothy Leary

 

(Discovering LSD) was serendipity. I was looking for something. I did not find what I was looking for. I found something else.  Albert Hofmann

 

That’s the basic message of my future machine; that we can travel throughout space and time. And it’s testable!   Jack Sarfatti

 

This is the chaos at the end of history  Terence McKenna

 

…why should plants produce chemicals that mimic the effects of substances made by the human brain?  Andrew Weil

 

Burroughs opens the doors to the craphouse, invites you in, and then leaves you there to clean up the mess.  Somerset Mau Mau

 

Through electronic circuitry and the building of a global information system, we are essentially exteriorizing our nervous system.  Terence McKenna

 

We wish we could say that we were thrilled by contributions from… Ferlinghetti, but apparently the Beat’s been going on a little bit too long.  Malcolm McCluhan and Marshall McClaren

 

A cornucopia of new substances with effects more specific, more sensual, more powerful, and more in-just-about-every-way than the old reliables has reshaped the psychedelic landscape.   Peter Stafford and Bruce Eisner

 

Perfect Nothing is unstable. It’s so unstable it has to do Something. So it BIFURCATES. It splits in two. It splits into ME and NOTME. Lorenzo Kristov

 

Flashbacks was censored. [It} involved information about the mysterious death of Mary Pinchot Meyer, J.F.K. consort, who tried to turn on the political power elite…   High Frontiers

 

Jul 17 2012

Altered Statesman: An Interview With Psychedelic Explorer David Jay Brown

 

 

‘I think DNA is ultimately trying to create a world where the imagination is externalized, where the mind and the external world become synchronized as one, so that basically whatever we can imagine can become a reality. Literally.”

 

Consciousness: What is it? Are your thoughts and emotions nothing more than neural static? Will your physical death extinguish your awareness? Is your individual consciousness just one of innumerable facets of a universal consciousness?

In search of answers to questions like these, local writer/neuroscience researcher David Jay Brown has mind-melded with many of the world’s most prominent philosophers, visionaries, culture-shapers and snorkelers of the psyche, including Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, Noam Chomsky, Ram Dass, Albert Hofmann, Jack Kevorkian, George Carlin, Sasha Shulgin, Deepak Chopra, Alex Grey, Jerry Garcia, Stanislav Grof and John Lilly. He’s chronicled these meetings in his bestselling interview compendiums Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse, Mavericks of the Mind, Mavericks of Medicine and Voices from the Edge. Dubbed “the most compelling interviewer on the planet” by author Clifford Pickover, Brown has recently completed work on the book “The New Science of Psychedelics: At the Nexus of Culture, Consciousness, and Spirituality,” to be published by Inner Traditions in the spring of 2013.  In approximately two months, the web magazine Reality Sandwich will publish his new e-book “The Complete Guide to Psychedelic Drug Research.”

Brown  is also the author of the sci-fi books Brainchild and Virus: The Alien Strain. He frequently serves as guest editor of the tri-annual newsletter from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a Santa Cruz-based psychedelic research organization that recently published the second edition of Mavericks of the Mind (available at Bookshop Santa Cruz). He has written for periodicals such as Mondo 2000, Scientific American Mind, Wired, High Times, The Sun, Magical Blend and the Journal of Psychical Research. The diversity of his output is telling of his leave-no-stone-unturned approach to consciousness exploration: It’s a good bet he’s the only writer in history who’s contributed to both the Buddhist wisdom publication Tricycle and the porn magazine Hustler.

Brown’s studies of learning and memory at the University of Southern California in the early ’80s earned him a B.A. in psychology. Between 1985 and 1986, he did research on electrical brain stimulation at New York University, obtaining a master’s degree in psychobiology. His inquiries eventually led him into the realm of parapsychology: He’s the man behind the California-based research for biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s books Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and The Sense of Being Stared At, both of which presented scientific studies of unexplained phenomena. Brown’s knowledge of such mysteries, as well as of technology, smart drugs, health, psychedelic research and sex-drug interaction, have landed him guest spots on shows like HBO’s Real Sex, Fox’s A Current Affair, PBS’s Nature, ViaCom’s The Montel Williams Show and the BBC and Discovery Channel’s Animal X.

DAMON ORION: Tell me about the electrical brain stimulation research you’ve done. 

DAVID JAY BROWN: When I was at New York University, I did research for years where I surgically implanted electrical stimulating probes into the lateral hypothalamus of rats, which is a pleasure center. I would watch rats press a bar that delivered an electric current into their brain center over and over and over again until they fell asleep from exhaustion. Then they would wake up, and there was food sitting next to them, water sitting next to them and a mate sitting next to them. They ignored all three and would continue to press that bar over and over again to get the reward stimulation over survival instincts.

The other area of research I was involved in was at University of Southern California, and it was the exact opposite of the research I did at NYU, where I was surgically implanting electrodes into the brain centers of mammals and stimulating them: In this case I was inserting cold probes, which are devices that actually freeze or inhibit a certain part of the brain temporarily, so you can see how the animal operates with that one part of the brain missing, and how they operate when that part of the brain comes back.

The anesthetic that we gave to the rabbits prior to surgery was a drug called ketamine. I took some of this ketamine home and experimented on myself with it. After injecting 50 milligrams of ketamine chloride into my right thigh muscle and turning the lights out, I suddenly “realized” that my professors and my fellow researchers and colleagues at USC were in reality extraterrestrials—that they were scientists who were there not to study rabbits; they were there to study me. I was the test subject, and they’d left this bottle of ketamine out for me to take. They were watching me right at this moment with a video camera. And suddenly I found myself in a cage with cold probes implanted in my brain and giant rabbits all around me. They were measuring me, and I was naked and helpless. Suddenly, I snapped back into my body. I did not continue very much longer in that program after experiencing what I was experiencing from the rabbit’s point of view. That’s what ketamine taught me: what the rabbit was experiencing from what I was doing.

DO: You often ask your interviewees what they think happens to consciousness after death. If you had to put money on what happens after death, what would you bet on?

DJB: I guess wherever you go after death, the money’s not going to matter anymore! [Laughs.] You know, I think about that question every day, as an exercise of the imagination, and I change my mind about it all the time. I used to debate with my friend Nina Graboi — whom I interviewed for my book Mavericks of the Mind, and who passed away about 10 years ago —a ll the time about what happens to consciousness after death. It was one of our favorite topics of conversation. In general, I took the position that after you die, your individuality leaves, and your sense of awareness merges with the higher consciousness, the oneness, the source that everything came from originally. And her position was, “Well, there is that, but then there are all these levels in between where individuality remains besides the body, and you go through [multiple] incarnations with that. For years we went back and forth with this. Nina referred to her body as a spacesuit, and she always said she was going to get a new spacesuit when she died; she would go from one spacesuit to another. Well, after Nina died, I was writing in my journal, and the TV was on in the background. I was thinking about what was going on in Nina’s mind when she was dying: “I’ll bet she was thinking, ‘Now I see: David Jay Brown was right! You do just merge with the one consciousness.’” As I’m sitting there in this kind of self-congratulatory way, I look at the television screen, and there on the TV screen is one word: SPACESUIT. There was this tingle up my spine. I stopped in my tracks; my jaw dropped open. It was the most profound sense of communication with somebody after they died that I’d ever experienced. That is the most compelling evidence I’ve experienced that consciousness not only continues [after death], but that some sense of individuality continues as well.

DO: What are your memories of your friend Timothy Leary?

DJB: Well, my fondest and most important memories of Tim, I think, are [of] while he was dying. The last year [of his life], he announced to the media that he was thrilled and ecstatic that he was dying. And for the last year, while he was dying from prostate cancer, there was continuous celebration, continuous parties, continuously people coming around his house to tell him how important his work was to them. There was such a feeling of festivity and celebration and Tim deliberately trying to be playful and have fun with this process. This really made a very deep impression on me, because I ask so many questions about death—it’s an important philosophical topic for me. And there have been so many people throughout history trying to die bravely or courageously or nobly, but before Tim, I don’t think anybody ever tried to say, “Let’s make dying fun!” [Laughs.] Tim really tried to party through the dying process, and I thought it was just a stroke of brilliance. I cried when he died; as much fun as it was, it was terribly sad the moment that he really left. But he just left us all with such a great message, I think.

DO: Tell me about your connection to Robert Anton Wilson.

DJB: Bob was not only one of my closest friends, but he was the person who actually inspired me to become a writer. It was at the age of 16 that I read Cosmic Trigger, and that was how I encountered Timothy Leary, John Lilly and a number of the other people I went on to interview. I went to a lecture that Bob gave here in Santa Cruz back in the late ’80s. At the end of the lecture, I went over to talk to him. I told him I was working on a book, and I asked him if he would possibly consider writing a blurb for the back cover. He kind of hemmed and hawed and looked not terribly enthusiastic, like I was the 15th person that day who asked him that, you know? [Laughs.] But he did tell me to have my publisher send him a copy of my book, and he would take a look at it. So you could only imagine my absolute delight when I discovered from my publisher that he ended up writing an 11-page introduction to my first book, Brainchild. It was through that that I became friends with him. He was a tremendous friend and mentor. When I had difficulty paying my rent early in my writing career, he actually sent me money to pay my rent! He was always there when I called him, giving me great advice. When an editor made some kind of change to one of my articles that I wasn’t happy with, [he said,] “Editors don’t like the way the soup tastes until they pee in it themselves.” [Laughs.]

DO: What was your experience as a guest on The Montel Williams Show?

DJB:  I was on Montel Williams’ show back in the early ’90s, during his first season. There was all this anti-drug hysteria, and I was on the show to talk about smart drugs: cognitive enhancers like hydergine, piracetam and deprenyl — different drugs that are commonly prescribed for senile dementia, but have been used by people to enhance their memory or improve their concentration. He didn’t seem to be very open to even discussing the research or hearing anything about it. He kept cutting us off, and he’d talk about how dangerous methamphetamine was, how this was sending the wrong message to people and how the whole idea of putting “smart” before “drugs” was wrong, and there was no smart way too use drugs. He would not even carefully consider what we were saying. He had his mind made up. And what I think was so interesting is that since he’s developed multiple sclerosis and has had to use medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of this disorder, he’s now become one of the leading spokespeople for the legalization of medical marijuana. What is it about illness that turns people around? People think that medical marijuana is a joke until they’re faced with an illness, or until a loved one is, and then they really understand the medical value that it has and what a horrible, horrible atrocity it is that it’s against the law.

DO:  Is there a primary goal of your work or a primary message you’re trying to get out?

DJB: It seemed to me since I was a child that our species is in ecological danger… destroying ourselves. Since I was a teenager, since my very first psychedelic experiences, I felt a very strong commitment to help elevate and expand consciousness on this planet through my work. I made a personal pact with what I felt was DNA or higher intelligence. I felt that if I aligned my personal mission with life’s overall mission, then I would always be supported throughout my life in what I was doing, and I would be working for a noble cause.

DO: And what is DNA trying to do?

DJB: I think DNA is ultimately trying to create a world where the imagination is externalized, where the mind and the external world become synchronized as one, so that basically whatever we can imagine can become a reality. Literally. And I think that everything throughout our entire evolution has been moving slowly toward that goal. In the past couple thousand years, it’s been very steady. And through nanotechnology, through artificial intelligence, through advanced robotics, I think we’re entering into an age where we’ll be able to control matter with our thoughts and actually be able to create anything that our minds can conceive of. We’re very quickly heading into a time where machines are going to be more intelligent than we are, and we’re going to most likely merge, I think, with these intelligent machines and develop capacities and abilities that we can barely imagine right now, such as the ability to self-transform. What we can do with computers—digital technology, the way we can morph things on a computer screen—is the beginning of understanding that that’s how reality itself is organized, that we can do that with physical reality through nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, that the digital nature of reality itself will allow us to externalize whatever we think. So I think that eventually reality will become like a computer graphic screen, and we’ll be able to create whatever we want. That sound right? [Laughs.]

 

May 28 2012

All Aboard The Express Kundalini: Trippin’ Balls With David J. From Love And Rockets and Bauhaus

“I felt this glow at the base of my spine, and I felt a warm substance rising through the spine. I had a terrific hard-on, like a Yule log. I wasn’t thinking anything sexual. And then I had, like, an explosion of this substance in my head! It was orgasmic, but it was like a cosmic orgasm. And I felt a golden—I just equate it with the color gold—it was gold, and it just flowed over my brain! It was just ecstatic.”

 

The ’80s were a grim time for kids in search of higher consciousness. Cocaine, capitalism, hedonism and hairspray held sway, and all the things our parents had revered—psychedelic sacraments, meditation, tribalism, gentleness, artistic expression—were considered hopelessly uncool. Not surprisingly, the music of the day reflected this shift: “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream” had given way to “Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”

One of the few psychedelic treasures that mushroomed from this manure was Love and Rockets, a British alternative rock band comprised of three former members of the pioneering post-punk group Bauhaus. L&R broke through to mainstream American audiences in 1986 with its second album, Express—a title that, on one hand, challenged the group’s hair dye-sporting, trench coat-clad fan base to communicate through art, and on the other, proclaimed that the magical mystery tour bus of the ’60s had been replaced by a faster, sleeker mode of transport to the astral realms. When bassist/vocalist David J urged, “All aboard the Express Kundalini,” it was in much the same spirit that yesteryear’s psychedelic pied pipers had inquired, “Is everybody in?” and “Are you on the bus?” But the band’s stylish, cutting-edge sound left no question: This train was headed out there where the rainbow-painted buses didn’t run.

Enticed by the palpable whiff of LSD-fertilized spirituality emanating from Love and Rockets’ music, some of us accepted the invitation. With the aid of various enchanted fungi and exotic potions, we traversed the weird and wonderful landscapes of the hidden self. David J served as a friendly, wise, cosmically cool tour guide, directing us to let our flesh melt into pulsating whorls of electrical ectoplasm (“You are disintegrating into everything around,”), nudging us toward the realization that enlightenment can only be found in the present moment (“Are you in search of somewhere or something that rings true? Well, it could be closer than you think,”) and gifting us with Alan Watts-ian bits of mind-origami (“You cannot go against nature, because when you do go against nature, it’s part of nature, too”).

J, who explores the mystery of mortality on his latest solo album, Not Long for this World, insists that the essence of chemically catalyzed gnosis can’t be captured in words. “It’s like the Tao: ‘The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the Tao,’ and the psychedelic experience that can be expressed in a song lyric is not really the psychedelic experience,” he offers. “But it can give you a little hint. And maybe you can dance to it at the same time, which is fun.”

DAMON ORION: Tell me about your first psychedelic experience. 

DAVID J: I didn’t really get into psychedelics until ’85. It was the time of the first Love and Rockets album [Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven]. In fact, the collage that’s on the inside of the gatefold sleeve—that was finished on LSD, on the day of my first trip. I remember doing that tripping balls! [Laughs] And being quite delighted with it.

This was after a very long day in the English countryside. It was a place called Castle Ashby. Perfect place. Great setting, and I had the right mindset. I’d chosen the place, chosen the day: July 4th, 1985. I’d collected music — I was going to play Steve Reich, which I thought would be appropriate. I’d taken the tab, and I had all these cassettes all over the floor of my car. In that state, I couldn’t find the tape! It started this mild panic, but then I started laughing at myself for panicking. And I thought, “OK, I’m just going to dig in here and pull something out at random.” I did, and it was The Velvet Underground’s third album. That just turned out to be the perfect accompaniment, and it guided me on that portion of the trip whilst it was playing. I remember looking up at this blue sky, and “Pale Blue Eyes” came on. And the whole sky was made up of thousands and thousands of eyes that were sort of like embossed watermark designs—very subtle, sort of blue-on-blue. Then I realized it was my eye, and when I blinked, all the eyes in the sky blinked with me. And then I saw rays coming down from the eyes—these cosmic rays. They were going into my heart, and it was just very joyous. And as I received, so I gave back, and that built the intensity. So it was like this feedback was building up, like a generator. And what was at the heart of that feeling was love. Then all the eyes went away, and I just felt very connected to spiritual essence. Thank you, Lou Reed! [Laughs] It’s a song about adultery, but it became a trigger, a catalyst, that led me into that experience.

At the end of the day, we [Love and Rockets] all went back to [guitarist/vocalist] Daniel [Ash]’s house—a little terraced house on a side street in Northampton—and we were finishing off that collage. I remember sitting on the floor, looking at Daniel’s antique furniture and thinking how sexy the legs of the furniture were, and remarking on this! [Laughs] The curvature of the furniture, and Daniel just smiling.

DAMON: I love that Love and Rockets was christened with an LSD trip! What other psychedelic experiences have you had that influenced your art?

DAVID: My second experience was very heavy. That was indoors, and I decided to do some drawing and listen to The Beatles’ Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s. Just something I had to do. So I got as far as Revolver, and I was looking at this sheet of blank paper, and I just started to see this jungle in the paper. It was sort of like the cover of Revolver, but again, it was sort of like this effect of being embossed, almost like watermarks. It was incredibly detailed—there was all this fauna and jungle vines and leaves, and there were little characters in there, sort of like going through the hair on the front cover. And there were animals and all sorts of stuff, but as soon as I focused on anything, it would disappear, and something would come through to take its place.

The music sounded incredible. That was when I was listening to “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Then I remember looking at the back of my hand and seeing through to my bones, seeing the cellular structure, seeing blood coursing through my veins, and then seeing my hand rot in front of my eyes. It was horrific. But I remembered that old adage: the Buddhist thing of “If you see something terrible, do not turn away. If you see something beautiful, do not cling to it.” I embraced that and went into the hand, into the death, and came through the other side. I saw it as a very beautiful process.

There’s a line in one of our songs, “The worm we dug from higher ground”—that’s what that came from, that experience. So it was the death trip. If I had turned away from it, it could have turned very negative, but thankfully I didn’t. And there was a huge lesson in that.

DAMON: “I know what it’s like to be dead,” indeed! So, as long as you’re referencing the Express album, you’ve said before that you’d sum up that record in three letters: LSD. Can you elaborate on that a little?

DAVID: [Chuckles] This was from my own personal angle, because we weren’t all doing this together. And in fact, at that point, the others were a bit concerned that I was becoming too much of a psychonaut. [Laughs] But I had to have that experience, and it was the right time. And Love and Rockets, being the band it was at the time, was the perfect vehicle, because it was a very psychedelic-leaning band. I was kind of evangelical at that point—I was Timothy Leary back in 1960, you know?

DAMON: Well, I’m happy about that. I think it was really important for people like me, who weren’t around for the ’60s, to have musicians from our own era inviting us to visit those higher planes and fly the friendly skies. So, how did the song “Kundalini Express” come into being?

DAVID: That song originally was gonna be called “Dr. Hofmann,” and it was going to be about Albert Hofmann discovering LSD, but it just sort of mutated into this lyric about kundalini and aligning that with psychedelic experience. Just before I started experimenting with psychedelics, I had a spontaneous kundalini experience when I was meditating. I didn’t know anything about kundalini, but I started to hyperventilate, and then I effectively stopped breathing, which was very strange.

I felt this glow at the base of my spine, and I felt a warm substance rising through the spine. I had a terrific hard-on, like a Yule log. I wasn’t thinking anything sexual. And then I had, like, an explosion of this substance in my head! It was orgasmic, but it was like a cosmic orgasm. And I felt a golden—I just equate it with the color gold—it was gold, and it just flowed over my brain! It was just ecstatic. I had no idea what had just happened, so I started to look into this experience at the library—this was pre-Internet. I discovered kundalini, and I’d had a classic spontaneous kundalini experience. Never had it again.

DAMON: You struck gold there! People who have heard of kundalini can strive for 30 years to get there, and you just stumbled onto it! You mentioned Albert Hofmann. Did you ever meet him?

DAVID: No. I met Timothy Leary a couple of times, though. I was introduced to Tim by his personal assistant, Howard Hallis, who also did Tim’s website, and Howard does my website now. I actually met Tim the first time at Cinematic, this S&M bar in Hollywood where Psychic TV was playing. He invited me to a party at his house, which was a great event. I remember going to the fridge to get a beer, and next to the beers was a cryonic suspension tank for his head! I got to talk to Tim at length. He was interested in Love and Rockets. He actually really liked the lyrics of “No New Tale to Tell.”

So the last time I spoke to him on the phone, I invited him to a gig we were playing at The Palace in L.A. But I didn’t realize that he’d gone down really quick since the last time I saw him, and he was just staying in bed. But he said, “I’ll be there in spirit.” And he died a couple of days later.

We were on tour at the time, and at the gig that happened the day after he died, I dedicated “Yin and Yang (The Flower Pot Man)” to Tim. That song starts with an acoustic guitar, like a Bo Diddley rhythm. Daniel struck the guitar in a funny way, and it just made the strings feed back in a way I’d never heard before or since. And this vibration just picked up, and I thought, [excitedly] “Let that go, Daniel! Just let it go!” And he thought the same, ’cause he did. I remember him holding his hands up in the air, just lettin’ this thing ring out and build up and up and up.

He started doing this undulating rhythm, and it was echoing ’round this big hall. Kevin [Haskins, the drummer] picked up on it and started doing a bass drum beat to this rhythm, and then the crowd picked up on that and started clapping. We all started clapping in the band, and this tribal sound just grew and grew. It was really something! And at the right moment, Daniel went back to the Bo Diddley rhythm, and we crashed back into the song. The chorus of that song goes, “Beauty, beauty, beauty, beautiful.” Then I saw Howard, who was with Tim when he died. I said, “What were his last words?” He said, “His last words were ‘Beautiful. Beautiful.’” And then the last thing he said to me came back: “I’ll be there in spirit.”

DAMON: [Loud exhale] Wow. Getting chills here! This seems like a good time to ask: Do you have any hunches about what happens to consciousness after death?

DAVID: [Pause] Hmm. I do have a feeling about it, which is intensified through my meditation, and sometimes I feel I really understand that. But it’s hard to express. I’ll give it a shot: I think there’s an eternal, ever-expanding cosmic center. You can call this God; you can call it whatever you want. You can call it Simon. I dunno. But there’s something out there that’s not just out there—it’s in there, and it’s outside of in there, and it’s outside of out there. And its self-perpetuating is the essence of bliss. And it’s never gonna go away. It cannot go away. That is the thing that abides, and we are here to learn lessons, and for our souls to grow and for that soul-matter to keep coming back to school until we graduate, and then we just become completely absorbed into the center of Godhead, and we remain.

DAMON: Yes. That rings true on an intuitive level. Now, when Love and Rockets put out [1994’s] Hot Trip to Heaven, MDMA had clearly become the new fuel of choice. What’s your take on that drug?

DAVID: That’s a very interesting drug, in that it’s an empathogen. And also, I think it’s an anti-bullshit drug. You can’t get away with being a bullshitter, and you just see through people’s veils, masks and games. You don’t want to play any kind of games anymore. You just want to be real, and you want to relate and share the love. [Laughs] And it’s very beautiful for that. But because it’s so enjoyable, there’s a danger that it can be abused and overused. But I treat all these drugs with a lot of respect, and I think if you approach them with that mindset, then you get back what you give. I think that’s especially true of something like mushrooms, because there seems to be some spirit that resides within the mushroom experience and actually talks to you. You know McKenna’s thing of communicating with that entity? I’ve had that experience.

DAMON: What happened there?

DAVID:  One time we were on tour in the States, in L.A., and Daniel and I wanted to get some mushrooms. So somebody from our label at the time got us a big bag of God’s Flesh. Daniel chickened out, which he’s apt to do, so I just started neckin’ ’em. When the person who delivered them came back, she said, “He’s taken that much?! My God!!” I’m hearing this, and it starts coming on. I’m lying on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, which is just turning into spirals and swirls. I could have quite easily panicked, but again, that response kicked in: “No, go with it. It’s cool. It’s gonna be OK.” But I had to get out of the room. I walked down the corridor of the hotel, and there was a big family of Mexicans and all their relatives—it must have been about 20 of these people coming down the hall. I had to make my way through them—they were just thronging. And as I touched them, I was getting these ancestral experiences, just tapping into Aztec imagery.

I was seeing lizards and pyramids and stars exploding. It was going off, you know? And then I got back to my room, put a big coat on and lay on the balcony. All of a sudden I was in this big, revolving mandala of Aztec imagery. And then I was aware of a voice coming through. It wasn’t in any language or anything; it was beyond language. But it was talking to me and saying, “Welcome. You’ve decided to step into this dimension. You’re free to remain, and you’re here of your own volition, your own free will. This is a very ancient world and can give you many gifts. And what you bring to the party is what you leave with,” basically.

The day after, I get up and I draw the curtains, and I see two flying saucers. Really close up. Just hovering in midair. Silver—just classic discs. This was about midday, bright blue sky, and there they are! So I thought, “I’ve got to phone Daniel to tell him about this.” But I couldn’t break away, because it was so compelling. I was straight by then, you know; I’d come down off of the mushrooms. So I called him up. He’s asleep, because he’s a very late riser.

He says, “Dave, this better be fuckin’ important, man.” I said, [hurriedly] “Just go and look out your window, Dan. Now. You won’t regret it.” “Oh, fuckin’ ’ell!” I get the call back: “Dave, you’re trippin’, man. I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” “There were two flying saucers, Dan.” “Yeah, OK, Dave. Keep takin’ the mushrooms.” “But I saw the bastards!” And it’s interesting, McKenna’s whole theory about that connection.

DAMON: I was thinking the same thing. Well, it’s been said that these sacred plants and fungi are a kind of telephone that our… galactic cousins have left us as a way of contacting them. It may be that Daniel wasn’t on that particular telephone, but you were. Do you have a take on whether what you saw was real or not?

DAVID: Yeah. I think it was real, yes. I’ll tell you another interesting mushroom story: again, on tour, Love and Rockets. Actually, it was the same batch of mushrooms! [Laughs] I think it was what was left of them in the bag. A week before this incident—this is a real rock & roll cliché—but we were in Chicago, and I was having a bit of a meltdown. It’s the only time I’ve done this, but I went out and got a bottle of whiskey, and I wrecked the hotel room. Trashed it; did a Keith Moon. And then I just thought, “This is so negative. What are you doing?” And I had a big sketchpad I took on that tour, so I thought to draw and try to express my way out of this malaise. I drew a little planet Earth, and then I drew all the planets and stars around it, and I did a big face of Buddha looking down, beatifically smiling on all of this.

I thought, “I’m just this tiny little speck on this tiny little ball in the middle of this vast space. Get your stupid, spoilt-child problems into perspective. You’re living a life that a lot of people would give their right arm for. Get on with it, you fuckup!” It did the trick. Then I’m in a better mindset, and we had the mushrooms in L.A. Then we were on the bus, traveling north up to Canada, and we had to get rid of whatever we had, y’know. So I just swallowed these mushrooms, thinking that we had a day off.

But then, after we crossed the border, the tour manager says, “So, remember, guys, you’ve got a lot of interviews as soon as you get to the hotel. You’ve got about four each. They’re all gonna be waiting in the lobby. These are really important interviews.” And I’m just trippin’ my head off! So I thought, “Well, this will be interesting.” As I was goin’ in [the hotel], my eye caught this really beautiful, angelic-looking blonde girl. I thought, “Well, I hope she’s one of my interviewers.” I went through the first three interviews, and I just fessed up to the interviewers: “Look, I… I’m trippin’.” [Laughs]

DAMON: You must have made the journalists’ day! “I’ve got a live one here!”

DAVID: [Laughs] Yeah! And they were great about it. So my last interviewer comes in, and it’s this gorgeous girl. Then she said, “Before I start the interview, I’ve got something for you. But I want you to open it after I’ve gone.” So she gives me this little box, wrapped up. And I was just looking into her eyes. Her eyes became swimming pools, and I dived in. We had a lovely time, and then she left.

I decided to run a bath. As I’m running the bath, I open this present, and what is inside it is a little tin globe—a little tin Earth. I thought, “Hold on a minute.” I got my sketchpad out, and I put [the tin globe] over the little Earth that I’d drawn that day [of the hotel trashing], and it was exactly the same dimensions—I mean exactly the same circumference. So I go into the bath, and I take the ball into the bath with me and start bobbin’ it up and down, still trippin’ balls.

Then I start to do AUM in the bath. I don’t know why; I’ve never done that before, but I start to do it. I was just feeling the vibration of the AUM coming through the bath and water, and I was changing the molecular structure of the water, [or] I perceived that I was doing that. And it was a really good bath! [Laughs] And the next day I see Danny, and he said, “Dave, what the fuck was goin’ on in your room yesterday?! I was hearing, like, this dronin’ noise, man!” So I told him the story, and he was quite impressed. He said, “Yeah, I bumped into her on the way in as well. Wish she was my interviewer.” “Well, that’s the way it goes, Dan. She was meant for me.”

DAMON: Did you keep in touch with her?

DAVID: Nope.

DAMON: Too bad.

DAVID: Well, “If you see something beautiful, do not cling to it,” you know?

A shorter version of this interview was originally published in MAPS Bulletin

Dec 04 2011

Psychedelic Transpersonal Photography, High Frontiers & MONDO 2000: an Interview with Marc Franklin

I met Marc Franklin (aka Lord Nose) in 1984, when I was putting together a little magazine called High Frontiers (with our first issue, we declared ourselves “the official psychedelic magazine of the 1984 Summer Olympics” — no one else rose up to challenge us for the title).  High Frontiers would eventually become Mondo 2000 via Reality Hackers.  After seeing the initial edition, edited and designed primarily by myself and Mark Frost (who christened himself Somerset MauMau), Franklin gave us a call, telling us that he loved what we were doing but that we desperately needed some design help.  Which we did.

Cover, High Frontiers #2

Marc ended up designing what — for me — may be my favorite edition of the entire 13 year “Mondo” publishing experience — issue #2 of High Frontiers.  As he tells it himself, each spread in HF #2 is a visual feast — a “poster.”  On the cover of the big hot pink “17” x “11” magazine was the mutated face of Art Linkletter saying “Kids do the darnedest drugs,” along with a three-eared Mickey Mouse holding up a blotter of CIA LSD (along with a few other design elements.). Although we only published 2,000 copies, this edition had both elegance and street cred and put us on the map with alternative periodical distributors and newsstands alike.  It also caused at least a few perturbations within the psychedelic community, but mostly, people were bowled over by the sense of art and fun that emanated from its pages.

Employing a uniquely personal and revealing photographic style, Marc went on to work on an amazing project photographing nearly all of the still-living psychedelic explorers in the 1980s and ‘90s.  Now there is a gallery showing in Los Angeles that includes these photos — some of them blown up into 24’ x 36″ prints — as well as some very unique “nature photos” that add to the aesthetic of the presentation.

If you’re in or near LA, make haste — go right now to SPF:a Gallery where the exhibit will be up until the end of 2011.  You’re in for a consciousness expanding experience.

In the following interview, I do two things. In Part 1, I reminisce with “Mr. Nose” about our experiences with High Frontiers.  Some of this material (and more – we’ll be doing further conversations) will be used in the Mondo 2000 History Project book and website that will tell the story of that historic “psychedelic cyberculture” publishing project through the voices of as many of the contributors as I can rope in.  And in Part 2, I talk with Mr. Franklin about his amazing photography project.

Incidentally, if you follow all the links from this conversation, you can get a full education in the worlds of psychedelic research along with these colorful anecdotes.

PART ONE:  THE “HIGH FRONTIERS/MONDO 2000” STORY

MARC FRANKLIN (LORD NOSE):  I found High Frontiers #1 in a head shop on San Francisco’s Haight Street called Pipe Dreams. I grabbed it immediately and began reading it and then I bought it. I discovered that you had put a little notice in there about people that wanted to help to contact you, so I hurried home and immediately called the number listed. I realized that it was an opportunity for myself to kind of assist a nascent publication that had amazing potential. I thought: this is a hot idea! I love the idea.

You and Somerset MauMau came over.  I was living in a house on Broderick Street close to the bottom of the Panhandle in San Francisco with my wife Betsy that we shared with the owner, Don Emery.  Don had bought a wonderful 1906 Queen Anne that had been completely renovated. It was just totally luxurious.

I remember very vividly you guys arriving.  I’ll never forget what you said to me the very first moment we met. I had opened the door and you said, “We don’t look like what you’d expect.” (laughs). It’s funny also because nine years later someone else said the very same thing when I first met her…

I had designed numerous publications before then in New York. I had been working professionally doing that. I had also worked as a photographer. I had done the photography for the 1974 Mobil Annual Report. Back then, Mobil Oil was the fifth largest corporation in the world. However, photographing a phosphate strip mine operation in Florida really radicalized me. I thought: whoa, that’s the wrong direction. I’m not going in that direction. I’m going as far away from that as possible.  So High Frontiers was the perfect vehicle — the perfect opportunity.

Anyway, after we met, we had agreed to get together and hang out. We wound up going one day out to Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley. It was MauMau, myself, you and Betsy. We had quite an experience with trying out for the first time “ecstasy” (MDMA) and — we sort of all bonded. That is, with the exception of Betsy.

MDMA was a change from every psychoactive I had previously experienced. It was certainly different and, of course, it was not a psychedelic. It was where we dropped the “I/Thou” and suddenly we’re all these big amorphous fingers on one hand. We all felt so damn good. And, then there’s Betsy off alone. Betsy was dealing with the fact that she needed to leave me. And this experience gave her the space she needed to deal with that. So the three of us were tight and Betsy was dealing with her own stuff. And I felt really strange about that, but at the same time, it was perfect.

RU: You were having a good time anyway.

MF: Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t that it was a bad time for her… but it was a difficult time for both of us, generally.

HIGH FRONTIERS CONTENT

MF:  The subject matter was something that was quite dear to me. I had come out to California to continue my study and practice of shamanism. I mean, that was the end-all, be-all for what I was doing. I was really learning about healing modalities, and divination. One of the aspects, of course, was psychedelic shamanism. So it was just like hand-in-glove. It was like here the universe is providing me with an opportunity that I could not pass up. Looking back, at the time, that it was a very good fit.

We all seemed to have that same kind of spark. There was some spirit there that really grabbed me immediately. I thought: this is beyond a job… this is not a job. This is a lifestyle. It was beyond anything one would normally consider. It felt so good. And right.

At the same time, I was undergoing emotional turmoil with the breakup with Betsy.  So it was a pretty interesting sort of rebirth — a death of one aspect of myself and the birth of another. It was quite a challenge to shift — to sort it all out. It was almost like a landlubber suddenly getting onto a ship. You have to get your sea legs. You’re kind of walking along and suddenly you’re thrust out onto a moving vessel in the throes of a storm. It’s either sink or swim. You’re either going to be able to do it or you’re going to fail. And it was not a matter of failure. It wasn’t in the cards. There was some important reason for it all happening.

DESIGNING THE MAGAZINE

MF: At first, I didn’t have an idea of what I would do with the design of this new magazine. I mean, I had some thoughts about it.  I had taken advanced graphic design classes with Milton Glaser and Henry Wolf and Clay Felker from New York Magazine when I was in New York. I was really crazy about publication design.

When it came time to conceptualize the magazine, I decided and told you and MauMau that what I wanted to do was create something where each spread was like a poster.  Each page would be — in and of itself —something really inspired. I said, “When you enter into that non-ordinary reality, it’s not tepid. That is so dramatic.” So I wanted to kind of utilize the knowledge I’d gathered to do something that was really aesthetically grabbing. At that point, psychedelics had such a bad rap… you know… had a lot of baggage because it was all over the map in terms of how people were using them and the results. And I felt it was really important to do something in terms of the neopsychedelic notion.  It had to be strikingly different. To boot, we had no real budget, so I had to rely on my ingenuity. Hitting upon the Xerox copier—like the Punk fliers that were around then — allowed for a cheap workaround. Especially when the sympathetic clerks realized what I was doing. Most times they would not charge me for each copy I had made… usually because I would spend hours on the machine, selecting, resizing, cropping, collaging and experimenting all before them. The creative process is not linear— and I am definitely not a left brained sort… without intuitive spontaneity the results look quite dismally plain. Ordinary. Our magazine required exceptional graphics.

Choreographer and dancer Lucas Hoving in High Frontiers #2

RU SIRIUS:  It really pulled off a new aesthetic that was really hip and really irreverent and appealing to young people.

MF:  At the same time, it was different from the then current design standpoint. None of the stuff I do is ever trendy. Actually, there’s a certain inherent classicism so the project looks as fresh today as it’ll look thirty years forward.

RU: And yet that second issue sort of fit in with the punk vibe that was around.

MF:  Oh, yeah.  Living close to the Haight — and what with all of the punk bands in San Francisco and that graphic look that they had — I wanted to take advantage of that because I liked it. There was a freshness to it. A certain rawness. A haphazard spontaneity. At the same time, the Punk aesthetic was generally pretty rough edged. So I took a pinch of that influence and morphed it into something else. Kind of thesis, antithesis… and then you get your final product — a unique synthesis.

TRIPPIN’ BALLS

MF: Every weekend we went out there to that cove and spent the entire night there.  It was the most extraordinary period of growth, because we were getting to know ourselves from a very different point of view. And we were getting to know each other—plus, we were getting to know other people as well. I could not help but think we were pretty mindful of the fact that we were doing something important with the magazine… without feeling self-important. Carol (High Frontiers attorney) had said to me one day: “You’re dreaming for the rest of us.” She was correct.

RU: Usually it was you, me, and MauMau… and we’d sorta pick out one or two people and bring them out… (laughs)

MF: Yeah… and totally freak them out. (laughs) They were never the same after that.  Reflecting back on it — that was really ballsy. But at the same time, it was done with such a good intention and good-heartedness— and a sense of humor. But mostly, in innocence. I know we were genuinely innocent because we were never trying to impose ourselves on these other people. I’ve had so many weird, peculiar experiences with some of those strange people who had come through the doors — especially those power trippers that came through.

RU: You mean during those times, or at other times?

MF: Yeah, during the High Frontiers period. One day I had an unusual experience with some psychologist that I met through the magazine. We went out there to the Valley together.

This I’ll never forget:  I had driven over from Berkeley. As soon as we had gotten high, suddenly this other entity appeared on the scene. Now, it became abundantly clear I was in danger. Psychic danger. This became a battle. It turned really weeeiiiird… I mean really, really weeeiiird…

Now when I say weird, I’m talking like vampire weird where I knew that there was something extraordinarily wrong with his intention. I recall that we split up during this experience. A bit later, when we met on a trail, he said to me something along the lines of: “thanks for the ride.” It was clear he meant he had somehow… I don’t know what he done to me psychically. I have no idea what happened, except that… it was very, very, very weeeiiird. Suddenly, still out in the ozone, I’m leaving the place alone. How he got back, I have no idea. And I never ever heard from him again. (An analogy today: he downloaded files without permission… a “sneak and peek” rummaging through my mind.)

RU:  (laughs) Yeah, there were some spooky times there.

MF:  There was one time, you and I came back to Mill Valley, and it was the same kind of stuff.  This insanely weird stuff going on. You can’t talk to someone about this because they’ll think you’re absolutely bonkers. Guess we were/are?

RU: Was that the day we came back to Mill Valley and there was a guy in the burrito shop in front of us who was naked?

MF:  No, I don’t remember that.

RU:  (laughs) I think that was you, me and MauMau…  but you had split back to San Francisco already. And it was one of the most intensely strange excursions. We were back in Mill Valley, and we were like: Are we in a Philip K. Dick novel? Is this the same universe we were in before or a parallel universe? And then we walk into the burrito shop and there’s this guy in front of us completely naked. (laughs).  Then I knew we had come down to a different universe.  I went to a phone booth and called Terence McKenna about it.

MF: I remember one.  I think it was the first time that we had spent an evening with LSD, and fortunately at that time we were able to get some really clean stuff and it was one of those spectacularly diamond clear experiences. And at the end, we had been given some DMT to experiment with… the first time that we did that. And that was… a remarkable revelation. I love DMT.

RU: I think we had actually sort of been debating — (both laugh) — earth vs. space or something like that. And then we sat down and smoked the DMT and that just kinda splattered rational argument into a zillion pieces. None of it mattered.

MF: That was when we began the quest. The quest for using multi-molecule routes.

RU: Synergy.

MF: The synergies.  I told Sasha (Shulgin) that the best combination I’d found was 2cb and DMT. He was amazed…. couldn’t believe it. For me, that was the best one. I liked that combination the most… of all the trials run.

RU: Yeah. They both are highly energetic.

MF: We both really liked the DMT.

RU:  Yeah, that was a real love affair for me.

In the process of designing the second issue, I remember you doing excursions for inspiration almost like for every image. Is my memory false, or…

MF:  (laughs) No. It’s very true. You would bring me an article. And I’d read it and then try to get a handle on it. What was it exactly that had to be brought forth visually to make it worthwhile — because it couldn’t just be a simple illustration. That’s not what it was about. It was more a matter of finding the essence of the story and then bringing that out visually. Like the amazing story we had by Ram Dass gotten from Peter Stafford’s  Magic Grams.” [unpublished book manuscript] It was a terrific piece and I think the illustration really, really worked on numerous levels.

MAKING & MARKETING THE PSYCHEDELIC MAGAZINE

MF:  I’d split with Betsy in July.  I was living in a loft in the Tenderloin. I had no money. You said, come to the San Francisco Symphony with me to sell season tickets. Here I am — tongue-tied, totally introverted… but flat broke. When I began with High Frontiers; I was about as insular as you can be.  My wife had been working in the world.  I very much liked being quiet, being in the wings, and not having to assert myself. And suddenly, I’m thrown out there to the lions. I’m out of money.  I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot.”

High Frontiers #2 Centerfold

For the first two weeks, I didn’t make one sale. Not one. It was strictly commission. I was determined to succeed. It was important for me to learn how to communicate verbally. As you know, I have this enormous capacity to persevere. Finally, on the 15th day, I made my first sale… and then I started making at least $200 a week! You know, that was not bad considering we only worked four hours a day. Suddenly, I learned how to speak with strangers, how to get them to see my point of view. I realized that I enjoyed it. It was like learning that while all my life I had never played baseball — but when I was forced to play, that I loved the game, and was good at it to boot.

I remember that you and I moved into a house in Berkeley, a duplex.  We were gathering the material for a magazine with lots of people coming around. It was coalescing into quite a scene.

That certainly was fun because at the same time it was during the reign of Ronald Reagan and here we’re doing something so completely opposite to mainstream, conservative America. How could we not just adore what we were doing?

Here we’re working towards a lofty goal — the excitement was really, really palpable. Creating this magazine was worthwhile. There was finally a reason for being…

I had set up a studio in the back bedroom. You were living in the living room. Your mattress was a simple piece of foam rubber that you slept on.  No furniture at all. Then, suddenly, you got together with Alison (Kennedy aka Queen Mu) and began living in the antique-laden lap of luxury up in her place in the Hills.

THE LA TRIP

RU:   Not long before we had the issue printed, we went down to LA.  That was a great trip!

MF:  I remember when we interviewed Timothy Leary — we finished interviewing him and we were talking afterwards. His wife, Barbara, came out and she said she was going to the gym. And he said, “Can I join you?” And she said something along the lines of… “no.” And we realized Barbara ran the show. Tim was just completely shot down. “No, you can’t join me.” I was shocked. Here’s the great Tim Leary and look at the way he’s…

We went to see Tommy Retitg [ed: he was Timmy in the TV show Lassie] That was the fun one. We went to his house — his apartment in Marina Del Rey… He was a nice, kind person. And he turned us on to some guy that had created a little booklet of materials for replenishing your neurochemicals if you use these miraculous molecules. We published some of it.

And then we went to see the publisher Jeremy Tarcher in Beverly Hills. In another wing of the house, his wife Shari Lewis was having singing lesson. We were talking with Jeremy, when Shari comes out and says: “You weren’t here, were you?” She was so embarrassed.

I remember driving down to Manhattan Beach to meet Durk Pearson and Sandy ShawThere was a heavy, low fog. Looking up, one could see the arcs running between the insulator and the wires as we passed Los Angeles Power and Light’s generation plant.  Just like in Blade Runner. It looked like we were entering Hell. Arriving in their neighborhood, in the street, there was Sandy screaming into a two-way radio… announcing our arrival. Apparently she’s deaf.

RU: Wasn’t she dressed in…

MF:  Black leather.

RU: I remember they were in army fatigues… camouflage. Sandy screams into a walkie-talkie: “They’re here!”

MF:  They had this green pallor about them… oh, my God. I have a photograph of them with him opening that refrigerator filled with all those hundreds of nutrients.  What a strange couple they were…

RU: They had, like, the strongest weed I’d ever smoked and then we all sat down and watched some weird Masterpiece Theater spy show that they were really into . (both laugh).

Remember what happened when we returned from LA?

MF: Oh, yeah. We came back and suddenly the house was transformed. I remember that the guys who were living in Marin… MauMau and Amalgam X and so on had brought over all kinds of pillows and coverings. But first they had destroyed the house. It was sort of like destruction and then creation.

RU: MauMau had basically eaten all of the magical molecules that we had in the refrigerator… everything at once.  I think he drank a jug of wine first.

MF: …Then just completely destroyed everything. And then they came back and they fixed everything.

RU:  Things started to split up in various ways pretty quickly even before the publication of that issue.  There were a lot of really different characters involved.

MF: Right. Mau au and X sort of split off and stayed mostly in Marin while we were in Berkeley.  (Amalgam X!  What an amazing character! What a genius for comedy!)

We stayed in Berkeley and they were doing their craziness over there. It was very interesting. From a sociological standpoint, the difference between what was happening in Marin and what was happening in Berkeley was pretty interesting. Berkeley was much more cerebral, more intellectual.

RU: (laughs) Yeah, we were like two tribes. We were all Jews over in Berkeley. (both laugh) We tried to keep it together. (both laugh).

 

……………………………………………………

PART TWO: THE TRANSPERSONAL (PSYCHEDELIC) PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT

RU:  So you started this almost lifelong project of photographing individuals who were involved in psychedelics in some way. Describe how that came about.

MF:  Well, I bought my first Nikon F, an SLR, in 1961, while a sophomore at Pratt. I worked in a paint store. For 75 cents an hour. So you can imagine how long it took me to make $200 to buy the camera. I scrimped and I saved, but I bought this camera. When I discovered the “camera,” I realized that I no longer wanted to be an industrial designer. No longer was I interested in designing racing cars. Thus began my lifelong love affair with creating two-dimensional images.

In 1988, I spent the entire summer in Europe. I called Albert Hofmannit being the 50 years since the first time that he created LSD-25… I called him and I told him that I wanted to visit him to do a photograph. He said he would welcome that, but he couldn’t do it then.  I think he was having a health issue. I knew he was coming to Santa Rosa that October for the Association of Transpersonal Psychologists annual meeting. (Stan Grof’s group).

I arranged to meet him there.  I photograph him on a Sunday before the event began to catch him fresh. The next day I had the film processed. That evening, I made a print — went back up to Santa Rosa, presented Albert with the portrait, and I explained to him that I plan to photograph all of the living psychedelic pioneers.”

Albert Hoffman, photo by Marc Franklin

At this time, the US government was running a stupid ad campaign, truly asinine propaganda: “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs.” Showing a fried egg. Preposterous. Lumping psychedelics together with speed, opiates, and all the myriad other drugs of abuse. I thought, “You know, that’s such a load of horseshit. I must do something about that!”

Knowing full well that so many wildly creative, intellectually robust, well-rounded individuals had seriously and irreverently undertaken working with psychedelics as healing agents, for divining the future, for creativity, for re-creation… they weren’t the burn-outs, the walking wounded, riff raff, that the government would have you see — but rather they were society’s most intelligent beings. These were the leaders in every field —  visual art, music, science, literature, religion, human consciousness… the crème de la crème! “I’m going to portray these people how they are. I’m going to dismantle that poisonous propaganda lie visually. That is what I do best.” Thus began this multi year project.

That Monday, I called Richard Evans Schultes at Harvard explaining my plan. He agreed to sit for me. I quickly made arrangements to get to New York. Then I phoned Allen Ginsberg, who I had known from my Yippie days in NYC.

Turned out that Ram Dass just happened to be in New York City, so I called him. From Manhattan I drove up to Cambridge, spending a marvelously insightful day with Schultes at Harvard’s Botanical Museum. That was quite something. All RES did was rail against Michael Dukakis, who was then running for President. I mean, this guy was not a Republican — he was a Tory! [Laughs] What a character.

RU: Your photos have a particular look, a particular sort of framing mechanism that brings out something.  Did you have that in mind right from the start?

MF: Before I even went to photograph Albert Hofmann, I knew immediately that this project was going to be a matter of capturing… delineating the soul. The photographs themselves had to be “psychedelic.” But certainly not like anything heretofore seen, and not obvious. As a point of departure I used the cliché: the eyes are the gateway to the soul. I love clichés. Why? Because that gives me much ammunition to work with. Employing a strong vision with hackneyed, trite, severely overused clichés, but in a new manner — suddenly you’re a genius, you know… because everyone before has attempted to do this before, but failed. So if one can achieve it in a different way—then there is that satisfying “ah ha” moment.

ACCESSIBLE, BUT DENSE

What differentiates my portraiture from the mass of snaps is that I photograph the inner person… not the exterior husk.  I’m able to “grok” people… instantly. That’s what these transpersonal portraits are—a concise distillation if you will. A symbol. More than anything else, without the person’s active participation in perpetuating their ego bound mask.  Suddenly, without their intervention, it’s the most precise liberation of that individual — a distillation of their vital essence, visually. No need for words of explanation, either.

Generally I would just call someone and say, “I want to do a portrait of you for this ongoing project” or simply,  “I want you to come over.” Like, I phoned Wavy Gravy, all right? Wavy and I have known each other for many years. He is familiar with my work. So he came over to San Francisco. The result of this collaboration: I have a portrait of Wavy that is unlike any others taken of him. Curiously, some particular but crucial element of the portrait had escaped my scrutiny. It had eluded me for 23 years! Only when I had these 24 by 36 inch prints made, did I discover that there’s a teardrop running from his eye! Wavy’s particular expression — the quintessential bittersweet clown image, smilingly sad. But with a tear drop. Each one of us has an inherent sadness that is overwhelmingly obvious if one is sufficiently perceptive.  This is the human condition.

About the framing. No, it is not at all arbitrary, but rather the closest I can get to someone’s face with a particular lens that I have chosen to use. It is a 105mm lens — a portrait lens — to avoid facial distortion. Use of a shorter focal length lens in close would make the sitter’s nose become the size of a basketball, their eyes like peas. To emphasize the eyes meant I needed to crop out a portion of the face. Since hair is the least important personal feature, it’s outside of the picture frame in these images. The sitter’s chin is so much more important. But it is the eyes that are of paramount importance.

RU:  Right. Those are real clean pictures.

MF:  Of course. After these many years my technique has become painstakingly perfected.  One would hope so. [Laughs] Also, as one stricken with the curse of perfectionism, I knew that with black and white photography, especially these close-in portraits — that the most important item you have is the photographic negative. Not having had my own darkroom since 1972, I always had to have a pro lab process my film. Always I sought out the best possible lab, paying top dollar to have my film processed. Because I knew that in the future, the only thing I would have to work from is what I had created in the past. I’ve got to have good material. If I’m going to spend the time to do it; it’s got to be done well. Likewise I’ve also always sought out the best equipment. I found the best lab in San Francisco when I was working with the Nuclear Freeze movement in 1983. Not inexpensive, but hang the expense if they do a great job. In the grand scheme of things, film costs and processing expenses are trivial. I was not looking to save money. I was looking to have impeccable negatives to print from.

This summer, I needed to have the negatives drum scanned.  Fortunately, I was introduced to a superb craftsman, Steve Philips. He lives here in Santa Cruz. Steve works with many of the National Geographic photographers, along with the world’s top wildlife photographers represented by Minden Pictures, a stock agency in Watsonville, of all places. Publications require high quality input. Minden uses a high-resolution Heidelberg drum scanner to digitize the film images of their photographers. Steve provided superb scans of my negatives at a very reasonable price. (One reason was the cleanliness and quality of my negatives—a result of having chosen properly years ago.) His work is exceptional… His long term printing expertise was what allowed me to make 24 x 36 inch prints from my 35 mm negatives, with ease. It’s amazing when you consider this: we’re talking about a 35 mm negative that is one inch by one and a half inches. That means it’s a 24 times blow-up. That’s pretty extraordinary when you think about it. Can’t be done readily with analog photography. The image would disintegrate. But these digital images are absolutely sharp edge-to-edge. With judicious editing in Photoshop, they are totally clean of unnecessary artifacts. Dramatic. Majestic.

RU:  Let’s talk a little bit again about some of the people you photographed.

MF: Claudia Naranjo was the second person that I photographed. Afterwards, I flew off to New York to see Allen Ginsberg.  From Northport, NY I called him. “Oh yeah, come on over. Of course. Of course, come over.” When I got to New York City, I called him again to arrange a specific time. Allen said, “I can give you five minutes.” I said, what are you talking about, five minutes? When I arrived, he says, “I’ve got five minutes for you.” “Five minutes? It’ll take me more than five minutes to unpack my camera.” An hour and a half later, I was finishing up.

A year later, after I gave him a print, he asked, “Why is it so sharp?” I said, “Allen, I’m a photographer. I know how to focus. And I use Nikon lenses.” “Oh…”

To preclude the sitter’s preconceptions about what was about to happen, rarely, if ever, would I show them a finished portrait from the series. Not until the session was completed. I didn’t want them to know what I was about to do. All I asked of my subjects was to look directly into the lens, to not smile, and most importantly — to continue breathing.

Fast forward to December 1988 and I realize, “Oh, look who’s going to be playing at the end of the year — The Grateful Dead.”  I called upon Dennis McNally, their publicist, to make the needed arrangements. After seeing the portraits I had with me, Dennis remarked, “You can only go in alone. You can’t bring an assistant.” (You can’t do this. You can’t do that.) And I’m saying, “But I typically have been photographing everyone with available light, using daylight.” He says, “You can only photograph them at the concert just before the performance.” Despite the conditions, I got exceptional portraits of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. The other band members did not see fit to sit for me. To this day I do not know if Dennis ever mentioned to them that I was doing portraits.

Nearly everyone I contacted agreed to sit. The only exceptions were Mountain Girl and Ken Kesey.  Caroline Garcia (Mountain Girl) did not want me to photograph her, but she brought me to a Dead show as her date…

Seems like Ken Kesey, his wife Faye and I danced for months. For hours on end, I would be on the telephone with them. Eventually I managed to photograph of Ken in SF when he was drunk on sloe gin… but it’s not the same. You know? I didn’t want to show that side of him, the Trickster that he was.

Following a peyote hunt in the Mexican desert along the Tropic of Cancer with the Huicholes, in March of 1989 I went to see Oz (Oscar) Janiger in LA. He said to me, “Make my house your house. Here’s my Rolodex. Consider it yours. Who do you want to meet? I’ll call them for you.” Oz was so generous. He was very excited about the project. He loved the portraits.

During that visit to LA, I went to Nick Bercel’s house. Nick Bercel was the psychiatrist that gave LSD to spiders. He was apparently the first individual on the west coast to take LSD. Actually, not to take LSD, but to administer LSD. This was 1949. Nick told me a really funny story of how he got an unnamed divinity student as his subject, he broke open the Delysid ampoule and he put it into the distilled water. Back then, like nearly every adult, he was a cigarette smoker. Sitting back across his desk from his subject, the man remarked, “Every time you raise your voice, you get larger, and every time you lower your voice, you get smaller.” And he tells the subject that the same thing was happening to him. He said he must’ve spilled some on his hand and that transferred when he was smoking the cigarette. So he said the next day, he took LSD to discover the effects for himself….

Later, I went up to Tim Leary’s house. Arriving early, I waited in the driveway for Tim to come back from the gym where he was going to be with (his wife) Barbara. I dozed off. She honked the horn. I wake up and make my way to the house. She said, “Do you have any photographs to show me?” I made the mistake of showing the portfolio of portraits that I always show afterwards. Barbara then said, “Hold on a minute, please.” About 20 minutes later, Tim comes back freshly shaved, now dressed in a suit jacket and tie… he had been in a Nike running suit.

I asked, “Barbara, will you allow me to photograph you?” She said, “Absolutely not. Your photographs show everything.”

But Tim loved his portrait. He became one of my biggest fans.

Timothy Leary, photo by Marc Franklin

After the session with Tim, I’m leaving to go back up north to my home in San Francisco. Earlier I had made arrangements to drive up to John Lilly’s house in Malibu. It was March, so the sun is going down fairly early. For these portraits I’m using available light… Driving up the coast along the ocean, just as I am about to turn onto the road to get to John’s house, a humpback whale spouts! Greetings from Malibu.

Arriving at John Lily’s house, I spy John standing in his bathrobe, pajamas and slippers. With a weeks’ stubble on his face. He’s got a cigarette dangling from his mouth. John says to me, “Where do you want me?” “John, we better hurry up, because we are fast losing the light. Let’s do it right here.” With that, he opens his mouth, and the cigarette tumbles out. “Oh, this is going to be a very interesting time, very interesting.”

Well, I photographed him in the driveway. My three exposures. Boom it’s done. Afterward, we go into the house. He introduces me to his daughter, Nina, and the others that were there. At a certain point, he looks at me and says, “Now, you’re the psychedelic photographer. Do you have any drugs on you?” I said, “Well, John, as a matter of fact I do. Some liquid peyote that I brought back from Mexico. You’re welcome to have some.” At that point Nina pops up, and she says, “John, you just had a steak. Let it digest.” (laughter)

Back home in San Francisco, I compiled a master list of the individuals all around the country I wanted to include. I mapped out an itinerary, starting with a second trip down south to LA. I decide May was time to begin this major road trip. Seven weeks, eleven thousand miles as it turned out. Oz Janiger assisted me in LA, arranging appointments with all the locals… From LA, then onwards to Tuscaloosa AL (Humphry Osmond) to Tennessee (Stephen & Ina May Gaskin), Maryland (The Spring Grove Hospital crew), NYC (Joan Halifax, Harry Hermone, Howard Lotsoff), Boston (Grinspoon and Bakalar), Toronto (John Beresford),back down to Pittsburg, and out to Lawrence, Kansas to stop and see William Burroughs.

In the process of setting up my itinerary, I called William Burroughs. His secretary, James Grauerholz – we had known each other for years —  said, “You know, we want to see you, but we’re going to be in Switzerland in May. William’s shotgun paintings are going to be on exhibit. But we really want to see you. Instead of coming and seeing us on the beginning of your trip, come and see us at the end. We do want to see you – definitely. Come by. However, you know, William hates having his picture taken. And he hates psychedelics. But we want to see you, so please come by.”

I didn’t think anything much of this conversation… I just marked it down that I had to go see William Burroughs in June. The real trip began when I went to see Humphrey Osmond, who lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was to go all through the country, eventually driving up to Toronto for John Beresford. It was his insistence and acid that Michael Hollingshead used to turn Tim Leary on to LSD (before that he was sticking with psilocybin). I motored up to Tennessee to The Farm. While I was at the Farm, Ina May Gaskin asked, “Aren’t you tired of photographing only men? This is a project primarily of men.” I said, “You’re right!” “Would you like to photograph midwives?” I agreed, “I’d love it.” So concurrently, I would be photographing midwives. It was a beautiful balance for me.

Enroute to Baltimore, I stopped in North Carolina to photograph Weston LaBarre. In Baltimore, I photographed Rick Yensen and all of the people, except Stan Grof, that were at Spring Grove Hospital… This group of psychiatrists and psychologists had done ground breaking work, legally, with psychedelics at Spring Grove Hospital.

Then I drove to Manhattan. “Joan Halifax wants to see you,” my friend Jeff informed me. “Joan Halifax wants to see me?” Last time I had seen Joan Halifax, it was to interview her for High Frontiers magazine. When Joan had opened the SF hotel room door — she bit my head off. She snarled, ‘You came in here thinking I was an advocate for psychedelics? Well I’m not!'”

At the Open Center, there’s Joan at the back end of the space. She sees me, she pops up, comes running towards me, throws her arms around me and gives me a big wet smooch! “What do you want? What can I do for you?” I said. “Joan, uh… I’m here to photograph you.” She asks, “Where shall we do this?” I said, “Well, we gotta do it outside quickly. Again, the light was fast fading. “Let’s take two chairs outside on Spring Street and we’ll do this.”

Sitting across from Joan, I’m ready to take the first exposure. Now you have to understand, when I photograph, I take two or three snaps. That’s it. I don’t use the shotgun approach. I’m very mindful… four photographs, at the most. I’m selective. Very very judicious. I use the full frame of the camera. So, I’m ready to fire off the first exposure when suddenly someone’s tapping my shoulder. He inquires, “What film are you using?” [Laughs]

I arranged to photograph Lester Grinspoon at Harvard. I said, “Lester, I’m going to be here during this particular weekend. I’m going to get to New York and then I’m going to drive up to see you.” He says, “No problem. I’ll be there.” I drive all the way up to Boston — 200 miles — a four hour drive, right? He’d gone to Portugal! I had to drive back to NYC empty handed. I arranged to return the following week.

On to Toronto where I’m going to see John Beresford, MD. Talk about a character!  He was such a sweetheart. I go up to his office on Young Street into this modern high rise building. He’s dressed in a three-piece suit with a tie. “Where do you want to photograph? I answered, “Well, I’ve been using available light outdoors. Let’s go down to the street.” In the elevator, he starts disrobing! Takes off his jacket, takes off his tie, takes off his vest, takes off his shirt. Takes off his t-shirt! “I want you to see something.” He’s got this ‘happy cross’ hanging around his neck. You know, a Christian cross with a smiley face? He put the smiley face on a cross. John told me, “What’s wrong with the cross is that it’s a symbol of death and destruction. We’ve got to put a smiley face on it to make it happy.”  He gave me one. I have it. Sterling silver. What astounding eyes this guy had. What a heart…

From Ontario, I drove to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to photograph a midwife there.  Continuing my quest, I headed out to Lawrence Kansas to see Burroughs. 26 hours straight, I was on the highway. I get there at 11:00 am. I bound up the stairs to see James Grauerholz. He’s there. I show him my portfolio. We chat and catch up. “Hold on a minute.” James is on the phone. He looks at me and says, “Would one o’clock be good for you?” “Yes, point me in the direction of a health food store, I’m starving…”

We have a little caravan of cars heading off to William’s house. Me, in the California plated car, I was followed by a local police cruiser. [Laughs]

William’s tiny house is threadbare, literally. He’s got a small wooden table, no carpet… nothing on the walls. No furniture in the house beyond the chairs we were sitting on. It’s 98 degrees with 99% humidity. We were sitting at the table and talking. I show him my portraits, because I knew that I was not going to photograph him. We’re talking about all sorts of wide-ranging, interesting subjects. “Would you like a drink?” he says, as he walked over to his refrigerator. “What are you going to have?” ” A Cuba Libre.” I noticed he had a Dos Equis on his refrigerator door. “I’ll have that Dos Equis.” I knew that I could sip on that for two days if need be… appearing quite social enough. Because if I drank any alcohol to speak of, I would fall over and collapse from the sheer exhaustion of the crazy drive…

William belts back several of these drinks faster than I could blink, right? He takes his bony finger and he points it in my face. “Tell me something. How long do these photographs of yours take?” “Oh, approximately a sixtieth of a second.” “You’re on.”

William S. Burroughs, photo by Marc Franklin

RU: So let’s talk about this show down in LA.

MF: The show is an experimental mix in a non-subtle manner of large-scale transpersonal portraiture and events, countered with portraits of the natural world. All my work is essentially psychedelic portraiture, be it hydrogen-bomb scientists, harbor seals, redwoods or ticker tape parades. All the same. Brute force is required to bust through the din… Today we are swimming in a veritable stew of images, an onslaught overwhelming our visual sense gate, each vying to be seen, to inform us. Beautiful images are healing. Aesthetically uncompromising photographs allow me to speak directly to their “being” introducing to the beholder novel concepts that verbally would never be considered, accepted… let alone understood.

Nature as healer. That remains the guiding concept of mine… A number of years back I began photographing plants and trees seriously as healing images for hospitalized veterans. (Neuropsychoimmunology: images used to heal.) I began with the process of looking carefully—and seeing. Seeing the world, interconnected, interdependent, not as separate “things”—but as process.

When first viewed, the large-scale prints of the exhibit look weird, “unreal” to the uninformed.  Because they’re not as sharply focused throughout as one normally views this consensual reality. To bust through deeply embedded prior preconceptions, shallow focus is employed for emphasis — to delineate particular aspects of a flower. It’s essence. The “isness” of the flower.

The trees flow, they sway, they shudder, convulse, shake, spin. Animated, yet are captured within a “still” frame. This contradiction serves well to help one in questioning “reality” — acknowledging just what we do not know. Disorientation causes one to feel: “Wow, what feelings come up from seeing these images.” Each a little miracle.

The psychedelic pioneers’ portrait series meshes well with the images of nature, because all of my work is that of a portraitist.

People, animals, plants, events. All the same, really.

Employing XYZ, the concept of dominant, subdominant and subordinate, each visual element fits perfectly within the rectangle formed by the camera. This elemental underlying concept, XYZ forms the basis for all works of art: painting, sculpture, graphics, poetry, film, music, literature, photography… 

The Marc Franklin  Beyond: A Transpersonal Photograpy Exhibit  at SPF:a Gallery in Los Angeles until the end of 2011

Sep 23 2011

Transpersonal Photographs of Psychedelic Pioneers

 

My longtime friend and occasional collaborator Marc Franklin will be having an exhibition of his amazing and distinctive “transpersonal photographs” at SPF: A Gallery in Culver City from October 13 – December 31, 2011.

The opening reception on October 13, 2011 promises to be an amazing event.

Franklin’s unique and revealing photos feature 72 portraits of Psychedelic Pioneers — 12 of them as giant 24 x36 inch metal prints i.e. photographs sublimated directly onto aluminum.

Marc says, “In 1988 I photographed Albert Hofmann in Santa Rosa, CA with this photographic archive in mind. After Albert gave me his blessing, I jetted off to the East Coast to photograph Richard Evans Schultes, Ram Dass, and old friend Allen Ginsberg. Returning home to San Francisco, I began a telephone marathon to set up appointments for a gazillion portrait sessions. The collection has now grown to over 200 prominent scientists, researchers, clinicians, chemists (licit and illicit), counterculture activists of all stripe, writers, poets, musicians, artists…”

Aside from being an exploration of these psychedelic missionaries, Franklin will use other photos, among them nature photos and pictures of Edward Teller and Ralph Nader, turning the entire exhibition into a sort of psychedelically inspired portrait of 20th (and 21st) Century life.

SPF: A Gallery

You can rsvp to oguz.ince@spfa.com

 

Jul 06 2011

Transcending the Medical Frontiers: Exploring the Future of Psychedelic Drug Research

When I was in graduate school studying behavioral neuroscience I wanted nothing more than to be able to conduct psychedelic drug research. However, in the mid-1980s, this was impossible to do at any academic institution on Earth. There wasn’t a single government on the entire planet that legally allowed clinical research with psychedelic drugs. However, this worldwide research ban started to recede in the early 1990s, and we’re currently witnessing a renaissance of medical research into psychedelic drugs.

Working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for the past four years as their guest editor has been an extremely exciting and tremendously fruitful endeavor for me. It’s a great joy to see how MDMA can help people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), how LSD can help advanced-stage cancer patients come to peace with the dying process, and how ibogaine can help opiate addicts overcome their addiction. There appears to be enormous potential for the development of psychedelic drugs into effective treatments for a whole range of difficult-to-treat psychiatric disorders.

However, as thrilled as I am by all the new clinical studies exploring the medical potential of psychedelic drugs, I still long for the day when our best minds and resources can be applied to the study of these extraordinary substances with an eye that looks beyond their medical applications, toward their ability to enhance human potential and explore new realities.

This article explores these possibilities. But first, let’s take a look at how we got to be where we are.

A Brief History of Time-Dilation Studies


Contemporary Western psychedelic drug research began in 1897, when the German chemist Arthur Heffter first isolated mescaline, the primary psychoactive compound in the peyote cactus. In 1943 Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel while studying ergot, a fungus that grows on rye. Then, 15 years later, in 1958, he was the first to isolate psilocybin and psilocin — the psychoactive components of the Mexican “magic mushroom,” Psilocybe mexicana.

Before 1972, nearly 700 studies with LSD and other psychedelic drugs were conducted. This research suggested that LSD has remarkable medical potential. LSD-assisted psychotherapy was shown to safely reduce the anxiety of terminal cancer patients, alcoholism, and the symptoms of many difficult-to-treat psychiatric illnesses.

Between 1972 and 1990 there were no human studies with psychedelic drugs. Their disappearance was the result of a political backlash that followed the promotion of these drugs by the 1960s counterculture. This reaction not only made these substances illegal for personal use, but also made it extremely difficult for researchers to get government approval to study them.

The New Wave of Psychedelic Drug Research
The political climate began to change in 1990, with the approval of Rick Strassman’s DMT study at the University of New Mexico. According to public policy expert and MAPS president Rick Doblin this change occurred because, “open-minded regulators at the FDA decided to put science before politics when it came to psychedelic and medical marijuana research. FDA openness to research is really the key factor. Also, senior researchers who were influenced by psychedelics in the sixties now are speaking up before they retire and have earned credibility.”

The past 18 years have seen a bold resurgence of psychedelic drug research, as scientists all over the world have come to recognize the long-underappreciated potential of these drugs. In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA, ibogaine and ketamine.

Current studies are focusing on psychedelic treatments for cluster headaches, PTSD, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), severe anxiety in terminal cancer patients, alcoholism, and opiate addiction. The results so far look quite promising, and more studies are being planned by MAPS and other private psychedelic research organizations, with the eventual goal of turning MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics into legally available prescription drugs.

As excited as I am that psychedelic drugs are finally being studied for their medical and healing potential, I’m eagerly anticipating the day when psychedelic drug research can really take off, and move beyond its therapeutic applications in medicine. I look forward to the day when researchers can explore the potential of psychedelics as advanced learning tools, relationship builders, creativity enhancers, pleasure magnifiers, vehicles for self-improvement, reliable catalysts for spiritual or mystical experiences, a stimulus for telepathy and other psychic abilities, windows into other dimensions, and for their ability to possibly shed light on the reality of parallel universes and nonhuman entity contact.

Let’s take a look at some of these exciting possibilities.

The Science of Pleasure
Almost all medical research to date has been focused on curing diseases and treating illnesses, while little attention has been paid to increasing human potential, let alone to the enhancement of pleasure. However, one can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when we will have cured all of our most challenging physical ailments and have more time and resources on our hands to explore post-survival activities. It’s likely that we’ll then focus our research efforts on discovering new ways to improve our physical and mental performance.

A science devoted purely to enhancing pleasure might come next, and psychedelics could play a major role in this new field. Maverick physicist Nick Herbert’s “Pleasure Dome” project seeks to explore this possibility, and although this is little more than an idea at this point, it may be the first step toward turning the enhancement of pleasure into a true science.

According to surveys done by the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, the number one reason why people do LSD is because “it’s fun.” Tim Leary helped to popularize the use of LSD with the help of the word “ecstasy,” and sex expert Annie Sprinkle has been outspoken about the ecstatic possibilities available from combining sex and psychedelics. Countless psychedelic trip reports have described long periods of appreciating extraordinary beauty and savoring ecstatic bliss, experiences that were many orders of magnitude more intense than the subjects previously thought possible.

With all the current research emphasis on the medical applications and therapeutic potential of psychedelics, the unspoken and obvious truth about these extraordinary substances is that, when done properly, they’re generally safe and healthy ways to have an enormous amount of fun. There’s good reason why, they’re so popular recreationally, despite their illegality.

When psychedelic research begins to integrate with applied neuroscience and advanced nanotechnology in the future, we can begin to establish a serious science of pleasure and fun. Most likely this would begin with a study of sensory enhancement and time dilation, which are two of the primary effects that psychedelics reliably produce.

Perhaps one day our brightest researchers and best resources will be devoted to finding new ways to enhance sexual, auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile sensations, and create undreamed of new pleasures and truly unearthly delights. Scientific studies could explore ways to improve sexual performance and enhance sensory sensitivity, elongate and intensify our orgasms, enlarge the spectrum of our perceptions, and deepen every dimension of our experience. Massage therapy, Tantra, music, culinary crafting, and other pleasure-producing techniques could be systematically explored with psychedelics, and universities could have applied research centers devoted to the study of ecstasy, tickling, and laughter.

The neurochemistry of aesthetic appreciation, happiness, humor, euphoria, and bliss could be carefully explored with an eye toward improvement. Serious research and development could be used to create new drugs, and integrate neurochemically heightened states with enhanced environments, such as technologically advanced amusement parks and extraordinary virtual realities. In this area of research, it seems that psychedelics may prove to be extremely useful, and countless new psychedelic drugs are just waiting to be discovered.

In addition to enhancing pleasure, psychedelics also stimulate the imagination in extraordinary ways.

Creativity & Problem-Solving
A number of early studies suggest that psychedelic drugs may stimulate creativity and improve problem-solving abilities. In 1955, Louis Berlin investigated the effects of mescaline and LSD on the painting abilities of four nationally recognized graphic artists. Although the study showed that there was some impairment of technical ability among the artists, a panel of independent art critics judged the experimental paintings as having “greater aesthetic value” than the artists’ usual work.

In 1959, Los Angeles psychiatrist Oscar Janiger asked sixty prominent artists to paint a Native American doll before taking LSD and then again while under its influence. A panel of independent art critics and historians then evaluated these 120 paintings. As with Berlin’s study, there was a general agreement by the judges that the craftsmanship of the LSD paintings suffered; however many received higher marks for imagination than the pre-LSD paintings.

In 1965, at San Francisco State College, James Fadiman and Willis Harman administered mescaline to professional workers in various fields to explore its creative problem-solving abilities. The subjects were instructed to bring a professional problem requiring a creative solution to their sessions. After some psychological preparation, subjects worked individually on their problem throughout their mescaline session. The creative output of each subject was evaluated by psychological tests, subjective reports, and the eventual industrial or commercial validation and acceptance of the finished product or final solution. Virtually all subjects produced solutions judged highly creative and satisfactory by these standards.

In addition to the scientific studies that have been conducted there are also a number of compelling anecdotal examples that suggest a link between creativity and psychedelic drugs. For example, architect Kyosho Izumi’s LSD-inspired design of the ideal psychiatric hospital won him a commendation for outstanding achievement from the American Psychiatric Association, and Apple cofounder Steve Jobs attributes some of the insights which lead to the development of the personal computer to his use of LSD. Additionally, a number of renowned scientists have personally attributed their breakthrough scientific insights to their use of psychedelic drugs — including Nobel Prize winners Francis Crick and Kary Mullis.

There hasn’t been a formal creativity study with psychedelics since 1965, although there are countless anecdotal reports of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other people who attribute a portion of their creativity and inspiration to their use of psychedelics. This is an area that is more than ripe for study. Anecdotal reports suggest that very low doses of LSD — threshold level doses, around 20 micrograms — are especially effective as creativity enhancers. For example, Francis Crick was reported to be using low doses of LSD when he discovered the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule.

I’d love to see a whole series of new studies exploring how cannabis, LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline can enhance the imagination, improve problem-solving abilities, and stimulate creativity. As advances in robotics automates more of our activities, I suspect that creativity will eventually become the most valuable commodity of all. Much of the creativity in Hollywood and Silicon Valley is already fueled by psychedelics and research into how these extraordinary tools could enhance creativity even more effectively may become a booming enterprise in the not-too-distant future.

However, creativity isn’t the only valuable psychological ability that psychedelics appear to enhance.

ESP & Psychic Phenomena

Few people are aware that there have been numerous, carefully-controlled scientific experiments with telepathy, psychokinesis, remote viewing, and other types of psychic phenomena, which have consistently produced compelling, statistically significant results that conventional science is at a loss to explain. Even most scientists, are currently unaware of the vast abundance of compelling scientific evidence for psychic phenomena, which has resulted from over a century of parapsychological research. Hundreds of carefully controlled studies — in which psi researchers continuously redesigned experiments to address the comments from their critics — have produced results that demonstrate small, but statistically significant effects for psi phenomena, such as telepathy, precognition, and psychokinesis.

According to Dean Radin, a meta-analysis of this research demonstrates that the positive results from these studies are significant with odds in the order of many billions to one. Princeton University, the Stanford Research Institute, Duke University, the Institute of Noetic Science, the U.S. and Russian governments, and many other respectable institutions, have spent years researching these mysterious phenomena, and conventional science is at a loss to explain the results. This research is summarized Radin’s remarkable book The Conscious Universe.

Just as fascinating as the research into psychic phenomena is the controversy that surrounds it. In my own experience researching the possibility of telepathy in animals, and other unexplained phenomena with British biologist Rupert Sheldrake, I discovered that many people are eager to share personal anecdotes about psychic events in their life — such as remarkable coincidences, uncanny premonitions, precognitive dreams, and seemingly telepathic communications. In these cases, the scientific studies simply confirm life experiences. Yet many scientists that I’ve spoken with haven’t reviewed the evidence, and remain doubtful that there is any reality to psychic phenomenon. However, surveys conducted by British biologist Rupert Sheldrake and myself reveal that around 78% of the population has had unexplainable “psychic” experiences, and the scientific evidence supports the validity of these experiences.

It’s also interesting to note that many people have reported experiencing meaningful psychic experiences with psychedelics — not to mention a wide range of paranormal events and synchronicities, which seem extremely difficult to explain by means of conventional reasoning.

A questionnaire study conducted by psychologist Charles Tart, Ph.D. of 150 experienced marijuana users found that 76% believed in extrasensory perception (ESP), with frequent reports of experiences while intoxicated that were interpreted as psychic. Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, M.D., and psychologist Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., have collected numerous anecdotes about psychic phenomena that were reported by people under the influence of psychedelics, and several small scientific studies have looked at how LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline might effect telepathy and remote viewing.

For example, according to psychologist Jean Millay, Ph.D., in 1997, students at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands did research to establish whether or not the use of psilocybin could influence remote viewing. This was a small experiment, with only 12 test-subjects, but the results of the study indicated that those subjects who were under the influence of psilocybin achieved a success rate of 58.3 percent, which was statistically significant.

A great review article by Krippner and psychologist David Luke, Ph.D. that summarizes all of the psychedelic research into psychic phenomena can be found in the Spring, 2011 MAPS Bulletin that I edited about psychedelics and the mind/body connection. This article can be found here.

When I conducted the California-based research for two of Sheldrake’s books about unexplained phenomena in science, Dogs That Know When Their Owner’s Are Coming Home and The Sense of Being Stared At, one of the experiments that I ran involved testing blindfolded subjects to see if they could sense being stared at from behind. One of the subjects that I worked with reported an unusually high number of correct trials while under the influence of MDMA. I’d love to run a whole study to see if MDMA-sensitized subjects are more aware of when they’re being stared at.

It is especially common for people to report experiences with telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, remote viewing, and psychokinesis while using ayahuasca, the potent hallucinogenic jungle juice from the Amazon. There have only been several studies with ayahuasca which demonstrate health benefits, but this is an area that is just crying out to be explored carefully and in depth. Future studies could examine ayahuasca’s potential and accuracy as a catalyst for psychic phenomena, and all of the traditional studies that have been done with psychic phenomena, which generated positive results, could be redone with subjects dosed with different psychedelics to see if test scores can be improved.

Increasing our psychic abilities may open up the human mind to new, unimagined possibilities–and if you think that harnessing telepathic and clairvoyant abilities is pretty wild, then hold on to your hats for what’s likely to come next.

 

Higher Dimensions & Nonhuman Entity Contact
A primary ingredient in ayahuasca is DMT, and users claim that this remarkable substance has the extraordinary power to open up an interdimensional portal into another universe. Some of the most fascinating psychedelic research has been done with this incredible compound.

DMT is a mystery. One of the strangest puzzles in all of nature — in the same league as questions like “What existed before the Big Bang?” and “How did life begin?” —revolves around the fact that the unusually powerful psychedelic DMT is naturally found in the human body, as well as in many species of animals and plants, and nobody knows what it does, or what function it might serve, in any of these places.

Because natural DMT levels tend to rise while we’re asleep at night, it has been suggested that it may have a role in dreaming. But this is pure speculation, and even if true, it may do much more. Because of its endogenous status and unusually potent effects, many people have considered DMT to be the quintessential psychedelic. DMT has effects of such strength and magnitude that it easily dwarfs the titanic quality of even the most powerful LSD trips, and it appears to transport one into an entirely new world — a world that seems more bizarre than our wildest imaginings, yet, somehow, is also strangely familiar.

Psychiatric researcher Rick Strassman, Ph.D., who conducted a five year study with DMT at the University of New Mexico, has suggested that naturally elevated DMT levels in the brain may be responsible for such unexplained mental phenomena as spontaneous mystical experiences, near-death experiences, nonhuman entity contact, and schizophrenia. Strassman and others have even gone so far as to speculate about the possibility that elevated DMT levels in the brain might be responsible for ushering the soul into the body before birth, and out of the body after death.

But perhaps what’s most interesting about DMT is that, with great consistency, it appears to allow human beings to communicate with other intelligent life forms. When I interviewed Strassman, I asked him if he thought that there was an objective reality to the worlds visited by people when they’re under the influence of DMT, and if he thought that the entities that so many people have encountered on DMT actually have an independent existence or not. Rick replied:

I myself think so. My colleagues think I’ve gone woolly-brained over this, but I think it’s as good a working hypothesis as any other. I tried all other hypotheses with our volunteers, and with myself. The “this is your brain on drugs” model; the Freudian “this is your unconscious playing out repressed wishes and fears;” the Jungian “these are archetypal images symbolizing your unmet potential;” the “this is a dream;” etc. Volunteers had powerful objections to all of these explanatory models — and they were a very sophisticated group of volunteers, with decades of psychotherapy, spiritual practice, and previous psychedelic experiences. I tried a thought-experiment, asking myself, “What if these were real worlds, and real entities? Where would they reside, and why would they care to interact with us?” This led me to some interesting speculations about parallel universes, dark matter, etc. All because we can’t prove these ideas right now (lacking the proper technology) doesn’t mean they should be dismissed out of hand as incorrect.

A 2006 scientific paper by computer scientist Marko A. Rodriguez called  “A Methodology for Studying Various Interpretations of the N,N-dimethyltryptamine-Induced Alternate Reality” explores how to possibly determine if the entities experienced by people on DMT are indeed independently existing intelligent beings or just projections of our hallucinating brains. Rodriguez suggests a test that involves asking the entities to perform a complex mathematical task involving prime numbers to verify their independent existence. While it seems like a long shot that this method could lead to fruitful results, I think that any serious speculation about establishing communication channels with these mysterious beings is constructive.

Strassman’s work could represent the very beginning of a scientific field that systematically explores the possibility of communicating with higher dimensional entities, and this might prove to be a more fruitful endeavor for establishing extraterrestrial contact than the SETI project. What they can teach us, we can only imagine.

My own experiences with DMT lead me to suspect that Strassman’s studies would have yielded far more fruitful results had the subjects been dosed with harmaline prior to receiving their DMT injections. Harmaline is an MAO-inhibiting enzyme that is found in a number of plants. It’s found in the famous South American vine known as Banisteriopsis cappi, which composes half of the mixture in the sacred hallucinogenic jungle juice ayahuasca, which has been used for healing purposes by indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin for thousands of years. Harmaline is widely known as the chemical that allows the DMT in other plants, like Psychotria viridis, to become orally active.

Orally-consumed DMT is destroyed in the stomach by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO), which harmaline inhibits. However, it does much more than just make the DMT orally active. I’ve discovered that drinking a tea made from Syrian rue seeds–which also contain harmaline–two hours prior to smoking DMT dramatically alters the experience. Harmaline has interesting psychoactive properties of its own that are somewhat psychedelic, and it slows down the speed of the DMT experience considerably, rendering it more comprehensible, less frightening, and easier to understand. For thousands of years indigenous peoples in the Amazon jungles combined harmaline and DMT, and this long history has cultivated a powerful synergism between how the two molecules react in our body.

In future studies harmaline could be used in conjunction with DMT, to more accurately simulate the ayahuasca experience that strikes such a powerful primordial cord in our species. This would allow for the experience to become much more comprehensible, and last for a greater duration of time, which would allow for more ability to examine the phenomenon of nonhuman entity communication.

Some readers may have noticed that this article has loosely followed a Christian theological progression, from the ego death and bodily resurrection of the medical studies with psychedelics, to the paradisiacal pleasures of Heaven, where we discovered our godlike powers and met with the angels. Ultimately, it appears, this research will lead us to the source of divinity itself.

The Study of Divine Intelligence
Perhaps the most vital function of psychedelics is their ability to reliably produce spiritual or mystical experiences. These transpersonal experiences of inseparability often result in an increased sense of ecological awareness, a greater sense of interconnection, a transcendence of the fear of death, a sense of the sacred or divine, and identification with something much larger than one’s body or personal life.

Many people suspect that this experience lies at the heart of the healing potential of psychedelics —and they believe that making this experience available to people is essential for the survival of our species. I agree that we need a compassionate vision of our interconnection with the biosphere to guide our technological evolution and without it we might destroy ourselves.

In his book The Physics of Immortality, physicist Frank Tipler introduces the idea that if a conscious designing intelligence is genuinely a part of this universe, then ultimately religion — or the study of this designer intelligence — will become a branch of physics. Psychedelic drug research may offer one pathway toward establishing this future science.

Recent studies by Roland Griffiths and colleagues at Johns Hopkins have confirmed that psilocybin can indeed cause religious experiences that are indistinguishable from religious experiences reported by mystics throughout the ages — and that substantial health benefits can result from these experiences.

These new studies echo the findings of an earlier study done in 1962 by Walter Pahnke of the Harvard Divinity School, and it’s certainly not news to anyone who has had a full-blown psychedelic experience. R.U. Sirius responded to this seemingly redundant research by saying that “Wow! Scientists Discover Ass Not Elbow!” Nonetheless, this may represent the beginning of a whole new field of academic inquiry, which explores those realms that have been previously declared off-limits to science.

It appears that the integration of science and spirituality could be the next event horizon — our next adventure as a species. Our future evolution may depend on it. Without a transpersonal perspective of interconnection to guide our evolutionary direction, we seem to be firmly set on a path toward inevitable self-destruction. I personally believe psychedelics can help us get back on track, and help us heal the damage that we’ve done to ourselves and to the Earth. This is why I believe so strongly in psychedelic drug research.

There isn’t much time left before our biosphere starts to unravel, and we may only have a small window of opportunity to save our fragile world. I think that MAPS — and sister organizations, like the Beckley Foundation and the Heffter Research Institute — are industrialized society’s best hope for transforming the planet’s ancient shamanic plants into the respectable scientific medicines of tomorrows and, in so doing, bring psychedelic therapy to all who need it. This may not only help to heal a number of difficult-to-treat medical disorders, and increase ecological harmony on the planet, but it may also open up a doorway to untold and unimagined new worlds of possibility.