HERMANN HESSE -- The Nobel Prize - winning German novelist, whose book, The Journey to the East, is an excellent metaphor for the kind of revelation-seeking an acid trip entails. In the book he writes of the pilgrimage: "Throughout the centuries it had been on the way, towards light and wonder, and each member, each group, indeed our whole host and its great pilgrimage, was only a wave in the eternal stream of human begins, of the eternal strivings, of the human spirit towards the East, towards Home. The knowledge passed through my mind like a ray of light and immediately reminded me of a phrase which I had learned during my novitiate year, which always pleased me immensely without my realizing its full significance. It was a phrase by the poet Novalis, 'Where are we really going? Always home!'"
MARSHALL McLUHAN -- The English professor whose difficult books (Understanding Media and The Medium is the Massage) and a really great interview in Playboy magazine provide a theoretical basis for what acid trippers believe about telepathy: "Tribal man is tightly sealed in an integral collective awareness that transcends conventional boundaries of time and space. As such, the new society will be one mythic integration, a resonating world akin to the old tribal echo chamber where magic will live again: a world of ESP . . . Electricity makes possible--and not in the distant future, either--an amplification of human consciousness on a world scale, wihtout any verbalization at all."
THE BEATLES--While all rock groups do music that sounds "far out," the Beatles are really the only ones who represent a specifically acid experience with a combination of lyrics and musical sounds. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Dear Prudence, in particular, deal with the kind of transcendence that the acid experience is. The totally new kind of sound in both these songs is what it's all about.
RENE DAUMAL--Who wrote a beautiful little known book called Mount Analogue. The book--unfinished at Daumal's death--describes the quest to find the mountain that connects Earth and Sky, that is, to know God. So wonderfully is the allegory worked into the story that it is difficult to find a passage that will give you a sense of the book. But here is a little poem that Daumal wrote in a letter to his wife:
"I am dead because I lack desire;/ I lack desire because I think I possess;/ I think I possess because I do not try to give./ In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;/ Seeing you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;/ Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing/ Seeing that you are nothing, you desire to become;/ In desiring to become, you begin to love."
But the book itself is by no means so didactic. It is, rather, witty straightforward and delightful. A very good story.
FYODOR DOSTOYEVESKY--An acid tripper? Well, not exactly. But no other writer so well conveys the viccissitudes of the spiritual seeker. And perhaps Dostoyevsky, who knew well the spiritual insight that grows from extreme states of consciousness or from sickness itself, would not have criticized a spiritual insight that came from a chemical. Here is his description, from the idiot of the state of consciousness that proceeds an epileptic fit:
"He was thinking . . . that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself . . . when suddenly amid the sadness . . . his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments, and . . . his vital forces were strained to the utmost all at once. His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning. His mind and heart wear flooded by a dazzling light. All his agitation, all has doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm full of serene and harmonious joy and hope, full of understanding and the knowledge of the final cause."
J. D. SALINGER--Acid isn't always apocalyptic. Sometimes it can be as calm, an knowing, as cozy and full of detail as a Salinger story. Here is the revelation that concludes Zooey:
"--Are you listening to me? There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady . . . Don't you know that? Don't you know that goddamn secret yet? And don't you know--listen to me now--don't you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah buddy. It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself Buddy."
"For joy, apparently, it was all Franny could do to hold the phone even with both hands."
Of course the best descriptions of transcendent states is not necessarily either contemporary or western. D. T. SUZUKI's essays on Satori, the poetry of VEDANTA, the Bhagavad Gita, CHRIST's Sermon on the Mount, all put into word what is ultimately wordless, ineffable, breathtaking, transcendent, God-knowing.