Who Are the Acid Trippers?

There's a good deal of unnecessary confusion about what the acid experience is. It is not a fundamentally sensory experience. What LSD does to the way the mind hears music or the way it records visual images in relatively unimportant. People who go into tremendous hallucinations on LSD are probably having pretty low level, physically-rather-mentally-oriented trips. (Research has suggested that LSD might inhibit the flow of the chemical which replenishes the visual cortex of the brain, and thereby wears out the image receptors and causes hallucination. But, if this is the case or something like it, it is a less significant action of the drug.)

The significant effect of LSD is the way in which it makes you experience the self. The acid tripper achieves a level of consciousness of a self quite separate from what he knows to be his ego. He thinks he can communicate to people, animals, and objects on a level of pure consciousness. At the time of highest revelation he is totally apart from the problems, and constructs of his won ego and understands the whole universe to be ordered by a common benign, tingling consciousness that is aware of how each person's ego got to define his desires. The values of the ego dissolve naturally in favor of the ego dissolve naturally in favor of full acceptance of this awareness.

So acid literature and acid thought are really only those ideas that deal with high level revelation, mysticism, telepathy, and transcendence of the ego. The LSD experience should not be confused with, for example, the stream-of-consciousness way of representing the way we experience the regular world. It would be confusing to call, let's say, James Joyce an acid tripper.

And there are those who trip on acid who are very confused themselves about what the acid experience is doing to them. Primary among these people is Timothy Leary, whose two books (High Priest and The Politics of Ecstasy) just don't communicate anything at all of the experience.

There are a number of people whose work is very much what the acid experience is about. We will call these guys the acid trippers. Some of them (like Hesse and McLuhan) have never taken LSD, but have explained the ideas the are very helpful in trying to understand what the acid experience is like. Most of the others' writings are directly influenced by their experience with acid:

KEN KESEY and TOM WOLFE--Wolfe wrote the book (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) about Kesey's organizing the Merry Pranksters, who crossed the U.S. in a bus with him, and threw huge parties in California with LSD in the Kool-Aid. The book is a milestone in acid literature, and probably the only good thing directly about the experience. Kesey has written Sometimes A Great Notion, a book that really flows, since he started taking the drug. And the Merry Pranksters are the ones who put fluorescent paint in psychedelics.

The book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, has put into print a lot of the key phrases we used to describe what's happening in the experience (like: 'go with the flow," "synch," "kairos," and "total attention"). Here is Wolfe describing Kesey on one of the first acid trips in history: "The first thing he knew about it was a squirrel dropped an acorn from a tree outside, only it was tremendously loud and sounded like it was not outside but right in the room with him and not actually a sound, either, but a great suffusing presence, visual, almost tactile, a great impacting of . . . blue . . . all around him and suddenly he was in a realm of consciousness he had never dreamed of before and it was not a dream or delirium but part of his awareness."

R.D. LAING -- The Scottish psychiatrist whose books, especially The Politics of Experience and The Divided self, if not among the best in Existential Psychology, are at least among the most widely-read. He writes: "True sanity entails one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality; the emergence of the 'inner" arche typical mediators of divine power, and through this death a rebirth, and the eventual re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer."

ALAN WATTS -- The author of lots of books on Eastern religions, friend of Richard Alpert, and who writes in psychotherapy East and West: "Play is not to be taken seriously, or, in other words, ideas of the world and of oneself which are social conventions and institutions are not to be confused with reality. The rules of communication are not necessarily