My psychedaelic experience began in September 1970. My companion and guide helpfully set me up with an LSD starter-kit of Frank Zappa's 'Hot Rats' and Dr. John's 'Night Tripper'. The quite astonishing psychedaelic architecture of Frank Zappa's music was my first synesthetic experience. Dr. John left you quietly muttering incantations and wondering where you'd learned them and what they meant. His music was sublime and subliminal. To read, I was given Chairman Mao's 'Where do correct ideas come from' (which I now realize was purely for show) and Timothy Leary's 'Politics of Ecstasy'.
I haven't read the book for nearly twenty five years. But I count myself as lucky to have had that book to read right at the beginning. I didn't like Leary's style. But his overly rich, sub-McCluhanite flashiness and his funny views on religion didn't matter. Tim had the answers. Alright, you could tell from his style, he was a bit of boaster. But Tim was the only one who knew where to go. Tim was the only one who told you the protocols. When you looked at your hand and suddenly you were able to identify every last pulsing capillary, fixed in utter astonishment, just this side of shock, Tim said that what was happening to you was clearly a kind of awareness that, if pursued, would propel you from the normal confines of your body, to a level where you were conscious of the molecular and sub-molecular basis of all things. There was an exciting comic book quality about Tim's adventures. Tim regressed regularly. Back to the womb and beyond...back and back. Tim remembered when we were frogs, back even further, when we were amoeba.
Tim's adventures were both red-blooded and cerebral at the same time. As an exercise in prose, Tim's book will seem horribly dated. It didn't read too well at the time. But as a 'try-this and see' manual it was an *essential* guide for so many of us. By the time that Tim wrote the Politics of Ecstasy, he had long since made his mind up that psychedelics belong to humanity and that narrowly scientific accounts were only part of the picture. Much of what Tim said might have been bollocks. But Tim took a giant step.
The Politics of Ecstasy: the best book, the only book.
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