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Wasson and Company: The Entheogenic Theory of Religion

Three Generations of Psychonauts: G1

This URL page is topical inventory with comments, set in the chronological framework proposed in the talks on futureprimitive.org, "Rapture and Revolution."

For the interest of readers and listeners to futureprimitive.org, our twin site, here is a PART ONE of an inventory of the three generations of psychonauts proposed in the first talk. It gives the time parameters of the 30-year intervals and lists some characteristic events, landmark books published, government activities in mind control, etc. I have also added comments (backgrounded in green) on the themes and trends of each generation. Readers are welcome to contribute information, dates and events, and comments on the theoretical development of entheogenic theory.

This inventory is in development, and I will be adding material as it unfolds, indicating updates on the home page. I am also adding links so that eventually these pages can serve as a resourcing and orientation tool, designating the key moments of the entheogenic revolution -- one of which is right now.

JLL February 2008 Andalucia, under jupiter-venus in the Archer, balsamic moon in the Scorpion, beneath antares

Where an individual stands on the issue of access to psychoactive plants will determine, more than any other issue, how that individual engages in the coming planetary shift.

psychonaut: somone who navigates the psyche by the aid of psychoactive plants given by nature, or synthetic compounds produced in the laboratory. Term proposed by Ernst Junger. Wikipedia:

A psychonaut (from the Greek ψυχονα?της, meaning literally a sailor of the mind/soul) is a person who uses altered states of consciousness, intentionally induced, to investigate his or her mind, and possibly address spiritual questions, through direct experience. Psychonauts tend to be pluralistic, willing to explore mystical traditions from established world religions, meditation, lucid dreaming, technologies such as brainwave entrainment and sensory deprivation, and often psychedelic drugs (entheogens). Because techniques that alter consciousness can be dangerous, and can induce a state of extreme susceptibility, psychonauts generally prefer to undertake these explorations either alone, or in the company of people they trust. Therefore, they are averse to using altered consciousness in a social or "party" context. Psychonauts generally regard the latter sort of use as irresponsible and dangerous.

psychonautics: the practice and technique of exploring altered states of consciousness; a mode of cultural-cognitive expression, comparable to physics, esthetics, ethics, etc.

The Wikipedia entry reflects a bias inherent to the generally agreed definition: namely, psychonauts explore "inner states" or investigate their own minds. Nowhere does the definition specify that nature, the external world, the biosphere, or the cosmos at large, could also be investigated psychonautically. But given that psyche and cosmos are co-emergent, contiguous, interpenetrating and interactive, exploration of the one will lead to the other. This qualification is perhaps helpful in pointing out that psychonautics is not navel-gazing, or the mere narcissistic contemplation of subjective states, moods, and impressions.

G1 psychonaut Aldous Huxley characterized his experience with mescaline as an encounter with "Mind at Large." To allow that Mind at Large is present and active both inside our minds and in the external world independent of us affords an expanded view of psychonautics.

An old Gnostic adage says, "Not everything that transpires in the human mind originates there."

Prelude: 1932

Brave New World, the dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley, is set in London in 2540 AD. The novel brilliantly anticipates many aspects of life today: reproductive technology or eugenics, biological engineering, "sleep-learning," enforced euthanasia, and mass addiction. In Huxley's vision of the kind of world that might await us in the future, a drug called Soma plays a central role in behavioral control of the population. The author took this term from ancient Vedic texts describing a plant (its botanical identity then, and still, disputed) that produces a state of divine inebriation.

G1 psychonaut R. Gordon Wasson, who proposed the entheogenic theory of religion, devoted a good part of his studies to proving that the Vedic Soma was the amanita muscaria or fly-agaric mushroom. If this were so, it would have been the supreme natural source of religious experience for the human species.

But Soma in Brave New World is a soporific drug used to dumb down and appease the masses, in sharp contrast to the sublime psychoactive sacrament celebrated by Wasson. No one in this future world spends any time alone, because the State supplies the populace with Soma. Its effect is to make everyone blissfully oblivious to pain and distress, compliant and content to do the tasks assigned to them in the rigid caste-system they inhabit. Soma has no short-term side effects, but long-term abuse to death by respiratory failure.

The contrast between Huxley's and Wasson's connnotations for Soma is striking, and instructive, oddly recalling the Marxian adage that religion is the opiate of the masses. In the world today there is no Soma, although some of the large pharmaceutical companies are certainly on the way to concocting it, if they haven't already. Meanwhile, religious faith serves for millions the same function as State-prescribed Soma: it appeases the population and keeps everyone in their place ("Religion," Napoleon quipped, "is what keeps the poor from killing the rich."), And with the admonishing voice of God in your mind, you are never alone.

See and hear Huxley talk about his dystopian vision and state-controlled methods of behavioral modification.

Brave New World
is a visionary masterpiece that becomes all the more revealing when compared to George Orwell's 1984, which appeared sixteen years later.

Generation 1: 1935 - 1965

1935 Mobsters Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lanksy traveled in Asia to make contacts with the Chinese syndicates and opium dealers, thus setting up the infrastructure for future global heroine trafficking, and, at the same, inciting and supporting anti-communist resistance in a manner consistent with US policies and military aims. The tactic of co-ordinating covert operations or "black ops" with the profitable drug traffic, publicly exposed for the first time in the Iran/Contra affair in 1987, was well established by the time the first Generation of psychonauts dawned. The policy of the Authorities to condemn naturally given psychoactive plants or their synthetic extracts, set up a false "war on drugs," and finance their all-too-real wars by trafficking in harmful and addictive drugs, is a long-established and reliable method used by the Evil Few to terrorize the world. In fact, this type of deception has been going on for centuries, going back to the Witch Craze in Europe. See A Brief History of Drugs by Antonio Escohotado. More on Lansky in 1947.

1936 Antonin Artaud, the French visionary poet who proposed the "theater of cruelty," underwent a peyote initiation with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.

Artaud's experience with the Tarahumara Indians in 1936 was a psychic ordeal and a spiritual revelation. The images he brought back - the signs and dance, the ritual slaughter of the bull and the drinking of its blood, the echoes of Atlantis - were to haunt him for the rest of his life. This mosaic work, written over a period of twelve years and spanning Artaud's stay at the Hopital Psychiatrique in Rodez, documents Artaud's struggle to integrate an overwhelming mystical experience into his own religious and mental being.
(From http://www.csp.org/chrestomathy/peyote_dance.html)

Artaud's visions reported by Jeff Wells

In Spiritual Warriors of the Grail, I cited Artaud's account in this context of the Arthurian knights who protected the diaspora of the Mystery Schools:

The Grail knights were dedicated to protect a sacred treasure they themselves had never seen and, in most cases, would never see. At the very least, they understood the Grail to be something fantastic that imbued their lives with magical power. Inspired by a sublime reality that lay beyond their reach, they turned the arts of violence into a noble calling. They were affected by the Grail in a way that recalls the words of mythophrenic genius Antonin Artaud (in "The Peyote Rite Among the Tarahumara Indians"):

The Fantastic is of a noble quality, its disorder is only apparent, it really obeys an order that is fashioned mysteriously and on a level which normal consciousness does not reach but which Magic allows us to reach, and which is the very mystery of all poetry.

Late 1930s to 1941 Henri Michaux (1899 - 1984), Belgian poet and painter, travelled in Eduador where he encountered native shamanism and later, in the 1950s, experimented with mescaline, as recorded (with a depressive Belgian spin) in Miserable Miracle (1956).

1938 The Peyote Cult by Weston La Barre, American anthropologist who suggest a lost tradition of psychedelic shamanism. Wikipedia:

During the 1950s and 1960s, La Barre became absorbed in the study of altered states of consciousness precipitated by the ingestion of shamanistic plants from peyote and ayahuasca to magic mushrooms. Collaborating with Schultes and R. Gordon Wasson, La Barre conducted profoundly original investigations into the anthropology and archeology of altered states of consciousness. Convinced that the shamanism of Siberia was equivalent to the shamanic practices he had observed in the Americas, La Barre established a global theory of shamanism that supplanted that of Mircea Eliade.

Late 1930s Richard Allan Schultes, a young botanist from Harvard University, was in Mexico investigating the botanical species associated with sacred cults and indigenous shamanism.

January 13, 1941 Wilhelm Reich meets Albert Einstein in Princeton and the two men talk for five yours, mainly about Reich's theory of cosmic orgone. At that moment when ethnobotanists such as Shultes were on the track of shamanic practices that would reintroduce animism into the modern world, Reich was explaining to the world's best known scientist that the entire universe is animated by an erotically charged vital force called orgone.

April 1943 Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, who was to become a close colleague of Schultes, accidently absorbed LSD-25 on his fingertips—a chance event which, to some minds, changed the course of human evolution.

1945 The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley outlined a framework of mystical and speculative experience drawn from first-hand testimonies and traditions in different culture and ages, but without reference to psychoactive plants or indigenous shamanism. : "the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being; the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the perennial philosophy may be found among the traditional lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.

December 1945 Thirteen codices (leatherbound books with papyrus pages) written in Coptic, believed to be ancient texts derived from Gnostic groups suppressed by Christianity, were discovered near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, about 35 miles north of Luxor. Although the Nag Hammadi Codices (NHC) contain no overt evidence of entheogenic practice, i.e., no single textual mention or allusion, they describe states of visionary trance typical of plant-induced illumination, including explicit descriptions of the milky luminosity of the Organic Light. In the second generation, research by Wasson and others would establish on solid evidence and comparative studies that sacred plants and mushrooms were used in the pagan Mysteries in which Gnostics figured as founding members and teachers.

Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief is the work of a G2 author with a G3 message. It delves into the entheogenic rites of the Mysteries and discloses the sacred secret of instruction by the Organic Light. Hence it links this G1 event, the discovery at Nag Hammadi, with the emergent perspectives of 21st century psychonautics, and points toward the G3 concept of telestic shamanism.

Publisher's Page. Amazon.com with reviews, including the full-page L.A. Times Sunday Calender section review by Jonathan Kirsch, "The New Gnosis."

By an extraordinary synchronicity, the significance of the Gnostic Egyptian materials was not recognized until the summer of 1947, the moment of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The two greatest textual archeological finds of the 20th century were nearly simultaneous. As it turned out, both the Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi codices were to figure into the entheogenic movement, the DSS in the second generation through John Allegro, and the NHC in the third, when the full extent of entheogenic practices in the ancient Mysteries came to be more clearly understood.

1946 Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda was a best-seller in the USA., and subsequently translated into twenty-five languages. It remains today a classic of the Indian yogic tradition, and a milestone marking the arrival of Asian mahatmas and gurus on Western shores. The Self-Realization Fellowship, founded by Yogananda in 1920 in Los Angeles, is still active.

Yogananda's book contains a spectacular description of samadhi, transport into cosmic consciousness, that he underwent while under the guidance of his guru, Shri Yukteshwar. He links the supreme mystical experience with kundalini, the Serpent Power. Although many accounts of psychonautic illumination resemble that of Yogananda, the role of kundalini in plant-induced ecstatic trance was obscure in G1 and remains so, more or less, today. However, the breakthrough signaled by Jeremy Narby in The Cosmic Serpent brings a whole new perspective to the kundalini issue.

1947 American President Truman introduced the Loyalty Program to allow imprisonment in concentration camps of anyone suspected "to sympathize with totalitarian ideas." The law was targeted at Communists in the USA and, later, anyone who opposed the Korean War. A forerunner of crypto-fascist legislation such as the Patriot Act, the Loyalty Program was heavily cited by Joseph McCarthy, head of the comission for Anti-American activities. His consulting attorney was mobster Meyer Lansky, who was to become a close friend and legel advisor of Richard Nixon. By setting up the infrastructure for the US to deal with Vietnamese druglords who were encouraged to resist the communists, Lansky provided a crucial advantage to Nixon when it came to waging the Vietnam War.

Years later in 1973, Timothy Leary was extradited from Afghanistan by the US government — perhaps the first recorded instance of "extraordinary rendition." He and Joanna-Harcourt Smith arrived in L.A. on the day that Meyer Lansky was charged with tax evasion, threatening President Nixon with the risk that his close link to the Mob would be exposed. According to Joanna (Paramour - My Life with Timothy Leary, unpublished MS to be posted chapter by chapter on this site), Nixon timed the sensational event of capturing Leary, who was condemned as the high-profile proponent of psychedelics and an "ideological trafficker," to distract public attention from Lansky's arrest. And so it went: Leary's arrest was all over the front pages, and the news about Lansky got buried.

Summer 1947 Iin a flight over Mount Rainier, Washington State, Pilot Kenneth Arnold reported a UFO sighting that brought the term "flying saucer" into the mainstream. A month later, on July 7, occurred the alleged crash of an alien spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico. Although dramatic mass sightings of UFO had been happening with increasing frequency through the century, going back to the Fatima miracles of 1917, these two events signalled a wave of mass interest in ET/UFO phenomenon. Summer 1947 launched the modern UFO craze and gave birth to the "extraterrestrial hypothesis": namely, the US government cut a deal with Grey ETs rescued at Roswell, allowing the aliens to experiment on and interbreed with human beings in exchange for secrets of advanced technology.

Of the nine theories of extraterrestial contact currently in play, the ET hypothesis is by far the most widely discussed and accepted. It dovetails in maifold ways with other conspiracy theories involving the Illuminati and Annunaki, in many variations. It would e no exaggeration to say that the ET hypothesis is most widely believed theory of alien intrusion in the world today. For millions around the world, this hypothesis has been confirmed by close encounters, abductions, channelings, and inexplicable sightings. As the psychonatuic adventure unfolds in G2 and G3, it becomes apparent that some kind of alien encounter is present in heightened perception due to psychoactive plants.

Is the psychonautic adventure the portal ("stargate") to an off-planet excursion, or perhaps an exodus of humanity from earth? Or is the ET/UFO encounter a trickster phenomenon intended to teach us something about our unique terrestrial destiny? Ahead, in the G3, we will see in the ayahuasca paintings of Pablo Ameringo (North Atlantic Books, 1991-99) explicit evidence that UFO visions belong to the oldest indigenous traditions on the planet.

November 1947 The emergence of psychoactive tecchnology in the form of LSD in 1943, simultaneous with the development of global destructive technology in the form of the A-bomb and the H-bomb, present a striking parallelism, often been noted by those who want to stress humanity's choice of two paths: auto-annihilation or mass illumination. But perhaps the synchronicity at play here might better be viewed in consideration of a three-fold dynamic, rather than a two-pole dichotomy. Additional to LSD and the bombs, the 1940s brought into history the baffling issue of the ET/UFO connection. This connection emerged in a manner that links it intimately to the formation of the modern State of Israel.

The War Scroll
As noted above on the Gnostic texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in December 1945, the importance of this find was not realized until June 1947. At the exact same moment, in Israel, the first traces of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Through the summer, experts working on the scrolls gradually understood what they had in their hands, but the biggest surprise of all was yet to come. On November 29, 1947, the newly-created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, and setting up the political frame for the modern state of Israel. In short, this plan creates the insoluble problem of Palestinian occupation.

The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate for Palestine, and immediately five Arabic countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – attacked Israel, igniting the Arab-Israeli War.

Due to being the son of Jewish archeologist Eleazar Sukenik, university student Yigael Yadin (1917 - 1984), got wind of the Scrolls as soon as they came to light. In November 1947, Yadin was called into active service by David Ben-Gurion, and became Head of Operations during Israel's War of Independence, making him responsible for many of the key decisions made during the course of that war. In his memoirs Yadin describes his shock of recognition at reading the War Scroll at the very moment that State of Israel was going to war for its independence. He saw in the creation of the independent State of Israel the aim of the militant mystics of Qumran, who wrote the Scroll.

In Not in His Image, I described the origin of the War Scroll in this way: After the Babylonian Captivity, when prominent Jewish scribes absorbed the Zoroastrian concept of absolute duality, Cosmic Good against Cosmic Evil, the ideologues of the Jewish liberation movement called Zadokites began to propound "a new, highly radicalized apocalypticism that emphasized a cosmic confrontation between Good, represented by the Children of Israel, and Evil, represented by just about everyone else in the world. This vision found its ultimate expression in the War Scroll found at Qumran. Reeking hatred and vindictiveness like a choking haze of ammonia fumes, the War Scroll is a bizarre combination of military-drill recital and panoramic mystical vision. It describes the battlefield tactics for the final clash between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. One of the first seven texts found at Qumran, this scroll was initially identified by scholars at the very moment when the United Nations voted to form the state of Israel in November, 1947. The symbolism of this coincidence was not lost on many of those who lived through that dramatic moment, both in Israel and elsewhere."

The point I am suggesting here is that the global conflict facing the world since 1947 may be viewed in terms of higher awareness versus destructive madness, Good versus Evil, but it may be impossible to resolve this polarity without considering a third factor, namely, the non-human, extraterrestrial ET connection. The convergence of these three themes remains an ongoing issue of debate in 2G and 3G psychonautics.

For more on the triangular NHL-DSS-UFO, see Nexus 1947 where I cite specific textual evidence of UFO sightings in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and compare the genocidal apocalyptism of the Scrolls with the psychonautic view of ETs widely developed in Gnostic teachings.

1947 The Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich summarized a unique course of investigation and theorization ongoing since 1935, at the start of G1. Although Reich (who died in a Federal Prison in 1957) was not directly involved in any aspect of the entheogenic movement, he was a key figure in the closely related "encounter groups" of the 1960s, and he was, by some accounts, the pre-eminent guru of sexual liberation. The Function of the Orgasm, which might be ranked among the Top 10 most significant books of the 20th Century, belongs to the "1947 Nexus".

Curiously, the emergence of ET/UFOmania in that same year seemed to have caught Reich's attention, because in the last remaining decade of his life he investigated UFOs and atmospheric phenomena at the Orgone Institute in Rangeley, Maine. His last book was about the UFO phenomena, which he perceived as a symptom of a pernicious degeneration of cosmic orgone, the cosmic life-force. Reich warned of the risk of DOR, deadly orgone radiation. Just before his arrest and imprisonment, Reich discussed his ideas on orgonotics and cosmic superimpositon with Albert Einstein.

1948 - 49 George Orwell (1903 - 1950) wrote 1984, a stark depiction of a totalitarian state in which "Big Brother Is Watching You." In many ways Orwells nightmare has come true. The UK, his native land, now leads the world in the number of surveillance cameras -- CCTV, closed-circuit television -- aimed on the public 24/24, every day of the year. In England today you can throw a gum wrapper in the street and be accosted by a voice from a loadspeaker telling you to pick it up. The political semantic trick of "doublespeak" is now widespread in the global media: the war on terror is a war of terror on the people it claims to protect, etc.

But in one respect Orwell may have been way off the mark. Influenced by the spectre of Stalinist Russia, he imagined a society whose members are forced by constant surveillance and intimidation into enslavement and a life of bleak monotony. Compare this view to Huxley's observation that people will demand and embrace what enslaves them. In Brave New World, Soma is administered by the State, but the citizens accept it and demand it, thus insuring their total compliance with the system that controls and oppresses them. Notrhing matters but the feel-good factor. The most powerful form of control is that which does not have to be enforced but it willingly adopted. (In religious terms, Islam represents this kind of willing, slavish submission to control, more than the other two Abrahamic religions.) We have only to look at the world today to see if Huxley was closer to the truth than Orwell.

April 1950 Roscoe Hillenkoetter, Director of the CIA, approved project BLUEBIRD with the aim to develop mind control programs, produce a "Manchurian Candidate," and experiment on human subjects without their knowledge, in order to deliberately create multiple personalities that could be commanded to perform acts. It was followed (June, 1953) by MK-ULTRA, the most notorious CIA mind control program, finally exposed in 1975, although CIA director Richard Helms had ordered most of the revealing documentation to be destroyed two years previously. Files of MK-ULTRA released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the CIA infiltrated the field of psychonautic research from its inception. Items 57 and 58 of the MK-ULTRA contracts list records $2080.00 provided to R. Gordon Wasson through the CIA front, the Geschickter Foundation, with the notation: "expedition to collect hallucinogenic mushrooms." James Moore, the CIA plant who accompanied Wasson on one trip to Mexico, received two grants (items 52 and 52) totally $95,702 in 1957 and 1958.

1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still, classic sci-fi film depicting the intervention of benovolent aliens.

1951 Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Elaide comes out in French (in English, 1964, on the G1-G2 cusp). Eliade, a comparative mythologist and historian of religions of Rumanian origin who later taught at the University of Chicago. established a profile of the shaman based primarily on Eurasian enthnographical research. This profile was limited and biased, yet it put shamanism on the intellectual map as a topic worthy of discussion and investigation by many non-specialists. Perhaps the most significant factor in Eliade's classic book was the presence of the word ecstasy in the title. It may still not fully be understood that the shamanic and entheogenic path of experience involves a form of knowledge that can only be acquired in a state of ecstasy.

Eliade's profile of the shaman emphasizes the out-of-the-body experience, with the shaman falling into a stupor. He considered that narcotics were used to produce stupefaction and bodily lassitude, not to aid or guide the shaman in the visionary state. Although he mentioned datura ("jimson weed"), laurel, and hashish, Eliade did not go into the use of sacred plant medicines. In fact, he asserted that "narcotics already represent decadence... in default of true ecstatic methods, resource is taken to narcotics to induce trance" (417) and "the use of narcotics is indicative of the decadence of a technique of ecstasy or of its extension to 'lower' peoples or social groups" (417, 477, Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series LXXVI, 2004).

Toward the end of his life (he died in 1986, the same year as Wasson), perhaps in view of what had transpired during the Psychedelic Era, and certainly in knowledge of the vast amount of new evidence indicating the entheogenic nature of shamanisn world-wide, Eliade revised his view.

Sept 1952 R. Gordon Wasson received by mail a cue from Robert Graves about the survival of mushroom cults in Mexico. In 1953, Wasson, Valentina and other colleagues made the first of ten successive trips into the mountains of central Mexico. Wasson first tried mushrooms by himself, along with his daughter Masha who was then 17 (born 1936, the first natural-born child of G1!). Wasson met the photographer Allan Richardson in April 1954 at the Century Club in NYC, and in May they went to Mexico. Richardson took the pictures for the Life Magazine article of May, 1957.

20 November 1952 UFO contactee George Adamski meets the the blond Venusian, Orthon. Adamski's book Flying Saucers Have Landed launched the UFO contactee craze. Well, life imitates art: Adamski's scenario brust into the world one year after the sci-fi film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Fact and fiction are not only mixed in the ET/UFO phenomenon. What can psychonautic vision and research do to help us resolve this problem?

1953 William Burroughs (1914 - 1997), godfather of the Beat Generation, went to the Amazon where he took ayahuasca, reported in The Yage Letters, his exchange with Allen Ginsburg (published 1963, on the G1-G2 cusp).

(NOTE: In the talks on futureprimitive, "Rapture and Revolution," I wrongly said that Burroughs was in the Amazon in the 1930s, around the same time as Artaud. I also misstated the date of Wasson's ceremony with Maria Sabina: it was 1955, not 1952. JLL)


1953 On his first trip to Mexico, R. Gordon Wasson met a one-eyed shaman, Aurelio Carreras, who lived in Huautla de Jimenez, where Wasson later found Maria Sabina. On this occasion, the banker witnessed a ritual of mushroom ingestion but did not participate. Consistent with tradition, Carreras asked Wasson if he had a question or subject for divination, but Wasson did not take this prompt seriously. He asked Carreras to inquire about his son, Peter. Wasson then observed the curandero in a trance, and got details about his son's activities that proved to be correct, and contrary to what he knew (Andy Letcher, Shroom, p 82). He was impressed that the shaman had scored a "palpable hit," but apparently it did not occur to him that the same method could be applied to other, deeper, or more spiritually relevant questions.

1953 American psychiatrist H. Abramson received a grant of $85,000 to investigate whether LSD was effecting in creating "a. memory disturbances; b. discrediting due to aberrant behavior; c. alteration of sexual habits; d. handing over information; e. suggestability; f. dependency." The substance proved more or less unreliable on all counts. Abramson was one of hundreds of psychiatrists funded by the US governnment to research the behavior control potential of psychedelics. Operation Bluebird by Colin Ross exposes this insidious program and gives many facts and names totally unknown to the public. (This book has recently been republished as The CIA Doctors.) See also the excellent two-part documentation on MK-ULTRA and later programs, The Great Deception.

March 1953 Working at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, Frances Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA. Inspired by Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, Crick often took LSD for the purpose of boosting his powers of concentration. It was not publicly disclosed until after his death that Crick was "high on acid" when he and Watson made their momentous discovery, recorded in their co-written book, The Double Helix.

The discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick was simultaneous with Aldous Huxley's first experience with mescaline. One most wonder if some kind of planetary synchronicity applied here. Huxley's initial impressions under the influence of mind-altering chemicals based on sacred plants were esthetic and religions; Crick's concerns were scientific. True to the rule of "set, setting, dose," these two psychonauts saw what was appropriate to their mental frames and settings.
The crucial difference in these two experiences is, of course, disclosure. Huxley wrote and spoke openly of his mescaline visions, but Crick was determined not to allow anyone to know of his experimention with LSD until after his death. We can only wonder how it would have changed the perception, not to mention reception, of his discovery if the LSD factor had been made explicit at the outset!

In Twins and the Double (1993), I proposed that the perception of ancestral spirits and communication with totemic guardians and spiritual forebears among indigenous people is due to the fact that shamans who use psychoactive plants can actually perceive the molecular strucure of nature, including DNA; hence they see into the ancestral dimension.

The vast majority of creation-myths around the world refer to ancestral spirits or cosmogenic deities as twins. Creation begins with twinning, so it is no surprize that Waston and Crick perceived the origin of life in the double helix form of DNA. The DNA molecule is itself a twinned structure, consisting of two strands or railings united by spanners or steps, the cross-bonded nucleotides. This entire structure stores information, including not just the genomic section that defines an individual species such as human or bee or iris, but the entire evolutionary memory of that species, as well. Additionally, DNA is twinned with RNA, the "messenger" that replicates the information stored in the DNA molecule.

Crick perceived under the influence of LSD what shamans perceive who use iboga, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms and other sacred plants that induce visionary trace. The "hallucinations" produced by these plants are only chaotic to those who lack sufficient power of concentration to detect coherent codes in the flood of impressions that come to them. Crick was trained to observe closely, and LSD allowed him the depth perception to peer into the molecular level of nature.

Above left: Ancestor couple from Maketu, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Below right: Chinese creator-twins, Fu Hsi and Nu Kua "exhibit long entwining tails, perfect image of the double helix as a kind of dyadic kundalini" (Twins and the Double).

May 1953 Aldous Huxley, world-famous Britist intellectual and novelist, took mescaline sulfate at his home in the Hollywood Hills. This was the first of what were to be ten psychedelic trips. These experiences inspired Huxley to become a passionate advocate of mind-altering substances, to which he assigned a supreme religious and esthetic value, but he reserved their use for an elite.

1954 The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, a leading G1 psychonaut. This book is widely credited with launching the Psychedelic Movement of the 1960s. Huxley took synthetic psychedelics, mescaline and LSD, but not mushrooms. The LSD story runs in parallel to the Wasson story, and the lines rarely cross, although Huxley did meet Wasson in New York City. The two men did not jive.

1954 Robert E. L. Masters, pioneer in consciousness research and the human potential movement, began experiments with peyote that eventually led to a systematic protocol of LSD psychotherapy. In collaboration with his wife Jean Houston, Masters wrote The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, which appeared in 1966, the first year of Generation 2 of the Psychonautic Adventure. In Generation 3 (post-1995), Masters expanded his work, setting up the Foundation for Mind Research and promulgating what he calls the Master's Psychophysical Method. He explored trance states induced by psychoactive plant as known in many different cultures and countries, and applied the old shamanic techniques to new approaches in education and psychotherapy, as well as in neural, sensory, and kinesthetic re-education for the purpose of overcoming problems and facilitating access to human potentials. His partner, Jean Houston (b 1937), went on to inaugurate a modern "Mystery School," proposing a New Age self-help program for personal empowerment which, however, does not involve the ingestion of psychoactive plants.

Around the same time that Masters was laying the foundations for LSD psychotherapy, Czech psychologist Stan Grof (b 1931), working at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, began research in the clinical uses of psychedelic substances. Grof was one of the first medically trained psychonauts to work systematically in a controlled environment, exploring the heuristic and therapeutic potential of LSD and other psychedelic substances. His extensive experimentation with thousands of subjects led to Holotropic Breathwork, a method of trauma release and regeneration now known world-wide. Grof also formulated the highly influential model of the four perinatal states (stages of "birth trauma") typically undergone in LSD psychotherapy. In 1967, Grof joined Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, thus bringing his work to the USA and assisting the transition from G1 to G2.

In The Passion of the Western Mind, Richard Tarnas wrote: "The most epistemologically significant development in the recent history of depth psychology, and indeed the most important advance in the field as a whole since Freud and Jung themselves, has been the work of Stanislav Grof, which over the past three decades has not only revolutionized psychodynamic theory but also brought forth major implications for many other fields."

Masters, Houston, and Grof, along with Ralph Metzner, belong to that special group of G1 psychonauts whose work and vision span all three generations. (Frances Huxley, nephew of Aldous, and Laura Archer Huxley, who died last month, also belong to this group.) In 2006, ten years into G3, Grof published When the Impossible Happens, a grand summary of his investigations with different kinds of mind-altering substances (excluding, curiously, Psilocybin mushrooms). His concept of spiritual emergency may be a key to humanity's capacity for survival in the coming planetary shift.

April 18, 1955 Albert Einstein died. Among his effects was found, open, on his desk, a copy of Ether, God, and Devil/Cosmic Superimposition by Wilhelm Reich. In close parallel to Gnostic animism, Reich's late writings on cosmology presents a biomystical view of nature that does not mystify the life force (a danger against which Reich stringently warned), but nonetheless elevates it to the level of a divine, supernatural medium. In his final year of life, Einstein may have realized that the universe of Reich is alive, animated and animating—exactly what the psychonaut sees in visionary trance induced by psychoactive plants. "Sensation is the greatest mystery of natural science," Reich wrote in Cosmic Superimposition. In the way it combines visionary and sensuous elements with rational analysis and close observation of bodily sensation, Reich's work with cosmic orgone might as defined as applied Gnosticism. More than any other scientist of the 20th century, he provided the framework for a "new physics" ideally fitted to psychonautic experience.

June 1955 R. Gordon Wasson takes psychoactive mushrooms with Mazatec shaman Maria Sabina, as described in The Banker and the Bruja.

The scene with Aurelio Carreras was replayed in 1957 when Wasson found Maria Sabina, who allowed him to participate in an all-night velada where psychoactive mushrooms were ingested. (Previously, Wasson had tried mushrooms on his own, with disappointing results. This was the first time he did so in a traditional shamanic setting, under the guidance of a veteran psychonaut.) Like Carrera, Maria asked him if he had a question to bring to the tutelary spirits, but Wasson again trivialized the request, asking again about some family matter. In the course of the evening, Maria correctly divined the answer to his question.

Wasson's failure in two instances to bring a specific question to the visionary moment highlights the primary failing of G-1 psychonautics, This omission may have skewed the progress of the earliest psychonautics off course, even before it had a course.

I maintain that the Grail motif of "asking the Question," dramatized in the legend of Parzival, was indicative of the telestic method of the Mysteries: namely, instruction by the Organic Light. To learn from the visionary experience at the level of planetary mind where it originates, it is necessary to bring a question to the Light. If this method is not practiced, the visionary trance induced by psychoactive plants is apt to degenerate into a stream of hallucinations, some of which may have an instructive or inspirational content, but nothing of a consistent or coherent kind.

I call the non-directed trance experience "random viewing," It involves googling codes without being able to read what they say. Downloads from the planetary intelligence are completely wasted if the psychonaut does not bring the sufficient degree of concentration to his/her vision, and one purpose of the question is to steady concentration. The recreational use of psychoactive plants. proceeds without a directive question, so the results are bound to be diverse and chaotic. Telestic shamanism, by contrast, produces consistent results that can be shared and compared between individuals who practice the method.


December 1955 Having described to the world at large his experience with mescaline in The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley tried LSD for the first time. As the story goes, his initiator was one Alfred M. Hubbard, "Captain Al," widely known as the Johnny Appleseed of LSD (a good clip giving some enthusiastic views held about LSD at the time. Unfortunately, it breaks off at the interview with Laura Archer Huxley.) It was Hubbard, who may have been involved with MK-ULTRA, "who originally suggested that an LSD-induced mystical experience might harbor unexplored therapeutic potential. He administered large doses of acid to gravely ill alcoholics with the hope that the ensuing experience would lead to a drastic and permanent change in the way they viewed themselves and the world. The initial results were encouraging" (From Acid Dreams, cited in www.levity.com).

Huxley's experience with acid had definite religious overtones, compared to the primarly esthetic mood of his mescaline visions. Writing to Humphrey Osmond, another important G1 psychonaut, Huxley describes "the direct, total awareness, from the inside, so to say, of Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact. The words, of course, have a kind of indecency and must necessarily ring false, sound like twaddle. But the fact remains."
The extent to which, and manner in which, "cosmic love" plays into the Psychonautic Adventure, is a question raised in G1 and still very much open to debate.

1956 CIA plant James Moore accompanied Wasson to Mexico for further research. As his studies of Mexican mushroom shamanism developed, Wasson's activities became known in certain circles and he received offers for funding. Unbeknownst to him, the Geschickter Fund located in Washington, D.C. was a CIA front. It provided $2000 for his 1956 expedition. In return for this service, Moore, who introduced himself as a colleague of the Fund, was allowed to go along. Trained as an organic chemist at the University of Delaware, he was an expert in rapid synthesis of psychoactive formulas for mind control —a "short-order cook" in CIA jargon. He collected a bag of psychoactive mushrooms and brought them back with him to the Agency, hoping to concoct a psychoactive weapon. The nefarious Sydney Gottlieb, chief honcho of MK-ULTRA, was so thrilled by this development that he advised that Moore's work remain a secret restricted to the Agency and not shared with scientists or academics. (Psychedelics Encyclopedia by Peter Stafford, p. 234)

1956 Religious scholar John Marco Allegro published The Dead Sea Scrolls and presented three talks on the BBC, introducing these ancient documents to the general public. Allegro had joined the translation team in Jerusalem in October 1953, around the time Huxley began experimenting with psilocybin. Allegro's work on the Scrolls was later to lead to an international scandal when he published The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross in 1970, in which he claimed that the assumed Essene community at Qumran, where the Scrolls were discovered in July 1947, was a mushroom cult and Jesus was the name for their sacrament.

Like Wasson, Allegro identified amanita muscaria, the fly agaric mushroom, as the primordial religious sacrament of the human species. Unlike Wasson, he was fascinated by the sexual imagery of the phallic-like amanita and felt compelled to see an orgiastic element in the sacramental rites of mushroom-eating. The dubious connection between psychedelic bliss (compare: shamanic "techniques of ecstasy") and sexual pleasure also surrounded the LSD controversy that erupted at the close of G1. The later career of Allegro figures strongly in G2.

1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

May 1957 Life magazine article, photos by Allen Richardson (reproduced in The Sacred Mushroom Seeker).

Wasson accepts a portion of mushrooms from Maria Sabina
The Sacred Mushroom Seeker, plate 13

1957 Timed to appear with the Life magazine article, Wasson published 512 copies of Mushrooms, Russia, and History in a deluxe two-volume edition. It was just over 30 years since Wasson met Valentina and became consumed by his interest in mushrooms. During those three decades, the Wassons surveyed world-wide lore on mushrooms, but the Russian element was always their primary focus. Despite the huge importance of his meeting with Maria Sabina, not to mention its repercussions far beyond his dilletante world of research, Wasson always looked to the hinterlands of Asia for the source of the prehistorical mushroom cult at the origin of religion. In Soma: The Divine Mushroom (1968) he wrote dismissively of the Mexican travels: "The ten rainy seasons - 1953 to 1962 - spent in the remote mountains of Mexico were a rewarding experience but they were only a diversion from our Eurasian preoccupations." Clearly, Wasson was less concerned to verify his thesis experimentally, as he could have done through delving deeper into psilocybin mushroom shamanism, than to receive academic recognition for his eccentric notion that religion originated from an amanita cult or community located in the Ural Mountains of Eurasia in the Neolithic Age.

As we shall see, Wasson's fixation on the amanita muscaria or fly-agaric, which is not of the Genus Psilocybe, proved to be problematic for him and others...

1957 Drugs and the Mind by Robert S. de Ropp, a biochemist who went into the field of human potential and the search for spiritual enlightenment. He became independent teacher, though never a guru-figure, and established a community in Santa Rosa California around 1967. Drugs and the Mind was the first-of-its-kind survey of the social and spiritual effects of mind-altering substanced including mescaline, alcohol, marijuana, ayahuasca, LSD, codein, coffee, peyote, iboga, hashish, and more. Although the book does not go extensively into some of these substances and plants, it put them into mainstream debate. De Ropp is well worth reading today for his sober and well-considered views on addiction and ataraxia, the state in which mental serenity is combined with optimum physical health.

November 3, 1957 Wilhelm Reich died in a Federal penitentary where he had been imprisoned by the US government on charges of fraud and medical mispractice relating to the use of the orgone box. The year before he died, a huge number of his books were burned by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) in a blatant public display of punishing heresy. This act recalls the inquisitional fury of the Witch Trials, continuing today in what has been called the Pharmacratic Inquisition, defined on deoxy.org:

The Christian persecution of archaic religions based on sacramental ingestion of entheogenic plants and the consequent personal access to ecstatic states; whose first great victory was the destruction of the Eleusinian Mysteries at the end of the fourth century; which then reached a gruesome climax in the persecution of witches in the Middle Ages; and which continues in today's Pharmacratic State in the guise of a public health "War on Drugs."

The term was introduced by Jonathan Ott in Ayahuasca Analogues, 1994, on the G2-G3 cusp: "May the Entheogenic Reformation prevail over the Pharmacratic Inquisition, leading to the spiritual rebirth of humankind at Our Lady Gæa's breasts, from which may ever copiously flow the amrta, the ambrosia, the ayahuasca of eternal life!"

1957 "Contact with Space" Reich's last publication describes his research on UFOs at his private estate, Orgonon, located near Rangely, Maine. For an update on Reich's revolutionary work with UFOs, see the 1-hour film of Peter Robbins, "Orgone Energy, Wilhelm Reich and UFOs"from the 15th Annual International UFO Congress Convention & Film Festival, in 2006.

1958 At the advanced age of 83, Carl Jung published a book on UFOs: Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Jung's views will later by cited by leading G2 psychonaut Terence McKenna as essential to a holistic and planetary view for the survival of humanity.

1959 The CIA and related agencies were purchasing one million doses of Sandoz LSD weekly, and stockpiling it. (Eschohotado, 100)

1960 First CIA director Read Admiral Hillenkoetter told a congressional commitee that "the public has a right to know" about the ET/UFO phenomenon, but the cloak of secrecy was thickened, and cover-up tactics became increasingly Byzantine throughout this decade. Some theorists believe that covert government experiments with psychoactive compounds, applied to the public and even against the public health, were in some cases disguised as ET scares and scams. This analysis fits the interpretation of Jacques Vallee (b. 1939), who began investigating UFOs in the early 1960s. Vallee concluded that the ET/UFO phenomenon, no matter what its actual nature and origin, acts as a "spiritual control system" that psychologically manipulates all those who get involved in it, for better or worse. This view comes close to the Gnostic theory of alien intrusion on the origin and effects of non-human inorganic species called Archons. It might be called the Trickster Theory of alien intrusion. If there is any truth in this theory, careful and disciplined practice with the visionary states induced by psychoactive plants may be the best way we have to understand and master the alien enigma.

Mid 1960s Project MK-ULTRA, dedicated to research with mind-altering substances for behavior modification and Manchurian candidates, gradually wound down, having been unsuccessful with LSD because it proved too unpredicable and tended to instill benign emotions in the subjects. One of the psychiatrists funded by MK-ULTRA, Dr. H. Abramson, concluded that the main effect of LSD is "essentially a joyous disturbance of the ego function," which made it totally useless for governmental purposes!

I962 In Island, his last novel, premier psychonaut and intellectual guru Aldous Huxley described a utopian society in Oceania where a sacred plant potion is the established tool for enlightenment or moksha. His spiritual journey of three decades since writing Brave New World, and his deep immersian in Asian philosophy, inspired Huxley to envision a benign society along Buddhist lines, in which "moksha medicine" (psychedelics) and Tantric sex were customary. His genius was broad enough to see both extremes of human potential, enslavement and liberation.

1962 The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts was, and still is, perhaps the most articulate rendering ever written of a visionary trance induced by lab-produced psychedelics. In addition to lucid passages of description, Watts interjects here and there a snippet of transcendent wisdom, always in his deft, incomparable style:

The conscious ego doesn't know that it is something which that divine organ, the body, is only pretending to be.

There is simply no problem of life: it is completely purposeless play — exuberance which is its own end.

We have lost touch with our original identity, which is not the system of images but the great self-moving gesture of this as yet unremembered moment.

November 1963 In one month three decisive events occurred, two of them on the same day:

In 1963 Harvard University dismissed Timoty Leary and Ricard Alpert after complaints from parents of students involved in experimenting with LSD. They moved to upstate New York, taking over a large mansion in Millbrook, and set up the Castilia Institute where they continued to do research with the mind-altering drug. In November Millbrook was raided (one of several instances) by FBI agents led by G. Gordon Liddy, a CIA thug later convicted of the Watergate break-in.

November 23 John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. On the same day, leading G1 psychonaut Aldous Huxley died, assisted on the definitive journey by a subcutaneous dose of LSD administered by his wife, Laura Archer. In Flashbacks, Leary claims that the day after JFK was murdered he received a phone call from Mary Pinchot Meyer, who had been a mistress of the slain President for over two years. Leary says that she told him: "They couldn't control him [JFK] any more. He was changing too fast. He was learning too much... They'll cover everything up. I gotta come see you. I'm scared. I'm afraid."

JFK is known to have taken LSD. Heard today, his speech against secret societies, citing the risk of government to turn against its own people, and the need for government to be transparent and take responsibility for its errors, sends a chill up the spine in the post-911 world, and could well have been the single overriding reason for his liquidation.

October 1964 Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead as she walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. The murder had the mark of a professional hit.

1964 The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary, and Ralph Metzner. In the final year of the first generation of psychonautics, three men collaborated in an adaptation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead for use as a guide on LSD trips. Available today on line, the book is a small masterpiece that cleverly substitutes the stages of ego death typical of the LSD trip for the stages of physical death and after-death visions described in Tibetan manuals intended to be read to the dying and deceased. Instead of tracing the process of gradual disembodiment, and the dissolving of consciousness through the physical elements, covered in the Tibetan manuals, The Psychedelic Experience is a guide through progressive stages of depersonalization and loss of habitual identity, up to the point of complete ego death, followed by the dawning of the Clear Light and, as recognition of primal reality fades and falters, the mandala-like hallucinations of the Peaceful and Wrathful Dieties.

1964 Ken Kesey (1935 - 2110) and the Merry Pranksters set out across the USA, driving from California to New York in a bus with a destination plaque that read Further. As described in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (ahead, G2).

In 1960 Kesey had signed up to be a guinea pig in a medical research program funded (little did he know) by the CIA. In the insanity ward of Stanford Hospital he was given LSD, causing him to hallucinate a primitive face that later morphed into Chief Broom, a character in his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962). The film version released in 1975, which won Jack Nicholson the Oscar for Best Actor, did much to contribute to the popular disinformation on LSD, portraying psychonauts as reckless clowns and escapees from the nuthouse.

When the Pranksters arrived Millbrook, Timothy Leary was somewhat taken aback by the spectable they presented, although he and Kesey became a lifelong friends. As noted by John Higgs in I Have America Surrounded, an excellent account of Leary and the LSD controversy, TL at that time viewed the psychedelic experience as "essentially British in character." Huxley, Alan Watts, Michael Hollingshead, and Humphrey Osmond, were all Brits who stemmed from the visionary tradition of mystic poet William Blake, so Leary imagined. By making the psychedelic experience "freer, more joyful, and less respectful" (Higgs), the Pranksters brought LSD into the American scene and celebrated it as the social sacrament ("Electric Kool-Aid") that inspired the serious anarchy and sheer fun of the Sixties Revolution.

1965 Dawn of the 2nd Generation

The amount of material published in 1965 in scientific magazines about LSD 25 exceeded in diversity and extent what had been published about all other drugs discovered in the century. Escohotado, A Brief History of Drugs, p 99

Essentials on LSD, which was made illegal both for clinical research and public consumption in 1966, from Erowid.

Three Generations G2 and G3 (in development) will each have separate URLs.






February 19:

Russian complex

Frances Crick
Johnny Appleseed

February 21:
Brave New World


Masters and Houston1984
first overview
A Joyous CosmologyIsland

Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.