LSD is one of the most talked-about drugs ever to exist. That’s ironic but forgivable, because translating the experience into words isn’t easy. Only those who’ve used it really get the meaning of the word “tripping”.
The recent rebirth of LSD is starting a second wave of interest. Given that the competition for attention is absolute garbage like coke and ice, it’s not surprising that LSD is getting pretty positive feedback. It’s like comparing a Rolls Royce to an empty KFC bucket.
The history of LSD, more or less
LSD is famously the original hippie drug. It was discovered much earlier by a Swiss researcher called Hofmann in 1943. Video, a long one, here. Hofmann apparently took a massive dose, (nobody knew you took micrograms, not milligrams) and freaked out. He felt he was losing connection with his young family. His next experience, knowing the world wasn’t ending, was a lot better.
LSD is a synthetic relative of mescaline, to all intents. At roughly the same time, Aldous Huxley was experimenting with mescaline in The Doors of Perception. Being Huxley, he translated it into the correct spiritual context, and bravely tried to describe this new world. (Couldn’t resist.)
The very literate beats (the real name for Beatniks) who preceded the hippies were into grass and hash, and naturally interested in mescaline. A progression from there to LSD was pretty much inevitable, even if it took more than a decade from The Doors of Perception to the start of the hippie era.
The official level of use and understanding of LSD was pretty pathetic and abortive. It was used for “mind control” experiments on US soldiers until the tripping soldiers told the experimenters where to go. A control, it definitely wasn’t, so the self-proclaimed psych geniuses lost interest.
Timothy Leary, the “high priest of acid” became almost but not quite evangelical about it. His “Turn on, tune in, drop out” really was the working principle for a large part of a generation. People did.
…And, of course, LSD promoted moral outrage on the other “official” level, the windbags who drown out everyone else with their outdated views. The nation fighting the Vietnam War was horrified by LSD. What were hundreds of thousands of dead, compared to a few kids dropping acid? They were even having sex without wearing suits and getting married, for god’s sake. Nobody had ever done that before, either. Geriatrics lined up to complain and preach.
Not that anyone cared. It’s a matter of opinion which went happily off the deep end first, visual artists or musicians. One way or another, the visual art scene and music exploded at very nearly the same time. Their audiences dived in with them. The Acid Generation, for want of a better, less jingle-like expression, produced the art and music that still stuns people living in HD wonderland.
Any excuse to listen to that voice will do – Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit:
The LSD society and culture
It’s a matter of simple fact that the most dangerous thing likely to happen to you in an acid community was the risk of seeing a new artwork, poem, or song. Acid users were peaceful people, being people. They weren’t just “activists” or “radicals” or whatever label happens to drip out of the tap. In the middle of the Cold War, that was another risk to the Great Society, and the threat of subversion by fiendish communists was the basis of yet more anti-drug innuendo and prohibition-flavoured denunciations.
Which convoluted logic, to the credit of the human race, was also duly ignored. The acid folk weren’t about to be given lectures in World War 3 or anything equally annoying. Acid became the love and peace drug almost as much by default as much as its own nature.
The “counterculture” was perhaps as close to a tribal culture as Western society has been in thousands of years. It was a lot healthier and much less destructive than it’s even been credited as being, too. Talk about “culture jamming”. The real counterculture shut down the mad culture almost completely where it was able to do so. It actually drove the monster back.
(In case you’ve ever wondered why people who weren’t even born in the 60s “hate hippies”, they’ve been told they hate hippies. Their non-education, supermarket lives and inability to find facts or assess for themselves does the rest, as usual. These are the same people who think Star Trek is pure fiction while using comm systems and everything else in their lives derived from space research, which is practically everything from their clothes to the environment in which they do their jobs.)
Quicksilver’s Fire Brothers is a good example of the sort of new musical aesthetics that the psychedelic era produced.
Chemistry, LSD, and options
The chemical issues were a matter of, well, chemistry. Adding things like strychnine to LSD produced vivid, not to say startling “colors”. LSD colors don’t have to fit in with the visible spectrum. They do relate to the obvious natural optical frequencies, but most people would agree that they sometimes had their own ideas.
The trouble with strychnine is that it hurts when you come down. It’s a range of muscle pains and cramps. Good acid like California Sunshine was better known for fabulous colors without that sort of problem. Clear Light, aka windowpanes, was another cleaner form.
Microdots, tickets (blotting paper), windows, barrels (bigger microdots) sugar cubes, and even, rarely, liquid LSD were the standard formats. It was all acid, but the different types of acid and quality were very much a matter of discussion.
“Bad acid” varied from useless to toxic, contaminated with something that produced lousy trips. El Cheapo too-low dosage stuff or the equivalent of bathtub gin, in effect. They could get away with the low dosages some of the time, because LSD is a very powerful substance. The toxic stuff was typical ripoff version acid.
Let’s clarify one point right now-
When you first take acid, you are moving in to a totally unfamiliar frame of reference for you mind and senses.
You may as well be going out into deep space.
So many people have tried to express this before. I’ll try to add something worthwhile to what’s already been said.
Acid changes your perspectives of everything. It creates new “modes” of experiencing things. It’s fair, if a bit vague-sounding, to say that it adds a dimension to your mind.
You become an explorer in your own living room. The carpet is suddenly fascinating. You notice that your walls are fields of visions of eternity, inexplicably deep, but interesting. Normal things are put into a different context, or sometimes rapid-fire multiple contexts.
TV can be absolutely riveting, or suddenly just another picture among millions, and perhaps not all that interesting. Music becomes very much a matter of preference. You can read while tripping, but if the words suddenly disappear, it’s as much because your focal range is affected as the quality of what you’re reading.
Anything visual, particularly art, can be extremely interesting. Even single lines can become epic adventures into perception. Colors, shapes, forms, and bits of forms get priorities. Walk around among beautiful flowers in a garden, and your optic nerve could have an orgasm.
That’s just the interaction between you and environment around you, let alone the acid doing its own thing. LSD can produce its own images, and they’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before. A lot happens, and you could spend an entire book trying to describe it. In this case, a look, not a picture, is worth a thousand words, at the absolute least.
You will soon understand why the word “tripping” is a verb and a noun as you trip.
Jimi Hendrix, perhaps the world’s most famous acid freak musician, before he became musically famous. Free Spirit is a pretty good description, particularly when you remember that twanging little hooks were considered guitar playing back in 1966 when this track was done.
Trips, good and bad
Freaking out was common enough. Everybody did, with a few exceptions. An acid trip is a very different experience. It’s a trip into the unknown while off your face, literally, and people would panic. Horrible images, monsters, etc. could be a combination of indigestion (types of acidity also cause bad dreams) or some other factor which suddenly became important because of the much-cranked-up awareness while tripping.
Good trips, however, were a combination of revelations and constant mental stimulation. Just about everyone who ever enjoyed an acid trip had some sort of experience which could be called truly inexplicable or extremely unusual. Opinions vary whether this was the drug itself or the fact that people were more aware of their environments as a result of using it. I’d say it’s probably both.
Effects on people of LSD
Some people loved acid. They were real acid freaks, tripping all the time. Other people dropped an occasional trip and didn’t get into it. Some people loathed it, and a very few people experienced no visual effects or much more than a mild euphoria.
There is no doubt at all, however, that some levels of dosage and some people weren’t a good mix. Some people really did overdo it, and if not actually psychotic, they got the wrong side of the experience. Shock, catatonic states, paranoia, you name it. Their brains got too much stimulus. LSD isn’t the only drug that can do that, (speed/ice is actually far more dangerous in that regard), but the effect is a burnout. Some recovered, some didn’t.
The actual effects on people were also literally effects on individuals, one at a time. The mythical lost acid freaks of the 60s, and there were many, were never actually lost. They kept on tripping mentally, while not taking any more acid. The mindsets didn’t change. They were quite happy, so why mess up something good?
Some people weren’t major users, but were fond of their trips. The suburban lifestyle wasn’t great for tripping, but on the weekends, thousands of people would drop their trips and have as much fun as they could (or couldn’t) figure out to have.
The mythology of LSD
Now we get to the difference between the myths and the facts. The moralists were wrong, as usual. Historically, the record of moralists on any subject is lousy. Their version of LSD was simply their preferred vision of themselves as moral authorities as applied to something of which they disapproved. The media suits, whose main role in history is to agree with everything said by whomever or whatever orifice the money’s coming from, agreed.
The acid evangelists were a very variable group. The honest Leary had his antithesis in faddish bozos who were human beings in their spare time while trying to establish “radical credentials” and other windbag pursuits. The fashion guys were a mix of the truly talented and the truly two dimensional. Colourful clothes with weird patterns are fashionable? Fine, here’s the form letter. Conformists cannot promote acid any more than they can promote awareness of anything. They’re not sufficiently individualistic enough to understand it, let alone tell anyone about it.
The trouble was they did talk, incessantly, about LSD. LSD’s reputation came as much from the non-understanding element as those who did understand it, and the “advertising” version of LSD is the standard historical image. It’s quite misleading. You’ll get more sense about LSD, and far fewer outbreaks of verbosity, from those who’ve actually used it than from the media image.
The short version of “acid wisdom”, with the qualifier that it’s my opinion of the folklore, too:
Yes, it’s very different.
Yes, it’s surprising.
No, it’s not about some damn level of cool imposed by others.
It’s a real experience for your mind.
If you have a bad trip, you can get out of it with Valium. It’s not worth it. Stress is not an asset, either to you or the people you’re tripping with, who might also freak out. You have to see a group freaking out to really believe what’s possible.
Don’t do things you don’t feel confident of doing.
Avoid physical risks while tripping. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy it.
Don’t believe the crap about thinking you can fly, etc. People have done that without LSD, notably the original TV Superman.
Don’t get talked into using any drug, particularly a powerful drug.
It’s your decision,100% not negotiable.
Mixing LSD with other drugs
Heroin and opiates will terminate the trip.
Alcohol’s pretty useless as part of a trip. It’s a depressant, to start with.
Coke is like the bubbles in lemonade compared to acid.
Speed and acid do not mix well. That’s not an opinion, it’s an observed fact. Speed seems to trigger the adrenals, meaning you can get scared/aggressive for purely chemical reasons. Avoid ice, period. It’s a truly mean, good for nothing drug, and all it’s likely to do is its usual trick- spoil the trip and annoy whoever you’re with.
Your mind will work OK, but it will work differently. It adapts to the new environment.
Just remember you are tripping and stay away from anything that looks risky. Your survival instincts will protect you from both hallucinations and real issues. Trust them.
Society and LSD
The most amazing thing about LSD is that even the real non-intellectuals who took it suddenly got thoughtful. LSD may not be a cure for ignorance, but it’s a possible mind-opener for people in sitcom mode.
Culturally, LSD was the drug that changed the world, unintentionally. Designer drugs have never even approached it.
Reasons for writing a blog about LSD
I thought a slightly more informed view of LSD without the hype might be of value for new users.
I refuse to tell anyone whether or not they should take a drug. None of my business.
I don’t see that I have any more right to preach than the people I’ve been criticizing. This is an opinion which is as close to the facts as I’ve been able to figure out how to get, not a sermon.
I also wanted to stick to the facts as I know them for sure, without innuendo. LSD can be good or bad, fantastic or frightening. It’s not for everyone. Some love it, others don’t.