The Acid Queen
Chapter 7 of The Storming of the Mind
McClelland and Stewart Ltd., ©Robert Hunter, 1971
The human mind cannot be conceived of as a glass or window through
which information passes without bending or being distorted. Rather,
external phenomena are filtered through a preexisting structure.
This structure itself is shaped by experience and conditioning
and expectations which are themselves, to varying degrees, learned.
This filteror "reticular system," as it is more precisely
calleddiscriminates. It accepts and rejects information, sifting
through the daily barrage of sensory input like a kind of organic
pre-programmed computer. The philosopher, J. Bronowski, has written
about what he calls the "interlocked picture of the world"
which the brain constructs. This picture is not the way
the world looks but rather our way of looking at it. All perceptions,
after having been picked up by the senses, are graded (interviewed,
if you like) and screened by the reticular system before being
forwarded to the mind.
Accordingly, we automatically distinguish between what our experience
has told us is relevant and what is irrelevantor nonfunctional.
This filter is itself shaped by the environment in which the individual
finds himself. The signals and messages he chooses to pick up
are those he has been trained to categorize as being of some importance
to his survival. Others will be deflected. Accordingly, it is
not the "eye" of the artist which permits him to detect
nuances where the non-artist will see nothingit is simply that
the artist will not automatically screen out information which,
to the other, is of no value or importance.
It is likely that LSD attacks this filter, rendering it more porous,
opening up tunnels which would otherwise remain sealed. The effects
of LSD are therefore of deep significance. One's reticular system
is finally the product of one's whole cultural milieu. No culture
could ever remain "intact" if the mental filters of
its members were not synchronized with the larger, more generalized
cultural filter. When LSD disrupts the functioning of the filter,
it removes the individual from this over-all cultural context.
It drives him not "out of his mind," but out of the
filter surrounding his mind.
On the basis of its morality, priorities, prejudices, goals, ideals,
and fears, any given society will roughly impress a similar set
of mental reflexes on its members. Thus, people who grow up in
a given society tend strongly to agree upon certain concepts basic
to the structure of the society. Depending upon the technology
and philosophy of the society, its degree of sophistication, their
views will be approximately representative. And to the extent
that the society is incapable of achieving some kind to overviewof
transcending its own nature, its own habits, its own assumptionsso
too will the perceptions of the individual be limited and inhibited.
The cultural point of view, which is converted into a perceptual
method, is internalized, and each individual becomes a walking
micro-culture. Any device or system which tends to break down
the structure of the individual micro-culture assaults, in the
most direct and specific way possible, the very foundations of
the overculture, the partial and culturally-limited point of view-which
members of a given society share, if they are to have any common
impulse or behavior pattern at all. Or, more to the point, if
they are to be controlled, managed, organized, or led.
A Czech doctor once said that LSD inhibits conditioned reflexes.
To the extent that it does that, it removes the individual from
the context of his culture. It takes him-however temporarily away
from the familiar board, renders the normal rules of the game
useless, and opens him up to a radically-altered perception.
To a lesser degree, regardless of the differences in the chemical
process whereby the effect is achieved, this is also the secret
of marijuana, hashish, peyote and so on: not really that they
"expand" the mind, but that they widen the doors of
perception, as Aldous Huxley said, sometimes just slightly, although
at other times not only is the door (the preconditioned mental
filter) knocked right down, but a whole wall may be demolished,
and sensory data previously blocked out comes pouring in. One
stands exposed, literally, to the elements, suddenly naked.
Few cultures have ever had as much of a vested interest in compartmentalized
perception as technological society. Specialization insists upon
informing individuals deeply but narrowly. And the organization
of specialists from different fields has become the key to technological
success. The "partial and culturally limited point of view"
which has grown up in the West takes its shape mainly from the
incubators of Aristotelian logic, Christian dualism and the concept
of length. These great formative roots have in common an insistence
upon division and fragmentation. Aristotelianism gave us a subject-predicate
language, "with its tendency to treat objects as in isolation
and to have no place for relations." Christianity, of course,
insists upon the theology of God and the Devil, absolute Good
and absolute Evil, Heaven and Hell, the Spirit and the Flesh.
We have already noted the effects of the concept of length. Together,
they provide the conceptual blueprint for the Western psychea
blueprint the outline of which has been blurred by electronic
media, physics and the tremendous insights offered by Gestalt
therapy and general semantics, but which remains nevertheless
the operative design.
It is worth noting, as several writers have pointed out, that
what is existentially astonishing about the LSD experience is
the "discovery" that, mentally, most of us have been
operating within the confines of a quite narrow and sharply restricted
level of consciousness. The dualistic image of the world, which
is our culturally limited way of viewing things, is "real"
only along the avenues of this one wavelength of consciousness.
It is the Oneness of the universe which becomes apparent once
the dualistic image to which the reticular system is harnessed
has been dissolved or broken down. Again, this discovery can be
made through less potent (and dangerous) drugs. It can also
be made without recourse to drugs at all. For the consciousness
which the drug experience offers is not unique; it is not "new";
it is not unnatural; there is nothing "freaky" or "far-out"
or weird about it all, except in the context of contemporary society.
The fact that such a holistic consciousness should be seen
as being irrational reveals nothing except the degree to which
Western civilization itself has become unnatural and freaky. [emphasis
What do you "see" while stoned, whether on pot or acid
or any other "hallucinogen," that isn't already apparent
to a mind not locked in a conceptual cage? The attraction felt
by drug-users for ancient Oriental philosophies and religions
is no mere coincidence. Through their drug experiences they have
come to see a reality not split by Aristotelian logic or Christian
dualism or operationalism. They see things as they were always
seen long before the concrete perceptual foundations of the West
were poured. The "culturally-limited" point of view
stamped upon generations of Europeans and their colonizing children
is suddenly seen, through the medium of drugs, to be the product
of a "narrow and restricted level of consciousness."
To those minds most conditioned by the Western version of consciousness,
the attitudes induced by drugs seem appallingly regressive: the
idea that "primitives" and "savages" and "barbarians"
and "heathens" might have had a better grasp of reality
than their white conquerors does not go down well. It makes white
supremacy a cruel joke. It makes what we have been conditioned
to think of as "civilization" something very close to
a farce. Just incidentally, it renders every established political
context meaningless, at least as meaningless as the artificial
contexts established by economics.
The real fear behind the generally hostile reaction to drugs is
that the insights offered by these drugs might be more valid than
the insights offered by established authority, that what is called
"hallucination" and "illusion" might in fact
be a greater (wider, deeper, more profound) perception of reality
than the ordinary. Suppose that while stoned you do see
things more clearly and directly. Suppose that ordinary (that
is, culturally-conditioned) perception is something like partial
blindness, imperfect, distorted, incomplete. And now allow just
the possibility that drugs might open your eyes wider,
that you might be able through the medium of drugs to perceive
things in a more complete manner, that you might be able to activate
repressed or dormant perceptual faculties within yourself....
Immediately, one can appreciate the threat these drugs represent
to the established order. It is an order dominated by people who
have learned the tricks of surviving and flourishing inside it.
If it may be thought of as an elaborate machine, it is a machine
which some people have learned to operate, and these people, naturally,
have risen to positions of power based on their ability to operate
the controls. They understand this machine. They have a mechanic's
love of its familiar intricacies. Anything which suggests
the existence of another, more complex and pervasive machine,
one whose functioning is not understood by the people who have
learned to work the old machine (or reality) is threatening to
them in the extreme. If a greater reality emerges and claims the
minds of men, what becomes of the lesser reality? It will be consigned,
inevitably, to the garbage heap. And with it, also inevitably,
will go all those who depended on it for their power and authority.
The fear of drugs is deep-rooted, but it has nothing to do with
worries over whether young minds might be corrupted or ruined
or that people will get intoxicated; after all, alcohol is not
so feared. As for fear of young minds being ruined or somehow
"lost" to society, this is at the very least a transparent
rationalization. If the danger of "losing" young citizens
was the authentic cause of the reaction to drugs, then automobiles
would be far more loathed and hated than pot or acid. Who can
argue that the automobile does not claim more young "minds"
(along with their bodies) every weekend in North America than
do drugs in a year? No, the parent who will turn the keys to his
car over to his teenage son, but who will fly into a rage if he
finds a single joint of grass in that same son's room, is reacting
to a fear that runs far deeper than concern for anyone's well-being
other than his own. Instinctively, many in our society have sensed
what is going on: namely, that the premises and assumptions upon
which this social order was built are being shaken at their roots,
and that drugs, in some mysterious way, are a critical factor.
The people who advocate their use, or who, more simply, use
them, are in some fundamental way different. They
come, rather literally, from another world. They are foreigners,
aliens, members of another tribe. The reaction to them is almost
as ferocious as the reaction to immigrants in earlier times.
It was presumably an understanding of this which prompted Eldridge
Cleaver to write that the conflict between the generations today
is deeper, even, than the struggle between the races. Although
it is much more than a purely generational conflict, there are
proportionately far fewer older people who perceive the "greater
reality" than there are young ones.
This great reality is, to begin with, ecological. Ecology, after
all, is merely one of the first of our Western sciences to escape
the clutch of Aristotelian logic. Of necessity, it abandons subject-predicate
methods in favor of relational methods, extends the concept of
the organism-as-a-whole to "organism-as-a-whole-in environments,"
is non-anthropomorphic, and concerns itself with whole systems
in a functional (rather than merely additive) nonlinear manner.
The orders and relations recognized by ecology are "higher;"
that is, they are more profound. Peter Henry Liederman notes that
we are moving from the Dialectic Age to the Ecological or Global
Age. The "greater reality" is becoming increasingly
apparent. "Western philosophy has taught us to think of everything
in terms of dualisms, diametrically opposed, competing opposites.
However, the philosophical base of Western thinking may be undergoing
drastic change, for in science, politics, economics, and even
religion, it is becoming less and less popular to view everything
in isolation from the total system surrounding it."
But ecology recognizes, as yet, only purely physical relationships
and harmonies. The task of exploring further non-physical relationships
has fallen to such embryonic sciences as parapsychology. J. B.
Rhine has been able to verify experimentally the reality of psychokinesis,
extra-sensory perception, precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy.
Evidence is beginning to accumulate that plants have emotions,
that there is a "pool" of vegetable consciousness which
functions telepathically across great distances and possesses
memory. Experiments by Clive Backster indicate that every living
cell has "primary perception," which implies a mind
of sorts. (A test tube sample of human sperm was able to select
its "daddy" from a group of men.) Amoebas, mold cultures,
fresh fruits and vegetables, yeasts and blood samples have all
shown "emotional" reactions recorded on the galvanic
skin-response section of polygraph instruments, and the "power
of prayer" to affect the growth of plants has been repeatedly
demonstrated. The literature which almost overnight has become
available on these new "paranormal" frontiers of the
mind is staggering. While it is true that much of it can be dismissed
as being exploitive and sensationalistic, it remains that empirical
data is accumulating at a tremendous rate. Much of the serious
work being done is going on in the Soviet Union, although Soviet
scientists take the position that psi results (which many of them
acknowledge) must stem from some unknown physical source of energy.
J.B. Rhine, after forty years of experimental work in the field
of parapsychology, was able to put it sweetly: "If a man
criticizes us honestly, I know that he just has his windows cut
to a certain size and can't see any further." And can't
see any further. Here perhaps, is the edge which splits our
society so cleanly into fundamentally different camps. On the
one hand: the predominantly older individuals whose perception
is filtered through a pre-existing operational structure, the
result of previous experience, conditioning and internalization
of culturally-patterned points of view. And on the other: the
mainly younger individuals whose reticular system has been softened
in a variety of ways (electronic media would be one) so that it
is not so tightly bounded and fixed, in terms of what they are
able to perceive; and for these individuals the traditional Western
mode of consciousness is but one wavelength on the spectrum of
perception. Other wavelengths are more apparent to them.
The consciousness which emerges once the walls fashioned by Western
science and religion have been dissolved or penetrated by drugs
is not by any means a peculiar consciousness. The extent to which
it is in harmony with the teachings and intuitive knowledge of
other times and places (pre-technological and non-Aristotelian)
has been clearly revealed by various studies, perhaps the most
definitive one of which was reported by Willis Harman in Main
Currents of Modern Thought :
Through the psychedelic experience persons tend to accept beliefs
which are at variance with the usual conception of the "scientific
world view." In a current study (by C. Savage, W. Harman,
J. Fadiman, and E. Savage) the subjects were given prior to and
immediately after the LSD session, a collection of 100 belief
and value statements to rank according to the extent they felt
the statements expressed their views. Subsequent personality and
behavior-pattern changes were evaluated by standard clinical instruments
and independent interviews. It was found that therapeutic consequences
of the LSD session were predictable on the basis of the extent
to which subjects indicated increased belief in statements such
as the following:
"I believe that I exist not only in the familiar world of
space and time, but also in a realm having a timeless, eternal
"Behind the apparent multiplicity of things in the world
of science and common sense there is a single reality in which
all things are united."
"It is quite possible for people to communicate telepathically,
without any use of sight or hearing, since deep down our minds
are all connected."
"Of course the real self exists on after the death of the
"When one turns his attention inward, he discovers a world
of 'inner space' which is as vast and as real as the external,
"Man is, in essence, eternal and infinite."
"Somehow, I feel I have always existed and always will."
"Although this may sound absurd, I have the feeling that
somehow I have participated in the creation of everything around
"I feel that the mountains and the sea and the stars are
all part of me, and my soul is in touch with the souls of all
creatures." "Each of us potentially has access to vast
realms of knowledge through his own mind, including secrets of
the universe known so far only to a very few."
Note that in accepting these statements the individual is in effect
saying that he is convinced of the possibility of gaining valid
knowledge through an extrasensory mode of perception.
Dr. John Beresford, who has described the discovery of LSD as
possibly the most critical event in human history, remarked: "Take
it once and you know that all you've known about consciousness
The point here is simply to emphasize that the consciousness which
comes into focus through the medium of drugs is basically no different
from the consciousness manifest in various ways in most, if not
all, peoples who have not been snagged by the inherent limitations
of Western thought-processes. Those belief and value statements
just quoted might have been uttered as readily by ancient Chinese,
aboriginal Bantu tribesmen, Eskimos, American Indians, devotees
of the Upanishads, Buddhists, Taoists and Zen masters, as they
were by Westerners who had taken LSD. And those beliefs and values,
while sounding strange coming from the heart of Technology Land,
were by no means strange to these other peoples. What was strange,
even frightening and insane, to them was the Western brand
of logic, which was clearly exploitive, atavistic, and egocentric.
"It is my personal belief, after thirty-five years experience
of it," wrote Sioux Indian doctor Charles Eastman, "that
there is no such thing as 'Christian civilization.' I believe
that Christianity and modern civilization are opposed and irreconcilable,
and that the spirit of Christianity and of our ancient religion
is essentially the same." Dr. Eastman here put his finger
on the crack which has now widened to the point where it is breaking
the established Western churches apart. This Sioux would seem
to be closer in spirit to a modern white pothead or acidhead (and
a lot of others, all of whom could be loosely grouped together
under the heading counter culture) than these whites are to their
own elected representatives, the administrators of their universities
and, certainly in many cases, to their own parents.
Ted Hughes has noted that the fundamental guiding ideas of our
Western civilization derive from Reformed Christianity and from
Old Testament Puritanism, which are based
on the assumption that the earth is a heap of raw materials given
to man by God for his exclusive profit and use. The creepy crawlies
which infest it are devils of dirt and without a soul, also put
there for his exclusive profit and use. By the skin of her teeth,
woman escaped the same role. The subtly apotheosized misogyny
of Reformed Christianity is proportionate to the fanatic rejection
of Nature, and the result has been to exile man from Mother Naturefrom
both inner and outer nature. The story of the mind exiled from
Nature is the story of Western Man. It is the story of his progressively
more desperate search for mechanical and rational and symbolic
securities, which will substitute for the spirit-confidence of
the Nature he has lost. The basic myth for the ideal Westerner's
life is the Quest. The quest for a marriage in the soul or a physical
re-conquest. The lost life must be captured somehow. It is the
story of spiritual romanticism and heroic technological progress.
It is a story of decline. When something abandons Nature, or is
abandoned by Nature, it has lost touch with its creator, and is
called an evolutionary dead end. According to this, our Civilization
is an evolutionary error. Sure enough, when the modern mediumistic
artist looks into his crystal, he sees always the same thing.
He sees the last nightmare of mental disintegration and spiritual
emptiness, under the super-ego of Moses, in its original or in
some Totalitarian form, and the self-anaesthetising schizophrenia
of St. Paul. This is the soul-state of our civilisation. But he
may see something else. He may see a vision of the real Eden,
'excellent as at the first day,' the draughty radiant Paradise
of the animals, which is the actual earth, is the actual Universe:
he may see Pan, whom Nietzsche, first in the depths, mistook for
Dionysus, the vital, somewhat terrible spirit of natural life,
which is new in every second. Even when it is poisoned to the
point of death, its efforts to be itself are new in every second.
This is what will survive, if anything can. And this is the soul-state
of the new world. But while the mice in the field are listening
to the Universe, and moving in the body of nature, where every
living cell is sacred to every other, and all are interdependent,
the housing speculator is peering at the field through a visor,
and behind him stands the whole army of madmen's ideas.
So the "greater reality" is an ecological consciousness,
coupled with an intuitive awareness of the existence of super-sensory
phenomena; it is, further a pantheistic consciousness well-understood
by non-technological peoples, not bounded by an Euclidean, Aristotelian
or Newtonian conceptual framework, a "native" (i.e.,
non-literate, less rigidly structured) sensibility. And it involves,
as well, a kind of existentialism: that is, the awareness that
man is a creature with no excuses. Meaning is something we invent
or create for ourselves; everything we do, whether we are willing
to acknowledge it or not, we choose to do. Authoritarian
religions flourish in direct proportion to the unwillingness of
great numbers of people to assume responsibility for what they
are and what they do. Reliance on a higher moral authorityan
anthropomorphic authority, at any rateis no different from
reliance on a parent for guidance. It is evidence, simply. that
one has not grown up or learned to stand on one's own feet; it
is, in an adult, a form of regressive behavior. The great sense
of reality involves an awareness of more complex orders, higher
levels of interaction and influence, but it does not allow that
these be grasped solely through metaphor or allegory: it demands
that they be perceived directly. The responsibility for bringing
one's behavior into harmony with these more pervasive orders of
existence remains with the individual.
Through the medium of drugs, many people achieve a comprehension
of this reality. Others are "there" to begin with, and
many others find their way to it through other media, such as
creative activity, various kinds of existential group therapy,
Gestalt therapy, General Semantics, yoga, meditation, etc. These
other routes are most arduous, yet when they do finally break
the mind out of its cage, the effects are more lasting and indelible.
By themselves, drugs can awaken individuals to a higher
consciousness, but they cannot keep anyone there. If we may conceive
of "normal" consciousness as being a kind of stupor,
then the individual whose only means of awakening involves recourse
to drugs is in the position of a person who must have cold water
dashed in his face repeatedly to keep him on his feet. There is
more than a bit of Pavlov's dog in all of us. Inevitably, through
habitual activity of any kind, whether dependence on drugs or
an alarm clock or cold water or hot coffee, we get programmed,
and to the extent that we are programmed we are that much less
free and that much less capable of creative behavior; we are also
that much less able to respond in new ways to new situations.
The drug experience cannot be understood in the absence of an
understanding of the events and experiences onto which it impresses
itself. For people who are genuinely turned on, drugs are incidental.
Being turned-on is a state of being which exists to varying degrees,
or at least in its embryonic form, before one comes into
contact with drugs; one's consciousness may be liberated by drugs
only to the extent that it was ripe for liberation to begin with.
The answer is not to be found in drugs; drugs may make the questions
clearer, or even pose them. But what answers there are can be
found only in existence, in the experience of one's being. Turned-off
people generally remain turned off, no matter how many drugs they
Psychedelics are devices which can be made use of by individuals
whose psychology is properly geared to the era we are entering,
just as automobiles are devices used (sometimes well, sometimes
badly) by people geared to the age we are just leaving. The risk
factor is probably about the same. And let us not forget the reactions
of horror and loathing with which the automobile was greeted when
it made its debut. Simply, if we do not consider it immoral to
drive to the supermarket in the jockstrap of a mechanical monster,
why should we consider it immoral to be carried somewhere else
in the arms of a psychopharmacological angel? Drugs lend themselves
to the kind of psychic adjustments which are involved in being
turned on, just as cars lend themselves to the state of mind which
derives some value from mobility.
We may understand the drug phenomenon better if we think in terms
of the need for equilibrium. It was not until the advent of mass
media that the operational mode of consciousness could penetrate
every level of experience. At every point of contact with the
world out there we found ourselves confronted with engineers.
Our emotional responses had been fiddled with, tickled, trained.
Every commercial sought to control these responses. Every government
announcement had been designed to impress itself upon us at the
deepest level possible. Subtle (and often not-so-subtle) manipulation
had become the overwhelmingly dominant characteristic of the mass
society in whose currents we found ourselves washed. Manipulation
is pure operationalism. Almost nothing was said or done "in
public" without a reason. The whole public sector had been
turned into a fantasy world. Not incidentally, but fundamentally.
And not despite "rationality," but strictly in accordance
with the functionalistic imperatives inherent in our concept of
rationality. It was to this world that we related ourselves, incorporating
its distortions into our own systems. Even our "spontaneity,"
in part, had become based on emotional responses patterned on
Yet in its natural state, human consciousness possesses a "center,"
which is not a single point of identity but a psychic ecosystem
of sorts. It was this system whose equilibrium had been massively
disrupted by the full-scale intrusions of technological rationality,
and it was this system which needed to right itself in order for
identity, the touchstone of consciousness, to retain some basic
intactness. Just as physically we require nourishment (real food)
in order to survive, so psychically, we require real, substantial
experience, real events, real people. Certainly, we still have
much of that. But the servings of real experience, in relative
terms, had shrunk drastically in comparison to the unreal experience
with which we were daily confronted. The psyche was to become
undernourished, its internal equilibrium was disrupted, and in
order to regain that equilibrium, to replenish itself, the, psyche
had to make some large re-adjustments. It had to become more adept
at distinguishing real from unreal, in order to reject the toxic
food of unreal experience. And it had to find ways of improving
its immediate perception of things and events. Drugs, insofar
as their use (as opposed to their misuse) assisted
in the process of cleansing the doors of perception, enlarging
them at any rate so that they were no longer contained within
the artificial operational frame, were admirably suited to one
of the essential psychic requirements of the times.
Let us back up a bit at this point and see if we can get a little
closer to what is meant by a "psychic center."
To begin with, not very much is known about the "mind"
except that it is assumed to exist somewhere inside the brain.
That does not narrow the search very much: exploring the brain
is like sending a rocket into space; it is a bottomless universe.
One might ask, where in the midst of the uncharted region am "I"?
There are roughly twelve billion nerve cells inside the brain.
Each is capable of transmitting and receiving impulses from other
nerve cells. Some of these cells may have as many as ten thousand
transmitting terminals each. In comparison to the complexity of
the workings of these cells, the most sophisticated computer is
nothing much more than a toy.
Roughly, the brain is made up of the left and right cerebral hemispheres,
each covered by a deeply folded cortex. Each cortex has a temporal
lobe having something to do with hearing, an occipital lobe relating
to seeing, a parietal region having to do with skin sensations
and muscular activity, and the crucial frontal lobe which gives
us the power to plan. Among other things, the brain also contains
large tracts known only as "Silent Areas" about which
nobody knows very much. Our sense of consciousness is assumed
to be housed in the cortex, popularly known as the seat of the
intellect. But when Wilder Penfield of the Montreal Neurological
Institute explored the cortex of his patients during brain surgery
by "tickling" different parts of it with an electrode,
he discovered that the person being tickled could not be "found"
there. "I" was always somewhere else. As science writer
N. J. Berrill puts it, people make use of the cortex, and may
even in part be embodied there, but they remain "elusive
even though fully at home...." The question of consciousness
is two-fold: What is it and where is it? We know almost nothing
of the nature of thought and little of the relationship of mind
to brain. "One of the few things which is known is that the
activity of the brain is almost pure energy, primarily electrical.
All cell activity is accompanied by electrical charges."
Marshall McLuhan has defined automation as being "a non-specialist
kind of energy or power that can be used in a great variety of
ways." This definition could as easily be applied to the
mind, which could also be referred to as a "total synchronized
electric field." Or, as Jung has described it, "a question
mark arbitrarily confined within the skull." Science writer
Berrill sums up most of what is known about the mind by saying,
rather lamely, "consciousness, thought, the mind itself,
are the expressions or creations of the sum total of the activities
of twelve billion cells, each with multiple extensions and connections.
Together they seem to embody pure energy of an electrical nature."
Our thoughts, our sense of identity itself, somehow emerge out
of the seemingly random interplay of forces within this given
area. How? No one knows. Why? Again, no one knows. Nevertheless,
we take this most central of mysteries for granted. It seldom,
if ever, crosses our "minds" that we do not know what
our "minds" are. "I" exist and am conscious
of being conscious, and it is possible to assume functions, to
take on responsibilities, on the basis of this thinnest of threads
Our "center" is therefore not a given point, but a whole
effect. The impact of mass media and technological rationality
can now perhaps be better understood. Just as the whole eco-system
of the earth can be disrupted by the addition of certain compounds,
so that the system loses its equilibrium and begins to collapse,
so too can the "mind" be affected. The acquisition of
false memories, false sets of responses, etc., disrupted the internal
harmonies of the psyche in just such a fashion. The mind of technological
man had become polluted. Well, everyone knew this. But few realized
just how far the pollution had gone and how dangerous it was.
The earth, obviously, had suffered the effects of pollution for
thousands of years without its atmospheric balance being decisively
affected. It was not until the Industrial Revolution that man's
capacity to pollute took a quantum leap, suddenly threatening
the balance of the whole global eco-system. Individual psychic
ecosystems had, too, been affected by manipulation and tampering
for thousands of years, but it was not until arrival of mass society
that these basic harmonies likewise found themselves threatened
on a gigantic scale. Drugs, at this point, may fairly accurately
be conceived of as detergents being added to oil slick in order
to clean up the mess.
The central point about drugs is the most obvious: the fact that
they do nothing except alter the chemical relationships in the
brain. (The mescaline molecule, for instance, resembles adrenaline.
When mescaline is introduced, this enzyme, mistaking the mescaline
molecules for adrenaline, begins to destroy them. While its attention
is focused on the mescaline, however, the adrenaline begins to
accumulate elsewhere: the enzyme can't handle both.) Once the
chemical environment has been altered, the brain begins to function
differently. It is still functioning. But not in accordance
with established frames of reference. Frequently, it begins to
work overtime. Images, thoughts, impressions, always flashing
about in the background, suddenly move to stage center. The brain
is now functioning in a different continuum. Like an engine run
at high speed, it gets "broken in," accustomed, that
is, to operating at a different frequency, rate of speed, and
along different perceptual avenues. It becomes, in many basic
respects, more agile.
It is, as a result, more prepared to move in new evolutionary
directions. The mind trains with drugs. It acquires new reflexes,
a new kind of coordination. It exercises its muscles and gets
itself ready to take the leap into the future. The drug phenomenon
is not an end. It is the beginning of something which has never
happened before. What will follow is now becoming apparent. Drugs,
finally, are only another medium. In the context of technological
society, acting synergistically in relation to rock music, mass
media, urbanization, and a host of other factors, this major new
medium carries the message of change, real change, as opposed
to a mere change in flags, label, underwear, or oaths of loyalty.