Interview with Patrick Lundborg: 60’s psych & garage guru, psychedelic culture scholar and author of brilliant „Psychedelia” and „Acid Archives” books

Conradino Beb: Is it true that you’ve been researching your recent book Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life for the last 20 years? How did it come about?

Patrick Lundborg: Yes, absolutely. 20 years may be too low a figure as my earliest notes date back to 1988. But the early 1990s was the time I published my first book and when I could imagine a future in which I would write a book about psychedelia in general, so 20 years seems accurate. The way this began, I was a part of psychedelic artist collective here in Stockholm called the Lumber Island Acid Crew (I named it — Lumber Island is a literal translation of Stockholm), which had formed in the late 1980s.

At that time a number of young men and women up here began dropping LSD and going with the flow of their experiences and out of this came much creativity and much fun. It was primarily a music scene, but there were all kinds of artists and scenemakers. As a member of this group my natural activity would be writing, which I had always enjoyed. I started off writing psychedelic poetry and managed to get some published in Sweden’s largest literary magazine, but ultimately I realized that poetry wasn’t the ideal channel for me and public interest in contemporary poetry was shrinking fast anyway.

I discussed my situation with a friend who was a successful author and he suggested that I could try writing in English, since almost everything we read was in English and even our conversations were littered with anglicisms. At this point I had already published two books, one about ‘60s garage and psychedelia (The Age Of Madness, 1992) and one about the 13th Floor Elevators (The Complete Reference File, 1998), but neither of them contained much in terms of actual writing, they were more like underground scholarship. So in the early 2000s I began writing reviews and articles for various magazines, gradually developing English into my primary language for writing.

I did the Acid Archives book in 2006 which was a big success for me and after that I felt that the time had come to do something with all the psychedelic information I had gathered via newspaper clippings, notes, rare books, trip reports and so on. The problem was that I couldn’t find the proper angle on the material and I knew that I needed to find a perspective that was both new and strong enough to carry a book. So I kept doing my music writing, publishing the second edition of Acid Archives (2010) which again did very well, and waiting for the last piece of my psychedelic writing puzzle to appear.

And finally the angle for my next book did present itself, back in 2010, a process which I describe in the foreword to Psychedelia. I realized that the question of a true psychedelic culture had never been properly studied or even identified, and so that became my mission with the book—approaching psychedelia as its own culture and way of life. This new paradigm helped me discern patterns, both ancient and contemporary, that hadn’t been dealt with before, and it also encouraged me to re-examine the modern history of psychedelics, which began with peyote experiments in the 1890s and grew massively important after Albert Hofmann discovered LSD. Writing Psychedelia book took about 2 years of intense work, but I had actually prepared myself for it for 20 years or more.

CB: There’s a general problem with great narrations, that in order to establish a new one, you need to follow the roots, which are often more imaginary than factual. How strong do you feel is your theory of psychedelia as an underground stream of Western culture in the light of known facts?

PL: This was something that emerged during the writing, and it comes partly from my studies of philosophy and religious history. Obviously the Great Mystery at Eleusis was an exceptionally important ‘ground zero’ for Western psychedelia and while most scholars seem to agree that a psychedelic compound (probably LSA) was used at these huge celebrations, the significance of this fact has not yet been absorbed by our cultural self-image. As I read about Eleusis, and how the pre-Christian Mediterranean culture spread all around Europe, I became increasingly aware that the ‘light of Eleusis’, as Ezra Pound called it, kept on shining long after the Great Temple had been destroyed by the Christian invaders.

I demonstrate in the book how the Eleusinian perspective lingered for centuries among mystics and religious scholars, even if they were supposedly Christian. There was a streak of holism, pantheism and hedonism running through European thought all the way up to late Middle Ages, when the Church Of Rome began purifying the canon and condemning ‘heretics’. Plato was cast out, and with him the spiritual underground that remained from Eleusis. This was however just a bump in the road, as the Italian Renaissance arose shortly after, and of course it brought back all the great pre-Christian beliefs and philosophies, including the highly important Neoplatonism, which is a philosophical system of a distinct psychedelic nature.

Following the Renaissance, the spiritual underground of the West never really disappeared, although individuals were at times forced to hide or abandon their ‘pagan’ interests. So in short, the psychedelic culture was born among the hallucinogenic celebrations at Eleusis, and the beliefs that grew out of Eleusis and Mediterranean Antiquity in general survived as an alternative spiritual philosophy and way of life all the way up to the 20th century, when man was again, finally, able to pursue the hallucinogenic experience on a large scale.

The view I present of this spiritual underground is not a very radical theory in my opinion. Others like Ezra Pound have examined our European heritage and found clear testimonies from free-thinking scholars and philosophers of nature all the way back to Plato. The formal use of psychedelic drugs stands at the beginning and closing of the 2500 year long cycle, but inbetween these poles the message of pantheism, holism, hedonism and Neoplatonism managed to survive century after century.


CB: You’ve pointed in your book – very rightly in my opinion – that 50’s Beat & 60’s freak/head counterculture spread the virus of Eastern mysticism simultaneously with discovering the power of psychedelic drugs and that imprinted a certain style of thinking or even bias about the psychedelic experience itself. But with time this connection seems rather vague owing a lot to „the nature of times”. Could you elaborate on that?

PL: I was asked precisely the same thing in another interview recently, so it seems to be an interesting topic. This is going to be a long answer. There were really two distinct overlaps between psychedelia and Eastern mysticism, and they came about very differently. The first one was the extension of the Buddhist and Hindu studies that the Beats had initiated during the 1950s, taking the theoretical, scholarly views from Oxford and Harvard and asking whether there was a viable lifestyle in the West in these Eastern models. Some of them travelled East also, although that didn’t really become frequent until the hippie era. Kerouac’s Dharma Bums is a terrific example of the sincere experimentation that went on in the ‘50s.

Parallel to this was Alan Watts, who made his own spin on the Far East professor role and strove to make basic Eastern ideas from Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism understandable for the layman. And of course, Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard were very well versed in Eastern studies too. So there was an intellectual interest in making these esoteric teachings useful as a lifestyle, already in the late ‘50s. This impulse was picked up by Timothy Leary & co at Millbrook, who received direct input from Huxley, Watts, Ginsberg and even real gurus and lamas who were paying visit. The feeling that the LSD trip was somehow „buddhist” came to them, and so it became a natural step to bring the whole Eastern spirituality into the realm of the psychedelic research at Millbrook.

This resulted in the Psychedelic Experience book, which is pretty embarrassing to read today, but which influenced many acidheads to associate their trips with Buddhism and (when Leary did his Tao Prayers book) Taoism. This entire chain of influences is easy to trace from the late ‘60s back to the early 1950s, and almost all of those involved were also involved with psychedelic drugs. As for the non-drug Eastern path made popular in the West, this was primarily the Japanese Zen variant of Buddhism, which became quite popular from the late 1950s onwards, due to influential teachers. I spend several pages in Psychedelia detailing how the Zen path in the USA stood separate from the psychedelic influences, and it remained so for the most part.

One reason for this is simply because among the many Eastern schools, Zen is possibly the one that has least in common with the psychedelic experience. A beat writer such as Gary Snyder preferred to stick to his traditional Zen practice rather than joining the free experimentation of his friend Allen Ginsberg. Now, the other major intersection between psychedelic drugs and Eastern belief systems occurred towards the end of the Counterculture phase rather than at the beginning. At this point, meaning the early-mid 1970s, the stream had turn to flow in the opposite direction; people wanted to get into religion in order to get away from the psychedelic lifestyle, rather than to understand it.

From this exodus of burnt-out hippies arose one of the more annoying myths within psychedelic movement and one which I bear down on in the book, namely that the spiritual experiences of Buddhism or Hinduism somehow replace or invalidate the psychedelic experience. People would say things like „you can get to the same place without drugs by meditating”. This is simply bullshit. There is no way you can get into the massive sensory onslaught of a full-spectrum hallucinogen trip without the use of drugs. Meditation doesn’t make you see music streaming out as red and green notes from the speakers, or put you in contact with trickster aliens who explain the secrets of spacetime while juggling bizarre colorful objects in front of your eyes.

Meditation, particularly the tantric techniques that used to be secret, can be very powerful and it can certainly bring you closer to nirvana — if that is your goal. Meditation, in its various forms, is one form of skillful means to attain spiritual enlightenment. Except for certain passing similarities it has no relation to psychedelic drug experiences in either technique, content, or desired end-state. I think this is one of the most important chapters in my book, where I make clear that these are two vastly different spiritual models. The first thing the student needs to figure out is what the goal of his practice is. Does he want to attain nirvana or moksha or another type of classic illumination? Fine, then it’s time to start working on dhyana and vipassana and tantra and purify your mind for an illumination somewhere in the future.

But if the goal is to explore the places and emotions and ideas that you run into during a psychedelic trip, then Buddhism or Hinduism has nothing to offer. To pursue the psychedelic exploration of Innerspace, you use psychedelic drugs. This sounds like a no-brainer, but for decades people have stated otherwise, suggesting that you could skip the LSD or the tryptamines and still go on these extraordinary journeys through Innerspace. Well, you can’t. You have to choose.

In the 1970s many chose the Eastern path without drugs (except grass), which was probably good for them, but I tend to agree with Terence McKenna when he said that all the New Age stuff and guru worship and mountain retreats of the time was simply a case of people running away from the psychedelic experience, because they couldn’t handle it anymore and wanted something less challenging. This is again all good, except that it gave birth to these myths as a process of self-rationalization. Today, in 2013, people are a lot smarter and can tell an acid trip from a meditative state.

CB: Musically in your book you’ve really gone deep as far as psychedelic music is concerned. You even managed to divide non-psychedelic experimentation from psychedelic experimentation. And that must’ve been done to clear the water, especially for the reader who has just dimy intuition of what is what, but in the end you figured that psychedelic music can be even played without psychedelics actually involved in the process. So what’s the bottom line then?

PL: If there is a second edition of Psychedelia, I may include a table or a chart, or something to clarify the situation, because it is pretty complicated. The more I’ve learned about psychedelic music from the 1960s until today, the less clear the picture has become. There is a fundamental definition which I borrowed from a book about psychedelic art, and it says that „psychedelic music is music that is somehow related to the psychedelic experience”. I think this is a good starting point, but it leaves questions unanswered. To fully understand how wide the topic is, one needs to imagine a long, sliding scale of psychedelic music.

At one end you have „pure psychedelia”, which is music made by users of psychedelic drugs for listeners who are under psychedelic drugs. Like that old Spacemen 3 album — taking drugs to make music for people to take drugs to. This is pure psychedelia; everything about it is related back to the psychedelic experience. The two most important truly psychedelic bands, the 13th Floor Elevators and the (early) Grateful Dead both created pure psychedelia. So that is the maximum case of psychedelic music. At the other end of the scale we have music which wasn’t made with any thought of psychedelic music, but which people who take psychedelic drugs seem to enjoy in a special way.

For this to qualify as psychedelic music you have to have a lot of acidheads all saying that this was something special. The closest I can think of is ‘50s exotica, but of course a lot of people like exotica without being psychedelic users. There is also another case at this far end of the psychedelic music scale, and that is „fakedelia” that still works as good music on drugs. This was very common in the ‘60s, where bands wanted to be hip and maybe their labels wanted to cash in on the psychedelic „trend”. So without having any real knowledge about psychedelic music, they listened to the Beatles and the Byrds and the San Francisco groups and then tried to make something similar, with some really spacy lyrics added.

Some of this fake psych music is awful, but because of the general creativity of the 1960s, much of the fake stuff is in fact quite enjoyable, and acidheads will dig it even if they knew that the band weren’t real psychedelicists. This particular „genre” will not appeal to purists, and I used to be skeptical of the so-called „fakedelia”, but over the years I realized that a lot of the psychedelic ‘60s music that I enjoyed was in fact fake psych, and I could do nothing except admit that it worked.

The final word here is that it is almost impossible, even if on real good acid, to tell what is fake from what is true psychedelia when you listen to the music. You can’t be dogmatic because you simply don’t know. In 1967-68 the entire pop culture was so immersed in psychedelic vibrations that people who faked it came out sounding like the real deal. And why not? The more good music to hear, the better. There is more to be said about the subject, but I refer to my book.

CB: As far as 60’s psych bands are concerned, what would you say about The Beatles’ psychedelic period musically? Valid all around or just jumping on the wagon? Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s made much bigger blast than Psychedelic Sounds in its time, but communicated mostly in pop rock language, lacking heavily in acid freak-out department. However they defined the trend!

PL: I don’t think the Beatles were any less psychedelic than the 13th Floor Elevators in terms of the musical output. Songs like Tomorrow Never Knows and Strawberry Fields are masterpieces of early psychedelia and helped push the boundaries of rock music into unknown domains. Nothing like those tracks had really been done before. The Beatles were so important to the entire ‘60s pop culture that they can’t be considered „bandwagon jumpers” in any respect — it was more a question of whether the Beatles would be interested in a certain new style or direction.

If they were, then that style or direction was considered valid and after that the bandwagon jumpers came. The Rolling Stones can be considered bandwagon jumpers when they did Satanic Majesties; but that is still a really good album. The Beatles on the other hand were so early into psychedelic music (Spring 1966), that they were actually pioneers of the style.

CB: Do you think that psychedelic experience can be applied only to art (music, painting, film etc.), cause it’s so non-specific, non-linear or just the timing is still not right as the old utopians would say? Where are you on this?

PL: The psychedelic experience is an extremely powerful modifier of consciousness and personality. Almost all people who do it a few times and have primarily positive, illuminating experiences go through important changes as to who they are, how they see the world and what they want to do. Some of these changes are rapid and noticable, others are very subtle and may not be discovered until you look back on your life and see how you changed your behavior and what caused it. These changes are not random, nor wholly individual—there is a pattern as to what happens to a person who takes psychedelic drugs.

This was studied in the 1960s and was one of the things that the Harvard/Millbrook gang took an interest in, before the whole thing turned into a big drug party. People who take psychedelic drugs enough times tend to become more relaxed, more open to new experiences, more accepting of faults in the world or in themselves, and more prepared to live in situations where the boundaries and rules are unclear or conflicting. One of the classic signs of psychedelization that I like to point to is that one has no problems handling ambivalence and ambiguity, which the modern world is full of.

This is of course because the psychedelic trip rips apart false dichotomies and dualisms like they were wrapping paper, presenting you instead with an Innerspace world where everything is three different things at once and everything is in a flux, like Heraclitus’ „panta rei” or the Merry Pranksters’ „nothing lasts”. Spend enough time in Innerspace and the joy, and magic that goes with it, and everything that used to be rigid and uptight about you will fade away, and be replaced by a person who is both more mature, and in a paradoxical way, more child-like. This is what happens to most people who take psychedelic drugs when they are young, but not too young (you should be out of high school).

Now, the psychedelic experience has a lot to offer people who are working in creative occupations, whether they are actors or sculptors or architects does not matter. When it comes to the most conventional parts of society — the pillars of financial stability, government services, business entrepreneurs, engineering and everything else that built the modern West — I find it difficult to see any immediate benefit from psychedelic drugs, except that it makes white collar workers more relaxed and happier. There is no alternative stock exchange where acidheads trade according to a better system, if you get my point.

These functions of society have been chiselled out over centuries to fit the ambitions and requests of the citizens, and they’re extremely complex balancing acts. I doubt that they can be improved in any controlled way; the alternate psychedelic society would have to go back to scratch and build a different society from pastoral living, animal husbandry, farming and so on. This of course is precisely what a lot of hippies did when they decided to use the insights that the LSD had taught them. So my thinking about this interesting question is that the „square” society, which indeed is square, has grown in a near-organic fashion over many centuries into what it is today.

We may dislike it, but it is there for a purpose, and that is to accommodate people that are square to more or less a degree. There’s still room for creativity and a certain amount of anarchy and fun in this square society, and in some countries people who use psychedelic drugs can do so with very little risk and find that their hometown and its people are alright, square or not. In other countries, such as the USA, the squares are terrified of those who make themselves free, not because they’re a threat, but because they believe their whole society and way of life would collapse if too many people freed their minds and their personalities with psychedelic drugs. And the funny thing is that I think they are right.

One million Americans took LSD enough to become permanently changed, and this created a spiritual counterculture that affected the entire society for a number of years. Imagine what would happen if 100 million Americans took LSD? Those financial pillars and big corporations and government functions would find themselves filled with people who suddenly questioned everything that went on, who decided that they didn’t need this shit in their lives, and walked away from their jobs and the whole grid. Those in the US who perceived LSD as a threat to the American model of „achievement/reward”, entrepreneurship, hard work and capitalism were quite right.

What they might have been wrong about, however, is that the new society that would replace the old rat-race treadmill pyramid game would by necessity be inferior to the old ways. In view of what psychedelics do to healthy, adult people, I think chances are good that a society built by psychedelicists would be superior to what we currently have in the West. But I also think that this can only be achieved by a fundamental collapse of the old system, before a new system is created. This is not an enterprise that can be solved by tinkering and adjusting.

Given what the Western world looks like today, the most predictable outcome are psychedelic enclaves that co-exist with the old system; a model which has already been experimented with and continues to be of great relevance. I believe that this is the future we need to consider, and that is why I spent a whole chapter in the Psychedelia book on discussing psychedelic congregations and communes, building small-scale Utopias.

CB: I really enjoyed reading the passage about psychedelic hints in Apocalypse Now. What would you say about drugged New Hollywod cinema in terms of getting it out on the screen? 70’s was the time when drugs really hit the mainstream. On the other hand you quoted Close Encounters as an example of psychedelic cinema although Spielberg has been known as far-away-from-drugs nerd.

PL: I think I mention in the book that it was unfortunate that New Hollywood, for all its great cretivity and ideas, was so oriented towards realism or even naturalism. While psychedelia lingered in pop culture for many years, the reawakened Hollywood moved away from all things spiritual and hallucinogenic, and did movies about ordinary people struggling with their lives. In Easy Rider there is still an element of psychedelia, but by Five Easy Pieces that is entirely gone. Regarding Spielberg, it’s really not about him but rather about the movie Close Encounters, which I think has this very rare feeling of childlike wonder running through it, which is easy for acidheads to grasp.

In that movie, the world is presented as a slightly unreal mystery which has its people spellbound, and unlike almost all movies, it is a positive and enchanted atmosphere. The way the movie was filmed, particularly the late night scenes, also is reminiscent of how the surroundings might look on a psychedelic night — the big spacey sky, and the sense of being involved in something important. Spielberg never made anything psychedelic again, and it may be a case of accidental psychedelia, but in any event Close Encounters has a specific psychedelic feel hardly ever found in movies — it’s not at all the same vibe as Kubrick’s 2001 as an example.

CB: Going Up The Country (1968) is a song that for many symbolized the very moment, when heads eventually moved out from the city in order to establish rural communities and look for the greener grass. But for me it represents a beginning of a second round – marijuana growing went big and a real business was established in Emerald Triangle. 30-40 years later it finally took American society by storm and weed is bigger there than it ever was. What would you say about that?

PL: Marijuana and the entire cannabis culture of the West is a massive cultural phenomena that needs specialized experts to study and comment upon. There is some overlap between the weed scene and the acid scene, particularly during the counterculture era, but in order to show proper respect for both these gigantic phenomena, they should not be swept into the same fold. I do agree that homegrowing marijuana became a huge hobby (and business) in the 1970s and gave birth to magazines like High Times, which also covered psychedelic drugs. The closest connection here is the homegrown mushrooms, which I describe in some detail in Psychedelia.

CB: Why didn’t you mention in your book that cannabis if taken orally produces as strong effect as LSD (with bigger dose even stronger)? Personally I find a myth of cannabis as a mild psychedelic very amusing. Indian soma might have been a powerful cannabis infusion as a matter of fact, but somehow nobody goes this way.

PL: I agree that orally taken hashish can be very powerful — in fact, I had one of my strongest drug trips ever after eating a hash omelette that a couple of friends had prepared. We may have overdosed it (several grams went into the pan) because all three of us became completely out of it for a number of hours. I had this euphoric rush where I couldn’t stop laughing and when I finally managed to mellow out enough to lie down, it felt like every cell in my body was electric. Interesting stuff and pretty cool I must say. But as I mentioned earlier, I had to make a deliberate choice to leave the cannabis culture for others to write about, as it’s so massive and popular – certainly much more widespread than psychedelics.

CB: Do you think that Western culture is able to produce its own modern path of psychedelic mysticism without mingling in Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism or Christianity and stay more core-related as in neopaganism or some branches of transgressive philosophy?

PL: That is indeed one of the major question my book raises. My view is that we, first of all, need to realize that Psychedelia is a path of its own and not part of any existing spiritual or psychological routes. There are similiarities here and there, but the differences are larger than the similiarities, especially when you look at the contents of the psychedelic experience — which of course is the core of the whole thing. I find it bizarre when people talk about how Eastern meditation replaces or gets them to „the same place” as psychedelic drugs, because it doesn’t.

These people must either have had some really weak acid trips or more likely they have convinced themselves that they don’t need the unique things that psychedelic drugs bring. It is their loss, but I do wish the old myths from the ‘60s-70s about „natural highs” would disappear. Meditation and other skillful means (as the Buddhists call it) are of course very effective and productive paths that have been refined over many hundreds of years and anyone who chooses to follow these spiritual schools with sincere devotion will clearly gain very much from it and perhaps even attain some type of higher state of awareness. The Eastern paths are beautiful and they work — what is wrong is the assumption that they are somehow comparable to the psychedelic drug experience. It’s different paths with different tools, different experiential content and different end states.

So, understanding that Psychedelia represents its own, standalone path of spiritual training is the first step. Moving ahead from that, I believe that there are schools and traditions that are useful to be familiar with as one learns to navigate inside the psychedelic trip. Having done Eastern meditation will be helpful even if the contents are completely different, as the ability to both control and externalize one’s mindstream that is learned in meditation is also highly useful in the psychedelic Innerspace.

Similarly, traditional psychotherapy is often valuable to have been through when embarking on psychedelics, as you’ve trained yourself in identifying your own defenses, hang-ups and reflexes. Particularly during one’s early trips, when there is a lot of cleaning of inner wardrobes going on, a prevously learned understanding of one’s own ego is very good to have. Even as you’re tripping out wildly the preceding training will help you to label moments when you’re reacting from fear or old negative patterns, and this will both lessen the risk of the psychedelic experience, and bring you faster ahead on the psychedelic path.

In addition to Eastern meditation and Western psychotherapy, the two most useful inputs I see fo a psychedelic path are Neoplatonic philosophy, and aboriginal plant drug shamanism. Neoplatonism is useful simply because it is the branch of classic philosophy that is closest to the psychedelic experience of the universe, presenting it as layers of different degrees of realization, through which one can rise by using „contemplation” or, in our case, a hallucinogenic drug.

One might argue that Plato, whose philosophy it after all is founded on, may offer a much richer and better thought-out model of the mind and the world, but Plato dealt with many things not aligned with the psychedelic experience at all, and it is only in some works (especially The Faedon) that we feel the clear presence of his initiation at Eleusis and the view of existence that has a strong spiritual tone. On a technical level, the multi-layered metaphysical structure that Neoplatonism describes may seem a better developed model than Plato’s dualistic notion of forms and ideas.

As for the shamanic traditions, they cover a vital area that none of the other schools or traditions do, and that is the actual navigation in Innerspace as you’re inside the psychedelic trip. The shamans are masters of this domain, and to them Innerspace (the Otherworld) is as real or often more real than the physical world around us. They received their shamanic training by taking massive doses of the entheogenic drugs, until they have themselves travelled all the corners of Otherworld that the shamanic tradition describes.

The master shaman knows the landscape of Innerspace, and he knows the inhabitants, both good and evil, and he knows the games that are played, and his own obligations, and how to handle various specific situations. An experiences acidhead will aquire much of the same knowledge, assuming that he takes sufficiently large doses, and so he becomes in fact a shaman of a tradition not earlier known in the West; he or she becomes a shaman of Innerspace. And in this Western psychedelic path, whether it is through LSD, or mushrooms or DMT/ayahuasca, or something else, there is much that can be learned from the native and mestizo shamans and ayahuasqueros who have traversed Innerspace from the vantage point of their own tradition.
As the drugs are the same or similar, there shouldn’t be any surprise that what an Amazonian shaman describes often rings familiar to a Western fan of entheogens. The tribesmen’s visions will be clothed in the imagery and language of their tradition, and it is not always easy to discern what is folklore and what is immediate psychedelic experience, but by and large, the hundreds of shamanic traditions of Central and South America have much knowledge and practical ideas to offer.

In summary then, I would say that a Western psychedelic path first of all should be understood and defined as its own spiritual tradition, with its own special tools, visionary contents, language, structure of gradual advancement, and possible end-states. Defining these things can only be done by studying and discussing psychedelic experiences, both as immediate impressions and as long-lasting teachings, and gradually build towards a model of the full spiritual tradition. It is somewhat like the early days of Christianity, where the Church Fathers gradually defined what became known as Christian religion. It is a broad effort involving the brains, hearts and spirits of thousands, working patiently until the tradition received a sufficiently stable, agreed-upon form that all the fundamental tenets and rituals could be fixated and sealed.

After agreeing that Psychedelia is its own spiritual tradition, the second step would entail the mapping out of Innerspace, which I spend considerable time discussing in the book. It is a task that has been in progress for decades, yet the forms have been surprisingly ad hoc and somehow disengaged, as though the content of the trip experience was not as important as something else, whatever that may be. For the experienced psychedelicist who has sufficiently cleansed out his unneeded baggage, the challenge should be obvious: go out in Innerspace, see what you can find, try to bring things of value back to baseline, and document this for further discussion and analysis. This is what needs to be done and aggregated into larger bodies of knowledge, much like the work of the Church Fathers.

These two steps offer enough of a challenge to keep the Western psychedelicists busy for a few decades, and until there are signs of progress, it is not that useful to look even further ahead. While I discuss this in general terms as a wide phenomena, there is of course nothing that prevents smaller tribes of acidheads or mushroom eaters to embark on their own project towards creating a canon of Psychedelia teachings and Innerspace maps, and I would be very happy to hear that such enterprises were in progress.

CB: We’d be happy to see it as well. Thx for the interview.

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