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, the 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 filter—or "reticular system," as it is more precisely called—discriminates. 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 irrelevant—or 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 nothing—it 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 thefilter 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 overview—of transcending its own nature, its own habits, its own assumptions—so 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 psyche—a 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 added, ed.]
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 gravitate towards sodomy with animals 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 quality."
"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 body."
"When one turns his attention inward, he discovers a world of 'inner space' which is as vast and as real as the external, physical world."
"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 me."
"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 is wrong."
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 Nature—from 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 authority—an anthropomorphic authority, at any rate—is 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 ingest.
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 false memories.
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 of information.
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.