Opposing Worlds – Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures: Drug Effects – Alcohol, Nicotine, LSD, Marijuana – and History
Culture War, Class War Chapter Three:
Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Opposing Worlds
Drugs and Generations
In continuing our exploration of cultural and generational conflict and the Matrix evolving out of that, it is instructive to focus on an aspect of that conflict that has burned with controversy—drug use. Since drugs affect consciousness and personality and different drugs have different effects, looking at the polar opposite views on consciousness altering substances is especially fruitful.
So for additional perspective on the topic of culture war and the processes of cultural change that have gone on since the 1950s between and because of the different generations involved, let us consider the relation between particular drugs, with each their own unique effects on consciousness, and the generation that uses them…or, one might say…between the prevailing drug use of a time and the generational culture that is created.
This chapter—”Opposing Worlds“—deals with the World War Two and the Sixties Generations and their drug use. The next chapter—”Concocted Worlds“—focuses on the generations since—Generation X and Millennial—and their preferences and cultural profiles.
To begin, I present some salient facts for your consideration:
Drugs and Consciousnesses
Drug Research, Public and Private
While it is common to state that drugs act differently on different people—especially, when referring to the less-mainstream, more esoteric ones, whose effects have not been experienced by the majority of people as yet—there are some obvious generalizations that can be made. For example, we would not say that we could not comment on the effects of alcohol. Its effects on the neurochemistry of the brain and on consciousness have been fully and scientifically explored, and of course its effects have been experienced by nearly everyone in our culture. Similarly, though research on the effects of the less-mainstream drugs have not been as thoroughly explored and documented, there is, in fact, quite an extensive body of scientific and popular literature on this, especially over the last half century.
Because of the widespread drug use of the Sixties Generation, massive amounts of money have been spent to try to determine how and in what way people are affected by the substances they used. Though this research has largely been driven by a World-War-Two-Generation desire to find fault with the drugs, so that the research is biased toward looking for and of course then coming up with findings that would be considered negative, still, the research has a good deal of useful information if you can read “between the lines,” so to speak.
Alongside mainstream research there is also a considerable body of privately funded research, which is therefore less biased, as well as a considerable body of anecdotal research on drug effects. By this last I mean that there is a good deal of literature detailing what people have said they have experienced while under the influence of the various substances.
What follows is based on study of both kinds of research described above, as well as from reports by experiencers related to the author. Last but not least, it is a result of the fact that this author is a member of the Sixties Generation, born smack in the middle, in 1950, and it may be concluded that I share some of the characteristics of my generation. Enough said, or, see below.
Alcohol numbs pain and creates a euphoric state by blotting out higher-order cerebral-cortical functioning. It reduces access to memory, diminishes physiomotor skills, blocks anxiety, depression, and nervousness.
These effects alone make it the perfect drug to create and sustain a defensive style centered on denial. Indeed, the drug can be said to “block out reality” in that one can be unaware of aspects of reality that could end up being dangerous and harmful while simultaneously enhancing the positive aspects of reality in an almost manic way. One can feel unafraid and unaware in the face of pain and danger, as well as one can feel confident and overoptimistic in terms of one’s evaluations of oneself, one’s capabilities, and the potential consequences of one’s actions.
We can say these are blocks to reality in that very often reality intervenes, through accidents, adverse social reactions, and the reevaluation of grandiose schemes afterwards “in the cold light of sobriety” in which they are seen to be unrealistic in that they did not take into account other aspects which would prevent their success.
There have historically been entire generations (see below) as well as individuals during any period who have kept themselves “under the influence” pretty much all the time, sometimes considering it to be the natural state. For these folks who rarely venture into that state where decisions and plans are evaluated in a sober “cold light,” we know that the effect is a blocking out of reality in that the effect of acting on the drug-influenced decisions and schemes is most often failure. It is actually disastrous, or way or the other, a good deal of the time more than would be the case following soberly decided acts. It can result in acts leading to harm to the person, to others, or to the physical or social environment.
There are three relevant effects of nicotine: It is a stimulant, it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and can cause sweating from the speeding up of metabolism. This allows it to be used to aid in working situations, where continued or repetitive action is required, beyond what a person would normally wish to do. However, it is not useful in, say, sporting types of action in that another effect of nicotine is a diminished physio-motor capacity. For example, people will sometimes complain of feelings of “wooziness” and/or its affecting one’s sense of balance, particularly if they have taken enough of the drug or are unaccustomed to it.
Nicotine can paradoxically create a depressing effect. This effect on the body can be felt as a relaxation, and sometimes, but only at its onset, as a relatively short lasting feeling of a surrounding warm numbness, which is sometimes termed a buzz. Thus a person can feel relaxed, sometimes to the point of mental depression, but simultaneously be metabolically stimulated. These effects are related to certain psychological effects of taking the drug, if it is taken in the form of smoked tobacco, as in cigarette or pipe smoking.
Janov has pointed out how a cigarette is the perfect breast substitute. Not only does it engage the oral sensory gestalt, but the breathing in of a warm and full air simulates the taking in of warm mother’s milk. Indeed, people who smoke have often, in psychotherapy, discovered that they have severe deprivations around nursing during the neonatal and infancy periods. The appeal of cigarette smoking, then, for these people lies in its ability to both engage and to some degree temporarily satisfy the oral craving carried over from infancy as well as to re-create both the desired warm relaxation, which the neonate or infant would have experienced if he or she would have been tenderly held and breastfed, as well as the depression/sadness that actually was experienced in infancy because the need to nurse was not satisfied.
We will see again and again this interesting pattern in drug effects, which helps to explain their appeal, in that very often they both assuage an underlying Pain as well as re-create it, either simultaneously or at different times of the drug experience. Primal and other psychologists have learned, of course, that those are the two motivations that emanate from early Pain. That is, that a person is driven both to run away from and avoid her or his Pain, yet “the body” (as it is sometimes said) pushes the person to re-create the original situation, over and over again, in what may be considered the psyche’s way of trying to resolve it. Put simply, we are psychologically designed to be forever faced with our problems until we handle them…in the case of primal pain, we stay stuck in the patterns and sensations of our past traumas until we resolve them.
A final effect of cigarette use is its ability to repress anger. Considering the above, it can be seen why cigarette smoking would be related to an “oral rage,” which is how some psychologists have described one of the emotional reactions to nursing deprivation. Stated plainly, a baby would be extremely pissed-off to not get the comforting and nourishing experience of breastfeeding that a human is biologically designed to crave. This anger remains inside, like all primal emotions, and is easily and often brought to consciousness, triggered by the frustrations of normal life, if nothing else.
However, the physical and psychological effects of sucking in a “smoke” are those of (psychologically) sucking back, or inside, one’s feelings and anger or reversing the natural push of anger which is to lash outwardly; they are also that of a kind of holding or controlling of one’s breath, which is also related to the attempt to hold back or control one’s anger in that breathing and emotions are connected (let’s not get into that just here); of replacing the urge to anger with the soothing warm intake described above, the deprivation of which (in nursing) helped to cause the rage in the first place; and, last but not least, to create a state of consciousness altered from the one of anger—one in which feelings are hazily confused and not clear and in which thinking and memory are somewhat impaired.
Drugs, History, and Cultures
Medieval Times, Drunken Adolescents at War
The Hundred Years’ War between England and France during the Middle Ages was fought by adolescents whose primary beverage was wine. In fact, there was one campaign in which England was raiding and advancing into France which turned into a precipitous retreat back to England. Because the French turned them back, stopped them? No. There was little resistance to their advance. However, they did run out of wine! Unable to acquire the needed wine in France (for what reason, I do not know), they could not continue.
History also reports that The Hundred Years’ War was ordered and commanded, oftentimes, by royalty and kings in their teens, who considered a daylong, somewhat intoxicated state to be normal; and it was fought by drunken adolescents and teenagers for the most part.
911 and Phantom WMDs, Gulf of Tonkin, Pearl Harbor, Sinking of The Maine…But at the Start There Was the Wyoming Valley “Massacre”
I have mentioned how The Hundred Years’ War was fought by intoxicated teenagers. It can be added that other wars, including America’s own War of Independence were fought by inebriated soldiers. For example, “in a severe battle, General Putnam, who was almost perforated with bullets, complained most of all, that a shot had passed through his canteen and spilt all his rum….”
Moreover, major events in colonial times were brought about by alcohol-saturated actors. The Wyoming Valley Massacre, in which a handful of colonists were killed by Native Americans, was precipitous in the American’s involvement in the extermination of established Native American cultures and nations—Mohawk, Seneca, especially the Iroquois. The reaction to the “massacre” was a crusade up and around the Hudson Valley in which the Iroquois, among others, was largely eliminated from the face of the Earth. “If they surrendered, they were killed…if they fled, they were killed,” it was said of the nature of this campaign.
What is not very well known is the nature of the precipitating event, the Wyoming Valley Massacre. The true story is that while a number of adult settlers in their prime were off fighting in the Revolutionary war, a group of older, elderly, and fringe citizens gathered one night. Under the heavy influence of spirits the group riled each other up with fiery rhetoric against the nearby Native Americans.
This resulted in a hastily put together, drunken assault against their native neighbors. Naturally these elderly inebriated attackers did not fare very well in their attempt, and the Native’s response had the colonists retreating to their fort. Not everyone made it. About four were captured by Natives. It is said the stragglers’ screams could be heard that night from inside the wall of the fort as they were killed by the Native American defenders.
This “massacre” was built up and slanted against Native Americans for propaganda reasons to garner the colonists’ full-handed participation in the war, with its extermination of Native peoples, as mentioned. It was quite successful in accomplishing that. Consequently, also, the true version of the events that led to such genocide would never be related in history books. And who would ever want to believe that the formative events of great nations…or the calamitous, genocidal events of other nations…could be instigated by a rash action from a small group of idiotic old men in a full-on state of intoxication?
World-War-Two Generation, Driving—Wars and Culture—“Under the Influence”
The World-War-Two Generation grew up in a time in which alcohol use was considered fashionable and elegant. It was common and acceptable for men to carry in their shirt or coat pockets flasks of potent whiskey or other hard liquor, from which they could publicly imbibe a swallow here and there throughout the day. When the World-War-Two Generation came of age, cigarette smoking also became fashionable.
We can see evidence of both of these in the movies that were produced in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties. Any unpleasant occurrence or announcement could be followed by “I need a drink” or “Sounds like you could use a drink.” And offering a drink of hard liquor was considered the first rite in the normal ritual of hospitality. Also, offering someone a cigarette and/or offering to light another’s cigarette were considered a normal part of genteel behavior.
Elegant accouterments accompanied these rituals as well. Ornate, elegant, and often finely crafted metal flasks were purchased and used. In the same way, elegant crystal and glass containers for holding the liquors as well as elaborate and ritually designed glasses into which the alcoholic beverages were poured were commonly owned and used in genteel culture. It was considered fashionable to have a “bar” area in one’s living room containing these liquors, each in separate crystal containers, and the glasses for serving them.
Many a conversation in the movies of the era were shown to be conducted at or near these home bars, following upon the alcoholic bonding ritual of pouring and imbibing the drink. This ritual conversational imbibing of a beverage has its analogies in the water-cooler, coffee klatch, and coffee/espresso-house rituals of other eras and subcultures.
Pointing out the normality and ritualizing of alcohol use in this era is important because it is an indication of the pervasiveness, at any time of day, of the state of consciousness—i.e., intoxication—that this potent drug produces. Since this cultural behavior is still somewhat with us so that its anomalous quality may not be readily apparent, it may be helpful to keep in mind that current drunken driving laws of nearly all states would apply to everyone of that era involving themselves in only a modicum of that alcoholic ritual.
That is to say, those folks, imbibing only one drink, would be considered “drunk” by our standards today, and sufficiently into an altered state of consciousness as to warrant their receiving severe criminal penalties, including jail time, should they put themselves into the driver’s seat of a car.
Yet in that era, normal cultural, business, and social intercourse was often conducted in such a state. Heady decisions concerning war, peace, and everything else were influenced by this culturally accepted drug use.
World War Two, therefore, was conducted and fought by a generation who grew up to believe that alcohol and cigarettes (nicotine) were an acceptable answer to unpleasantness—whether inside or outside of themselves. Alongside this and supporting it were an attitude and beliefs that negative—i.e., unpleasant—emotions and feelings were harmful and should be kept out of consciousness.
Thus, denial was the predominant defense in use; and it is no coincidence that “positive thinking” (popularized by the late Norman Vincent Peale), which is the keeping out of negative thoughts and the striving to focus always on positive ones, became such a rage near the end of their era—the Fifties, early Sixties. [Footnote 1]
Drugs and Generations, Fifties Generation: Marijuana Effects, The Beats, Phoney Baloney, “YOU Do It!”
The Beats: Pot; Peripatetic, Apathetic Mind; Seeing “Plastic” People
The effects of marijuana are more diverse than those of alcohol and nicotine. Yet there are a number of things that can be said about its effects in general. The effects of marijuana are more subtle than the two drugs mentioned thus far. In fact, there are some people who cannot feel the effects of marijuana; and very often it takes several times of using it before one begins to realize its effects. Yet it is not an ineffectual or weak drug by any means.
The reasons why some people cannot feel marijuana’s effects appear to be related to their having very defended personality types, or, one might say they have a great deal of repression. The reason this would affect their ability to feel the drug’s effects are easy to understand when we consider the fact that repression of feelings of trauma would include repression of the ability to feel things in general. A repressed person is a more neurotic, more defended person; and more defended persons are basically defending against painful feelings. But feelings cannot be separated and to repress feelings of Pain means also to repress the ability to be sensitive to other feelings. Hence highly defended or repressed persons can smoke a great deal of marijuana and yet not “get off” or they may just feel feelings of relaxation.
Janov has said that marijuana acts to kind of “bend” defenses, which allows repressed feelings to surface, for those who are not in the category described above, which would include the majority of people. Since we all have some degree of primal pain, we all have defenses to being fully feeling, so the effect of marijuana for the majority of people is to open them to some of the pleasurable feelings that have gotten repressed along with the repression of Pain.
Therefore some widely noted effects of marijuana concern its enhancing sensory ability and therefore pleasure. Listening to music, being in Nature, watching a movie, or sex can all be quite enhanced and different while experienced under the influence of marijuana. Aspects of these experiences that were always there but were never noticed can be explored. One can seem to be experiencing something on many levels at once, or to be fully immersed in the experience so that aspects of it that formerly seemed more “walled off” from one can seem almost tangible in one’s ability to experience it; one can become so immersed in experience that complexities of it can be taken in and enjoyed, which one never even noticed before. [Footnote 2]
Part of the reason for this type of effect of “pot” is that it lowers blood sugar and thus causes the normal cortical defenses to be less effective in blocking out experience. Related to this is a feeling of timelessness—a feeling of being in the Now—which can also be related to the diminished cortical functioning which is goal-oriented and related to linear time. Which brings up another effect: It reduces one’s feelings of needs to achieve or to be goal- or achievement-oriented. The sensory world is what is initially enhanced in the course of one’s experience with this drug; and the experience of the sensory world in its own right does not engage more complex, more “inward,” and more individually unique goals, feelings, scripts, dramas, scenarios, or motivations.
Robert Masters and Jean Houston, in their book, The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, provided an architecture of the psyche, derived from their study of the effects of LSD, that is useful in understanding what can happen eventually with continued use of marijuana. They conducted “depth soundings” of the LSD experience and discovered that there were four levels of the experience: the sensory, the recollective-analytic, the symbolic, and the integral. While marijuana is not as powerful in its effects as LSD, it has a similar effect on consciousness; one might say it acts in the same direction as LSD. In contrast to drugs like alcohol and nicotine, which serve to aid repression and to help to numb or reduce one’s perception of both inner and outer reality, both marijuana and LSD have the effect of opening or enhancing one’s awareness of inner and outer reality.
However, the effects of marijuana are complex because they do not as consistently open one to inner realities as does LSD. Pot opens or enhances one’s experience of the sensory world initially, and as long as it does just this it can be used as a drug of avoidance of painful (inner) reality just like alcohol and nicotine do. That is, one with sufficient repression and defenses can use marijuana to flee from inner pain, depression, or whatever, into an enhanced, pleasurable sensory world that does not trigger one’s pain. At this stage, only, pot can be used to defend against pain and can be psychologically addictive in providing a palliative to pain. Once again, it can do this because it serves only to “bend” not to bust one’s defenses against one’s pain.
Yet for some people this effect of marijuana changes with continued drug use. It is as if the continued “bending” of defenses can eventually lead to a “loosening” of them, and with that loosening comes the deeper level of experience described by Masters and Houston and termed the recollective-analytic. At this level, enhanced sensory experience opens the door, so to speak, to enhanced inner awareness. This enhanced inner awareness can include the awareness of the underlying motivations of oneself and others, and this is mostly not pretty.
Because the normal person is motivated mostly by past, or primal, pains or traumas and is acting out scripts or roles that are pathetic attempts to re-create or struggle with events that happened a long time ago, the normal person is not really IN the present. The person is, as the great religions have described it, in ignorance, in samsara , in dukha, and is basically unreal. The person, as humanistic psychologists have described, is inauthentic and is acting out games or scripts, which they are totally unconscious of. They have identified with these scripts, roles, goals, and motivations—the outgrowth of a completely unique set of past experiences of pain and trauma—and haven’t a clue as to their arbitrary character, let alone of the fact that other people are similarly acting out their own unique roles which are just as arbitrary and, well yes actually, pathetic.
However, pot, just like LSD, can eventually (sometimes even initially for persons who are, perhaps because they are young, or whatever, are unusually undefended, more sensitive, and more open to actual reality) open one to the horrifying perception of the inauthentic and unreal nature of ordinary social behavior. In this state of heightened awareness of the inner world of oneself and others, one perceives oneself and others as puppets or windup dolls, pathetically seeking to satisfy very old needs, which are totally irrelevant to the present context, with others who are similarly and robotlike also seeking to satisfy very different past deprivations. In common parlance, it is said that most actions of people are just “games.” So, part of the horrifying nature of this perception, on the recollective-analytic level of awareness, is that indeed people are not truly relating to each other at all, that they are like people trapped in spacesuits trying to communicate with each other through the layers of barriers between them. [Footnote 3]
What follows from this perception is the conclusion that people are basically phony, or plastic; that life is unreal; that normal motivations in pursuit of normal social values such as achievement, status/popularity, and pleasing appearance are meaningless rituals—games—that are totally irrelevant to the true nature of one’s being or reality; and that one is trapped in this prison of unconscious scripts, with no chance of release or true perception of reality.
The “Beats” – “Phoney Baloney,” So, “YOU do it!”
The “Beat Generation” of the Fifties used marijuana and caffeine, predominantly. Their culture included the rise of existential belief, the glorification and poetification of angst, and the belief that their contemporary society was characterized by alienation, conformism, inauthenticity, and, most tellingly, “phoniness.” The normal life of the World-War-Two Generation was seen as a “rat race,” motivated by such high ideals (sarcasm intended) as “keeping up with the Joneses,” and pervasive materialism and consumerism.
Yet activism was not the Beat Generation’s response to this perceived negative social context, as it would be only a generation later. Passivism, apathy, pessimism, and defeatism were the most common attitudes expressed. This is what one would expect as a result of marijuana use.
Nonetheless, art was deemed a weapon, however impotent, with which to rail against what seemed an overwhelming, huge mainstream ignorance or unconsciousness. So the only apparent activism of that time is found in rebellious poetry, folk music, and fine arts of all kinds, especially literature, theater, painting, and some film.
Drugs and Generations: Drug Effects, LSD and “My Generation”
Drugs and Generations
The preeminent researcher on the effects of LSD on consciousness is, without question, Stanislav Grof. In his many works, he concurs with Masters and Houston’s early work that the initial phases of psychedelic experience are predominantly enhanced sensory awareness. It is this type of experience that is usually related to the use of LSD as when the experience is expressed in colorful and swirling images, which has been called psychedelic art. And for many people who used LSD, the experience remained on this level of surface, enhanced sensory awareness. Thus they could use it for “recreational” purposes.
But more often with LSD people accessed deeper levels of the mind, so that the recollective-analytic (Grof calls it the biographical or psychodynamic level) is reached, as well as levels beyond it. These levels were accessed even when the drug was used “recreationally,” because of the relative potency of the drug as compared with marijuana.
So it was that while Grof and other researchers like Masters and Houston were studying the drugs effects in controlled settings and with sessions guided by researchers who had experience with accessing deeper levels of the experience (as, for example, Grof himself), there was some degree of access of the deeper levels of the experience even by people using it in uncontrolled situations and with no guidance. It if for this reason that there were some calamities that occurred under the influence of the drug, which gave it the bad reputation that caused it to be banned. Yet for every disaster, there were many more whose experience of LSD was transformative, simply due to the fact that, even without a guide, the psyche’s normal tendency is toward growth and resolution; so, many people were able to flow with and be taken to deeper, more transformative levels of the experience.
For example, Stanislav Grof terms the third level of psychedelic experience the perinatal, meaning “surrounding birth.” It is equivalent to what Masters and Houston termed the symbolic level—the difference being due to the fact that perinatal material is initially experienced in highly symbolic ways, and it is only in later sessions with the drug that the birth material becomes more apparent. Since Masters and Houston’s research method was to study the effects of one session of the drug on over two hundred subjects and Grof’s method included its use with some individuals over a number of sessions, it is understandable why Masters and Houston did not discover the birth material laced through the encounters with their “symbolic” level. But beyond the symbolic level the researchers concur once again, with Masters and Houston calling the deepest level integral, and describing a number and variety of spiritual experiences that can happen at that level, and Grof terming the same level the transpersonal , and presenting in exquisite detail in his works a vast array of “spiritual” type experiences at that level.
With this in mind, I wish to point out that the Sixties Generation did not know of these levels and, for the most part, were totally unaware of the research that was coming up with these typographies or architectures of the psyche, or of at least the drug experience. Nevertheless, those of us who lived through that period and either participated in LSD use or heard the stories of psychedelic experiencers can attest that transformative spiritual experiences were quite common, even when the drug was used just for the “fun” sensory part, and people also described experiences of curling up in fetal position and reliving their births, long before anyone even heard the term perinatal. As concerns the spiritual level, it was not uncommon to hear of people who saw Jesus, or who went to a place they could only describe as “heaven,” and this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the varieties of spiritual experiences that were had.
For our purposes here, however, it is important to keep in mind that LSD had the capacity to take one to deeper realities than the horrifying recollective-analytic one. One might say that the recollective-analytic perception is a cognitive view, an intellectual view, or an existential view, and it is certainly an alienated one; but that most of all it lacks the aspect of “the heart.” In other words, it is only when one goes deeper into the psyche and “feels” the Pain of that estrangement, or in psychedelic terms goes deeper into the actual reliving of the traumas that caused the creation of those alienating scripts (as happens on LSD when the biographical or psychodynamic level is reached; and even more so when the perinatal level is worked through, relived), that one can go beyond the horrifying reality of estrangement to a reality in which one’s “heart” is opened and one can catch a glimpse of a reality beyond the normal one—one in which we are all spiritually connected, in Love.
It is significant to point out that LSD has this capacity beyond the use of pot so we might understand the differences between the Beat Generation’s reaction to their perception of the unreality of existence, obtained in their use of marijuana, and the Sixties Generation’s quite different reaction to that perception of social phoniness, who were influenced by the use of both marijuana and LSD.
Vietnam-Era Generation–“Wow, Man!” “Just Do It” “Go With the Flow”
The Vietnam-War, or Baby-Boomer, Generation was noted for their use of a number of drugs. Marijuana, wine, “speed” (amphetamines), “downers” (e.g., “ludes” or qualudes, also “reds”—i.e., barbiturates), LSD, other hallucinogens such as mescaline, “magic mushrooms,” psilocybin, and peyote were all in use. It was a culture of experimentation in all areas, including drugs, which grew out of beliefs (following in the footsteps of the Beat Generation) that normal life/people were characterized by phoniness (plastic was the Vietnam-era Generation’s word for it), alienation, conformism, robotism, and lack of feelingness…and hypocrisy.
Though the Sixties Generation (another term used for this generation) experimented widely with drugs, their predominant drugs of choice were “pot” (marijuana) and LSD. Alongside this sort of drug use were attitudes of activism, free love, love as the ultimate value and/or as equivalent to God, pacifism in regards to the war, the valuing of openness, authenticity, “real” communication, and passion and/or feelingness, including sensory awareness or heightened perception of the physical world.
It is easy to make the connection between the spiritual access capable with LSD and the emphasis on feeling, community, communication (‘rapping”), transcendence, and sensory enhancement that characterized the Sixties Generation. On the negative side, there was sometimes apathy and defeatism, like the Beat Generation, associated with marijuana use.
Drugs and Generations
Marijuana “Cocktails,” History, and Culture
Once the pot experience opens to the second level of awareness—the recollective-analytic, which is deeper and more real than the initial enhanced sensory awareness—there is no going back. That does not mean that people will not try to recapture the earlier type of experience. Very often it is at this point that the person will begin mixing the pot with other drugs, in particular, alcohol, because they will try to block out the deeper awareness with these other drugs that diminish awareness.
Indeed, we saw this happen on a massive scale in the Sixties. Initially, pot users were disdainful of people who used alcohol, calling them “juiceheads.” They were disdainful of alcohol use because they were aware that it reduced awareness and that it had served that purpose for their World-War-Two-Generation parents, who they saw as in great denial of obvious realities—about themselves and the world—as people who did not “walk their talk,” and were…a charge leveled like an arrow at the heart of the WWII Generation’s values and world…”hypocrites”! Thus, regardless the cost the one thing the Sixties Generation did not want to do was to end up like their parents; thus, the disdain for the use of alcohol.
Booze Was the “Apple” in the Psychedelic Eden
However, it is said that the movement changed, exemplified by the differences between Woodstock and Altamont. Woodstock epitomized the height of euphoric use of mind-expanding substances like LSD and marijuana, undiminished by awareness-diminishing drugs like alcohol. And Woodstock was, of course, noted for the fact that it brought together a million people for three days of peace and harmony, a model of nonviolent behavior under adverse conditions that, it was said, was never before exemplified by the alcohol or “juicehead” celebrations or gatherings of the past.
By the time of Altamont—another huge musical event held in California after Woodstock—the change was apparent. Alcohol was now being used, with the other drugs, in abundance; there was no disdain for its use; and violence and death at the event coincided with this change. It might be concluded that the “honeymoon phase,” let us say, of marijuana use had passed for many who were using it, that the heightened sensory awareness was now opening more and more people to the deeper awareness of horrifying psychological realities, which needed to be blocked from awareness by mind-diminishing drugs.
At any rate, the other response to the deeper awareness of horrifying inauthenticity that pot was revealing was for people to stop using marijuana. Indeed, a great many “potheads” abruptly discontinued its use.
And they dealt with the horrifying reality that it had revealed to them in a number of ways, oftentimes turning them into activists to change the social reality, into psychologists or personal growth facilitators to change it on the individual level; but sometimes they tried to retreat into traditional values and culture, only doing it one better—becoming “Jesus freaks,” for example; or they hid away in career and family; or they attempted to build utopian and “authentic” communities of relationship, sans pot.
Some took up the the use of cocaine or amphetamine, finding that the reality that speed revealed hid the horrifying reality of pot, replacing it with an avid and manic identification with one’s roles and scripts. In fact, some used speed with alcohol, then added pot, for a “twist,” and in this way sought to regain the initial innocent sensory euphoria. As the popular song described it at the time, “Just give me weed, whites, and wine….”
Nevertheless, some people simply never had the experience of the horrifying inner inauthenticity of normal existence. Being very defended, they were able to continue to use pot for pleasure, and some of them are able to continue to use it this way to this day. Older folks—middle-aged and up—are especially well-defended and repressed in general. As Janov has pointed out, such persistent and long use of defenses against reality reinforces and strengthens them to such a point as to make them inaccessible to change. Their defenses against painful perceptions cannot be brought down by primal therapy OR pot. In common parlance, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and older people are more “set in their ways.” So it is that when some of these, having missed the “party” during the Sixties, use pot hoping to get a taste of what they missed, they almost never experience anything but the initial sensory awareness and relaxation, that is, if they are able to experience the drug’s effects at all.
Continue with “Culture War, Class War Chapter Four:
Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Concocted Worlds”
Return to Culture War, Class War Chapter Two: Matrix Aroused, the Sixties: How We Became a Nation of Puppets, and the Hidden Puppeteers
1. Just as in the alcohol use, the “positive thinking” fad continues—both of them much abated, of course, since the World-War-Two Generation gradually leaves the scene. Astonishingly, even in this postmodern era, one World-War-Two Generation author admonishes, in huge text no less, in the title on the cover of his popular book: “You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought”! (yipes!)
2. An extremely funny exposition of the effects of marijuana is contained in an album put out during the Sixties titled Child’s Garden of Grass. While its intent is completely comedic—at which it succeeds masterfully—it succeeds more than anything else I know of in depicting, to both the experienced and inexperienced, the most common effects of this trickster drug. Enjoy it below (seriously, only when you have the time to really “grok” it) as it has been reproduced for sharing on youtube.
There are a total of ten parts to “Child’s Garden of Grass.” The ones that follow part one above can be accessed by clicking the youtube link on the player.
3. “Like people trapped in spacesuits trying to communicate with each other through the layers of barriers between them” is the way one person described it, as reported in a book by Kenneth Keniston titled The Uncommitted, which delved into the psychology of one segment of Sixties Youth.
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Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Concocted Worlds”
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Apocalypse No! Chapter Nine:
Twenty-First Century Life –
Table of DisContents
Kaleidoscope of Postmodern Life
Dangling Above an Abyss
Beyond the entertainment media, it seems perinatal themes and elements are showing up everywhere else in our surrounding environment and culture. The scenery of our everyday reality consists of pollution of our air, water, and food; threat of death “at any moment,” caused by the knowledge of the power of nuclear weapons; fantasies of apocalypse of all kinds, magnified, perhaps, by the ending of a millennium and the approach of 2012—including fundamentalist Christian imaginings of an end to human civilization in an apocalyptic “rapture”; New Age fantasies of ecological, spiritual, and social utopias; and so on.
First, let us consider a few of the most blatantly birth-related of the events around us.
The Perinatal Screen
Alien abduction stories, while a relatively recent addition to our cultural landscape, are unusual in the rapidity with which they have gained cultural currency and are telling in the extreme fascination the public has with them. They have catapulted more than one show—The X Files being the prime example, of course—to cult-like status. The photo here is a scene after the abduction of Fox Mulder, one of The X-Files main characters.
Yet Alvin Lawson has pointed out how alien abduction stories are replete with perinatal elements: passing through walls, umbilical beams of connection to the “mother ship”—the placenta—either fetal-looking aliens or aliens whose eyes are most prominent and the lower parts of their faces undistinguished—similar to the way a newborn might see an obstetrician wearing a medical mask.
Then of course there are the elements of being medically probed, measured, samples taken from one, and being swooshed from one place to another with no say on one’s part—all remarkably like the experience of a newborn, right out of the womb. [Footnote 1]
While I do not think that the “alien abduction” phenomenon is just derivative of birth, as Lawson does, I do believe that we perceive these events through a veil of birth trauma, the likes of which the world has never known. My position is explained in the article, “Alien Abductors: Angelic Midwives or Hounds From Hell?“
An interesting development in the alien face is the “shoved down the throat” thing going on. Similar to the “Jacob’s Ladder” kind of vegetable thrusting out, which was described in the last chapter, it was popularized greatly in the movie, “Alien.”
As a neonate we cannot see the mouths of the masked attendants at our birth. In a traumatic situation, whatever is hidden is more feared than what can be seen. As in anything else, onto the unknown we can project the most magnified versions of our fears. When these images arise in us, then, it makes sense that if the mouth is shown it might be even more frightening than that above the mouth.
So in modern times, for the first time in history, we see something going on where these feelings are symbolized as a ferocious mouth coming out of the mouth. The fact that it appears like something that would gag reveals that this image contains elements of the trauma around ungentle mouth suctioning or clearing as well as the reveal of what might be under the mask of the seeming attacker, the obstetrician. Add lots of teeth and you have the perinatal vagina dentate as well, symbolizing the trauma occurring at birth, when actually emerging from the mother.
Rock Concerts (For some, ditto)
Keep in mind that rock music popularity and concert rituals are world-wide phenomena. Youth from nearly all countries are involved in rock culture. Among other things, Lawson, in his article, refers to placental guitars, umbilical mikes, and youths jumping into mosh pits. Mosh pits suggest birth feelings in that they simulate the crushing in the womb.
At birth our consciousness is filled with the feeling of flesh all around. The world is crushing, heaving, rollicking, bouncing flesh everywhere. During a non-cesarean birth one struggles and moves through this flesh to reach space, air, light…freedom. We re-create this pattern of struggle in order to reach the light, or freedom and space, throughout life. It is obvious that mosh pits are attractive, appealing places to re-create the danger of birth alongside the hope of being “held up,” uplifted, and reborn.
The doors of perception…stormed
We could also mention the loud music, fireworks, and flashing and bright explosions of light at these concerts as perinatal in that they re-create the assault of sensation that occurs to the newly emerged fetus—an assault which in one’s mind is like unto a bomb exploding.
The rock groups and their lyrics themselves are often blatantly perinatal. The most obvious example of this was the group, Nirvana, who came out with a CD titled “In Utero.” The fact that the leader of the group, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide is a strong indication of his closeness and access to his perinatal trauma…as I will soon explain.
Pacifiers, Trolls, Crushing Populations, and Global Suffocation
Turning from rock, we see perinatal BPM III elements in the scenery of our everyday lives evident in the rising incidence of violence by children at ever younger ages.
The forms this “regression” has taken include the surprising popularity of a pop song, sung by a very young child, expressing the difficulties of being a baby; the wearing of baby pacifiers as ornaments as a powerful fashion fad; and being enamored of troll-like dolls, which, according to the authors indicate a “regression to the womb.”
Additionally, we see the crushing, no-exit, claustrophobic BPM II elements manifesting in the crushing population densities in major human cities throughout the world.
Gag me with a crowd
One overlooked, but hugely pervasive perinatal element is the increasing carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere called “the greenhouse effect,” which, combined with decreased oxygen levels, is analogous to the situation of “fetal malnutrition,” described by Briend and deMause, that occurs prior to birth, and which is the basis for DeMause’s explanation of poisonous placenta symbolism. [Footnote 4]
At any rate, by this atmospheric rearrangement I mean that, while we reputedly have, and need, an oxygen concentration of twenty percent in our atmosphere, concentrations of oxygen these days, especially in heavily industrial areas, have been measured at much lower levels. For example, an industrial section of Gary, Indiana, was recorded at five percent oxygen concentration. [Footnote 5]
Raging to Reenter, Digging Under Ground
Other evidence for closeness to the perinatal unconscious comes from Kenneth Keniston, who studied the youth of the Sixties. In Keniston’s widely read book of the time titled The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society, he described an increasingly prevalent, unusually influential, and relatively newly emerging personality type, which he discovered in his sociopsychological study of youthful college students.
Among other traits, he found these youth to be characterized by fantasies of a “rage to reenter” the womb; and a “fantasy of fusion” with the mother, which took perinatal forms of all kinds including stories of wishing to dig one’s way back into the earth; a fascination with and wish to return to the past, the long forgotten, and the under ground; and a desire to find oblivion in some enveloping medium…even at the price of self-destruction!
Some of the other elements of Sixties youth were existential angst, being enamored of death and dying, and a refusal of “normal” adulthood. Think about it. Are these descriptions not a lot like we have heard of the generation that followed Sixties youth…the so-called Generation X?
For Generation X, black clothes, white painted faces, and black lipstick are the fashion statement.
And what is this statement of this sector of youth—a statement that began in the Seventies among what was then called the “punk” movement—which includes now the fad of vampirism, except the same fascination with death as Sixties “alienated” youth…again. This fascination is an obvious reflection of the death/rebirth aspects of the perinatal.
Being gratefully dead
Need we remember this same kind of fascination with being dead and then reborn theme from the Sixties as in being “gratefully dead”? It seems that this trend toward easier access to and higher awareness of perinatal influences has been going on for a while now.
Drugs…. Oooooooooo…. Sca-ry….
There are other similarities between the youth of the Sixties and today’s youth: Drug use among youth, as reported in the last decade or so, has been going up again. This also is an indication of an emerging perinatal unconscious because drugs are intimately woven with perinatal influences in a number of ways. Not only can some drugs bring up birth feelings, as Grof’s work has shown, but the mother being drugged while giving birth to her child can result in drug abuse by that child later in life. [Footnote 6]
Lucy in the sewer with depression
Other connections between drug use and perinatal influence: Perinatal feelings are very often of the depressive, no-exit type, and some drugs are temporarily effective antidotes for that. Depression itself is epidemic, indicating the rise of BPM II feelings. There is widespread use of antidepressants in America currently.
Grof has claimed, based upon the tens of thousands of sessions of exploration into the perinatal unconscious that he has personally facilitated and thus observed, that the roots of endogenous—that is to say, deep rooted and engrained, not just situational—depression lie in the no-exit BPM II experience in the womb prior to birth. Furthermore, my personal experience with my own depression and my primal re-experiencing of prenatal, womb feelings, as well as birth, confirms his statement.
Tune inward, turn back, drop down
Finally, psychedelic drugs..LSD… “they’re ba-a-a-ack.” Though they are more discreetly used these days and so are less obviously evident. Various psychedelics and hallucinogens are used at postmodern raves, among many other places.
Their increased use also points to perinatal influences in that it is known that psychedelics—LSD in particular—can help people to access and to some extent resolve perinatal trauma, when taken for purposes of personal growth. [Footnote 7]
“Most Peculiar, Mama!”
We have considered the uniqueness of our times and the elements of the perinatal unconscious. We have followed that with a look at the predominant underlying fantasies and myths of our times—our contemporary collective dreams as projected onto the silver screen, boob tube, and printed page, with a perinatal rock heartbeat of a soundtrack.
Our Nightly News and Neighborhoods
Finally we have taken a look at the anomalous elements of our everyday reality—those confusing and bizarre, newly emerging images that permeate our nightly news and neighborhoods, along with those totally unprecedented cultural, environmental, and social factors that weave the backdrops of our lives.
Going Forward, Explore Our Hells and Heavens
Let us now go deeper. Let us make the connections. Let us explore the way we have reflected our innermost intimate hells and heavens into the fabric of our times. And back again, let us uncover the way the warp and woof of these strangest of days has affected each of us, in our most superficial of behaviors to the most intimate and deepest of our minds. The way forward is down.
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Apocalypse – No! Chapter Ten:
The Scenery of Postmodern Life
1. Alvin H. Lawson, “UFO abductions or birth memories?” Fate, 38(3) March 1985, pp. 68-80; and Alvin H. Lawson, “Perinatal imagery in UFO abduction reports.” In T. Verny (ed.): Pre- and Perinatal Psychology: An Introduction. Human Sciences Press, New York, 1987. [return to text]
2. Alvin H. Lawson, “Placental Guitars, Umbilical Mikes, and the Maternal Rock-Beat: Birth Fantasies and Rock Music Videos.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1994): 335-353. [return to text]
3. Daniela F. Mayr & Artur R. Boelderl, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1993): 143-156. [return to text]
4. A. Briend, “Fetal Malnutrition: The Price of Upright Posture?” British Medical Journal 2 (1979): 317-319. [return to text]
5. As reported in the book, O2xygen Therapies by Ed McCabe. 99-RD1 Morrisville, NY 13408: Energy Publications, 1988. Other examples of lowered oxygen levels in various arenas of our lives are given in the book as well, and the book is thoroughly documented. It makes a convincing case for the lowered oxygen levels as they relate to the rise of a number of diseases. The connection of these lowered levels to mental states is my own addition. I also owe a lot of understanding of toxins as they relate to mental states to George Watson’s rare 1976 work, Nutrition and Your Mind. [return to text]
6. There is another overlooked factor or aspect of this rise in drug use: These youngsters are the sons and daughters of the Sixties generation who, in their own youth, as we all know too well, engaged in drug experimentation. This new generation of drug users has been called the baby-boomer “echo” generation.
Unlike the preceding “echo” generation of the Eighties—whose parents’ young adulthood occurred during the Great Depression and World War Two, and whose own young adult formative years occurred during the Eisenhower–Joe McCarthy–Presley Fifties and who were thus influenced by their parents to conservatism, career-mindedness, and, for drug-of-choice, alcohol—this “echo” generation has parents whose young adulthood was forged in the rebellion, drug and sex experimentation, activism, liberal-radicalism, and idealism of the Sixties.
See my website/book Culture War, Class War, especially Chapter Two: Matrix Aroused, the Sixties and Chapter Four: Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Concocted Worlds and Chapter Five: The King Won’t Die – An Aborted Changing of the Guard.
Generationally speaking, we know that children do not predominantly rebel to the opposite of their parents’ values. Keniston, for one, has made it clear—referring to studies done as evidence—that children are paramountly influenced by the values and attitudes…conscious and unconscious…of their parents. So this new youth is going to be more liberal in their attitude to drug use, even if their parents, in their coming into adulthood, overtly decry or are against the use of drugs. Keep in mind also that many of the baby-boomers have retained, not reversed, their acceptance of drug experimentation, and many still believe in and use drugs; many still considering the occasional use of certain types—especially the psychedelics, and to some extent, pot—to be an aid to self-development and/or spiritual awareness.
The myth that youth rebel against their parents’ values was expressed and propagandized by the TV show “Family Ties.” This was an oh-so-convenient portrayal, as it contributed to the pervasive scapegoating of the Sixties generation by the Eisenhower–Joe McCarthy–Presley generation who came into their Triumphant Phase, that is, took over the reins of society as mature adults in the Eighties.
This “Family Ties” kind of rebellion, however inaccurate, seems to be credible largely as a result of the observation that youth do rebel against their parents. But it ignores the fact that when they do, and they don’t always, they revolt or rebel, as in the Sixties youth, most often in the direction of being more so in terms of the values of their parents. As Keniston found out, for example, as he described in his follow-up to The Uncommitted, in the book, Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth, radical youth had liberal (hardly conservative!) parents.
If they were angry at their parents it was out of their perception of their parents as compromising and not living out their own expressed ideals, as laid out to their children in raising them…therefore, out of their disgust at their parents as “not walking their talk.” Hence, as we may recollect, there was the oft-repeated charge of “hypocrite” directed by some of these youth toward their parental generation.
In this regard it might also be noted that this new crop of youngsters, the sons and daughters of the Sixties Generation, has also seen increases in voting for liberal or Democratic candidates. Their turnout for Clinton in 1992 was the first time since the Seventies that the youth vote went Democratic. Their support of Obama was widely given as the reason for his success. This new cohort of youth also has seen increases in idealism, activism, and volunteerism, and—despite the AIDS scare—in early and/or increased sexual experimentation (the fledgling “youth celibacy movement” is long gone, folks).
These aspects and generational phenomena are spelled out in more detail in my work-in-progress, The Once and Current Generation: Regression, Mysticism, and “My Generation.” Right at hand, however, you can read an elaboration of some of these ideas in the chapters mentioned in Culture War, Class War—especially Chapters One through Seven. [return to text]
7. And for those who have cynically adopted the line that either psychedelics are another drug that blots out one’s Pain or that they are only used for recreational or sensual/hedonistic purposes or that the kinds of birth experiences that Grof describes as occurring on LSD only occur in supervised and guided sessions, like the ones he offered…for those who have dismissed psychedelics and LSD in any of these ways, let me say,
First, psychedelics, especially LSD and to some extent, even marijuana, are known to act in the brain in a way almost exactly the opposite of the drugs used to escape from reality—such as, for example, alcohol; speed, crack, or cocaine; nicotine; or heroin—though this news flies in the face of the myth put out by the all-encompassing anti-drug propaganda machine, which puts all drugs in the same category. This is common knowledge among researchers and scientists who study these things. For elaboration, see Culture War, Class War Chapter Three: Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Opposing Worlds—especially the part on “Drugs and Consciousness“—as well as subsequent chapters of that book/website.
Second, that drugs are only used for recreational purposes is patently false. Though the vast majority of drug use is recreational, there are in print many examples, and the admissions of many authors, of the use of LSD by individuals and groups for purposes of personal growth. And, in my own limited exploration, personal growth was my motivation. In fact, many people are afraid to take the drug LSD, knowing full well that its effects are not always pleasurable or recreational. So why would they accept that risk if they did not have some other intent, like personal growth, for experimenting on themselves with it?
Finally, before I had ever heard of such a possibility of reliving one’s birth, let alone heard of Grof, or Janov for that matter, I learned that at least one person at my university on LSD found himself feeling like a fetus and then going through a process of struggling through a birth canal, and so on. [return to text]
Copyright © 1999, 2011 by Michael Derzak Adzema
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Apocalypse – No! Chapter Ten:
Birth Wars, World Woes
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