DRUG: A Workshop Seminar


The Workshop never had a policy regarding drugs, however there were seminars and “rap session” discussions concerning drug use. Hallucinogens were seen as tools; spiritual research into a deeper worldview. Pot was common and abundantly consumed. Alcohol, heroin and prescriptive drugs were strictly “death culture” and scorned. Common “household drugs” were associated with toxicity, cloudy bourgeois thinking and discouraged. One recorded Workshop seminar called DRUG was conducted by James Semark for inclusion in a future issue of Work. DRUG was a classic seminar in the sense of how it describes the psychedelic experience and of how open and sincere the members were during the interview/ seminar.

DRUG was recorded and transcribed by James Semark. The entire piece ran over twenty typed pages and was intended for a special issue of WORK, but was cut at the last minute. Following are some excerpts from the original DRUG interview made during June of 1965. It shows the heightened degree of analysis and awareness happening at the workshop in regards to psychedelic drugs.

During the spring of 1965, LSD had arrived at the Workshop through connections in California.A week prior to this interview, at least two of the participants “JS and “JC” had taken a half gram of mescaline sulfate, each, approximately at the same time. The other participants had recently taken quantities of peyote and 125 microgram doses of LSD…

JC: I think that I was into a pretty “weird scene.” I don’t like to use cliché words, it was like a disassociated personality. I was talking like there were- -I was separating the different parts of my personality and using them like they were different people…l always wanted to be there, now. I always wanted to talk to the other part of the person, who was always there, now, not the person who went off into “flights of fantasy” or the person who went to calculating about the past…or future. I don’t know if I’d seen any good results. I went off into about a three-day psychosis I’d never been into, in my life!

JS: I got into a nice thing with some other people, S… and M…(male and female), as we were walking down in the “ruins” out there on Warren Avenue. We were walking and all of a sudden started talking about this feeling thing. It seemed like–on waves of emotion. We’d express a conceptual thing and a feeling thing together, and a self-disassociated self together. We’d be talking, say, “I-how-we-you feel?” It was a mutual thing. “I” was no longer as involving as “we” at the same time as we were being “we”. JS asked JC to elaborate on his statement made during a previous (but largely inaudible) interview: “This is where I always start to flip out, when I can really feel it. When I really know that I am.”

JC: I would like to talk about that except that I might start to flip out. That’s what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid to really talk about this like we were the other day. But then again, I think I have a little more control of myself now than I did then, because– primarily because I don’t disassociate one part from the other. Now, I’m trying to be here, in every sense to be here, and not to be….If you split up your mind into these different categories… well…it’s arbitrary categories. You start making up. a little fucking world of your own, because none of them exist. It’s not in the nature of the thing that they exist.

LW: You think that without splitting up, you could have existed in all those different worlds, and still have been you?

JC: I think I could have. That’s what I wanted to… but then I wasn’t doing that.

JC: Then again, taking the whole thing into consideration, there were some residual effects…(general laughter)…effects from this LSD. We’re all experiencing this getting high. The psychedelic experience is so easy–just going off into it. I believe that there is some area of conscious activity in–what was at one time–unconscious activity, or not-recallable fact.

JS: The whole thing sounds like Donald Duck going quack quack, because you’re both trying to talk about something that’s impossible to express.

DC: I think we’re expressing it quite well.

JS: That’s what all language sounds like anymore. Like a lot of Mickey Mouse cartoons.

LW: Well, the reality is Mickey Mouse cartoons. It is – It’s true! Mickey Mouse is more real than the fucking newspaper, man~ Look at him. He’s concerned with Minnie. He’s concerned with all those characters. That’s what’s happening. And Donald Duck Orange Juice is a perversion. Like, it should be Mickey Mouse Orange Juice. (laughter)

JC: Well, if the individual is truly honest with this –which is what we were getting into, to a point–I don’t think I was ready to get honest with myself. And that’s how I started to flip out. When I started getting honest with myself and tearing off all the bullshit structures, then I really started seeing what the fuck was really going on, what really did exist–and I didn’t know it… Just hide from the fucking reality. It may be groovier. When you get down to it- the reality you know is fucking meaningless. You have to have a creative quality, too, — to get away from all of that.

JS: What I found out was a more…a closer…interest to, say “total empathy” or “satori ” is also accompanied by a greater degree of sensibility.

JC: But in that respect, these eastern religious people, who used to get into this, were into it pretty heavily. They never jumped into anything, and it was almost like–a western neurologist who put it in terms–that they were setting up a system of conditioned reflexes and responses. Like they were getting their subconscious mind in order. When they learned, when they were ready, then they could allow themselves–because they had such a beautiful subconscious and such a beautiful memory system set up–they could go off into “trips,” then. This might be just a little analogy-story, but it is the way that I’m–sort of–comprehending it. My subconscious is a sort of random process, and all kinds of different things are there, and a lot of it, most of it, I haven’t even touched… When you start opening up your nervous system chemically, when you can start roving around in it–or actually, your subconscious plays a stronger role, you’re more aware of these things in your subconscious, and your conscious is “wigging out”~ if you haven’t got things straightened up, it’s going to be a horrifying fucking world, and all of these things were coming out of my fucking mind. It wasn’t really happening.

JS: Well, when I get into it, I’m still coming up against the facts. Like the scene I told you about, wandering through the street on peyote. I was seeing more than I normally do…. those are the realities. I can see more and react faster and in a much more adequate way toward those realities, if I allow myself to be continually presented with the facts–and in a more relaxed setting….

DC: If you really take everybody else’s things in, you can send off things of your own to them. That’s what really happens.

JC: A lot of times, you automatically get paranoid that things start falling into a pattern in your mind.

LW: The most discomfort that I experienced in situations is confusion. That’s the one thing–in psychedelic states–that I can’t take. My mind usually seems to be so ordered, that when I see a social group in a …?.. (confused?)-type situation, and that’s only been once. At that time, there were a great number of people that weren’t on psychedelics~ that were into… a…

JS: Funny bag.

LW: Not necessarily. What I mean is a characteristic, a young reefer-head situation. I was trying to get out of this. It annoys me. But it was around me.

JS: Some people’s ego-clinging can be so inflexible, and their hearts so untouchable, that it puts them way out on a limb. They withdraw and act out stereotypes so much, and they can’t see why. Like my interacting with Sue the other day. Since-then:-I ve been able to open up a new line of communication with her, and we talk to each other with the heart, and flow along in that manner.

JC: I think your concept of psychedelics and ego-loss is an oversimplification. It’s sort of hindering the whole thing. For one thing, the terms seem to be taken from a weird para-psychological system that really, I don’t think –is applicable to anything. Western psychology takes away from the individual the incentive to understand himself. It gives you this weird system– at least that is what I’ve done–taking what they say about psychology and saying “well that’s me -that’s how I work and that’s how I function.” And when I get into these psychedelic things, I get all these weird preconditions about…”transcending my ego.” But really you get into it better, if you just become conscious of people–and of yourself, and your interactions with them. You know, I don’t think the whole thing is bullshit, its just based on the language that’s used. Western psychology is really a non-psychology, and all it’s really accomplishing is that its making the individual give up the responsibility of being himself-and starting to think in a system.

JS: That’s just like we were talking about, the other day. In a historical religious view, it seems as though both the eastern and western ideologies are so… negative. They talk about “giving up” the “ego” or “transcending the ego”… whatever they call it– Its all the same thing. Here we are, sensitive, sensible people trying to live in an antagonistic civilization. I think that a balance is in order, but it is necessary to affirm and emphasize positive values to bring about this balance. There’s a much more positive outlook happening. There’s this thing about feeling, too. The cat was right when he said that you have to perceive Tao by Mind and Heart, together. The biggest hang-up that I had– that I still have–although I’ve adapted to it, now –LSD or any psychedelics, that morning-glory seed experience of mine–these catalysts turn on huge reservoirs of feeling. Male and female who are lucky to be together to let this feeling flow together– but as long as I am not permitted this experience, I get an extreme reaction– while under the influence of these catalysts. The expressions of my feeling are not well received. The outflow of these expressions is stunted. I get into extreme reactions, like feeling my skin crawling–nervous tensions–psychosis. If couples do it, they should be able to make it all the way, without hang-ups.

JC: …but when we get into the dark, with all these hallucinations happening, like her eyes are there shining out at you, and her face starts turning different… forms and colors… We stayed about two hours with all the lights out. I forgot that I had a body. It was a pure mind-feeling thing. Just floating around, nowhere in space, nowhere in time. This thing happened, like we’d been here for eternity. When we turned on a light, I was embarrassed to find the realities that were around me– the room–going back into this thing.

DC; That there were actually people outside.

JC: It was the same reality, but it was a different–just like a film-layer of it. The whole structure sort-of existed, but in a different way. Parts of it were left out, like material realities.

JS: All the needs that people have, all the love that they have to give out, the different types of people–actually each is unique. I’m getting to the conviction that all these situations are unique, of the unlimited possibilities of UNIQUENESS in relationships and situations with people. That’s a good point that you made, your experience with a woman. Something I realize more and more, in recent experiences I’ve had with females. When you get down to basic understanding, then you can begin your relationship. Needs and drives are like a diamond. You look at a diamond from a distance and it looks like…a diamond. Look at it closely, however, and you see tiny facets or aspects of it. I’m beginning to realize that this basic understanding is what’s needed first. Then we can build our relationships.

JC: You’ve experienced it, and sense-patterns were set up in your conscious mind at the time of experience. That pattern is never left out of the nervous system. It’s always there. Like going into trips into your subconscious. These patterns start random-flashing into your conscious, and when you get into these waking-walking psychoses things, like I was on for three days, these things were like… one time when I was down by Joe G.’s house, I wasn’t there at all! I was off into somewhere… When I was a child, that’s what this place reminded me exactly of. When I was a child, I went into a penny-candy store. I bought about ten cents worth of penny candy. …it was really a weird thing. It was just these flashes. It came back in the emotion, but it was more then the emotional quality. The emotional qualities were…common to many experiences. The conceptual pattern was just a symbolic representation of an emotional thing. This emotional thing… you know… could have been anything.

LW: Its the setting for a stage that’s not physical at al1.

JS: Why I keep confusing and why I keep misinterpreting what you’re saying, is because I’ve never hallucinated at all. Not on psychedelics, at least. The aural effects, like the “singing” of the light bulbs or the passing of distant vehicles–I can recognize and enjoy these sensations, not become confused by them. I’ve experienced visual distortion, behind morning glory seeds and peyote, if I block out one or the other eye.

JC: I am sure that I never understood what the nature of hallucinations were, until I started experiencing them, just last week. I think that every explanation of every hallucination that I’ve ever read about was a description by a person who observed hallucination. When you observe a hallucination and when you experience a hallucination are two different things. I’m sure that you’ve experienced hallucinations, but that they’ve never come out in fruition. But I was so eager, and was so mind-blown that this thing actually happened to me, that I started to… wanted to describe it and communicate it. If people had let me go on, and an outside observer just sat and watched me, and had me tell him what was going on there at the time, and then had himself look at what was going on, he would have seen that there were two different things going on, and that mine was a hallucination.

JS: Well, I’ll give you an idea of what my two biggest experiences have consisted of… Simply this; Over a period of time, I feel a gradual opening of awareness (although words are incapable of describing that feeling. I can portray the feeling more adequately on the piano, in fact). Things become more real. The fascination is in this state where things are more beautiful. The height isn’t too long after it starts, and I feel the KNOWING in me. I feel that I am just a bodily clothing for the KNOWiNG, a physical manifestation of the KNOWING… It flows through me. I like to give an analogy of sea-waves crashing on a beach. At the bottom of each wave, in the foam, in the very last trickle of water as it flows back, there are ideas. ideas. ideas. Most of the time, I want to form a construction. like a dam or sea-wall, a temporary device to correlate these myriads of ideas with overt reality. Superficially, the appearances of so many ideas or pre-conceptual thought-forms, are very confusing–the complexities are confusing. Yet they demand to be related to the overt circumstances. But behind a deep realization, I mean as I begin to get some really deep insight into myself, I find that the Knowing takes care of itself. This is my own personal experience and evaluation. To conclude, after that occurs, after the apex of my insight has been reached, all I try to do is to begin finding ways (or better– let the ways find themselves) to adapt my vision, this neural pattern that I retain with my environment. That is the “conclusion” of my experiences.

JC: Well, the last few days, or the last evening, it was just a matter of smoking a little pot, and these weird changes start happening again. They went off into psychotic hallucination-fantasies, and then went off into the psychedelic flowing and knowing stages, later. The first thing. ..I always tried to evolve these things by reaching them by way of these fantasies. Like right now, if someone started talking to you, and started agreeing with everything you’re saying, and really listening to you. If they were perceptive enough to solve little points where your thinking was leading, and if you were willing enough…they could get you into a weird thing. You get to a point where you start getting very paranoid about what is happening. Then you start getting hallucinations. I’m beginning to think that the beginning of the adrenalin happening is fear. That’s the way I’ve been seeing it.

JS: I know what you mean although I went through a non-psychedelic thing–the experience of it. For many years, I reasoned through the existentialist and absurdist positions. Camus, Sartre, Neitchze, Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and the others. I tried to test these ideas experientially, to live them, and I came to a point where I just couldn’t act. To paraphrase the Tao, it says that he who thinks does not act; he who acts does not think. Well, I got to the first part, but I couldn’t figure out the meaning, the full import of the second part. That’s where I was when I first tripped out. I had speculated, for many years, on what satori would be like, and I think I have a hint of what it would feel like. When I took the trip, I found out what the second part of the phrase was about. Learning to think with the heart and feel with the mind–just like hearing with the eyes and seeing with the ears. The first part (of the phrase) is only an aspect of the second part.

JC: …this is a beautiful thing. I’d like to really get to this stage more often if I could learn to control it. But it is like a…very… fluid… thing. You have a lot of control over your mind and you can go any way…

JS: This is the final stage before satori, by the way. Doubting. Hubert Benoit speaks of it as metaphysical fear. Gautama runs down the origin of ego-based ignorance, in the Diamond Sutra, I believe.

JC: I believe that… I think that my interpretation is as before. The people who want satori, they go through a lot of…they believe something…they have an instructor.

JS: They have their own pedagogy for satori

JC: I bought this book today, Illusions and Delusions of Supernatural and the Occult, with a forward by Julian Huxley. He said that the cat wrote a very good book, but the problem was, that it got too scientific. Just because you don’t have a lot of empirical evidence for things happening doesn’t mean that there aren’t things happening. Science alone is not going to “solve” all the questions, and research into higher forms of psychic research–such as telepathy– is not absurd. They’re very resoluble and things should be done with them. Huxley said that the co-relationship between psychic activity and nervous activity has never been established. It may be a primitive concept to conceive that your psyche is even a function of your nervous system. Like the cat who wrote an Autobiography of a Yogi. .. The yogi supposedly went into a “transcendent state” in which his body was preserved, and they sealed his tomb some twelve days after. He had “died ” and his body supposedly functioned, but he was in some transcendent thing.

JS: This is very interesting, because in contemporary religious thought, in eastern thought, yogic practices have been under criticism. Yoga can “miss the point” ..the point being “seeing into ones own nature,” and likewise getting high on psychedelics will not be adequately fruitful unless this aspect of insight is recognized. There arises much difficulty and complication in getting at the truth of the matter.

JC: When I read the same things in one day, like I read a yogi making a statement, then I read a person like Julian Huxley, who is one of the leading scientific thinkers in micro-biology say the same thing. He says that we should not think that we’re going to learn anything from appearances, and since there is no correlation between nervous activity and psychic activity, there is no reason to assume that we can build a science of psychology around neurology. This book, here, is dedicated to some doctor who was a student of Pythagoras, who was the first one to postulate that the brain is the center of mind-activity. But really, nobody has established that it is. Julian Huxley is getting into a thing where each individual cell has its own unit of psychic activity, and he claims that all the brain does is correlate the information to the rest of the body. It’s like an inter-communications control center, where one cell can communicate with another cell. They all have their intelligence-life. Our psyche is an accumulation, built up around the cells like a manifestation… an accumulation of… But all these things don’t tell us anything. They can straighten our thinking out a lot, because I was thinking in this very strict terminology, for a long time,

JS: Alpert and Leary seem to think that we can experience these things, while influenced or stimulated by psychedelic drugs. But my whole experience with these drugs has been an overt thing. Possibly because I’ve done so much introspection, anyway.

JC: The introspection part of the psychedelic things I’ve been getting into, have brought me to create a disassociation. Probably if I carried that further, I could just create and create and create all types and just split up into infinity. Maybe that’s the way of getting back to each cell’s individual intelligence. When you operate externally, you have to use an accumulation of all your factors. If you start projecting your internal splits externally, then you get into a lot of confusion. That’s what was happening to me. I think that there is a distinction that has to be made between internal and external psychic activity, as well as breaking down the structure of psychology built up on neurology. There is no definite establishment between the two things. So, all this just creates a point of view that we don’t really know what’s happening. I won’t really begin to know what’s happening until I start building a reservoir of experience–interaction with other people, instead of trying to impose preconditions upon…happenings.

JS: Trying to adapt the vision to personal relations, and to receive the reality of this thing from other people. Learning how to live in an environment where all this is taking place.

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