It is the opinion of Charles Hayes, author and proponent of responsible psychedelic experimentation that “there are now even more compelling reasons to sanction the practice of judicious psychedelic use.” Posed with the question of drug use in the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hayes recently offered this insight to Tikkun magazine, a progressive periodical focusing on Jewish culture and politics.
In his new book “Tripping,” Hayes exposes the significant emotional impacts psychedelics have offered to myriad persons from all walks of life. From this great range of perspectives, influenced by various psychotropic drugs, comes the recognition that psychedelics play a much greater role in society than what they are accredited with. What is even more impressive is that most of the authors are now successful, respectable members of society; this aspect of the book helps to dismantle some of the stigmas surrounding misunderstood drugs such as LSD and psilocybin (the active psychedelic agent found in “magic mushrooms”).
All of the narratives found within Hayes’ anthology are delightfully eloquent. An abundance of literature has spawned from the annals of the drug culture; much of this material fails to draw considerable notice, generally due to a cheaper, hastily conceived approach. However, “Tripping” proves to be an exception to this standard, with each story more endearing and appreciable than the last. Also interesting is the inclusion of brief background sketches of each writer; describing their occupation, place of birth and current residence allows readers to grow more attached to the speakers, thus drawing more value from the real trip accounts.
Particularly wonderful is “A Blink of Rabbit Fur,” a story by a Scottish woman residing in Southeast Asia. The narrative details an unexpected but deeply meaningful first taste of mature sexuality under the influence of Ecstasy. The account is particularly fascinating because it tenderly articulates the mentality of a female teen while exploring the effects of MDMA on interpersonal experiences. Also captivating is an experience reported by “Carl,” a biochemistry PhD. raised in the American Southwest. Discussing his experience on peyote in the canyons of Arizona, the story is profoundly philosophical, deeply probing perception, reality and happiness.
Along with 48 other, similarly entertaining stories is a transcribed conversation with the late Terrence McKenna, a celebrated shamanologist, scholar and spokesperson for the psychedelic experience. The dialogue includes McKenna’s theories about psychedelics throughout time as well as fascinating discussions about the dissolution of consciousness while under the influence of powerful psychoactive.
Although “Tripping” does sometimes romanticize the experiences, a distinct stress on personal responsibility is maintained throughout the book. Not all of the reports are pleasant -some are, in fact extremely frightening – yet they are valuable. The book simply seeks to educate people about the possibilities that psychedelics can potentially offer those who are prudent and strong enough to experiment with them. Hayes made clear his individualistic stance on psychedelics, saying in an interview, “I don’t advocate the use of psychedelics. I advocate their being made acessible to those who could benefit from them.”
What ultimate emerges from his “Tripping” is non-technical education about the nature of many commonly used hallucinogens and empathogens. The book is compiled exceptionally well, making for an entertaining and valuable read. And it certainly lives up to Hayes’ own statement at the conclusion of his preface: “If dreams conjured in sleep should have any meaning for those awakened by them, then these (stories) gathered here, spun out of some keen yet alien wakefulness, might have even more.”