Thursday, 7 July 2016

Psychedelics and encounters with altered realities and states of consciousness


Martin Sharp, Spaceman, 1968.
1967-8 marked a brief period during which Australian artist Martin Sharp (1942-2013) expressed, through his art and writing, an interest in the subject of UFOs (unidentified flying objects) and alien lifeforms, most notably in his editorial and graphic design work with the London OZ magazine issue 9 of February 1968 which featured a UFO on the cover. This interest appears to have arisen, in large part, out of his use of hallucinogenic drugs whilst residence in London between 1966-9. Sharp had arrived there in the middle of 1966, at the height of the Swinging Sixties and during a period of countercultural experimentation and revelation. He was immediately stuck by the explosion of colour in areas of fashion, design, pop culture and building facades, much of which was psychedelic and driven by the widespread use of LSD (aka Acid), marijuana and hashish. Sharp had his first experience with the synthetic drug lysergic acid diethyalmide (LSD) in December 1966, during a Pink Floyd concert held at London’s famous UFO underground nightclub. As he remembered in 2002:

I had a few trips in London ... the first when I saw the Floyd at UFO. Of course it was an eye opener; another dimension of reality was revealed. I attempted to address that in my art. (Hathaway and Nadel 2011)

LSD obviously had an immediate and profound effect on Sharp, for his work quickly transformed from an emphasis on detailed black and white line drawings into multi-coloured, psychedelic paintings, drawings and posters, as perhaps best seen in the iconic Bob Dylan - Blowing in the Mind (1967) - Sharp's first poster in London - and the later exploding Jimi Hendrix (1968). 

Martin Sharp, Blowing in the Mind - Mister Tambourine Man, Big O Posters, London, August 1967.

Sharp's work as graphics editor for the counterculture magazine OZ from February 1967 also reflected an increasing move towards psychedelia, with his LSD-inspired journey of discovery played out on its pages. For example, issue number 1 included a 2-page pictorial spread entitled 'The somewhat incredible turning on of Mervyn Lymp, bank clerk extraordinaire'. It comprised his use of black ink work in regard to text and surrounds, with new 'psychedelic' elements. This is seen in the use of the word 'Incredible' in the title, with its bubble-like font.

 Martin Sharp, Mervyn Lump and Richard Neville in a bookshop, OZ, no.1, February 1967.

This strip was obviously revelatory of Sharp's personal experiences with LSD, and of those many around him during a period of widespread drug use by the youth of the day. Sharp's chronicling of the LSD experience through the pages of OZ continued through to the middle part of 1968, at which point he published a simple cartoon strip suggesting the abandonment of hallucinogens in favour of the more traditional drug of euphoria - alcohol: 

"It's Lebanese Scarlet man...", OZ no.14, July 1968.

The reason? Perhaps a bad trip; boredom with the whole psychedelic experience; adverse impacts upon those around him, including notable acid casualties such as Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd; or more likely a natural development following approximately 18 months of experimentation and use. Stanislav Grof, in his landmark 1976 book Realms of the Unconscious - Observations from LSD Research, outlined in detail the many possible paths taken by users of the drug, with Martin Sharp's experience in many ways typical. For example, Grof included a chapter describing the profound effect LSD commonly has on artists in regards to their visual perceptions of colour and objects. Basing his findings on 17 years of research and observation in eastern Europe and the United States, Grof noted that such usage often evolved into an expanded understanding of the art and artists around them:

Many individuals experiencing such changes report that their perception changed in the direction of Seurat's or Van Gogh's paintings and that the LSD session helped them gain deep insight in the world of these painters, empathize with them, and understand their art. (Grof 1976)

Though Sharp had been a fan of Van Gogh since his school days, by 1968 he was expressing a renewed and intense interest in the Dutch painter, both through his own work and in referring friends and colleagues to the life and letters of the tragic artist. One of those friends - Brett Whiteley - showed a similar interest in Van Gogh from the time of his residence in New York in 1967-9 - wherein he consumed LSD - through the rest of his life. Sharp, shortly after his return to Australia in 1970, noted in an interview:

Van Gogh was the first painter that made me conscious of what painting was about (Sharp 1970). 

This fascination carried through into later in life, with Van Gogh's lost painting The Road to Taracon - featuring the travelling artist - becoming a common motif in many of his works. It seems that Sharp's use of LSD has, as Grof observed, heightened his understand of, and appreciation for, the art of Vincent Van Gogh, and this stayed with him. Sharp's LSD experience over the 18 months between December 1966 and the middle of 1968 was most obviously reflected in changes within his art, from the bright, vibrant colours and ornate patterns of psychedelia to more simpler forms featuring large areas of flat colour and simple design motifs. His transformation from early Sixties normalcy - as expressed in the form of Sharp's Norman Normal / Mervyn Lymp alter egos - through LSD-induced inner space / outer space travels and 'spaceman' persona during 1967-8, and back to Earth by the end of 1968, was revealed through art and words, print and posters. It was a trip with a capital T, and OZ figured prominently as an outlet for these changes in the life and work of this Australian artist. 

Real or hallucinations?

Why would Martin Sharp raise such an esoteric subject as UFOs in a magazine which was otherwise reporting on countercultural issues such as the war in Vietnam, police corruption, drugs, music, art and alternate lifestyles? Was there, perhaps, a connection between psychedelia, UFOs and the counterculture? Andy Roberts, in his 2007 article on the hippie movement and UFOs, revealed a definite link, whilst highlighting the importance of Sharp’s OZ UFO material and the “specifically British form of psychedelia which involved dancing gnomes and flying saucers” (Roberts 2007). This was in contrast to the Aquarian hippie spiritualism which dominated the American experience during the latter part of the 1960s and on into the early years of the following decade. It has been noted, and reinforced through numerous scientific studies, that LSD can have a profound effect on the consciousness of an individual, with a variety of everyday and extraordinary manifestations (Ungerleider 1968, Grof 1976). It has also been suggested that many of the UFO sightings which were reported during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s in places such as the United States and Europe were the result of hallucinogenic experiences arising from the taking drugs such as LSD, mescaline and ‘magic mushrooms’ containing psilocybin. For example, the original 'Jesus Freak' Lonnie Frisbee, whilst high on acid, would preach on the sidewalks of Haight Street, San Francisco, during 1967 about Jesus and flying saucers (Eskridge 2005, Sexton 2015). Frisbee's LSD journey led him from hippie mysticism, occultism and UFOs through to the Bible and religion, culminating in his foundation of the evangelical Jesus People movement. Martin Sharp similarly dabbled in mysticism, alchemy, tarot cards and the occult during the 1960s and within the pages of OZ, before later in life converting to the Anglican faith and adopting the 'Eternity' mantra. Trevor McKenna, a proponent of the use of natural hallucinogens, has also noted in regards to the link between UFOs and hallucinogens: 

At active levels, psilocybin induces visionary ideation of spacecraft, alien creatures, and alien information. There is a general futuristic, science fiction quality to the psilocybin experience that seems to originate from the same place as the modern myth of the UFO (McKenna 1991).

Psilocybin is quickly converted by the body to psilocin, which has mind-altering effects similar, in some aspects, to those of LSD. These effects include euphoria, visual and mental hallucinations, changes in perception, a distorted sense of time, and spiritual experiences (Wikipedia 2016). A connection therefore exists between the use of psychedelics and the observation of - or encounters with - UFOs and alien spacecraft during the years Sharp was resident in London. What that connection was remains a mystery, though numerous writers have speculated upon the relation between the use of mind expanding drugs and subsequent hallucinations or connections with altered states. In the expansion of consciousness, a doorway is perhaps opened into alternate realities wherein alien lifeforms - real or imagined - can be encountered. Whatever the truth, the fact remains that for a period during the late 1960s Martin Sharp inhabited a realm where UFOs were one of his many subjects of interest. And he was not alone in this regards.

The Gipsy Tripper 

Martin Sharp began featuring UFOs and flying saucers in his art and writing from the early months of 1967. The first hint came in the 'Frisco Speaks' column from OZ number 3 of May 1967. An evolution of his Mervy Cymp piece from the first issue, it began with the words:  

Forever, fellow blown-minds - your super-cool guru of inner-space reports from Nirvana...

The use of the term "blown-mind" succinctly described the effect of LSD on Sharp and others, in its opening of the doors of perception and revealing new areas of the individual subconscious. This term was most publically expressed through his Blowing in the Mind Bob Dylan poster which was created mid 1967 and first offered for sale in September of that year. Issues 3 and 4 of OZ from May and June 1967 featured psychedelic poster covers, whilst in the latter issue Sharp included a second 'Sir Frisco' column in which the head of the anonymous reporter (representing Martin Sharp) is seen  in a UFO named Gipsy Tripper II

Martin Sharp, Welcome Sir Frisco, OZ, no.4, June 1967.

This title is perhaps as a humourous play on the words Jupiter II - the name of the spacecraft in the then-popular US television science fiction series Lost in Space (1965-8) featuring the Space Family Robinson. The 'Frisco Speaks' text describes a further trip through "the vast oceans of the mind" and is addressed to "fellow blown minds" i.e. LSD users.  The column speaks directly to the hippie epicentre San Francisco which was then experiencing the famous Summer of Love. London saw its equivalent around the time of release of the Beatles' landmark LP Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in July 1967, and the Putting Together of the Heads rally in Hyde Park on the 16th of that month. Sharp produced a psychedelic poster for that latter event, featuring over 100 heads of native peoples, some smoking hookas. In the same edition of OZ as the 'Welcome Sir Frisco' column, an anonymous editorial by Sharp features reference to UFOs beneath a photograph of a naked female rising from the earth amidst a storm of scattering seagulls. Sharp, using his Norman Normal persona, opens as follows regarding his personal search for the alien craft: 

In common with Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Dean Martin
'and a lot of other cats', Norman goes on UFO hunts.
Recently, in a field near London, Norman says he was sure they were there,
but for some reason would not show themselves.

Sharp's active involvement with OZ diminished during the second half of 1967 as he concentrated on production of a series of posters for the new firm Big O Posters of London, set up by former OZ business manager Peter Ledeboer. Issues 5 through 8 were more political, however in February of 1968 Sharp famously edited issue number 9, with normal editor Richard Neville otherwise busy. Much to Neville's subsequent chagrin, Sharp chose UFOs as a theme for the issue, with a related double-page cover. Throughout the issue Sharp included numerous references to UFOs and related literary quotes.

Martin Sharp and Max Ernst, cover, OZ magazine, no. 9, February 1968.

As Neville later recalled in his autobiographical Hippie Hippie Shake Shake (Neville 2007) with regards to the infamous UFO OZ:

Caught up with administrative hassles, I left Martin Sharp and our designer Jon Goodchild to press ahead with OZ 9. To my embarrassment, it was devoted to flying saucers. 

"How can you indulge your intergalactic delusions," I asked Sharp, "when Asia is a bloodbath?"

"There are far more things in heaven and earth, Richard, than dreamt of in your philosophy."

In the end I let them indulge their hallucinations, figuring it was the unpredictability of OZ that made it special.

Sharp's response to Neville was a variatation on the line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, viz. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, then are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Hamlet (1.5.167-8). The cover of OZ 9 actually featured a reprint of a Surrealist collage engraving by the German Max Ernst, taken from a book of prints originally published in 1929 and titled The Hundred Headless Woman

Max Ernst, Et les images s'abaisseront jusqu'au sol (And the images will be lowered to the ground), La femme 100 tĂȘtes (The Hundred Headless Woman), Paris, 1929.

For OZ the engraving was coloured by Sharp with orange highlights to reveal what appeared to be an alien, War of the Worlds-type attack on a town by a UFO, or flying saucer. Ernst’s collage was never meant to be interpreted in this manner, as far as is known, though a possible connection was suggested by the uncanny placement of the cylindrical, layered disc in the sky, surrounded by lightning bolts and hovering above a prostrate body whilst others in the distance run in fear of this unknown 'thing'. Ernst's dabbling in the traditions of European alchemy may have given rise to his own encounter with aliens and otherworldly dimensions. Within the magazine Sharp also included a special 8 page UFO lift-out, or digest, which featured accounts of UFO sightings and comments on their possible existence by a variety of historic and contemporary individuals, ranging from Aristotle through to Mick Jagger. The digest was to be Sharp's most extensive exposition on the topic of UFOs, and included a full page cartoon strip of aliens looking on at the horror and mayham of Earth. Despite Richard Neville's protestations, issue number 10 of March 1968 featured a multipage cartoon strip along the bottom of the issue which culminated in a commentary by a group of time-travelling aliens who had visited Earth in a flying saucer convoy to see how their colony (i.e. Earth) was progressing and also to father Jesus - the son of God - along the way. The rear cover of the issue featured a drawing (not by Sharp) of the return of Jesus to Earth aboard a flying saucer.

 Hello Fellers, I'm Back, rear cover, OZ, no.10, March 1968.

OZ number 13 of June 1968 included a small UFO on the secondary cover, and a group of them within a Hung on You clothing boutique advertisement on the third page. After this, alien references within OZ were few and far between. Perhaps the last by the artist was in issue number 19 of March 1969 which included a full page drawing by Sharp of a flying saucer on the horizon as a kangaroo flies away from Australia, morphing into a strange winged lizard / dragon, with the moon above. 

Martin Sharp, There was movement at the station ...., OZ no.19, March 1969.

The moon landing of July 1969 was to feature in a number of works by Sharp, including the cover of OZ number 22, however there was no corresponding reference to UFOs. Around this time Sharp also produced a series of large screen printed prints on mylar. One of those issued by Big O Posters of London featured a UFO. Titled Coming Ready or Not, the image was a simple one of a traditional, 1950s era flying saucer, similar to that seen in the OZ drawing of March 1969.

Martin Sharp, Coming Ready or Not, screenprint on mylar,  S'Martiple MS8, Big O Posters, London, 1969.

With the apparent cessation of Sharp's indulgence in hallucinogens by the end of 1969, so also his references to UFOs disappeared. It is unclear whether he continued to believe in them through to later life, though this is possible as the effects of extended LSD consumption can be profound and long-lasting.

UFO club poster 1967

Another manifestation of Martin Sharp’s knowledge of, and growing interest in, extra-terrestrials was one of his posters from 1967. Produced for the final two concerts held at the Roundhouse UFO venue in London during late September 1967, the work is an amazing expression of psychedelic colour, imagery and sound. It is also suggestive of a possible connection with UFOs. As was recently noted in a survey of British graphic design since the 1960s: Sharp's imagery, seen in his Roundhouse and Dylan posters, has an electrifying graphic intensity that few products of the design business could match. Sharp does not advertise a lifestyle; he exhibits a state of mind (Poynor 2004).

Martin Sharp, Roundhouse UFO, 76 x 50 cm., silkscreen print in gold, silver, and dayglo pink and orange inks on white stock. Osiris Agency Ltd., OA120, London, September 1967.

At the top of the poster is a single eye amidst an explosion of stars. Below this somewhat alien image is a side view of two large orange lips - perhaps a reference to the singer Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones - with the representation of sound being emitted in the form of zig-zag electric lines. Underneath is the surreal body of a musician playing a guitar and with circular, spaghetti-like whorls of sound emanating from an old His Master's Voice-type speaker at the rear. Two pink love hearts decorate the lower sections of the work, alongside details of the performances which took place at the UFO club on 22 and 29 September 1967. The disembodied eye which features so often in Martin Sharp's art from the Sixties is prominent at the top of the Roundhouse UFO image. Reflecting the artist's sense of fun and wit, it is reminiscent of nothing less than the mechanical limb of the alien spaceships from H.G. Wells' War of the World, visualised in the George Pal Hollywood movie of 1953. These metallic extensions of the silver manta ray-like machines featured what looked like a single, all-seeing eye able to emit destructive beams of light and energy.

Martian space ship, War of the World, 1953.

Martin Sharp's Roundhouse UFO poster is one of his most impressive works, both in regards to the original drawing and design, through to its production as a multi-coloured poster in rich tones of gold, silver, orange and pink. Supremely psychedelic and strange, it is like no other artist's work. The influence of Surrealism on Sharp is obvious but somewhat intangible. As Poynor noted, the work does nothing less than "exhibit a state of mind", once again reflecting the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. It also points to the UFO phenomena.  

Following Sharp's return to Australia at the end of 1969, UFOs did not feature to any degree in his art or commentary. It was not until almost 20 years later that the issue arose, and on that occasion it was in connection with the death of his mother.

The Strieber encounter 1986

In 1988 the American author Whitely Strieber published a book – Transformation: The Breakthrough – which included an account of events surrounding the death in 1986 of Martin Sharp’s mother Jo. Philippe Mora, a friend of both Sharp and Strieber, was also involved in this incident. The relevant extract from Strieber’s book is reproduced below:
On Tuesday, 2 October [1986], I lunched with Australian film director Philippe Mora. He had renewed the acquaintance we'd had in London in 1968 by inviting me to a screening of his new film, Death of a Soldier. Afterward we ate together and I told him a little bit about the visitor experience. He listened with a certain amount of interest, but the conversation went no further. As we parted, he mentioned that he was going to Australia to work on another project.

It was now October 7 (October 8 in Sydney). I was in my office when the phone rang. It was Philippe, phoning from Sydney. What follows is a close rendering of the conversation.

Philippe said, "Do you remember Martin Sharp from London days?"

I hadn't seen him in nearly twenty years, but I remembered Martin well enough. I'd been to his flat, the Pheasantry, on the King's Road in Chelsea during my year there.

"I remember Martin. "

"Something odd's happened to his mother. I thought you might be able to shed some light on it. "

"What happened?"

"Well, last night she woke up and found something very odd. There were half a dozen little men in her room; men wearing broad-brimmed hats like Asian farmers' hats. "

"Little men?"

"Yes. I thought you might be able to give us some idea of what happened, in view of that story you told me. They lifted her up to the ceiling, Whitley, and then put her down again. They didn't hurt her, but she's upset. "

"I can understand that. Does she believe in fairies, ghosts, anything like that?"

"No. "

"Does she take an interest in UFOs?"

"Mrs. Sharp is very conservative. I doubt if she's ever even thought about them. What do you think happened to her?"

"I'm not sure. Is there anything at all that's unusual about her?"

"Well, she's quite ill. Probably dying. She's bedridden. "

"With what?"

"One thing I know she has is an uncontrollable form of diabetes. Very bad. "

A shock went through me. The visitors had been telling me not to eat sweets. I asked them why and they said that they would show me. A few days later here was this call: A woman indirectly acquainted with me had been raised to the ceiling by "little men" and she was severely diabetic. Mrs. Sharp passed away in late 1986, dying of liver cancer and diabetes. Martin and Yensoon Tfai, a close family friend who had been with her the morning after the incident, wrote me about it in 1987. Yensoon, who is a very traditional Chinese, offered a transcript of the notes she had written for her diary shortly after the incident. The notes were taken from Mrs. Sharp's description of what happened. Yensoon interprets Mrs. Sharp's experience in entirely Chinese terms, thus offering a fascinating insight into the way cultural background controls our perceptions of the visitor experience - as it probably has throughout the ages. Yensoon wrote:

"In the evening of the 7th of October, 1986, Mrs. Sharp partook of a bowl of Chinese herbs.” (Note: The herbs involved would not have induced hallucinations even a short time after consumption, let alone eight to ten hours later.) "She was wide awake the following morning at 4 a.m. Looking up at the ceiling with her right arm raised in the air, she suddenly saw seven little Chinese men appear and descend from the ceiling. They were three feet tall, all of them wearing Chinese coolie hats with a round brim. Their bodies were round, each of them wearing a different color: red, green, blue and yellow. The yellow little man seemed to be the leader. He gave Mrs. Sharp a stern and icy cold look. As if a hole was bored into her heart and she shuddered. His subordinates were much more genial to her. They smiled at her and the blue little man touched her hand, murmuring words of comfort. She found that he had a slimy and soft body. The 'leader' motioned his subordinates to lift Mrs. Sharp up to the ceiling and then put her down onto the floor. She protested and ordered them to put her back to bed, but to no avail. In a trice, she found herself in a verdant park. The sun was setting. Although the surroundings were a joy to her eyes, no living things were visible, only the wind was soughing amidst the trees. It struck a note of desolation to her. She felt a sense of despair. The little blue man presented her with a blue silk flowing robe, which she happily put on because it was her favorite color. The moment she put it on the sun suddenly sank beyond the horizon and they lifted her up in the darkness, at which time she lost consciousness. Upon regaining consciousness she found herself to be in her own bed. After this episode, Mrs. Sharp's condition declined rapidly. "

Yensoon also described the little men as being "like Chinese mushrooms," referring both to their shape and to the texture of their skin. Many people who have been close to the visitors have noted this skin quality. To my mind, this is a very exact description of one type of visitor. Their skin is clammy and they are small, round, and quite strong very much in contrast to the taller ones, such as the being I depicted on the cover of Communion, who seem frail by comparison. Yensoon also pointed out that the deceased wears a blue silk robe in a Chinese funeral. To me the appearance of this robe was another example of the way the experience alters itself to fit the cultural references of the people it is affecting. There was thus a message not only for Jo Sharp and me but also for Yensoon. It cannot be forgotten, however, that Mrs. Sharp was physically touched by the beings, and vividly described exactly the way this felt. It is all too easy to retreat from the idea that the visitors are physically real - at least at times. They effortlessly translated her from the physical world into another reality, one that seemed to be a sort of archetypal place of death.

Upon reading this account, I remembered my hypnosis session covering events that occurred on the night of 4 October 1985. During that session I had seen my son in a beautiful but strangely desolate park. I had thought him dead and had experienced emotional devastation. Could there be an actual place somewhere, in some parallel reality, where the dead linger in sighing gardens? If the soul exists, then it must in some way be a part of nature and so subject both to its laws and to the application of appropriate science. Perhaps Jo Sharp's soul was extracted from her body and she was given a vividly symbolized demonstration of what awaited her. One can imagine the strange, empty park, the wind sighing in the trees, the sun setting . . . the images of death abound, gentle and strange. My own contact with the visitors was full of vivid demonstrations and symbols. The rich theatrics reported by Jo Sharp seem to me to be characteristic of one form of close communion with them.

Martin Sharp added in a letter, "Jo (my mother) was not a person to hallucinate . . . and though highly imaginative she was not a vocally spiritual person. Indeed, she would say, 'The only thing "up there" are possums in the roof.' (Which there were.)"

Later, when her death was approaching and she would lapse into a hypoglycaemic coma, the doctors would feed her barley sugar to bring her out of it. During this period there were a number of episodes that Martin found upsetting. While she was in coma she would talk, taking on two different personalities. One of them seemed almost cheerful to him, and was cooperative. The other was duplicitous and strange, and resisted taking the sugar.

"The other manifestation was positively sinister. She would appear totally collapsed . . . unconscious almost. . . . She, or rather 'it' would watch my every move through half-closed eyes. The 'unconsciousness' seemed a ploy because she appeared possessed by an alien, hateful, intelligence-cruel, arrogant, despising help, strong. I would say physically strong. (My mother was very frail.) Palpably evil. The whole atmosphere of her room would change. It was most upsetting. Her doctor would sidestep the issue when I tried to talk about it. This entity would not take barley sugar, or would manage to hold the barley sugar in the mouth and not suck on it, spit it out, do almost anything to avoid the return of consciousness which the barley sugar would effect."

He went on to say, “Jo would have no memory of these experiences when the 'invader' retreated after the sugar solution had its effect. I thought it was very important to discuss but no doctor would. If I'd known more about exorcism I think I would have attempted to do it. "

Martin's interpretation of all this was that she had somehow been possessed by the spirit or essence of her disease. He wrote, "I believe that the spirit which possessed my dear mother in these times was using her as a window."
Even before I received Martin's and Yensoon's written descriptions of the events, I was aware that Mrs. Sharp's initial experience had been intimately connected with death. The beings had lifted her up as if in demonstration, and then shifted her - or her soul - into a symbolized representation of death. The message for me was crystal clear: If I continued to eat sweets, I too would end up there. The visitors had somehow sifted through the grains of
my life and found the mother of a man I hadn't seen in twenty years, determined that she was diabetic, and done something to her that would get back to me through Philippe. It suggested extraordinary powers of observation, at the very least. They obviously had the ability to examine lives in detail, and then to find the most useful person to serve as the object of their demonstration. This event led me to the thought that the visitors may have a far more sophisticated ability to enter our lives than we have even begun to suspect.

More important, it was becoming clear to me, based not only on my own experience but on that of Mrs. Sharp and others, that they appeared to be involved with what happens to man after death. I was having a lot of trouble grappling with that concept, largely because it made me feel so helpless. I began to want very badly to understand more about the soul. At the time I was - like the great majority of people - very unsure about whether or not it even existed. I resolved to begin research into it. But at the moment it seemed to me that I was faced with an urgent mandate. Fulfilling it would be simple enough. All I had to do was stop eating sweets. Again I tried, more seriously this time. I found that it was amazingly difficult. I ended up in the ridiculous position of pacing the floor over the fact that there was a box of Oreos in the cupboard. I had thought of myself as being mildly addicted to sweets. But when I really tried to stop, my "mild addiction" became a devil!

My earlier thoughts about the meaning of sacrifice returned to mind. I had to admit to myself that I understood the principle of it. I understood very well. I just didn't want to do it. In the early days of Christendom people used to go into the desert to emulate Christ with fasting and prayer. They would spend months, years, a lifetime, struggling to reach Christ through self-denial and privation. I managed to go four days without ice cream, and then I bought a pint of Haagen-Dazs vanilla and ate half of it. I realized that I wasn't strong enough to deny myself. My consumption of sweets went back to my normal moderate level. I decided that this was a more sane way to live. I wasn't really interested in trying to copy even a small part of the life-style of crazed third-century hermits. The visitors did not respond at once. Instead they moved slowly and carefully to the point of anger. Their restraint amounted, I suppose, to a kind of tolerance of my weakness. But their tolerance had its limits.



Eskridge, Larry, God's Forever Family: the Jesus People Movement in America, 1966-1977, PhD thesis, University of Scotland, 2005, 438p. 

Grof, Stanislav, Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1976, 257p.

Hathaway, Norman and Nadel, Dan, Electrical Banana: Masters of Psychedelic Art, Damiani, Bologna, 2011, 208p. Illustrated page 60. 

Horsley, Jasun, Passport to Manchuria: Whitely's Baby & the Unholy Junction of 1968 (Prisoner of Infinity X), Auticulture [blog], 2 March 2016. Available URL:

McKenna, Terence, The Archaic Revival – speculations on pyschedelic mushrooms, the Amazon, virtual reality, UFOs, evolution, shamanism, the rebirth of the goddess, and the end of history, HarperOne, New York, 1991, 267p.

Roberts, Andy, A Saucerful of Secrets: The Hippie Movement and UFOs, Fortean Times, October 2007. Available URL:

Sexton, Jason S., Jesus on LSD, BOOM - A Journal of California, 6(4), Winter 2015.  Available URL:

Sharp, Martin, Davild Elfick and Martin Sharp dialogues - censorship, environment and art, Revolution, 1(3), July 1970.

Strieber, Whitely, Transformation: The Breakthrough, Beech Tree Books, New York, 1988.

Ungerleider, J. Thomas, The Problems and Prospects of LSD, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, 1968, 109p.

Michael Organ
Last updated: 17 July 2019.