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Tripping: An Anthology of True-life Psychedelic Adventures
by Charles Hayes (Ed.)
Publisher:
Penguin Compass 
Year:
2000 
ISBN:
0140195742 
Reviewed by Jon Hanna, 8/7/2007

Charles Hayes has brought together a mind-blowing collection of first-person psychonautical voyages in his book Tripping: An Anthology of True-life Psychedelic Adventures. Hayes is a gifted writer whose edgy style accurately conveys the various nuances of the psychedelic experience without being overblown. The book’s introduction provides the appropriate historical nods, while showcasing Hayes’ exhaustive knowledge and understanding of the topic, and exposing the cutting edge of current underground drug culture.

While Hayes presents his psychedelic synopsis and relates some of his own larger-than-life experiences, his function is primarily as a sociological editor—seeking out and including the good, the bad, and the ugly of “trip reports” that span from the 1960s through the late 1990s. Although many accounts presented deal with LSD, there are also the occasional forays into mushrooms, Peganum harmala, Datura seeds, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, salvinorin A, MDA, MDMA, mescaline, PCP, 2C-B, and other compounds. While those narratives that relate the good times which psychedelics can provide are certainly plentiful, I suspect that the “bad” and the “ugly” descriptions are even more abundant. Hayes is aware that psychedelic use is not a bed of roses, and this book could certainly be read as a cautionary tale, rather than being something that promotes the use of psychedelics. There’s the pathetic tale of an overdosed and out-of-it tripper at Burning Man, who—after failing to pay for admission to the event—lost his clothes and car keys, stole a pair of too-tight pants from a new friend, and wandered off dehydrated in the desert, crashing in someone else’s camper without permission and losing track of what day it was (not to mention a seeming long-term memory loss of what year it was, since he claims this occurred in 1995, yet all of the landmarks he describes were clearly from the 1996 Burning Man). His conclusion from this experience was that he “didn’t want to take LSD again until [he had] worked on” his sense of organization, simplifying his life, and treating people with more compassion—perhaps making that Burning Man experience his last LSD trip for a long time! Then there was the guy who decked his algebra teacher at a school dance, and was hauled off by the police. And the non-gay man who, overcome with his own sexual vibes, asked his male friend to “suck [his] cock, right here, right now” at a Grateful Dead concert (which didn’t fly). And the tripper who in a hallucinogenic rapture threw away his glasses (not that uncommon a gesture, apparently) at a Rainbow Gathering and decided that he was destined to mate (again, right at that moment) with a beautiful naked dancing woman, who didn’t appreciate his amorous advances. And the guy who began speaking in tongues and broke his brain—experiencing headaches, permanent psychological scars, and occasional flashbacks. And the man who ended up in both jail and mental institutions. And the person who believed that he was telepathically communicating with his friends while camping, and decided to lay down in their camp fire, precipitating a lengthy stay in a hospital’s burn unit (in serious condition).

But along with the bad and the ugly, Hayes includes some beautiful accounts as well. Spiritual voyaging/cosmic consciousness and a deep psychological understanding of self and humanity are all touched upon. I was a bit surprised at how many people, whether looking in mirrors or into a friend’s or lover’s eyes, have the same experience of viewing themselves or the person they were looking at as “every man and every woman,” or “God and Goddess.” (I wonder if this experience is as common as the book makes it seem, or if perhaps there was a plenitude of these sorts of trips due to editorial selection?)

I was also surprised to see how many of the narratives came from interviews with people I either know (or know of), leading me to think that the psychedelic community may be a bit smaller than I had imagined. (Perhaps this just exemplifies that those who are willing to talk about their experiences tend to be more “public” figures in general.) Accounts by psychedelic noteworthies such as Alice Dee, John Perry Barlow, Leonard Mercado, Matthew S. Kent, Paul Devereux, and Clark Heinrich are sprinkled in with the more anonymous “first-name-only” stories. (The tales from Heinrich are worth the price of the book on their own.) Add to this a lengthy original interview with Terence McKenna, wherein he discusses his thoughts, drug-by-drug, on LSD, tryptamines, ketamine, Salvia divinorum, Cannabis, and DMT (as well as pontificating on psychedelics and religion, freak-outs, the dangers of inner exploration, the rave scene, the pagan scene, shamans and shamanism, Novelty Theory and the end of time, science, consciousness evolution, and more). This is one of the most detailed, hard-hitting interviews of Terence that I have ever seen. The book also features numerous beautiful works (in black-and-white, alas) by visionary artists Alex Grey, Brooks Cole, Brian Moriarty, Maurice Tani, and Jon A. Bell. There is an appendix/glossary that defines many of the specific psychedelics mentioned in the book and discusses their chemistry and pharmacology. Endnotes and citation information for each of the chapters is provided, and there is an excellent resource section noting relevant books, periodicals, articles, films/TV shows, and web sites. Strangely, Hayes missed mentioning the Psychedelic Resource List, The Entheogen Review, and Trout’s Notes—a tribute perhaps to the underground nature of these publications, since his resource list is otherwise quite current and detailed. (Indeed, I learned about numerous resources of which I was totally unaware—Hayes has done a lot of research in this area!)

My only complaint about the book is that the paper it is printed on is too thin. This is the sort of book that both the novice and the experienced psychonaut will enjoy having in their libraries for years to come, and a hardbound edition with better paper and color illustrations would be much appreciated. Tripping need not be read cover-to-cover, but is perfect to keep on one’s nightstand for short random bursts of psychedelia or to take on a plane trip and read while flying. Although drug “trip reports” are common these days on web forums and e-mailing lists, it is the excellent job of selection and editing that Hayes has done, which make every story in this compilation an interesting read. I highly recommend this book to all.

Book website: www.psychedelicadventures.com

Originally Published In : the Autumnal Equinox 2001 issue of The Entheogen Review
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