Mother, Have a Safe Trip by Carl Abrahamsson
Published in the autumn of 2013, ‘Mother, Have a Safe Trip’ is a novel written by Stockholm based writer, photographer and musician Carl Abrahamsson. Although described as an “occult sex thriller”, its acid-soaked story is a perfect example of fictional psychedelic literature. At less than 200 pages, Abrahamsson’s book – his fiction début – is written in a straightforward and accessible prose, packed with references to key figures and events in psychedelic culture, beat literature and the occult.
For those not familiar with the Swedish author, Abrahamsson runs Edda Publishing together with visual artist Fredrik Söderberg. Apart from Mother, Have a Safe Trip, the Edda catalogue includes titles by Aleister Crowley and the anthology series The Fenris Wolf. The latter brings together a plethora of underground writers and themes. For instance, the latest issue deals with German writer and psychonaut Ernst Jünger’s “psychedelic approaches”. Furthermore, Abrahamsson has collaborated with musician and artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and at the end of the eighties the Swede paid a visit to Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey in San Francisco, subsequently making a Swedish translation of LaVey’s The Satanic Bible.
As usual when it comes to titles published by Edda, Mother, Have a Safe Trip is a beautifully designed book in hardcover format with a ribbon bookmark. Captivating from the start, the novel begins with 60-year-old Mary Ritterstadt going through an old journal of notes from her time spent in Nepal in 1970. While in the country she gets to know the members of a band called the Fateful Head and samples the product of the “infamous LSD-wizard” Mosely-Manly: “We learned he was wanted by the FBI back home. We soon realized why. He wasn’t only wanted by the ‘feds’ but also by the ‘heads’: millions of kids worldwide” (Abrahamsson 8).
During Mary’s stay in Nepal she unintentionally gets pregnant. Her pregnancy is mysteriously revealed to her by an old Baba, who she follows to a yoga commune called PSYNC, short for “the Patanjali Society for Yoga and Neophile Culture”, in the Nepalese mountains. There, Mary gives birth to a son named Victor, the protagonist of the story, who is revered as a holy figure by the members of the commune. Not ready for parenthood and not knowing who is the father Mary decides to leave Victor at the commune and return to America, severing the ties with her son. It’s only after her parents are dead that she decides to get in touch with Victor, now 40 years old.
After getting in touch through telepathy, Mary and Victor decide to meet in real life. What follows is a fast-paced, heady mix including (in no particular order) secret agents, a UFO sighting, a telepathic dog, a Dionysian LSD-fuelled party, and the discovery of a document originating from Serbian inventor Nicola Tesla that may solve the world’s energy problems.
Just like Abrahamsson, Victor Ritterstadt is a writer, photographer and musician and judging by his visual appearance the protagonist even looks like the Swedish author. Still, it’s unclear to what extent Victor is based on Abrahamsson. Although leading a seemingly interesting life, the protagonist turns out to be a rather self-centred character whose goal is to make lots of money. His materialistic side is noticed by his mother, who realises that Victor is “very much also a narcissistic egotist” (Abrahamsson 119). Interestingly, at the same time he is uniformly celebrated at the yoga commune, where no one seems to question his actions and persona.
The self-centred protagonist aside, Mother, Have a Safe Trip wins me over in its humorous, playful and witty writing style. Many of its characters evoke thinly disguised real life figures. Mosely-Manly is obviously modelled after the legendary LSD chemist Owsley Stanley, and the Fateful Head is based on – you guessed it – the Grateful Dead. Moreover, the name of the yoga commune includes the word “neophile” which is associated with Robert Anton Wilson. In addition, the number 23 appears in the novel. Both Wilson and William S. Burroughs, two likely literary sources of inspiration for the Swedish author, were interested in the number. Needless to say the reader will find many more similar references.
Even if Abrahamsson is less associated with Satanism than he was in the past, the satanic influence is nevertheless present in his novel and, to a greater extent, in his anthology. To my knowledge, few, if any, writers have put Satanism and psychedelics in the same saucepan. Admittedly, combining the two may seem like an unusual move. The appearance of LaVey’s ego-gratifying philosophy at the height of the “we decade” in late sixties San Francisco was the antithesis of many of the ideas expressed in the hippie movement. The Church of Satan founder was also strongly opposed to the use of LSD. In a 1966 article published in Alameda County Weekender LaVey said the drug “ought to be shunned like the plague” (Churchofsatan.com).
Abrahamsson’s interest in Satanism serves as a reminder that psychedelics can be placed in many different contexts. The current focus on ayahuasca may have us believe that mind-expanding drugs are primarily to be looked upon as shamanic tools for healing and spiritual development, yet history repeatedly shows us that these drugs are used for a variety of reasons.
Before reading a poem called Lucifer’s Rainbow Victor says, “I think we should pay our respects to everyone from everywhere who’s fought for freedom in life and in mind” (Abrahamsson 138). Although these are words from a fictional character, they illustrate that Abrahamsson clearly belongs to a tradition of western anti-authoritarian authors leaning towards libertarian or anarchist ideas. Whatever one may feel about the overriding sentiments of Abrahamson’s writings, Mother, Have a Safe Trip is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking novel. Chock-full of psychedelia, the book is also a much welcome addition to the far too few fictional works published dealing with psychedelic culture.