Print Psychedelia in a Brave New World: On PsypressUK 2014
It has been commented on before that the great difference between the medical and social emergence of Psychedelia in the mid-twentieth century, and what is going on today, is that the cultural network is now better equipped. No more can the psychedelic experience catch a naïve audience unawares – the only problem now is that they might be too busy to notice.
Our specialist knowledge is no longer restricted to simply psychiatric hypotheses. Psychedelia has become, in the very broadest sense, a history. It connects cultures through time and space, just as much as it connects the psychedelic science boffin with the New Age traveler living on a site in deepest, darkest Cornwall. Psychedelia is a communcal, shared, empathetic experience, but one with a multitude of descriptions.
A simple gaze across the literature of psychedelic substances during the barren human-medical research era, illuminates a hive of activity in a multitude of other disciplines. And just as early psychedelic models played their part in educating popular culture in the 1960s, so too have the growing disciplines imparted their own cultural verve ever since. The illegality was met by underground chemists who gave those seeking experiences outside their everyday life the chance to bring their own magical manifestations to bear.
Whether that be Terence McKenna rapping, mid-party, on shamanism to pilled-up ravers, or Wasson and Stevens writing their respective histories on trippers and tripping for public consumption, a rich body of knowledge has today formed. The multicultural retrospective fed-back on our daily actions and began resonating in the everyday performance of psychedelic experience, as trippers traveled their minds according to new maps, and through worlds reimagined.
Of course, the internet has helped fuel the speed at which this body of knowledge has both grown and spread amongst people. When I started the Psychedelic Press UK (PsypressUK) blog in late 2008, it was with the intention of making public a literature review on psychedelic texts I was doing as part of postgraduate research. Yet in the virtual reality of the blog this was near impossible to define.
The web of psychedelic knowledge, its multiple approaches, potentially makes the task an endless one: trip reports, self-help, botany, medicine, psychopharmacology, history, anthropology and so on and so forth. I’m still reading quite solidly six years later, and even staying up with new publications, let alone returning to old ones, is a tough, if not frequently thought-provoking, meditation. The great joy of it, however, was simply providing a resource for people who wanted to know more—including myself.
Fortunately, some very talented elves soon came on board and contributed their writing to the e-zine, and a whole new dimension was added to PsypressUK. It became, not only a literature review, but also a source of thought, news, and analysis – A rhizome of drugs, writing, and culture – that was getting stuck in at UK festivals and putting the word out. And it was out of this psychedelic milieu that the print edition of PsypressUK emerged in 2012.
I recently traveled to Jordan in the Middle East. There are many artificial boundaries in the Middle East – both the vindictive colonial geography that relentlessly sucks the energy from the space; and the very literal walls that are put up today dividing communities and preventing any personal reconciliation between peoples. Yet there are many, many people who cross these boundaries, who seek to breathe a pan-Arabic view back into these once nomadic tribes.
Rigidly carving up Psychedelia into disciplinary boundaries might similarly create divide: restless tribes, dressed in white coats, beads and linen, or a green poker cap, need the freedom to decide their own course, and to engage with the others, without having their own blunted dogma killing the passage of Psychedelia through the ages.
Does the psychedelic experience itself promise a brave, new world? Unlikely, if you ask some people it is a mind-control device in order to continue perpetuating the rigid hierarchies of Western society. There can be no universal description – more so today than at any other time. Instead, it promises a potential, however, to creatively construct ideas and ways of life. The illegality of LSD constructs a restricted, criminal space in its exteriority, but the spiritually-minded conversely say it constructs a freedom in one’s interiority. This is the binary thinking that today must be challenged.
PsypressUK is for those who wish to approach psychedelic substances as a hive of ideas, symbol sets, and approaches: An independent psychedelic publication that celebrates the diversity of psychedelic experience through the varied art of drug writing, pharmacography. I’ve been asked at a time when everything is going online, and distributed freely, why we’ve gone print and asked for a small payment (£5). The answer, to my mind, is simple: I can’t remember what number 3456 tweeter, tweeted last week, and without it on my shelf to remind me of its existence, it is lost – just a passing fad of news entertainment.
In print, our memories are aided and abetted by psychedelic ideas, not arrested and drowned in the great wash of daily disinformation, this is precisely Huxley’s dystopia of Brave New World. For psychedelics to play a meaningful role in society and culture (even if it’s not your friend) it must have the ability to remain entrenched for a moment in order to be transformed – the fleeting never has a chance, and neither the minds that it has sieved through.
The latest edition of the thrice-yearly publication includes 14 thorough-going articles, from doctors, authors, and creative writers, including the likes of Ross Heaven, Neal Goldsmith, Justin Panneck, Judith Sudholter, and Thomas Hatsis. It takes into account such diverse areas as mycological metaphysics, the holy mushroom debate, medical cannabis, ritual ayahuasca use, the drug laws in Portugal, and much more beside. Today’s psychedelic experience is multifaceted in a way it could never have been before, and PsypressUK is a window to help see how those faces look together – and a tangible memory with which to play, and transform.
A version of this article first appeared on RealitySandwich.com