Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life – Youth’s book review in full

Youth in Goa, before the invention of the footspa
Renowned producer, Killing Joke bassist and sometime Classic Rock correspondent Youth had way more to say on the subject of Patrick Lundborg’s newly published and ultimately ground-breaking book Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life than could possibly be contained within the physical paper confines of the reviews section in this month’s Classic Rock. So we published a 7” Radio Edit…
What follows is the 12” Extended Psy Trance Dance Mix.
Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life
by Patrick Lundborg
(Subliminal Sounds)
This is a very important book, for while there are many books on Psychedelia none are nearly as thorough as this epic tome (combining both original and existing research). Part one starts with the Psychedelic Elysium mystery rites of Ancient Greece, Biblical-era Soma use and continues through to Albert Hofmann’s serendipitous synthesis of and experimentation with LSD in World War II. Part two travels through the pivotal 1960s to the present day, and covers shamanism (both new and old), occultism, pharmacology, classic drama and literature.
Yet we are very much at the dawn of Psychedelia being embraced as a subject for serious research, possibly due to the very heavy drug laws that have been in place for over thirty years (you can still be charged for attempted manslaughter in California if you have more than 2 or 3 hits of LSD on you).
Lundborg starts with the popular theory that the Romans, through their empire exported their pagan ergot rituals to the rest of Europe, but another theory states that European mushroom cults and ergot production in northern Europe must have been pretty advanced to have produced such sophisticated psychoactives. But nothing compares to South America, where they must have been refining their techniques for thousands of years to come up with exactly the right mixture of herbs to create the most powerful and insightful psychedelic, DMT, though the earliest written accounts of Dimethyltryptamine and Ayahuasca go back only 150 years.
It can be argued that without our ancient traditions of psychedelia we would have no art: no art equals no humanity and, as author Lundborg puts it: “Psychedelic culture may in fact be standing at the brink of a mystery greater than anything encountered before in the 20th century, cutting into mankind’s most vital questions about evolution and consciousness.” Therefore, in a world growing more turbulent every day, it’s clearly one hugely important area that needs attention right now.
Lundborg’s Psychedelia is incredibly well-researched by an author who is clearly an enthusiast for the culture, and the weight of his research is pretty undeniable.
In ancient Athens, their Eleusinian mystery school rites included a liquid psychedelic called Kykeon a form of LSD 25 formed from an ergot on barley, similar to how Hofmann discovered LSD by chance in Switzerland. Serendipity plays a huge part in all this, Hofmann was researching ergot (as midwives/witch’s were known to have used it for centuries to induce abortions, for pain relief and to stem excessive bleeding during childbirth) when he stumbled upon LSD 25.
The book covers all the giants of psychedelia: Plato, Terence McKenna, Robert Gordon Wasson, Aldous Huxley, Stanislav Grof, Timothy Leary et al, and some supremely insightful revelations give illumination to mysteries that are usually hidden in texts buried away in obscure academic anthropological theses.
Patrick’s arguments are convincingly brilliant. True, there was huge popularisation of mushrooms in 1960′s from Wasson’s accounts of mushroom cults Mexico as well the pseudo-shamanic stories of Castaneda, but not nearly as much counter culture interest in the superior and more active DMT cultures of South America. Although I remember in the 1990′s in London, Fraser Clark’s Megatripolis and his Parallel University events attracted huge popular underground interest in DMT at the time. I recorded and interviewed Terence McKenna at a Dragonfly party I held in my Brixton studio Butterfly, where Fraser fell in the pond. Myself and many others had tried DMT around that time with startling results. DMT only lasts 20 minutes and yet it’s possible to receive a revelatory experience although not guaranteed. You need fearless wings and a pure heart, as Lundborg explains: “The mere desire to escape is not a good reason to embark on a psychedelic quest. A sufficient dose of LSD will lead to a confrontation with your inner ghosts, rather than fleeing them”.