From Rausch to Rebellion:
Walter Benjamins On Hashish
The Aesthetic Dimensions of
The True is
thus the Bacchanalian revel
in which no member is not drunk
Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)
following essay on Walter Benjamins writings and experimental protocols on hashish,
opium and mescaline forms a kind of preamble to a series of articles on some of the
aesthetic presuppositions of the War on Drugs in the United States and one of its
precursors, Hitlers War on Drugs: Rauschgiftbekämpfung [The Fight Against
Drugs] in the Third Reich, itself a long-forgotten importation of American Prohibition
wedded to Nazi racial hygiene and a police state apparatus ever-ready to invoke the
wholesome popular sentiment expressed in the National Socialist-realist
aesthetic to legitimize and enforce the performance principle of German fascism.
Thomas Mann and Georg Lukács
to his friend Ida Herz on March 21, 1954, one of 20th century Germanys great men of
letters, Thomas Mann, pronounced the following judgment on The Doors of Perception
by Aldous Huxley, an erstwhile acquaintance to whom he had once referred as "one of
the finest flowerings of Western intellectualism, especially in his essays."1
Thank you very much for THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION, though
the book does not excite me with the enthusiasm which it has you. It presents the latest,
and, I might add, most audacious form of Huxleys escapism, which I could never
appreciate in this author. Mysticism as a means to that escapism was, nonetheless,
reasonably honorable. But that he now has arrived at drugs I find rather scandalous. I
already have a bad conscience as it is, since I take a bit of Seconal or Phanodorn at
night in order to sleep better. But to put myself in such a state during the day, where
everything human becomes a matter of indifference to me and I lapse into conscienceless
aesthetic self-indulgence would be loathsome to me. But this is what he recommends to
everyone in the world, because their lot in life is said to be "at the worst so
painful, at the best so monotonous." What a use of best and
worst! His mystics should have taught him that suffering is the fleetest
of the beasts leading to perfection which one cannot say of doping; and the
reverie found in a chair as a miracle of existence and in sundry captivating delusions of
color has more to do with monotony than he thinks.
The Hamburg doctor Frederking has warned that the excited state
of mescaline-rausch, psychotherapeutically speaking, is only suitable for very experienced
individuals. (And Huxley is not such a person, but rather a dilettante.) The suggested
treatment would have to be strict and restricted. Nor could it in any way be predicted
that the outcome of a mescaline-experiment would be at all worthwhile
Now, encouraged by the persuasive recommendation of the famous
author, many English and American youth (especially) will try the experiment. The book
comes to a rather abrupt end. But it is a thoroughly I dont want to say
immoral but one must say an irresponsible book, which can only contribute to the
stupefaction of the world and to its instability in meeting the extremely serious
questions of the time with intelligence
While reading Huxleys book the previous
week, Mann had written in his diary: "Occupied with Huxleys mescaline
glorifications. I dont like it and I dont like him."3 Twelve
days later Mann was still disparaging Huxley in a letter to an acquaintance who had sent
him a journal featuring an article on mind-altering substances.
It [Huxleys book] is an
aesthetic praise of the mescaline-rausch. It struck me as somewhat dubious, not
least of all as an encouragement to the youth of America to engage in doping,
which they do not at all need. Otherwise I must confess that the expression of the
aforesaid test subject is rather ridiculous. Earlier I once wrote about occult
episodes and certified that in such matters I stood rather far to the
left, though apart from those sessions with Schrenk-Notzing, I have no
personal experience with these things.4
Manns friend, the Hungarian Marxist
literary critic and social theorist Georg (György) Lukács (on whom Mann based the
character Naphta in The Magic Mountain), along with some of his
epigones, reiterated their socialist realist disapproval of altered reality during a
conversation recorded in 1967, in which Huxley was criticized for creating "a
mythology of salvation of a purely subjective kind, a salvation forced and mediated by
narcotics," the employment of which were merely "magical forms of orgiastic
ecstasy for the solution of modern human problems." "[A]ngry young people of the
left" attending the "convulsive phenomena of the Beatles performances" were
then encouraged to give up "abstruse utopia" in favor of a struggle for
socialism "without realism being abandoned."5
The photo frontispiece accompanying the
German edition of Gespräche mit Lukács [Conversations with Lukács] shows the
grinning commissar and his apparatchiks seated around a table covered with ashtrays full
of cigarettes, demitasses of espresso, liqueur and wine glasses: the officially sanctioned
Genussmittlel [stimulants, luxury foods] of the realist aesthetician.
When Mann and Lukács criticized Huxley for
"glorifying" his mescaline experiences to the world, they were sincerely
convinced that their positions represented Reason and the responsibility of intellectuals
in the face of neo-fascist mind-control and late capitalist chemical escapism, or
doping as Mann put it. What they failed to acknowledge was that they were
repeating some of the same rhetoric and logic of the propaganda machine which had
functioned quite well under the very Nazis whose irrationality Mann and Lukács were
taking their rationalist stance against.
The Combating of Drugs, the term also acquired a more popular meaning closer to War
on Dope.6 This extremely cruel and often arbitrary prohibitionist
campaign of National Socialist racial hygiene can be viewed as a precursor to the U.S. War
on Drugs, which is itself busily mobilizing the entire police state to root out the
demonized forces of foreign narco-terrorism threatening the performance
principle of Late Capitals global sweat shop.
Mann and Lukács, whose undeniably weighty
contributions to 20th century world literature and social theory continue to exert a
powerful influence within the academic circles of the humanities and the social sciences
(whether directly or through the indirect channels of the Frankfurt School), express an
attitude toward the subjective experience of the irrational based on the
aesthetic biases of bourgeois realism so indicative of the burgher class.
Antecedents of their anti-inebriant prejudices
can be located in the aesthetic debates on other kinds of visionary experience that
threatened bourgeois realism, namely expressionism and surrealism, particularly those
interchanges between Lukács, Bertolt Brecht and Ernst Bloch (who himself was once a
proband in a Weimar-period hashish experiment).7 These literary
parries and counter-thrusts during the era of Stalin and Hitler coincided with the
Nazis immensely popular exhibit of "Degenerate Art," [Entartete Kunst]8
which sealed the fate for modernist artists and writers in the Third Reich. For Hitler and
his Reich Plenipotentiaries for Artistic Formulation the modernist aesthetic
expressed "the sickly excrescences of lunatics or degenerate people, which since the
turn of the century we have learned to know under the collective conception of cubism or
dadaism".9 Lukács similarly dismissed the writings of Franz Kafka, Robert
Musil, James Joyce, Alfred Döblin, William Faulkner and others as a "flight into
psychopathology" indicative of what he considered decadent bourgeois culture and the
inability of the Subject in such a culture to coherently grasp its
socio-economic "totality" and reflect it in the artwork.10
The socialist realist critic Lukács and the
"critical realist" novelist Thomas Mann, whose writings Lukács championed,
represent that "grandeur in repose" of neoclassicism, so predictably horrified
by displays of passion. Visionary inebriants evidently threatened their "masks of
II. Walter Benjamin &
writings on hashish, opium and mescaline by critic, philosopher, and aesthetician Walter
Benjamin provide an antidote to the cognitive straightjacket placed on aesthetic
experience by Lukács. On the other hand, Benjamin considered his visionary experiments as
a utopian prelude to a worldwide messianic upheaval.
Now widely regarded as one of the leading and
most philosophical of literary critics and aestheticians in the 20th Century, Walter
Benjamin studied philosophy in Freiburg, Munich, Berlin and Bern. Earning a degree with
his Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism (1919), he was unsuccessful in his
attempt to become a university professor. His Habilitationsschrift, On
the Origins of the German Trauerspiel (published in 1928), was rejected by
Frankfurt University only to become a canonized classic of 20th Century literary
Benjamin made his living as a free-lance author
and translator in Berlin, where he also took part in progressive German
psychopharmacological research with experimental psychopathologists Ernst Joël and Fritz
Fränkel. A prolific critic, he was forced into exile by the Nazis in 1933. Emigrating to
France, he became a member of the Institute of Social Research (which included Max
Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Otto Kirchheimer, Friedrich Pollack, Leo
Löwenthal, Franz Neumann, Karl Wittvogel and others). Benjamin made an attempt to join
the Institute when it emigrated from Paris to New York. In flight from the Gestapo, he
took his own life with an overdose of morphine in the Spanish border-town of Port Bou on
September 27, 1940. Some of his most important publications include: "Goethes
Elective Affinities," One-way Street, "The Work of Art in the Age of
Mechanical Reproduction," Berlin Childhood around 1900, and the monumental
Paris Arcades Project, recently published in English translation by Harvard
It was precisely to jar the post-industrial self
loose from its de-humanized and well-adjusted mask that Walter Benjamin advocated rescuing
the energies of the cosmic-rausch of the ancient world for the proletarian revolution.
While Benjamins concept of "Profane Illumination" [Profane Erleuchtung]
stands in marked contrast to Huxleys semi-theosophical "Mind-at-Large,"
there are indeed some striking similarities in their observations while under the
influence of psychopharmaka.
Had Benjamin been successful in his flight to the
U.S, it is quite likely that he would have joined writer-actress Salka Viertels
salon in Los Angeles along with his associates Bertolt Brecht and Theodor Adorno. There he
would have also come into contact with Thomas Mann (who was consulting Adorno on musical
questions related to Doctor Faustus) and Aldous Huxley, to whom he could have
communicated his own mescaline experiment on May 22, 1934almost two decades before
Huxleys own mescaline experience.11 To add the finishing touch to the
intricate irony, he would have discovered, had he not already known, that Salka
Viertels personal physician in Berlin had been none other than Dr. Ernst Joel, the
psychopathologist who had initiated Benjamin into the world of hashish on December 18,
If one compares Huxleys comments on
the folds in draperies depicted in classical western artworks ("draperies are living
hieroglyphs that stand in some peculiarly expressive way for the unfathomable mystery of
pure being") with Benjamins comments on the delicate dance of fringe hanging
from an awning ("Hashish in Marseilles")13 or "the
ornamental" in his Crocknotizen [Crock Notes], one discovers enough similarity
and correspondence to make for an interesting and constructive dialogue.
Es ist höchst eigentümlich,
daß die Phantasie dem Raucher Objekte - und zumal besonders kleine - gern serienweise
vorstellt. Die endlosen Reihen, in denen da vor ihm immer wieder die gleichen Utensilien,
Tierchen oder Pflanzenformen auftauchen, stellen gewissermaßen ungestalte, kaum geformte
Entwürfe eines primitiven Ornaments dar.
[It is highly characteristic of the reverie that it tends to
present before the smoker [i.e. opium-smoker] objects - particularly small ones - in
series. The endless successions, in which the same contrivances, little animals or plant
forms suddenly surface in front of the person over and over again, depict, so to speak,
misshapen, barely formed sketches of a primitive ornament.]14
III. The Concept of
Huxley and Benjamin were attempting to recover a concept of experience which had become
entirely alien to the neoclassicist thinkers of the Enlightenment. Benjamin's early
treatise "On the Program of the Coming Philosophy" (1917/1918)15 was
an attempt to rework the concept of experience from within the Kantian system. While
praising Kant for his insistence that knowledge justify itself in the quest for certainty
and lasting knowledge within an ephemeral world, Benjamin called the reality of Newtonian
physics upon which Kant based his certainty "a low, perhaps the lowest order."
Benjamin perceived the metaphysical and religious presuppositions underlying the moral
imperative to justify knowledge, but as a metaphysics he considered the Kantian
"mythology" of a "pure epistemological (transcendental) consciousness"
"different in kind from any empirical consciousness" to be "only a modern
one, and religiously speaking, a particularly infertile one." In contrast to the
caffeinated clockwork-metaphysics of nascent Protestant capitalism, Benjamin sought
"the intoxication of cosmic experience."16 Experience in the truest
philosophical conception of the word, according to Benjamin, would have to account for
other mythologies as well, and those he names betray his reading of Ludwig Klages.17
We know of primitive peoples of the
so-called preanimistic stage who identify themselves with sacred animals and plants and
name themselves after them; we know of insane people who likewise identify themselves in
part with objects of their perception, which are thus no longer objecta,
"placed before" them; we know of sick people who relate the sensations of their
bodies not to themselves but rather to other creatures, and clairvoyants who at least
claim to be able to feel the sensations of others as their own. The commonly shared notion
of sensuous (and intellectual) knowledge in our epoch, as well as in the Kantian and the
pre-Kantian epochs, is very much a mythology like those mentioned.18
IV. Ernst Joëls Critique
critique of the Kantian concept of experience found its parallel in Dr. Ernst Joels
critique of Kraepelinian psychopharmacology. Emil Kraepelin (1855-1926), father of modern
psychopharmacology and "discoverer" of "dementia praecox" (later
called "schizophrenia" by Jungs teacher, Bleuler) had advanced the
technical capabilities of psychology by treating it as a physical science. Rather than
treating a human personality, the Kraepelinian method artificially severed partial
functions of psychic life, altered them with psychopharmaka and subjected them to testing.
A cursory scan of German monographs on mescaline written during the Weimar Republic and
the Third Reich reveals this method in a great number of monograph titles, e.g., "Meskalinwirkung
auf das Phantomglied" (Mescaline-effect upon the phantom limb) or "Meskalinwirkung
bei Stoerungen des optischen Systems" (Mescaline-effect in disturbances of the
optic system).19 It is not at all surprising that such titles predominate the
research during the Third Reich, for the humanity lacking in the Kraepelinian paradigm was
easily steered in the direction of mind-control and chemical-biological warfare. Under the
Nazis, mescaline research continued, but laboratories like the Dachau concentration camp
were the preferred setting. Humanistic and therapeutic research with psychopharmaka was
forbidden under the pretext of "Rauschgiftbekaempfung," a component of the
racist ideology which perceived a threat to the "performance principle" in the
exotic inebriants coming into Germany from the "racially inferior" peoples of
Asia and Latin America (the introduction to Rekos Magische Gifte written in
1938 spells it out quite clearly).20
Ernst Joel proposed the alternative of
"experimental psychopathology." Substances which were thought to be
"psychotomimetic" would be used to arbitrarily engender
"rausch-states" in specially selected test subjects outside the clinical
laboratory setting. It was under this very loose "supervision" that Walter
Benjamin agreed to participate as a "Versuchsperson" [test subject or proband]
in Ernst Joel and Fritz Fraenkel's hashish experiments in Berlin, for as Theodor W. Adorno
described it, it was Benjamins philosophical intention "to render accessible by
rational means that range of experience that announces itself in schizophrenia."21
in the Weimar Republic
hundreds of books, articles, essays, monographs and dissertations on Benjamin (over 3000
exist), only a handful discuss the writings on hashish and opium and the Drogenversuchen
[drug experiments] and none of them situate the experiments within a historical context.
When Benjamin became a "test subject," he also became part of a long-forgotten
community, the Weimar Republics psychonautic avant-garde, which included
Benjamins friend, Ernst Bloch, his cousin Egon Wissing and Egons wife, Gert.
With the synthesis of mescaline from peyote by Arthur Heffter in 1896-1897, Germany became
the leader in psychopharmacological research. The year Benjamin began his experiments
(1927), Louis Lewin published his second edition of Phantastica in Berlin, which
appears on the list of books which Benjamin read from cover to cover.22 This
book alone would have supplied Benjamin with a library of information about
Hermann Schweppenhaeusers claim that
Benjamins writings on hashish, opium and mescaline are among the most genuine ever
put to paper can only be evaluated against the context of Weimar experimentation with
psychopharmaka. Kurt Beringers amazing monograph on mescaline, Der
Meskalin-Rausch was also published in 1927, and remains the greatest work ever written
on the subject. Beringers book contains over 200 pages of protocols from 60
experiments in Heidelberg among doctors, medical students, natural scientists, and
philosophers, all of whom demonstrate remarkable articulateness. Only within the full
context of this research, which produced literally hundreds of monographs on peyote,
mescaline, cannabis, opiates, ayahuasca and cocaine, can we really begin to evaluate
Benjamins writings and experiments, in which he participated not merely as test
subject, but at times as supervisor. In the third one of the published protocols Benjamin
wrote the protocol of Joels own hashish experiment.
What does make Benjamins contribution to
this research unique is summarized quite concisely by Scholem in his essay, "Walter
Benjamin and his Angel:" to rescue the intoxication of cosmic experience that the
human being of antiquity possessed for the proletariat in their coming seizure of power.
This attempt to wed rausch and rebellion in a "profane
illumination" should come as no surprise to anyone who came into majority during the
late 1960s. It is hard to imagine the anti-war demonstrations becoming as large as they
did if they had not been partially fueled by marijuana and LSD, and this is precisely what
the moribund left in the U.S. seems to have forgotten. Nor should we forget that the rites
of Dionysos were seen by the Roman Senate at the time of the Republic as a dangerous
rebellion against the state.
Benjamin scholars have more often than not
misinterpreted "profane illumination" as an awakening from rausch.
Hermann Schweppenhaeuser, Peter Demetz, Richard Sieburth, John McCole, Margaret Cohen,
Susan Buck-Morss and other Benjamin scholars continually repeat the refrain that Benjamin
considered the most important aspect of his experiments to be the crystallized
intellectual yield gleaned after the rausch had subsided. In
Schweppenhaeusers depiction, it is as if Benjamin were heroically running some
painful gauntlet in order to capture the pearl from the rausch-dragons of obscurantism.
But profane illumination can take place within the inebriated voyage itself.
If rausch is analogous to being adrift in a turbulent sea, then profane
illumination is like suddenly awakening in the midst of a dream, seizing the helm,
and becoming the pilot of ones inner voyage. Norbert Bolz understood this perfectly
well in his essay "Vorschule der profanen Erleuchtung," [Propadeutics of Profane
Illumination] and he has prefaced his essay with the following quote:
'Man kann nicht immer im Rausch
leben.' Kann man es nicht? Man muß ihn nur richtig orientieren.
['One can't always be high.' Oh no? One only has to properly
The autoworkers who
smoked pot, dropped acid, and instead of tuning out shut down
auto-factories in wildcat strikes, understand what Walter Benjamin was describing whether
they had read him or not.
Herbert Marcuse seemed to be coming to a similar
idea in his Essay on Liberation which postulated a "new sensibility" as a
biological necessity for revolution. Discussing this new sensibility in 1969, Marcuse
Today's rebels want to see, hear, feel new things in a new way:
they link liberation with the dissolution of ordinary and orderly perception. The 'trip'
involves the dissolution of the ego shaped by the established society - an artificial and
short-lived duration. But the artificial and "private" liberation anticipates,
in a distorted manner, an exigency of the social liberation: the revolution must be at the
same time a revolution in perception which will accompany the material and intellectual
reconstruction of society, creating the new aesthetic environment. Awareness of the need
for such a revolution in perception, for a new sensorium, is perhaps the kernel of truth
in the psychedelic search.24
The drawback to
this search, according to Marcuse, was the "narcotic character" of the
artificial paradise, which all-too-often tended to free one from concern for social
liberation. For Marcuse, like Benjamin, the voyage into the secret garden had to be a
messianic voyage, and the psychonaut was duty-bound to articulate his perceptions and
discoveries to the entire community. Marcuse, however, did not seem to realize that
psychedelics were not narcotic. The reproach that the narcotic may give one
the idea of liberation while at the same time depriving one of the will to liberate cannot
be leveled at psychopharmaka like mescaline, Psilocybe mushrooms, LSD or related
compounds. Marcuse did realize, however, that the late capitalist state would be willing
to mobilize its entire army and police forces into an all-out effort to eradicate
self-induced euphoria once and for all.25
end of his book, One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse quoted Benjamins famous dictum:
"It is for those without hope that hope is given to us." Those of us fortunate
enough to have hope owe it to our fellows to become articulate in our ecstasy. Meeting in
October 1996 in San Francisco for an international conference on Entheobotany, 800
psychonautic researchers came together for a progress report. My own inconclusive
discussion is best summed up by the concluding remarks of Spanish philosopher Antonio
Escohotado, who delivered a brilliant paper on "Inebriation as Experience of the
The crusade against drugs, in fact
a war against self-induced euphoria, is an enterprise born in the U.S.A. and exported by
this country at the very same rhythm in which it became the worlds superpower. The
effect of this American crusade is identical to the effect of crusades in general, and
especially to the crusade against witchcraft, that is, aggravating to unheard-of extremes
a hypothetical evil to justify the destruction and plundering of countless persons, the
ill-gotten wealth of corrupt inquisitors, and a prosperous black market in all the
forbidden items, which in the 17th Century were sorcerers concoctions, and today are
heroin and crack. We will not break the crusades vicious circle unless the standards
of barbaric obscurantism are replaced by principles of enlightenment focused on the
spreading of knowledge among people. Drugs have always been around and they will certainly
ever remain. To pretend that both users and non-users will be better protected because
some drugs are impure and very expensive and sold by criminals (who by the way are
indistinguishable from undercover policeman and plain businessmen), is simply ridiculous.
And yet more so when the street supply grows year after year. The obvious result is a
growing output of crimes committed by illiterate youngsters, who use the illicit
substances, partly as an adult initiation rite and partly as an alibi: declaring oneself
irresponsible, unfree, a victim a very comfortable position by the way at
such a critical moment of life when they should learn responsibility and the abnegation
practiced by their elders.
So the true option is not vice as opposed to law and order, the
real choice is between irrational consumption of adulterated products or an informed use
of pure drugs. Demonizing them has only made us more helpless, more cruel towards our
fellows, and more "idiotic" in the original sense of the word, for
"idiotes" in classical Greek means a person who blindly delegates the things of
his own to the public care of others. Not only our well-being, but the well-being of our
sons and grandsons depends on disseminating patterns of "sobriae ebrietas"
(sober inebriation), which reconsider the use of psychedelic drugs as a moral and
aesthetic challenge, essentially related to the adventures of knowledge, and as
palliatives for difficult parts of our lives, and for very bitter lives. In other words,
we should dignify what is now being debased in order to cope with the generalized delusion
and abuse created by the prohibitionist experiment.
Manns Appeal to Reason
We have good reason to question Manns representation of his medical
source, Dr. Frederking.
To those conversant with the literature in
English and German on early psychedelic and psychotomimetic therapy, Dr. Walter Frederking
is a familiar name. His article "Intoxicant Drugs (Mescaline and LSD-25) in
Psychotherapy" appeared in the Journal for Nervous Mental Diseases
There is nothing in Frederkings article (a
photocopy of which I own and have read carefully) to support Manns position, but
there is a great deal in it which lends support to the opinion that Frederking himself
would have applauded Huxleys effort. In the introduction to his article, for
example, Frederking writes:
Under the heading, "The Drug," Frederking mentions that "I
have had personal experiences with mescaline for more than seventeen years," "As
for LSD-25, I have been using it for nearly three years in my psychiatric practice."
Under the heading, "Differentiation between Mescaline-induced and LSD-25-induced
Intoxication," the following important sentences are to be found:
In an effort to save the patient time and money, many and varied
attempts have been made to shorten the course of psychoanalysis. Only those procedures
which are within the realm of depth psychology deserve consideration. Among these are: 1)
Steckels method of active psychoanalysis, 2) Franks psychocatharsis, and 3)
narco-analysis. A few years ago I described another method, deep relaxation with
free ideation. This procedure makes it possible to induce in the fully awake and
conscious patient, during interview in the physicians office, physical and visual
experiences which may be interpreted as genuine dreams. Such experiences can take the
place of true dreams or can supplement incomplete or sketchy dreams. This procedure,
however, cannot be used with sufficient reliable results in every patient in whom it would
appear indicated. In such cases we make use of certain drug-induced dream-like states.
These are particularly effective since the patients critical consciousness is not
impaired during these states or at least remains at all times ready to intervene.
Nor is there anything in Frederkings Summary to support Manns
Indications for these drugs should be decided upon as soon as
familiarity has been acquired with the nature of the intoxicative state. The therapist
must be familiar with this from his own personal experience so that he may be able to cope
with the frequently somewhat difficult emotional situations arising under the influence of
these drugs; he must also have experience in psychotherapy. Such experience serves to
exercise caution in the case of patients afflicted with schizophrenia or endogenous
depressions, thus reducing risks in such cases. I have, incidentally, never experienced
any dangers of addiction.
The writer has made use of
drug-induced states of intoxication as an aid in psychotherapy. To attain the states of
intoxication, he has used mescaline and LSD-25. Mescaline was used in a dosage from 0.3 to
0.5 gm. intramuscularly and LSD-25, 30 to 60 mic. administered orally. These led to states
of a dream-like nature with experiences that were clearly remembered afterwards. The
procedure is indicted when it is desirable to shorten a course of therapy, reactivate a
stalled treatment of a neurosis, and for the purpose of breaking down affect or memory
blocks. A psychocathartic effect is almost uniformly produced. Mescaline has a more
intensive effect than LSD-25 and should be preferred to the latter in cases where it is
desired to obtain the strongest possible emotions. On the other hand, LSD-25 seems to have
a broader spectrum; it frequently causes the patient to relive scenes from his earlier
personal life and it can also have lasting influences on organic-neurotic states. In the
hands of the experienced psychotherapist, and after appropriate experimentation on
oneself, and provided the indication is prudently selected, the effects of both mescaline
and LSD-25 may constitute very valuable therapeutic aids.
Frederkings phrase: "in the hands of an experienced psychotherapist" out
of context, saying:
The Hamburg doctor Frederking has
warned us that the excited state of a mescaline-rausch, psychotherapeutically speaking, is
only suitable for very experienced individuals. (And Huxley is not such a person, but
rather a dilettante.) The suggested treatment would have be strict and restricted. Nor
could it in any way be predicted that the outcome of a mescaline-experiment would be at
falsifies everything Frederking said in his article. None of the persons cited in
Frederkings "Case Histories" section were "very experienced"
individuals. Moreover, in the section, "Effect on Normals," Frederking says that
he has experimented with said substances "on myself as well as friends outside my
medical practice." It was precisely this kind of experimentation which Huxley
reported in his Doors Of Perception.
Sleeping off his bad conscience by taking "a
bit of Seconal," Thomas Mann wags his finger at Huxley for writing his
"irresponsible book," which can "only contribute to the stupefaction of the
world." I respectfully submit that "stupefaction" is not an accurate
description of the state mescaline is considered to engender, but that it more accurately
describes the narcotized state induced by Seconal® and other barbiturates.
* John McCole has
concisely defined the German word Rausch and its usage in his Walter
Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition: "Rausch is far more suggestive than the
English equivalent intoxication: it quite naturally bears the connotations of
such overwhelming feelings as exhilaration, ecstasy, euphoria, rapture, and passion; its
onomatopoetic qualities have an equivalent in the slang term rush.
Intoxication is the only real option for rendering Rausch in
English, but its strong associations with alcohol and toxicity can be misleading. Benjamin
uses it to refer to various states of transport, providing a bridge to Klages
theories of dream consciousness and cosmogonic eros." (Cornell Univ.
Press, 1993), 225.
1 Cited by David King Dunaway in his Huxley in
Hollywood (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989) 90.
2 Thomas Mann, "Brief an Ida Herz," 21.
March 1954, in Neue Rundschau, 76. Jahrgang, 2. Heft, S. 179-180 (translation by
Scott J. Thompson). The letter is also contained in Thomas Mann, Tagebücher 1953 -
1955, hrsg. v. Inge Jens, Frankfurt a.M., S. Fischer Verlag, 1995, S. 583. An
excerpted paragraph translated into English can also be found in Dunaway, op. cit.,
3 Diary entry "Erlenbach, Montag den 15.
III. 54," Tagebücher 1953 - 1955, ed. Inge Jens, Frankfurt a.M., S. Fischer
Verlag, 1995, p. 196.
4 Letter to Peter Ringer, 27. März 1954, op.
cit., p.584 (translation by Scott J. Thompson).
5 See Gespräche mit Georg Lukács, Hans
Heinz Holz, Leo Kofler, Wolfgang Abendroth, hrsg. Theo Pinkus, (Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag,
1967), S. 46-53. In English this has been translated as Conversations with Lukács,
Hans Heinz Holz, Leo Kofler, Wolfgang Abendroth, ed. Theo Pinkus (Cambridge: MIT Press,
1975), 60-68. The phrases quoted above from this passage were actually spoken by Leo
Kofler, though Lukács agreed with him and used his remarks as touchstones for
6 The War on Drugs during the Third Reich, Rauschgiftbekämpfung,
was a policy coordinated by the Reich Health Service within the Ministry of the Interior.
It was part of the same bureaucratic labyrinth that included the departments of hereditary
science and racial hygiene, and much of its policy-making was conducted by Nazi
physicians. An unholy alliance of Nazi eugenics and American prohibition, Rauschgiftbekämpfung
unsuccessfully attempted to undo centuries of traditional social behavior.
7 See the "Highlights of the Second Hashish
Impression" (by Walter Benjamin & Ernst Bloch:15.Jan. 1928). This has been
translated by Rodney Livingstone as "Main Features of My Second Impression of
Hashish" in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. II: 1927-1934,
(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1999), 85-90. An on-line
translation by Scott J. Thompson can be found at www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#Protocol
II [Accessed May 17, 2000].
8 See Stephanie Barron, ed., "Degenerate
Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (New York: Harry N. Abrams,
Inc., 1991). The chapter on "Art" in Richard Grunbergers The 12-Year
Reich (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971), 421-434 is also quite useful.
The corresponding socialist literary arguments are documented in Aesthetics and
Politics, trans. ed. R. Taylor, with afterword by Fredric Jameson (London & New
York: Verso Press, 1977). The most pertinent essays are Ernst Bloch, "Discussing
Expressionism" (16-27), Georg Lukács, "Realism in the Balance" (28-59),
and Theodor W. Adorno, "Reconciliation Under Duress" (151-176).
9 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New
York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939), 353.
10 Lukács most succinct diatribe against
modern literature is his "The Ideology of Modernism" (1958) in his Realism in
Our Time, trans. John & Necke Mander (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 17-46.
11 A translation of this protocol by Scott
J. Thompson can be read on-line at: www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#XI [Accessed May 17,
12 Benjamin had expressed interest in
trying hashish as early as September 19, 1919, when he wrote to his friend Ernst Schoen:
"I have also read Baudelaires Artificial Paradise. It is an extremely
reticent, nonoriented attempt to monitor the psychological phenomena that
manifest themselves in hashish or opium highs for whatever they have to teach us
philosophically. It will be necessary to repeat this attempt independently of this
book." (The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, ed. & annotated
by Gershom Scholem & Theodor W. Adorno, trans. Manfred R. Jacobson & Evelyn M.
Jacobson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 148.
13 Walter Benjamin, "Hashish in
Marseilles," in Selected Writings, Vol. II: 1927-1934, op. cit.,
pp. 673-679. An earlier draft of "Hashish in Marseilles" entitled "Protocol
IV: Walter Benjamin: 29 September 1928. Saturday. Marseilles." has been translated by
Scott J. Thompson and can be found on-line at www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#IV
[Accessed May 17, 2000].
14 A translation of "Crock Notes" by
Scott J. Thompson can be found on-line at: www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#crock
[Accessed May 17, 2000]. The German can be found in Walter Benjamin, Über Haschisch,
ed. T. Rexroth, (Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp Verlag, 1972), 57-58.
15 Walter Benjamin, "On the Program of the
Coming Philosophy" in Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History, ed. Gary
Smith, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 1-12.
16 Gershom Scholem, "Walter Benjamin and His
Angel," in On Walter Benjamin, ed. Gary Smith (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991),
17 Ludwig Klages, "Vom
Traumbewusstsein," Zeitschrift Fuer Pathopsychologie, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1919, pp.
1-38; and Vom Kosmogonischen Eros (Jena: Eugen Diederichs Verlag,
Benjamin had been introduced to the culture of
Aztecs and Bernard de Sahagun's writings on ancient Mexican uses of peyotl and nanacatl
as early as 1916 while studying with the Americanist professor Walter Lehmann in
Munich. He was also familiar with the writings of the German anthropologist Preuss, who
had done extensive fieldwork in Mexico.
18 Walter Benjamin, "On the Program of the
Coming Philosophy," op. cit., p.4.
19 See the Bibliography, "German
Psychopharmacological Research Before 1945" compiled by Scott J. Thompson at
www.wbenjamin.org/pharmaco.html [Accessed May 17, 2000].
20 Viktor Reko, Magische Gifte: Rausch-
und Betaeubungsmittel der neuen Welt (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, 1938), ix.
[Magic Poisons: Inebriating and Narcotic Substances of the New World]. Viktor Reko was
merely a journalist and Nazi sympathizer who scammed a Ph.D. in Mexico by plagiarizing the
work of his cousin, Blas Pablo Reko, also a Nazi sympathizer but nonetheless a meticulous
botanist. The fallacious nature of Viktor Rekos book is exemplified in his dictum,
"Die größte Giftwirkung entfalten stets die landesfremden, die rassefremden
Berauschungsmittel." ["The greatest toxic potency is always demonstrated by
those intoxicating agents which are nationally and racially alien."] Such racist
claptrap, which is easily refuted by any study of the history of the nightshades in
Germany, was repeated with approving solemnity by the National Socialist doctor Friedrich
Panse in his paper, "Grundlagen, Ausbreitung und Bekämpfung des Opiat- und
Schlafmittelmißbrauch in Deutschland" [Foundations, Dissemination and Combating of
Opiate and Barbiturate Abuse in Germany] in Gegen die Rauschgifte! Vorträge des 1.
Konferenz für Rauschgiftbekämpfung des Deutschen Guttemplerordens (Berlin:
Neuland-Verlag, 1936), 20. [Against Rauschgift: Lectures of the 1st Conference for
Rauschgiftbekämpfung of the German Good Templars Order]. Information in English on Viktor
and Blas Pablo Reko can be found in Richard Evans Schultes, "Evolution of the
Identification of the Sacred Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico" in Jonathon Ott
& Jeremy Bigwoods Teonanácatl: Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of North America
(Seattle: Madrona Publishers, Inc., 1978), 33-34.
21 Theodor W. Adorno, "Benjamin the
Letter-Writer," in On Walter Benjamin, op. cit., pp. 329-330.
22 Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften [Collected
23 Norbert Bolz, "Vorschule der profanen
Erleuchtung," in Walter Benjamin: Profane Erleuchtung und rettende Kritik,
ed. Norbert Bolz & Richard Faber (Koenigshausen & Neumann, 1985), 190-222.
24 Herbert Marcuse, Essay on Liberation
(Boston, Beacon Press, 1969), 37.
25 A 15-billion dollar War on Drugs package for
Latin America was discussed in the Feb. 1997 issue of The Progressive magazine.
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