23 October 2011

Acid drop echoes

In commenting on Friday's "Acid drop" post, Geoff Powell mentions Aldous Huxley's Doors to perception and Dr C quotes from T S Eliot's The love song of J Alfred Prufrock. Both are curiously appropriate.

At the time of "acid drop" I was in the middle of my A-levels (for non British readers: a two year examination course usually taken from aged 16-18) – specifically, A-level English Literature. Prominent amongst the texts on the course were Huxley's Brave new world (which necessitated reading of other Huxley in general, including The island in particular and therefore, by extension, Doors to perception) and Eliot's poetry (explicitly including Prufrock).

Prufrock affected me deeply; not only in its own right, but in its unifying echoes down the halls of wider literature from Dante to Joyce. The particular phrase quoted by Dr C ("I should have been a pair of ragged claws...") caught in my imagination with especial force; in 1968 and 1969 I worked on a whole series of photomontages which sought to express what those words moved in me. And I have (not surprisingly, within my own psychology, though I am surprised to hear Dr C echoing it) often heard them clattering around my memories of the acid drop.

I had read Huxley's Island and Doors before that night on the beach and, being a teenager, drew from both a romantic view of chemically altered perception. Having a bad trip put an end to that rose tinted romantic view – perhaps unfairly, perhaps equally unrealistically, but certainly and definitively – for a long time. As an adult, I've often considered the issue with an intellectually open mind (and realised that a good trip would have had the opposite effect) but never remotely approached willingness to experiment with it in practice.

Literature never goes away; it's one of those graces which entwine with the roots of being, enriching and nourishing and informing, for life. Part of its ongoing wonder, though, is the fact that it goes on delivering slow burn surprises for ever. Though both Huxley and Eliot have both been linked to the acid drop incident in my mental attic, they have never connected through it to each other – until, courtesy of Geoff and Dr C, now.

  • Aldous Huxley,
    • Doors to perception, 1954, London: Chatto and Windus [current: 2004, London: Vintage. 9780099458203 (pbk)]
    • Brave new world, 1932, London: Chatto and Windus. [current: 2007, London: Vintage. 9780099518471 (pbk)]
    • The island, 1962, New York: Harper Brothers [current: 2008, London; Vintage. 9780099477778 (pbk)]
  • T S Eliot, Prufrock, and other observations. 1917, London: The Egoist. [current: several versions including complete and selected poems collections and also as The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 2008, Warwick: Greville Press. 9780955915123 (pbk)]

1 comment:

Dr. C said...

I thought this was interesting:
"Speaking about his youthful experiments with psychedelics, Jobs said, "Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life." He was hardly alone among computer scientists in his appreciation of hallucinogenics and their capacity to liberate human thought from the prison of the mind. Jobs even let drop that Microsoft's Bill Gates would "be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once." Apple's mantra was"Think different." Jobs did. And he credited his use of LSD as a major reason for his success."
(from here: http://www.thefix.com/content/steve-jobs-think-different-and-lsd-9143)
I was offered acid once in '68 but declined. Once in medicine you'd be an idiot to take that chance.