Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index




And as we stand on the edge of darkness
Let our chant fill the void
That others may know

In the land of the night
The ship of the sun
Is drawn by
The grateful dead.

Tibetan Book of the Dead
Circa 4000 BC

While you do not know life, how can you know about death?

Confucius (551-479 BC)
The Confucian Analects, Book 11:11
The Chinese Classics, 1861-1886
Translated by James Legge

To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they know quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?

Socrates (c.470-399 BC)
Quoted in Apology, section 29
by Plato (c.428-348 BC)

How do I know that love of life is not a delusion after all? How can I be sure that he who dreads to die is not like a child who has lost the way and cannot find his home?

The lady Li Chi was the daughter of Ai Feng. When the Duke of Chin first took her away, she wept until the bosom of her dress was drenched with tears. But when she came to the royal palace, and lived with the Duke, and ate rich food, she regretted having wept. How then can I be sure that the dead do not regret of having previously clung to life?

Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even interpret the very dream they are dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream.

By and by comes the Great Awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams, I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a sage may arise to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be until ten thousand generations have gone by.

Chuang-tzu (c.369-c.286 BC)
Chuang Tzu, 1889
Translated by Herbert Allen Giles (1845-1935)

Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.

Epicurus (341-271 BC)
Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Book X, section 125
by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)

I have no regret at having lived, for I have so conducted my life that I do not feel that I was born to no purpose. I cheerfully quit from life as if it were an inn, not a home; for Nature has given us a hostelry in which to sojourn, not to abide.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
De Senectute, 45 BC

By protracting life, we do not deduct one jot from the duration of death.

Lucretius (c.96-55 BC)
On the Nature of Things
Book III, line 1087

To have died once is enough.

Virgil (70-19 BC)
Aeneid, Book IX, line 140

Anyone can stop a man's life, but no one his death; a thousand doors open on to it.

Seneca (4 BC - AD 65)

Surely you are aware that dying is also one of life's duties? You are deserted no duty; for there is no definite number established which you are bound to complete. There is no life that is not short. Compared with the world of nature, even Nestor's life was a short one, or Sattia's, the woman who bade carve on her tombstone that she had lived ninety and nine years. Some persons, you see, boast of their long lives; but who could have endured the old lady if she had had the luck to complete her hundredth year? It is with life as it is with a play, -- it matters not how long the action is spun out, but how good the acting is. It makes no difference at what point you stop. Stop whenever you choose; only see it that the closing period is well turned.

Seneca (4 BC - AD 65)
Epistle 77 "On Taking One's Own Life"
Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, 1918
Translated by Richard M. Gummere

The fear of death is more to be dreaded than death itself.

Publilius Syrus (1st century BC)
The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus, A Roman Slave
Maxim 511
Translated by Darius Lyman, 1856

Thou hast embarked,
Thou hast made the voyage,
Thou art come to shore.
Get out.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, AD 160
Book 3
Translated by George Long, 1862

Let it make no difference to thee whether thou art cold or warm, if thou art doing thy duty; and whether thou art drowsy or satisfied with sleep; and whether ill-spoken of or praised; and whether dying or doing something else. For it is one of the acts of life, this act by which we die: it is sufficient then in this act also to do well what we have in hand.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, AD 167
Book 6
Translated by George Long, 1862

If you are doing what is right, never mind whether you are freezing with cold or beside a good fire; heavy-eyed, or fresh from a sound sleep; reviled or applauded; in the act of dying, or about some other piece of business. (For even dying is part of the business of life; and there too no more is required of us than 'to see the moment's work well done'.)

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, Book 6, Number 2
Translated by Maxwell Staniforth

A good death does honor to a whole life.

Petrarch (1304-1374)
To Laura in Death, Canzone 16

'Tis the maddest trick a man can ever play in his whole life, to let his breath sneak out of his body without any more ado, and without so much as a rap o'er the pate, or a kick of the guts; to go out like the snuff of a farthing candle, and die merely of the mulligrubs, or the sullens.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part II, Book 6, Chapter 41, 1615

Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased by tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Essays: Of Death, 1625

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Julius Caesar, 1599
Act II, scene ii, line 32

For good men but see death, the wicked taste it.

Ben Jonson (c.1573-1637)
Epigram LXXX, "Of Life, and Death"
Epigrams and the Forest, 1984
edited by Richard Dutton

I know death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits.

John Webster (c.1580-c.1625)
Duchess of Malfi, 1623
Act IV, scene ii

I am not so much afraid of death, as ashamed thereof. 'Tis the very disgrace and ignominy of our natures, that in a moment can so disfigure us, that our nearest friends, wife, and children, stand afraid and start at us.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682)
Religio Medici, 1643
Part I, section 40

But the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying; when Avarice makes us the sport of death; when even David grew politickly cruel; and Solomon could hardly be said to be the wisest of men.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682)
Urn Burial; or Hydriotaphia, 1658
Chapter 5

Le soleil ni la mort ne se peuvent regarder fixement.
(Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.)

La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Sentences and Moral Maxims, 1678
Maxim 26
Translated by Leonard Tancock

It is not worthy of a man to postpone his struggle with death until the moment when it arrives to carry him off.

Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704)
Oraisons Funebres, 1690

To die is landing on some silent shore,
Where billows never break, nor tempests roar.

Samuel Garth (1661-1719)
"Dispensary", 1699
Canto III

It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Thoughts on Religion, 1731

Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Letter to Count Schomberg
31 August 1769

It hath been often said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
Amelia, 1751
Book III, Chapter 4

Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Life of Johnson, 1791
19 September 1777

The infant runs toward it with its eyes closed, the adult is stationary, the old man approaches it with his back turned.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)
Elements of Physiology, 1875

Living is a sickness to which sleep provides relief every sixteen hours. It's a palliative. The remedy is death.

Niccolas Chamfort (1741-1794)
Maxims and Considerations, 1796
Volume 1, Number 113

Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, 1786-1830
Book VII, Chapter 9

Death is a commingling of Eternity with Time; in the death of a good man, Eternity is seen looking through Time.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Quoted in "Death of Goethe"
New Monthly Magazine, Number 138, 1832
by Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

It is well, impending terror
To expose, the veil to raise?
Human life is naught but error,
Knowledge only Death conveys.

Johann von Schiller (1759-1805)
"Cassandra", 1802

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when you were not: that gives us no concern. Why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? To die is only to be as we were before we were born.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
Table Talk, 1821-1822

Death is the veil which those who live call life:
They sleep, and it is lifted.

Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)
Prometheus Unbound, 1818-1819
Act III, scene iii, line 113

When the seed bursts, the plant then suddenly spreads asunder. At that instant it feels that it is being dissolved, after lying so long narrowly folded in the seed. On the contrary it gains a new world.... Birth must seem to the new-born babe what death seems to us -- the annihilation of all the conditions which had hitherto made life possible in the womb of its mother, but proved to be its emergence into a wider life.

Gustave Theodor Fechner (1801-1887)
Life After Death, 1836

Nothing is dead: men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals and mournful obituaries, and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some new and strange disguise. Jesus is not dead: he is very well alive: nor John, nor Paul, nor Mahomet, nor Aristotle; at times we believe we have seen them all, and could easily tell the names under which they go.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"Nominalist and Realist"
Essays: Second Series, 1844

There are, as is known, insects that die in the moment of fertilization. So it is with all joy: life's highest, most splendid moment of enjoyment is accompanied by death.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Either/Or, 1843, Volume 1

When the leaves fall, the whole earth is a cemetery pleasant to walk in.... How beautifully they go to their graves! How gently lay themselves down and turn to mould. They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as gracefully and as ripe -- with such an Indian-summer serenity will shed their bodies.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
"Fallen Leaves", 1862

I do not commiserate -- I congratulate you...
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
"Song of Myself" part 7
Leaves of Grass, 1855

...a grave, wherever found, preaches a short and pithy sermon to the soul.

William Cowper Prime (1825-1905)
The Old House by the River, 1853
Chapter XII "Forest Life"

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me --
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1960
Number 712, composed c.1863, stanza 1

There's nothing certain in man's life but this: That he must lose it.

Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton (1831-1891)
pseudonymously as Owen Meredith
"Clytemnestra", 1855
Part XX

If life is an illusion, then so is death -- the greatest of all illusions. If life must not be taken too seriously -- then so neither must death.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
"Ignorance of Death"
Notebooks, 1912
Volume XXIII "Death"

Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born - a hundred million years - and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together. There was a peace, a serenity, an absence of all sense of responsibility, an absence of worry, an absence of care, grief, perplexity, and the presence of a deep content and unbroken satisfaction in that hundred million years of holiday which I look back upon with a tender longing and with a grateful desire to resume, when the opportunity comes.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Autobiography, 1959
Chapter 49
edited by Charles Neider

If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every great fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does. In place of this we have death.

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)
"On the Doctrine of Chances", 1878
Chapter 12 "On the Doctrine of Chances, With Later Reflections"
The Philosophy of Peirce: Selected Writings, 1940
Edited by Justus Buchler

Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Gay Science, 1887
Aphorism 109

It would be counter to the conservative nature of instinct if the goal of life were a state never hitherto reached. It must rather be an ancient starting point, which the living being left long ago, and to which it harks back again by all the circuitous paths of development. If we may assume as an experience admitting of no exception that everything living dies from causes within itself, and returns to the inorganic, we can only say "The goal of all life is death," and, casting back, "The inanimate was there before the animate".

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1961
Translated by James Strachey

That which dies in a man is only his five senses. That which continues to exist, beyond his senses, is immense, unimaginable, sublime.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
Notebook, 1904

In the new era whereupon we are entering, and wherein the religions no longer reply to the great questions of mankind, one of the problems on which we crossexamine ourselves most anxiously is that of the life beyond the tomb. Do all things end at death? Is there an imaginable after-life? Whither do we go and what becomes of us? What awaits us on the other side of the frail illusion which we call existence? At the moment when our heart stops beating, does matter triumph, or mind; does eternal light begin, or endless darkness?

Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949)
The Measure of the Hours, 1907
Chapter 2, "Immortality", I

Life and death are but phases of the same thing, the reverse and obverse of the same coin.... I want you all to treasure death and suffering more than life and to appreciate their cleansing and purifying character. Death which is an Eternal verity is revolution, as birth and after is slow and steady evolution. Death is as necessary for man's growth as life itself.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Young India, 12 March 1920

We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
"The Guermantes Way"
Part 2, Chapter 1
Remembrance of Things Passed
Volume 6, 1921

Man is the only animal that contemplates death, and also the only animal that shows any sign of doubt of its finality.

William Ernest Hocking (1873-1966)
The Meaning of Immortality in Human Experience, 1957

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Escape from the Shadows, 1973
by Robin Maugham (1916-1981)

Like a projectile flying to its goal, life ends in death. Even its ascent and its zenith are only steps and means to this goal. We grant goal and purpose to the ascent of life, why not death? For 20 years and more the growing man is being prepared for the complete unfolding of his individual nature, why should not the older man prepare himself 20 years and more for his death?

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
The Soul and Death, 1934

In fact, our dying is more a concern to those who survive us than to ourselves; for as a wise man once cleverly put it, as long as we are, death is not, and when death is, we are not; and even if we are unfamiliar with the adage, it retains its psychological validity. There is no real relationship between us and death; it is something that does not apply to us at all, but at best to nature and the world at large - which is why all creatures can contemplate it with composure, indifference, irresponsibility, and egoistic innocence.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
The Magic Mountain, 1924
Part 6, "A Good Soldier"

The basic anxiety, the anxiety of a finite being about the threat of non-being, cannot be eliminated. It belongs to existence itself.

Paul Johannes Tillich (1886-1965)
The Courage to Be, 1952
Chapter 2

It takes so many years
To learn that one is dead!

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
The Family Reunion, 1939
Scene III

...I know now, and knew then, that no dog is fond of dying, but I have never had a dog that showed a human, jittery fear of death, either. Death, to a dog, is the final unavoidable compulsion, the last ineluctable scent on a fearsome trail, but they like to face it alone, going out into the woods, among the leaves, if there are any leaves when their time comes, enduring without sentimental human distraction the Last Loneliness, which they are wise enough to know cannot be shared by anyone.

James Thurber (1894-1961)
"And So to Medve"
Thurber's Dogs, 1955

Those who live, live off the dead. And death too must live; and there's nothing like an insane asylum to tenderly incubate death, and to keep the dead in an incubator.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)
Artaud the Momo, 1976

One doesn't die because one has to die,
one dies because it is a wrinkle forced on the
one day
not so long ago.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)
"Electroshock (Fragments)"
From Artaud Anthology, 1965
Part II: 1943-1948
Translated by Jack Hirschman

The dead don't stay interested in us living people for very long. Gradually, gradually, they let go hold of the earth...and the ambitions they had...and the pleasures they had...and the things they suffered...and the people they loved. They get weaned away from earth - that's the way I put it - weaned away.

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
Our Town, 1938, Act III
(Ellipses in original text)

Elyot: Death's very laughable, such a cunning little mystery. All done with mirrors.

Amanda: Darling. I do believe you're talking nonsense.

Elyot: So is everybody else in the long run. Let's be superficial and pity the poor philosophers. Let's blow trumpets and squeakers, and enjoy the party as much as we can, like very small, quite idiotic school children. Let's savor the delight of the moment. Come kiss me darling, before your body rots and worms pop in and out of your eye sockets.

Noel Pierce Coward (1899-1973)
Private Lives, 1930, Act II

Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
Pale Fire: A Novel, 1962

For my part, I would like to die fully conscious that I am dying...slow enough to allow death to insinuate itself into my body and fully unfold, so as not to miss the ultimate experience, the passage.

Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987)
With Open Eyes, 1980

The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms we have loved.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
The Hero With a Thousand Faces, 1968
Prologue "The Monomyth"
Chapter 2 "Tragedy and Comedy"

How many ways are there to face and encounter death? As many as there are people dying. What it is like in reality we won't know until we go over ourselves, but we can make it a wrenching parting, a slammed door -- or a harmonious climax, the crest. The key to our attitude and actions is in our hands. It would be good to go with open eyes and senses, to welcome the transition. If we prepare properly, we can sanely and serenely walk down the garden path, open the gate, and walk through, observing every step of the way. We all passed through birth -- a far more dangerous and disruptive process - and survived. Now let's see what lies ahead.

Helen Nearing (1904-1995)
Loving and Leaving the Good Life, 1992

Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.

Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)
Markings, 1964

Like everybody else, I am incapable of conceiving infinity; and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
Old Age, 1972

Death is not the enemy; living in constant fear of it is.

Norman Cousins (1912-1990)
The Healing Heart, 1983
Chapter XVII "Beond Invalidism"

The tragedy of life is not in the fact of death but in what dies inside us while we live.

Norman Cousins (1912-1990)
Human Options, 1986
Chapter 2 "Learning as the Natural Habitat of Options"

It is essential to die unreconciled and not of one's own free will. Suicide is a repudiation. The absurd man can only drain everything to the bitter end, and deplete himself.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
The Myth of Sisyphus, 1955
"An Absurd Reasoning: Absurd Freedom"
Translated by Justin O'Brien

I'll tell you a big secret, mon cher. Don't wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
The Fall, 1956

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", 1952

When I was young, I was extremely scared of dying. But now I think it a very, very wise arrangement. It's like a light that is extinguished. Not very much to make a fuss about.

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)
"Face to Face with a Life of Creation"
Interview by Alan Riding
New York Times, 30 April 1995 the atheist, death is the end; to the believer, the beginning; to the agnostic, the sound of silence.

Dr. Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990)
Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, 1979
"Death", Comment added to Lisl Marburg Goodman quotation

Why should I be afraid of dying? I wasn't afraid of being born.

James H. Austin (b.1925)
Quoted in Rational Mysticism, 2003
Chapter 7 "Zen and James Austin's Brain"
By John Horgan

Life is a series of diminishments. Each cessation of an activity either from choice or some other variety of infirmity is a death, a putting to final rest. Each loss, of friend or precious enemy, can be equated with the closing off of a room containing blocks of nerves...and soon after the closing off the nerves atrophy and that part of oneself, in essence, drops away. The self is lightened, is held on earth by a gram less of mass and will.

Coleman Dowell (1925-1985)
"Tasmania, Now"
Mrs. October Was Here, 1973
Part 3

But Jesus, when you don't have any money, the problem is food. When you have money, it's sex. When you have both, it's health, you worry about getting rupture or something. If everything is simply jake then you're frightened of death.

J.P. Donleavy (b.1926)
The Ginger Man, 1955
Chapter 5

In the last moment you don't want to be pissed off, even if there's no re-birth. So it's a good idea to get into the frequency of some kind of meditative practice, in case there's no afterlife. In case there is, it's also a good idea. It prepares you for whatever situation. "Do not go gently into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light." You know that poem? It seems the worst advice possible.

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
23 April 1992
Mavericks of the Mind, 1993
by David Jay Brown and
Rebecca McClen Novick

If men only felt about death as they do about sleep, all terrors would cease.... Men sleep contentedly, assured that they will wake the following morning. They should feel the same about the end of their lives.

Richard Matheson (b.1926)
"Summerland: This dismaying connection"
What Dreams May Come, 1978

Again I'm asked, how much heat does it take to cremate a cadaver in a crematorium? About 2200 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes, then 1800 F for another 60 to 150 minutes.

L.M. Boyd (1927-2007)
"The Informed Source"
The Orlando [Florida] Sentinel
17 November 1991

This is my death...and it will profit me to understand it.

Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
"Making a Living"
The Death Notebooks, 1975

If you can see a thing whole, it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But close up, a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.

Ursula K. LeGuin (b.1929)
The Dispossessed, 1974
Chapter 6
(Ellipses in original text)

Death is psychosomatic.

Charles Manson (b.1934)
Esquire, 1971

Dying is like diving into a deep lake on a hot day. There's the shock of that sharp cold change, the pain of it for a second, and then accepting is a swim in reality.

Richard Bach (b.1936)
Illusions, 1977

It may be that man can learn a little something useful by suffering the sense of dying, and even that the longer he attends its school the more he will learn both about the conduct of this life and the demeanor of its close. What is indicated, on this hypothesis, is a lifelong expectation and a conscious expectation of death.... Death takes us down a peg or two and cuts us and our furnishings to size; probably not a bad thing for most of us, and maybe the best thing that ever happened to any of us. Who knows?

Milton Mayer (b.1939)
On Death, 1965

The earth died each year, but after a season of cold it rose to new life. His winter would not pass, but what of that? Could not he rest content with a single summer, a glint of the sunlight, one kiss? What would repetition add to what he already possessed?

Thomas Michael Disch (b.1940)
"Moondust, the Smell of Hay, and Dialectical Materialism"
Fun With Your New Head, 1968

I have to look at the landscape of the blue-green world again. Just think: in all the clean beautiful reaches of the solar system, our planet alone is a blot; our planet alone has death. I have to acknowledge that the sea is a cup of death and the land is a stained altar stone. We the living are survivors huddled on flotsam, living on jetsam. We are escapees. We wake in terror, eat in hunger, sleep with a mouthful of blood.

Annie Dillard (b.1945)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974
Chapter 10 "Fecundity"

I think that the dying pray at the last not "please", but "thank you", as a guest thanks his host at the door. Falling from airplanes the people are crying thank you, thank you, all down the air; and the cold carriages draw up for them on the rocks. Divinity is not playful. The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest. By a power that is unfathomably secret, and holy, and fleet. There is nothing to be done about it, but ignore it, or see. And then you walk fearlessly, eating what you must, growing wherever you can, like the monk on the road who knows precisely how vulnerable he is, who takes no comfort among death-forgetting men, and who carries his vision of vastness and might around in his tunic like a live coal which neither burns nor warms him, but with which he will not part.

Annie Dillard (b.1945)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974
Chapter 15 "The Waters of Separation"

If people lived forever - if they never got any older - if they could just go on living in this world, never dying, always healthy - do you think they'd bother to think hard about things, the way we're doing now? I mean, we think about just about everything, more or less - philosophy, psychology, logic. Religion. Literature. I kinda think, if there were no such thing as death, that complicated thoughts and ideas like that would never come into the world.

Haruki Murakami (b.1949)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1997
Book Two, Chapter 10 "May Kasahara on Death and Evolution"

There is absolutely no way to know what the subjective experience of having one's brain state transferred into a computer, leaving the body to be disposed of, or even of being frozen and thawed, would be. Even if these things were tried, those who hadn't themselves had the experience would only be able to rely on the reportage of the purported survivors who did.... The cold truth is that you have to die to test these ideas. The living are unable to know if technological reductions of consciousness are valid.

Jaron Lanier (b.1960)
"Death: The Skeleton Key of Consciousness Studies?"
Journal of Consciousness Studies
Volume 4, Number 2, 1997

When Koko was seven, one of her teachers asked, "When do gorillas die?" and she signed, "TROUBLE, OLD." The teacher also asked, "Where do gorillas go when they die?" and Koko replied, "COMFORTABLE HOLE BYE." When asked "How do gorillas feel when they die -- happy, sad, afraid?" she signed, "SLEEP." Koko's reference to holes in the context of death has been consistent and is puzzling since no one has ever talked to her about burial, nor demonstrated the activity. [T]here may be an instinctive basis for this....

Francine Patterson (b.1947)
and Wendy Gordon
"The Case for the Personhood of Gorillas"
In The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity, 1993
Edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer

Be happy while y'er leevin,
For y'er a lang time deid.

Scottish motto for a house
"Notes & Queries"
07 December 1901

Death is Life's answer to the question "Why?"

Men's toilet, Telephone Company, New York City
Encyclopedia of Graffiti, 1974
Robert George Reisner, Lorraine Wechsler


[see also: FREE SPEECH]

All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the "Cause" is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
The Screwtape Letters, 1941
Letter VII


Men first feel necessity, then look for utility, next attend to comfort, still later amuse themselves with pleasure, thence grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad and waste their substance.

Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)
The New Science, 1744
Book I, paragraph 241

Decadence is a difficult word to use since it has become little more than a term of abuse applied by critics to anything they do not yet understand or which seems to differ from their moral concepts.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Death in the Afternoon, 1932
Chapter 7

The goal of every culture is to decay through over-civilization; the factors of decadence, -- luxury, scepticism, weariness and superstition, -- are constant. The civilization of one epoch becomes the manure of the next.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)
The Unquiet Grave, 1944, revised 1951
Part II, "Te Palinure Petens"


[see also: VOTING]

The tyranny of a principal in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.

Montesquieu (1689-1755)

I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either.

John Adams (1735-1826)
"Letters to John Taylor of Caroline, Virginia, in Reply to
His Strictures on Some Parts of the Defence of the American
Quincy, 15 April 1814

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

John Adams (1735-1826)
"Letters to John Taylor of Caroline, Virginia, in Reply to
His Strictures on Some Parts of the Defence of the American
Quincy, 15 April 1814

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.

Alexander Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)
Attributed without source by Elmer T. Peterson
"This is the Hard Core of Freedom"
The Daily Oklahoman, 09 December 1951

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith.
2. From spiritual faith to great courage.
3. From courage to liberty.
4. From liberty to abundance.
5. From abundance to selfishness.
6. From selfishness to complacency.
7. From complacency to apathy.
8. From apathy to dependency.
9. From dependency back again into bondage.

Alexander Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)
The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic, 1801
This quotation has been discredited
See caveat

The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised.

John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850)
Speech, U.S. Senate
15 February 1833

The tendencies of democracies are, in all things, to mediocrity, since the tastes, knowledge and principles of the majority form the tribunal of appeal.

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
"On the Disadvantages of Democracy"
The American Democrat, 1838

What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men, but they do not form a class.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Democracy in America
Volume 2, Appendix 5, 1840

The American Republic will endure, until politicians find they can bribe the people with their own money.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Paraphrase in Families, 1999
by Jerry Jensen, Larry Jensen
See caveat

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Attributed, but not found in his work
See Tytler (1742-1813)

Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress the people in parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people constituted in communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for workers, foremen and accountants for his business.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Quoted in The State and Revolution, 1917
Chapter III "Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871. Marx's Analysis"
Section 3 "Abolition of Parliamentarism"
by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924)

I do not believe any more than you do in class distinctions. Castes belong to archaeology. But I believe that the poor hate the rich, and that the rich are afraid of the poor. That will be so eternally. It is useless to preach love to the one or the other. The most pressing task is to instruct the rich, who, in the end, are the stronger. Enlighten the middle-class man to begin with, for he knows nothing, absolutely nothing. The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of inanity of the middle-class man. The dream is partly accomplished. He reads the same papers, and has the same pastimes....

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
Letter to George Sand
08 September 1871
Gustave Flaubert: As Seen in His Works and Correspondence, 1895
Chapter XVII
Translated by John Charles Tarver

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections. To break off that point is to avert the danger. The common system of representation perpetuates the danger. Unequal electorates afford no security to majorities. Equal electorates give none to minorities. Thirty-five years ago it was pointed out that the remedy is proportional representation. It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands who would otherwise have no voice in the Government; and it brings men more near an equality by so contriving that no vote shall be wasted, and that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament a member of his own opinions.

John Acton (1834-1902)
"Sir Erskine May’s Democracy in Europe"
The Quarterly Review, January 1878
Reprinted in
The History of Freedom and Other Essays, 1907

It is a maxim that only a law which the majority obeys can be enforced against a few. In other words, the atmosphere must be favourable if such laws are to be enforced. This further means that, in practice, many laws serve no useful purpose. Once the necessary atmosphere has been created, the minority conforms of its own accord to the general practice.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
21. My Notes: "Dirty Habits of Passengers"
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi
22 May 1924 - 15 August 1924 matters of conscience the Law of Majority has no place.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
"The Congress and Non-Cooperation"
Young India, 04 August 1920

The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny, however, is alleviated by their lack of consistency.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Aphorisms for Leo Baeck
In honor of his 80th birthday
23 May 1953

Democracy is clearly most appropriate for countries which enjoy an economic surplus and least appropriate for countries where there is an economic insufficiency. In short, economic abundance is conducive to political democracy.

David Morris Potter (1910-1971)
People and Plenty: Economic Abundance and
the American Character
, 1954

Al Smith once remarked that "the only cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy." Our analysis suggests that applying that cure at the present time could well be adding fuel to the flames. Instead, some of the problems of governance in the United States today stem from an excess of democracy -- an "excess of democracy" in much the same sense in which David Donald used the term to refer to the consequences of the Jacksonian revolution which helped to precipitate the Civil War. Needed, instead, is a greater degree of moderation in democracy.

In practice, this moderation has two major areas of application. First, democracy is only one way of constituting authority, and it is not necessarily a universally applicable one. In many situations the claims of expertise, seniority, experience, and special talents may override the claims of democracy as a way of constituting authority. During the surge of the 1960s, however, the democratic principle was extended to many institutions where it can, in the long run, only frustrate the purposes of those institutions. A university where teaching appointments are subject to approval by students may be a more democratic university but it is not likely to be a better university. In similar fashion, armies in which the commands of officers have been subject to veto by the collective wisdom of their subordinates have almost invariably come to disaster on the battlefield. The arenas where democratic procedures are appropriate are, in short, limited.

Second, the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups. In the past, every democratic society has had a marginal population, of greater or lesser size, which has not actively participated in politics. In itself, this marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic, but it has also been one of the factors which has enabled democracy to function effectively. Marginal social groups, as in the case of the blacks, are now becoming full participants in the political system. Yet the danger of overloading the political system with demands which extend its functions and undermine its authority still remains. Less marginality on the part of some groups thus needs to be replaced by more self-restraint on the part of all groups.

The Greek philosophers argued that the best practical state would combine several different principles of government in its constitution. The Constitution of 1787 was drafted with this insight very much in mind. Over the years, however, the American political system has emerged as a distinctive case of extraordinarily democratic institutions joined to an exclusively democratic value system. Democracy is more of a threat to itself in the United States than it is in either Europe or Japan where there still exist residual inheritances of traditional and aristocratic values. The absence of such values in the United States produces a lack of balance in society which, in turn, leads to the swing back and forth between creedal passion and creedal passivity. Political authority is never strong in the United States, and it is peculiarly weak during a creedal passion period of intense commitment to democratic and egalitarian ideals. In the United States, the strength of democracy poses a problem for the governability of democracy in a way which is not the case elsewhere.

The vulnerability of democratic government in the United States thus comes not primarily from external threats, though such threats are real, nor from internal subversion from the left or the right, although both possibilities could exist, but rather from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society. "Democracy never lasts long," John Adams observed. "It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." That suicide is more likely to be the product of overindulgence than of any other cause. A value that is normally good in itself is not necessarily optimized when it is maximized. We have come to recognize that there are potentially desirable limits to economic growth. The are also potentially desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy. Democracy will have a longer life if it has a more balanced existence.

Samuel P. Huntington (b.1927)
The Crisis of Democracy, 1975
Chapter III "The United States"
Part VI "Conclusions: Toward a Democratic Balance"
(Report on the Governability of Democracies to
the Trilateral Commission)

Americans like to talk about (or be told about) Democracy but, when put to the test, usually find it to be an 'inconvenience.' We have opted instead for an authoritarian system disguised as a Democracy. We pay through the nose for an enormous joke-of-a-government, let it push us around, and then wonder how all those assholes got in there.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
The Real Frank Zappa Book, 1989
Chapter 17 "Practical Conservatism"

The imposition of stigma is the commonest form of violence used in democratic societies

Robert A. Pinker
Social theory & Social policy, 1971

Democracy, n.: A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of direct expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic... negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it is based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Result is demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.

U.S. Army Training Manual No. 2000-25
(1928-1932), since withdrawn


Abruptness is an eloquence in parting, when spinning out of time is but the weaving of new sorrow.

John Suckling (1609-1642)
Letter to Aglaura
The Poems, Plays, and Other Remains of Sir John Suckling:
With a Copious Account of the Author, Notes, and an Appendix
of Illustrative Pieces

Volume II, 1874

Every parting gives a foretaste of death; every coming together again a foretaste of the resurrection.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
"Psychological Observations"
Studies in Pessimism, 1851

To leave is to die a little;
To die to what we love.
We leave behind a bit of ourselves
Wherever we have been.

Edmond Haraucourt (1856/7-1941)
"Rondel de l'Adieu"
Choix de Poesies, 1891

I have a friend who is a devotee of Graceful Exits. All things considered, he'd like to play his life like Fred Astaire. He'd like to exit stage left, as soon as a particular scene is over -- no muss, no fuss -- with a smile on his face, dressed in spotless white tie and tails.


There's a trick to the Graceful Exit, I suspect. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over, and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of the future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out. Some people, of course, play every scene in preparation for the end. If they don't get involved, they can leave easily no muss, no fuss. But those who make commitments, who attach themselves to people or roles or jobs, find it harder to disengage without a devastating loss of self. They often have to be pushed out, or, they hang in, acquiring the pallor of the dogged survivor. Or, they finally leave, throwing a finger at the world. The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well. It's hard to recognize that life isn't a holding action, but a process. It's hard to learn that we don't leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the capitol or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along. Quite gracefully.

Ellen Goodman (b.1941)
Boston Globe, 1976



There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
The Way of Lao-tzu, 46

The covetous man is ever in want.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Book I, epistle ii, line 56

We desire nothing so much as what we ought not to have.

Publilius Syrus (1st century BC)
The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus, A Roman Slave
Maxim 559
Translated by Darius Lyman, 1856

These Concupiscible and Irascible Appetites are as the two twists of a rope, mutually mixt one with the other, and both twining about the heart: both good, as Austin holds...if they bee moderate: both pernitious if they bee exorbitant.

Robert Burton (1577-1640)
The Anatomy of Melancholy,
Volume I, The First Partition Concupiscible Appetite, as Desires, Ambition, Causes
Edited by Thomas C. Faulkner, Nicolas K. Kiessling,
and Rhonda L. Blair, 1989

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

William Blake (1757-1827)
"Proverbs of Hell", line 67
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.

William Blake (1757-1827)
"Proverbs of Hell", Plate 7
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

Reason, v.i. To weight probabilities in the scales of desire.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892

There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)
Afterthoughts, 1931

There is nothing like desire for preventing the things one says from bearing any resemblance to what one has in one's mind.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
Remembrance of Things Past: Cities of the Plain, 1927
"The Guermantes Way"
Chapter 2

A man sometimes devotes his life to a desire which he is not sure will ever be fulfilled. Those who laugh at this folly are, after all, no more than mere spectators of life.

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927)
"Yam Gruel"
Rashomon and Other Stories, 1952


[see also: FANATICS]

Certainly nothing is unnatural that is not physically impossible.

Richard Brinsley Sheriden (1751-1816)
The Critic, 1779
Act II, scene i

Rough work, iconoclasm, --but the only way to get at truth.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
The Professor at the Breakfast Table, 1860
Chapter V "The Professor finds a Fly in his Teacup" know how to say what other people only think is what makes men poets and sages; and to dare to say what others only dare to think, makes men martyrs or reformers, or both.

Elizabeth Charles (1828-1896)
Chronicle of the Schonberg-Cotta Family, 1863
Chapter XIV "Else's Story"
"Wittemberg, November 1, 1517. All Saints' Day"

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1900

It is only the great men who are truly obscene. It is that touch which stamps their genius. It gives profundity and truth to their vision of life. If they had not dared to be obscene they could never have dared to be great. Their vision of the world would have remained fatally marred. November 30.

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
Impressions and Comments, 1924 of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.

Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948)
"Let Us Defend Today Rights Won in 1776"
By Bruce Catton
The Tuscaloosa [Alabama] News
02 March 1936

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Quoted in "How Bertrand Russell Was Prevented from Teaching at The
College of the City of New York", by Paul Edwards, October 1956
Appendix to Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion
and Related Subjects
, 1957

The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949
XVIII "Psychology"
"The Art Eternal"

The adjuration to be "normal" seems shockingly repellent to me; I see neither hope nor comfort in sinking to that low level. I think it is ignorance that makes people think of abnormality only with horror and allows them to remain undismayed at the proximity of "normal" to average and mediocre. For surely anyone who achieves anything is, essentially, abnormal.

Dr. Karl Menninger (1893-1990)
The Human Mind, 1930

When Satan finds a rebel in his realm,
He laces round the head of the poor fool
A frightful mask, a sort of visored helm
That has a lining soaked in vitriol.
The renegade begins to scream with pain.
(The mask is not designed to gag the sound,
Which propagates the terror of his reign.)
The screams come through the visor, but are drowned
By the great shouting of the overlord,
Who, in relaying them, distorts their sense
So that the cringing listeners record
Mere cries of villainy or penitence...
Yet Satan has a stronger hold: the fear
That, if his rule is threatened, he will tear
The mask from that pain-crazed automaton
And show his vassals just what he has done.

Norman Cameron (1905-1953)
"A Modern Nightmare"
The Collected Poems of Norman Cameron, 1905-1953, 1957

There is nothing more agreeable in life than to make peace with the Establishment - and nothing more corrupting.

A.J.P. Taylor (1906-1990)
"William Cobbett", New Statesman
29 August 1953

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins - or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom -- Lucifer.

Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972)
Rules For Radicals; A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, 1971

The poet, the artist, the sleuth - whoever sharpens our perception tends to be antisocial; rarely "well-adjusted," he cannot go along with currents and trends. A strange bond often exists among antisocial types in their power to see environments as they really are. This need to interface, to confront environments with a certain anti-social power, is manifest in the famous story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." "Well adjusted" courtiers, having vested interests, saw the Emperor as beautifully appointed. The anti-social brat, unaccustomed to the old environment, clearly saw that the emperor "ain't got nothin' on." The new environment was clearly visible to him.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
and Quentin Fiore
The Medium is the Massage, 1967

In the U.S. you have to be a deviant or exist in dreary boredom. Make no mistake all intellectuals are deviants in [the] U.S.

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
Yage Letters, 1963

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)
Player Piano, 1952
Chapter 9

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
Strength to Love, 1963

...there are periods of history when the visions of madmen and dope fiends are a better guide to reality than the common-sense interpretation of data available to the so-called normal mind. This is one such period, if you haven't noticed already.

Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007)
The Illuminatus! Trilogy, 1984

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"
The Country of Marriage, 1973

In times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings -- artists, scientists, clowns and philosophers -- to create order. In times such as ours, however, when there is too much order, too much management, too much programming and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption.

Tom Robbins (b.1936)
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976
Part III, Chapter 65

To create a community of radical scholars, men and women who recognize that rules and social conventions are arbitrary, but have mastered them nonetheless -- a community which shares such a scorn and disrespect for the present society that it can embrace the whole bundle of rules and subvert them thereby -- that should be our goal.

Howard Adelman (b.1938)
"In Search of a University"
The University Game, 1968

This song ["Heart of Gold"] put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.

Neil Young (b.1945)
Decade, 1977
Liner notes

The weirder you are going to behave, the more normal you should look. It works in reverse, too. When I see a kid with three or four rings in his nose, I know there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about that person.

P.J. O'Rourke (b.1947)
Give War a Chance, 1992

And it was a very good book of Rasputin's involvement in that, which shows how people that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.

J. Danforth Quayle (b.1947)
Opining on Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie
"Roboflop", by Hendrik Hertzberg
The New Republic
31 October 1988

If you sincerely desire a truly well-rounded education, you must study the extremists, the obscure and "nutty". You need the balance! Your poor brain is already being impregnated with middle-of-the-road crap, twenty-four hours a day, no matter what. Network TV, newspapers, radio, magazines at the supermarket...even if you never watch, read, listen, or leave your house, even if you are deaf and blind, the telepathic pressure alone of the uncountable normals surrounding you will insure that you are automatically well-grounded in consensus reality.

Rev. Ivan Stang (b.1949)
High Weirdness By Mail, 1988

You know why there are so few sophisticated computer terrorists in the United States? Because your hackers have so much mobility into the establishment. Here, there is no such mobility. If you have the slightest bit of intellectual integrity you cannot support the government.... That's why the best computer minds belong to the opposition.

(Member of the outlawed Polish trade union, Solidarity)



The Earth is God's pinball machine and each quake, tidal wave, flash flood and volcanic eruption is the result of a TILT that occurs when God, cheating, tries to win free games.

Tom Robbins (b.1936)
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976
Part IV, Chapter 66


[see also: PROGRESS, SCIENCE] is no uncommon thing to find persons, earnestly attached to science and anxious for its promotion, who yet manifest a morbid sensibility on points of this kind, -- who exult and applaud when any fact starts up explanatory (as they suppose) of some scriptural allusion, and who feel pained and disappointed when the general course of discovery in any department of science runs wide of the notions with which particular passages in the Bible may have impressed themselves.

John Frederick William Herschel (1792-1871)
Natural Philosophy, 1845
Part I, Chapter I

...all human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more strongly the truths contained in the sacred writings.

John Herschel (1792-1871)
Quoted in The Indications of the Creator, 1851
by George Taylor
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986)
The Scientist Speculates, 1962
edited by I.J. Good



The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.

William Osler (1849-1919)
Montreal Medical Journal
September 1902

I do not believe that a decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good. I admit at once that new systems of dogma, such as those of the Nazis and the Communists, are even worse than the old systems, but they could never have acquired a hold over men's minds if orthodox dogmatic habits had not been instilled in youth. Stalin's language is full of reminiscences of the theological seminary in which he received his training. What the world needs is not dogma, but an attitude of scientific inquiry, combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Human Society in Ethics and Politics, 1954
page 221

Let our practice form our doctrine, thus assuring precise theoretical coherence.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
The Monkey Wrench Gang, 1975
Chapter 5 "The Wooden Shoe Conspiracy"


[see also: ANIMALS]

The dog is a creation especially made for children. Our Noble has been at least equal to one hand and one foot extra for frolic and mischief, to each of the urchins.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Star Papers: Or, Experiences of Art and Nature, 1855
Chapter XXIX "Mid-October Days"
Lenox, October 1854

The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Apocryphal; taken from above?
See caveat

There is no doubt that a dog is loyal. But does that mean we should emulate him? After all, he is loyal to people, not to other dogs.

Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
Half-Truths & One-and-a-Half Truths, 1976
Translated by Harry Zohn
"Lord, forgive them"

She has two kinds of urination, Necessity and Social. Different stances are usually, though not invariably, adopted for each. In necessity she squats squarely and abruptly, right down on her shins, her hind legs forming a kind of dam against the stream that gushes out from behind; her tail curves up like a scimitar; her expression is complacent. For social urination, which is mostly preceded by the act of smelling, she seldom squats, but balances herself on one hind leg, the other being withdrawn or cocked up in the air. The reason for this seems obvious; she is watering some special thing and wishes to avoid touching it. It may also be that in this attitude she can more accurately bestow her drops. Often they are merely drops, a single token drop will do, for the social flow is less copious. The expression on her face is business-like, as though she were signing a cheque.

Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896-1967)
My Dog Tulip, 1956
Chapter 2 "Liquids and Solids"

What strained and anxious lives dogs must lead, so emotionally involved in the world of men, whose affections they strive endlessly to secure, whose authority they are expected unquestioningly to obey, and whose minds they can never do more than imperfectly reach and comprehend.

Joseph Randolph Ackerley (1896-1967)
My Dog Tulip, 1956, Appendix

Charley is a tall dog. As he sat in the seat beside me, his head was almost as high as mine. He put his nose close to my ear and said, "Ftt." He is the only dog I ever knew who could pronounce the consonant F. This is because his front teeth are crooked, a tragedy which keeps him out of dog shows; because his upper front teeth slightly engage his lower lip Charley can pronounce F. The word "Ftt" usually means he would like to salute a bush or a tree. I opened the cab door and let him out, and he went about his ceremony. He doesn't have to think about it to do it well. It is my experience that in some areas Charley is more intelligent than I am, but in others he is abysmally ignorant. He can't read, can't drive a car, and has no grasp of mathematics. But in his own field of endeavor, which he was now practicing, the slow, imperial smelling over and anointing of an area, he has no peer. Of course his horizons are limited, but how wide are mine?

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
Part Two

When a dog howls at the moon, we call it religion. When he barks at strangers, we call it patriotism!

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 12 "On Cows and Dogs and Horses"

Each morning for the next few weeks we tracked the coyotes in this manner. Lola would leave her sign and I'd leave mine. It must have been tremendously rewarding for the dog. For years we'd walked the woods each day, always on my terms, while Lola sniffed deliriously at every pert scent (deer,coyote, raccoon, mink). She knew exactly who'd passed in the night (turkey, squirrel, possum, weasel, vole); she'd shoot off by herself and return with the exhilarating news (porcupine, chipmunk, fisher, bobcat, bear!). But I hadn't been listening to what she had to say, and now I paid attention as she led. That first morning when she found the coyote scat and I praised her wildly she looked at me, tongue out, as if to say: Finally, you get it. This is the real news. This is the shit!

Brad Kessler (b.1963)
Goat Song, 2009
Part III "Maturation", "Scatology"


The United States has a government, security organizations and allies. The Soviet Union, however, has a regime, secret police and satellites. Our leaders are consummate politicians; their are wily, cunning or worse. We give the world information and seek influence; they disseminate propaganda and disinformation while seeking expansion and domination.

Stephen F. Cohen (b.1938)
Sovieticus: American Perceptions and Soviet Realities, 1985
Part I "American Perceptions and Soviet Realities"
"The American Media and the Soviet Union"


[see also: SLEEP]

I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

Chuang-tzu (c.369-c.286 BC)
On Leveling All Things

Those who have compared our life to a dream were right.... We sleeping wake, and waking sleep.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
Essays, Book II, 1580
Chapter 12

In solitude we have our dreams to ourselves, and in company we agree to dream in concert.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
The Idler, 1758-1760
Number 32

I had a dream which was not all a dream.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)
"Darkness", 1816, line 1

Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
"The Higher Pantheism", 1869

How many of our daydreams would darken into nightmares, were there a danger of their coming true!

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)
"Life and Human Nature"
Afterthoughts, 1931

The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens into that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was a conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man, 1934
Psychological Reflections: A Jung Anthology, 1953
Volume 10

"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awaked, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."

Jack London (1876-1916)
John Barleycorn, 1913
Chapter XXXVI

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.

Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935)
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1926
"Introductory Chapter"

Dreaming permits each of us to become quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.

William Charles Dement (b.1928)
Newsweek magazine, 30 November 1959

Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.

John Updike (b.1932)
Getting the Words Out, 1988
page 27

If I'm dreaming, never let me wake. If I'm awake, never let me sleep.

Chinese saying


[see also: ALCOHOL, TOBACCO]

I can't drink a little, child: therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is easy to me; temperance would be difficult.

Beilby Porteous, Bishop of Chester (1731–1809)
Quoted by Hannah More
Some Eminent Women of Our Times: Short Biographical Sketches, 1889
Chapter XXII "Hannah More"
by Millicent Garrett Fawcett

If there existed no external means for dimming their consciences, one-half of the men would at once shoot themselves, because to live contrary to one's reason is a most intolerable state, and all men of our time are in such a state.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
"The Kingdom of God is Within You; Or, Christianity Not as
a Mystical Teaching but as a New Concept of Life", 1893
Part V
Translated by Leo Wiener

Opiate, n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail yard.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

If a man wishes to rid himself of a feeling of unbearable oppression, he may have to take hashish.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
"Why I am so Clever"
Ecce Homo, 1908

To say of an addict who is in a continual state of euphoria that he is degrading himself is like saying of marble that it is spoilt by Michaelangelo, of canvas that it is stained by Raphael, of paper that it is soiled by Shakespeare, of silence that it is broken by Bach.

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
Opium: The Diary of a Cure
translated by M. Crosland and S. Road, 1958

In brief, the really possible Utopia would be this world experienced by a psychophysique at full aperture.

Gerald Heard (1889-1971)
The Five Ages of Man, 1963

The Marxian formula, "Religion is the opium of the people," is reversible, and one can say, with even more truth, that "Opium is the religion of the people."

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"Brave New World Revisited"
Esquire, July 1956

I don't use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough.

M.C. Escher (1898-1970)

Ecstasy! The mind harks back to the origin of that word. For the Greeks ecstasis meant the flight of the soul from the body. Can you find a better word than that to describe the bemushroomed state? In common parlance, among the many who have not experienced ecstasy, ecstasy is fun, and I am frequently asked why I do not reach for mushrooms every night. But ecstasy is not fun. Your very soul is seized and shaken until it tingles. After all, who will choose to feel undiluted awe, or to float through that door yonder into the Divine Presence?

R. Gordon Wasson (1898-1986)
"The Hallucinogenic Fungi of Mexico"
Botanical Museum Leaflets
Harvard University 19(7), 1961

As man emerged from his brutish past, thousands of years ago, there was a stage in the evolution of his awareness when the discovery of a mushroom (or was it a higher plant?) with miraculous properties was a revelation to him, a veritable detonator to his soul, arousing in him sentiments of awe and reverence, and gentleness and love, to the highest pitch of which mankind is capable, all those sentiments and virtues that mankind has ever since regarded as the highest attribute of his kind. It made him see what this perishing mortal eye cannot see.... What today is resolved into a mere drug, a tryptamine or lysergic acid derivative, was for him a prodigious miracle, inspiring in him poetry and philosophy and religion. Perhaps with all our modern knowledge we do not need the divine mushrooms any more. Or do we need them more than ever? Some are shocked that the key even to religion might be reduced to a mere drug. On the other hand, the drug is as mysterious as it ever was: "like the wind it cometh we know not whence, nor why." Out of a mere drug comes the ineffable, comes ecstasy. It is not the only instance in the history of humankind where the lowly has given birth to the divine.

R. Gordon Wasson (1898-1986)
"The Hallucinogenic Fungi of Mexico"
Botanical Museum Leaflets
Harvard University 19(7), 1961

The LSD phenomenon, on the other hand, is - to me at least - more interesting. It is an intentionally achieved schizophrenia, with the expectation of a spontaneous remission - which, however, does not always follow. Yoga, too, is an intentional schizophrenia: one breaks away from the world, plunging inward, and the ranges of vision experienced are in fact the same as those of a psychosis. But what, then, is the difference? What is the difference between a psychotic or LSD experience and a yogic, or a mystical? The plunges are all into the same deep inward sea; of that there can be no doubt. The symbolic figures encountered are in many instances identical (and I shall have something more to say about those in a moment). But there is an important difference. The difference - to put it sharply - is equivalent simply to that between a diver who can swim and one who cannot. The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning. Can he be saved? If a line is thrown to him, will he grab it?

Let us first ask about the waters into which he has descended. They are the same, we have said, as those of the mystical experience. What, then, is their character? What are their properties?

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
Myths to Live By, 1993

The drug user drowns in the same pool mystics swim in.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

I do not take drugs, I am drugs.

Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Diary of a Genius, 1966

There are experiences that most people avoid talking about, because they do not conform to everyday reality and defy rational explanation.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)
LSD, My Problem Child, 1983
Translated by Jonathan Ott

Deliberate provocation of mystical experience, particularly by LSD and related hallucinogens, in contrast to spontaneous visionary experiences, entails dangers that must not be underestimated. Practitioners must take into account the peculiar effects of these substances, namely their ability to influence our consciousness, the innermost essence of our being. The history of LSD to date amply demonstrates the catastrophic consequences that can ensue when its profound effect is misjudged and the substance is mistaken for a pleasure drug. Special internal and external advance preparations are required; with them, an LSD experiment can become a meaningful experience. Wrong and inappropriate use has caused LSD to become my problem child.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)
LSD, My Problem Child, 1983
Translated by Jonathan Ott

I believe that if people would learn to use LSD's vision-inducing capability more wisely, under suitable conditions, in medical practice and in conjunction with meditation, then in the future this problem child could become a wonder child.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)
LSD, My Problem Child, 1983
Translated by Jonathan Ott

The characteristic property of hallucinogens, to suspend the boundaries between the experiencing self and the outer world in an ecstatic, emotional experience, makes it possible with their help, and after suitable internal and external evoke a mystical experience according to plan, so to speak....

I see the true importance of LSD in the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality. Such a use accords entirely with the essence and working character of LSD as a sacred drug.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)
LSD, My Problem Child, 1983
Chapter 11, LSD Experience and Reality
Translated by Jonathan Ott

Man's first civilizations gave great place to intoxication. Long before there was decadence or world weariness, men and women wanted to change their response to the planet on which they had evolved to self consciousness.

Jaquetta Hawkes (1910-1996)
The First Civilizations
Vancouver Sun, 20 December 1991

I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

It is even now being recognized in the United States that the real danger of psychedelics is not so much neurological as political -- that "turned on" people are not interested in serving the power games of the present rulers.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
The Joyous Cosmology, 1962

...all dualities and opposites are not disjointed but polar; they do not encounter and confront one another from afar; they exfoliate from a common center. Ordinary thinking conceals polarity and relativity because it employs terms, the terminals or ends, the poles, neglecting what lies between them. The difference of front and back, to be and not to be, hides their unity and mutuality.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
The Joyous Cosmology, 1962

...psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. When you get the message, hang up the phone.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
The Joyous Cosmology, 1962

In sum I would say that LSD, and such other psychedelic substances as mescaline, psilocybin, and hashish, confer polar vision; by which I mean that the basic pairs of opposites, the positive and the negative, are seen as the different poles of a single magnet or circuit. This knowledge is repressed in any culture that accentuates the positive, and is thus a strict taboo. It caries Gestalt psychology, which insists on the mutual interdependence of figure and background, to its logical conclusion in every aspect of life and thought; so that the voluntary and the involuntary, knowing and the known, birth and decay, good and evil, outline and inline, self and other, solid and space, motion and rest, light and darkness, are seen as aspects of a single and completely perfect process. The implication of this may be that there is nothing in life to be gained or attained that is not already here and now, an implication thoroughly disturbing to any philosophy or culture which is seriously playing the game which I have called White Must Win.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
"The Soul-Searchers"
In My Own Way: An Autobiography, 1915-1965, 1972

Accounts of the effects of these agents, ranging in time from that of Havelock Ellis in 1897 to the more recent reports of Aldous Huxley are many, and they emphasize the unique quality of the experience. One or more sensory modalities combined with mood, thinking and, often to a marked degree, empathy, usually change. Most subjects find the experience valuable, some find it frightening, many say that it is uniquely lovely. All, from Slotkin's unsophisticated Indians to men of great learning, agree that much of it is beyond verbal description. Our subjects, who include many who have drunk deep of life, including authors, artists, a junior cabinet minister, scientists, a hero, philosophers, and businessmen, are nearly all in agreement in this respect. For myself, my experiences with these substances have been the most strange, most awesome, and among the most beautiful things in a varied and fortunate life. They are not escapes from but enlargements, burgeonings of reality.

Humphrey Osmond (1917-2004)
"The Exploration of Experience"
From "A Review of the Clinical Effects of Psychotomimetic Agents"
Annals of N.Y. Academy of Science
14 March 1957

I believe that the psychedelics provide a chance, perhaps only a slender one, for homo faber, the cunning, ruthless, foolhardy, pleasure-greedy toolmaker to merge into that other creature whose presence we have so rashly presumed, homo sapiens, the wise, the understanding, the compassionate, in whose fourfold vision art, politics, science, and religion are one. Surely we must seize that chance.

Humphrey Osmond (1917-2004)
"The Exploration of Experience"
From "A Review of the Clinical Effects of Psychotomimetic Agents"
Annals N.Y. Academy of Science
14 March 1957

I don't like the word 'drugs' at all.... It's a complete misnomer when it refers to psychedelics, which have nothing to do with drugs that make you lethargic, dull, sleepy. The psychedelics wake you up. They wake you up in such startling ways that they can give you very disorienting experiences.

Nina Graboi (1918-1999)
Interview, bOING bOING
Number 8, p.37

The conclusion to which evidence currently points would seem to be that chemicals can aid the religious life, but only where set within a context of faith (meaning by this the conviction that what they disclose is true) and discipline (meaning diligent exercise of the will in the attempt to work out the implications of the disclosures for the living of life in the everyday, common-sense world).

Huston Smith (b.1919)
"Do Drugs Have Religious Import?"
The Journal of Philosophy
Volume LXI, Number 18, pages 529-530
01 October 1964

My advice to people in America today is as follows: If you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in and drop out.

Timothy Leary (1920-1996)
Lecture, June 1966
The Politics of Ecstasy, 1968
Chapter 21 "The Molecular Revolution"

Turn On meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end.

Tune In meant interact harmoniously with the world around you -- externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives.

Drop Out suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. Drop Out meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change.

In public statements I stressed that the Turn On-Tune In-Drop Out process must be continually repeated if one wished to live a life of growth. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean "get stoned and abandon all constructive activity."

Tim Leary (1920-1996)
Flashbacks: An Autobiography, 1983
Part 2 "Paedomorphis -- Juvenilization"
Chapter 30 "Altered States"

There are three side effects of acid. Enhanced long term memory, decreased short term memory, and I forget the third.

Timothy Leary (1920-1996)

Sometimes [he] would talk to me about the planet he was on before he was transported in a steel box to [the New York State Maximum Security Adult Correctional Institution at] Athena. "Drugs were food," he said. "I was in the food business. Just because people on one planet eat a certain kind of food they're hungry for, that makes them feel better after they eat it, that doesn't mean people on other planets shouldn't eat something else. On some planets I'm sure there are people who eat stones, and then feel wonderful for a little while afterwards. Then it's time to eat stones again.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)
Hocus Pocus, 1990
Chapter 10

Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marihuana in private for personal use.

Jimmy Carter (b.1924)
"President's Message to Congress on Drug Abuse"
Federal Strategy for Drug Abuse and Drug Traffic Prevention, 1977

I'll die young, but it's like kissing God.

Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)
Regarding his drug addiction
Quoted in "The Busting of Lenny"
by Paul Krassner
Index on Censorship (magazine)
The Last Laugh, June 2000

LSD and other psychedelics function more or less as nonspecific catalysts and amplifiers of the psyche. This is reflected in the name given by Humphrey Osmond to this group of substances; the Greek word "psychedelic" translates literally as "mind-manifesting." In the dosages used in human experimentation, the classical psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline, do not have any specific pharmacological effects. They increase the energetic niveau in the psyche and the body which leads to manifestation of otherwise latent psychological processes.

The content and nature of the experiences that these substances induce are thus not artificial products of their pharmacological intervention with the brain ("toxic psychoses"), but authentic expressions of the psyche revealing its functioning on levels ordinarily not available for observation and study. A person who has taken LSD does not have an "LSD experience," but takes a journey into the deep recesses of his or her own psyche. When this substance is given in the same dosage and under comparable circumstances to a large number of individuals, each of them will have a different experience reflecting the specificities of his or her psyche. In addition, serial sessions of the same person will vary in their content and show a characteristic progression.

For this reason, it does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.

Stanislav Grof (b.1931)
LSD Psychotherapy, 1980

A psychedelic is the solvent which dissolves the vigorous stereotypes of egocentric behaviour.

Michael Hollingshead (b.1931?)
The Man Who Turned on the World, 1973
Chapter 9

In thinking about psychedelics, the first thing to understand is that there is a whole range of substances which share that name, and that they are of very different strengths. Some are mild; most marijuana, for example, falls in that category. Mild psychedelics open up the possibilities, but they don't override the personality. Stronger psychedelics, on the other hand -- things like mescaline, or psilocybin, or LSD -- are likely to override our existing thought patterns in a very powerful way. If we aren't prepared for that, it can get pretty hairy. If we don't have a sufficiently deep jnana (wisdom) practice, some understanding of what's happening to us, we freak when the entire structure of our existence starts to fall away. That's why it's important to do some reading and studying and contemplating in advance, so we'll have some foothold in the experiences as they start to happen to us.

Ram Dass (b.1931)
"The Yoga of Psychedelics"
Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita, 2004

With these [psychedelic] drugs, science stands on an awesome threshold. Some religious leaders would undoubtedly consider it improper for man to tread upon the holy ground of the unconscious, protesting against the exploration of "inner space" as they have campaigned against the exploration of outer space. But man's apparent destiny to seek an ever greater comprehension of the nature of reality cannot be thwarted or suppressed.

Walter N. Pahnke (1931-1971)
and William A. Richards (b.1940?)
"Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism"
Altered States of Consciousness, 1969, page 428
Edited by Charles T. Tart

As a reporter - and I don't want to say that that's the only context - I've tried everything. I can say, too, with confidence I know a fair amount about LSD. I've never been a social user of any of these things, but my curiosity has carried me into a lot of interesting areas. As an example, in 1955 or '56, I had someone at the Houston police station shoot me with heroin so I could do a story about it. The experience was a special kind of hell. I came out understanding full well how one could be addicted to "smack" and quickly. When the children were fairly young, and there was so much emphasis everywhere on drugs, it was not possible for them to tell me I didn't know what I was talking about.

Dan Rather (b.1931)
Interview by Cliff Jahr
Ladies Home Journal, July 1980

Drugs don't take people, people take drugs

Eugene Herbert Kaplan (b.1932)
and Herbert Wieder
Book title: Drugs Don't Take People, People Take Drugs, 1974
See Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) below

Being stoned on marijuana isn't very different from being stoned on gin.

Ralph Nader (b.1934)

Chemistry is applied theology.

Augustus Owsley Stanley (b.1935)
Quoted in Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out, 1999
Chapter 4 "God's secret Agent A.O.S.3"
by Timothy Leary

...[D]rugs don't take people, people take drugs

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989)
Steal This Urine Test: Fighting Drug Hysteria in America, 1987
Chapter 1 "Knee Deep in Hysteria"

Marijuana is like Coors beer. If you could buy the damn stuff at a Georgia filling station, you'd decide you wouldn't want it.

Billy Carter (1937-1988)
"Brother Billy"
by Pete Axthelm (1943-1991)
Newsweek, 14 November 1977
Volume 90, Issues 19-26

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.

Hunter S. Thompson (1939-2005)

In short, the commonly used illegal drugs -- narcotics, hallucinogens, marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine -- are much less dangerous medically than alcohol and less addicting than cigarettes.... I would also rate them much less dangerous medically than many drugs used widely in clinical practice (including many antibiotics and antihypertensives). I do not believe there are any valid medical arguments against the choice of drugs as a means to satisfy the need for periodic episodes of altered consciousness.

Andrew T. Weil (b.1942)
The Natural Mind, 1986
Chapter 3 "Is Anything Wrong With It?"

Straight thinking is straight in the way an interstate highway is straight: unlike a winding country road it does not follow the natural contours of reality.

Andrew T. Weil (b.1942)
The Natural Mind, 1986
Chapter 6 "The Topography of Straightland"

Identification of consciousness with ego consciousness leads to confusion of mind with intellect, to acceptance of appearance as reality, to materialistic formulations of the interaction of mind and matter, to isolation and fear, to increasingly negative conceptions of reality, and, ultimately and very logically, to disaster.

Andrew T. Weil (b.1942)
The Natural Mind, 1986
Chapter 6 "The Topography of Straightland"

[Straight thinking] has five easily identifiable characteristics, which I prefer to describe as "tendencies," since they vary in strength of expression but are always present in some degree.

1. A tendency to know things through the intellect rather than through some other faculty of the mind.

2. A tendency to be attached to the senses and through them to external reality.

3. A tendency to pay attention to outward forms rather than to inner contents and thus to lapse into materialism.

4. A tendency to perceive differences rather than similarities between phenomena.

5. A tendency to negative thinking, pessimism, and despair.

Andrew T. Weil (b.1942)
The Natural Mind, 1986
Chapter 6 "The Topography of Straightland"

Stoned thinking is the mirror image of straight thinking....

It would be absurd to attempt to describe a way of thinking based in experience rather than description. [...] Here are the essential components of the process:

1. Reliance on intuition as well as intellection.

2. Acceptance of the ambivalent nature of things.

3. Experience of infinity in its positive aspect.

Andrew T. Weil (b.1942)
The Natural Mind, 1986
Chapter 7 "A Trip to Stonesville"

One of the least understood aspects of the drug problem is the degree to which it is in the end a moral and spiritual problem.

I continue to be amazed at how often people I speak to in treatment centers refer to drugs as the great lie, the great deception, indeed as a product of the Great Deceiver. An astonishing number of people in treatment have described crack cocaine to me simply as "the Devil." This has come up too often and too spontaneously in conversation to be ignored.

You will know what I mean, then, when I say that in visiting treatment centers, prisons, inner-city communities, and public housing projects across the country over the past twenty-one months I've seen what I can only describe as the face of evil. Those people who doubt there is evil in the world need to travel a few weeks with me on the drug circuit.

William John Bennett (b.1943)
"Drugs and the Face of Evil"
First Things, December 1990

...only drugs make you feel as good as the people in TV ads appear to be.

Hakim Bey (b.1945)
"Resolution for the 1990's: Boycott Cop Culture"
T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, 1985, 1991

I've never broken a state law. And that when I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two. And I didn't like it, and didn't inhale, and never tried it again.

William Jefferson Clinton (b.1946)
The New York Times, 30 March 1992

Deep-seated cultural biases explain why the Western mind turns suddenly anxious and repressive on contemplating drugs. Substance induced changes in consciousness dramatically reveal that our mental life has physical foundations. Psychoactive drugs thus challenge the Christian assumption of the inviolability and special ontological status of the soul. Similarly, they challenge the modern idea of the ego and its inviolability and control structures. In short, encounters with psychedelic plants throw into question the entire world view of the dominator culture.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000)
Food of the Gods, 1992
Introduction: A Manifesto for New Thought About Drugs
"A New Manifesto"

Marijuana is...self-punishing. It makes you acutely sensitive, and in this world, what worse punishment could there be?

P.J. O'Rourke (b.1947)
Rolling Stone
30 November 1989

...illegal drugs taught a generation of Americans the metric system.

P.J. O'Rourke (b.1947)
The CEO of the Sofa, 2001
April 2001, Chapter VIII

It is my sincere wish that this book contribute to an objective reappraisal of entheogenic drugs and their place in the modern world. I have dedicated it to my late teacher Gordon Wasson, who more than anyone else catalyzed the contemporary revival of ecstatic, shamanic religion, and who wrote beautifully about the "bemushroomed" state. At the outset I reiterated Wasson's rhetorical question, whether, with all our modern knowledge, we needed the divine entheogens any longer. I would answer with Wasson, that precisely because of our modern knowledge we need them more than ever. Mother Earth, Our Lady Gaia, is suffering mightily the ecological consequences of all that modern knowledge.... [T]o paraphrase one of the greatest Americans, Chief Seattle, the Earth does not belong to humankind, humankind belongs to the Earth. Any experience, pharmacological or otherwise, which makes us aware that "every thing that lives is Holy," that we are all sisters and, white, two-legged or four-legged, legless or centipedal; that the universe of which we are an integral part is divine and sacred.... I firmly believe that contemporary spiritual use of entheogenic drugs is one of humankind's brightest hopes for overcoming the ecological crisis with which we threaten the biosphere and jeopardize our own survival, for Homo sapiens is close to the head of the list of endangered species.

Jonathan Ott (b.1949)
Pharmacotheon, 1993
"Proemium", page 77

I find the following list of levels of relationship to a substance useful: 1) experimental use, 2) social use, 3) recreational use, 4) habitual use, and 5) compulsive use.

Bob Wallace (b.1949)
"Abusers vs. users"
email to SalviaD list
07 January 2000

In the triad: drug, set and setting, the one that is least important, or most dispensable, is drug.

Rick Strassman (b.1951?)
TRP Volume 4.16, Spring 1999

Drugs affect children the opposite way they affect adults.

David Byrne (b.1952)
Stop Making Sense, 1984
Liner notes

When I see phrases like "Drugs don't work" -- a New York State Business Alliance ad slogan emphasizing the costs to business of drug-using employees -- I think how similar the dark side of drugs and work are, with their joyless meting out of fun, their constant financial count, their shared obsession with the passage of time. Doing dope doesn't sound like so much fun in my account. And in retrospect it wasn't. It was just a little more fun than the other life, lived without dope.

Ann Marlowe (b.1958?)
How to Stop Time: Heroin From A to Z, 1999

If God dropped acid, would he see people?

C.T. Hart
Fake Steven Wright

In the early years of the 1960's, certain religious scholars began to be aware of a superlative instrument for the study of religious experience. This was the psychedelic or "mind-revealing" drugs. They are mind revealing in the sense that people who ingest them nearly always become aware of capacities they did not know they possessed, the most surprising being their mystical potentialities. ...Some self-styled experts have labeled the religious effects of the drugs illusory, a kind of religious fake. I have carefully and critically studied the subject for 10 years through firsthand investigation and self-experimentation and have come to the conclusion that if this is a fake religion, then the fake is frequently better than the real thing. There are many well-attested cases on record of dramatic, lasting conversions and religious growth of a profound nature following use of LSD-type drugs.

Religious Experience: Its Nature and Function in the Human Psyche
by Walter Houston Clark, et al.
(Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1973) page 17

From the conscious mind comes intellect; from the unconscious, wisdom.

Exploring Inner Space: Personal Experiences Under LSD-25, 1961
Chapter 5, "The Golden Light"
by Jane Dunlap (1904-1974)

When the conscious becomes unconscious, you're drunk. When the unconscious becomes conscious, you're stoned.



If you say "Would there were no wine" because of the drunkards, then you must say, going on by degrees, "Would there were no steel," because of the murderers, "Would there were no night," because of the thieves, "Would there were no light," because of the informers, and "Would there were no women," because of adultery.

Saint John Chrysostom (c.345-407)
Homilies, c.388

Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Speech in the Illinois House of Representatives, 18 December 1840
Fabricated by anti-Prohibition forces in Atlanta Georgia, 1887
See caveat

Temperate temperance is best. Intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance, while temperate temperance helps it in its fight against intemperate intemperance. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Notebook, 1935, 1896 entry
edited by Albert Bigelow Paine

The system of refusing the mere act of drinking, and leaving the desire in full force, is unintelligent war tactics, it seems to me.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Following the Equator, 1897
Chapter 1

The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"My First Impression of the U.S.A."
An interview for Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 1921
Appeared in Berliner Tageblatt, 07 July 1921
Reprinted in Ideas and Opinions, published by Bonanza Books

All of our disgustingly rich men are at a loss to know what to do with their money. Funny none of them ever thought of giving it back to the people they got it from. Instead of these men giving money to found Colleges to promote learning, why don't they pass a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting anybody learning anything? And if it works as good as the Prohibition one did, in 5 years we would have the smartest race of people on Earth.

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
"Our Rich Men Having Great Time Disposing of Wealth"
Article 108, 1925
Will Rogers' Weekly Articles, 1978
Volume I "The Harding/Coolidge Years 1922-1925
Edited by James M. Smallwood and Steven K. Gragert

Men and women feel such an urgent need to take occasional holidays from reality that they will do almost anything to procure the means of escape. The only justification for prohibition would be success; but it is not, and in the nature of things, cannot be successful. The way to prevent people from drinking too much alcohol, or becoming addicts to morphine or cocaine, is to give them an efficient but wholesome substitute for these delicious and (in the present imperfect world) necessary poisons. The man who invents such a substance will be counted among the greatest benefactors of suffering humanity.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"A Treatise on Drugs"
The Chicago Herald and Examiner
10 October 1931

The effects which follow too constant and intense a concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptibly worse than it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
The Devils of Loudun, 1952

The undoubted mystical and religious intent of most users of the psychedelic drugs, even if some of these substances should be proved injurious to physical health, requires that their free and responsible use be exempt from legal restraint in any republic which maintains a constitutional separation of church and state.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
"Psychedelics and Religious Experience"
The Religious Situation, 1969
Edited by Donald R. Cutler

...American prohibitionism...has done more than anything else to corrupt the police and foster disrespect for law, and which our economic pressure has, in the special problem of drug abuse, spread to the rest of the world. Although my views on this matter may be considered extreme, I feel that in any society where the powers of Church and State are separate, the State is without either right or wisdom in enforcing sumptuary laws against crimes which have no complaining victims. When the police are asked to be armed clergymen enforcing ecclesiastical codes of morality, all the proscribed sins of the flesh, of lust and luxury, become -- since we are legislating against human nature -- exceedingly profitable ventures for criminal organizations which can pay both the police and the politicians to stay out of trouble. Those who cannot pay constitute about one-third of the population of our overcrowded and hopelessly mismanaged prisons, and the business of their trial by due process delays and over taxes the courts beyond all reason. These are nomogenic crimes, caused by bad laws, just as iatrogenic diseases are caused by bad doctoring. The offenders seldom feel guilty but often positively righteous in their opposition to this legal hypocrisy, and so emerge from prison loathing and despising the social order more than ever.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
"The Soul-Searchers"
In My Own Way: An Autobiography, 1915-1965, 1972

To punish drug takers is like a drunk striking the bleary face it sees in the mirror. Drugs will not be brought under control until society itself changes, enabling men to use them as primitive man did: welcoming the visions they provided not as fantasies, but as intimations of a different, and important, level of reality.

Brian Inglis (1916-1993)
The Forbidden Game: A Social History of Drugs, 1975

All the psychedelic or "mind-manifesting" drugs attack the defense of compartmentalization and thus make it possible for an individual to see through some of the absurdities, including status systems, of his own behavior, and of his own culture and groups-of-reference. This, I believe, is the most important basis for attempts to ban or restrict the uses of these drugs, even more than the fact that, unlike alcohol, they make possible great pleasure without subsequent punishment, contrary to the long-standing "moral" dicta of Western civilization.

Joe K. Adams (1920-1989)
"Psychosis: 'Experimental' and Real"
The Psychedelic Reader, 1965

The Nazis had a Jewish problem. We have a drug abuse problem. Actually, 'Jewish problem' was the name the Germans gave to their persecution of the Jews; 'drug abuse problem' is the name we give to our persecution of people who use certain drugs.

Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
The Untamed Tongue, 1990

The war on drugs is a mass movement characterized by the demonizing... of certain objects and persons ("drugs", "addicts", "traffickers") as the incarnations of evil. Hence, it is foolish to dwell on the drug prohibitionist's failure to attain his avowed aims. Since he wages war on evil, his very effort is synonymous with success.

Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
National Review
12 February 1996

It's almost a suicidal technique. You can't lie to kids. Drug education is a uniformed policeman coming into the first grade and telling all these fucking lies [about marijuana] so that by the time [the kids are] in junior high and they've tried it, they know you're full of shit. Marijuana is a gateway drug - it teaches you disrespect for authority.

Timothy Leary (1920-1996)

Nancy Reagan visited Needham, Harper Steers yesterday to preview its two-pronged advertising attack on drug abuse, her favorite cause. And she heard Paul C. Harper Jr., chairman of the agency, speak with alarm about the ravages of drugs and ask the question, "Can advertising be used to stem this tide?" His own answer was, "We think it can on two conditions: One, if it is part of a much broader program of education and persuasion, and two, if the advertising selects its audience very carefully." And that is what the agency has done as a public service contribution through the Advertising Council, the advertising industry's major charity activity. Its advertising will back up the continuing educational effort carried out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and will not only go after youngsters when when they are at the most susceptible age, but also the parents of those youngsters. The basic target audience is the is the 12-to-14 age group and the message is simple, "Just say no."

Philip H. Dougherty (1923-1988)
"Advertising; Drug Drive Outlined to First Lady"
New York Times, 12 October 1983

Just say no!

Nancy Reagan (b.1923)
See above

Marijuana will be legal some day, because the many law students who now smoke pot will some day become Congressmen and legalize it in order to protect themselves.

Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)
How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, 1963,1964,1965
Chapter 21

Our generation is the first, ever, to have made the search for self-awareness a crime, if it is done with the use of plants or chemical compounds as the means of opening the psychic doors. But the urge to become aware is always present, and it increases in intensity as one grows older.

Alexander Shulgin (b.1925)
PiHKAL, 1991

The casual user ought to be taken out and shot.

Daryl Francis Gates (b.1926)
Testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
05 September 1990

Walker: I know you've talked this to death and I want to talk about it again is the comment that you made to the Senate Judiciary Committee on casual drug users. This is an example of the media taking something that you said and running with it and using it against you, viciously against you. I'm curious, what was your total statement?

Gates: Well this came up in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and it was part of an hour and a half of testimony for that committee and it came up in a discussion of people who are "casual drug users" and what ought to be done with them, how they should be dealt with and as we got into that discussion, there is a definition of a casual drug user, I can't repeat what it is exactly but use once a week or once a month, something to that nature. We got into that discussion with Senator Joe Biden and my reaction was at that time was that casual drug users are at the core of the problem in the country, had been for a long period of time, so I wanted to express that in as strong a term as I possibly could because I did not think that they were giving it the kind of attention that they ought to and so I simply said, "well casual drug users ought to be taken out and shot." That's hyperbole, that's a way you get your point across and I got my point across, quite well. Interestingly enough, I didn't get it too well across to anyone in the committee because senators kind of chuckled, Commissioner Lee Brown who was testifying with me, Lee knows me very well, he chuckled, there were a couple of chuckles in the audience and that was it. Even when I went out afterwards in the corridor and I was approached by the electronic media, they just kind of glossed over it. It was the Los Angeles Times quite frankly one of the best reporters they've got, who asked me about it and I knew at the time that the Los Angeles Times, if anyone, would ask me about it and uh, they would make something out of it. So I calculated it. When I saw Ron (Ronald J. Ostrow) come over that he was going to ask me about it and I was going to react in a way that would get people's attention and so I did.

Daryl Francis Gates (b.1926)
Chief of Police, Los Angeles Police Department
Interview, 11 December 1991
Parker Center Building, Los Angeles

In January 1984, [Daryl] Gates was asked by a parent at a San Fernando Valley, CA, public school, "What can I do if I find out my child has used marijuana?" He replied, "It's too late. Once they've smoked one marijuana cigarette, they are lost to us forever!"

Daryl Francis Gates (b.1926)
Quoted in The Emperor Wears No Clothes, 1992
by Jack Herer (b.1939)

From my own experience and the experience of others I have concluded that most of the horrific effects and disorders described as characteristic of marijuana "intoxication" by the US Federal Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics are, quite the reverse, precisely traceable back to the effects on consciousness not of the narcotic but of the law and the threatening activities of the US Federal Treasury Department Bureau of Narcotics itself. Thus, as the Buddha said to a lady who offered him a curse, the gift is returned to the giver when it is not accepted.

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
"The Great Marijuana Hoax"
The Atlantic Monthly, November 1966

Suppose that the US really is trying to get rid of drugs in Colombia. Does Colombia then have the right to fumigate tobacco farms in Kentucky? They are producing a lethal substance far more dangerous than cocaine. More Colombians die from tobacco-related illnesses than Americans die from cocaine. Of course, Colombia has no right to do that.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
DRCNet Interview
The Week Online with DRCNet
Issue #223, 08 February 2002

Pick a night and cordon off a section of South Dallas. Send hundreds of police officers -- however many it would take -- into the area to 'vacuum it up.' Shakedown everybody on the street. Search every house and apartment. Confiscate all drugs and weapons.

H. Ross Perot (b.1930)
On attacking crime in Dallas
The Washington Post
06 June 1992

The fact that many people take LSD in an attempt to find a solution to their emotional dilemmas or from a deep need for philosophical and spiritual answers should not be underestimated. The craving for contact with transcendental realities can be more powerful than the sexual urge. Throughout human history countless individuals have been willing to take enormous risks of various kinds and to sacrifice years or decades of their lives to spiritual pursuits. Any reasonable measures regulating the use of psychedelic drugs should take these facts into consideration.

Stanislav Grof (b.1931)
LSD Psychotherapy, 1980

There are several strategies for changing drug policy. First, we should stress the idea that we are a free people and we should be allowed our freedom so long as it doesn't place someone else at risk. We must also tell the truth about the relative dangerousness of each drug and what its habituating characteristics are. Then we should make smart distinctions between use and abuse of a drug. We also need to include harm reduction and prevention as realistic ways of improving the current situation. We can't rely on Nancy Reagan's 'Just say no.'

John B. Vasconcellos (b.1932)
Keynote address, 17 October 1996
Drug Policy Foundation Conference
New Orleans, Louisiana

I believe that with the advent of acid, we discovered a new way to think, and it has to do with piecing together new thoughts in your mind. Why is it that people think it's so evil? What is it about it that scares people so deeply, even the guy that invented it, what is it? Because they're afraid that there's more to reality than they have confronted. That there are doors that they're afraid to go in, and they don't want us to go in there either, because if we go in we might learn something that they don't know. And that makes us a little out of their control.

Ken Kesey (1935-2001)
"The Beyond Within: The Rise and Fall of LSD," 1987
BBC documentary

Understand that legal and illegal are political, and often arbitrary, categorizations; use and abuse are medical, or clinical, distinctions.

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989)
Steal This Urine Test, 1987

A man is not opposed to the use or the legalization of marijuana because (he thinks) it leads to the use of more dangerous drugs, because it causes crime, because it produces insanity and brain damage, because it makes a person unsafe behind the wheel, because it creates an unwillingness to work. He believes these things because he thinks the drug is evil. The negative consequences of the use of marijuana are superadded to support a basically value position.

Erich Goode (b.1938?)
The Marijuana Smokers, 1970
Chapter 3 "Marijuana and the Politics of Reality"

Only one thing is certain: if pot is legalized, it won't be for our benefit but for the authorities'. To have it legalized will also be to lose control of it.

Germaine Greer (b.1939)
"Flip-top Legal Pot"
Oz, London, October 1968

In actual practice the nineteenth-century opium and hashish poets performed a remarkable, quite unintended function. The sheer vividness of their formulations gave middle-class society ample ammunition with which to outlaw these drugs. It took the poetic imagination and antibourgeois feelings of the poets in describing opium and hashish as means for the expansion and dissolution of the self to shock society out of its indifference. The publication of these dream-poems first made society aware of these previously hidden effects of the drugs. It was the asocial significance attributed by the poets to opium and hashish which first caused them to lose their identity as ordinary household remedies. Suddenly they emerge as dangerous narcotics, and as such, threats to the bourgeois individual. Of course, that does not mean modern drug legislation would not have come about eventually even without the opium literature of the nineteenth century. It would be absurd to advance such a simplistic view of cause and effect. In the course of the nineteenth century the real dangers of narcotics were amply revealed. Nevertheless, the control measures and prohibitions with which society tried to protect itself were another matter altogether. The emotional atmosphere in which these measures were implemented was a realm unto itself. The deep-seated fear of any contact with these drugs, which at least until a few years ago still characterized the attitude toward narcotics, cannot be fully explained by the actual dangers. Bourgeous anxiety fantasies were the mirror images of the poets' dreams -- not quite so poetic, of course, yet unmistakably their reflections.

Wolfgang Schivelbusch (b.1941)
Tastes of paradise: a social history of spices, stimulants, and intoxicants, 1992
Chapter 8 "The Artificial Paradises of the Nineteenth Century"
Translated by David Jacobson

We are spending much time, money, and intellectual energy trying to find out why people are taking drugs, but, in fact, what we are doing is trying to find out why people are taking some drugs that we disapprove of. No useful answers can come out of that sort of inquiry; the question is improperly phrased.

Andrew T. Weil (b.1942)
The Natural Mind, 1986
Chapter 2 "Why People Take Drugs"

...a spiritual and a moral response [to the drug problem] is required. Those who believe that because of modernity the categories of right and wrong, of good and evil, no longer apply need to take a close, hard look at the drug problem. If one doesn’t believe in the struggle of the psychomachia -- what I was taught to recognize as the struggle between good and evil for possession of the human soul -- then one might never get to the heart of this drug problem.

William John Bennett (b.1943)
"Drugs and the Face of Evil"
First Things, December 1990

In the absence of a partnership community and with the loss of the psychoactive plants that catalyze and maintain partnership, nostalgia for paradise appears quite naturally in a dominator society. The abandonment of the original catalyst for the emergence of self-reflection and language, the Stropharia cubensis psilocybin-containing mushroom, has been a process with four distinct stages. Each stage represents a further dilution of awareness of the power of the numinous meaning resident in the mystery.

The first step away from the symbiosis of the human-fungal partnership that characterized the early pastoralist societies was the introduction of other psychoactive plant substitutes for the original mushroom. This psychoactivity can range from being equal in the depths of its profundity to the Stropharia cubensis psilocybin intoxication, as in the case with the classical hallucinogens of the New World tropics, to being relatively trivial. Examples of the latter are the use of Ephedra, a stimulant, and fermented honey as Soma substitutes.

In the case of Stropharia cubensis in Africa, a gradual trivialization scenario is reasonable: With changes in climate, frequent, if not continual, low levels of mushroom ingestion gradually gave way to use that was merely seasonal. Conscious ceremonial use of mushrooms must have been at its apex during this seasonal availability phase, which may have lasted many thousands of years. Gradually, as mushrooms and mushroom ecologies grew more rare, there may have been efforts to preserve mushrooms by drying and by preserving them in honey. As honey itself easily ferments into an alcoholic intoxicant, it is possible that over time a practice of mixing fewer and fewer mushrooms in more and more honey may have encouraged replacement of the mushroom cult with a cult of mead. No greater shift of social values is possible to imagine than that which would accompany the gradual changeover of a psilocybin cult to an alcohol cult.

Such gradual profanation of a psychoactive plant sacrament merges easily into the second step in the abandonment of the original psychosymbiotic mystery; the second step is the substitution of completely inactive materials for active ones. In this situation, the substitutes, though usually still plants, are really no more than symbols of the former power of the mystery to authentically move initiates.

And in the third stage of the process, symbols are all that is left. Not only are psychoactive plants now out of the picture, but plants of any sort have disappeared, and in their place are esoteric teachings and dogma, rituals, stress on lineages, gestures, and cosmogonic diagrams. Today's major world religions are typical of this stage.

The third stage leads into yet another stage. This other stage is, of course, the complete abandonment of even the pretense of remembering the felt experience of the mystery. This last stage is typified by secular scientism as perfected in the twentieth century.

We could perhaps even posit a further aspect of this fourth stage in the process of abandonment: the rediscovery of the mystery and its interpretation as evil and threatening to social values. The current suppression of psychedelic research and the hysteria fanned by pharmaphobic media is an obvious case in point.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000)
Food of the Gods, 1992
Chapter 8 "Twilight in Eden: Minoan Crete and the Eleusinian Mystery"

There is no question that a society that sets out to control its citizens' use of drugs sets out on the slippery path to totalitarianism. No amount of police power, surveillance, and intrusion into people's lives can be expected to affect "the drug problem." Hence there is no limit to the amount of repression that frightened institutions and their brainwashed populations may call for.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000)
Food of the Gods, 1992
Chapter 15 "Anticipating the Archaic Paradise"
"The Legalization Issue"

The "just say no" campaign at this point is a lot like drawing sea-monsters over certain unexplored areas of the map and expecting people to stay away. It may work for some, but explorers live for this kind of thing.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000)
Paraphrase? See caveat

Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.

P.J. O'Rourke (b.1947)
"Studying for Our Drug Test"
Give War a Chance, 1992

...the contemporary World War on Drugs is nothing more nor less than the modern manifestation of the millennial struggle between state power and individual freedom; between proselytizers of purely symbolic simulacra of religion -- propagandists of what Blake called "pale religious letchery" -- and the practitioners of the real thing -- for religion is an experience, not merely a "social activity with mild ethical rules" [Wasson, 1961]. This War on Drugs originally started as a War on Religious Experiences, and it is nothing new -- it dates back, in the Old least to the end of the fourth century of our era; and in the New the second decade of the sixteenth century, when Europeans began to sow a genocidal reign of terror throughout the vast reaches of the Americas.

Jonathan Ott (b.1949)
The Age of Entheogens, 1995

The modern war on drugs is just the contemporary expression of something that started basically 1600 years ago with the destruction of the Sanctuary at Eleusis in 396 A.D. For the next millennium or so, the Catholic theocracy in Europe tried to eliminate any form of experiential religion -- any ecstatic religion based on the use of entheogenic substances -- because fundamentally they were trying to paddle up a placebo-sacrament on the unsuspecting public. They knew that as long as people had access to the real thing they wouldn't pay much attention to the Catholic dogma.

Jonathan Ott (b.1949)

For every prohibition you create you also create an underground....

Jello Biafra (b.1958)

The act of consuming the forbidden fruit was politicized by the mere fact that it was illegal. When you smoked marijuana, you immediately became aware of the glaring contradiction between the way you experienced reality in your own body and the official descriptions by the government and the media. That pot was not the big bugaboo that it had been cracked up to be was irrefutable evidence that the authorities either did not tell the truth or did not know what they were talking about. Its continued illegality was proof that lying and/or stupidity was a cornerstone of government policy. When young people got high, they knew this existentially, from the inside out. They saw through the great hoax, the cover story concerning not only the narcotics laws but the entire system. Smoking dope was thus an important political catalyst, for it enabled many a budding radical to begin questioning the official mythology of the governing class.

Acid Dreams, p.129 (1985)
by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain

But Just Say No did something insidious. It finished Dick Williams' job of closing the debate. In fact, it reduced the debate to a single word. Don't talk about why people use drugs, the slogan said. Don't ask why Halcion and malt liquor are legal drugs while marijuana and cocaine are not. Don't talk about the difference between drug use and drug abuse. Don't talk about the tendency of prohibition to promote violence and the use of stronger and more dangerous drugs. Don't talk about the lives, taxpayer dollars, and civil liberties sacrificed for the Drug War. Don't talk about the culture and race wars waged under the Drug War battle flag. Don't talk about the medical potential of illegal drugs. Don't talk at all. Just say no.

Dan Baum
Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, 1996
Chapter 13 "Nineteen Eighty-Four: 1984"

From our own work and from a review of the literature, we believe that pure LSD ingested in moderate doses does not damage chromosomes in vivo, does not cause detectable genetic damage, and is not a teratogen or a carcinogen in man. Within these bounds, therefore, we suggest that, other than during pregnancy, there is no present contraindication to the continued controlled experimental use of pure LSD.

Norman I. Dishotsky,
William D. Loughman, Robert E. Mogar, Wendell R. Lipscomb
"LSD and genetic damage. Is LSD chromosome damaging,
carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic?"
Science, 1971; 172:431-440

I am convinced that we can do to guns what we've done to drugs: create a multibillion dollar underground market over which we have absolutely no control.

George L. Roman

What are politicians going to tell people when the Constitution is gone and we still have a drug problem?

William Simpson
ACLU lawyer
Time Magazine, 14 May 1990

These are the two Americas. No other line you can draw is as trenchant as this. On the one side, people of normal human appetites, for food and sex and creature comforts; on the other, those who crave only the roar and crackle of their own neurons, whipped into a frenzy of synthetic euphoria.

The Crack Nation. It is in our midst, but not a part of us; our laws barely touch it on its progress through our jails and hospitals, on its way to our morgues.

"Crack", Newsweek cover story
28 November 1988


There is no possible line of conduct which has not at some time and place been condemned, and which at some other time and place been enjoined as a duty.

William Lecky (1838-1903)

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Caesar and Cleopatra, 1898

The paths of glory at least lead to the Grave, but the paths of duty may not get you Anywhere.

James Thurber (1894-1961)
"The Patient Bloodhound"
Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems, 1939, 1940

© 1999 by MonkeyPants Press, an imprint of Bonobo Books, a division of Consolidated Trout, Ltd.
Last update: 03-July-2015
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