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Psychedelics and their influence on postmodernism


Trolsk
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I'm currently reading a lot about postmodernism (as part of a course I'm taking at the uni) and I find it very likely that the (re)discovery of psychedelics in the 1950s has played an important role in the development of postmodernism.

 

If you're unfamiliar with postmodernism some of its key features are (taken from Wikipedia):

* A continual skepticism towards the ideas and ideals of the modern era, especially the ideas of progress, objectivity, reason, certainty & personal identity, and grand narrative in general (see Counter-Enlightenment)

* The belief that all communication is shaped by cultural bias, myth, metaphor, and political content.

* The assertion that meaning and experience can only be created by the individual, and cannot be made objective by an author or narrator.

* Parody, satire, self-reference, and wit.

* Acceptance of a mass media dominated society in which there is no originality, but only copies of what has been done before.

* Globalization, a culturally pluralistic and profoundly interconnected global society lacking any single dominant center of political power, communication, or intellectual production. Instead, the world is moving towards decentralization in all types of global processes.

 

I would be very happy if anyone could point me in the right direction, that is articles or books about psychedelics and their influence on postmodern thought. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated.

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Hehehe, I am just laying the final hands on my bachelor's thesis on a very closely related subject.

Though I'm afraid that I have used mostly dutch authors... I wrote about the relation between modernity and the ecstacy experience (not as in the drug, but as in the transcendental kinda experience).

 

I must admit I do not completely understand the correlation between the discovery of psychedelics and postmodernism. My gut feeling tells me that people would find more 'sense' or more 'connection' in the world, between people and things and between people in general. Postmodernism seems to drift away from those things... I mean: the postmodern world isn't very cozy and comforting, so to say. But maybe that's what you were hinting at: the rise of postmodernism caused people to reinvestigate the possibilities of other ways of experiencing and 'going back to nature'.

 

Anyway: personally I feel more and more attracted to the relation between quantum physics and psychedelics, but that's a whole different subject.

Btw: are you planning to write a paper on the subject?

 

Essential reading: Walter Benjamin - About Hashish. It's a little fragmented, cause it's not a work of his, rather than collected articles and writings on the subject of hashish and its relation to experience. There's a very good read in Lieven de Cauter - Archeology of the kick, but I have no idea whether or not it has been translated. He's a Belgian author...

 

Anyway: I am probably able to find some more authors if you're really interested... Lemme know what you've come up with so far. Nice subject, dude! :) (what are you studying anyway?)

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A very interesting question! I'm sure psychedelics had some part to play in Postmodernism.

 

The Postmodernism I'm most aware of is that of architecture, and yeah, I'd have to say that a great bit of it looks like someone was high on something when they designed it. Then again, there are many other major sociological and psychological factors that appear to play a role. Like, for instance, modernism was very serious. And Postmodernism seems to me to be a very hard reaction, just like any movement (just like Modernism was to Classicism), against the movement before it. In other words, it reacted by trying to be as unserious as possible. But in a way it failed in that respect because it was ultimately very serious about being unserious. Still, Postmodernism had (has?) some very important things to say, that could never had been said without the existence of Modernism.

 

But sure, because Postmodernism grew up in the same age as the popularity of psychedelics, I'm sure it was impossible that the two are not related to each other somehow.

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Hehehe, I am just laying the final hands on my bachelor's thesis on a very closely related subject.

Though I'm afraid that I have used mostly dutch authors... I wrote about the relation between modernity and the ecstacy experience (not as in the drug, but as in the transcendental kinda experience).

 

Interesting subject!

 

I must admit I do not completely understand the correlation between the discovery of psychedelics and postmodernism.

 

Let me add some more key features of postmodernism (as I understand them):

- The world can not be viewed objectively, it's socially constructed

- There are no universal ethical or political truths/principals

- New social movements (peace, women's rights, animal rights, etc)

- Fragmentation of the self, there's not one identity, but many

- Deconstruction of categories

- History is not linear

- Nihilism

- Relativism

 

We've all heard or read about people's experience with psychedelics, and several of the above key features are often part of their description of the experience.

 

There's at least one description most of us know back and forth:

 

"Today, a young man on acid realised that all matter is just energy condensed to a slow vibration - that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death ; life is only a dream ...... we are the imagination of ourselves" - Bill Hicks

 

The creation of new social movements as an alternative way of political participation can also be traced back to the protests against the vietnam war. Protests where the hippie movement played an important role. Btw, if you haven't read Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman you should. It's a very funny book written by the founder of the Yippie Movement and his personal description of that time in american history. Highly recommended!

 

Anyway: personally I feel more and more attracted to the relation between quantum physics and psychedelics, but that's a whole different subject.

 

Yes, indeed a very interesting relation. If you're not already aware of a book called The Tao of Physics you might find it interesting.

 

If you want to read more about psychedelics and natural science, Kary Mullis (Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry in 1993) wrote a bold a highly entertaining self-biography called Dancing Naked In The Mind Field. He claims LSD helped in his scientific work.

 

You might also find it interesting that "the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago."

 

Btw: are you planning to write a paper on the subject?

 

No, it's just a personal interest.

 

Essential reading: Walter Benjamin - About Hashish.

 

Thanks, I'll look for it.

 

Anyway: I am probably able to find some more authors if you're really interested... Lemme know what you've come up with so far. Nice subject, dude! :)

 

That would be highly appreciated.

 

(what are you studying anyway?)

 

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Political science. My bachelor thesis is not related to this in any way. I'm pretty sure my professors aren't ready to discuss this subject. :-)

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What do you need all this crap about, think what are psychedelics and postmodernism for you and you can reveal more.

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Crap? Postmodernism is one of the most influential and interesting theories of today in philosophy, litterature, art, political science, architecture etc.

 

I'm not interested in what psychedelics and postmodernism are for me, I'm interested in how the rediscovery of psychedelics helped influence postmodern thought.

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If you are interested in the effects of psychedelic drugs on the philosophie and litterature of the 20th century( I find these two branches to be complemantary ) and that you havent heard of Jack Kerouac's on the road yet. My advise is for you to check out the beat generation, this rebellious group of writers did a whole lot of experimenting with psychedelics especilly LSD before it became illegal. Go to this site below if you wanna find out more

http://www.rooknet.com/beatpage/

 

:)

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well well

There are many ways to look at the phenomenon

you can certainly see how psychedelics give you another edge on looking at the reality and society just like postmodernism did, there are many connections, check the books:

 

Postmodernism and Social Inquiry - David R. Dickens and Andrea Fontana

Finding Hope in the Age of Melancholy - David S. Awbrey

Drug Users in Society - Joanne Neale

 

well you certainly make my acedemic approach tickle :)

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Postmodernism: A Reader - Patricia Waugh

This book has also some references and how psychedelics effected some artists and make them think in a postmodern way

 

Anti-Disciplinary Protest: Sixties Radicalism and Postmodernism - Julie Stephens

well I guess the title speaks for itself

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Interesting subject! And thanks for the link about the Nobel-prize winner. Interesting !

 

I'm afraid I don't know much about the subject myself but I will follow this thread. But I guess you may very well have a point.

 

As for the term post-modernism I'm sure you are aware that it is used to refer to different periods. Post-modern architecture is used for some architecture built from the 2nd WW, whereas post-modern philosophy according to some historians only begins around 1980.

 

But the term has been used so heavily over time it's difficult to define. One danish author (Alexander Ljungström) compared it to a letter you mail without knowing whether it will reach its destination!

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Just a quick question before I start a more elaborate reply: Trolsk, were you by any chance on the LSD Symposium in Basel, january this year? That was truly the most wonderful weekend of my life. Man, I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Anyway, next time there is such a convention (or well... a similar one, good ol' Albert isn't turning 100 every year ;)) you should really go. I was amazed to see that there's so many really really clever people, who are not only out there, but also in their right minds. Meaning, they were very friendly, open, warmhearted, natureloving people and at the same time very scientific. So, not too floaty, fuzzy (if you know what I mean: not hippies screaming turn on, tune in and whatever... hehehe) but very rational.

Well, this is turning into a short review, but what the heck. Can you imagine there were parties every night and I still managed to go to bed early and get up even earlier (7 ish) to not miss any lecture? From 9 in the morning till 9 pm. Normally I'd have fallen asleep by noon, but this just gave me more and more energy. So many brilliant minds: Ralph Metzner, Jonathan Ott, Christian Rätsch (now there's a freak!! extremely funny dude), Alex Grey, the Shulgins, Martin Lee, Hoppy Hopkins, poets, musicians, people who opened the UFO club in London in the sixties, underground acid manufacturers, philosophers, filmmakers...

 

Wow, I was just gonna ask you if you'd been there, hehe. Nevermind: I'm off to the library to rewrite my conclusion and I'll come back to the subject. Matter of fact: I'm still searching for a subject for my final thesis. Maybe you've given me an idea, Trolsk. You the man! :)

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Interesting subject!

Let me add some more key features of postmodernism (as I understand them):

- The world can not be viewed objectively, it's socially constructed

- There are no universal ethical or political truths/principals

- New social movements (peace, women's rights, animal rights, etc)

- Fragmentation of the self, there's not one identity, but many

- Deconstruction of categories

- History is not linear

- Nihilism

- Relativism

 

We've all heard or read about people's experience with psychedelics, and several of the above key features are often part of their description of the experience.

I'm not quite sure what I think of it, but when I do, I'll come back to this subject.

The creation of new social movements as an alternative way of political participation can also be traced back to the protests against the vietnam war. Protests where the hippie movement played an important role.

Btw, if you haven't read Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman you should. It's a very funny book written by the founder of the Yippie Movement and his personal description of that time in american history. Highly recommended!

I haven't yet, but I will. Thanks for the recommendation! Btw: have you read the book Acid Dreams? very interesting story about the place of LSD in those times. Funny thing about the social movements is: most of them seemed to think that lsd implied some kind of social conscience that every would develop when under the influence of it. Well, some hippies turned pacifist, while groups like the Weather Underground but also the Black Panthers and others started using violence against "the man".

 

I did know that, there was a seminar on the influence of lsd in scientific discoveries. Now, an other fact. Did you know Albert Hofmann said that "he didnt discover lsd, but that it made itself known through him?" Funny story (and I heard him say it!): 5 years after first having synthesized it, he suddenly had a chill and remembered this substance called lsd-25 and resynthesized. The rest is history.. :)

 

Political science. My bachelor thesis is not related to this in any way. I'm pretty sure my professors aren't ready to discuss this subject. :-)

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I'm currently reading a lot about postmodernism (as part of a course I'm taking at the uni) and I find it very likely that the (re)discovery of psychedelics in the 1950s has played an important role in the development of postmodernism.

 

If you're unfamiliar with postmodernism some of its key features are (taken from Wikipedia):

* A continual skepticism towards the ideas and ideals of the modern era, especially the ideas of progress, objectivity, reason, certainty & personal identity, and grand narrative in general (see Counter-Enlightenment)

* The belief that all communication is shaped by cultural bias, myth, metaphor, and political content.

* The assertion that meaning and experience can only be created by the individual, and cannot be made objective by an author or narrator.

* Parody, satire, self-reference, and wit.

* Acceptance of a mass media dominated society in which there is no originality, but only copies of what has been done before.

* Globalization, a culturally pluralistic and profoundly interconnected global society lacking any single dominant center of political power, communication, or intellectual production. Instead, the world is moving towards decentralization in all types of global processes.

 

I would be very happy if anyone could point me in the right direction, that is articles or books about psychedelics and their influence on postmodern thought. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated.

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I've been writing several projects about postmodernity at uni and I might have something to contribute with here... Anyway, for now it's just a minor thing: When you say postmodernism you mostly refer to the art, while postmodernity primarily refers to the theories of science (psychology, sociologi and so on)
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Crap? Postmodernism is one of the most influential and interesting theories of today in philosophy, litterature, art, political science, architecture etc.

 

I'm not interested in what psychedelics and postmodernism are for me, I'm interested in how the rediscovery of psychedelics helped influence postmodern thought.

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Not really crap I mean. You can feel these things without knowing its a postmodernism.. Does it make any difference :huh:
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  • 1 month later...

Now people, this does deserve a bump. In my own interest, by the way, but nevertheless it deserves a bump.

Point is: I am trying to decide what I'm gonna write my master's thesis about. And well.. you know, with theses it's always the same problem: to try and find a good subject. I've been doing a lot of reading about psychedelics (I always have) and the main problem is now that I am totally forgetting what philosophical approach it needs to have. Because, I am studying philosophy.. :P And that seems to be somewhat 'important'. Boo! Still, I'd love some ideas, mainly around the 'practical philosophical' side of things; cultural and social philosophy. Help me get inspiration! If you do manage to light in spark in my faintly illuminated academic brain, you'll be thanked in my fore (or after?)word! Maybe even in both! ;)

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Hmmm....

 

I never knew the definition of postmodernism until now. The word 'Postmodernism' always seemed like one of those really pretentious things that I despise, and so I never bothered to learn anything about it.

 

However, the points Trolsk references in his original post are almost, point for point, a definition of my own personal worldview. And my worldview is fairly heavily influenced by psychedelics and psychedelic culture.

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