Vivid Ephemera: 13 Quotes From Psychedelic Literature

Image © Shutterstock

Editor's Note:

Who doesn’t love a good quote? For more like this, check out our quotations archive.

Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Robbins, two masters of translating consciousness-altering experiences into text, both have birthdays this week. The difference in their literature is a terrific illustration of the various directions the mind can travel when unbound with a little chemical assistance (though your mileage may vary).

There’s a whole lot more psychedelic literature where that comes from, and infinite avenues that have still yet to be traveled. Below are some snippets from authors who similarly traversed the outer reaches of their own minds, unearthing word gems of every possible shape and color. Remember what the Dormouse said: Feed your head!

Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren, 1975
“It is not that I have no past. Rather, it continually fragments on the terrible and vivid ephemera of now.”

Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976
“The enemy of the black is not the white. The enemy of capitalist is not communist, the enemy of homosexual is not heterosexual, the enemy of Jew is not Arab, the enemy of youth is not the old, the enemy of hip is not redneck, the enemy of Chicano is not gringo and the enemy of women is not men. We all have the same enemy. The enemy is the tyranny of the dull mind. The enemy is every expert who practices technocratic manipulation, the enemy is every proponent of standardization and the enemy is every victim who is so dull and lazy and weak as to allow himself to be manipulated and standardized.”

Cheryl Pellerin, Trips, 1998
“We don’t know much about the brain, either, but we know this: it makes us unique in the known universe. You’d think an uptight, paranoid species like humans would be more aggressively curious about drugs that pass so easily across the squishy grey line that separates us from everything else.”

Hunter S. Thompson, The Curse of Lono, 1983
“Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why.”

Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, 1992
“Even as the nineteenth century had to come to grips with the notion of human descent from apes, we must now come to terms with the fact that those apes were stoned apes.”

Anaïs Nin, Sisters of the Extreme: Women Writing on the Drug Experience, 2000
“I reached the fascinating revelation that this world opened by LSD was accessible to the artist by way of art. The gold sun mobile of Lippold could create a mood if one were receptive enough, if one let the image penetrate the body and turn the body into gold. All the chemical did was to remove the resistance, to make one permeable to the image, and to make the body receptive by shutting out the familiar landscape which prevented the dream from invading us.

Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 1954
“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”

Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy, 1968
“The great kick of the mystic experience, the exultant, ecstatic hit, is the sudden relief from emotional pressure.

Did you imagine that there could be emotions in heaven? Emotions are closely tied to ego games. Check your emotions at the door to paradise.”

Joan Halifax, Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, 2008
“Conceptual knowledge is so valued in our world. Yet in many cultures wisdom is equated not with knowledge but with an open heart.”

Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker, 1980
“Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not.
Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end.
Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.
There is only one serious question. And that is: Who knows how to make love stay?
Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.”

Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality, 1971
“We are men and our lot in life is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971
“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride … and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well … maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”

Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume, 1984
“To achieve the impossible, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.”