First things first.
An explanation is needed to address the provocative and seemingly oxymoronic title of this eponymous tome.
Drug dealer is a loaded and problematic term, both overgeneralised and imprecise. It conjures images of addiction, broken lives, unethical behaviour, violence, lawlessness and the seedy soft-underbelly of desperate and lost souls. Drug dealers are dishonest, depraved monsters who have no concern for the pain and suffering they inevitably cause. They hang around school yards preying on the innocence of children. They are heartless scoundrels who inevitably come to sticky ends.
But there’s another brand of drug dealer, one with a completely different agenda and modus operandi, one who deals a different class of drug to a distinct and specialised clientele. It is in this second category that I placed myself and have always preferred to consider myself a purveyor of fine psychedelics for the discriminating and responsible psychonaut.
The human brain is a bubbling caldron of chemical soup. The slightest tinkering with its biochemical balance can produce profound and surprising effects. Psychedelic drugs are one of the most powerful and effective ways to alter our brain chemistry and therefore our consciousness. We are currently in the midst of a revolution to understand what these substances do, what they are good for, and in doing so, discover their full potential.
Here’s the thing: there’s a clear distinction between drugs that get you into it and drugs that get you out of it.
There are smart drugs and dumb drugs. Smart drugs increase your perception and awareness of yourself and the world around you and therefore improve and enhance the quality of your life. Dumb drugs decrease awareness and perception of yourself and the world around you and consequently deteriorate and decrease your quality of your life. People do smart drugs because they want to embrace and experience the world more fully. People do dumb drugs because they hate themselves, hate their lives and want to escape from an intolerable reality. Smart people do smart drugs to improve their lives. Dumb people do dumb drugs and end up destroying their lives. If dumb people do smart drugs it can help them to become more aware, more perceptive and therefore smarter. If dumb people do smart drugs responsibly and for long enough they can end up becoming smart people doing smart drugs. Smart people can do some dumb drugs and get away with it for a while, but if smart people do too many dumb drugs for too long they become dumb people doing dumb drugs.
While this analysis may seem somewhat simplistic, there is wisdom in these musings, a modicum of merit in their madness.
Which drugs are dumb and which ones are smart?
Try this for starters:
The dumb drugs are cocaine, crack, crystal meth, heroin, opiates, benzodiazepines, and the heavy-weight champion, the Obergruppenführer of self-medication and the most addictive and harmful drug of all: alcohol.
Smart drugs are psychedelics and empathogens. They include cannabis, LSD, MDMA, DMT, 2CB, psilocybin, ayahuasca, peyote, and mescaline. These two categories are diametrically opposed, have opposite effects, and are consumed for completely different reasons.
The term, ‘Psychedelic’ was first coined by the British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond at a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1957, the same year the Space Age began and the first atomic bomb was detonated.
Osmond had been researching mescaline as a cure for alcoholism with remarkable results. At the time, he corresponded with Aldous Huxley, the author of the dystopian novel, Brave New World, who was also interested in the potential of mescaline as a tool to explore human consciousness. At the time, Huxley was using mescaline regularly and writing about his experiences.
In discussing what this new class of drugs might be called, Huxley proposed the unpronounceable, phanerothymes. In a rhyming couplet he sent to Osmond, he wrote, “To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme.” Osmond replied with a couplet of his own, “To fathom hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.”
From its Greek roots, psyche (soul) and dēloun (to make visible), the term appropriately translates to ‘mind-manifesting’.
Empathogens, a term coined by the American psychologist Ralph Metzner, are a class of drug which engender a feeling of empathy or emotional connection. Empathogens are best exemplified by MDMA and its chemical family of phenethylamines. Osmond’s phrase, “To fathom hell or soar angelic,” is revealing in that it points to the potential of the mind to manifest what is ‘in the mind.’
Psychedelics do not plant ideas or visions in our minds; they merely amplify our inner psyche to a far greater degree. Manifesting a troubled mind can be troubling, or even terrifying. Psychedelics are not for everyone, and those prone to psychosis or other mental disorders would be wise to steer clear altogether. But for those with an inquiring and relatively stable psychology, the rewards can be substantial and often life-changing. We are only now beginning to discover their full potential.
So-called, ‘bad trips’ are both rare and easily avoidable. It’s what Timothy Leary, that impish, Irish rabble-rouser and renowned Harvard psychologist referred to as ‘set and setting.’ This cannot be emphasised enough. ‘Set’ is your state of mind, ‘Setting,’ is the environment in which you have the experience. Both are equally critical.
Leary was once described by US President Richard Nixon, as the most dangerous man in America. Tim took it as a compliment. For years, Nixon harboured a personal vendetta against Leary whom he saw as a threat to the status quo. There is no greater threat to a controlling bureaucracy than an enquiring, free, and open mind. Nixon and Leary epitomized the chasm that exists between those who cling to a rigid, immutable worldview and those who are open to new ideas and experiences. Psychedelic drug users enthusiastically leap with both feet into the latter camp.
Leary was hounded by the authorities for years and finally taken down on trumped-up possession charges. At one point he ended up in solitary confinement in the next cell to Charlie Manson.
Despite his reputation as an irresponsible agent-provocateur, Leary was a dedicated scientist who conducted thousands of LSD research sessions, kept meticulous notes, and saw the potential of psychedelics to raise the consciousness of a generation. Somewhere in the New York Public Library is a massive cache of his research papers and notes. His autobiography, Flashbacks, is an extraordinary account of an amazing and improbable life. Do yourself a favour and read it.
Aldous Huxley also experimented extensively with psychedelics and ended up writing, The Doors of Perception. You should read that too. The worlds of art and science are filled with innovators and original thinkers who have drawn valuable inspiration from psychedelic drug use.
It is with this perspective in mind that I begin my musings of a life inextricably linked to the pursuit of altered consciousness. Insofar as we can trust our memories, I have strived to be as accurate and truthful as possible, while resisting the urge to exaggerate or embellish. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
This account of my journeys, both geographical and psychological, is by no means comprehensive or complete, but it’s my hope that a vicarious experience of my explorations will leave you with a more realistic perspective on our collective relationship with these substances.
For my part, I can report nothing but positive consequences and outcomes from my fifty-year experiment with consuming, purchasing and selling psychedelic drugs.