Book Review


An anthology of true-life psychedelic adventures


Charles Hayes

Reviewed by Elizabeth Gips

TRIPPING, an anthology of true-life psychedelic adventures.

Penguin Putnam Publishing, 2002, 492 pages.

Illustrations (in black and white) from paintings of Alex Grey

Includes a transcript of a long conversation with Terence McKenna


For those of us who have taken journeys to the ineffable, the inconceivable, the indescribable realms of psychedelic experience, Charles Hayes collection of "trips" is like a stick of incense gently wafted before our souls. It conjures up memories of mystic moments, flashbacks that have been lying dormant in our psyches. These well chosen accounts open the old circuits at least momentarily and give us pause to be grateful.

For those who have never used a sacramental substance, reading this remarkable assortment of experiences will open a new understanding of the role of entheogens in spiritual seeking. Reading these remarkable adventures, it is impossible not to be empathic with at least some of these pioneers exploring some of the manifold mysteries of creation.

Hayes has gathered together about as objective a collection of trip experiences as possible; here the ecstatic and hell realms are both certainly part of the palette. Although written as first hand narratives, these are actually transposed from an impressive series of many interviews conducted in many countries. A few of the writers are well known. But that is really unimportant. Hayes has edited and pieced together the interviews so that they are literate; some are very poetic, all are not only very readable but fascinating.

One of the things that impressed me is the youth of the interviewees. When I mentioned this to Hayes, he said, "Some of them are not young. They were born in 1942, 50, 52." Exactly. Few of these authors were the ebullient vanguard of The Summer of Love.

It is wonderful to see the psychedelic banner carried by another generation down the line and even more wondrous to know that yet a younger generation follows their footsteps. Not only is age an important factor. Although most of the trips described use LSD as the sacramental wafer, the effects of many new compounds are described.

Let's let the author and some of his interviewees say a few words for themselves:

In the introduction, Hayes (whose words are both eloquent, humorous and poetic and profound!), writes: "The gathering of these voices in one place provides an opportunity for psychonauts to compare notes with one another .........the book also offers a chance for the uninitiated to vicariously experience the thrills and traumas of the trip, which can entail soaring states of bliss, heightened spirituality, and a titanic sense of drama and suspense.

"I've attempted to make an even playing field for all experiences, whether the tripper was spinning his own karmic wheel, stuck on it or flung off it altogether. ......... Actually, in presenting a variety of negative and positive experiences, I believe that I have offered a balanced perspective on the subject."

From Clark Heinrich: "Before another thought could rise in my mind, in the midst of a great darkness and a great silence, the heavens opened above my head. I was flooded with light from above, light of the utmost whiteness and splendor, that quickly dissolved everything in its glory ......... I was taken up and absorbed by the unspeakable Godhead."

From Keith: "When I realized that I was being born again, that life goes on and on, the feeling was

overwhelming. I was filled with confidence that it was ok to die, because the consciousness that

inhabits the flesh has a higher destiny. It never began and it won't end. ...Then I was struck with wave after wave of value wisdom, as though the force behind human spirituality were hitting me for the first time. When I realized that I'd spent most of my life hidden from these values that should be the stones we walk on, I had to weep."

From Paul Devereaux: "Some people don't mind the marginalized, illegal status of most psychedelic substances in our culture. In fact, some actually enjoy belonging to a sub-culture. But personally I don't. I want such experiences to be mainstream and properly conducted in a safe, legal context. I want to be able to say, 'I'm going to blow my mind today, and then proceed to the locally accredited Mind Blowing Center where there will be people who understand the substances and the nature of the experiences involved and how to guide me."

Actually it is impossible to pick a random sampling from these hundreds of accounts of experiences so beyond the realms of our ordinary language. It's a really excellent book, well thought out, well written, and well woven. As I said in the beginning, this should appeal to both the experienced tripper and those who would like to learn more about why people use such substances.

Hayes says in his dedication, "for my mother that she may finally understand some of the things that had her so worried back in my student days."



I think the real test of psychedelics is what you do with them when you're not on them.

- Terence McKenna in Tripping by Charles Hayes

Home | About Us | Culture | Events | Links | Museum | Projects | Reviews | Science | Voices | What's New

(c) 2001