rom ‘Rausch’ to Rebellion:
Walter Benjamin’s On Hashish
The Aesthetic Dimensions of
By Scott J. Thompson
The True is thus the Bacchanalian
The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)
The following essay on Walter Benjamin’s writings and experimental protocols on hashish, opium and mescaline forms a kind of preamble to a series of articles on some of the aesthetic presuppositions of the War on Drugs in the United States and one of its precursors, Hitler’s War on Drugs: Rauschgiftbekämpfung [The Fight Against Drugs] in the Third Reich, itself a long-forgotten importation of American Prohibition wedded to Nazi racial hygiene and a police state apparatus ever-ready to invoke the ‘wholesome popular sentiment’ expressed in the National Socialist-realist aesthetic to legitimize and enforce the performance principle of German fascism.
Realism’s Abhorrence of ‘Rausch’*
Writing to his friend Ida Herz on March 21, 1954, one of 20th century Germany’s great men of letters, Thomas Mann, pronounced the following judgment on The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, an erstwhile acquaintance to whom he had once referred as "one of the finest flowerings of Western intellectualism, especially in his essays."1
Thank you very much for THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION, though the book does not excite me with the enthusiasm which it has you. It presents the latest, and, I might add, most audacious form of Huxley’s escapism, which I could never appreciate in this author. Mysticism as a means to that escapism was, nonetheless, reasonably honorable. But that he now has arrived at drugs I find rather scandalous. I already have a bad conscience as it is, since I take a bit of Seconal or Phanodorn at night in order to sleep better. But to put myself in such a state during the day, where everything human becomes a matter of indifference to me and I lapse into conscienceless aesthetic self-indulgence would be loathsome to me. But this is what he recommends to everyone in the world, because their lot in life is said to be "at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous." What a use of ‘best’ and ‘worst’! His mystics should have taught him that ‘suffering is the fleetest of the beasts leading to perfection’ —which one cannot say of doping; and the reverie found in a chair as a miracle of existence and in sundry captivating delusions of color has more to do with monotony than he thinks.
The Hamburg doctor Frederking has warned that the excited state of mescaline-rausch, psychotherapeutically speaking, is only suitable for very experienced individuals. (And Huxley is not such a person, but rather a dilettante.) The suggested treatment would have to be strict and restricted. Nor could it in any way be predicted that the outcome of a mescaline-experiment would be at all worthwhile….
Now, encouraged by the persuasive recommendation of the famous author, many English and American youth (especially) will try the experiment. The book comes to a rather abrupt end. But it is a thoroughly — I don’t want to say immoral — but one must say an irresponsible book, which can only contribute to the stupefaction of the world and to its instability in meeting the extremely serious questions of the time with intelligence….2
While reading Huxley’s book the previous week, Mann had written in his diary: "Occupied with Huxley’s mescaline glorifications. I don’t like it and I don’t like him."3 Twelve days later Mann was still disparaging Huxley in a letter to an acquaintance who had sent him a journal featuring an article on mind-altering substances.
It [Huxley’s book] is an aesthetic praise of the mescaline-rausch. It struck me as somewhat dubious, not least of all as an encouragement to the youth of America to engage in ‘doping,’ which they do not at all need. Otherwise I must confess that the expression of the aforesaid test subject is rather ridiculous. Earlier I once wrote about ‘occult episodes’ and certified that in such matters I stood rather far to the ‘left’, though apart from those sessions with Schrenk-Notzing, I have no personal experience with these things.4
Mann’s friend, the Hungarian Marxist literary critic and social theorist Georg (György) Lukács (on whom Mann based the character ‘Naphta’ in The Magic Mountain), along with some of his epigones, reiterated their socialist realist disapproval of altered reality during a conversation recorded in 1967, in which Huxley was criticized for creating "a mythology of salvation of a purely subjective kind, a salvation forced and mediated by narcotics," the employment of which were merely "magical forms of orgiastic ecstasy for the solution of modern human problems." "[A]ngry young people of the left" attending the "convulsive phenomena of the Beatles performances" were then encouraged to give up "abstruse utopia" in favor of a struggle for socialism "without realism being abandoned."5
The photo frontispiece accompanying the German edition of Gespräche mit Lukács [Conversations with Lukács] shows the grinning commissar and his apparatchiks seated around a table covered with ashtrays full of cigarettes, demitasses of espresso, liqueur and wine glasses: the officially sanctioned Genussmittlel [stimulants, luxury foods] of the realist aesthetician.
When Mann and Lukács criticized Huxley for "glorifying" his mescaline experiences to the world, they were sincerely convinced that their positions represented Reason and the responsibility of intellectuals in the face of neo-fascist mind-control and late capitalist chemical escapism, or ‘doping’ as Mann put it. What they failed to acknowledge was that they were repeating some of the same rhetoric and logic of the propaganda machine which had functioned quite well under the very Nazis whose irrationality Mann and Lukács were taking their rationalist stance against.
Called "Rauschgiftbekaempfung," The Combating of Drugs, the term also acquired a more popular meaning closer to ‘War on Dope.’6 This extremely cruel and often arbitrary prohibitionist campaign of National Socialist racial hygiene can be viewed as a precursor to the U.S. War on Drugs, which is itself busily mobilizing the entire police state to root out the demonized forces of foreign ‘narco-terrorism’ threatening the performance principle of Late Capital’s global sweat shop.
Mann and Lukács, whose undeniably weighty contributions to 20th century world literature and social theory continue to exert a powerful influence within the academic circles of the humanities and the social sciences (whether directly or through the indirect channels of the Frankfurt School), express an attitude toward the subjective experience of the ‘irrational’ based on the aesthetic biases of bourgeois realism so indicative of the burgher class.
Antecedents of their anti-inebriant prejudices can be located in the aesthetic debates on other kinds of visionary experience that threatened bourgeois realism, namely expressionism and surrealism, particularly those interchanges between Lukács, Bertolt Brecht and Ernst Bloch (who himself was once a ‘proband’ in a Weimar-period hashish experiment).7 These literary parries and counter-thrusts during the era of Stalin and Hitler coincided with the Nazi’s immensely popular exhibit of "Degenerate Art," [Entartete Kunst]8 which sealed the fate for modernist artists and writers in the Third Reich. For Hitler and his ‘Reich Plenipotentiaries for Artistic Formulation’ the modernist aesthetic expressed "the sickly excrescences of lunatics or degenerate people, which since the turn of the century we have learned to know under the collective conception of cubism or dadaism".9 Lukács similarly dismissed the writings of Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, James Joyce, Alfred Döblin, William Faulkner and others as a "flight into psychopathology" indicative of what he considered decadent bourgeois culture and the inability of the ‘Subject’ in such a culture to coherently grasp its socio-economic "totality" and reflect it in the artwork.10
The socialist realist critic Lukács and the "critical realist" novelist Thomas Mann, whose writings Lukács championed, represent that "grandeur in repose" of neoclassicism, so predictably horrified by displays of passion. Visionary inebriants evidently threatened their "masks of composure."
II. Walter Benjamin &
The writings on hashish, opium and mescaline by critic, philosopher, and aesthetician Walter Benjamin provide an antidote to the cognitive straightjacket placed on aesthetic experience by Lukács. On the other hand, Benjamin considered his visionary experiments as a utopian prelude to a worldwide messianic upheaval.
Now widely regarded as one of the leading and most philosophical of literary critics and aestheticians in the 20th Century, Walter Benjamin studied philosophy in Freiburg, Munich, Berlin and Bern. Earning a degree with his Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism (1919), he was unsuccessful in his attempt to become a university professor. His Habilitationsschrift, On the Origins of the German Trauerspiel (published in 1928), was rejected by Frankfurt University only to become a canonized classic of 20th Century literary criticism.
Benjamin made his living as a free-lance author and translator in Berlin, where he also took part in progressive German psychopharmacological research with experimental psychopathologists Ernst Joël and Fritz Fränkel. A prolific critic, he was forced into exile by the Nazis in 1933. Emigrating to France, he became a member of the Institute of Social Research (which included Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Otto Kirchheimer, Friedrich Pollack, Leo Löwenthal, Franz Neumann, Karl Wittvogel and others). Benjamin made an attempt to join the Institute when it emigrated from Paris to New York. In flight from the Gestapo, he took his own life with an overdose of morphine in the Spanish border-town of Port Bou on September 27, 1940. Some of his most important publications include: "Goethe’s Elective Affinities," One-way Street, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Berlin Childhood around 1900, and the monumental Paris Arcades Project, recently published in English translation by Harvard University.
It was precisely to jar the post-industrial self loose from its de-humanized and well-adjusted mask that Walter Benjamin advocated rescuing the energies of the cosmic-rausch of the ancient world for the proletarian revolution. While Benjamin’s concept of "Profane Illumination" [Profane Erleuchtung] stands in marked contrast to Huxley’s semi-theosophical "Mind-at-Large," there are indeed some striking similarities in their observations while under the influence of psychopharmaka.
Had Benjamin been successful in his flight to the U.S, it is quite likely that he would have joined writer-actress Salka Viertel’s salon in Los Angeles along with his associates Bertolt Brecht and Theodor Adorno. There he would have also come into contact with Thomas Mann (who was consulting Adorno on musical questions related to Doctor Faustus) and Aldous Huxley, to whom he could have communicated his own mescaline experiment on May 22, 1934—almost two decades before Huxley’s own mescaline experience.11 To add the finishing touch to the intricate irony, he would have discovered, had he not already known, that Salka Viertel’s personal physician in Berlin had been none other than Dr. Ernst Joel, the psychopathologist who had initiated Benjamin into the world of hashish on December 18, 1927.12
If one compares Huxley’s comments on the folds in draperies depicted in classical western artworks ("draperies are living hieroglyphs that stand in some peculiarly expressive way for the unfathomable mystery of pure being") with Benjamin’s comments on the delicate dance of fringe hanging from an awning ("Hashish in Marseilles")13 or "the ornamental" in his Crocknotizen [Crock Notes], one discovers enough similarity and correspondence to make for an interesting and constructive dialogue.
Es ist höchst eigentümlich, daß die Phantasie dem Raucher Objekte - und zumal besonders kleine - gern serienweise vorstellt. Die endlosen Reihen, in denen da vor ihm immer wieder die gleichen Utensilien, Tierchen oder Pflanzenformen auftauchen, stellen gewissermaßen ungestalte, kaum geformte Entwürfe eines primitiven Ornaments dar.
[It is highly characteristic of the reverie that it tends to present before the smoker [i.e. opium-smoker] objects - particularly small ones - in series. The endless successions, in which the same contrivances, little animals or plant forms suddenly surface in front of the person over and over again, depict, so to speak, misshapen, barely formed sketches of a primitive ornament.]14
III. The Concept of ‘Experience’
Both Huxley and Benjamin were attempting to recover a concept of experience which had become entirely alien to the neoclassicist thinkers of the Enlightenment. Benjamin's early treatise "On the Program of the Coming Philosophy" (1917/1918)15 was an attempt to rework the concept of experience from within the Kantian system. While praising Kant for his insistence that knowledge justify itself in the quest for certainty and lasting knowledge within an ephemeral world, Benjamin called the reality of Newtonian physics upon which Kant based his certainty "a low, perhaps the lowest order." Benjamin perceived the metaphysical and religious presuppositions underlying the moral imperative to justify knowledge, but as a metaphysics he considered the Kantian "mythology" of a "pure epistemological (transcendental) consciousness" "different in kind from any empirical consciousness" to be "only a modern one, and religiously speaking, a particularly infertile one." In contrast to the caffeinated clockwork-metaphysics of nascent Protestant capitalism, Benjamin sought "the intoxication of cosmic experience."16 Experience in the truest philosophical conception of the word, according to Benjamin, would have to account for other mythologies as well, and those he names betray his reading of Ludwig Klages.17
We know of primitive peoples of the so-called preanimistic stage who identify themselves with sacred animals and plants and name themselves after them; we know of insane people who likewise identify themselves in part with objects of their perception, which are thus no longer objecta, "placed before" them; we know of sick people who relate the sensations of their bodies not to themselves but rather to other creatures, and clairvoyants who at least claim to be able to feel the sensations of others as their own. The commonly shared notion of sensuous (and intellectual) knowledge in our epoch, as well as in the Kantian and the pre-Kantian epochs, is very much a mythology like those mentioned.18
IV. Ernst Joël’s Critique
Benjamin’s critique of the Kantian concept of experience found its parallel in Dr. Ernst Joel’s critique of Kraepelinian psychopharmacology. Emil Kraepelin (1855-1926), father of modern psychopharmacology and "discoverer" of "dementia praecox" (later called "schizophrenia" by Jung’s teacher, Bleuler) had advanced the technical capabilities of psychology by treating it as a physical science. Rather than treating a human personality, the Kraepelinian method artificially severed partial functions of psychic life, altered them with psychopharmaka and subjected them to testing. A cursory scan of German monographs on mescaline written during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich reveals this method in a great number of monograph titles, e.g., "Meskalinwirkung auf das Phantomglied" (Mescaline-effect upon the phantom limb) or "Meskalinwirkung bei Stoerungen des optischen Systems" (Mescaline-effect in disturbances of the optic system).19 It is not at all surprising that such titles predominate the research during the Third Reich, for the humanity lacking in the Kraepelinian paradigm was easily steered in the direction of mind-control and chemical-biological warfare. Under the Nazis, mescaline research continued, but laboratories like the Dachau concentration camp were the preferred setting. Humanistic and therapeutic research with psychopharmaka was forbidden under the pretext of "Rauschgiftbekaempfung," a component of the racist ideology which perceived a threat to the "performance principle" in the exotic inebriants coming into Germany from the "racially inferior" peoples of Asia and Latin America (the introduction to Reko’s Magische Gifte written in 1938 spells it out quite clearly).20
Ernst Joel proposed the alternative of "experimental psychopathology." Substances which were thought to be "psychotomimetic" would be used to arbitrarily engender "rausch-states" in specially selected test subjects outside the clinical laboratory setting. It was under this very loose "supervision" that Walter Benjamin agreed to participate as a "Versuchsperson" [test subject or proband] in Ernst Joel and Fritz Fraenkel's hashish experiments in Berlin, for as Theodor W. Adorno described it, it was Benjamin’s philosophical intention "to render accessible by rational means that range of experience that announces itself in schizophrenia."21
Of the hundreds of books, articles, essays, monographs and dissertations on Benjamin (over 3000 exist), only a handful discuss the writings on hashish and opium and the Drogenversuchen [drug experiments] and none of them situate the experiments within a historical context. When Benjamin became a "test subject," he also became part of a long-forgotten community, the Weimar Republic’s psychonautic avant-garde, which included Benjamin’s friend, Ernst Bloch, his cousin Egon Wissing and Egon’s wife, Gert. With the synthesis of mescaline from peyote by Arthur Heffter in 1896-1897, Germany became the leader in psychopharmacological research. The year Benjamin began his experiments (1927), Louis Lewin published his second edition of Phantastica in Berlin, which appears on the list of books which Benjamin read from cover to cover.22 This book alone would have supplied Benjamin with a library of information about psychopharmaka.
Hermann Schweppenhaeuser’s claim that Benjamin’s writings on hashish, opium and mescaline are among the most genuine ever put to paper can only be evaluated against the context of Weimar experimentation with psychopharmaka. Kurt Beringer’s amazing monograph on mescaline, Der Meskalin-Rausch was also published in 1927, and remains the greatest work ever written on the subject. Beringer’s book contains over 200 pages of protocols from 60 experiments in Heidelberg among doctors, medical students, natural scientists, and philosophers, all of whom demonstrate remarkable articulateness. Only within the full context of this research, which produced literally hundreds of monographs on peyote, mescaline, cannabis, opiates, ayahuasca and cocaine, can we really begin to evaluate Benjamin’s writings and experiments, in which he participated not merely as test subject, but at times as supervisor. In the third one of the published protocols Benjamin wrote the protocol of Joel’s own hashish experiment.
What does make Benjamin’s contribution to this research unique is summarized quite concisely by Scholem in his essay, "Walter Benjamin and his Angel:" to rescue the intoxication of cosmic experience that the human being of antiquity possessed for the proletariat in their coming seizure of power. This attempt to wed ‘rausch’ and ‘rebellion’ in a "profane illumination" should come as no surprise to anyone who came into majority during the late 1960s. It is hard to imagine the anti-war demonstrations becoming as large as they did if they had not been partially fueled by marijuana and LSD, and this is precisely what the moribund left in the U.S. seems to have forgotten. Nor should we forget that the rites of Dionysos were seen by the Roman Senate at the time of the Republic as a dangerous rebellion against the state.
Benjamin scholars have more often than not misinterpreted "profane illumination" as an awakening from rausch. Hermann Schweppenhaeuser, Peter Demetz, Richard Sieburth, John McCole, Margaret Cohen, Susan Buck-Morss and other Benjamin scholars continually repeat the refrain that Benjamin considered the most important aspect of his experiments to be the crystallized intellectual yield gleaned after the rausch had subsided. In Schweppenhaeuser’s depiction, it is as if Benjamin were heroically running some painful gauntlet in order to capture the pearl from the rausch-dragons of obscurantism. But ‘profane illumination’ can take place within the inebriated voyage itself. If rausch is analogous to being adrift in a turbulent sea, then ‘profane illumination’ is like suddenly awakening in the midst of a dream, seizing the helm, and becoming the pilot of one’s inner voyage. Norbert Bolz understood this perfectly well in his essay "Vorschule der profanen Erleuchtung," [Propadeutics of Profane Illumination] and he has prefaced his essay with the following quote:
'Man kann nicht immer im Rausch leben.' Kann man es nicht? Man muß ihn nur richtig orientieren.
['One can't always be high.' Oh no? One only has to properly orient oneself.]23
The autoworkers who smoked pot, dropped acid, and instead of ‘tuning out’ shut down auto-factories in wildcat strikes, understand what Walter Benjamin was describing whether they had read him or not.
Herbert Marcuse seemed to be coming to a similar idea in his Essay on Liberation which postulated a "new sensibility" as a biological necessity for revolution. Discussing this new sensibility in 1969, Marcuse wrote:
Today's rebels want to see, hear, feel new things in a new way: they link liberation with the dissolution of ordinary and orderly perception. The 'trip' involves the dissolution of the ego shaped by the established society - an artificial and short-lived duration. But the artificial and "private" liberation anticipates, in a distorted manner, an exigency of the social liberation: the revolution must be at the same time a revolution in perception which will accompany the material and intellectual reconstruction of society, creating the new aesthetic environment. Awareness of the need for such a revolution in perception, for a new sensorium, is perhaps the kernel of truth in the psychedelic search.24
The drawback to this search, according to Marcuse, was the "narcotic character" of the artificial paradise, which all-too-often tended to free one from concern for social liberation. For Marcuse, like Benjamin, the voyage into the secret garden had to be a messianic voyage, and the psychonaut was duty-bound to articulate his perceptions and discoveries to the entire community. Marcuse, however, did not seem to realize that ‘psychedelics’ were not narcotic. The reproach that the narcotic may give one the idea of liberation while at the same time depriving one of the will to liberate cannot be leveled at psychopharmaka like mescaline, Psilocybe mushrooms, LSD or related compounds. Marcuse did realize, however, that the late capitalist state would be willing to mobilize its entire army and police forces into an all-out effort to eradicate self-induced euphoria once and for all.25
At the end of his book, One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse quoted Benjamin’s famous dictum: "It is for those without hope that hope is given to us." Those of us fortunate enough to have hope owe it to our fellows to become articulate in our ecstasy. Meeting in October 1996 in San Francisco for an international conference on Entheobotany, 800 psychonautic researchers came together for a progress report. My own inconclusive discussion is best summed up by the concluding remarks of Spanish philosopher Antonio Escohotado, who delivered a brilliant paper on "Inebriation as Experience of the Spirit:"
The crusade against drugs, in fact a war against self-induced euphoria, is an enterprise born in the U.S.A. and exported by this country at the very same rhythm in which it became the world’s superpower. The effect of this American crusade is identical to the effect of crusades in general, and especially to the crusade against witchcraft, that is, aggravating to unheard-of extremes a hypothetical evil to justify the destruction and plundering of countless persons, the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt inquisitors, and a prosperous black market in all the forbidden items, which in the 17th Century were sorcerers concoctions, and today are heroin and crack. We will not break the crusade’s vicious circle unless the standards of barbaric obscurantism are replaced by principles of enlightenment focused on the spreading of knowledge among people. Drugs have always been around and they will certainly ever remain. To pretend that both users and non-users will be better protected because some drugs are impure and very expensive and sold by criminals (who by the way are indistinguishable from undercover policeman and plain businessmen), is simply ridiculous. And yet more so when the street supply grows year after year. The obvious result is a growing output of crimes committed by illiterate youngsters, who use the illicit substances, partly as an adult initiation rite and partly as an alibi: declaring oneself irresponsible, unfree, a victim — a very comfortable position by the way — at such a critical moment of life when they should learn responsibility and the abnegation practiced by their elders.
So the true option is not vice as opposed to law and order, the real choice is between irrational consumption of adulterated products or an informed use of pure drugs. Demonizing them has only made us more helpless, more cruel towards our fellows, and more "idiotic" in the original sense of the word, for "idiotes" in classical Greek means a person who blindly delegates the things of his own to the public care of others. Not only our well-being, but the well-being of our sons and grandsons depends on disseminating patterns of "sobriae ebrietas" (sober inebriation), which reconsider the use of psychedelic drugs as a moral and aesthetic challenge, essentially related to the adventures of knowledge, and as palliatives for difficult parts of our lives, and for very bitter lives. In other words, we should dignify what is now being debased in order to cope with the generalized delusion and abuse created by the prohibitionist experiment.
Postscript: Mann’s Appeal to Reason
We have good reason to question Mann’s representation of his medical source, Dr. Frederking.
To those conversant with the literature in English and German on early psychedelic and psychotomimetic therapy, Dr. Walter Frederking is a familiar name. His article "Intoxicant Drugs (Mescaline and LSD-25) in Psychotherapy" appeared in the Journal for Nervous Mental Diseases (121:262-266,1953).
There is nothing in Frederking’s article (a photocopy of which I own and have read carefully) to support Mann’s position, but there is a great deal in it which lends support to the opinion that Frederking himself would have applauded Huxley’s effort. In the introduction to his article, for example, Frederking writes:
In an effort to save the patient time and money, many and varied attempts have been made to shorten the course of psychoanalysis. Only those procedures which are within the realm of depth psychology deserve consideration. Among these are: 1) Steckel’s method of active psychoanalysis, 2) Frank’s psychocatharsis, and 3) narco-analysis. A few years ago I described another method, ‘deep relaxation with free ideation.’ This procedure makes it possible to induce in the fully awake and conscious patient, during interview in the physician’s office, physical and visual experiences which may be interpreted as genuine dreams. Such experiences can take the place of true dreams or can supplement incomplete or sketchy dreams. This procedure, however, cannot be used with sufficient reliable results in every patient in whom it would appear indicated. In such cases we make use of certain drug-induced dream-like states. These are particularly effective since the patient’s critical consciousness is not impaired during these states or at least remains at all times ready to intervene.
Under the heading, "The Drug," Frederking mentions that "I have had personal experiences with mescaline for more than seventeen years," "As for LSD-25, I have been using it for nearly three years in my psychiatric practice." Under the heading, "Differentiation between Mescaline-induced and LSD-25-induced Intoxication," the following important sentences are to be found:
Indications for these drugs should be decided upon as soon as familiarity has been acquired with the nature of the intoxicative state. The therapist must be familiar with this from his own personal experience so that he may be able to cope with the frequently somewhat difficult emotional situations arising under the influence of these drugs; he must also have experience in psychotherapy. Such experience serves to exercise caution in the case of patients afflicted with schizophrenia or endogenous depressions, thus reducing risks in such cases. I have, incidentally, never experienced any dangers of addiction.
Nor is there anything in Frederking’s Summary to support Mann’s conclusions:
The writer has made use of drug-induced states of intoxication as an aid in psychotherapy. To attain the states of intoxication, he has used mescaline and LSD-25. Mescaline was used in a dosage from 0.3 to 0.5 gm. intramuscularly and LSD-25, 30 to 60 mic. administered orally. These led to states of a dream-like nature with experiences that were clearly remembered afterwards. The procedure is indicted when it is desirable to shorten a course of therapy, reactivate a stalled treatment of a neurosis, and for the purpose of breaking down affect or memory blocks. A psychocathartic effect is almost uniformly produced. Mescaline has a more intensive effect than LSD-25 and should be preferred to the latter in cases where it is desired to obtain the strongest possible emotions. On the other hand, LSD-25 seems to have a broader spectrum; it frequently causes the patient to relive scenes from his earlier personal life and it can also have lasting influences on organic-neurotic states. In the hands of the experienced psychotherapist, and after appropriate experimentation on oneself, and provided the indication is prudently selected, the effects of both mescaline and LSD-25 may constitute very valuable therapeutic aids.
Mann took Frederking’s phrase: "in the hands of an experienced psychotherapist" out of context, saying:
The Hamburg doctor Frederking has warned us that the excited state of a mescaline-rausch, psychotherapeutically speaking, is only suitable for very experienced individuals. (And Huxley is not such a person, but rather a dilettante.) The suggested treatment would have be strict and restricted. Nor could it in any way be predicted that the outcome of a mescaline-experiment would be at all worthwhile.
Mann thereby falsifies everything Frederking said in his article. None of the persons cited in Frederking’s "Case Histories" section were "very experienced" individuals. Moreover, in the section, "Effect on Normals," Frederking says that he has experimented with said substances "on myself as well as friends outside my medical practice." It was precisely this kind of experimentation which Huxley reported in his Doors Of Perception.
Sleeping off his bad conscience by taking "a bit of Seconal," Thomas Mann wags his finger at Huxley for writing his "irresponsible book," which can "only contribute to the stupefaction of the world." I respectfully submit that "stupefaction" is not an accurate description of the state mescaline is considered to engender, but that it more accurately describes the narcotized state induced by Seconal® and other barbiturates.
* John McCole has concisely defined the German word ‘Rausch’ and its usage in his Walter Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition: "Rausch is far more suggestive than the English equivalent ‘intoxication:’ it quite naturally bears the connotations of such overwhelming feelings as exhilaration, ecstasy, euphoria, rapture, and passion; its onomatopoetic qualities have an equivalent in the slang term ‘rush.’ ‘Intoxication’ is the only real option for rendering ‘Rausch’ in English, but its strong associations with alcohol and toxicity can be misleading. Benjamin uses it to refer to various states of transport, providing a bridge to Klages’ theories of dream consciousness and ‘cosmogonic eros’." (Cornell Univ. Press, 1993), 225.
1 Cited by David King Dunaway in his Huxley in Hollywood (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989) 90.
2 Thomas Mann, "Brief an Ida Herz," 21. March 1954, in Neue Rundschau, 76. Jahrgang, 2. Heft, S. 179-180 (translation by Scott J. Thompson). The letter is also contained in Thomas Mann, Tagebücher 1953 - 1955, hrsg. v. Inge Jens, Frankfurt a.M., S. Fischer Verlag, 1995, S. 583. An excerpted paragraph translated into English can also be found in Dunaway, op. cit., p. 302.
3 Diary entry "Erlenbach, Montag den 15. III. 54," Tagebücher 1953 - 1955, ed. Inge Jens, Frankfurt a.M., S. Fischer Verlag, 1995, p. 196.
4 Letter to Peter Ringer, 27. März 1954, op. cit., p.584 (translation by Scott J. Thompson).
5 See Gespräche mit Georg Lukács, Hans Heinz Holz, Leo Kofler, Wolfgang Abendroth, hrsg. Theo Pinkus, (Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag, 1967), S. 46-53. In English this has been translated as Conversations with Lukács, Hans Heinz Holz, Leo Kofler, Wolfgang Abendroth, ed. Theo Pinkus (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1975), 60-68. The phrases quoted above from this passage were actually spoken by Leo Kofler, though Lukács agreed with him and used his remarks as touchstones for longer-winded expositions.
6 The War on Drugs during the Third Reich, Rauschgiftbekämpfung, was a policy coordinated by the Reich Health Service within the Ministry of the Interior. It was part of the same bureaucratic labyrinth that included the departments of hereditary science and racial hygiene, and much of its policy-making was conducted by Nazi physicians. An unholy alliance of Nazi eugenics and American prohibition, Rauschgiftbekämpfung unsuccessfully attempted to undo centuries of traditional social behavior.
7 See the "Highlights of the Second Hashish Impression" (by Walter Benjamin & Ernst Bloch:15.Jan. 1928). This has been translated by Rodney Livingstone as "Main Features of My Second Impression of Hashish" in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. II: 1927-1934, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1999), 85-90. An on-line translation by Scott J. Thompson can be found at www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#Protocol II [Accessed May 17, 2000].
8 See Stephanie Barron, ed., "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991). The chapter on "Art" in Richard Grunberger’s The 12-Year Reich (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971), 421-434 is also quite useful. The corresponding socialist literary arguments are documented in Aesthetics and Politics, trans. ed. R. Taylor, with afterword by Fredric Jameson (London & New York: Verso Press, 1977). The most pertinent essays are Ernst Bloch, "Discussing Expressionism" (16-27), Georg Lukács, "Realism in the Balance" (28-59), and Theodor W. Adorno, "Reconciliation Under Duress" (151-176).
9 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939), 353.
10 Lukács’ most succinct diatribe against modern literature is his "The Ideology of Modernism" (1958) in his Realism in Our Time, trans. John & Necke Mander (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 17-46.
11 A translation of this protocol by Scott J. Thompson can be read on-line at: www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#XI [Accessed May 17, 2000].
12 Benjamin had expressed interest in trying hashish as early as September 19, 1919, when he wrote to his friend Ernst Schoen: "I have also read Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradise. It is an extremely reticent, nonoriented attempt to monitor the ‘psychological’ phenomena that manifest themselves in hashish or opium highs for whatever they have to teach us philosophically. It will be necessary to repeat this attempt independently of this book." (The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, ed. & annotated by Gershom Scholem & Theodor W. Adorno, trans. Manfred R. Jacobson & Evelyn M. Jacobson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 148.
13 Walter Benjamin, "Hashish in Marseilles," in Selected Writings, Vol. II: 1927-1934, op. cit., pp. 673-679. An earlier draft of "Hashish in Marseilles" entitled "Protocol IV: Walter Benjamin: 29 September 1928. Saturday. Marseilles." has been translated by Scott J. Thompson and can be found on-line at www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#IV [Accessed May 17, 2000].
14 A translation of "Crock Notes" by Scott J. Thompson can be found on-line at: www.wbenjamin.org/protocol1.html#crock [Accessed May 17, 2000]. The German can be found in Walter Benjamin, Über Haschisch, ed. T. Rexroth, (Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp Verlag, 1972), 57-58.
15 Walter Benjamin, "On the Program of the Coming Philosophy" in Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History, ed. Gary Smith, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 1-12.
16 Gershom Scholem, "Walter Benjamin and His Angel," in On Walter Benjamin, ed. Gary Smith (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 51-89.
17 Ludwig Klages, "Vom Traumbewusstsein," Zeitschrift Fuer Pathopsychologie, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1919, pp. 1-38; and Vom Kosmogonischen Eros (Jena: Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1926).
Benjamin had been introduced to the culture of the
18 Walter Benjamin, "On the Program of the Coming Philosophy," op. cit., p.4.
19 See the Bibliography, "German Psychopharmacological Research Before 1945" compiled by Scott J. Thompson at www.wbenjamin.org/pharmaco.html [Accessed May 17, 2000].
20 Viktor Reko, Magische Gifte: Rausch- und Betaeubungsmittel der neuen Welt (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, 1938), ix. [Magic Poisons: Inebriating and Narcotic Substances of the New World]. Viktor Reko was merely a journalist and Nazi sympathizer who scammed a Ph.D. in Mexico by plagiarizing the work of his cousin, Blas Pablo Reko, also a Nazi sympathizer but nonetheless a meticulous botanist. The fallacious nature of Viktor Reko’s book is exemplified in his dictum, "Die größte Giftwirkung entfalten stets die landesfremden, die rassefremden Berauschungsmittel." ["The greatest toxic potency is always demonstrated by those intoxicating agents which are nationally and racially alien."] Such racist claptrap, which is easily refuted by any study of the history of the nightshades in Germany, was repeated with approving solemnity by the National Socialist doctor Friedrich Panse in his paper, "Grundlagen, Ausbreitung und Bekämpfung des Opiat- und Schlafmittelmißbrauch in Deutschland" [Foundations, Dissemination and Combating of Opiate and Barbiturate Abuse in Germany] in Gegen die Rauschgifte! Vorträge des 1. Konferenz für Rauschgiftbekämpfung des Deutschen Guttemplerordens (Berlin: Neuland-Verlag, 1936), 20. [Against Rauschgift: Lectures of the 1st Conference for Rauschgiftbekämpfung of the German Good Templars Order]. Information in English on Viktor and Blas Pablo Reko can be found in Richard Evans Schultes, "Evolution of the Identification of the Sacred Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico" in Jonathon Ott & Jeremy Bigwood’s Teonanácatl: Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of North America (Seattle: Madrona Publishers, Inc., 1978), 33-34.
21 Theodor W. Adorno, "Benjamin the Letter-Writer," in On Walter Benjamin, op. cit., pp. 329-330.
22 Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften [Collected Works] VII/1:460,#1085.
23 Norbert Bolz, "Vorschule der profanen Erleuchtung," in Walter Benjamin: Profane Erleuchtung und rettende Kritik, ed. Norbert Bolz & Richard Faber (Koenigshausen & Neumann, 1985), 190-222.
24 Herbert Marcuse, Essay on Liberation (Boston, Beacon Press, 1969), 37.
25 A 15-billion dollar War on Drugs package for Latin America was discussed in the Feb. 1997 issue of The Progressive magazine.
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Scott J. Thompson is a scholar, translator, and Director of the Walter Benjamin Research Syndicate, which can be accessed online at http:/www.wbenjamin.org.