“After The Ecstasy, The Laundry”

Steve Silberman revisits William J. Craddock’s Be Not Content: A Subterranean Journal (1970), now available as an e-book after long being out of print:

The Haight could have learned a lot from civilizations that have employed psychoactive botanicals for thousands of years without producing generations of burned-out, spaced-out, used-up former psychonauts. One key difference between those civilizations and the first hippies was that psychedelic experience was part of their culture, structured by collective rituals, and sanctioned by the tribal elders as a path to wisdom and healing. The first hippies, on the other hand, took drugs to “transcend” their own culture and put distance between themselves and their fellow citizens, and rejected their elders — other than the gurus smiling mildly down from posters on the wall — as having no authentic guidance to offer (“Don’t trust anyone over 30”).

The problem with seeking Buddhahood through a steady diet of psychedelics is not that you never find it — it’s that you find it and lose it, again and again, while the mundane particulars that you’re too stoned to deal with (like your marriage, job, kids, health) are sliding downhill. That’s why seasoned practitioners of mindfulness meditation like to remind one another, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” One of the practical problems with the Haight was that it was a Nirvana predicated on staying high 24/7 while someone else did the washing and preparation of the macrobiotic stew — such as your girlfriend or your mother. … That’s not a path to supreme enlightenment, it’s a junket on someone else’s karmic credit card.