Neo-American Church

Junk is the Shadow of Acid

The opiates, and to a lesser extent the amphetamines, typically produce in their devotees a form of consciousness the characteristics of which are reversed and inverted images of the characteristics of the states of consciousness typically produced by the psychedelic agents. Addiction is truly a left-handed Yoga and, given the almost universal inclination of adolescents to romanticize their bad trips, it is no wonder that the pop culture of the young is now influenced as much by the contemporary inheritors of the dark and left-handed tradition as much as by the successors of Eckhart and Emerson. Reading backwards and from left to right we have The Rolling Stones vs. The Beatles, Abbie Hoffman vs. me, William Burroughs vs. Timothy Leary, Jean Genet vs. Alan Watts, Marvel Comics vs. Mr. Natural, Andy Warhol vs. Ingmar Bergman, Céline vs. Nabokov, Kafka vs. Henry Miller, and so on. If occultism is the highest form of paranoia, it is also the lowest form of mysticism—not so much error but degradation. The shadow has the form of the object but not its substance. If Buddha is the archetypal acid head, then Superman is the archetypal speed freak and Svengali the classic junkie.

Cheap cynicism, opportunism and materialism characterize the attitudinal set typical of addiction (usually disguised or at least romanticized). The prevailing mood of contemporary junkie music closely resembles the night-oriented alcoholic gangster flicks of the Thirties and Forties. The Threepenny Opera. Depraved but knowing people preying on the good but naive—and in the end being betrayed in some way, often as not by some errant sentimental act. Junkies do not simply live in slums out of necessity, they carry their ghettos wherever they go. If, in the world of a stoned acid head, the sun shines at midnight and clouds of glory somehow trail behind them through the deepest dungeons, the junkie’s world is a world of endless night; they rise at noon like vampires from their caskets and would think first of cheap schemes even on the beaches of Mo'orea. The social world is seen as a network of cons and it is here (as in many other ways) that their version strikes close to the heart of things. It is the beginning of wisdom to recognize that most men are fools and knaves, but it is the end of wisdom to embrace that vision. Nothing delights the junkie more than the spectacle of human asininity; they are irritated when their “friends” behave nobly, wisely or with grace. All changes are abhorrent to them, once their nets are up.

Although I find the intellectual and “spiritual” pretensions of junkies to be mostly bravado and a reaction to their despised social condition, and the manipulative gyrations of the ordinary addict to be personally irritating to put it mildly, it is still outrageous and unnecessary to deny anyone the right to destroy himself in any fashion he deems appropriate to his condition. I will never forget the reply of one junkie to a judge who asked him why he did it—he said, “You feel pretty good most of the time. I feel bad most of the time, unless I have heroin. That’s all there is to it.”

O.K. I’m an alcoholic myself and although it has been a long time since I had a drink, I know very well how pleasant it is to wipe out all the everyday anxieties and irritations by simply tilting your wrist. I know what it is to be addicted and how bad withdrawal can be—the last time it almost killed me. (D.T. hallucinations are essentially no different than the psychedelic variety, by the way, although the circumstances under which they are experienced makes it a little difficult to groove thereon.) Every church recreation room should have a bar and we should stock heroin for those who feel they need it. I will be the first to admit there is nothing like cocaine for certain purposes, and most certainly nitrous oxide is ideal for parties—all kinds of parties.

HOWEVER, let’s cut out the adolescent romantic playacting! I will let scag in the door before I will let in The Rolling Stones. My advice to Boo Hoos is to tolerate with as much grace as possible all addicted members, but when you find someone pushing the addict mystique, shit all over them. It’s a lifestyle that has no place in our scene.

Junk is Saturnian, and like Saturn, it delivers a specious and mysterious message which, although devoid of any precise meaning, produces in those who hear it an identifiable emotional syndrome and attitudinal set characterized by a certain perverse pride in having sunk so low. The ecstasy of the deep. There are regions, worlds where one cannot move without a diving suit. Although those few who survive such cold dark journeys are often the better for it, full of instructive mockery for the commonplace pretensions, and examples of healthy appreciativeness for the “minor” blessings of life, it is still true that the whole trip is based on a fundamental misunderstanding—the same old one, blind faith in the externality of relations. The junkie thinks he needs his diving suit because the world is cold and dark. He does not consider the possibility that the world is cold and dark because he has on his diving suit. Without it, he would rise.