Altered States of Consciousness

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. Altered States of Consciousness is one of my sources.

The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.

If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.


No book about altered states in the late sixties/early seventies could avoid the political implications of their work, and Charles T. Tart addresses those issues, though he appears happier investigating the literature on them and their similarities to other altered states.

Minor Psychedelic Drugs

p. 329

“Much of the [federally funded] research is oriented around the theme, “what sort of mental illness would turn a person to smoking marijuana?” I suspect this research money is largely wasted… It is very enjoyable to smoke marijuana, as any marijuana smoker will tell you. The sort of investigations being carried out would be similar to studying why people eat steaks by studying family background, manifest anxiety, birth order, personality correlates, and so forth without ever realizing that steak tastes good.”

Marijuana (Cannabis) Fact Sheet

Bruin Humanist Forum

p. 334

“Whereas LSD drastically alters thoughts and perspective, often “jarring” the user into heightened awareness, marijuana “suggests” or points the way to a moderately deepened awareness. The user is free to follow these potentials or not, as they present themselves. [Long list of sources]”

p. 340

R.D. Laing, MD, in Sigma, vol. 6:

I would be far happier if my own teenage children would, without breaking the law, smoke marijuana when they wished, rather than start on the road of so many of their elders to nicotine and ethyl alcohol addiction.

Effects of Marijuana on Consciousness

Anonymous (vouched for by Tart)

p. 362

“One highly respectable philosopher and author, who has explored a variety of chemicals, says that marijuana will take a person as far as LSD. To which I would add, especially if you can go as far as LSD on it. This is not tautologous, for it cannot be said of coffee or orange juice; even if you are ready, coffee will not take you there.”

Psychedelic Properties of Genista Canariensis

James Fadiman

P. 365

Used by a Yaqui shaman of Northern Mexico.

Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide

William James

P. 367

“With me, as with every other person of whom I have heard, the keynote of the experience is the tremendously exciting sense of an intense metaphysical illumination. Truth lies open to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence.”

P. 368

“…its first result was to make peal through me with unutterable power the conviction that Hegelism was true after all,…”