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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Sisters of the Extreme: Women Writing on the Drug Experience

Palmer, Cynthia, and Horowitz, Michael. (Editors) (2000)
Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.

ISBN: 0-89281-757-7

Description: Paperback, xiv + 315 pages

Contents: Foreword, preface, introduction, introduction, 8 chapters, bibliography, acknowledgments.

Contributors: Jane Addams, Louisa May Alcott, Lisa Alther, Santa Louise Anderson, Maya Angelou, (Asia Minor and India), Anita Berber, "Box-Car Bertha," Sarah Bernhardt, Iris Berry, Edith Blinn, Garnet Brennan, Enid Blyton, India Bonham, Masha Wasson Britten, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charlotte Bronte, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Janet Clark, Coca Wine and Cocaine, Caresse Crosby, Sara Davidson, Alice Dee, Delphic Oracle, Diane di Prima, Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Julie Doucet, Isabelle Eberhardt, (Egypt), (Europe), Bonnie Frazer [Bremser], Carrie Fisher, Florrie Fisher, Harriette Frances, Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, Margaret Fuller, ... , Adele Getty, Elizabeth Gips, Nina Graboi, Gracie, (Greece and Crete), Nina Hagen, Emily Hahn, Kathleen Harrison, Anita Hoffman, Billie Holiday, "Hopheads, Snowbirds, and Vipers in Song," Mary C. Hungerford, Laura Huxley, The Hookah, Joyce James, Kay Johnson, Jennifer Joseph, Kalima, Lenore Kandel, Adeena Karasick, Anna Kavan, Rosemary Woodruff Leary, Mina Loy, Mable Dodge Luhan, Maria White Lowell, Susan Gordon Lydon, Chicago May, Margaret Mead, Barbara Meyerhoff, Marsha Moore, Susan Nadler, Constance A. Newland, Anais Nin, Dianne Noomin, (Nonwestern Cultures), Patent Medicines, Edith Piaf, Pipe and the Needle, Pythia, Jeannine Parvati, Barbara Quinn, Carol K. Rachlin, Terry Richards, Charlotte Riddell, Trina Robbins, Mary "Perdita" Robinson, Darby Romeo, Linda Rosenkrantz, Sharon Rudahl, Maria Sabina, Francois Sagan, George Sand, Ellen Sander, Ann Shulgin, Elizabeth Siddal, Susan Sontag, Ward Sutton, Alice B. Toklas, Requa Tolbert, O. W., Anne Waldman, War on Drugs, Valentina Wasson, Edith Wharton, White Lady, Mary Woronov.

Note: This is a revised and expanded version of Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady, published in 1982. Chrestomathy readers can find excerpts from this earlier edition in its file.

Those who believe that the psychonautical art is a discipline of exclusive masculine interest will be astonished when reading this book. The table of contents says it all.

The editors, Cynthia Palmer and Michael Horowitz, could be described from different perspectives. A long-time couple who met as participants in the 1960s American counterculture, they embody a combination of the most libertarian thinking with remarkable scholarship in the field of drug history and literature. Worldwide readers are in debt to Michael and Cynthia for the anthology of Aldous Huxley's drug-related writings, Moksha, and to Michael for his valuable editing of a number of the later books and bibliography of Timothy Leary, who was godfather to their daughter, the actress Winona Ryder. American readers owe both Michael and Cynthia the building of the world's largest library of drug literature, the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, which provided much of the material for the present anthology. (Antonio Escohotado, page ix)

Preface This is the first collection of women's writings on their experiences with psychoactive drugs. The original of this anthology was published under the title Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady in 1982. The title of this new edition comes from a remark in a letter Grace Slick wrote us upon seeing the book in its original form: "I didn't know I had so many sisters of the extreme."

Our intention is to present a history of mind-altering and addictive drugs in the lives of women from the early nineteenth century, when the first memoirs and poems of opium users were published, to the present, postpsychedelic polydrug era. Today, scientific exploration continues amid stormy social, legal, and medical controversy over increased rug use and abuse. It is illuminating to learn, directly from the literature of personal accounts, how this point has been reached. (page xi)

This new edition adds a substantial number of texts evidencing the continued involvement of women with drugs in the United States and Western Europe during the past two decades. Some of these new texts were previously published; others appear in print for the first time. A few texts published since 1980 (and a few we have subsequently discovered in our research) hark back to an earlier period and have been added to the appropriate section. Some texts published in the first edition have been deleted or shortened to make room for the new material.

We have added a number of illustrations and replaced a few others. We have also added a general bibliography of works reprinted in the book, discussed in the chapter introductions, or simply worthy of mention.

Thanks to the extensive holdings of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library in San Francisco the editors have had the opportunity to examine nearly two hundred drug-related writings by women in the United States, England, France, and Germany during the last two centuries. Much of the literature was discovered in long out-of-print books and obscure periodicals; some of the more recent texts were written expressly for this updated edition. Due to space limitations, a number of texts have been omitted, but these are referenced for interested readers. We have included images from ancient and primitive cultures because they suggest a long tradition linking the nature of femininity with special states of consciousness. (pages xiii-xiv)

The literature of women's drug experience is roughly divided between accounts of repeated use with commitment to a drug-related lifestyle, and instances of isolated, private experiences, either intentional or accidental but almost always profound. The voices of this book often emanate from actual underworlds, or from the interior realms of consciousness. Sisters of the Extreme demonstrates that for a long time women have consciously sought the experience of getting high, and that they have experimented courageously, lived dangerously, and written about it eloquently. (page 3)

Elizabeth Gips lived in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, ground zero of the psychedelic renaissance during the Summer of Love. Her memoirs of that time were published in Scrapbook of a Haight Ashbury Pilgrim: Spirit, Sacraments and Sex in 1967/1968. Since 1972 she has hosted a radio show called Changes (also available online at that documents counterculture ideas and personalities. (page 221)

December 31, 1966
9:30 A. M.
I opened my mouth. Ken puts the purple pill under my tongue and smiles. "How much?" I ask.
"Why do you always want to know?"
"I'm curious, that's why."
"It's enough. It's the right amount for you. I know you. Trust."
I trust.
The outside comes warmly in with the mountain sun. December 31st, but it's going to be like summer. A perfect day. There is some peyote left, enough for one person, "Richard?"
"Yes, I've never had any."
"Go with it, Richard, just like acid, and it won't make you sick."
"You're going to hear new music today," Richard tells us. He lives in terms of music, loves in cadences and hears in chords.
The peyote is ground up in ten capsules, our last ten. (page 222)

10:25 A. M.
Ah, but now comes the rush to let go. It takes stupendous hours to walk the few steps to the hollow. The pillows receive me gently. I melt and merge with them. "I'm going to look at the mountain," I say to myself. Immediately my eyes close, and I'm gone.

And while my body is protected, enveloped by the safe softness of Mother's love, the hills of her breasts, the radiant warmth of the sunlight on trees and grass, my soul goes home! Time melts, and as I travel through tunnels of receding centuries, "I" melt with it into endless vistas of love.

11:15 A. M.
... How about me? Am I real or a figment of something else's imagination?

Everything flickers: the great trees come forward to greet me and retreat again. Whizz, whizz, whizz goes mind. It functions on every level of reality until there are no levels and no realities. It-ness??? Be-ing??? God??? God!!! (page 222)

11:30 A. M.
It isn't enough. Go further, further. Go through the cell into the living energy that makes the cell. Through the living energy to The All. Down and up, up and down. All. Everything. What is. Now and always. All. Is. IS. IS. (page 223)

12:30 P. M.
Male and female are one body that is no body in the time before time when god/me gave birth, created itself. An orgasm beyond orgasm that shakes loose streams of energy which become space, stars, planets, trees, bugs and people. RAPTURE. Am God, energy or whatever, me/you/they. Every thing. Created creator.

1:00 P. M.
I/we create ontogeny. First we are a cell. It spins around, reaches for more, becomes a complex. Stretching our hydra tentacles, we become fish, fish into whale, large, large. Leave water, change, become reptile, bird, human. Magnificent, multipodded, never-ending.

I come back into me, recognize myself as Betty. I cry with joy, for I am God. I laugh softly with love, for I am everything and everything is God.

There have been no words, no thoughts, no consciousness of self. I lost I and found It again; went through time to now-time as it is in the womb. This I that is no-I has ripened, has been separate and together, just as it grew in the womb. First a cell, then a union of cells, then a complete, albeit very, small human. It/I am waiting for the birth which actually took place when the sperm hit the ovum. In the womb still, it is waiting to be sent into the world conscious reality from the world of unconscious acceptance.

Back in self-awareness again, knowing Betty as Betty, the conscious me laughs a little, cries a little, all joy. Perhaps because it is female and happy. (page 223)

1:30 P. M.
I am home, home. Home in the molecular flow, the rainbow heart, the mother, the father, beyond sex, beyond duality. This is the place of unity where I Am, I know myself, outside myself and still inside - the all and the one. Rainbow molecules stream from me infinitely in all directions. It is love. All of the energy is everything is love. Not love - beyond love, no words, no words, no Words ONLY BEING. It is our birthright, and I Am Home. (page 224)

We're still laughing, a contented sort of laugh, a happy-with-the-whole-crazy-world sort of laugh. We watch New Year's eve on television. Nelson Eddy is playing music from my childhood. People wearing expensive dresses and suits and funny hats are welcoming in a New Year. The crowds at Times Square push and blow little horns. A cherubic innocent baby tumbles across the t.v. set from nowhere; it is the New Year!

I am very tired. Peace fills each cell, and directs the flow of every capillary. I drift off to sleep to the sounds of Nelson Eddy as Ken and Richard carry me to bed. (pages 225-226)

My key was to be two squares of a miniature Mouse & Kelly design on a black background. This was the early 1990s when LSD was still made in stronger doses and each of these paper squares was said to contain 250 micrograms. At nineteen, I'd been experimenting with acid for almost a year and on this occasion I'd decided I wanted to go further by taking twice the usual dose. My goal was to watch the landscape of my surroundings dissolve even further into the patterns I had witnessed on previous trips. What I didn't take into account was the fact that twice as much acid would bring an exponential increase in mental activity. (page 291)

Lying back with my eyes closed, I broke through to a state of consciousness in which my immediate experience was all there ever was or ever could be. It was as if I'd just been born. I was pure consciousness without occupying any particular space or time.

Soon the mental plane became so intense that Luke and I went through a kind of "coming to," where we remembered that life didn't used to be only about profound ideas, with mysteries and paradoxes shooting through the brain to be sorted and solved all at once. That was a state of mind we had to shake off from time to time by reminding ourselves to relax. As we fully entered the peak phase of the trip, it was apparent to us that for the first time in our lives we were experiencing a genuine higher state of consciousness. (page 292)

Years after I was blessed with a spontaneous mystical experience after eating a large dose of ganga cake in Jamaica and subsequently asking to see God. This resulted in the classic ego-death experience of going beyond the individual self to become "One with Everything" and opened me up to the infinite realms of spirit. It also brought an entirely new field of exploration to my attention: the entheogens - certain plants and their derivatives that generate an experience of the Divine within. Prior to this experience, I had considered myself an agnostic because I was unwilling to take the existence of God on faith. This mystical experience convinced me there was far more to be learned about the nature of the existence than what the materialistic sciences taught. (pages 293-294)

Throughout the ayahuasca sessions in Peru, I had noticed the onset of dizziness and nausea in the early stage after drinking the medicine. This had prompted me to use grounding techniques to counteract it. But on the last journey, I found myself wondering what would happen if I just went with it. So I allowed myself to just experience the dizziness, which soon intensified to the point where it felt as if my astral body was spinning around in my seat. Eventually, I started to spiral upward and dissociate from my physical body, which I could see below me. I then passed through the roof of the temple into the sky where I noticed the full moon over the jungle. A moonbeam emerged and out of the light stepped a vision of a beautiful silvery Goddess. She had a pale complexion and beautiful long platinum hair and was dressed in a long shimmering silver dress. As she came toward me, she started to dance and gestured me to follow along. She then gently and patiently taught me a beautiful flowing, swirling dance, with very deliberate and specific movements. It was ecstatic! (page 294)

I joined a group that created all-night dance events in a church where I combined my love for dancing in altered states with a traditional spiritual setting. Sometime later I went to the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock desert of Nevada and experienced a form of electronic music known as Psychedelic or Goa Trance, which features a trance-inducing beat in 4/4 time at around 140 beats per minute. I was amazed as the effectiveness of the combination of repetitious dance movements, electronic music, and psychedelics such as LSD in inducing deep hypnotic trance states. Such states can be used for reprogramming, breaking unwanted habits, retrieving lost memories, and pain reduction as well as for stilling the mind and facilitating prayer. This special teaching furthered my interest in dance as a spiritual practice, bringing me to a direct experience of the Divine Oneness that dances eternally within all of us. (pages 294-295)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2003 CSP

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