WEIRDLAND: The Sunshine Makers, LSD, Jim Morrison

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Sunshine Makers, LSD, Jim Morrison

“The Sunshine Makers” (2017) is a true San Francisco story. Set in the Haight-Ashbury in the ’60s — times that were a more interesting stretch of the city’s history than current times — Cosmo Feilding-Mellen’s documentary about the kingpins of the top-line LSD called Orange Sunshine nevertheless has one eye on current drug laws. Shot mostly in the Bay Area, the stars of the movie are Tim Scully, an East Bay native and Berkeley-trained scientist, and Brooklyn-born hippie Nick Sand. Operating out of a farmhouse in Sonoma County, they made 3.6 million tablets of LSD before federal authorities got them. Included are Timothy Leary patron Billy Hitchcock, who funded the scheme; Mike Randall, founder of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, which distributed LSD; and Owsley Stanley, a sound engineer and LSD maker who later created the Grateful Dead’s “wall of sound.” Feilding-Mellen clearly sees them as counterculture heroes. As our national attitude toward drug laws evolves, “The Sunshine Makers” makes that case fairly well. Source:

In 1953, Oswald Huxley and his friend Humphry Osmond, a British research psychiatrist, began taking mescaline. They were following in the footsteps of the psychologist Havelock Ellis, who in 1898 described the ritual use of mescal, by the Indians of the American South-west. Mescal, a mild hallucinogen taken from certain cactus plants, led to mescaline, a synthetic version of the chemical agent present in peyote, which led Osmond to coin the word 'psychedelic' to describe the effect of hallucinogens on the brain. Huxley and Osmond experienced supercharged visual phenomena, peculiar time expansions, and heightened streams of consciousness. In 1960 Timothy Leary, a psychologist working at Harvard University, returned from a vacation in Mexico with “magic mushrooms” containing the psychotropic agent psilocybin, which he gave to Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Neal Cassady, who had been the model for Dean Moriarty in On the Road.

In 1964, the year that Jim Morrison arrived in Los Angeles, Timothy Leary published his first book, The Psychedelic Experience, that pointed to the quasi-religious cast that psychedelic drugs were already acquiring, especially in San Francisco where LSD-25 was sold on the street. Leary assumed the mantle of LSD’s prophet, followed by the hypnotic mantra: “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.” Turn on meant activating your neural and genetic equipment. Tune in meant interacting harmoniously with the world around you. Drop out meant a voluntary detachment from involuntary commitments like the military, and corporate employment. Jim Morrison began tripping during weekend excursions to the haunted deserts southeast of Los Angeles. He would drive out to Joshua Tree in the high desert, or to Santa Ana Canyon, where the Indians thought the devil had lived. On one trip to the hidden canyons around Palm Springs, Jim had a shamanlike experience that flashed him back to the Indian car wreck he had witnessed as a child. He began taking daily doses of LSD, using the still-legal hallucinogen to raise his consciousness and blot out the psychic trauma of his past. He was using his languid Venice days to change himself from a college student to a neo-Beat poet.

The town of Venice had been laid out as a fashionable resort by developer Abbot Kinney in the southern Santa Monica wetlands just before World War I. Eventually Kinney overextended himself and went broke trying to re-create an Adriatic port in southern California. By the 1940s Venice was full of bingo parlors, beauty pageants, elderly pensioners, and clip joints catering to the World War II sailors who flocked to the boardwalk’s carny attractions. Jim Morrison seemed to take dream-come-true pride in living the poverty-stricken Beat life in Venice. Walking the beach, he experienced strange auditory visions, like a psychoprophetic radio show, featuring him singing in front of a rock band. He carried around Edith Hamilton’s best-selling Mythology everywhere. For Morrison, the Rimbaud protocol, the systematic deregulation of the senses, involved tripping every day, sometimes ending up in an almost comatose LSD induced psychosis. With his brain pulsing in lysergic waves, Morrison continued to transform himself from a pudgy college kid to a hipster godling. As his face lost its school cafeteria fleshiness, Jim’s Celtic cheekbones took pride of place in his visage between intense blue eyes and sensual Byronic lips.

On August 2, 1968, The Doors played the Singer Bowl in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, New York. Pete Townshend wrote the song “Sally Simpson” (She knew from the start/Deep down in her heart/Sally decided to ignore her dad/And sneak out anyway/She spent all afternoon getting ready/And decided she'd try to touch him/Maybe he'd see that she was freefrom The Who's album Tommy (1969) in a backhand tribute to Jim Morrison. Backstage, as the film crew’s camera rolled, Morrison comforted a teenage girl who’d been hit in the head by a flying chair. She was bleeding from a scalp wound and trying to stop crying as Jim put his arm around her. “It’s a democracy,” Jim said soothingly: “Somebody hit her with a chair. There’s no way to tell who did it.” Tenderly, Jim wiped blood from her face. “It’s already coagulating,” he cooed: “She was just an innocent bystander.” When a groupie-looking chick sashayed by in a red dress, Jim grabbed her and stuck his hand up her dress, smiling broadly.

Scientists at the University of Basel have shown that LSD reduces activity in the region of the brain related to the handling of negative emotions like fear. The results, published in the scientific journal Translational Psychiatry, could affect the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Hallucinogens alter perception, thought, and temporal and emotional experience. After the Basel-based chemist Albert Hofmann discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in the 1940s, there was a huge amount of interest in the substance, particularly in psychiatry. In the late 1960s, LSD was declared illegal worldwide, and medical research on it came to a standstill. In the last few years, however, interest in researching hallucinogens for medical purposes has been revived. It is now known that hallucinogens bind to a receptor of the neurotransmitter serotonin; LSD is associated with the amygdala. This appears to be the case: the lower the LSD-induced amygdala activity of a subject, the higher the subjective effect of the drug. “This ‘de-frightening’ effect could be an important factor for positive therapeutic effects,” explains Doctor Felix Müller, lead author of the study. Source:

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