So you've arrived in some exotic locale, say Nepal or Sri Lanka, on one of those ecotourism vacations, and you want to become one with your surroundings. What could be more ecologically sound than to enjoy some local flora? But where do you find a batch of magic mushrooms? You could start asking around, but luckily, as the savvy traveler and head that you are, you have your copy of Psychedelics Reimagined packed in your carryon bag.
The book, edited by Thomas Lyttle of Fort Lauderdale, is a sort of Readers' Digestof current psychedelic drug research. In the chapter titled "Some Recent Notes and Observations on the Occurrence and Use of Entheogenic Fungi in Third World Countries," for example, tribal elders hold forth about the religious use of psilocybin-laced 'shrooms. The authors also give the lowdown on mushroom festivals and where to dine on magic-mushroom omelets.
The combination of scholarly research and drug-culture dish is the trademark of his volumes, says Lyttle, age 41, who has edited several similar books. "There's probably something in there for Joe stoner," he explains. "But my interests are more in the intelligent application of drugs for consciousness-expansion and religious pursuits, creativity, studies of personality, and so forth."
Lyttle hasn't always had such a lofty interest in psychedelics. He grew up in Ohio and as a teen experimented with pot, mushrooms, and LSD. "Just like everybody back in the early '70s, just people passing things around and experimenting having fun."
When he happened upon a newsletter called Psychozoic Press, his fun fascination with psychedelics turned into a new vocation. "It circulated to about 500 people, a lot of them scholars and professors," recalls Lyttle. He went to work for the publication and learned writing and editing on the job. Eventually he began publishing his own periodic journal, Psychedelic Monographs and Essays.
"My main interest all along was just to build a huge library for posterity and research," says Lyttle. So far he has some 1500 books and 20,000 academic articles referenced and cataloged. Part of the collection is in his Fort Lauderdale apartment, another chunk is in the Rosetta Library in Berkeley, California, and still more psychedelic literature resides at the Papers From the History of Drugs archival library in Manhattan. "It's quite an astounding collection of paper," says Lyttle.
Another quite impressive collection of Lyttle's papers goes on display November 13 at Galerie Macabre in Fort Lauderdale. The show "Sex, Drugs 'n Rock 'n Roll" features artworks signed by the pioneers of the psychedelic movement -- all printed on blotter paper, the absorbent sheets that are a delivery vehicle for LSD.
Like their drug-carrying counterparts, these "undipped" pieces of blotter -- nine-and-a-half-inch-square pages perforated into quarter-inch-square "tabs" -- are adorned with everything from fine art to lewd cartoons. A scene depicting a Far Eastern opium den is embossed with the signature of futurist novelist and playwright Robert Anton Wilson; a painting of a geisha is signed by Timothy Leary. Ken Kesey inked his name on a swirling, psychedelic pattern. The prints are from limited-edition sets of 250 and will sell for between $250 and $350 each. A piece signed by LSD creator Albert Hoffman will be sold for upward of $5000. Unsigned pieces depicting dancing condoms or Mickey Mouse will sell for $35 and up.
By collecting and displaying blotter art, Lyttle wants to help move it into the realm of fine art, a subject he talked about on camera when producers of the show VH1 Rock Collectors were at Lincoln Road in Miami Beach recently. (Lyttle will appear on a future episode of the program, which debuts November 27.) Also, says Lyttle, "I knew that there were people who started the psychedelic movement that were going to die off so I got the idea of combining the blotter art with signatures from these historical characters -- the people that really started it all."