LSD: Interview With a 1960s Acid Guide
Falling into the Unconscious Mind
BK (Dr. Billy Kidd): What is an acid guide? People have heard the term but do they have any idea what it involves?”
AG (Acid Guide): “That’s just a media expression. You have to have been there and done that to know what it is.
AG: The deal was getting a few people together—usually a group of friends--and giving them LSD. Then you guide them around while they’re seeing through the lens of their unconscious mind. You try to keep them focused on the Fun Side of their unconscious mind. Not the psychotic Dark Side.
BK: The psychotic side of the unconscious mind?
AG: The psychotic side of the unconscious imagination is more real than reality. Compelling. Driving. Forceful. I didn’t understand terms like “psychotic” until later. I studied psychology. And you better believe it; the alternative reality that the mind can create is without limits. It’s kind of like falling asleep and having a dream—but you’re awake. You see what you are dreaming. This occurs with LSD and eventually with the daily use of cocaine and methamphetamines.
BK: Seeing what you are dreaming?
Projecting Your Unconscious Thoughts onto the World
AG: Yeah. You project your dream onto reality. So it’s suddenly real—your total reality. Ya following me?
BK: Yes, I understand projection. It's like wearing glasses that change the way the world looks so that it conforms to what you think. But I never realized that street drugs could make such a total change in one’s perspective.
AG: The thing is, there’s the Dark Side—the psychotic—and the Fun Side of your unconscious mind. When you start out, you just experience the Fun Side.That is why street drugs are so addictive.
BK: You mean kind of like Freud’s id and he’s death wish on one side and the good things on the other?
AG: All that stuff. And there you are living in it. In one or the other. And that’s your reality—seeing things you never knew were in your mind. But you don’t know that. When you’re high, you really believe it’s what the world really is.
And hey, you cannot be talked out of it—only guided to safer things to project your head trip onto. An analogy would be the idea that if you have a dark or crazy thought, you tell yourself that "OK, it's only a thought--not something I'm gonna do." Then it goes away. On acid,19 out of 20 people cannot do that. So what they think is real, and that reality is in a large way flowing from their unconscious minds.
BK: So what you’re really saying is that LSD, meth, and coke break down the barrier between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.
AG: Shatters it.
BK: So you drop acid and you are there in an alternative reality—seeing from the unconscious part of the mind—until the drug finally wears off.
AG: Right. It was a real mind twister when I realized that. But on acid, you don’t know it’s your unconscious head trip that becomes an overlay for what you see. Reality conforms to your dreams, your imagination. But if you take too much acid for too long you lose your base in the real world. So now, you got to make up a story in your mind that justifies what you see—the unconscious projection thing. It's the same with extensive use of cocaine and methamphetamines.
BK: So you lose the here and now, if you go too far, take too many trips. Is that it?
AG: Yeah. And everyone has got a limit of how much street drugs they can take before losing touch with reality.
BK: And start living in their dreams.
AG: Or nightmares. That’s when you end up in the psyche ward. And it’s why you’ve got to reject the whole LSD thing as not being real—just seeing it as being no more than a fun trip. Or possibly a bummer. And this is why it's the acid guide's most important job is to get people back into the real world before you let them go.
BK: What about guided trips on coke and meth?
AG: No one can guide you with that.
BK: Oh, great.
The Limits of Acid Tripping
BK: Tell me about the limits of acid tripping.
AG: Ya know, I’m still a little leery about going into all this stuff. For all these years I never talked to anyone about it. And hey, I came too close to ending up on the psyche ward myself.
BK: If you want to stop, it’s OK.
AG: Well, actually, it feels like I’ve finally got to get it out… You were saying?
BK: The limits of acid tripping.
AG: Some people are natural born “heavy duty” drug users. They can go anywhere, do anything—blasted—seemingly forever. Like Jerry Garcia.
BK: Who OD’d on drugs.
AG: That’s right. Everyone’s got a limit on how much craziness they can take before they crack.
BK: And try heroin and coke like Garcia did. Is that it?
AG: Yeah. Lots of acid users want to test every drug that’s out there. That’s what I did. And the problem is that the average person flips out at about twenty LSD trips. If someone spikes your drink—and you are straight, and you have no explanation for the dream world that you see, no belief—you can’t say, “Oh, I’m stoned. That’s why it looks so well timed!” Well that’s when you’re a goner.
BK: What do you mean, so well timed?
You lose Your Sense of Reality and Sense of Time
AG: I got that idea of the world looking so well timed from Dylan. He sang, “The bricks they lie on Grand Street ... It all seems so well timed.” That’s where LSD imitates schizophrenia. Reality looks like it’s timed to fit together perfectly. Set up to mean something to you.
So if you take too much acid, you start believing reality is timed to what you are consciously thinking. That’s because this illusion is a projection of your unconscious thoughts onto the environment. And then your conscious mind interprets that as real. And you haven’t a clue that this is what’s going on.
BK: Then what?
AG: You lose your sense of reality and your sense of time. And your unconscious projections keep creating the same thing over and over—the same view of reality. That’s what a hang up is. Something that just keeps repeating itself every day. And it happens because of your belief system that your dream world—this projection of your unconscious thoughts—this overlay onto the world, is really real.
BK: Without taking more LSD?
AG: Yeah. And that’s kind of what the song was about—a bum acid trip that keeps repeating itself—even if you quit taking acid. And hey, most of Dylan’s fans never got it—that this was a song about what happened in Dylan’s head when he got stoned and nearly flipped. Everything kept repeating itself.
BK: OK. I think you’re saying that LSD creates an alternative reality. Then you keep running the tape of it in your head over and over. And you interpret reality from that. This happens, if you’ve taken too much acid, even when you are not high on LSD. Is that it?
AG: And from constant use of cocaine and methamphetamines.
Bob Dylan: Stuck Inside of Mobile
"Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice."
The Acid Guide's Most Important Job
BK: OK, I think I get it. So let's get back to the acid guide thing. You have this group of people, then what?
AG: Well, you got them high. So it’s your job to bring them back down to seeing reality again. Before you let them go, they’ve got to see the world the way it was when you started. Sometimes that’s the hard part. Some people don’t want to come back. Unconscious stuff is powerful. Ya know the story about the lead guitarist of the band Pink Floyd. He went up and never came back down. Flush that career. After years of therapy, he was still on the same bum trip.
BK: Sounds like a nightmare.
AG: While being awake.
BK: Seeing the world from the unconscious mind would be compelling—hard to break away from because you’re really seeing yourself everywhere. That’s it, right?
AG: You got it.
The Mental Telepathy Thing
BK: As I think about it, I had an ex-acid tripper for a client. He told me that everything is monotonous because it keeps repeating itself.
AG: What happened with the patient?
BK: After one session, he went to a psyche ward.
BK: Does any of this explain the mental telepathy thing some schizophrenics believe in? We in the psychology profession say that with schizophrenics and LSD users you cannot tell the difference between the two. Or which came first, the drug use or the schizophrenia.
AG: Sometimes everything looks so well timed that you think that what people are saying is in response to what you are thinking. So you start looking for clues about what they’re trying to tell you in response to your belief that you’re broadcasting your thoughts to everyone—and that they are acting on them. That’s the only explanation for have for what you see. And it's the same sort of false belief--that explains what you see--with both schizophrenia and street drugs.
BK: People look like they are trying to tell you something. You're serious?
AG: You interpret the supposed messages from innuendoes taken from what people say and how they move.
BK: So you actually realize you're projecting your thoughts onto the world, but you see it as people reading your mind.
AG: Now you're getting it.
BK: That's kind of what heavy users of coke and meth have told me. But it's more like they see people watching them, even looking through walls or around doorways.
AG: Same paranoid phenomenon. You watch the body language; you watch the speech; you watch what cars that park in front of your home. It all means something to you--that there's a hidden message. In the worst case scenario, you start reading the license plates on those cars to look for a clue as to what people are trying to tell you. You believe that's what you're supposed to do.
BK: That’s insane! Like having an obsessive-compulsive disorder that you've got to look for the hidden message
AG: Yeah. You’ve lost your home base—your natural view of reality. So you take this stuff as real and have no other place to go. Nothing else to believe in. That’s even when you’re not high on acid—well, meth and crack can do it too. Unfortunately, very few of us guides got that idea until it was too late. Timothy Leary never got it at all.
BK: I believe that one. The wards were once full of his followers.
AG: So when I learned the word “projection,” that explained it. People project their craziness onto the environment and then interpret what they see as being real. So the world look like it was timed to follow the crazy stuff you are thinking—or the beauty in your unconscious mind. And once you’ve made a belief that justifies what you’re seeing—the craziness of your mind covering the universe—you don’t need any more drugs to trigger it.
BK: Tell me about the triggers.
People Who Freak Out Resist Help
AG: The whole world becomes a trigger. Just open your eyes in the morning and the world takes on your strange belief system. That’s because the world you see is a projection of your unconscious mind. But you’re not aware that’s what’s happening. And you’ll fight people who want to help you because your belief holds you together, keeps you from totally going gaga. This can happen even when you’re taking antipsychotic drugs.
BK: Wow! Resistance to treatment and help—that was one of Freud’s ideas.
AG: Who took coke for a while. Even gave it to his patients.
BK: Yes, he wrote to his fiancé that he'd discover the drug that would make Freud enough money so they could get married.
AG: (laughs) And Freud had a low threshold between his conscious and unconscious mind. That's why he could see unconscious defense mechanism so clearly. It was probably from the cocaine. But who really knows? You never know about geniuses.
BK: Oh, wow. Freud had a thin line between his conscious and his unconscious mind. So he could crossover. Right?
AG: That's probably why he got so many ideas. And he saw up close that people who freak out often resist help. After all, addicts really believe a telephone pole or a bridge talks to them. And they don’t want you to take that away because it’s all they’ve got. And the lucky ones, like me, rejected those beliefs. And we rejected the idea that the ‘60s were fun rather than what they were—crazy. If you let a hint of that belief in the thrill of acid come back, you might trigger the whole thing to come back. I mean, like even ten years later.
BK: You’re talking about having a flashback, right?
AG: Yeah, similar to PTSD. You go on a trip rather than saying to yourself, “Oh, it’s just the past reaching out and trying to suck me back in. I’ll come back down like I always did. Just have a brewski, dude, and be patient.”
BK: Did you ever have a flashback?
AG: Why do you think I know so much about this stuff?
A False Guru
BK: But you didn’t know how to analyze LSD trips until you studied psychology, right?
AG: Some of it was intuitive at first. I acted on it without having the words for it. And hey, that’s why I thought that Krishnamurti was a false guru. Ya know, his “the observer is the observed” thing. That just projecting your unconscious mind onto the world, and then reading it as real.
AG: Well, the real problem with Krishnamurti is something else. He said you only get one chance to make the transformation he made—to find a sense of enlightenment. No. You've got to get up every morning at sunrise and believe it's a new day—if you want to find a higher love. It’s easy. Just meditate on it for a few minutes when you wake up in the morning. And then just be thankful for what you’ve got. After that, with a calm mind, you can see the world turning. And see how amazing it all is.
BK: I haven’t studied Krishnamurti, but I think I get it. Yet it feels like you’re only telling half the story. I mean, how did the LSD enable you to spot a false guru?
The Trance Experience
AG: I guess, well [takes deep breath, then laughs]. All right. I meditated, still do. And there was a time in the’60s when I could close my eyes and count from one to five backwards. I’d start by telling myself, “Five minutes.” And then counting backwards, when I got to number one—I’d watch the numbers in my mind—I’d go into an unconscious trance and find myself counting from one to five forwards as I came out of the trance. Eyes still shut. That was always about five minutes later.
BK: For real?
AG: I guess I’m really unloading. I’ve never told anyone about that before.
BK: Geez, you almost make Alan Watts look like a light weight. Are you sure you’re OK with this stuff—talking about it now?
AG: These days I ruminate on the past all the time—on my whole life, actually. It must be what old folks do to settle with their lives—as if there’s no future. But hey, this is kind of a relief to get it out. To hear myself speak it, rather than dwell on it all alone.
BK: Cool. And yes, rumination is a normal part of the life cycle. When people reach their sixties they think about all they have done and wish they could have done.
AG: Yeah, that’s me.
BK: Wasn’t it hard holding all this stuff down?
AG: Not once I rejected the ’60s as a mass experiment with the unconscious mind.
BK: OK. But I never heard of this trance thing.