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311: There But For Gratuitous Grace


KMO and the Lovely Olga K talk with Peter Bebergal about psychedelics, drug addiction, magical thinking, paranoia, fate, and spirituality. Peter's book, Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood deals with all of these issues, and Peter had a much rougher time growing up in the 80's than did KMO, even though their interests and cultural touchstones were so similar. They both had a group of friends who fancied that they could contact the divine by altering their consciousness with psychedelics, they both endured the paranoia of living in a culture that criminalizes such exploration, but Peter's path lead him through much darker territory.

Music by Weal and Woe.

12 comments to 311: There But For Gratuitous Grace

  • Blow_In

    Moving boys to different towns or schools during the time they are going through puberty makes their life harder than it has to be.

    I read that somewhere, I didn’t experience it.

    • KMO

      I moved around a lot as a young kid, but I was in Kansas City, MO from 4th grade through high school (and then 2 years of community college), so I got lucky in that respect. That is one difference between Peter Bebergal’s situation and my own that I hadn’t considered.

  • Raccoonsounds

    The story of this young boy giving a beetle necklace present to his mentor, only to be shunned in a fit of psychosis, made me cry a bit. 
    I wonder how this would have played out had Peter lived a decade or two later?The neat thing about living in a time of peak connectivity in human history, is now the paranoid delusion no longer need to go to the mall to help share their esoteric knowledge; (many of which point to the portends of death.) Via distributed social networks, the lonely, disaffected, stoned, or acid-fried youths can send a message to a stranger on the other side of the world, and start having a conversation with the dark entities they know are out to kill them.

    • KMO

      I tell ya, I can get really freaked out watching YouTube videos that purport to show humans morphing into reptilians. Here in the light of the morning, such ideas seem absurd, but alone, late at night, I can get a bad case of the heebie geebies. If you get on a paranoid tack, the internet can provide you with endless confirmation for your maladaptive reality tunnel.

      • Blow_In

        Maybe I’m chicken, but I intuitively felt that it was a bad idea to put scary images into my memory.

        After many years of thinking about it, I still think it is a bad idea. Only now I can explain it is better. Or at least I have a reasonable sounding story. Or maybe I’m just chicken.

  • ferociousd

    I grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and came of age in the 60’s when the psychedelics were just becoming a phenomenon and were really pure and good.

    I also experienced a good deal of paranoia from drugs but it was only when speed or cocaine entered the picture. Uppers of that sort are a real serious hallucinogen in the sense that you did not sleep and so you started to dream awake and often they were day-mares.

    LSD – Mescaline – magic mushrooms etc. could sometimes get you pretty wired if there was speed mixed in with it and that is what I felt was the problem the few times I had a difficult trip. Mostly the psychedelics were quite enlightening.

    Of course everyone is different and this is just the way I experienced it.

  • Once again, a very thought provoking podcast.  I listened again to make sure my thoughts were fresh, as so often I don’t share because a day then a week goes by before I can get around to it.  Peter’s story was very illuminating from the perspective of the set and setting of your generation, and how so much of what my generation thought of as the potential to ‘save the world’ went in directions we could not have predicted.  Coming in as I did at the tail-end of what was perhaps the ‘golden age’ of psychedelics in 1970, I had an experience in college with mescaline in which I found myself interacting with authority figures as well, so I well know the feelings that arise when you find yourself ridiculously at odds with what is supposed to be an uplifting experience.  It was enough to make me a bit more cautious, so I didn’t seek it as feverently as I had prior to that first experience although I did sample acid and psylocybin a few more times.  I had set my goals in respect to drugs before leaving home to live at school and did not waver when I was offered cocaine.  In that respect I related to what Olga had to say. I suppose that it was my good fortune also to have those experiences when many of the people I tripped with were cognisant of the need for ritual.  I was never interested in drugs as a party tool.  There are also new things coming to light, of the part the government and it’s agencies had in the propogation as well as the prohibition of these substances.  Jan Irwin has done some extensive work on this issue which he has elucidated in his latest podcast:  I recommend having a listen.  It seems contradictory that the government should simultaneously inhibit and promote drug use, but when you consider how many people like Peter had horrifying experiences, when the opposite could have been, with judicial and guided use as was promoted by folks like Huxley and Shulgin.  Creating a shamanic tradition instead of the randomness of the street.  But of course that would have gone against the very bedrock of western civilization.

  • BMF

    Olga calling what he did a hero’s journey was surgical commentary. Others who have dared to openly explore the real dark side of this stuff keep a mental/emotional green zone between themselves and the person describing what happens–certain peripherally related podcasts come to mind where they showed their self absorbed asses and condescended blatantly to the guy describing the lower tunnels, or upper roads of hell, as it were. I wasn’t sure about Olga coming on this crealm scene, but she totally called it like it is and it’s appreciated.

  • tejanojim

    KMO – this has to be the strangest musical break I’ve heard on your show to date. Not complaining, just sayin’.

    • econopist

       Cool stuff; love the variety. BTW — KMO what is the intro music? sounds familiar — is it Talking Heads? What tune?

      • KMO

        The intro music is a song called Somptin Hapnin by Adam Shaikh. I got it off a pod-safe music site called IODA Promonet. It no longer appears on that site. There are several versions of the song:

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