The American Experience In

.. presentations of any sortthe Acid Tests. And yet, there was nothing irreligious about any of this. The Pranksters seeming apprehension of the metaphysical was forming a religion all its own; an American religion. No shrines, no sacraments. Buuuut, as Woolfe began to muse out loud: The experiencethat was the word! And it began to fall into place.

In fact, none of the great founded religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, none of them began with a philosophical framework or even a main idea. They all began with an overwhelming new experience, what Joachim Welch called the experience of the holy, and Max Weber, possession of the deity, the sense of being a vessel fo the divine, of the All-one. Woolfe goes on to say that the kernels of foundation these religions came in a flash! of insight (or experience) to their founders. Zoroaster, Guatama Buddha flash! Their initial experience had nothing to do with morals, salvation, or the hereafter, but with experience. What made the Pranksters dangerous, Woolfe mused, was that they realized this and so wouldnt seek to stabilize and normalize their experience. They would simply seek to be, and continue experiencing (..what?..) until they went further..down the road, in their bus, Furthur.

Today, in the 21st century, the dominant chic philosophie is postmodernism, which (among many things) supplants absolute truth claims with meaningful myths, or metanarratives. These are stories in which we derive lessons for life, or a context for living. The Pranksters found and internalized a uniquely American Myththat of the comic book superhero. It is my suspicion that both Kesey and Woolfe were avid comic book readers. Do see what I mean: The Life! A glorious place, a glorious age, I tell you! A very Neon Renaissance–And the myths that actually touched you at that time–not Hercules, Orpheus, Ulysses, and Aeneas–but Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, the Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Plastic Man, The Flash–but of course! On Perry Lane, what did they think it was–quaint?–when he talked about the comic-book Superheroes as the honest American myths? It was a fantasy world already, this electro-pastel world of Mom&Dad&Buddy&Sis in the suburbs. There they go, in the family car, a white Pontiac Bonneville sedan–the family car! –a huge crazy god-awful-powerful fantasy creature to begin with, 327-horsepower, shaped like twenty-seven nights of lubricious luxury brougham seduction-you’re already there, in Fantasyland, so why not move off your snug-harbor quilty-bed dead center and cut loose-go ahead and say it -Shazam!-juice it up to what it’s already aching to be: 327,ooo horsepower, a whole superhighway long and soaring, Screaming on toward ..

Edge City, and ultimate fantasies, current and future .. Billy Batson said Shazam! and turned into Captain Marvel. Jay Garrick inhaled an experimental gas in the research lab.. and began traveling and thinking at the speed of light as The Flash .. the current fantasy.

(Page 38) The current fantasy was transforming the Pranksters, with their American Religion, into larger-than-life Superheroes quicker than you could say Shazam! There are over fifty references to superheroes, and comic books, in Acid Test. Reading and drawing from comics, code-names were donned: Steve Lambrecht was the Zonker. Cassady was Speed Limit. Kesey was Swashbuckler. Babbs was Intrepid Traveler. George Walker was Hardly Visible.

And Paula Sudsen became..Gretchin Fetchin the Slime Queen! (Page 69.) And the name The Merry Pranksters,of course. They had costumes, too: Mountain Girl has on the purple robe. Babbs has on an iridescent pair of pants of many- colored stripes, made by Gretch. Kesey appeared in a glowing Yin-yang jacket. It was an iridescent jacket with a huge Yin-Yang symbol painted on the back red, white, and blue (Page165).

In this new religion ritual did begin to develop, then. The naming of a person was a signifier that they were accepted in the groupthat they were on the bus, so to speak. At one point the Pranksters were in Mexico, fugitives from the law. A new girl began coming around, and it was questionable whether or not she was going to be accepted. Finally the matter was settled, for [Kesey] had given her a new name, Black Maria.

She was..Black Maria (268). With new names replacing old, strobe lights replacing altars, and costumes replacing clothing, what replaced Food in their arcane world? As one could surmise, the hallucenogen, Acid, was the food of the future. But even their attitude toward the old familiar LSD began taking on new dimensions with the Merry Pranksters American Experience.. The [LSD capsules] had whimsical emblems on them, to indicate the strength. The most famous among the heads were the Owsley Blues–with a picture of Batman on them, 500 micrograms worth of Superhero inside your skull (188).

Where, you might ask, do these daring antiheroes go with their mind-numbing escapades? Where does their road take them? Well, not to ruin a good thing for you, the reader, but their Trip takes them further. Agree with them or not, they do explore the far reaches of Reality, and Life itself, in attempt to reach, as Prankster Cassady would put it, now. Not moments of lag time behind the present moment, but now now now. Futhur. This search for the Now, the true American Experience, gets them into trouble though.

To fulfill their calling as superheroes to a Nuclear world they must be wiling to stand up, heroically, for the path of Right, despite how their popularity with the heads, the staight world, or anyone would be affected. At the midnight hour, Kesey, masked and disguised in a Superhero costume, on the order of Captain America of the Marvel comics pantheon, will come up on stage and deliver his vision of the future, of the way beyond acid. (Page 328) Beyond acid. They have the trip now, close the circle, all of them and they either emerge as Superheroes, closing the door behind them and soaring through the hole in the sapling sky, or just lollygag in the loop-the-loop of the lag. Almost clear! Presque vu!–many good heads have seen it–Paul telling the early Christians: hooking down wine for the Holy Spirit–sooner or later the Blood has got to flood into you for good–Zoroaster telling his followers: you cant keep taking haoma water to see the flames, man–And Dr. Strange and Sub Mariner and the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four and the Human Torch prank about on the Rat walls of la casa grande like stroboscopic sledgehammer Cassidys, fons et origo::::and it is either make this thing permanent inside of you or forever just climb draggled up into the conning tower every time for one short glimpse of the horizon::::(290).

Lone superhero, Superhighway Cosmo hero, Never lies. Honestys the best disguise in the cops and robbers game. I aint Clark Kent. I aint Steve Lamb. Popeye the Sailor I am what I am (309).

..the Bay Areas Superheroes.. (347) Kesey is ..wearing only white leotards, a white satin cape tied at the neck, and a red, white, and blue sash running across his chest. Its..Captain America! The Flash! Captain Marvel! the Superhero, in a word.. (352) Book Reports.

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