Summary Of The Electric Kol-Aid Acid Test By Ken Kesey

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In the mid 1960s, at the height of psychedelic drug popularity, Ken Kesey and his band of followers known as the Merry Pranksters were experimenting with acid as a way to open previously unexplored doors to consciousness. Their ultimate goal was transcendence from individual minds into a giant “group mind” -- one that allowed them to be totally cognizant of what everyone was thinking and feeling without saying anything at all. This is not a new concept or ideal; the Merry Pranksters denied their similarities to religious groups, but the attainment of all-encompassing enlightenment is centuries old. Since the existence of organized religion, people have (in various forms) struggled to gain coalescence of thought in order to earn group salvation.…show more content…
Them mentality: one was either a part of the movement, or not. The Merry Pranksters claimed to be all-inclusive group, but their mentality revealed a distinct separation between how they thought about themselves and the rest of the world. Repeatedly noted in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, “Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: ‘You’re either on the bus… or off the bus,’” (Wolfe). This terminology resembles labels used by religious groups such as “believer” and “nonbeliever.” Such a mindset allows for ingroup bias, or the belief that the group’s prevailing attitude or thought is the right one; in this case, that a particular religious or drug lifestyle is the correct one (Myers). Acid use was the Pranksters’ defining quality; they couldn’t adequately connect with anyone who hadn’t dropped acid before, because for them it was such a life-altering experience. Overtly pious people may hold the belief that atheists can never experience the same spiritual connection as them; likewise, the Pranksters were hesitant to believe that anyone who hadn’t taken acid was capable of transcendence into the group mind. Despite a facade of openness within the group, the close proximity of everyday life with other members fostered feelings of fear and anxiety in several Pranksters. Constant pressure to be carefree and easygoing transformed the Pranksters into a cultish community, where…show more content…
A recent experiment conducted at John Hopkins University reaffirmed the undoubtedly spiritual nature of drug-induced experiences, by causing many participants to attest to their perceived religious experience. As reported in The Daily Nexus, “Using a series of post-study questionnaires and interviews, Griffiths found that volunteers ingesting psilocybin had undergone what he describes as a ‘mystical experience — a sense of interconnectedness with all people and things accompanied by a sense of sacredness and reverence’” (Roe). This transcendence into an omniscient knowledge of all things and people is commonly termed intersubjectivity, the very goal Kesey and his Merry Pranksters strived for. What isn’t acknowledged is the presence of intersubjectivity in well-known religious factions; through prayer, hymns, and meditation, states of intersubjectivity are achieved by the practitioners of such exercises. “We are all one body,” reads a familiar Catholic song, reinforcing the idea of connectivity through faith. But this spiritual connectivity, proven by various test subjects and the Merry Pranksters themselves, is attainable through other methods. Deep inside the recesses of the brain, the religious and the psychedelic are inextricably intertwined and eerily similar; Griffiths found that both types of encounters cause

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