10 JANUARY 2003


by Steven Jay Schneider
(Editor), Xavier Mendik (Editor)

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Wallflower Press;
; 0 edition (November 15, 2002)

ISBN: 1903364493

3] „Curtis Harrington and the Underground Roots of the Modern Horror Film,‰
Stephen R. Bissette (Fiction Writer & Illustrator)

From the introduction: „In
the year 1927-28, after directing a small number of films in Switzerland,
France, and the United States, Robert Florey interrupted his Hollywood
career as a gag writer, publicist, and assistant director to direct a quartet
of non-narrative, expressionistic short films. The most famous of these
remains The Life and Death of 9413˜A Hollywood Extra (1928), which Florey
made with Slavko Vorkapich for the princely sum of $96. The expressionistic
short caught the fancy of many of Florey‚s Hollywood associates; Charles
Chaplin himself arranged for the film to play on Broadway, opening it to
wider venues. Its success eventually attracted the attention of Paramount
Studios, launching Florey‚s mainstream directorial career (which included
his aborted preproduction work on Universal‚s Frankenstein before helming
genre classics like Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Beast With
Five Fingers (1942).

years later, a young Californian underground filmmaker named Curtis Harrington
made the more difficult move from the American avant-garde cinema to directing
features in Hollywood. Like Florey before him and David Cronenberg, John
Waters, David Lynch and E. Elias Merhige after, Harrington‚s preoccupation
with dark fantasy inspired him to use the horror genre as a generic bridge
to mainstream filmmaking.

    As such,
Harrington is one of the genre‚s true pioneers, a stature that has not,
as yet, been properly acknowledged. Whereas the underground and mainstream
films of Cronenberg, Waters, Lynch and most recently Merhige (having just
completed his first mainstream narrative studio effort, Shadow of the Vampire
[2000]) are considered as equally vital components in their richly personal
oeuvres, Harrington has not yet received such critical attention or reevaluation.
No one has yet considered his experimental films as vital, organic and
integrated elements of his directorial vision and career.‰

Christian Ratsch on Pilsenkraut


(pilsen – imagine, to fantasize, to have a vision, kraut – plant, shrub)

[Experiment with utmost care – tropanes can be deadly when used wrong.]

On making the real pilsen, as told by Christian Ratsch

Transcribed from tape by N. Ipo

Henbane has been used for several purposes. The ancient greeks used it for divination in Delphi, the english have used it for hunting chicken (hence the henbane). The celts used it to kill old people unable to travel with the tribe. Germans used to it to make pilsener, beer. ‘What?’ you ask, ‘I thought they used hops in making beer.’ True, but this was before the Czecks invented new brewing technique in 19th century, using a special yeast and lots of hops producing beer with yellow color and bitter taste known today as pilsener. The original pilsener was brewed with henbane instead of hops, hallucinogenic plant instead of an sedative. It quite easy to brew henbane-beer – pilsen.


20 liters of water
1 liter of malt (Use readymade malt)
1/2 liter honey
40 grams of dried henbane leaves
yeast for beer (amount depends on the product)

Find container that’s big enough. Cook the henbane in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Dissolve the malt in couple of liters of water, dissolve the honey, add henbane leaf-water. Add yeast. It might be useful to add a little bit more yeast than recommended because the tropane-alkaloids affect the yeast. Don’t close the container, it may explode [because of the pressure, I suppose –N. Ipo]. According to Ratsch, 40 grams of dried henbane leaves is enough to kill a person,
so don’t drink all the 20 liters all by yourself. =)

Brew should start fermenting after 1 and 1/2 days and the fermentation should be finished after 4 or 5 days. Red pilsener beer is now ready. You can also bottle it, add a few drops of honey to each bottle and let ferment for another week or two. Serve on easter, eclipses and solistices, preferably chilled. Store as normal beer.

Do not use belladonna as an substitute, it contains atropine, which, according to Ratsch is, “no fun”. Henbane contains mainly scopolamine, especially if it is dried. Scopolamine might work nicely for you, or it might not – one just has to find out if one is a ‘scopolamine-person’.

Christian Ratsch lectures about the pilsener: “Well, I have to tell you some of the effects, too – [snickers, laughs] – when we drink it we usually gather with some friend, 6-8 people, and, er, then we have these big horns, you know, real drinking horns, and… er.. Its the best thing to drink from because the drinking horn, its, its like I have one like this size, very, very nice… You touch it and it feels like an erotic body or somethin very [mutter]… So you drink from this, and then you pass it around. This was actually what our ancestors did for their rituals, they had these horns ,drinking it , giving-,saying something, a greeting of a god or greeting to the ancestors… …And they drink so much, and it is said, in the sources, “until the gods are among them.” So, what does it mean? Its an entheogenic experience. Well,
we did the same thing, and it turned out, that, well, the gods weren’t there, but we were elevating to them. So, er, the effect er is like, it starts to loose up your body and you feel like really smooth and really relaxed and then you have nice body sensations and nice sensations on your skin and you think and this could be nice for some erotic adventures and you close your eyes and suddenly and suddenly you stay in your red mist and you feel your body elevated. Its really beautiful, interesting feeling, and what is very amazing: you don’t get alcoholic effects from it, and this beer has about 4 to 5 percent alcohol… …I drink about 2.5-3 liters of henbane beer to get the full effect. You can drink more of course, but you may start to hallucinate badly. The hallucinations caused by nightshade plants are very unpleasant most of the time. Because – this is what I call the ‘true hallucinations’ – you see something which is just not there, you’re not aware about you’re hallucinating it. So you start to hallucinate scenes from real life. I observed an doctor under the influence of scopolamine, and he was just sitting there for four hours writing recipes and I observed
a teacher and he was sitting at his table for hours and, and doing some corrections and test – but there was nothing [laughters] He was just totally… Just total hallucination. And that’s a typical sign of over-dosage – you don’t wanna do that. I found the beer the best, er, the easiest way to control the amount of tropane alkaloids you want to ingest…”

[About Henbane]
“It’s very easy to grow and it’s beautiful plant and its very unique how it looks like with its long buds and flowers. Its -if you see the plant you will know its a magic one. Its really amazing.”

[About brewing]
“Q: When you’re cooking the henbane does it matter if you boil it? [?]

Ratsch: Well I boil it for a couple of minutes, well, the tropane alkaloids will stay, they are very stable, strong molecules.
Q: [Mumble, mumble mumble]
Ratsch: No, I, er um when I figured out how to the henbane beer I started to brew mandrake beer. And, er, [laughs] thats very interesting too. You can use the same recipe and insteads of fourty grams of dried leaves of henbane you use about fourty grams of the dried root of mandrake the same way. And er thats pretty strong and interesting. I found the effect different from henbane. And the chemistry of mandrake is er quite different from other nightshade plants. There has been very little experimentation done with mandrake… …I just recently did some research, literature search for personal experience with mandrake – doesn’t exist. Its really amazing…”


“The Psychedelic Sorcerer” (via

In November, 1999, I traveled to Basel, Switzerland, for a meeting called “Worlds of Consciousness,” a forum for research on altered states. At the meeting I met and interviewed scientists such as Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD; the Swiss psychiatrist Franz Vollenweider, who is mapping the neural effects of psychedelics in humans with brain-scanning research; and the pharmacologist David Nichols of Purdue University, who probes the biochemistry of psychedelics with animal studies [see Chapter Eight of Rational Mysticism for an account of the meeting].

The most colorful character I met was the German anthropologist Christian Ratsch. If scientists like Hofmann, Vollenweider, and Nichols represent the rational superego of the psychedelic community, Ratsch is its id. Throughout the meeting, he was dressed in black leather: pants, hat, boots, fringed jacket. His slouch and half-lidded eyes gave him a reptilian air. His features were vaguely Asian; I learned later that his mother was Mongolian, his father German. Ratsch had reportedly never cut his waist-length, raven hair or Fu Manchu beard.

Because most of Ratsch’s books and articles are in German, he is less famous than Terence McKenna, but he is renowned among the psychedelic cognoscenti. I first heard about him from the chemist Alexander Shulgin, who praised Ratsch’s encyclopedic knowledge of the plants and fungi used in shamanic practices. Others described Ratsch as not only an expert on but also a practitioner of psychedelic shamanism, and ayahuasca shamanism in particular.

When I asked Ratsch for an interview on the first day of the conference, he eyed me suspiciously and replied in a gravelly, insinuating, German-accented voice that he was too busy; maybe later in the conference. Actually, Ratsch was busy. In spite of his stoner’s demeanor, he was a dervish of activity. As a co-organizer of the conference, he introduced speakers, led panel discussions and served as master of ceremonies during an evening homage to Albert Hofmann.

In a lecture titled “Keys to Other Worlds,” Ratsch informed us that there are an infinite number of keys—pharmacological and non-pharmacological—to the spiritual realm, and each of us must find the key for his or her individual psyche. As Ratsch spoke, he prowled around the stage caressing a “key” that looked suspiciously like a phallus.

Ratsch finally agreed to speak to me on the morning of the meeting’s last day. We sat at a small plastic table in a cafe in conference center’s lobby. Nursing a bottle of Coke, Ratsch seemed hungover, or stoned, or both. His eyes were slits, his voice a croak. Even in this brightly lit, antiseptic setting, he seemed to be peering at me through the smoke of a fire in some primeval jungle.

He expressed amusement with a kind of groan-grunt, keeping his mouth closed as if to minimize the expenditure of energy: “Hmm hmm,” or, if he was slightly more amused, “Hmm hmm hmm.” When truly merry, he laughed through a barely open mouth: “Heh heh heh.”

His demeanor made it clear that he found this interaction—me asking him questions, him responding—absurd. I felt absurd myself, preparing my tape recorder and yellow pad and pen as he drowsily watched me. I nonetheless forged ahead in my plodding, earnest fashion, and Ratsch played his part, too, giving me a view of spirituality that was as nihilistic—anti-Buddhist, anti-Christian, anti-religious—as any I had encountered yet.

He was born in 1957 in a Bohemian community in Hamburg, Germany, where he still lived. His father was an opera singer, his mother a ballet dancer. He started learning about shamanism and sacred plants at 10 and had his first drug experience at 12. He earned a doctorate in Native American cultures, and he spent three years living with a tribe in southern Mexico, investigating shamanism first-hand. He is an independent scholar, who supports himself primarily by writing and by organizing conferences such as this one. Universities “don’t pay enough, and there’s too much censorship,” he explained. “I call the universities the graveyards of science. Hmm hmm.”

When I mentioned that another scientist described him as a modern, westernized shaman, Ratsch shook his head. “I am just a researcher, nothing else,” he replied. “To be a shaman means to be called by the Gods and heal people
and help people, and that’s not my way. I’m here to translate the shamans’ work into our culture, to understand them better and maybe to protect them.”

Does he believe, I started to ask—but Ratsch cut me off.

“There is no belief involved,” he said, spitting out “belief” like an expletive. “It’s pure experience, nothing else. Belief is the forerunner of faith, and that’s religion.” He waggled his head, looking at me, then grunted approvingly: “Hmm.”

What about the claim that shamans have supernatural powers that allow them to harm and heal others? I persisted. Does Ratsch believe this? He laughed out loud. “If you start getting into shamanism,” he assured me, his eyes narrowing, “then you better believe the unbelievable and expect the unexpectable.”

What about the ghosts and spirits that shamans and others supposedly see during ayahuasca trips? I asked. Are those just in your head, or are they out there? “It’s outside. If it’s in here,” Ratsch said, pointing to his own pitch-black pate, “we’re sick.” He added that visions are truth, but “believing in ghosts is maybe not the truth.”

Ratsch distinguished between shamanic experiences and those induced by meditation.

“Meditation is the way inside,” he explained, “and shamanic traveling is to go outside.”

Ratsch has little respect for meditative paths such as Buddhism.

“I don’t think of Buddhism as a spiritual path. It’s a religion,” he said. “It’s based on very strange, paradoxical ideas. For example this notion: ‘Don’t kill.’ But then they eat meat.” The Dalai Lama “loves meat.”

Surprised, I said that I had assumed the Dalai Lama was a vegetarian.

“No. Hitler was a vegetarian.”

Ratsch also objected to Buddhism’s encouragement of monasticism and celibacy. The Dalai Lama and other Buddhists monks are “incomplete,” Ratsch said, because they deny their sexuality. “You get crazy and weird if you don’t have a partner.” Ratsch assured me that he has “a lot of sex.” (I could hardly doubt him. Although Ratsch’s wife, the anthropologist Claudia Muller-Ebeling, was at the conference, one or more young women always seemed to be orbiting around him.)

Ratsch believes in enlightenment, which he defines as “a state of complete understanding,” “total loss of ego structures,” and “just being one with everything.” The spiritual path “starts with the enlightenment, and then you can try to get this integrated into your life. It’s not the other way around.” Ratsch abhors so-called spiritual leaders who claim that enlightenment can only be achieved through decades of meditation and other spiritual practices.

“That’s such a bad lie, and an exploitation of needs,” he snarled. His cool irony had vanished; he was momentarily vehement, passionate. Then he paused, regaining his composure, his lizard-like, Mona Lisa smile. “This is my point of view.”

Enlightenment “has nothing to do with all these spiritual teachings.” It merely requires “the right molecule to hit your brain.” Enlightenment is an intrinsically transient state, like an orgasm; in fact, some Amazonian societies use their term for orgasm to describe mystical states. “You are not in a permanent state of orgasm,” Ratsch said. “It’s one peak, and then you have to recharge your batteries.”

Orgasms loom large in Ratsch’s worldview.

“We are like almost crystallized orgasms from our parents,” he said. “Hopefully, my parents had the greatest orgasm when I was conceived. Heh heh heh.”

Asked about his drug preferences, Ratsch replied that ayahuasca “is the best shamanic medicine ever discovered. And I like it—definitely not as a recreational drug. I love recreational drugs, of course.”

Ratsch enjoyed taking small doses of LSD when going to a party or the opera.

“Richard Wagner is the greatest on acid,” he said. Twilight of the Gods is “the greatest piece of art ever written, the most shamanic and mystical play ever. From Ring of the Nibulungs you can learn everything.”

Have his psychedelic experiences convinced him that there is life after death?

“I don’t know.” Ratsch shrugged. “I have a certain vision I got on a DMT trip, and it will be the most beautiful…” He smiled dreamily.

Can he be sure this will happen?

“How can I?” he replied with a snort of incredulity.

Well, I said, some Buddhists and Christians have very specific beliefs about life after death.

“That’s their problem. Hmm hmm.”

When I told Ratsch that a psychedelic trip years ago had left me with a sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with reality, or even God, he nodded.

“I have seen many people tripping. And it happens from time to time that they think everything went wrong, or they did something wrong. Because of them, they destroyed the universe, and stuff like that. That’s”—he waited a beat—”not healthy. Hmm hmm.”

I laughed too, and asked him if he had ever had such a trip. No, he had never had a bad trip. “I don’t know what that is.”

You’re very fortunate, I said.

“Yes! Definitely. Very fortunate.”

I asked him if he had any thoughts on why life is so filled with suffering.

“The universe is about life and death, and both belong to each other. It’s two poles of the same thing. And every minute we kill to live.” Buddhism attempts to deny this basic fact, or suggests that it can be altered. “That’s why Buddhism is based on a lie.”

I asked what he thought of Terence McKenna’s time-wave theory and his prediction that the apocalypse could occur in 2012. “Complete bullshit. Hmm hmm.”

Ratsch had once asked McKenna if he really believed the time-wave theory, and McKenna had answered, No, not really.

“But that is because we are good friends,” Ratsch said. “He wouldn’t admit that in the public.”

Ratsch said he has much more to learn from drugs about “the shamanic world, and the use of plants, the meaning of nature.” This search for meaning is endless, he emphasized. “If the search for knowledge stops, then you’re basically” — he paused — “dead, as a living, exploring being.” The universe “produces people like us to learn about itself.” This self-exploring process “goes on and on and on. And nobody knows where it goes and what happens. And I think that’s part of enlightenment, to understand that there is no aim.”

A waitress clearing a table beside us knocked a bottle onto the floor. Ratsch watched bemused as the bottle ponderously rumbled toward us and clanked against the base of our table.

Certain rare mortals are so cool that they seem transhuman. They appear immune to embarrassment, angst, guilt–all the negative emotions that wrack us ordinary mortals. Christian Ratsch has this quality. I believed him when he told me that he had never had a bad trip. I used to envy those who had attained transcendent coolness, but now I wonder whether it represents a deficit of feeling, of empathy. I prefer sages with hearts, like Huston Smith.

I found Ratsch’s sorcerer schtick entertaining, though. Moreover, as I went over his views of mysticism and enlightenment, I realized that they are not as outrageous as they sounded to me at first. His comparison of enlightenment to orgasm echoes the hypothesis of the brain-scientists Andrew Newberg and Eugene DAquili that our mystical capacity evolved out of our orgasmic capacity. Ratsch’s rejection of monasticism reflects that of Kabalists, who believed that only happily married men are stable enough to follow the mystical path.

Like the skeptical mystic Susan Blackmore, he does not believe in ghosts or life after death. He rejects the notion of enlightenment as a state of final knowledge, contending that if the search for knowledge ends, life ends. The point of visionary experiences is the experiences themselves, Ratsch suggests, not the knowledge or beliefs that might be gleaned from them. In the same way, the aim of life is to understand that there is no aim.

Actually, Ratsch qualified that principle somewhat at the end of our conversation. After he yawned pointedly, I said I had just one more question: What is the secret of life?

“Get high. Heh heh heh.”


06 JANUARY 2003

Mysticism: Dispatches from the Border Between Science and Spirituality

by John Horgan

List Price:  

Hardcover: 288 pages ; Dimensions
(in inches): 1.01 x 9.46 x 6.32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Co; ISBN: 0618060278 ; (April 1, 2002)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science author Horgan (The
End of Science) tackles modern metaphysics from a critical perspective
in this entertaining New Age travelogue, combining interviews with leading
spiritual scholars like Huston Smith and Ken Wilber with visits to research
centers where scientists study people’s brainwaves while they meditate.
Instead of accepting or rejecting the experts outright, Horgan assumes
they might have something useful to tell us about spirituality, then respectfully
challenges them to determine what that message might be. In some cases,
has to put in extra effort to find something he can criticize, but his
willingness to share his doubts and attractions with readers gives the
book a refreshingly personal feel. Extending the candor, he applies the
same rigorous interrogation to himself, sharing how his own spiritual views
have been shaped by, among other things, experiences with psychedelic drugs
as a young adult and a recent group experimentation with the South American
hallucinogenic plant ayahuasca. (You’d be hard pressed to find many other
science books with a sentence like “As Stan murmured reassuringly, his
eyeballs exploded from their sockets, trailed by crimson streamers.”) Here
and there, the book drops tantalizing hints of a gnostic universe created
by a neurotic God terrified of being alone, but it never fully loses the
rationalist framework Horgan uses to avoid succumbing to spirituality’s
alluring excesses. The result is a title with crossover appeal: believers
can point to Horgan’s willingness to grapple seriously with their tenets,
while skeptics can find ample support for the argument that it’s all in
our heads.

Book Description

How do trances, visions,
prayer, satori, and other mystical manifestations „work‰? What are their
neurological mechanisms and psychological implications? John Horgan investigates
a wide range of fields ˜ chemistry, physics, psychology, radiology, theology,
and more ˜ to narrow the gap between reason and enlightenment. As both
a seeker and an award-winning journalist, Horgan is uniquely positioned
to profile researchers and their work. To find the ends of enlightenment,
he communes with a number of experts, including the theologian Huston Smith,
spiritual heir to Joseph Campbell; Andrew Newberg, the scientist whose
quest for the brain‚s „God module‰ put him on the cover of Newsweek; Ken
Wilber, the doyen of transpersonal psychology; Alexander Shulgin, the legendary
chemist who has synthesized scores of psychedelic drugs and tested them
on himself; and Susan Blackmore, a Buddhist, psychologist, and parapsychology
debunker who teaches at Oxford. Horgan also explores the strikingly similar
effects of „mystical technologies‰ like sensory deprivation, prayer, fasting,
trance, dancing, meditation, and drug trips. He tells of participating
in experiments that seek the neurological underpinnings of mystical experiences.
And, finally, he recounts his own tortuous search for enlightenment ˜ adventurous,
poignant, and sometimes surprisingly comic. Horgan‚s conclusions resonate
with the controversial climax of The End of Science because, as he argues,
the most enlightened mystics and the most enlightened scientists end up
in the same place ˜ confronting the imponderable depth of the universe.



Mummers strut into controversy

Cardinal complains of ‘mean-spirited

Saturday, January 4, 2003
Posted: 11:36 AM EST (1636 GMT)

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua,
left: “This group plans to do an insensitive and tasteless skit.”

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania
(AP) — Philadelphia’s New Year’s tradition has generated a storm of controversy
this year, even while being postponed until Saturday.

    The parade
got underway at about 10 a.m. EST, moving out the 102nd edition of the
parade that includes group entries in several categories — the Comic Division,
Fancy Division and Strutters.

archbishop of Philadelphia has said that a satirical sketch mocking sexually
abusive priests to be performed at the annual Mummers Parade is an “attack
on the Catholic faith.”

sketch, put on by the Slick Duck Comic Brigade, was expected to show priests
being chased by police and nuns in a go-go cage.

Anthony Bevilacqua, in a one-page statement, called on Catholics to “express
their displeasure” with the skit set for Saturday, the rain date chosen
for the annual New Year’s Day event.

group plans to do an insensitive and tasteless skit which can only be extremely
painful for any victim who has experienced any type of abuse. I am horrified
that any person or group can be so callous,” Bevilacqua said.

    “At the
same time, I express outrage over the demeaning caricature of our Holy
Father, bishops, priests and religious women. While such mean-spirited
mockery may be protected as free speech, it is still hateful speech and
as such has no place in a city parade.”

    The Slick
Ducks have so far refused to back down.

    The Mummers,
a loosely organized collection of neighborhood comic acts and musical groups
known for outlandish costumes and stylized struts through the city, have
made tasteless humor and mockery of powerful figures part of their acts
for decades.

Mayor John F. Street
said Friday that he thought the skit was offensive,
but that there wasn’t much he could do to stop it.

am personally offended by this and regret that under the Constitution I
am limited by what I am able to do about it,”
Street said in a statement.
“I encourage the brigade to rethink the theme for its performance and not
focus on an episode that is so painful for many Americans.”

organizers have said they don’t intend to censor the Slick Duck’s sketch.

is the whole point of the comics. It is political satire,” said Eddie Hall,
a Mummer and longtime comic who supervises the parade division that includes
the Slick Ducks. “This is a group of people who are really ticked off about
the scandal, and they want to make that known.”

Duck captain George Hirsch Jr. did not immediately return a telephone call
from The Associated Press Friday evening.

    The television
station broadcasting live coverage of the parade, WPHL-TV, said prior to
Bevilacqua’s protest that it would cut away to commercials when the Slick
Ducks perform the skit.