Drugs get all the credit for psychedelic culture but motion pictures have always probed those possibilities. As far back as the 1929 silent classic “Man With A Movie Camera,” pioneer filmmakers undertook experiments to alter perceptions. They ingeniously employed superimposition, speeding up or slowing down, bending, blending, splintering, splicing; wielding light and shadow to peck away surface appearance and reveal essence. The current reach toward perfecting 3D and digital FX are the continuation of that tradition.
Before film came along altered states were cataloged by anthropologists, but early hallucinogenic accounts turn up everywhere from the Book of Revelation to the Rig Veda. Who can say which visions were drug influenced and which were not? The “Tibetan Book of the Dead” catalogs elevator stops, or “bardo’s,” of a soul’s journey back to reincarnation after death without mention of drugs. Timothy Leary re-published the same text as a tripping manual.
Drug experimentation became a fad in the 1960’s. Hallucinogens inoculate culture with what medicine societies and shaman of many traditions have known for millennia. Plant medicines provided an alternative perspective, a glimpse outside the box. Sound familiar? The digital revolution carries this potential now.
These days “outside the box” is a commonplace term for innovative thinking and drugs are by no means the only way to achieve it. Movie makers keep on paving the way in popular culture. Whether or not you ever ingested hallucinogens, we all experience them through their influence in music, movies, fashion, advertising, games and so on. For half a century now, psychedelic culture has branched upward into mass consciousness.
The digital revolution, it was said by drug guru Timothy Leary shortly before his death, is the new LSD. It allows for an increase of information to pass between ourselves and the larger living, breathing organism of which we are all part. Psychedelics work to inhibit the brain filter that prevents overload. Take that filter off and senses, emotions, memories expand, awareness roots and blooms. With psychedelics then, and cyberspace now, heaven and hell are states of mind.