I probably won’t be checking out The Hobbit this weekend, as the reviews are dreadful and I didn’t even care for the bloated Rings trilogy. However, there’s an upcoming release that does attract my interest, a remake of Jack Kerouac’s masterpiece On the Road, a book that launched thousands of teens on vision quests around the world to find their true identities, while searching carefully for any potential sacraments that might aid in that mission.
Today a lot of people complain On the Road is meandering and structureless. They fail to understand the book introduced a new zeitgeist and trumpeted the appearance of an emerging counterculture that had been incubated inside the jazz scene for a century. Kerouac found an edge where Zen met Congo Square, and the two cultures were essentially revealed to have the same foundations. The counterculture actually began in Congo Square in New Orleans and the one element it prizes above all else is unfiltered, improvisational energy. On the Road was the literary equivalent of a wild jazz solo. And just as important, the book introduced tribal and Eastern concepts of spirituality which allowed a new spiritual vocabulary to emerge, one that dealt with vibrations and telepathic energies.
The Beats were inducted at the 12th Cannabis Cup, and Carolyn Cassady, the great love of both Jack and Neal, was the High Priestess. The thing Carolyn most wanted to convey was that everyone was extremely conservative in the 1940s, including the Beats, most of whom had conventional ideas about love and marriage. Jack’s biggest accomplishment, according to Carolyn, was his ability to inject meaning into everyday life and to treat every moment as a sacred experience.
By the way, if you attempted to read On the Road and were turned off because the narrative wasn’t pronounced enough for your taste, I suggest you pick up Big Sur, Kerouac’s greatest masterpiece. You won’t be disappointed.
The 12th Cannabis Cup provided a huge jump in terms of the video I was self-producing on limited budget because that year iMovie was released, giving me an opportunity to really delve into non-linear editing. Check out the short highlight reel I produced that year:
Ever wonder why the media has fallen into the ownership of only a handful of corporations? That’s because the media is the key programming tool used to manage our collective archetypes, having replaced religion in that role since the arrival of television.
There’s a good reason why most Americans distrust hippies, and that’s because the archetype created in the media was intentionally negative. This campaign started even before the hippies arrived, when their immediate predecessors, beatniks, came into public consciousness. The entire beatnik phenomenon was orchestrated in large part by Allen Ginsberg and the Village Voice, in response to the Jack Kerouac/Neal Cassady adoration societies that emerged after the publication of On the Road. That book introduced concepts of Eastern religion while encouraging the ritual use of cannabis and alcohol to achieve enlightenment.
Because of its revolutionary message and popularity, On the Road needed to be co-opted but quick. In television, the beatnik archetype first appeared as the bumbling Maynard G. Krebs, but eventually, Kerouac’s buddy bromace morphed into the politically and spiritually empty Route 66, a show more designed around selling Corvettes than preaching enlightenment.
In analyzing the real seats of international power, one cannot overestimate the role of secret societies to create and forge new archetypes, as well as manage their depictions in the media.
In this regard, J. Edgar Hoover certainly played a key gatekeeper role throughout most of his professional career. When he was 26 years old, Hoover joined the Washington Lodge of the Scottish-Rite Freemasons and his early career was marked by his clever exploitation of a string of terrorist attacks. Without those terror attacks, Hoover would not have been able to armchair himself into control of that American gestapo known as the FBI.
Clint Eastwood’s film on Hoover has just appeared on HBO and I watched the film with great interest. Unfortunately, it is based mostly on Hoover’s own self-serving accounts of his rise to power and fame, and only hints at the deeper corruption.
Although it may seem strange, aside from Freemasonry, Hoover’s other network of influence appeared to be the Catholic Church, which rewarded Hoover for a lifetime of devoted service, even though he was a German protestant by birth. Freemasons were supposed to be opposed to the Catholic Church, but over history some lodges actually wondered if they’d fallen prey to secret Jesuit control. (In today’s world, that role is played by Opus Dei, currently the most powerful secret society inside the Vatican.) And Hoover was not the only key person inside the national security apparatus who enjoyed a close relationship with the Vatican. James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA’s counter-intelligence operations certainly comes to mind in this regard.
Archetypes are often employed to help move populations toward war, which is the primary means of achieving quick profits as well as keeping people following orders. The traumas inflicted by war and terror are key to advancing the mind control matrix, which runs mostly on shock and awe.
Our current war is obviously constructed around a Christian/Jewish versus Muslim confrontation. However, since the Muslim resources are so small in comparison to the Christian/Jewish empires, this necessitates a new form of war based around terror instead of standing armies. It’s all very similar, in fact, to the sort of terror that cleared Hoover’s path to power. At some point in time, people are going to have to consider the possibility that much of the so-called “left-wing” terror that has been perpetrated over the years has actually been false-flag attacks designed to advance right-wing agendas.
Really the Blues by Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe
Can anyone explain why this book never won any awards or even had a film adaptation, considering it’s the greatest work on the origins of the counterculture that gave birth to blues, jazz and rock’n’roll? The answer, of course, is that Mezzrow had the audacity to marry a black woman at a time when it was illegal in most states for whites and blacks to mix. Mezzrow goes into great detail on the use of sacramental substances for enhancing ceremonies (jam sessions), and concludes that marijuana is the best and safest. Mezz was one of the first three inductees into the High Times Counterculture Hall of Fame and his only child (Milton) attended the ceremony and accepted a Cup on his father’s behalf.
Fat City by Leonard Gardner
You may be familiar with the John Huston film of the same name (also scripted by Gardner), but the book is even more powerful. Set at the crossroads of harsh migrant labor versus even harsher boxing realities, this short, tightly-constructed novel is impossible to put down once started. It also takes the reader on a voyage to some of the deeper parts of the human soul. Born in Stockton, CA, (where the book is set) Gardner now lives in Marin and has become something of a recluse. In my opinion, his masterpiece is a far more mature artistic statement than say, the more popular The Catcher in the Rye.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The book that kick-started the hippie movement, a deeply spiritual prose-poem that took the improvisational energy of jazz and transformed it into literature. No one understood the importance of untampered improvisational energy better than Jack and this book also introduced the concept of marijuana as a spiritual tool that could lead one towards enlightenment. A generation hit the road, many traveling to Mexico to find marijuana, after reading this masterpiece, which was actually inspired by a long letter from Neal Cassady. If you can’t appreciate the book’s wild improvisational nature, try Dharma Bums or Big Sur.
It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina
Farina and Bob Dylan were two titans of the early folk scene. They collaborated at first and eventually battled it out for supremacy at one point. But Farina certainly took the crown on fiction. After On the Road, this was probably the most influential book for intelligent teens in the sixties and it really opened some major doors revealing secrets, including the hidden hand of intelligence agents in the worlds of drugs and revolutions, and the dark side of unrestricted behaviors.
Angels by Denis Johnson
It’s ok this was written under the influence of Fat City (I know because Denis told me) because everybody has to be influenced by somebody and you might as well pick the best. This amazing novel, however, goes to even darker dimensions than Gardner’s masterpiece and is truly a walk on the wild side of life where morality becomes distorted almost beyond recognition. Just writing this book may have helped Denis get off junk forever and should serve as a warning to anyone wanting to travel down that road. And yes, I have a signed original edition.
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
And speaking of traveling down that junky road, no one ever put more people on that path than Burroughs, who remains, after all, “The Man,” as Hunter S. Thompson always referred to him. Burroughs was simply the greatest literary stylist and most original thinker of all counterculture literary icons. You probably need to read this book several times during the course of a lifetime just to fully absorb the contents.
Journey to the End of the Night by Celine
In a way, this book got it all started in the first place. Written in 1932, Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Bardamu was the original counterculture hero, dripping with cynicism and black humor. Naturally, it took years for anyone to recognize the genius of this book, and Celine never achieved anything close to the respect he deserved, mostly because of his unfortunate support for the Nazis. Politics, however, were really never an important issue in his work, since he viewed the world as a corrupt place run by idiots.
The Risk of Being Ridiculous by Guy Maynard
Maynard grew up in Urbana, Illinois, a year ahead of me, and was one of the leading figures in the garage-band movement that started around 1966. His book takes place in 1969 and really captures the intensity of the times. I gave it a rave review in High Times and it inspired me to dig up my own archives.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven
Is there a more mysterious figure in the history of counterculture literature than B. Traven, whose history and background have long been in dispute? Most of Traven’s books are set in Mexico and involve the conflicts between the Native population and the Spanish invaders who took over their lands. This book exposes the darkness of human greed better than any book in history. The film was great, but the book is even better.
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
I promised to keep this list to ten, so I have to sign off on this one, even though there are lots of little-known masterpieces left to discuss. This book revealed many secrets from the intelligence community regarding brainwashing, only instead of ascribing the nasty business to our own CIA’s MK/ULTRA program, it placed all the blame on the North Koreans, Chinese and Russians. The world will never be the same after you read this book and you’ll suddenly know why F. Scott Fitzgerald said the rich were nothing like the rest of us.
Special shout-outs to: The Ginger Man by J.P. Dunleavy, The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis, and Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone.