The Gospel According to Andy, Leaf, Roger and Bill
When I had the mushroom-inspired vision of The Cult of the Novel way back in 1979 – written about at the finale of The Mad Artist – I knew that although it was highly organised it was also fanciful and solipsistic and I could only hope that somehow it would filter into the outside world and connect with like-minded individuals. It didn’t much at the time and history was against me, with hippydom and psychedelia on the wane and Thatcherite values about to engulf most everything. Cut to thirty-plus years later and people are talking about a psychedelic renaissance, with the old and new coming together and the golden era of 1960s-’70s psychedelia being re-evaluated.
I’ve often asked myself why it took so long for me to finally formulate and write The Mad Artist, and perhaps it was because I wasn’t ready before or perhaps the world wasn’t ready. When I did publish it in 2010, I looked around for similar contemporary books and couldn’t find any; though Albion Dreaming by Andy Roberts, a history of LSD use in Britain, was on a most similar wavelength. Then shortly afterwards along came Bill Booker, whose Trippers, a personal memoir of LSD and the ’70s scene, is very like The Mad Artist and also had a long gestation period. And then Leaf Fielding leaped into the frame with his To Live Outside the Law, a much more wide-reaching and influential memoir about the same zeitgeist, with the added spice of the inside story of the Operation Julie bust.
The four of us liaised and chatted extensively about our shared literary involvement, and it was Bill’s idea to form the Facebook page The Semi-Secret Fellowship of Freaks, named after the original fellowship in Trippers. We were joined by Rob Dickins, a Freak of a newer generation, not even born in 1979, but very much tuned to the same vibes, as demonstrated by his site PsypressUK and subsequently his recently published novella Erin. The page provided one of several focuses for interaction, discussion and more speculation about this psychedelic renaissance we are undergoing. Something of a ‘novel cult’ was getting together.
Enter Steve Sproates, an artist with an interest in three dimensional geometric ideas, who ‘liked’ the page – very much so! Most diligently, Steve went on to read all four of our books and, in a similar fashion to which he might create a work of art, he gave us his assessment of the synergy of our writing and what it means to him. Steve’s ideas strongly resonated with my original Cult of the Novel vision, and with his permission I quote them in full here, complimented by some of Steve’s artworks. What else can I say except nice!
Thanks, dear authors for writing the four cracking books which I have just finished reading – Albion Dreaming, Trippers, The Mad Artist and To Live Outside the Law. Taking a cue from Roger’s The Mad Artist and possessing documents bestowed by the establishment that certify me as an artist, I thought, in the spirit of the ‘mad artist’ and with the endorsement of the aforementioned artistic license, that I would proffer the following ideas and observations – somewhat tongue in cheek and off the wall, I also have to say.
The artwork posted here and accompanying these ideas is the completed and mounted one I posted previously, now duly named. ‘A Gift from the Spirit of the Psychedelic State’, which I do believe it to be – but that’s too long a story to be told here – if indeed anyone would want to hear it or I could even put it into words! The montage shows three views to give an indication of its 3 dimensionality.
The ideas and thoughts that sprang from reading the books are these: Here we have four books covering the relatively early days of LSD in Britain. Albion gives an inspired history and sets the scene for the rest. Trippers gives an individual’s glorious account – a representative instance of LSD’s effect on those who were around at the time and happened to partake. The Mad Artist is another individual’s account, laced with both courage and recklessness but with the extra dimension of the quest for enlightenment. It gives an illustration of those who looked upon LSD as a vehicle for the development of an expanded, higher consciousness. To Live Outside the Law, yet another example of an individual’s illumination by LSD, also revealed yet more courage, coupled with a ‘calling’ connected to bringing the insights that LSD facilitated, to as many as wanted to experience them. It also gave witness to an example of the barbaric establishment response to this act. These four books are a testimonial to the profound and illuminating insights LSD catalysed.
Now here’s the mad, freaky bit. It is widely believed that around 2000 years ago something similar to the LSD love explosion happened. A man, born to a virgin, brought a new vision to the people of his time. This vision was about unconditional love, oneness with the creator, the oneness of humanity and the interconnection of all of life, which the establishment barbarically suppressed. There has been informed speculation that this 2000-year-old event may have been an allegory and that these happenings, which later became abased into teachings and rituals, were based around a psychedelic mushroom cult. The main events of the happening 2000 years ago were recorded in four contemporaneous books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Subsequently, in the collection of writings about that happening and its repercussions, a ‘second coming’ was prophesied.
Motion takes place in curves, waves and spirals both clockwise and anticlockwise. Perhaps in these times we have a new echo, a cycle ‘above’ those times 2000 years ago? Again there is a sacred child, born in a sort virgin birth, but from a man this time; Hoffman’s ‘problem child’ – a mirror image of the feminine aspect – the psychedelic mushroom was born from virgin mother earth in those previous times. This present ‘child’ reveals much the same as is reported to have been revealed 2000 years ago. We also have here the Gospels of Andy, Bill, Roger and Leaf in what could be termed the ‘Newest Testament’, witnessing this metaphorical ‘second coming’ and the waves of similarities go on…
Conscious of these thoughts, my heart and inner depths glow with the shining memory of those high and heady days of ecstatic insights, the communion with fellow freaks and the recognition of being a leaf on the tree of all of existence. May the renaissance of that bright and joyful vision emerge anew in this world, in an Indian summer of love, ere the autumn finally comes for the leaves that sprouted in the spring of love!
– Steve Sproates