The Man Who Turned on the World
7. The New Heresy
Six accused in Chelsea drugs case
'Arrested at a flat in Pont Streets Chelsea, yesterday evening,
an artist, writer, physician, company director and an art dealer
and his wife were each remanded on £100 bail until March
18 at Marlborough Street today.
All were charged with unauthorised possession of cannabis sativa
(Indian Hemp). They are:
Joseph Chase Hunt Mellen, 25, writer; John Laurence Doyle, 29,
art director; and Mrs Monica Doyle, 23, all of Pont Street; Sheldon
Cholst, 41, American physician and author of Pembridge Square,
Bayswater; Mark Anthony Warman, 21, company director, of Bywater
Street, Chelsea; and Michael John Hollingshead, 34, artist, and
occupier of the flat, who was also accused of permitting it to
be used for smoking cannabis.'
Being busted is like going bald. By the time you realise it is
happening it is too late to do very much about it. So one tries
to minimise the consequences as best one can, though of course
the damage is already done. Later, perhaps, it may even become
one of those stories that, suitably edited, you tell against yourself
No one was particularly surprised when the police raided my flat.
The place was a centre for all kinds of psychedelic experimentation,
and it was only a matter of time before someone complained or
turned me in. There had been a number of 'incidents' surrounding
the history of this flat, such as a party attended by some eighty
guests who got accidentally turned on via a spiked fruit-and-wine
punch, amongst whom were some police spies masquerading as hippies.
There was also the problem of noise since the speakers were seldom
off, always playing at full volume. Yet despite all this, I observed
the scene with complete indifference; I was in any case unable
or unwilling to do very much about it. It was an oversight I was
to 'learn to regret', as the saying goes. Indeed, yes, it was,
for I had not expected anything quite so serious as it subsequently
all turned out.
I think this was due in part to the fact that Leary himself had
been busted in Laredo, Texas, only a short time before the police
in London got after me. Tim had been passing through Laredo on
his way to Mexico with his daughter, Susan, and his son, Jackie,
and Susan had a small stash of grass hidden in her brassiere,
which the American customs found. Tim did the only thing a parent
could do under such circumstances, he admitted that the grass
was his and that he knew where it had been hidden. The Texan judge
sentenced him to thirty years' imprisonment. And Susan got off.
The American Establishment had got their man.
But this left me in a somewhat difficult situation in London,
for the plan had been that Tim would join me before Easter for
a big Psychedelic Rally, possibly even at the Albert Hall, with
pop musicians, poets and members of the British underground taking
part. I had come on ahead to set it up, and, like a juggler, I
had several things suspended in mid-air at any one time in the
sure knowledge that when Tim came he would be able to act as my
'apologist' and catch them. Now that he was unable to leave America,
l suddenly found everything tumbling about my head. My world had
come crashing down and I was unable or strangely unwilling to
do much about it. I simply let events take their course, that's all.
It was difficult to explain any of this to either the judge or
the jury. The 'politics of ecstasy' was a completely foreign world
to them, and one moreover they seemed to equate with drug-taking
of the very worst kind. l had also violated the law. I was now
liable for a penalty of ten years' imprisonment and a fine of
Yet despite the seriousness of the charges and the fact that I
would almost certainly be found guilty, I treated the whole matter
as an exercise in breathtaking intellectual negligence. It seemed
to me that the whole purpose of the British legal system, with
its roles and rules and rituals, is to convince you that, by its
gravity and seriousness, it knows better than you do. And it was
through this insight that I decided to defend myself rather than
have a barrister do it.
I had also taken some LSD before arriving at court, which enhanced
the unreality of the scene, myself high in the witness box on
a charge of getting high, the judge in his robes and wig, the
jury banked in rows like eggs, a gallery filled with plain and
faceless men, and I saw myself as an actor in a B-movie.
There was one exchange I remember; it was during my cross-examination
of a Detective Sgt. Dalton of the London Flying Squad, who had
arrested me in the first place. The case had begun to drag a little.
The witnessesfor the prosecutionwere uniformly serious in
their evidence. They all made me look like some kind of horrible
pervert who took non-prescription drugs as for themselves it would
be, say, whisky or beer. The scene had become 'heavy'. Now that
Dalton was in the witness-box, I could try to lighten the proceedings
a little, and addressing myself to him, I asked him to tell the
court what he had done when he first entered the bathroom, where
the marijuana had been found.
'I went over to the toilet-bowl,' he replied.
'Very good, you went over to the toilet-bowl,' I said, carefully
lowering my voice so that it was almost a whisper. 'And did you
see anything in there ?'
'Excuse me, but I didn't hear the question.'
I raised my voice slightly: 'Did you see anything when you looked
into the toilet-bowl ?'
'Yes. I saw some leaves of what I believed to be cannabis sativa
floating on the surface of the water.'
'So,' I said, my voice in rising crescendo, 'you saw some grass
floating about in the toilet. Well, isn't that a good place for
it, thenin the toilet-bowl?'
I thought it was a good joke, and inoffensive, but I was told
later that it had probably cost me an extra six months on my sentence.
As it was, I was unprepared for the sentencetwenty-one months
for less than an ounce of hashish and a negligible amount of marijuana.
It seemed altogether too long and I must have just stood in the
dock in utter amazement, for the next thing I knew was being grabbed
on both sides and propelled down the staircase to the cells under
the court, there to await the Black Maria or something, to take
me and the other new prisoners to Wormwood Scrubs.
When my name was finally called, I was brought out and handcuffed
and put in the van. And it was a strange sensation to observe
London through the grillwork and glass, handcuffed, and coming
down off a trip. It also happened that the van actually drove
past my old flat, and I wondered how I would have reacted if a
few weeks earlier someone had said that one day I would be passing
the place under the exact circumstance I described. It was all
Soon enough, however, we reached the Scrubs, a huge mausoleum
of a place that could have been built as a Victorian factory,
with high walls and gothic towers, dustbin-dirty in the way of
railway stations, and rife with the smell of incontinence of urine.
I felt as if I were entering the bowels of the earth. I don't
think that I have ever been quite so depressed as I was for those
first few minutes in prison. My soul turned grey, if such a thing
is possible. I felt drained of all light in this netherworld place
in which it was impossible to imagine how anything had ever been
young or beautiful. My sensibilities simply turned themselves
off in the face of this monstrous universe. I could have been
a stick a stone, a zombie, for here there were none who could
emphathise with my plight.
But after a night's sleep, my heart began to revive, and my curiosity
about my unknown daily routine got the adrenalin working. There
was also the novelty of getting into my new prison clothesa
striped shirt with a black tie, socks about quarter of an inch
thick, a pair of trousers and military-style jacket made of thick
material, and a pair of heavy marching boots. Nothing fitted properly,
of course. Oh, I felt like a walking scarecrow, which was probably
the intention anyway.
I had no sooner got dressed than the landing officer unlocked
the cell and told me to go down and get breakfast. The noise in
the hall and passageways was quite deafening, redolent with the
sound of male voices, hoots of laughter, crashing metal and bells.
It was like living inside a huge alarm-clock, I reflected, as
I made my way down the narrow iron staircase to the main hall.
Prison is one huge sensory deprivation tank, an incredible human
vault that echoes to the least footfall. It is a way of life to
suit a sort of monk.
Breakfast consisted of a plate of watery porridge, a couple of
table-spoon measures of milk, a dry sausage, as much bread and
marge as you could eat, and a mug of tea.
After breakfast, I was told to go back to my cell where I would
be called during the morning to see the Governor who liked to
meet each new charge. He would also allocate my work.
My cell was not very big. The walls had been painted a sickening
pink, the colour of corned beef, and the cell door was a bright
green. Light entered through a barred window recessed some two
feet into the wall. There was a table, a plank hard chair, a bed,
and a metal chamberpot. To look out of the window you had to stand
on the table, and it was possible to discern in the distance beyond
the high prison wall the contours of the city, to look out nostalgically
at all the lightness of heart and foot going past in the park,
never knowing for sure whether you would ever rejoin it. This
is something of what it means to be a prisoner.
The morning passed with monstrous slowness. A prison sentence
is a certain fixed period of enforced idleness. ThingsI was
to learnhave their own momentum of realizability. You can rush
your life on the outside by the scruff of its neck, but in prison
everything happens according to the rules. It is a permanent 'working
to rule', you might say; rushing anything would be like trying
to rush a stalactite. So one needs to be philosophical about the
slowness of it all and develop the necessary mental and physical
yogas to overcome inertia, impatience and boredom. It's not so
strange this world as so different.
Like most new inmates, I suppose, I went through quite a few mental
changes during those first few days. They were appallingly difficult.
My head was ambushed by depression and stagnation, and it seemed
that I was beset with all sorts of cares, existential longings
to be free again, angst. I think that to be locked up without
freedomthat is, without access to loveis something you have
to adapt yourself to, for man cannot live by bread alone. We like
to think it. And of course we should, but we really cannot, you
know. Individual human life needs the closeness of another body,
a warm hand or look, the occasional kiss and merging with another.
The inhuman regimen of prison existences does not allow for spontaneity
with joy, but dictates a certain style of living in a prescribed
manner, always to form, always to rules accepted as facts. It
is indeed an experience of so-called reality. I continue to be
amazed that there are so few suicides, singly or even on mass
scale, a reaction to the tyranny of a system that allows bodies
of men to press on the bodies of men, and usually for so little
reason. But with patience and the passing of time, the mind-body
adapts itself, trying as best it can to keep a little flame of
humanity alight in the dark, womanless silence, and later, even
achieve a simple affirmation of the world. You must or otherwise
you would die. So you live on in the hopefulness that once beyond
these walls your heart will quicken and your tongue renew. I think
prison is really dedicated to the idea that we should think of
ways in which to bring each other down not up, and is thus the
antithesis of the aims of our new 'psychedelic revolution'.
When the Governor finally sent for me, I was taken to the main
administration block, and told to remove my shoes before entering
his office. I saw the reason for this when I went inside. The
Governor sat at a desk about fourteen feet from where I stood.
We were separated by glossy linoleum as smooth and as slippery
as an ice-rick. It seemed that inmates were sometimes in the habit
of reacting violently to the Governor's decisions, and this (almost)
foolproof method protected him from assault. He had of course
nothing to fear in that way from myself.
The Chief Prison Officer gave my number and name to the Governor,
who looked up and asked me if I had ever been to prison before.
'No, but I've worked in a prison.' 'In this country ?' the Governor
'No, in America, at a maximum security prison. I was with a group
of people from Harvard who used to run LSD sessions for some of
the inmatesrevelation followed by reformation, that sort of
'Yes, I see. Now, it seems you were charged with possession of
dangerous drugs. And that is why you are here now. It seems a
pity that someone like yourself who is obviously well-educated
and literate should find consolation in drugs. How is such a thing
Like the New York call-girl from Radcliff who is asked how a nice
girl like her came to be in such an occupation, I replied 'Just
lucky, I guess.'
The Governor also expressed concern about what work to give me.
He finally settled on the steam laundry. And I was told to report
there after lunch.
The chief laundry officer was an amiable sort of man who had been
at the same job for twenty years. He began by showing me around
the laundry. There were huge steam rollers and presses, washers
and dryers, ironing rooms and drying rooms, and about thirty prisoners
variously engaged in keeping the flow of laundry moving at maximum
speed, or so it seemed at the time. He then showed me what I had
to do. My job carried 'a lot of responsibility'; I was on the
reception desk, and I had to check in and check out all the laundry
and to see that what came in also tallied with what went out.
A simple enough job on the face of it. There was one snag, however:
the nurses' laundry. It could happen, if one didn't watch the
articles like a hawk, that brassieres and panties simply 'disappeared'
at some stage on the way through the various laundry processes.
And a number of such articles often found their way back to the
cells. My main job, the officer told me, was to see that this
didn't happen. There was also a complicated system of record keeping,
which was explained to me, but my brain couldn't embrace all the
details and I simply 'tuned out' halfway through the hour-long
laborious explanation by the officer. The result was that by the
end of the third day the laundry was besieged with complaints,
particularly from the nurses' home, which reported nearly a dozen
panties missing and several brassieres. There were also complaints
from the long-term prisoners, for whom clean laundry was one of
the few remaining pleasures, who were understandably impatient
that their bespoke shirts or specially fitted trousers had not
I was transferred to the ironing room and told to iron shirts.
Here again I seemed to get things cocked or somehow not quite
right. And this time the complaints were that shirts were coming
back from the laundry with big burn marks, missing buttons, and
Once more I found myself standing shoeless before the Governor.
I had not been charged with negligence or insubordination, but
the implication was there. I was given a 'second chance' and transferred
to the book bindery, which is considered something of a plum of
a job at Wormwood Scrubs.
The book bindery is run by a civilian, and it is quiet. In appearance
it resembled a Dickensian solicitor's office, with high tables
and chairs and strained faces buried in piles of books. I was
put in the paperback section to be trained in the craft of hard-cover
binding, a job by which none would be particularly impressed but
requiring a certain amount of manual skill, nonetheless. The civilian
supervisor told me in this connection that book-binding required
three things: 'The first is dexterity, the second is dexterity,
and the third is dexterity.'
I was glad to be away from the old steam laundry and was quite
enjoying my new job when another one of those unwritten minor
tragedies occurred. I had left a foot-high stack of books in the
press; the new covers had been glued on and the idea was to let
them dry overnight. This was the culmination of a week's work,
and I was naturally excited to see how the finished products looked
in the morning. The civilian supervisor came over with me to unscrew
the press and see what kind of a job I had made on my first assignment.
He began to turn the handle; and his dismay was equal to my own,
for all the bindings had stuck together with the result that the
books rose as one, in concertina fashion, and then crashed on
to the floor, sending loose pages all over the place. The civilian
supervisor stood for a moment, his mouth wide open, and then said
very, very slowly, and with great pathos: 'Good God! Good God!
Good God!' (I was with him on the first two all right, but he
lost me on the third.)
That was the end of my stay in the book bindery. A complaint was
made to the Governor who immediately despatched me to a foetid
factory building to sew mailbags, the final degradation, no doubt,
for after mailbags there is nowhere further down the work rung
to go, except possibly being a waiter in the Prison Officer's
With the slowness of the Himalayan range, it seemed, my average
uneventful days passed into routinely ordinary weeks. There had
been quite a bit of news about hash and LSD in the daily Press,
mainly about people getting busted, so that by the beginning of
the summer quite a few of my friends were inside with meNick
Douglas, the painter; Hugh Blackwell, the writer; Hugh Lansdowne,
the poet; Pat Ryan, the musician; Robert Fraser, the art gallery
owner; and John Hopkins, one of the editors of the International
Times of whom Christopher Logue wrote in his poem:
'Mistakes like mine occur
Bored with the cosy spiral of my galaxy
I went off limits
And time slammed around me like
The door into a pillar box.'
And there were to be several hundred more 'psychedelic' inmates
in British jails before the year was out.
The Press was having a field-day on the topic. Pot and LSD were
the new twin menaces of our Western kind of society, evils which
had to be stamped out. 'At least 100,000 more Britons will take
psychedelic drugs this year in spite of new provisions in the
Dangerous Drugs Act of 1966,' said one headline, and went on to
say that this figure was the result of twelve-month nationwide
survey conducted by a Dr. Jim Marle, the Atlantic psychiatrist,
at a meeting in Oxford.
In fact this was more likely to happen because of the provisions
in the Dangerous Drugs Act. Restrict anything and immediately
people want it. There must be thousands of readers now buying
grass and LSD who would never have done so but for articles of
this kind; and quite a few I daresay now believe that LSD is compulsory,
like vaccination or fluoridation Besides, total prohibition has
Yet drugs is a subject that can never come under discussion without
so much emotion that rational argument becomes obscured if not
totally banished. The Press, and to some extent publishers as
well, seem to delight in touching people where they are most vulnerableproducing
articles and books which threaten the incredulous and the superstitious.
Whenever one of these articles or books appears in public they
set off a chain of articles or letters, each more heated than
the last. This is possible because the problems concerned with
drugs are not susceptible to single convulsive solutions. It is
as though where questions of morality come in that detachment
quits the scene.
And often the Press would slant a particular piece so that not
even an idiot reader could miss the point. One example comes to
mind, also from this period in the mid-sixties. It is from the
now defunct Daily Sketch. It showed a photograph of Leary,
smart and serious in a suit, deep in conversation with the reporter.
The article was headed 'I'll Turn On Britain, says the leader
of the Drug Church'. And Leary is then quoted as saying: 'I don't
imagine I shall run into as much opposition for my religion in
Britain as I have here in the States. The British are more tolerant
and have a sense of humour.'
The question of drugs inside the prison was also a matter of some
concern, for as the 'psychedelic' inmate population rose, and
as other prisoners became cognizant of the phenomena LSD and hashish,
there was a corresponding increase in their availability. Many
ways were used to get psychedelics in, from felt-tip pens stuffed
with Red Lebanese to bunches of grapes spiked with acid. I myself
had a reasonably steady supply of hashish, and a stash of LSD
which Richard Alpert and Owsley had left during their visit to
the Scrubs. There was very little if anything the prison authorities
could do to stop it.
Naturally, I would often be approached by other prisoners to tell
them something about these drugs, or they simply wanted to score.
And as a general rule, I would share any hashish I might happen
to have, whilst refusing to give them LSD, that is, unless they
were already pretty experienced in using it. There were exceptions,
however, most notable of these being George Blake, the spy then
serving a sentence of forty-three years' imprisonment. He had
served about five years of his sentence when I met him. And it
was not long before we were having long discussions about 'turning
on'; and he said he would like to try it.
We decided to run a session on the Sunday, when the cells in 'D'
Hall are left open all afternoon and one can roam at will about
the landings without supervision. Blake's cell was on the ground
floor, comfortably furnished with a carpet and curtains, a bookcase
stuffed with books and, on the table, a short-wave radio, which
he had somehow acquired in order 'to listen to Arabic language
Nothing much happened for the first hour. But as the session developed,
Blake became quite tense, a nervous strain verging on complete
paranoia, and seemed to believe that I was a Secret Service agent
who had administered him a truth serum. He told me that I'd be
killed within the next twenty-four hours, and made other similar
threats. I felt quite baffled as to what to do, so I did nothing,
merely listened as he went through his flip-out, and tried to
reassure him by means of treating the whole affair as if it were
all somehow something quite ordinary strewn into the everyday,
though secretly I was quite alarmed in case a prison officer happened
to look in and hear what was going on.
He finally settled down, however, and the last couple of hours
were spent in deep thought and quiet reflection concerning his
future existence, and he said he might not be able to stand up
to many more years of incarceration. I suggested they'd probably
let him out on parole in a few years' time, but he doubted this.
He felt that he was in prison as a living warning to others who
might be similarly tempted. But I said that was an old cliché,
and had never worked anyway.
As it happened, Blake escaped only a few weeks after the session,
by scaling the wall one Sunday afternoon by means of a rope-ladder
thrown over by an accomplice, who had been in touch with him via
the short-wave radio in his cell. When I last heard about him,
he was living in Moscow and working for the Cairo Section of the
Russian Foreign Ministry.
I had been at Wormwood Scrubs for about four months when I was
asked about going to an 'open prison' at Leyhill, near the English-Welsh
border. I said I'd prefer the country. And shortly after this
interview, I was transferred to Leyhill Prison.
Leyhill was in some sense a reprieve from the double-dense monotony
of a 'closed' prison like the Scrubs, where no-life and all-life
hang precariously together there. Here in the country one could
not only see the beauty of the natural landscape but also feel
it, and I am eternally grateful to whoever it was who got me there.
Upon arrival, I was taken to the kitchen and given a dinner of
fried eggs, bacon, beans and chips, freshly baked rolls and butter
some cake, and coffee. The Duty Officer told me that there were
some 450 inmates and two night guards, that there were no walls
or fences surrounding the prison, and that anyone was free to
escape at any time.
I was then shown into a dormitory of about fourteen people and
given a bed and bedside locker. Pat Ryan, the musician, occupied
the bed on my right, and Jerry, a singer and lyricist, the one
on my left. They had both been busted for hashish. A couple of
others in the dormitory had also been similarly busted for possession,
and not a few of the ordinary prisoners were starting to smoke.
I was called to meet the Governor the next morning. He was an
amiable, elderly Scot, who managed our meeting very well. He told
me that this was his retirement year, that his wife was dying
of cancer, and that he was a lover of Robert Burns and Ella Wheeler
Wilcox. He suggested that I join both the bridge club and the
debating club, help start a flying club, and apply for a course
in fish ecology at nearby Bristol University, all of which I subsequently
My first job at Leyhill was as a waiter at the Prison Officers'
Training School, which was sited in the former Earl of Ducy's
estate and house, next to the prison. It was a good job as it
meant in effect that one ate civilian food, which made quite a
change from the plain prison fare. And the work was far from boring.
I would wait on about four tables at which would be four trainee
prison officers attending their eight-week induction course. I
was probably the first live prisoner they had ever seen. And it
was interesting to observe their reactions.
My initial approach would never vary. I'd meet them at the table
on their first day, extend my hand to each one, and welcome them
individually. By the end of the second day they all knew why I
was in prison. And by the end of the week, our conversation was
generally about ways to get high. Some of the groups were quite
generous, and would slip me the occasional bottle of wine. Some
let me use their billiard room. Some even said they were looking
forward to meeting me again at some point in my future, when they
would see that I got an easy deal. They were a pleasant crowd,
by and large, mostly respectable working-class, who needed some
kind of job with tenure in order to keep their game going. It
was a job. It gave financial security. It made their respectability
Life at Leyhill had a particular flavour all its own. Physically,
the layout was perfect. There was a huge sports ground with cricket,
rugby, and soccer pitches, running tracks, and places to fly your
kite. The Ducy estate contained an arboretum filled with trees
and bushes from every part of the world, a constant delight to
both mind and eye. There was one tree in particular I was attracted
to. It was Japanese and, I believe, magical, whose flowering one
spring turned me on to the plant kingdom. The exquisite beauty
of this tree was like a window in which you could see the existence
of this Other World. And it was a point of routine for me to spend
most of my lunch time smoking praises for Shankar in the half-lotus
position under the boughs of this holy tree.
One of the highlights of my stay at Leyhill was the production
of a physio-psychedelic musical called Paradise Lost The
True Story, which had been sent to me by Joey Mellen, friend
and former associate from Pont Street, who had decided that the
best way to stay permanently 'high' was by trepanning a hole in
his head the size of the old sixpenny piece. The play was a strange
mixture of Milton and Mellen, with lyrics in praise of trepanation
or 'getting the hole'. I reproduce one of the songs below, called
'The Great Brain Robbery':
THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY
By Joe Mellen
Up stood the apedown came the drag
The beginning of the blues
Can't talk your way out of it adult
Daddy there's a drag on you.
Oh adult the mistakes you make
You ignorant little man
Adult oh the liberties you take
You mistaken little man.
Between your meals you make your deals
And send your sons to war
Talk all you want but don't you know
We've heard it all before.
Adult will you never see
All you want is to agree
The lies you tell to save your face
Constitute your grave disgrace.
You're losing and you think you're gaining
It's just your ego needs maintaining
Adult d'you know what is true ?
The drag is bearing down on you.
What you're trying to regain
Is blood belonging to your brain
Will you know before you're dead
That paradise is in your head ?
You was robbedso you made belief
It's gravitywe've caught the thief
All you prayers won't save your soul
Adult you need a hole.
Another song, called 'Brainbloodvolume', has been set to music
by Julie Felix in her furthest-out number yet.
It was lost and now it's found again
Don't drive it underground again
They call it love and heaven above
Some take it for the hell of it
It's you it's me it's good
It's what the poets have written for
Painters have painted for
Priests have prayed for
Prisons have filled for
Soldiers have killed for
It's what the pipes have been smoked for
Witches have been cloaked for
Headstands have been done for
The whole thing was begun for
It's what the world was made for
The price must be paid for
It was necessary to approach the Governor to obtain permission
to stage it in the prison theatre, perhaps even before an invited
audience of students from Bath and Bristol universities. I decided
to plug the Milton section at the expense of the rest, feeling
that the Governor would be more sympathetic to it than the modern
The Governor was most attentive during my outline of the play,
and wrote a memo to the Prison Chaplain that he should consider
staging it one Sunday in the Church.
Accordingly, I met with the Chaplain, a nice, easygoing man with
a strong sense of Christian vocation, who had been at Leyhill
for four years and had a good understanding of prisoner psychology.
I introduced the matter by suggesting that there is a mystery
in the story of Paradise Lost that lies at the heart of
all our lives. And this is older than that of Oedipus. In the
play there are overtones of the great four stories of the world's
various religions, and specifically of the Hebrew-Christian tradition.
Guilt and Sin are pretty powerful themes of the Christian Church,
and any attempt to understand their place in the world and their
relevance to contemporary man was, I assured him, a matter of
concern to today's criminal. One begins by depicting man as some
kind of "hairless talking ape" who is unable to benefit
from the possibilities of his own existence, who then has a revelation,
in this instance, through piercing a small hole through his skull
to increase the volume of blood to the brain.
The Chaplain looked puzzled. 'But what has Paradise Lost
got to do with making holes in your head ?' he asked.
'Well, the theory is that by increasing the amount of blood to
the brain the surface of the capillariesmillions of themincreases,
which in turn release glucose from the blood into the brain cells.
This is the physiological secret of "getting high".
So the "hairless talking ape" who does not know that
his "fall" (loss of brainbloodvolume) has a purely physiological
cause. Thus he lives out his simple life or death without ever
realising his golden future, truly the parable of fallen man.'
'It sounds all rather godless to me.'
'Well, the modern writer uses myths and metaphors in order to
get his message across. And in the case of this play, he has found
modern counterparts to the story of the Fall in poetry, science,
and music to express an awareness that we all have, however obscurely,
that there are vast capacities in man which he continually fails
to realise. The message of the play is simple. If things are not
right inside yourself, then change them. The evolutionary leap
in being from monkey to man produced a new kind of animal, a creative
animal, an animal with imagination, who could devise ways to regain
the lost paradise of lost brainbloodvolume.'
'But why trepanation ?' the Chaplain persisted.
'Because trepanation offers a solution on a manageable scale.'
'A solution to what ?'
'A solution to the problem of staying "high".'
'But what has staying "high" got to do with putting
on a musical play in my Church?'
'The Governor and I thought that because of the religious themes
'But I find the whole thing utterly "godless", and I
could never allow such a production to be shown. And now that
you have explained it to me, I doubt whether I could allow it
to be performed in the theatre. Prisoners are very suggestible
you know, and we could not risk wholesale trepanations. It is
just what the Daily Express are looking for. I really think,
Hollingshead, that you ought to concentrate instead on more practical
plans for your own future than try to launch a social movement
based on people putting holes in their heads. Have you ever considered
the profession of the church ?'
'I'm sorry you don't like the play. I thought you would. What
we are seeing today is merely the visible aspect of a universal
neurosis, and the Fall myths, in whatever language, illustrate
humanity's unconscious awareness of human suffering, which is
the failure of humanity which Paradise Lost symbolises.
God is simply a creative power which is part of human life in
the Garden. A voice within man tells him that he can and should
regain the lost brainblood of childhoodshould exercise some
degree of control over his own consciousness, in other words,
which is the message of the new developing religions in the West.
The problem facing the established Church is that if man lived
up to his full creative capacities, there would be no religion.'
We decided to go ahead anyway, and started rehearsals. Hugh Landsdowne,
a poet and magician, who had been imprisoned for growing half
an acre of marijuana at his farm in Essex, linked in the I
Ching; and together we made a huge stroboscopic mandala with
an electric motor we pinched from one of the machines in the tailor's
shop. The play was never performed in either the church or the
theatre, due to the misunderstanding as to what the play was actually
about; but it was seen by most of the inmates at some point in
its actual unfolding; and helped keep our minds off more dangerous
I tend to remember perhaps only the positive things about my last
year in prison. Yet in all honesty I cannot rid myself of the
thought that my life there might have been very, very different
indeed. I think all of us carry around in our heads some picture
of how we imagine prison life to be, though doubtless altogether
impossible to identify in reality. Mine was a superstitious mixture
of Gestapo camps and what I had seen in American movies. The reality
is quite different; there is, for instance, very little real fear
of the intentions of the prison authorities, who tend to stick
to a rule book that does not include physical brutality or torture
or idiosyncratic sadism. There is also very little physical violence
going on between inmates, though incidents happen from time to
time, like anywhere else. Man is only human after all. And violence
is part of his human nature.
the experience of prison is a painful one.
It may be no more than an enduring slight headache, but it is
always there, forever encroaching on your private world, an impersonal,
indifferent environment in which you are physically contained;
and all for the greater public good. Prison is a feeling, a subjective
as well as a purely physical thing. It hits directly at your sensations,
but acting more like a dampener than an actual brake. It lowers
by its sense of decay, its corridors of refuse, its wasteland
approach to fallen humanity. No wonder one feels saddened to observe
how as our twentieth century develops so too does the machinery
of incarceration and the illegality of our various legal actions,
who seek to condemn even the children who comprise our future
Prison is some kind of other place in which I would never wish
for anyone to have to live out their simple life or death.
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