Arts & Entertainment

The Psychedelic Officer: The Long Strange Trip of Ernst Jünger

By  ·  Monday, January 9, 2023 Telos

Before Timothy Leary and Baba Ram Dass, before Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady, the Merry Pranksters and their acid test, before the Grateful Dead . . . there was Ernst Jünger, adventurer in mind expansion and psychedelic space.

Jünger stands out in this counterculture company with his thoroughly different background. As a teenager, he ran away from his German home to join the French Foreign Legion. In the First World War he was wounded multiple times and became a highly decorated officer in the Kaiser’s army. He would serve again on the German side in the Second World War—even though he published a famous anti-Hitler novel.

Yet alongside that military career, Jünger spent a lifetime with consciousness-enhancing experiments—hashish, cocaine, and morphine until he worked his way to LSD, psilocybin, and peyote. Jünger invites us to follow him on that mind-blowing path in an autobiography of his life with drugs: Approaches: Drugs and Altered States. This wide-ranging account documents an array of drug experiences, placing them in a richly intellectual context of cultural transformations and the literary history of drug use—Baudelaire, De Quincey, and Huxley—as well as art historical reflections on hallucinatory elements in Van Gogh, cubism, and surrealism. A great intellect meets psychedelics.

Ernst Jünger’s Approaches is now available in English translation from Telos Press Publishing. Purchase your copy in our online store and save 20% by using the coupon code BOOKS20 during checkout.

And here is an example of Jünger on a trip:

I have not yet done justice to LSD—I had said to Albert Hofmann: “It’s a house cat compared to the royal tiger mescaline, at most a leopard.”

That was after our first trip, which we had undertaken long before the drug became known and then discredited. It had shown us velvet paws rather than claws, purred more than roared. The dose had been too weak; I had mistaken a serenade in the lobby for the real concert. So we wanted to repeat the trip, this time with an adequate charge—and ideally before I finalized this manuscript.

It must have been spring because the anemones were already blooming on the meadows of Bottmingen, but winter also cannot have been long gone because Anita Hofmann was off skiing with the kids. The realm was ours: the host, Albert Hofmann; the pharmacologist, Heribert Konzett, who had not yet moved to Innsbruck; and myself, a novice in chemical delicacies and visiting from nearby Binningen.

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