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The Hasheesh Eater

The Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean

Fitz Hugh Ludlow
Edited and with an Introduction by Stephen Rachman
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj3qf
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  • Book Info
    The Hasheesh Eater
    Book Description:

    Fitz-Hugh Ludlow was a recent graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York, when he vividly recorded his hasheesh-induced visions, experiences, adventures, and insights. During the mid-nineteenth century, the drug was a legal remedy for lockjaw and Ludlow had a friend at school from whom he received a ready supply. He consumed such large quantities at each sitting that his hallucinations have been likened to those experienced by opium addicts. Throughout the book, Ludlow colorfully describes his psychedelic journey that led to extended reflections on religion, philosophy, medicine, and culture. First published in 1857,The Hasheesh Eaterwas the first full-length American example of drug literature. Yet despite the scandal that surrounded it, the book quickly became a huge success. Since then, it has become a cult classic, first among Beat writers in the 1950s and 1960s, and later with San Francisco Bay area hippies in the 1970s.In this first scholarly edition, editor Stephen Rachman positions Ludlow's enduring work as not just a chronicle of drug use but also as a window into the budding American bohemian literary scene. A lucid introduction explores the breadth of Ludlow's classical learning as well as his involvement with the nineteenth-century subculture that included fellow revelers such as Walt Whitman and the pianist Louis Gottshalk. With helpful annotations guiding readers through the text's richly allusive qualities and abundance of references, this edition is ideal for classroom use as well as for general readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4114-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxxvi)

    Fitz Hugh Ludlow (1836–70) was twenty-one years old whenThe Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagoreanbecamethescandalous success of 1857–58. He had graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1856. He had tried his hand at teaching literature at Watertown Academy in upstate New York, found the workload overwhelming and uncongenial, and was living at home with his stepmother and sister in the house of his father, the Reverend Henry Gilbert Ludlow (1797–1867) of Poughkeepsie. Fitz Ludlow had been using hasheesh¹ for three or four years, but in late...

  5. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. xxxvii-xxxviii)
  6. A Note on the Text
    (pp. xxxix-xl)
  7. The Hasheesh Eater

    • CONTENTS
      (pp. 5-6)
    • PREFACE
      (pp. 7-10)
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 11-14)

      The singular energy and scope of imagination which characterize all Oriental tales, and especially that great typical representative of the species, the Arabian Nights,¹ were my ceaseless marvel from earliest childhood. The book of Arabian and Turkish story has very few thoughtful readers among the nations of the West, who can rest contented with admiring its bold flights into unknown regions of imagery, and close the mystic pages that have enchanted them without an inquiry as to the influences which have turned the human mind into such rare channels of thought. Sooner or later comes the question of the producing...

    • I. THE NIGHT ENTRANCE
      (pp. 15-24)

      About the shop of my friend Anderson the apothecary¹ there always existed a peculiar fascination, which early marked it out as my favorite lounging-place. In the very atmosphere of the establishment, loaded as it was with a composite smell of all things curative and preventive, there was an aromatic invitation to scientific musing, which could not have met with a readier acceptance had it spoken in the breath of frankincense. The very gallipots grew gradually to possess a charm for me as they sat calmly ranged upon their oaken shelves, looking like a convention of unostentatious philanthropists, whose silent bosoms...

    • II. UNDER THE SHADOW OF ESCULAPIUS
      (pp. 25-28)

      On reaching the porch of the physician’s house, I rang the bell, but immediately forgot whom to ask for. No wonder; I was on the steps of a palace in Milan—no (and I laughed at myself for the blunder), I was on the staircase of the Tower of London. So I should not be puzzled through my ignorance of Italian. But whom to ask for? This question recalled me to the real bearings of the place, but did not suggest its requisite answer. Whom shall I ask for? I began setting the most cunning traps of hypothesis to catch...

    • III. THE KINGDOM OF THE DREAM
      (pp. 29-35)

      The moment that I closed my eyes a vision of celestial glory burst upon me. I stood on the silver strand of a translucent, boundless lake, across whose bosom I seemed to have been just transported. A short way up the beach, a temple, modeled like the Parthenon, lifted its spotless and gleaming columns of alabaster sublimely into a rosy air—like the Parthenon, yet as much excelling it as the godlike ideal of architecture must transcend that ideal realized by man. Unblemished in its purity of whiteness, faultless in the unbroken symmetry of every line and angle, its pediment...

    • IV. CASHMERE AND CATHAY BY TWILIGHT
      (pp. 36-47)

      You will never take it again, will you?”

      “Oh no, I never expect to; I am satisfied with my one successful experiment.”

      It was the fair lady of the crochet-needle who asked me the question as, a few days after my first practical acquaintance with hasheesh, I gave her the recital contained in the preceding pages. In my answer I spoke truly; I did suppose that I never should repeat my experiment. The glimpse which I had gained in that single night of revelation of hitherto unconceived modes and uncharted fields of spiritual being seemed enough to store the treasure-house...

    • V. THE HOUR AND THE POWER OF DARKNESS
      (pp. 48-58)

      It may perhaps be not altogether a fanciful classification to divide every man’s life into two periods, the locomotive and the static. Restless fluidity always characterizes the childish mind in its healthy state, exemplifying itself in the thousand wayward freaks, hairbreadth experiments, and unanswerable questions which keep the elder portions of a family in continual oscillation between mirth and terror. There is not always a thorough solidification of the mental nature, even when the great boy has learned what to do with his hands, and how to occupy his station at maturer tea-parties with becoming dignity and resignation. No longer,...

    • VI. THE MYSTERIES OF THE LIFE-SIGN GEMINI
      (pp. 59-65)

      In this vision the conception of our human duality was presented to me in a manner more striking than ever before. Hitherto it had been more a suggestion than a proof; now it appeared in the light of an intuition. A wonderful field of questions is opened by such an experience, and I am constrained to sketch a few of them as they have occurred to myself.

      1st. Are the animal and spiritual conjoint parts of the same life, or two different lives which intensely interact, yet are not altogether dependent upon each other for their continuance?

      That the soul...

    • VII. THE NIGHT OF APOTHEOSIS
      (pp. 66-77)

      It may be thought strange that, after that experience of infinite agony which I have last related, I should ever take hasheesh again. “Surely,” it will be said, “another experiment with the drug would be a daring venture into the realms of insanity and death. The gentlest name that could be applied to it is foolhardiness.”

      The morning immediately succeeding my night of horror found me as vigorous and buoyant as I ever was in my life. No pain, no feeling of lassitude remained, and on my face there was not the faintest record of the tortures through which I...

    • VIII. VOS NON VOBIS—WHEREIN THE PYTHAGOREAN IS A BY-STANDER
      (pp. 78-93)

      The judgment that must be passed upon the hasheesh life in retrospect is widely different from the one which I formed during its progress. Now the drug, with all its revelation of interior mysteries, its glimpses of supernatural beauty and sublimity, appears as the very witch-plant of hell, the weed of madness. At the time of its daily use, I forgave it for all its pangs, for its cruel exercise of authority, its resistless fascination, and its usurpation of the place of all other excitement, at the intercession of the divine forms which it created for my soul, and which,...

    • IX. THE SHADOW OF BACCHUS, THE SHADOW OF THANATOS, AND THE SHADOW OF SHAME
      (pp. 94-100)

      Once more at the table I was seized by the hand of the hasheesh genie. Dinner was nearly over, and I escaped into the street without being suspected.

      Street did I say? Ah no! That conventional synonym of all dust, heat, and garbage is unheard upon the sunny slopes of Mount Bermius, where I wandered Bacchus-smitten among the Mænades. Through the viny shades that embowered our dance of rapture, Haliacmon threw the gleam of his sky-bright waters, and the noon rays, sifted through leaves and clusters, fell on us softened like gold into the lap of Danae.² Grapes above us,...

    • X. NIMIUM—THE AMREETA CUP OF UNVEILING
      (pp. 101-111)

      It was shortly after the last vision which has been related that I first experienced those sufferings which are generated by a dose of hasheesh taken to prolong the effects of a preceding one.

      Through half a day I had lain quietly under the influence of the weed, possessed by no hallucination, yet delighted with a flow of pleasant images, which passed by under my closed eyelids. Unimaginable houris intoxicated the sense with airy ballet-dances of a divine gracefulness, rose-wreathed upon a stage of roses, and flooded with the blush of a rosy atmosphere. Through grand avenues of overarching elms...

    • XI. THE BOOK OF SYMBOLS
      (pp. 112-116)

      Of all experiences in the hasheesh state, my indoctrination into spiritual facts through means of symbols was the most wonderful to myself. In other visions I have reveled in more delicious beauty, and suffered horrors even more terrible; but in this I was lifted entirely out of the world of hitherto conceivable being, and invested with the power of beholding forms and modes of existence which, on earth, are impossible to be expressed, for the reason that no material emblems exist which even faintly foreshadow them.

      Among men we communicate entirely by symbols. Upon any thought which has not its...

    • XII. TO-DAY, ZEUS; TO-MORROW, PROMETHEUS
      (pp. 117-122)

      At what precise time in my experience I began to doubt the drug being, with me, so much a mere experiment as a fascinating indulgence, I do not now recollect. It may be that the fact of its ascendeneygraduallydawned upon me; but, at any rate, whenever the suspicion became definite, I dismissed it by so varying the manner of the enjoyment as to persuade myself that it was experimental still.

      I had walked, talked, and dreamed under the hasheesh influence;

      I would now listen to music and see acting, that, under such circumstances, I might note the varying...

    • XIII. EIDOLA THEATRI AND THE PRINCE OF WHALES
      (pp. 123-133)

      Waiting until the next day at evening, I took a moderate bolus, say twenty-five grains, and repaired to the theatre.

      In the action of the pieces which were performed I lived as really as I had ever lived in the world. With the fortunes of a certain adventurer in one of the plays my mind so thoroughly associated me that, when he was led to the block and the headsman stood over him, I nerved myself for the final stroke, and waited to feel the steel crash through my own neck. He was reprieved, and, in his redemption, it was...

    • XIV. HAIL! PYTHAGORAS
      (pp. 134-142)

      The hemisphere of sky which walls us in is something more than a mere product of the laws of sight. It is our shield from unbearable visions. Within our little domain of view, girt by the horizon and arched by the dome of heaven, there is enough of sorrow, enough of danger, yes, enough of beauty and mirth visible to occupy the soul abundantly in any one single beholding. That lesser and unseen hemisphere which bounds our hearing is also amply large, for within it echo enough of music and lamentation to fill all susceptibility to the utmost. In this...

    • XV. ʺTHEN SEEVA OPENED ON THE ACCURSED ONE HIS EYE OF ANGERʺ
      (pp. 143-153)

      In the agonies of hasheesh, which now became more and more frequent, a new element began to develop itself toward a terrible symmetry, which afterward made it effective for the direst spiritual evil. This was the appearance of Deity upon the stage of my visionary life, now sublimely grand in very person, and now through the intermediation of some messenger or sign, yet always menacing, wrathful, or avenging, in whatever form or manner the visitation might be made. The myriad voices which, earlier in my enchanted life, I had heard from Nature through all her mysterious passages of communication, now...

    • XVI. AN OATH IN THE FORUM OF MADNESS
      (pp. 154-160)

      Having been threatened many times with an utter isolation from human kind, it now became my practice, the moment that I began to feel the hasheesh change come over me, to run for sympathy to some congenial friend, and thus assure myself that the sentence had not yet been carried out. I entered his room. I told him of my state; and, before increasing delirium had any power to pervert my thoughts, pledged him to care for me, never to leave me, always to interest himself in my welfare to the end. Frequently this step prevented any under-current of horror...

    • XVII. DOWN WITH THE TIDE
      (pp. 161-167)

      For days after the last-mentioned suffering I adhered sacredly to my vow. Fortified by the sympathy of my friends, nerved by the images of a fearful memory, staying myself on the Divine, I battled against the fascinations of the drug successfully. At last there came a time when nothing but superhuman endurance could withstand and conquer.

      As I have frequently said, I felt no depression of body. The flames of my vision had not withered a single corporeal tissue nor snapped a single corporeal cord. All the pains induced by the total abandonment of hasheesh were spiritual. From the ethereal...

    • XVIII. MY STONY GUARDIAN
      (pp. 168-172)

      It was during this period that I spent a short time at Niagara.¹ In the hurry of setting out upon my journey thither, I left behind that traveling companion, which was more indispensable than any article or all possible articles of luggage, my box of boluses. Too late to repair the error, too late for my own serenity, I found out that my staff of life was out of reach at a place on Lake Ontario where the most concentrated cannabine preparation is the jib-stay of a fore-and-after.²

      At the Falls, however, and once grown enthusiastic, I fared much better...

    • XIX. RESURGAM!
      (pp. 173-176)

      One morning, having taken my ordinary dose without yet feeling its effect, I strolled into a bookseller’s to get the latest number of Putnam’s. Turning over its leaves as it lay upon the counter, the first article which detained my eyes was headed “The Hasheesh Eater.”² None but a man in my circumstances can realize the intense interest which possessed me at the sight of these words.

      For a while I lingered upon them with an inexplicable dread of looking further into the paper. I shut the book, and toyed with my curiosity by examining its cover, as one who...

    • XX. LEAVING HIS SCHOOLMASTER, THE PYTHAGOREAN SETS UP FOR HIMSELF
      (pp. 177-187)

      During the progress of the events which have hitherto occupied my narrative, I had become a graduate of my college. Willing for a while to defer the prosecution of more immediately professional studies, I cast about for some employment which for a year might engage a portion of my efforts, and leave, at the same time, a reasonable amount of leisure for private reading. As is the case with so many of our newly-fledged American alumni, my choice fell upon the assumption of the pedagogic purple. There were doubtless, somewhere in the States, candidates for induction into the mysteries of...

    • XXI. CONCERNING THE DOCTOR; NOT SOUTHEYʹS, BUT MINE
      (pp. 188-196)

      At the time of my greatest need, I was so fortunate as to make the acquaintance of one man² whose sympathy was, for months of trial, one of my strongest supports. Half discouraged in my attempts at self-rescue, I passed an hour in conversation with him, and fortitude came to me anew; for soul and its connection with the body had so long been his study that he knew how, with the utmost delicacy, to turn thought out of unwholesome channels; moreover, he had the heart as well as the brain for doing good. I need not say that he...

    • XXII. GRAND DIVERTISSEMENT
      (pp. 197-201)

      As the months went on, the fervor of my longing toward the former hasheesh life in some measure passed away, and in general the fascination to return did not present itself so much in the form of pining for an affirmative as loathing of a negative state. It was not the ecstasy of the drug which so much attracted me, as its power of disenthrallment from an apathy which no human aid could utterly take away. Yet even now there were seasons of absolute struggle in which I fought as against a giant, or more truly to the nature of...

    • XXIII. THE HELL OF WATERS AND THE HELL OF TREACHERY
      (pp. 202-205)

      It is not to be supposed, however, that, with all these expedients, I was now leading a life of quite tolerable calm; on the whole, rather enviable for its ideal diversions, and free from most of those sufferings which, at its abandonment, if not before, Nature sets as her unmistakable seal of disapprobation upon the use of any unnatural stimulus. If, from a human distaste of dwelling too long upon the horrible, I have been led to speak so lightly of the facts of this part of my experience that any man may think the returning way of ascent an...

    • XXIV. THE VISIONARY; TO WHICH CHAPTER THERE IS NO ADMITTANCE UPON BUSINESS
      (pp. 206-213)

      There are those philosophers who, in running the boundary-line between the healthful and depraved propensities of our nature, have left the longing for stimulus upon the condemned side. Notwithstanding all that I have suffered from the most powerful stimulant that the world possesses, I can not bring myself to agree with them. Not because the propensity is defensible on the ground of being universal. True, the Syrian has his hasheesh, the Chinaman his opium; he must be a poverty-stricken Siberian who lacks his ball of narcotic fungus,¹ an impossible American who goes without tobacco, and over all the world liquor...

    • XXV. CAVE SUCCEDANEA
      (pp. 214-218)

      I am not aware of the existence of any in this part of the world who are now in the habit of using hasheesh. Those persons to whom, at their request, I formerly administered it, for experiment’s sake, were satisfied with the one trial, upon my assuring them that any prolonged indulgence would infallibly lead to horrors.

      Yet, since it is not at all impossible that these pages may meet the eye of those who, unknown to me, are incipient hasheesh-eaters, or who, having tested to the full the powers of the drug, now find its influence a slavery, yet...

    • NOTES ON THE WAY UPWARD
      (pp. 219-276)

      It is the author of “The Golden Dagon,”¹ one of our most original and interesting American books of travel, who gives to Boodh,² as the deity of eternal absorption, the most appropriate title with which he has ever, to my knowledge, been glorified. He calls him “The Stagnant Calm.” As I read it, such peculiar relevancy did this title seem to hold to one part of my own experience, that, but for occasional twinges of remaining humanity, remembered as having afflicted me about that time, I should have yielded to the conviction that I had myself then been an incarnation...

    • APPENDIX
      (pp. 277-282)
      J. W. Palmer
  8. Explanatory Notes
    (pp. 283-314)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)