Professor Russell A. Berman joins the Psychedelic Podcast to explore the captivating life and works of controversial German writer Ernst Jünger.
Jünger’s initial career as a German officer shaped his early books examining war and politics. After the war, Jünger continued writing prolifically, exploring genres like science fiction and nature. He remained a contentious figure due to his conservative and military background. However, in his later years, Jünger became interested in drugs and altered states of consciousness. His book “Approaches,” later edited by Professor Berman, serves as an autobiography through the lens of his experiences with mind-expanding substances.
As the episode unfolds, Professor Berman and Paul F. Austin unpack the book “Approaches” and Jünger's psychedelic perspectives.
Russell A. Berman is the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he co-directs the Working Group on the Middle East and the Islamic World.
He formerly served as Senior Advisor on the Policy Planning Staff of the United States Department of State, focusing on transatlantic relations, and as a member of the Commission on Inalienable Rights. He is also a member of the National Humanities Council.
Berman has been awarded a Mellon Faculty Fellowship at Harvard and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for research in Berlin. He has also been honored with the Federal Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany. His books include The Rise of the Modern German Novel: Crisis and Charisma and Enlightenment or Empire: Colonial Discourse in German Culture—both of which won the Outstanding Book Award of the German Studies Association.
He has edited several translations of works by Ernst Jünger and Carl Schmitt.
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0:00:00.4 Paul F. Austin: Welcome back to the Psychedelic podcast. Today we have Russell A. Berman, the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
0:00:12.4 Russell A. Berman: But if we just dwell on that comment on Mescaline, for you, it's not just about your high, it's really an opening up of the cosmos of the earth. The underground vaults, the hallucination is not false. Rather, the hallucination is an approach. That's what the title means, is an approach to being, to existence, to the cosmos.
0:00:39.1 Paul F. Austin: Welcome to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave. Audio mycelium, connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance, and collective transformation.
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0:02:57.7 Paul F. Austin: Hey folks, welcome back to the Psychedelic podcast. So several months ago, I was approached by a professor at Stanford, Russell A. Berman to write a blurb for a new book that was coming out. And this book was a translation of Ernst Jünger, who is a German author, friends with Albert Hofmann and Russell A. Berman, who we'll interview today was the editor of that new book. And that book is called "Approaches: Drugs and Altered States". And it's all about Jünger's forays into non-ordinary states of consciousness, including beer, wine, LSD, Mescaline, opium psilocybin. And I had never read Jünger before I had heard of him. I knew he was a friend of Hofmann. And so reading that book just sent me on a journey to explore who Ernst Jünger was. And funny to find out, he was a prominent German writer. He wrote the most prominent memoir around World War I called Storm of Steel.
0:04:00.5 Paul F. Austin: He was an adventurer, a libertarian, an incredible writer. His prose is outstanding for any bookworms who are out there. And so I wanted to bring in Russell just to talk a little bit about Jünger, Jünger's life, who he was, why he wrote Approaches. We read a couple excerpts from that book in the episode today. And we also have the opportunity to hear about Russell's story. He's been a professor at Stanford for over 40 years. He grew up in the '60s and '70s during the second wave of psychedelics. And so the podcast is also an opportunity to hear a little bit more about Russell himself. It was great. I'm a history nerd. I love to read, I love to write. Some of these interviews I do for the podcast are a bit more for doctors or therapists, but this one felt a little bit more for me, and that's often fun. So anyway, that's it for now. I hope you enjoy my conversation today with Russell A. Berman.
0:05:00.9 Paul F. Austin: Hey, listeners, welcome back to the psychedelic podcast. Today we have Russell A. Berman, who is joining us for the podcast. Russell, it's quite an honor to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
0:05:11.5 Russell A. Berman: Thanks for inviting me. I'm happy to be here.
0:05:13.6 Paul F. Austin: Absolutely. So you are in Palo Alto at the moment. You're a professor at Stanford and one of your core focal points has been on the German world, on German literature. And within that you've really focused on Ernst Jünger as a figure. And the way that we got connected is Telos Publishing House just published a translation of one of Jünger's books, which was about drugs and altered states and his experiences, not only with psychedelics, with Albert Hofmann, but also with things like beer and wine and opiate or opium and many other sort of altered states. So I wanted to bring you on just, yeah, I'd love to hear your story first in terms of what brought you into this work in terms of your journey as a professor at Stanford living in Palo Alto since, I'd love to hear kind of that, that origin story. And I really want to dive into Jünger as a figure. Who was Ernst Jünger? What was his relationship like with psychedelics? Who was he even prior to getting into psychedelics? So I feel like we'll have a really interesting conversation all in all today.
0:06:18.9 Russell A. Berman: A lot to talk about, a lot to talk about there.
0:06:21.0 Paul F. Austin: There's a lot to talk about. Yeah. Yeah. We have an hour, but we will be focused and make the most of our time together. So let's just... Let's start with your story. You've been a professor at Stanford for how many years now?
0:06:36.6 Russell A. Berman: That's sort of like asking my age, I... But, I'm not offended, it's okay. I started at Stanford in the role of the drums, 1979.
0:06:47.1 Paul F. Austin: Wow.
0:06:47.4 Russell A. Berman: As an assistant professor, and with a few interruptions, I've been here for the long haul. I'm originally and primarily a professor of German studies. Therefore it's not surprising that I work on a major German author like Ernst Jünger. I'm chair of Department of Comparative Literature here. Before that, yeah, I was born mid-century on the East Coast. I spent a year as an exchange student in Austria where I learned German cold. I arrived without knowing a word.
0:07:14.9 Paul F. Austin: Wow.
0:07:15.4 Russell A. Berman: Just to put some cultural context in, this was 1967, 1968. That is Summer of Love time, right? Far away from California. I went to college, I got a PhD in German. I've spent plenty of years in Germany and Austria, and as I said, I've been teaching at Stanford for a while. One of the authors that I've looked at is Ernst Jünger, whom we're talking about today. And he has a remarkable life, or a remarkable story. Let me just say, give your listeners just some of the frame, is that okay?
0:07:56.9 Paul F. Austin: Please.
0:07:57.4 Russell A. Berman: So he was born in 1895 and lived until 1998.
0:08:04.6 Paul F. Austin: Wow.
0:08:05.1 Russell A. Berman: Yeah. Quick math.
0:08:06.4 Paul F. Austin: Yeah.
0:08:06.4 Russell A. Berman: That's 103 years old. 103 years old in the... From the late 19th, the late 20th century in Germany, where lots happened, lots of bad stuff happened, and he was part of it. He was a wild kid. He grew up in a middle class family. But before, while he was still a teenager, he managed to run away from home and joined the Foreign Legion. He was a kid looking for adventure, and I think adventure is a theme that goes through his life. Adventure physically, militarily, but also psychedelically. He was too young actually to be in the Foreign Legion, and his dad was able to pull political connections and get him out of it.
0:08:51.3 Paul F. Austin: Oh.
0:08:51.4 Russell A. Berman: But, soon the First World War broke out and he was in it for the long years. He became an officer, a distinguished officer. He got a high award in... For a service on the German side, let me underscore this to the listeners. And the record of his experience in the First World War is published in a book In Stahlgewittern in German, excuse me, in English, it's known as Storm of Steel. And Storm of Steel is a pretty famous book. It's often read in the context of history courses. I know you studied history Paul, history courses around the First World War.
0:09:36.5 Russell A. Berman: It's a soldier's document. But even if you look at Storm of Steel, you get a sense of a mind that is very imaginative, very lucid, very transcendent. It's not a political book about the war, it's about the experience of the war. Sometimes accused of aestheticizing war because it is so descriptive, but there is so much attention to the corpses that one can't read it as a celebration of war either. It's the existential power of being in the battlefield, that is what it's about.
0:10:14.4 Paul F. Austin: And just, can I add just...
0:10:17.3 Russell A. Berman: Please.
0:10:17.3 Paul F. Austin: This was the great war, this was the war to end all Wars. This was...
0:10:22.6 Russell A. Berman: Yeah.
0:10:22.9 Paul F. Austin: At that point in time, obviously World War II happened like 20, 30 years later, but at that point in time, it was unimaginable what was happening and what was occurring and the destruction that was actually feasible with the weapons and technology at the time. So, and like you said, Storm of Steel has become sort of the memoir, I would say about World War I in many respects. And that's partly because I would say, largely because Ernst Jünger is such a phenomenal writer. His prose...
0:10:56.3 Russell A. Berman: He's a phenomenal writer.
0:10:57.1 Paul F. Austin: His attention to detail, everything is... And I read this as well after reading the book that we'll talk about for most of this podcast episode, I read Storm of Steel and it was just, yeah, his prose is phenomenal. He's usually excellent writer.
0:11:12.0 Russell A. Berman: The paradox for listeners is how do we get from this memoir of the devastation of World War I to 50 years later, the book about psychedelic journeys.
0:11:27.3 Paul F. Austin: Right.
0:11:27.6 Russell A. Berman: What's the connection there? That's the mystery of Ernst Jünger. Germany lost the war, the emperor, the Kaiser has to abdicate, the Weimar Republic, the first democracy in Germany is declared in 1918. And, sorry, I'm giving you a little history lesson here, but this is the Germany of the film cabaret. It's the Germany of the 1920s, the roaring '20s in Germany, which then comes to a rapid collapse when Hitler comes to power in 1933. During the 1920s, Jünger is politically very active. He, like some other conservative thinkers, was very skeptical of the democracy, its instability. He was active in movements called the Conservative Revolution, which was a wide spectrum of thinkers and writers who worried about the character of politics in Germany.
0:12:27.0 Russell A. Berman: Some of these conservative revolutionaries ended up as Nazis. Some of these conservative revolutionaries ended up as Anti-Nazis and got executed because of that. And part of Jünger's story is that 20 years later, 1944, the plot against Hitler, he's on the margins of that. And that's why he gets kicked out of the military. He's not central enough to have been executed, good for him, but he's in that world. Some of his writing, late '20s, early '30s, has almost surrealistic character to it. And you can pick up on that from the Storm of Steel too. There's The Adventurous Heart is one of this surrealist texts that he writes. But a particular note, I think is his 1939 novel, On the Marble Cliffs, which is typically read as a camouflaged criticism of Hitler.
0:13:29.4 Paul F. Austin: Gotcha.
0:13:30.3 Russell A. Berman: It's about Barbarians invading civilization. But he's in the army. He's a German officer. He's in Paris during the occupation and he writes a memoir about that. And after the war, he is regarded as someone with two conservative history, two military history, and remained therefore a controversial figure, even though he continues to write for, what? From '45 to '98, so for 50 years. We've taught... We, at Telos, have published some of his other books. Maybe one that I'll mention in particular is Forest Passage, in the 1950s. It's a kind of libertarian survivalist guide almost. And you can see how that also fits into the character of this adventurous liver, the adventurous thinker. He wrote science fiction. There's another book we did, Eumeswil, E-U-M-E-S-W-I-L. But my point is that he's a prolific writer in this post-war period up until his death in '98. Fun fact, he was apparently a favorite author of former German chancellor, Helmut Kohl.
0:14:55.2 Paul F. Austin: Okay.
0:14:55.6 Russell A. Berman: Yeah, the chancellor who oversaw the unification of Germany in 1989.
0:14:58.9 Paul F. Austin: Oh, okay.
0:15:04.4 Russell A. Berman: But he wasn't... He, Jünger, was not actively political at this point anymore. He was an... He was also a naturalist. He wrote about insects a lot. And he discovered Drugs and Altered States. And that brings us to the 1970 book, Approaches. This is the book that we're talking about, the book that we recently translated, Drugs and Altered States, where he gives us his autobiography, autobiography with substances. That's the Jünger frame story.
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0:17:35.1 Paul F. Austin: That book is what I wanna dive into for most of the rest of the podcast. But Russell, before we do...
0:17:41.4 Russell A. Berman: Yes.
0:17:42.9 Paul F. Austin: I would love for you to tell... For you to tell the listeners just on a personal note, like growing up in the '60s, right now being at Stanford for the last 40 years, psychedelics in themselves are probably not this sort of foreign thing to you. And I'd love just to hear a little bit about your understanding, your relationship, kind of your observations of psychedelic culture, of psychedelic use, of those sorts of things. Having grown up in the '60s and having been... Having lived at and taught at Stanford for the last 40 years, what's sort of your personal, I suppose, relationship with these substances?
0:18:30.0 Russell A. Berman: Well, I told you that I was overseas in the Summer of Love '67.
0:18:35.9 Paul F. Austin: Exactly.
0:18:36.5 Russell A. Berman: Yeah. But that means I entered college in '68. This is the high point of that era. And drugs were everywhere. And some people could just enjoy them. Other people really had bad experiences. So should there be any listeners who in... Who experiment with drugs, you've gotta be careful. You've gotta be mindful. You've gotta be aware that it's not just fun and games. There can be dangers. And I think, for some, there was also an opportunity to go beyond just having a good time and finding out things about themselves and about the world and about existence that they might have got to on their own, but the psychedelic consumption accelerated that approach. And this is really what the Jünger book is about. It's about the... It's not about debauchery. It's not about getting stoned and having a good time.
0:19:55.2 Russell A. Berman: It's about the mystery of lifting the veil, of the mystery of seeing through two dimensions of existence about which we usually have little to say because we pass it by. That's why I find it such a remarkable book. Now, I talked about the moment of the '60s, 1970. 1970 is the publication date here. And now we're half a century away from that. And I think that drugs have a checkered history between then and now. There's the impact of the opioid epidemic and the devastation that caused, a lot of people have suffered because of some drugs. But on the other hand, you do have the... I don't have to explain this to you, the culture of microdosing, which has become a significant piece of Silicon Valley culture.
0:21:04.0 Russell A. Berman: And surely beyond Silicon Valley. I'm just saying that 'cause I'm here. And we've also had the legalization process or the decriminalization and I think we're looking at what the impact of that is. It surely keeps people out of jail, which was probably not a productive time for those who were incarcerated, that's a net good. There is the argument that Ross Douthat makes of the New York Times author, author of The Decadent Society, that the effect of legalization is to pacify society, to calm society. People ought to be angry about some things, but instead they can go to their dispensary and chill. So there's a lot to talk about, you talk about some of it here in the podcast. That's the overview that I could give.
0:22:02.5 Paul F. Austin: I love that. And I feel like just with where you are, being at Stanford and having been there for like Stanford's... There was a lot of LSD research that was done in the '50s. Ken Kesey was part of this in the '50s at Stanford and Palo Alto. There were a lot of innovations of folks who were involved in those early LSD trials at Stanford that went on to be instrumental in the computer revolution of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. So I think there's drugs, and there are these... And we can even get into this in terms of what Jünger wrote about. There's drugs I sense, and there's also psychedelics. And psychedelics certainly are drugs, I'm actually wearing the shirt right now that says drugs.
0:22:43.6 Paul F. Austin: But they're very different than most other drugs in that they're not addictive in that they elicit these mystical experiences, in that for some of these plant medicines, we've been using them for thousands and thousands of years, we've had a rich, rich lineage with these substances. And this is what Jünger does from my lens, he does such a great job articulating is the different experiences with these different substances. And I'd love as a first foray into the book, what are those different substances that Jünger writes about in Approaches, and for you as the editor, what passages or what elements did you find to be most interesting or insightful?
0:23:37.0 Russell A. Berman: He takes us on a trip, not to make a pun. He takes us on a trip that is a geographical trip. He begins as he puts it, in the West, in Europe and then he moves us to... He uses the term the Orient by which he means the Middle East and China, Asia and then Mexico. In Europe, there's one set of drugs, there's another set of drugs, that he associates with Asia, and then Mexico, not surprisingly, it's mushrooms and the like... But he somehow incorporates LSD into that. Not so much because it comes from there, but because it's cognate with the kind of experience. So that geographical trajectory is mapped onto... He, partially is mapped onto his own biography. The Europe part is mainly about his youth, and the Mexico part is about mushroom, psilocybin, LSD. The LSD...
0:24:54.6 Paul F. Austin: Mescaline as well, did he talk about mescaline as well?
0:24:57.6 Russell A. Berman: And mescaline. Yeah, he does talk about mescaline as well. Let me see if I can find some relevant passages, but what's also interesting is that he gets into LSD via this friendship with Joseph Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who is the person who synthesizes LSD first of all, but maybe we'll come back to that, just to give a taste of this list of drugs, if that's the right word.
0:25:34.4 Paul F. Austin: Please.
0:25:35.2 Russell A. Berman: I'm quoting, this is section 35 in the book. "In the West, the phantastica can never become the mass threat that is represented by stimulants and sedatives, that is by tobacco and alcohol on the one hand, and tranquilizers and morphine derivatives on the other. Hashish is on the borderline because it also affects motor abilities and not only visionary powers. A communal use of opium is rare, because it presupposes similar aesthetic and meditative inclinations or a shared taste for adventure."
0:26:11.7 Russell A. Berman: In this context, one keeps coming across the literati of the Hotel Pimodan and the naval officers Farrère, Mirabeau, and Loti, but only because almost nothing comparable exists. That is because of their rarity. So he embeds the story also in a kind of European cultural history of writers and historical figures in this constant reference to the other great writers of drug experience like De Quincey and Baudelaire and Rimbaud. We are indebted to... This is section 39. We are indebted to the Mexican Earth for a series of Titanic variants. Its soil has primordial fertility. Turkey, corn, and sunflowers, as opposed to chicken, wheat and daisies, a seeming relocation. The nightshades of Mexico also astound with their gigantic tubers and fruits, a land of pyramids and emperors, eagles and serpents, shamans and prophets, witches and brewers of poison. Mescaline and its related substances have more brutal and dominating effects than opiates.
0:27:22.4 Russell A. Berman: They lead not only into palaces of the of the image world, but also deep into underground vaults. Archaic perceptions become convincing again. The stumalante and narcotica modify time while they accelerate or expand. With mescaline, the earth itself opens and a time creating force regains primal power. I'll stop there for the quote, but if we just dwell on that comment on mescaline, it's not just about... For you it's not just about your high. It's really an opening up of the cosmos, of the earth, the underground vaults. It's... The hallucination is not false. Rather, the hallucination is an approach. That's what the title means, is an approach to being, to existence, to the cosmos.
0:28:26.7 Paul F. Austin: That's beautiful.
0:28:27.4 Russell A. Berman: And it is beautiful. It is beautiful. And again my cautionary note. This can be dangerous, you can get stuck in that vault. But that doesn't mean that the vault isn't there. He... Jünger, let me step back from the drug account, Jünger is a modernist author. There's a whole range of modernist literary authors, James Joyce, TS Eliot. Jünger has a particular position in it, in his discovery of hallucinogens. But what he has in common with the modernists is a sense that the established world around us, in the '60s, one would have said the establishment, but with the modernist would say the bourgeois world or, the old fashioned world or the artificial world, who was the... Henry Miller called it The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.
0:29:27.7 Russell A. Berman: There's a sense of a profound dissatisfaction with the insipid character of our obligatory lives. And different modernists try to break through that in different ways. And Jünger breaks through that in part on the battlefield, in part through surrealism. And here in Approaches, he concedes it's through drugs and altered states, as... And when he talks about his youth, the first altered state is beer.
0:30:05.4 Russell A. Berman: And he talks about what is basically the German corollary to high school drinking. And you could just dismiss this as adolescent misbehavior, but what Jünger does characteristically is put this in relationship to deep cultural history and mythology. So he relates the beer drinking to Nordic gods. And then he goes on to distinguish between beer countries and wine countries and the different kinds of cultures that they elicit. And he argues... He doesn't argue, he suggests that in the ancient world, the discovery of wine that is moving beyond just beer to wine, to cultivating wine was a civilizational advance that led to the discovery of a whole new array of gods. And this is the difference between Odin and Zeus.
0:31:10.2 Paul F. Austin: Or even...
0:31:11.7 Russell A. Berman: So I'm trying to give...
0:31:13.2 Paul F. Austin: Or even the Nordic gods, and even Dionysus. Dionysus was the God of Bacchanalia and the god of wine in ancient Greece. And of course we know Dionysus as well as central to the ergot-infused Kykeon that the ancient Greeks worked with and participated in. This is... It's an interesting opening because even a lot of the wine then of ancient Greece was potentially infused with psychedelic like substances which allowed for these transcendent states in ancient Greece as well.
0:31:49.4 Russell A. Berman: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think for Junger... One key point is that the Dionysian, the ancient Greek Dionysian was wine not beer. That it's a different experience. He does talk about at length, at one point about the Vikings' experience with beer and their drugs. But the ancient Greeks, it was wine that opened up realms of mystical experience. And a legacy of that is the sanctity of wine in Judaism, but especially in Christianity, in the communion. People don't get drunk over communion. But the point is that this wine is the... Not just the symbolic, but in the trance, substantiation opening to another level of existence. And I dwell on this religious moment because, I believe it's, central to Jünger's thinking. And his own exp... His experience of mystery and cosmos ultimately becomes a kind of religious experience for him.
0:33:02.9 Paul F. Austin: Well, let's open that up a little bit more. Tell us about Jünger's kind of religious proclivities, or lack thereof. If I'm not mistaken, he was an agnostic for much as his life until he converted to Catholicism towards the end of his life. What was his relationship like with the church? What was his relationship with religion? Was he always just that free, I would imagine the free spirit, independent almost, like nosiest is what mattered most to him. So kind of how did he orient around religion, especially growing up in Germany at the time that he grew up, which was very Protestant and very Calvinist and all that.
0:33:43.3 Russell A. Berman: Yeah. He grew up in a conventional Protestant family, for the long stretch of his life, I believe he was just primarily secular, and not a dogmatic atheist, but religion and church did not mean much to him. By these... This last third of the 20th century, I believe through the ecstatic experiences of hallucinogens, he becomes more and more open to thinking about the transcendent sacred character of existence. As I tried to indicate before. I think you can see inklings of that in Storm of Steel. I think, I know you can see inklings of it in, The Adventurous Heart, and surely in The Forest Passage.
0:35:00.3 Russell A. Berman: But it's in Approaches where he really makes the argument for what he calls the Great Passage. The great passage is the transition from the unsatisfactory prescribed existence to something full and fulfilling and authentic. And sometimes this means my great passage or my own individual transition, but sometimes he seems to suggest it's a world historical change. It's a... We used to say the Age of Aquarius. He doesn't say that, and that popularizes it a little too much. But the Great Passage is the recognition of profoundly apacol, tectonic shifts in the possibility of being. At one point in Approaches, he mentions the crucifixion as a point... As such a point. Now, I don't wanna give the listeners the wrong impression. This is not a catechism book. It's not denominational religion, it's not the primary theme here, but there are inklings of it. And then 20 years later, he converts to Catholicism.
0:36:09.7 Paul F. Austin: What was his relationship? You mentioned Hofmann already Albert Hofmann, who many of the listeners are familiar with, invented and... Basically invented LSD in 1938, discovered its hallucinogenic properties in 1943, and Hofmann comes up in this book. How is it that Jünger knew Albert Hofmann, and what was the nature of their relationship?
0:36:30.3 Russell A. Berman: This is a really fascinating story. I talk about it a bit in the introduction. So it's after World War II, I forget 1946 or so, Hofmann is in Switzerland, and conditions are fine there. Jünger is in Germany, and for everybody in Germany, those years after World War II were tough, but they were also particularly tough for Jünger because, he was effectively on a kind of blacklist because of his earlier political activities. I said before, he wasn't a Nazi, but he was a German military officer, and he had been a critic of Weimar Democracy. One day out of the blue, the postman brings a letter to Jünger from one Albert Hofmann, who was an admirer of The Adventurous Heart, actually, the book I've been referring to a couple of times, and said how much he had appreciated it. He understands that Jünger is in difficult straits, and he wanted... He's just a fan, wanted to express his appreciation for Jünger's writing and would send him a care package. So... And I believe at that point, the care package really is, food and such items.
0:38:01.3 Paul F. Austin: It's not acid, not yet [laughter]
0:38:03.7 Russell A. Berman: Well, let me... Yeah. Just wait. Just wait. So they exchange letters and with... It takes about a half a year for them to discover that they both have an interest in altered states. And that's when Hofmann tells him about his LSD work. And in some of the letters, you see, I'm sending you so many micrograms of for your use. Eventually they meet and in the book there are some records of shared trips.
0:38:49.0 Paul F. Austin: With LSD I think in particular or also psilocybin or...
0:38:52.3 Russell A. Berman: LSD and psilocybin. So that's the connection. And this is what gets Jünger to a different level of substance experimentation. The story goes on though. Hofmann becomes a celebrity in the '60s era. And he writes to Jünger about his lecture tours to Berkeley and I don't think he was at Stanford but he made that tour and met all the grand figures of the drug culture. And he saw drug culture in the United States. So there are two separate issues here. One is the value of such drugs individually and cosmically if you will. Separate from that is the nature of the drug culture but if we just dwell on that comment on Mescaline both Hofmann and Jünger were skeptical about this sort of mass marketing of psychedelics.
0:40:10.8 Russell A. Berman: Now what's going on there I believe was the conservative European perception of the United States. There's a certain conservative European perception of American democracy as too trivializing. It's sort of mass culture, it's not good. Therefore, they could come to the conclusion that psychedelics are great for the initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries. They're great for the esoterics, they're great for the elite but if it's Woodstock that's just crazy.
0:40:52.8 Paul F. Austin: Chaos.
0:40:53.7 Russell A. Berman: Chaos about which they're skeptical and which they expect actually from American culture. That's a big European thing. But I wanna share one point in the exchange that is particularly interesting. Hofmann writes to Jünger that Aldous Huxley, another one of the drug writers who is referred to many times in the book but a very prominent distinguished figure. Aldous Huxley was forming some kind of committee of distinguished individuals to advocate for something rather. And Hofmann had been charged by Huxley to ask Jünger whether he would be an advisor to this committee. And Jünger's a little skeptical he sort of doesn't wanna hang out with these dudes. He worries which other German authors are on that. Does he wanna be associated with them? But in the same correspondence Hofmann had reported that Leary and Alpert and Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert.
0:42:19.5 Paul F. Austin: Richard Alpert and Rob Dawson.
0:42:20.4 Russell A. Berman: Yeah. Rob had been expelled from Harvard at that point. And were according to Hofmann at that point on an island off Mexico engaged in psychedelically-informed living. Yeah.
0:42:36.4 Paul F. Austin: So with psilocybin mushrooms in particular and probably really really high doses of acid as well if I'm not mistaken. Yeah.
0:42:45.3 Russell A. Berman: So what is Jünger, this distinguished German officer elitist culturally informed grand writer say, I'd rather not be on that committee with Huxley. I'd rather be on that island with Leary and Alpert. So despite his skepticism about drug culture and mass marketing yada yada yada at the end of the day better with Leary than with Huxley. And I think that...
0:43:20.5 Paul F. Austin: Better with the adventurers than the intellectuals.
0:43:23.6 Russell A. Berman: Better with the adventurers than the... Well, if you don't want to have the intellectuals, then better with the adventurers than with the conventionals.
0:43:31.5 Paul F. Austin: The conventionals. Yeah.
0:43:32.9 Russell A. Berman: Yeah. And that... I think that says a lot, adventuring until the end. Adventuring even there's another beautiful passage in the book where he talks about the administration of drugs of any sort when people are approaching death and he says, well maybe we shouldn't be giving them sedatives because maybe something is opening up. Maybe some new knowledge is available to them that we're obscuring. But there might be room for the psychedelics.
0:44:11.4 Paul F. Austin: Which Huxley took full advantage of. When Huxley was on his death bed he wrote a little note to his wife at the time and said a hundred micrograms of LSD intravenously in the arm. And I'm glad you brought up Huxley because Huxley really... You mentioned this sort of note from Jünger and Hofmann about the sort of skepticism of mass, let's say LSD use for American mainstream culture. Huxley was very much of the same ilk as Jünger and Hofmann and he really believed that this was better suited for the elite rather than for the every day. In fact Huxley had a meeting at Harvard with Timothy Leary in the, I think early '60s maybe '61 or '62 and they had this discussion and Leary was like no I think everyone should be doing this. And Huxley was like "No really I think this needs to be more protected."
0:45:08.5 Paul F. Austin: Now we both know sort of the Huxley died in '63. The Summer of Love was '67. Leary gets kicked out. LSD gets made illegal. And as I've been even diving into the literature of Terrence McKenna, of Ralph Metzner, of some of these other folks in the 80s and 90s, McKenna said the same thing that Huxley said who said the same thing that Jünger and Hofmann said which was high doses of psychedelics are maybe better for a harder internal core. 5 to 10% of people but that the vast majority of people should not necessarily be exposed or playing with God. And what's so interesting then about this third wave of psychedelics just to bring this back to Silicon Valley and microdosing is, microdosing appears to sort of fill that gap.
0:45:54.0 Paul F. Austin: Where it's like oh, this new way of working with psychedelics and obviously Jünger wouldn't know anything about microdosing because it wasn't really a thing then but this new way of working with psychedelics where we don't have to take 250 micrograms and see God but maybe there's some physiological health or mood stabilizing health to these very very low doses of psychedelics that just help with everyday living. And so for me, that's sort of I suppose the missing piece of the puzzle and I think Jünger, Hofmann, Huxley, McKenna are all right that these high doses are not meant for everyone. They're very intense and very confronting and sometimes very challenging experiences. And the fact is that these are medicines. The way indigenous people have used these for thousands of years is as medicines and that they can in very low doses without having to sort of open up the heavens or the gates of hell they could still potentially be beneficial and help people along the way.
0:46:56.6 Russell A. Berman: That's right. It's a different culture in the microdosing world and your point that indigenous people use them as medicines in discrete amounts is good as well. That's a kind of indigenous microdosing if you will.
0:47:13.0 Paul F. Austin: Exactly. Yeah.
0:47:15.0 Russell A. Berman: But that's not what Jünger is about. Jünger is the break on through to the other side.
0:47:22.3 Paul F. Austin: For sure.
0:47:23.8 Russell A. Berman: And that is... And while that is itself a popular culture phrasing, I think it's consistent with the modernist effort to overcome mundane reality and to find something higher.
0:47:46.8 Paul F. Austin: That's the name of a new book that I have coming out at the end of this year which I'm glad you brought. It's called Higher Psychedelics for Connection Creativity and Purpose. And that is... It's that sort of transcendent state above the profanity of modernity in a way. And I'm gonna slightly shift the dial now just because I want to keep exploring Jünger. Tell us a little bit about you've touched on this here and there but why is it that he chose to still serve as a German military officer in World War II even though he was opposed to Hitler, even though he thought it was disgusting. Why is it that he still showed up put his time in and did his duty to Germany, to his home country, to the Fatherland?
0:48:34.3 Russell A. Berman: This was his career. He was a career military. He was conservative nationalist but not extremely so. Not what's the right word, jingoistic nationalist, but he felt it's his country, you're in that army. There is an argument that some people have made that the going into the military was the... What's the translation? The aristocratic form of exile. By exile is meant people who really left Germany and came to ultimately the United States and ultimately California. There was a big colony of German exile writers and thinkers and filmmakers and actors in Los Angeles. But across the country. So that's exile but the argument was made that for those who could, for those of the right class going into the army was a way to avoid being part of the Nazi party. Now this is, I think, true.
0:49:54.6 Paul F. Austin: There was some separate. Most listeners don't... They're not really historians but I recently read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. And what is very clear in German history is there's quite a perseveration. Not a separation but a strong disagreement between the German army and Hitler. And in fact one of the critiques of the German army is that they didn't stand up enough to Hitler even though they were at odds all the time. All the time.
0:50:26.7 Russell A. Berman: I think that that account is to a great extent true. It is also true that the German army was engaged in all sorts of terrible atrocities...
0:50:38.2 Paul F. Austin: For sure.
0:50:38.6 Russell A. Berman: In the East. That is Eastern Europe and Poland, Ukraine and Russia. So, it's not as if the army was against Hitler, that's wrong. But for someone in 1934, '35, '36, going into the army could have been experienced as a way to avoid some of the politics. The plot to assassinate Hitler came significantly out of military circles. This is the military that was congruent with the oppression aristocracy. If you're looking for smiley faced left liberals. You're not gonna find them in German military. Certainly not then but it's wrong to say they're all Nazis.
0:51:29.0 Paul F. Austin: Right.
0:51:30.4 Russell A. Berman: Which Jünger was not.
0:51:31.9 Paul F. Austin: Right. Now, what were some of Jünger's observations living in Paris during the occupation? He wrote this entire memoir about it but what were some of the perspectives, thoughts, kind of poor memorable things that he wrote about in terms of his time there.
0:51:50.9 Russell A. Berman: He remembers some bombing scenes. He remembers the intellectual life that he engaged in. He hung out with people like Jack Cocteau, the surrealist Jean Cocteau and others. But he also has a corollary member or companion memoir of his time in the East and he talks about terrible things that happened.
0:52:24.7 Paul F. Austin: Was he also stationed in the East or in World War II then, it wasn't just Paris.
0:52:28.8 Russell A. Berman: Yeah. No, he was in Paris for a while but then he was in... Where was it? Crimea or Ukraine, I can't remember exactly right now.
0:52:34.8 Paul F. Austin: Okay.
0:52:36.6 Russell A. Berman: He does not celebrate the Nazi victories.
0:52:40.4 Paul F. Austin: Right.
0:52:41.0 Russell A. Berman: But he's also not a communist. He's not a resistance fighter. You can't stylize him as a resistance fighter although that novel I mentioned before On Marble Cliffs is read as a critique of the Hitler regime from '39. And although he was as I said before, on the edge, the distance circumference of the July 1944 effort to assassinate Hitler.
0:53:07.0 Paul F. Austin: Right.
0:53:08.5 Russell A. Berman: So it's not black and white. It's complex. I think what happens after the war is that he develops an aversion toward any dogmatic politics. In the novel Eumeswil, he elaborates extensively on the difference between an anarch and an anarchist. He sees himself as an anarch against governments, against organizations, against systems. And the problem with anarchists is that they've already turned it into an ideology. They've turned it into a party program. And this comes out particularly well I think in the short book that I can only recommend highly, Forest Passage. Forest is a metaphor for an escape from the surveillance state, an escape from the strictures of society, a pursuit of almost a survivalist independence. It's a long and... Excuse me, it's not a long, it's a concise essay that describes that quasi libertarian view of life. So I see that as his effort to escape from politics of command. Forest Passage and Eumeswil, the science fiction and then eventually through Approaches.
0:54:43.3 Paul F. Austin: So as we near the end of the hour, the question that's coming up for me is, with you being so involved in this process with Approaches you're the editor. You probably helped to guide the translation. You've been my point of contact, so I wrote a little blurb for Approaches which is how we ended up getting connected and how I got the book and then read it. And now I'm diving into everything Jünger that I can. What did you most enjoy about this process with Approaches? What did you learn? What were some of your personal takeaways or... And even broadly why is it that you find Jünger to be such a fascinating figure? Why is it that he has played a major role in your own study? As it relates to German personalities and history?
0:55:33.4 Russell A. Berman: He's a great writer. He's a very intelligent writer. He's a very cultured writer as you know, there are all sorts of mythological literary artistic. He writes about Rembrandt and Van Gogh and trying to understand them with regard to hallucinogenic experience. He doesn't say that they took hallucinogens, but it's the aesthetic theoretical reflection. I mean, that's just great stuff. I find him an engaging author for me to work with maybe precisely because he's so distant from me. He's a conservative German elite military. I'm none of that. And I'm guessing most of the readers aren't that.
0:56:22.5 Russell A. Berman: But if I can find a space of interpretation and understanding in the descriptions that he gives then I regard that as a successful reading and a successful learning experience. If you only read those you agree... And this is a big problem in universities today. If you only read those you agree with, you're just affirming your own bubble. And what you wanna do is get out of your bubble. And Jünger is getting out of my bubble. Then this is a book that lifts the veil. This is a book that reminds the reader whether the reader goes down the drug route or not that there is a power in existence. There's a power in the cosmos. There is an energy of life that is too obscured by the everyday chatter that we get from the news from the political from the constant machine of false concerns.
0:57:39.2 Paul F. Austin: A word that's come up. No, this is... A word that's come up for me a lot lately is sovereignty and it feels like Jünger... One of his core values was that sense of sovereignty and whether it's as a military officer, whether it's as a writer, whether it's running off to the French Legion at the age of of 15, he really felt life was a canvas for an adventure. He felt fully empowered and capable of living in that way. And what he modeled more than anything was a capacity to live at both ends of the spectrum to have these transcendent mystical beautiful experiences to articulate them to write about them but also to be in the thick of what were some very difficult and challenging times in World War I as a German officer, in World War II in Paris, he lived in the shadow in many ways and was still able to find the gold, was still able to find the light. And I looked at him as a figure that feels very strong, very stable, very not sure of himself in terms of a lack of humility because that's not the case but like very clear on what he cares about and why he's here. And that I think that level of purpose in living is admirable in many respects.
0:59:19.8 Russell A. Berman: I agree. He has a character from which one can learn and that's why I read him.
0:59:28.5 Paul F. Austin: Russell just to close us for today could you read just the... I know you have the book in front of you, maybe just the back flap or just... What is the summary of kind of the how have you contextualized the book on the back cover or the front cover or wherever it's located.
0:59:48.3 Russell A. Berman: The front cover has a beautiful work of art.
0:59:51.3 Paul F. Austin: It does.
0:59:53.0 Russell A. Berman: The back cover let me read you some selections here. "In Approaches Ernst Jünger describes his experiences with drugs over the course of his life, ranging from youthful drinking sprees through experiments with Hashish and morphine to more powerful psychotropic substances like Mescaline, Peyote and LSD. Combining elements of memoir and critical reflection on the history of mind altering substances in society, Approaches attest to Jünger's belief that drugs can facilitate a deeper spiritual journey into dimensions of human existence that have been eclipsed by the ambient noise of modern life." Shall I read your... Please... Blurb? Please. Yeah. This is Paul Austin here, "As psychedelics crest back into the mainstream, Ernst Jünger's heady tales of intoxication, exhilaration and pure ecstasy provide an articulated lens for altered states of consciousness unmatched by any modern day writer in the so-called psychedelic renaissance. The Dionysian self that central spontaneous and emotional self is in deep gratitude for bringing such a beautiful piece of German literature to the worldwide canon." Thanks for the paragraph.
1:01:17.9 Paul F. Austin: You're welcome. Thank you for the invitation. Thank you for joining us for the podcast today. Thank you for all your work with Ernst Jünger to make his prose, his intelligence, his character more accessible to us in the English speaking world. This has been a real personal pleasure to have you on the show today, Russell. So thank you.
1:01:40.3 Paul F. Austin: Thank you Paul. I've enjoyed it as well.
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