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The Hasheesh Eater

Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean

Fitz Hugh Ludlow and Edited and with an introduction by Stephen Rachman

Publication Year: 2006

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 Eater was 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.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

For the preparation of this text, I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the series editor, Brad Verter. Without his encouragement and excellent advice this book would never have seen the light of day. The work of two...

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pp. ix-xxxvi

Fitz Hugh Ludlow (1836–70) was twenty-one years old when The Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean became the scandalous success of 1857–58. He had graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1856. He had tried his hand at teaching literature...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. xxxvii-xxxviii

A Note on the Text

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pp. xxxix

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

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pp. 5-6

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pp. 7-10

I like Prefaces as little as my readers can. If this so proverbially unnoticed part of the book catch any eye, the glance that it gives will of course travel no farther to find my apology for making this preface a short one. There is but one thought for which I wish to find place here. I am deeply...

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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...

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Chapter 1: The Night Entrance

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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...

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Chapter 2: Under the Shadow of Esculapius

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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...

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Chapter 3: The Kingdom of the Dream

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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...

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Chapter 4: Cashmere and Cathay by Twilight

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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...

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Chapter 5: The Hour and the Power of Darkness

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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...

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Chapter 6: The Mysteries of the Life-sign Gemini

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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...

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Chapter 7: The Night of Apotheosis

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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...

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Chapter 8: Vos Non Vobis -- Wherein the Pythagorean is a By-stander

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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...

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Chapter 9: The Shadow of Bacchus, the Shadow of Thanatos, and the Shadow of Shame

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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...

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Chapter 10: Nimium -- The Amreeta Cup of Unveiling

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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...

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Chapter 11: The Book of Symbols

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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...

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Chapter 12: To-day, Zeus; To-morrow, Prometheus

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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 ascendeney gradually dawned upon me; but, at any rate, whenever the suspicion became definite,...

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Chapter 13: Eidola Theatri and the Prince of Whales

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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 play...

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Chapter 14: Hail! Pythagoras

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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...

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Chapter 15: "Then Seeva Opened on the Accursed One His Eye of Anger"

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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...

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Chapter 16: An Oath in the Forum of Madness

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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...

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Chapter 17: Down with the Tide

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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...

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Chapter 18: My Stony Guardian

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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...

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Chapter 19: Resurgam

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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...

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Chapter 20: Leaving the Schoolmaster, the Pythagorean Sets up for Himself

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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...

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Chapter 21: Concerning the Doctor; Not Southey's, but Mine

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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;...

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Chapter 22: Grand Divertissement

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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...

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Chatper 23: The Hell of Waters and the Hell of Treachery

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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...

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Chapter 24: The Visionary; To Which Chapter There Is No Admittance upon Business

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pp. 206-213

There are those philosophers who, in running the boundaryline 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...

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Chapter 25: Cave Succedanea

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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...

Notes on the Way Upward

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pp. 219-276


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pp. 277-282

Explanatory Notes

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pp. 283-314

About the Editor

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pp. 315

E-ISBN-13: 9780813541143
E-ISBN-10: 081354114X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813538686

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2006