Blue Cheer. Window Pane. Orange Sunshine. Maui Wowie. These were the brand names of the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, a culture led by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
Chances are, if a brand of acid, pot or hashish was known to stoners, it first made its way into the underground market via the Brotherhood. Originally a marijuana-dealing motorcycle gang of toughs, the Brotherhood had a mass religious experience with LSD in 1965—they believed they’d found a lysergic shortcut to God. They resolved, under the charismatic leadership of John “the Farmer” Griggs, whom Timothy Leary called “the holiest man ever to live in this country,” to become apostles of acid with a mission to turn on the entire world. The Brotherhood established a church and a head shop called Mystic Arts World, which became the center of the psychedelic trade in Southern California and beyond. To fund their proselytizing, they smuggled high-quality marijuana from Mexico and introduced mind-blowingly potent hashish from Afghanistan, shipped via Pakistan to the United States in loaded VW campers. Before long, the Brotherhood had gone from acid church to “hippie Mafia.” While Stewart Tendler and David May’s The Brotherhood of Eternal Love (1984) approached this material as a true-crime story, journalist Schou (Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb, 2006) lets the Brothers and their many customers and hangers-on tell the story, resulting in an intimate portrait of the secret society that helped forge and spread hippie culture. The author’s heart doesn’t seem to be in the police operations that captured many of the groups leading figures—including that of its inspiration and mascot of sorts, Timothy Leary—but that may be because the officers who made the busts and tell their stories in this book are not nearly as colorful as their hippie nemeses.
A fascinating read for any audience and essential history for anyone interested in the roots of psychedelia.