Writer and poet Hans Plomp (1944) is one of the first Dutch psychonauts. Together with Gerben Hellinga he published ‘Uit je bol’ (‘Out of your mind’, Ed.) in 1994. In this guidebook all kinds of substances are discussed: from khat to cocaine and from LSD to the fly agaric.
Before websites like Erowid went online, ‘Uit je bol’ was the most important source of information for Dutch explorers. Up to this day the book is well read by anyone who wants to know what substances he or she is taking.
Plomp, born and raised in Amsterdam, looks brisk and youthful. His living room is full of exotic objects from around the world. On the wall are pictures from different religious traditions: Indian godheads, an indigenous shaman woman and two colorfoul Huichol cloths. On the window sill a collection of beautiful cacti.
While the rain clatters against the window, he tells about his travels, about the place of psychedelics in society and about the turbulence LSD caused when being introduced to the Amsterdam youth in the 60s. How did he himself come into contact with psychoactive drugs for the first time?
Magic and mysticism
"When I was twenty years old, I was in touch with a group involved in esotericism: witchcraft, magic and mysticism. Shortly after the war a taboo rested upon these topics, as the Nazis had been dealing with astrology and black magic. Hitler had been a vegetarian, so it really was not done.
Nevertheless, we were interested. So we looked at pre-war sources. Substances like opium and the fly agaric were already being used then. Nitrous oxide is very old as well. Furthermore, we experimented with herbs that grow here in Europe, like Jimson weed and Henbane. Not a thing you do for fun, it's pretty dangerous. So when the other substances arrived, we were the first to try."
"We experimented with herbs that grow here in Europe, like Jimson weed and Henbane. Not a thing you do for fun, it's pretty dangerous."
Ballet Dancers and melting steering wheels
"I first took mescaline when it was banned around '68. The pharmaceutical company Merck owned a large batch that in one way or another wasn’t destroyed. It ended up in Amsterdam: anyone who wanted could have a try.
We had no idea what it was, so we took some and got into the car of a friend. He had an open car, so we went for a ride. Until the wheel suddenly melted in his hands!
We looked outside, there was a traffic controller, but for us it seemed as if he performed a ballet dance. We’d never seen something like that! So we drove over to have a better view. The cop didn't understand what was going on either. The term 'high' was still unknown. He sniffed around, but no, we weren’t drunk. 'Drive on, drive on' he signed at us."
"Soon afterward, LSD came to Amsterdam, drops on sugar cubes. Again we had no idea, but The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had used it, so: why not? And everyone went tripping. Just at home with friends. It was pretty heavy though! Some people freaked out and disappeared into the looney bin.
No one knew exactly what to expect. Imagine taking LSD and suddenly realising the world is completely insane! The ordinary world I mean: it was the time of the atomic bomb, and if you suddenly see the bigger picture... some people flipped completely. Fortunately, together with some friends my trips mainly brought laughter."
"Soon they concluded we were the ones being dangerous, instead of the authorities playing around with nukes! Of course it was risky, certainly there were some casualties. Nowadays much more is known about dosage, you can read all about a substance before taking it, you know setting is important. We had no idea about these things!
I always say: you should never take anything you’re unsure or afraid of. I actually think these kind of strong substances are only suitable for people who, let’s say, have shamanistic capabilities. They can help you reach enlightenment. But you’ve to be able to deal with the forces they awaken. If you aren't that strong, meditation might suit you better. "
"I actually think these kind of strong substances are only suitable for people who have shamanistic capabilities."
Around the same time, late sixties, the Provo movement emerged in Amsterdam. Plomp was involved. What did the world look like back then? "It’s difficult to imagine, but in my youth there really was nothing to do. There was hardly any contact between youngsters. This was changed by my generation: spontaneous gatherings arose on the streets. That’s where the Provo movement emerged from.
"Some people became politically active, others started a shop or cultivated unsprayed vegetables. Before there was no environmental awareness whatsoever. People became interested in India, in indigenous peoples, in shamans. They started listening to different types of music, experimented with different cuisines. Before we only ate stew! The sexual revolution also started."
War on drugs
"That period lasted five to eight years. Then people in suits seized power again. Pychedelics were banned one by one. My books are hardly read or discussed since that time."
Next week: part two of the interview, in which Hans Plomp tells more about the making of ‘Uit je bol’ and the role of psychedelics in society.
Written by: Juniper