‘Thompson did not share the spiritual focus of Emerson and Thoreau…’

By | February 2, 2012

Below is a snippet from the introduction to our exciting new book on Hunter S Thompson, Gonzo Republic: Hunter S Thompson's America by William Stephenson. You can read the whole introduction to the book by clicking on the preview button at the bottom of this post.

'Thompson did not share the spiritual focus of Emerson and Thoreau. He was a humanist in several senses: he celebrated humane values over cruelty and greed; he championed the individual against the system; although staunchly anti-Republican and loosely pro-Democrat, he never actively campaigned for any political party except his own Freak Power movement (see Chapter 3), as he preferred a sceptical, non-aligned stance that allowed free thought; and he was not a religious believer. He subscribed to the 1960s counterculture’s distrust of grand abstractions and shared its preference for "The lively consciousness of men and women as they are in their vital daily reality" (Roszak, 1971, p. 54: emphasis in original).

And yet he was equally ready to criticize the emerging institutions of the counterculture. He despised the fashionable fusion of drugs and Eastern religion, exemplified by the pseudo-Buddhist doctrines of the Harvard psychologist–turned LSD guru Timothy Leary. He used hallucinogenic substances regularly, but did so in order to achieve a secular form of transcendence of the mental restrictions imposed by law and government. For Thompson, acid was not a spiritual drug but it was, in his own sense, political, as it became a medium through which he could control his sensory environment and mental state and change both for the better. Unlike Leary, Thompson did not get high to abandon his ego. He did so to fashion that ego (see Chapter 2); to follow his own idiosyncratic interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s creed of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'

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