The Essential Psychedelic Guide by D. M. Turner

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Foreword To The HTML Edition

by The Forbidden Donut

You, dear reader, are an extremely fortunate individual to have stumbled upon this particular digital doorway. What lies ahead is one of the most important volumes in the canon of psychedelic literature. The Essential Psychedelic Guide was written by D. M. Turner, an extraordinarily courageous and articulate pioneer in the exploration of the imaginal realm. However, due to a tragic series of events resulting in the untimely death of its author, this book was very nearly lost forever. Only a few psychonauts lucky enough to have found copies from the initial print runs would have ever been the wiser. Luckily, though, some mysterious force for good in the universe has seen fit to digitize it for your reading pleasure. I, for one, am awfully thankful.

The Essential Psychedelic Guide, while deceptively slim in its printed form, is a veritable well-spring of knowledge for the aspiring psychonaut. It brings together in a single volume the basics of psychedelic history, essential information on physical and mental safety, and detailed chapters on 8 of the major entheogens, including hard to find, accurate data on dosage and administration. Turner also presents quite a bit of highly novel thinking with regard to the philosophical underpinnings of the bizarre, extreme, and sometimes sublime dimensions that entheogens can make accessible. Indeed, one could scarcely dream of a better introductory text for the newcomer to the visionary way, or a more practically useful reference for the experienced psychedelic voyager.

What really puts Turner's work in a class by itself are his vivid, lucid and evocative narrations from the very frontier of consciousness itself. His trip stories convey the essence of the psychedelic experience in a manner that I had not previously thought to be possible using such a crude instrument as the English language. Also particularly noteworthy is the wide variety of novel and challenging chemical combinations which this master alchemist brought together within his physical alembic and then reported on. This makes the work especially important, as he was likely the first and only person ever to have tried some of these mixtures. Some may consider certain of them to be excessive or even dangerous; indeed, Turner's death appears to have been directly related to one of his experiments. Following his death, it has been pointed out that he was a bit of a "hard-head"; it took him much higher dosages than most need to acheive the desired effects. 'Caution' is the watchword, especially for newcomers to the psychedelic arena. Nevertheless, we must remember that Turner was the Chuck Yeager of psychonauts, a test pilot's test pilot. His voyages should therefore be judged accordingly.

The sad circumstances regarding his demise, however, have cast a foreboding shadow over some of his more intrepid adventures, and unfortunately have turned a hero's story into a cautionary tale. On or about December 31, 1996, Turner prepared for another voyage, presumably to celebrate the coming of the new year. Sadly, it was to be his last. Shortly thereafter he was found dead, drowned in his bathtub, with a vial of ketamine nearby. It seems likely that he either slid beneath the waterline while under its effects, or slipped, fell, and hit his head upon arising afterwards, leaving himself unconscious to drown in several inches of water. In light of Turner's glowing praise for ketamine in this book, how exactly is the reader supposed to view the fact that it seems to have played at least a supporting role in his passing? My own favorite interpretation is from an anonymous friend's recollection of Turner in the Summer 1997 issue of The Resonance Project:

Mr. Turner was in the process of revising his Essential Psychedelic Guide, but as the changes may never come to light, it should be stated that his opinion of ketamine had changed considerably. He was sensitive to safety issues, and was increasingly troubled by what he called the 'psychedelic heroin' properties of ketamine. He confided in friends that DMT, which he considered his most helpful ally, had a difficult time counteracting the addictive and increasingly life-negative effects of this drug. DMT conveyed to him that ketamine was a sort of 'Frankenstein molecule' that didn't obey the shamanic rules, and he was given several warnings to drop it from his program. Ultimately, his failure to completely do so led to his untimely passing.
Whether or not one entirely agrees with the preceding quote, I believe that it offers the most useful perspective from which to learn from the great loss that the psychedelic community suffered on New Year's Eve 1997. If nothing else, I hope that Turner's death inspires us all to be just a little more careful when surfing the cosmic jetstream. Indeed, if only he had a sitter nearby on his final voyage, he might still be among the living. Also, I would hope that this tragedy might teach us to more fully listen to our personal intuition's guidance as regards these powerful tools, using it as a balance by which to gauge the veracity of what the materials themselves may tell us in one of their capricious moods. During the thirty-four years he spent in his incarnation as D. M. Turner, he touched innumerable lives with his warmth, wisdom, honesty, courage, and kindness. And thankfully, he has left us with a rich and impressive legacy. Enjoy...

Forbidden Donut,
September 29, 1997

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