chapter  5
20 Pages

Looking for spirituality in India: A German theosophist’s experiments with ganja (1894–1896)


References to Hippie counterculture of the late twentieth century conjures up drug experiments of Euro-American seekers guided by South Asian ‘gurus’. It evokes images of Western youth journeying to places like Goa and Rishikesh to experiment with cannabis, free love and the so-called ‘Indian spirituality’. This article is concerned with one such individual’s journey to India in a countercultural context; it also attempts to historicize these pilgrimages by analyzing the case of the German theosophist Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden (1846-1916) at the end of nineteenth century. His experiments with cannabis and the suppression of his sexuality in order to attain a ‘spiritual state of mind’, however, rendered results that differed considerably from the average Hippie experience.