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The Club of Haschischins in the XNIXXth century: between trip, art, literature, science and medicine

The Haschischins Club was a French club of hashish consumers in the nineteenth century that focused on the exploration of drug-induced experiences, mainly with resin from the cannabis plant, hashish. For Honoré de Balzac, the plant is revolutionary, for others like Baudelaire, the experience was a nightmare ... In addition, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a member of the club, is the first psychiatrist to explore the effects of drugs, and cannabis with a rather special hashish, the dawamesk. The Club has influenced future research on medical cannabis, particularly in healing mental illnesses.

The Haschischins Club

The club was founded to 1844 and included members of the literary and intellectual elite of Paris. The monthly sessions were held at the Hotel Pimodan (now the Hotel de Lauzun) in the rooms of Fernand Boissard, painter and musician of the nineteenth century who was considered the figurehead of the club.

Charles Baudelaire, poet and translator of the work ofEdgar Allan Poe, also lived in Pimodan in a rented apartment upstairs. Theophile Gautier, also rent apartments.

Club members

Membership in the hash club was freeand people would join or retire at will. Among the participants in the meeting, in addition to Baudelaire, Theophilus Gautier and the Dr.Moreau, there was also Gérard de Nerval (major figure of French Romanticism), Eugène Delacroix (romantic painter) and Alexandre Dumas (one of the most popular French authors).

Victor Hugo, with probably the best-known French novels, "Les Miserables" and "The hunchback of Notre-Dame"; sometimes participated ..

Some of those who visited the club recorded their impressions. After Gautier's first visit, he wrote an article entitled "The Hashischin Club," which was published in the Revue des Deux Mondes In 1846. Here are some excerpts:

"To enter was to retreat two centuries; the time, which passes so quickly, did not seem to have passed in this house, and like a clock carelessly unrolled, its hands always bore the same date. "The hashish ends up replacing the champagne," said Gautier provocatively. "We believe we have conquered Algiers, and it is Algiers that has conquered us. "

Other personalities come from time to time in the club as painters Honoré Daumier or writers like Gustave Flaubert...

The trips of Balzac and Théophile Gautier

Participants also reported that after taking the green paste, they had "dazzling hallucinations". Moreau noted that she was producing a kind of "intellectual intoxication"

Paul Giamatti plays Honoré de Balzac, who drinks 50 coffees a day ...

Many club users said that their senses had intensified and they had become voracious (munchies ...).

They also had hallucinations or heard voices. For example, the novelist Honoré de Balzac tried it once in 1845. He reports having heard heavenly voices and seen divine paintings ...

Gautier also heard and saw strange things ...

Gautier "from outer space"

The Opium Pipe, Théophile Gautier, 1838.

"A few minutes after having swallowed some of the preparation, a sudden and overwhelming sensation took hold of him. It appeared to him that his body was dissolved, that it had become transparent - the hashish he had swallowed, in the form of an emerald, from which sprang a thousand small sparks. His eyelashes were lengthened indefinitely, and rolled like gold threads around ivory balls, which turned with inconceivable rapidity. From time to time he saw his friends around him disfigured - half-men half-plants, some with ostrich wings, which they were constantly shaking. ... In the air there were millions of butterflies, confusedly bright, shaking their wings like fans. Gigantic flowers with crystal reflections, large peonies on beds of gold and silver, rose and surrounded him with the sonorous crunch that accompanies the explosion in the air of the fireworks. His hearing has acquired a new power; it has grown enormously. He heard the sound of colors. Green, red, blue, yellow tones reached him in waves. A glass thrown, the creaking of a sofa, a low word, vibrated and rolled in him like thunderbolts.

Baudelaire and cannabis ...

The "Bad Trip" of Baudelaire ...

Although most of the members have "broken down"; not everyone shared such enthusiasm for cannabis.

For example, Baudelaire, who was known to be a debauchee and to love the exotic ... found disgusting cannabis; and have not tried it more than once or twice.

In 1860, he writes in the book Artificial paradise Describing the influence of hashish and opium on his thoughts ...

He preferred wine, hashish had many disadvantages, such as isolate his user and make the person antisocial ... While wine drinkers were for him, deeply human ...

The research of Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau

At the beginning of the 19th century, the troops of Napoleon return from their campaign in Egypt and bring with them the habit of smoking hashish ...

Between 1836 and 1840, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, psychiatrist, makes a long trip in the East and discovers for himself the effects of hashish.

Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau. National Library of France.

At the time, he and other psychiatrists believed that the events that occurred before the depression of a person with a mental illness could provide clues that would enable him to resolve mental illness.

Because hallucinations often preceded mental illness, Moreau wanted to live them without experiencing mental depression. He also thought that if he understood the psychotic states, he might be able to better help or cure the mentally ill ...

The prescriber of the club

Moreover, since Moreau already knew hashish. He knew he was producing hallucinations, he seemed to be the perfect substance for testing his theories.

He discovered that cannabis (high-dose and ingested) distorted time and produced hallucinations.

However, he felt that his experiences were too subjective ... And that to obtain an objective opinion, he had to observe other people who would take his dawamesk (hash) ... He then went looking for volunteers to observe them .

Hysteria of Charity at the service of Dr. Luys' image by Jacques-Joseph Moreau of Tours 1887

And, soon after, he became the drug distributor of the Hashischins club ...

The dawamesk: the hash of Dr. Moreau ...

According to Gautier, Moreau was there and very enthusiastic about what was going to happen.

"It is also Moreau who distributed the individual doses in the form of a green paste. Each dose was approximately the size of an inch and came from a spoon of gold and silver that participants ate with a meal or mixed into a tasty Arabian coffee. "

Members reported that the hashish looked like jam or marmalade ... dawamesk's recipe may vary. But it usually contains a mixture of hashish, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange juice, butter, pistachio, sugar or honey - and sometimes cantharides (Spanish fly).

The influence of the Hashischins Club

Thanks to his experiences and because he was able to observe; Moreau became the first psychiatrist to work systematically on how drugs affect the central nervous system.

He also cataloged, analyzed and recorded his observations. Moreover, his experiences with hashish lead him to publish in 1845 « Hachisch and insanity »

The nineteenth-century Frenchmen read Moreau's works with varying degrees of interest. And, many readers have reported that his descriptions were troubling. They opened a new method of understanding, about the medical effects of cannabis ...

As for the Club des Hashischins ... It collapsed in 1849. But, the scientific objectives of Moreau having been reached and his book published ... Afterwards the cannabis had become a common druguntil prohibition and the "war on drugs" ...

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