Fri 5 May 2006
What is a religion? The dictionary describes it as a “personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” When looking at the ways of the Merry Pranksters in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe one could very easily say that they could be considered somewhat of a religious group. While they do not believe in a higher god, they do believe in the idea of enlightenment and being attuned. This is one of the shared mentality and beliefs by all the Pranksters that attribute to the idea that they are a religion. The concept of “being out front” and “doing their thing” not only acts as a practice of the group but is also an example of that shared mentality (73).
Like all religions, they have a charismatic leader, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, who gains a following based upon his of her ideas, this person being Ken Kesey. In the chapter “a miracle in seven days” the Pranksters even refer to him as “the Prophet Kesey” (193). They also have set practices that they all practice. When they take LSD, Acid, DMT, or any other drug it almost becomes ritualistic and religious. There are certain things that they are supposed to do when tripping and certain expectations. It is also these ritualistic takings of hallucinogens that, as the Merry Prankster see it, is their path to enlightenment. There is a very fine line between religion, cult, and just a group of friends. While I feel that part of the Merry Pranksters fall into all of these groups, I think that what they have could definitely be seen as, if not a religion, a religious-like group.