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The 'Club des Hashischins'

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Experiments with cannabis as mind-altering substance have been conducted in many cultures and groups for thousands of years. One such group was the Hashish Club, a club with renowned members.

The 'Club des Hashischins', was a Parisian society dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced experience, notably with hashish. It was active in the 1840’s counting among its members some of the most brilliant minds in France and Europe at the time. These included world famous writers and poets such as Theophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval, Eugene Delacroix, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.


In the 1840s, the heart of Paris became a popular Bohemian hang-out. In 1842 a part of Hotel de Lauzun was rented out to the Club. Tenants Baudelaire and Gaultier held hashish soirées in which Baudelaire did research for his ‘On Wine and Hashish’ and Gaultier for his ‘The Hashish Club’. In fact, members of ‘Le Club des Hashischins’ met every month, to get high. Beaudelaire even lived in the attic for a while.

Gautier
Gautier wrote about the Hashish Club in an article entitled ‘Le Club des Hachichin’ which was published in the Revue des Deux Mondes in February of 1846. While he is often cited as the founder of the club, in his article his says he was attending their monthly ‘séances’ for the first time this evening and it is clear that the others are sharing a familiar experience with him.

Alexander Dumas
One of the most famous French writers of the 19th century. Dumas is best known for the historical novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, both written within the space of two years.

From The Count of Monte Cristo.
“Because your palates has not yet been attuned to the sublimity of the substances it flavours. Tell me, the first time you tasted oysters, tea, porter, truffles, and sundry other dainties which you now adore, did you like them? Could you comprehend how the Romans stuffed their pheasants with Asafoetida, and the Chinese eat swallows' nests? Eh? No! Well, it is the same with hashish; only eat for a week and nothing in the world will seem to you to equal the delicacy of its flavour, which now appears to you flat and distasteful. Let us now go into the adjoining chamber, which is your apartment, and Ali will bring us coffee and pipes.”

Victor Hugo
From Club member Victor Hugo’s famous novel ‘Les Miserables’:
”… Having neither opium nor hashish on hand, and being desirous of filling his brain with twilight, he had had recourse to that fearful mixture of brandy, stout, absinthe, which produces the most terrible of lethargies.“

Honore de Balzac
Club member Honore de Balzac, who was considered to be one of the most brilliant men in France, at first pooh-poohed his friends' claims about hashish. He considered it a deep shame to renounce one's will over to any substance. Further, he claimed hashish that would be unable to effect his powerful brain. Eventually his curiosity got the better of him and he tested some of the hashish, admitting that he heard celestial voices and saw visions of divine paintings before he left the group.

Charles Baudelaire Selfportrait

Charles Baudelaire
Without doubt the best known member of the Club des Hashish was Charles Baudelaire. In the introduction to ‘Artificial paradise: On hashish and wine as means of expanding individuality’ Baudelaire candidly admits that for much of the artistic inspiration that influenced his work, he relied on the detailed notes he had accumulated while talking to his friends who had been using hashish for a long time. This work also  includes the ”Poem of Hashish”.

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Did You Know?

Cannabinoids are found in vertebras as well as invertabras, such as leeches and molluscs, which means that cannabinoids have probably survived for more than 500 million years of evolutionary progress.