The lobstersÂ â€œstayed with me until the day I simply decided that they bored me and I wouldnâ€™t pay attention to them.â€
The fact the lobsters persisted beyond the time he took the drug leads one to believe perhaps the lobsters were akin to witch’s familiars or the Plains Indian’s animal spirit guide or the Harry Potter “Patronus” or even the “imaginary friend” many children have.
Mescaline left Jean-Paul Sartre in the grip of lobster madness
November 22, 2009 | Tony Allen-Mills in New York | Time Online
As one of the great European thinkers of the 20th century, Jean-Paul Sartre popularised existentialism, became a working-class hero â€” and was chased down the Champs ElysÃ©es by a pack of imaginary lobsters.
A previously unpublished account of the late French philosopherâ€™s improbable drug-induced crustacean visions has surfaced in New York, where a new book of conversations between Sartre and an old family friend will be published later this month.
John Gerassi, a New York professor of political science whose parents were close friends of Sartre, talked at length to the philosopher in the 1970s about his experiments with mescaline, a powerful hallucinogenic drug derived from a Mexican cactus.
Although it has long been known that Sartre experienced visions of lobsters â€” which he sometimes referred to as crabs â€” Gerassiâ€™s account offers startling new details of the philosopherâ€™s descent into near-madness as he battled to make sense of what he had come to regard as the intellectual absurdity of his life.
â€œYeah, after I took mescaline I started seeing crabs around me all the time,â€ he says in Gerassiâ€™s new book, Talking With Sartre. â€œThey followed me in the streets, into class … I would wake up in the morning and say, â€˜Good morning, my little ones, how did you sleep?â€™ I would say, â€˜Okay guys, weâ€™re going into class now . . . â€™ and they would be there, around my desk, absolutely still, until the bell rang.â€