The Intellectual Odyssey of Former Rolling Stones Promoter Peter Swales

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Jagger had a demoniacal aspect that used to intimidate me, because he would use it to inspire awe and fear and to get his way. I'm not putting him down for that. It came from strength, not weakness. He's not a schizo; he would simply capitalize on the magnetism he knew very well he had. Sometimes he'd come on like Jagger the rock star. At other times he'd walk in like a drugged-out hippie. Another time he'd come in in a fancy suit like a fast-talking businessman. Another day he'd come on to me like he was my big brother. I gradually learned that the only way to deal with him was to hold one's own center of gravity. I would have to act as if I saw through him and that it was all good fun, but things have to get done, so-let's-cut-this-little-game-short-and-get-down-to-serious-business sort of thing, ya know? Because beneath all the acts, I found a much more benevolent demon that one could have a little laugh with, because it wasn't that serious in the end. Jagger was perhaps less Satan than he was the Antichrist — a false prophet."

In January 1970, Swales left the Stones. With the band back on the road as a huge act, he was encountering situations he felt incapable of handling. Close relationships in the office were disintegrating; Jagger had broken off with Marianne Faithfull, and the word had gone round the office to keep a distance from her. "One loses one's self-respect if one has to simulate an emotional attitude according to the more or less fickle lives of the band," says Swales. "I left because most people who go to work for the Rolling Stones tend to become swallowed by the myth and spend all their time being appendages. I felt that I had my own life to live, and great, it was wonderful while it lasted, but now I've seen the looking glass. I did not want to overstay my welcome; it was time to move on."

Almost immediately, he started a rock management company called Sahara, with money provided by a wealthy director and part owner of an investment bank, Prince Rupert Loewenstein, who had just been appointed the Stones' personal financial adviser. Swales would spend the next fifteen months blowing a quarter of a million dollars and visiting for the first time the most Freudian nation on earth. "Once I had eaten of the Big Apple, there was no going back," Swales recalls. "New York was the modern Babylon, a whole new speed and attitude."

He quit Sahara and emigrated to New York in June 1972, with plans to develop a screenplay he'd written. But he soon found himself at age twenty-four the vice-president of Stonehill Publishing Company, working with longtime acquaintance Jeffrey Steinberg, an enthusiastic recreational user of cocaine and a heroin addict. The following spring, Swales stumbled upon an out-of-print book — a collection of Sigmund Freud's writings on cocaine — that he suspected might appeal to his associate. Yet it was Swales who became fascinated, and by late 1973, he was at work with Professor Robert Byck of Yale University School of Medicine compiling a new collection of Freud's cocaine papers.

They drew documents from Freud's extensive writings on the drug in the 1880s, the very dawn of knowledge of coca in the West. Freud had stumbled upon cocaine as a young doctor in training and was soon experimenting with the effects of the drug on his own psyche. His subsequent rejection of several former associates and an episode of paranoia during a visit to Paris in 1885-1886 seemed clearly drug related; a careless attempt to wean a friend from morphine had resulted in cocaine addiction as well, hastening his friend's death.

In June 1974, Swales fell out with Byck and left Stonehill to write his own history of Freud's cocaine episode. The finished manuscript was returned by an interested publisher at the end of the year, with a request for a final chapter on the role of cocaine in the origins of psychoanalysis. Swales was unprepared to deliver: too many doors were flying open in his head. That December, he moved to San Francisco and began to delve even deeper into Freud's drug life, and this time it led to the Devil.

The notion that Sigmund Freud may have been party to a satanic pact was first broached in 1958 by an American analyst named David Bakan in his book Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition. Now Swales began to realize that the notion ran deeper in Freud's life and thought than was previously imagined, principally because Bakan failed to take into account Freud's fascination with Goethe's version of the Faust legend, in which a man sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge, power and sexual vitality. "In having already studied the literature on coca, Freud knew that the Spanish conquistadors in South America had regarded the coca plant as 'the work of the Devil,' " Swales argues.

"Moreover, Freud had obtained the cocaine from the chemical manufacturer Merck, of Darmstadt, in Germany. Incredibly, the great-great-grandfather of the man who supplied Freud with the cocaine was Johann Heinrich Merck, a close friend of Goethe's whose character and personality had provided the model for Mephistopheles, the Devil in the play Faust. Freud had known Faust since his school days; he quotes it in his writings and letters more than any other work. In his fantasy life, Freud must surely have regarded cocaine as the very vehicle for achieving a satanic pact. Because in the play, the pact between Mephistopheles and Faust is consummated when Faust agrees to swallow a narcotic potion procured by the Devil to restore his virility. He succeeds in seducing a young girl, Gretchen, who remains tragically unaware of his infernal complicity.

"One could say, simplistically speaking, that along similar lines Freud evolved psychoanalysis precisely as a means for opening the hearts of beautiful, desirable women. In a sense, he would ultimately succeed in developing a psychological system that consists of rules and methodology — free association, the whole atmosphere of séance — that could artificially invoke the most basic psychological phenomena that are to be found in drug taking. In other words, Freud transformed cocaine and narcotics into the very medium that is now psychoanalysis."

Not only was analysis a disguised compact with the Devil, Swales now realized, but cocaine was the actual source of Freud's hypothesis of a chemical substance in the body that serves as the organic agent of the supposed libido, the basic motivational drive in the Freudian world view. Freudian psychology was suddenly revealed as less a psychology of sexuality and the unconscious than one of narcotics and drug-stimulated fantasy.

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