Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World

Southern California-based journalist Nicholas Schou’s ORANGE SUNSHINE, now out in paperback, tells the fantastic but true story of how a group of small-time thugs were transformed by drug-induced spiritual awakenings and set out to essentially turn on the entire world — along the way becoming the most successful and sophisticated drug cartel in the U.S.

At the center of the story is John Griggs, a charismatic young man living in Orange County, with a petty criminal record and a love for getting high. Somewhere along the line, he discovered LSD, which altered the course of his life. He considered his hallucinogenic trip a religious experience, and the drug became his religious sacrament.

Inspired by the writings of Timothy Leary, Griggs soon gathered a group of like-minded friends together and formed weekly gatherings at a building in the woods near Laguna Beach to drop acid while reading passages from Leary’s books.
 
The group grew in size and influence, soon calling itself the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. Not long after, their activities diversified as well. They founded the Mystic Arts World, a combination art gallery/head shop/meditation center in Laguna Beach. But several members also got into drug dealing, which eventually escalated into full-scale smuggling operations bringing high-grade marijuana into California from Mexico, and even extra-strength hashish from as far away as Kandahar, Afghanistan.
 
When regular supplies and the expected effectiveness of LSD dried up, the Brotherhood developed its own ultra-potent strain, dubbed Orange Sunshine. Money from its various smuggling activities funded the manufacture of Orange Sunshine, which became so prevalent that it was literally handed out on the street, at various rock concerts, and even air-dropped over the massive crowd attending a Woodstock-like festival.

Through it all, even in the midst of its complex drug runs, Griggs insisted that the mission of the Brotherhood was to bring spiritual enlightenment to the country. But the Brotherhood soon became notorious as an illicit drug organization, especially to the law enforcement officers in the surrounding John Birch-inspired conservative Orange County, who were determined to bust the entire group.
 
The well-worn phrase that “anyone who says they remember the Sixties probably wasn’t there” is easy to believe, considering the phenomenal amount of drugs ingested during the short amount of time recalled here. But during his four-year search, Schou was fortunate enough to track down many of the surviving Brotherhood members, as well as their law-enforcement nemeses, who were willing to recall those often frantic, hazy days (although some agreed only if they remained anonymous, fearing personal or legal ramifications to this day).
 
The result is a fascinating, at times hilarious and frightening account of what drove the so-called hippie movement and its whole “Peace, Love & Music” ambience in California through the mid-to-late 1960s. A few celebrities figure in the retelling, most prominently the dubious role of Leary, but also Jimi Hendrix and few others who drifted in and out of the Brotherhood’s circle.

Sadly, however, as the group’s founding philosophical basis went up in smoke — assisted by the sinister presence of cocaine — the final chapters of the book become a series of drug busts, resulting in some Brotherhood members turning state’s evidence and ratting out on each other.
 
ORANGE SUNSHINE is highly recommended to those who both grew up during this strange but ultimately influential time, as well as those curious about what went on during that period referred to both nostalgically and ominously as “The Sixties.” Few actually knew just how long and truly strange a trip it had been. —Alan Cranis

Buy it at Amazon.
 

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1 Comment »

Comment by Richard R.
2012-01-09 19:48:08

I went to a couple of outdoor rock concerts put together by The Brotherhood, both in Laguna Canyon, while I lived there. It was good music, getting a little high and some good old hanging out with the local hippie crowd, many of whom were friends that I also hung out with on the beach, played volleyball with, surfed with. I was a student at the time, and it was good times, for sure.

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