“The Trip.”

I knew who was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.                                                                                                       - Alice in Wonderland 

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e Here Now.

Steve Jobs said he was greatly affected by this book, published in 1971 by Ram Dass. The author's real name was Richard Alpert, PhD. It's the story of Alpert's transformation from straight-laced Harvard psychology professor to a man on a quest for consciousness. What he found resulted in this book, a sort of how-to for the turned-on generation: Western Psychedelic Zen.

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At Harvard, Alpert met another clinical psychologist, Timothy Leary, PhD (1920-1996). The two headed up the Harvard Psychedelic Project in the early 1960's following Leary's profound experience taking the psilocybin mushroom while vacationing in Mexico. He returned to Boston breathless, saying he just learned more in a few hours than all his years as a psychologist! A pure, pharmaceutical synthetic was ordered from Sandoz Laboratories for the research project. For the time being, the university permitted the clinical program. 

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{ Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert at Harvard.

Psilocybin was administered to a broad class of subjects, including divinity students, clergymen, artists, writers, intellectuals even inmates at Concord State Prison. Data was carefully collected and analyzed, what the subjects reported experiencing during their "trip." But there was really no vocabulary at the time to articulate this new frontier of inner science. The experiments were an astonishing breakthrough in consciousness. But then a mishap occurred. Undergraduates requested to participate: A breach of clinical protocol.

LSD.  C20H25N3Image result for Leary and Alpert fired from Harvard

 (Hofmann holding the molecular model of LSD).
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The relatively gentle effects of psilocybin were no match for the shattering discovery of LSD, also known as acid. d-lysergic acid diethylamide- 25 is the most powerful chemical known to man: Colorless, odorless, tasteless, so potent it is measured in micro-grams. It is derived from lysergic acid, which is found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Albert Hofmann, a chemist at Sandoz Laboratories, Switzerland, discovered the LSD molecule by accident in 1943. He called it, "my problem child." It gained widespread interest, but not all of it was positive. 

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"High Priest," published in 1968 was Leary's first book, followed by "The Politics of Ecstasy." LSD is not a drug in the usual sense, it doesn't "drug" you. In many subjects it mimics the sought for ecstatic religious experience; the beatific vision described by mystics. In 1963, when  the two men were fired from their posts at Harvard, the scandalous doctors continued their exciting research at Millbrook, in upstate NY. A steady pilgrimage of seekers, even celebrities came to this place to find themselves. What happened here is an amazing story in itself.   

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                                                 The Hitchcock estate in New York was generously provided.
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From the Greek ψυχή (psyche, soul, mind) and δηλείν (delein, to manifest). Hence, soul-manifesting. Aldous Huxley, (1894-1963) wrote "The Doors of Perception," his personal account of taking mescaline. (The title was adopted by the rock group "The Doors"). Huxley suggested his own coinage phanerothyme (phaneroein, "visible" plus thymos, "soul"). Thus visible soul. While tripping, Huxley was driven around Hollywood where he lived. (far right): Surveying Los Angeles from atop a hill.

The Mystery of Death and Rebirth. 

Dr. Leary discovered that the trip, a duration of anywhere from eight to twelve hours, was identical to that described as the three bardos in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." He authored his own version of the ancient text based on the psychedelic experience, along with Alpert and Ralph Metzner, PhD., a third part of this trio. Image result for timothy leary books

These chemicals can facilitate a spiritual or mystical experience, one which is indistinguishable from similar descriptions found in the sacred scriptures of the great religions and the ancient mystery schools. LSD is clinically valuable by alleviating the fear and anxiety of dying, by providing insight towards the inevitable transition awaiting the terminally ill. The experience can give peace of mind to the patient by realizing that life is a continuum. There is nothing to fear, energy never dies it only changes form.  

Entheogens.

("Generating the divine within"). An entheogen is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context that may be synthesized or obtained from natural sources. It facilitates an experience aimed at spiritual development. It is now the preferred term to denote the use of psychedelic drugs in a spiritual, mystical context- and to make the distinction from mere recreational use as party drugs. Psychedelic drugs are non-addictive, and there is no evidence to support long term harm on mental health. 
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In 1968, possession of LSD was made illegal in the United States. Pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, LSD is a Schedule I drug. This means it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, process, or distribute without a license from the DEA. A Schedule I substance meets the following three criteria: a). It is deemed to have a high potential for abuse; b). It has no legitimate medical use in treatment; c). There is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision. Not a single one of these criteria matches LSD, or even cannabis- also a Schedule I drug. But alcohol, far more toxic and destructive can be purchased at the corner store. Advocating the use of LSD, and the unfortunate incident at Harvard gained Leary sudden and unexpected notoriety, along with hatred.

Timothy Leary interviewed on Merv Griffin, 1966.

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Through the Looking Glass. 

There is an unseen inner universe, a macrocosm within us. These inner realms are seldom experienced because the outer senses are riveted to the world of matter, a fake prop set of conditioning and belief systems imposed on us since birth. We are never informed of any other existence. The self-preserving ego isolates us from God. Apart from awakening, or becoming aware of our True Self, life is wasted on purely temporal pursuits: Survival, procreation, pleasure and the production and advancement of the hive. We are not encouraged to explore who we really are, but instead to play it safe, believe what you're told and don't ask questions. Consciousness expanding drugs, particularly cannabis, threaten the status quo.
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The Planes of Existence. During a psychedelic experience, the process is reversed in a round-trip. The subject becomes a time traveler, returning to the beginning. Exploring the cellular DNA and molecular vine, the astral planes of the imagination, past the the causal levels to the Light at the Center of Being, or atman: What we really are. Somewhat the same objective as yoga and meditation, but like an expressway psychedelics quickly bypass these disciplines transporting you to a front row seat watching creation happen- which is always now.                                                        
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Synthesia occurs when we "hear" colors and "see" sounds. What appears to us as a chaotic world of separation is actually the melding of a determined order of events. Whatever happens is the way it happens. Whether or not you are involved it will happen anyway. The controlling ego keeps us dancing like a marionette. If you let go and step out for a bit, you will see the universe as it really is: A precise mechanism. This includes your life. No amount of anxiety makes any difference as to what is going to happen. No coincidences, no accidents, that's just how it looks from our limited vantage point.
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 "We're the generation your parents warned you about!" - Grace Slick, Woodstock.

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"Turn on, tune in, drop out."     

Timothy Leary rapidly became the celebrated guru of a younger generation: An unprecedented revolution of mostly white, middle-class youth protesting war and government. He was a pariah to the establishment class which declared war on the psychologist. G. Gordon Liddy, prosecutor at the time for Duchess County, NY, was hiding in the bushes spying on the Millbrook estate. He led a Keystone-cop raid on the mansion hoping to find "evidence." Nothing of any culpability was found. Liddy went on to gain notoriety as Richard Nixon's henchman in the Watergate scandal. Timothy Leary was now considered public enemy number one. But he was never without a smile.Image result for Timothy Leary at Millbrook

A single roach found in the ashtray of his car on the American side of the Mexican border sent Leary to prison for a twenty-year sentence! He escaped and fled the country, finding asylum in the safety of Switzerland as a political prisoner in exile. When he reentered the U.S., the fugitive was stopped at customs, arrested and returned to prison. In this black hole of isolation, he received a space- age transmission called "Starseed." Undeterred, Timothy Leary was just getting started.
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“The entire universe is gently, rhythmically, joyously vibrating. Cosmic intercourse. This is a message of hope and interstellar love, irrepressible optimism. Yes, it is true that repressive pessimists now control planetary politics, but this is a larval phase.”
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Leary Sues the Government. Marijuana tax law abolished.

Leary v. United States395 U.S. 6 (1969), is a U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with the constitutionality of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937Timothy Leary, a professor and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the Marijuana Tax Act. Leary challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated the Fifth Amendment. The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marijuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Thus, Leary's conviction was overturned. Congress responded shortly thereafter by replacing the Marijuana Tax Act with the newly written Controlled Substances Act while continuing the prohibition of certain drugs in the United States.

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The daughter of popular television personality, Art Linkletter, jumped to her death while tripping, thinking she could fly. Looking for someone to blame, he held Dr. Leary personally responsible and went about publicly condemning him in a vendetta until the day he died. Confusion happens because time and space are non-existent outside of our own world. A safe, initial experience should involve the accompaniment of a trusted guide: Someone familiar with the effects of the chemical as the subject can be vulnerable entering new corridors of  the mind.
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Years later, the two arch-rivals Liddy and Leary became friends, and went on a joint speaking tour together in 1982.


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Alan Watts (1915-1973), was ordained as an Episcopal priest at the age of thirty in 1945, then resigned the ministry five years later in 1950. Along with the group of other early explorers of consciousness, Watts went through a transformation, rejecting established ideas about God, religion and dogma. He turned to Zen and esoteric Christianity. Like his friend and colleague, author Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts was among this group experimenting with psychedelics. He gained wide popularity among Western intellectuals as a lecturer and writer, but was considered an outsider to academia.  (See post: Philosophy by Watts.)

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The Dawn of the Atomic Age.

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It's hardly a coincidence that at the same time physicists were working on the secret bomb project aptly named "Trinity," LSD was discovered by a Swiss chemist. The awsome power of the atom was unleashed internally and externally at the same moment in history: It could be used to create or destroy. A renaissance of interest in psychedelics is currently happening. People are rediscovering the original ideas of these brave pioneers from decades ago, with a new perspective. The chemicals themselves are merely tools, but there's a catch- you still come down, kicked out of paradise until the next time- no more "enlightened" than the next person. There is no destination, it's only a sightseeing trip. A postcard from home.

On Dying.

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Ram Dass is "Still Here," the title of the book he was  working on when he suffered a stroke. We are human beings, with mortal bodies and eternal souls. Both Ram Dass and Aldous Huxley have written on the subject of dying. What actually happens? Why do we fear this fundamental event of transition? You don't really "go" anywhere. The Tibetan Book of the Dead" was a description of what to expect: Three separate stages, called bardos. Entheogens give a preview beyond the veil, a dress rehearsal of the dying experience: Watching a loved one shed this body and be reborn  afresh and new. That loved one is you.

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Time to rest now. Once larger than life, Timothy Leary is surrounded by family and friends during his last moments dying of cancer in 1996. Arrangements were made for his cremated remains to be placed on board a NASA rocket and  scattered in outer space.

 

 

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Comments

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