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In the Beginning
Intro Stairway to Heaven Phase II
On the Road Again
Be Here Now
Now and Zen
In the Beginning
by Court Tefft and Patsy Dodd
“Little could be gained from prolonged use of the drug. Except perhaps the realization, that it was necessary to graduate acid.
I had plenty of LSD, but why take it. I knew what it was going to do, what it was going to tell me. It was going to show me that garden again and then I was going to be cast out and that was it.
---Dr. Richard Alpert
Remember anything that can be done chemically, can be done in other ways. You don’t need drugs to get high, but drugs do serve as a useful shortcut at certain stages of training...
1943 – Dr. Albert Hoffman an employee of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland, had been hoping to find a cure for migraine headaches when he accidentally dozed himself with LSD 25. LSD 25 is a derivative of ergot a fungus that grows on diseased kernels of rye. Ergot could kill you but first one would go temporarily insane and then overtime your fingers and toes would turn black and drop off. Hoffman’s surprise dose led to an out of body experience and a wild roller coaster ride that lasted for 12 or so hours. He was impressed and curious.
In 1919 a synthetic version of peyote (mescaline) was produced in Germany. During WWII the Nazis experimented with mescaline in an effort to break a person's will.
LSD 25 was “five to ten thousand times more potent than an equivalent dose of mescaline” when it made its way to America in 1949. By the 1950’s peyote, mescaline and mushrooms were not unknown to the usual suspects: the beats, jazz musicians, artists, intellectuals, therapists and the CIA.
The CIA was chartered in 1947 and immediately began its search and research into mind altering drugs and truth serums like liquid marijuana. The CIA began scouring the globe for psychotropic plants. Richard Helms, who later became the director of the agency in the 1970’s, was put in charge of the project.
The Army also began its own research project testing psychotropic drugs on unsuspecting subjects. The army envisioned airplanes spreading madness gas or dropping LSD bombs to immobilize the enemy. The idea was to produce fear, anxiety and paranoia. As interrogation tools for psychological torture they also experimented with addictive drugs…”tell us and you’ll get your fix.” With the psychotropic drugs it was “you’ll keep going crazy until you tell us what we need to know." One general, William Creasy, advocated testing hallucinogenic gases on subways in American cities. LSD 25, because of its reliance on the ergot fungus, was hard to get and hard to make. The CIA employed an American company (Eli Lilly) to come up with a new synthetic version, which they did. Now the CIA had unlimited access to a potent chemical warfare agent.
In 1958, when water boarding was still a war crime, Dr. Hoffman synthesized psilocybin and psilocin. Though less potent than LSD these magic mushroom derivatives are in the same family. Indo-European and Mexican mushroom eaters had existed for centuries. In America, peyote had been used by some native peoples, in particular the Kiowa and Comanche after making its way north in the aftermath of the civil war. By the turn of the 19th century artists, intellectuals and bohemians were conducting experiments in consciousness with peyote. The harsh reality of WWI seems to have ended, at least temporarily, the experimentation.
Also at the turn of the century the growth of psychology led to postulation that consciousness was subject to evolutionary change. Mankind, some believed, might make a subtle or sudden transformation to a higher state of awareness known nebulously as cosmic consciousness. Gurus from the east began to appear. Men like Gurdjief, Krishnamurti, Ouspensky and women like Blauatsky and Besant began to develop alternative western cosmologies or the Perennial Philosophy as Aldous Huxley would later call it. Perennialists believe that all religions are part of one great religion so the idea that one God or prophet could monopolize the discourse is illogical and absurd.
Henry James, Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell and others were coming to similar conclusions; if you removed the religious dogma---the exoteric and opened to the esoteric---human beings around the world have and always have had strikingly similar,\ cross-cultural, archetypa,l mystical experiences. The brain seemed hard-wired to produce these altered states of expanded awareness, perception and connection. Aldous Huxley believed “that the brain and central nervous system operated as a vast filter that reduced the flood of sensory data to a manageable trickle.” Mescaline, psilocybin and especially LSD 25 punched big holes in the filtration system and opened the doors of perception Huxley had written about in 1954.
Some believed that technology---chemistry in particular---might move humankind up the evolutionary ladder. Hope was on the horizon. The smart monkey might become less warlike and self-destructive. Modern man might learn to be “free” of possessions, pretensions and addictions" long presumed obstacles to heightened awareness.
Stanislou Grof a leading researcher of LSD and founder of Transpersonal psychology believed that “while the smart monkey was capable of harnessing nuclear energy and voyaging to the stars, he was still enslaved by certain primitive emotions and instinctual drives that had run his life, plus frequently ruined it, since the Stone Age.”
One thing was certain – nature only took humankind so far. After age 18 or so you were on your own. Personal growth was a choice, no longer a biological imperative. Better living thru chemistry became a catalyst for growth.
By 1954 many of the informed and moneyed elite in Hollywood were getting together and tripping. In psychedelic therapy sessions, many were having all kinds of paranormal experiences with past lives and telepathy. Some, like Cary Grant who peaked interest for many, had this to say “I found I was hiding behind all kinds of defenses, hypocrisies and vanities. I had to get rid of them layer by layer. The moment when your conscious meets your subconscious is a hell of a wrench. With me there came a day when I saw the light.” Huxley had observed that in some people using hallucinogens “the ego doesn’t melt like an iceberg in tropical waters, but expands to the point of suffocation.”
Huxley began thinking in terms of preparation for blast off-set and setting – guiding people under the influence to the clear light. He wonders “at what point would the culture begin to shift to another tack? If you initiated the best and the brightest to the other worlds, and let the knowledge filter down.”
Huxley spread the word to Allen Ginsberg and the other beats who had begun to look eastward in a quest for spiritual rebirth to fill the hole in the vast existential void of “beatness.” In 1955 Ginsberg took peyote and had a vision of Moloch (America) the subject of Howl.
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone!
Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!
Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius!
Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the mind!
Later (1964) David Solomon, editor of
LSD The Consciousness-Expanding Drug
, a collection of essays on consciousness expanding substances by leading researchers, philosophers and scientists would write: “From the point of view of entrenched social establishment, it is perhaps legitimate to classify the psychedelics (literally, mind-manifesting or consciousness-expanding compounds) as dangerous subversive agents. By their action of flinging wide “the doors of perception,” the insights they potentate frequently enable one to see through the myriad pretensions and deceits which make up the mythology of the Social Lie. Thus to the extent that power structures rely upon the controlled popular acceptance of the lie to shore up and stabilize their hegemonies, psychedelic substances do indeed represent a kind of political threat.”
By the 1970’s the emperor and his subjects wore no clothes. The "Exodus" psychological and physical had become the movement. Hunter Thompson would write “the emphasis on beating the system by challenging it, by fighting it, gave way to a sort of numb conviction that it made more sense in the long run to flee, or to simply hide, than to fight the bastards on anything even vaguely resembling their own terms.”
In the 50’s some beats like William Burroughs were using drugs like speed, heroin and weed as a means of shedding their bourgeois conditioning. Burroughs at first liked the Zen-like shock value of LSD as a means of altering ones self and moving beyond ego-attachment, later he found it unnecessary. Jack Kerouac, whose
On The Road
was published in 1957, was at first somewhat sympathetic to the psychedelic experience. In a letter to Timothy Leary Kerouac described a trip on some psilocybin Leary had given him: “it was a definite Satori. Full of psychic clairvoyance (but you must remember that this is not half as good as the peaceful ecstasy of simple Samadhi trance as I described it in Dharma Bums).” Later Kerouac would be consumed by the demon alcohol, depression and a right wing ideology “comparing psychedelics with communist brainwashing.”
The Beats seemed to have their feet on the earth (it was depressing) and their eyes in the sky (it was exhilarating). Some beats were looking to create a so called Western Sadhana “the way” to higher consciousness, rapture and enlightenment. Alan Watts, a disciplined expert on Zen Buddhism and the author of many books on the subject, had spent his entire life in pursuit of the illusive Zen moment of Oneness, when he was drawn into Huxley’s exploratory circle. On his second LSD trip he had the oneness experience but it came to him in the guise of Hinduism. Watts, a former Anglican minister and prodigy with the ability to take the complex and reduce it to that which is understandable, was a writer and radio talk show host in the Bay Area who helped spread “the word”.
Years later in the Himalayan foothills a Tibetan Buddhist of Austrian descent, Lama Govinda, would tell Timothy Leary, “You are the predictable result of a strategy that has been unfolding for over 50 years…you have been the unwitting tool of the great transformation of our age.” Dr. Timothy Leary, an expert in behavior change and personality assessment, was invited to Harvard and given an office on Divinity Avenue in Cambridge where he began his famous research program with psilocybin. Leary had done shrooms in Mexico where he said “I learned more in 6 hours than in the past 16 years.”
Leary came late to the research scene and ultimately wanted to share his discovery with the world. He would later write in
You Are God!
You have the divine plan engraved in cellular script within you!
Take this sacrament!
You’ll get the revelations!
It will change your life!
You’ll be reborn!
At Harvard his psychologist colleagues were secure and content and for the most part not interested in magical mushroom potions that opened the floodgates of the unconscious mind. The grad students and junior faculty members that did become involved in the psilocybin project, “the initiated,” began to exhibit a particular set of behaviors---the same behaviors that hardened convicts in later experiments under Leary’s direction would exhibit. The “initiated” tended to group together and become fixated on ecstatic feelings of love and sharing, peace and joy, hope and understanding, even when they weren’t tripping.
At Harvard Leary reached out to Huxley whose trickle down theory of consciousness expansion, and set and setting came with a warning, “You must expect opposition. There are people in this society who will do everything within their considerable power to stop our research.” Dr. Leary, in contrast to Huxley, believed psychotropics were for the everyman when done properly with road maps and guides. To assist one on their journey to the “other worlds,” as they had come to be known, Leary emphasized set and setting. Blast off should be accompanied by an experienced tripper. Leary came up with the word trip, which meant psychedelic adventure into one's mind. Psychedelic comes from the Greek and means ‘mind manifesting.’
Leary and Huxley believed in making one as comfortable, safe and secure as possible. According to Leary:
Set – “refers to that which the subject brings to the situation, his earlier imprinting, his learning, his temperament, his emotional, ethical and rational predilections and, perhaps most important, his immediate expectations about the drug experience.
Setting – “refers to the environment, social, physical, emotional, to the milieu of the session. The most important aspect of setting is the behavior, understanding and empathy of the person or persons who first administer the drug and who remain with the taker for the period that the drug is in effect.
By the time Allen Ginsberg met Leary he had been introduced to LSD in Palo Alto (1960) as a participant in a drug research project. It wasn’t long before Ginsberg showed up at Harvard. He thought Leary was a square cocktail party kind of guy but they formed an alliance, rejecting Huxley’s theory as elitist and adopting a bottom up approach to consciousness expansion within the confines of set and setting, guides and guide books. Their idea was to give everyone the option to experience the new “wisdom drugs.”
After meeting with Leary, Ginsberg began actively promoting the psilocybin project – spreading the words and the drug proclaiming in an interview a few weeks later “People are beginning to see that the kingdom of Heaven is within them, instead of thinking it’s outside, up in the sky and that it can’t be here on earth.”
Dr. Richard Alpert, a member of the psychology dept. at Harvard, joined Leary’s team in March 1961. Ralph Metzner a promising young grad. Student also came on board. (Oxford Grad.)
Psychedelic researchers everywhere were coming up with or running into unscientific God contained within theories they didn’t know what to do with. Science and Religion didn’t mix.
Dr. Huston Smith noted scholar would write, “There are, of course, innumerable drug experiences which haven’t a religious feature, they can be sensual as readily as spiritual, trivial as readily as transforming, capricious as readily as sacramental.” “But given the right set and setting the drugs can induce religious experiences indistinguishable from ones that occur spontaneously.
From a historical perspective Smith writes “more interesting than the fact that consciousness – changing devices have been linked with religion is the possibility that they actually initiated many of the religious perspectives which, taking root in history, continued after their psychedelic origins were forgotten.”
Alan Watts would concur based on his studies “The effects of the psychedelics vary so much from person to person and from situation to situation that it is well nigh impossible to say with any exactitude that they create certain particular and invariable changes of consciousness.”
By 1963 Watts had concluded “The (enormous scientific literature on the subject indicates that a majority of people have pleasant reactions, a largish minority have unpleasant but instructive and helpful reactions, while a very small minority have psychotic reactions lasting from hours to months.
Solomon came to similar conclusions stating “One of the most confusing aspects of psychedelic phenomena is the wide variation of response. There is the common factor of going out of your mind, out beyond the imprinted, learned structure, but the specific content of what comes next is always different. Heaven or Hell! Buddha or Babbitt.”
Dr. Leary’s office on Divinity St. would soon be closed. Later, through the Freedom of Information Act we would learn the CIA had penetrated and monitored Leary’s psilocybin project and may have had a role in shutting it down. In any event, Harvard administrators had had enough. Leary, always the scientist, had discovered LSD and was morphing into a mystic, poet, and prophet – a man on a self proclaimed divine mission. Harvard administrators feared Leary and Alpert were becoming “cultish advocates” and cultural revolutionary’s not just scientific researchers. In May 1962 Leary and Alpert were fired. That same year SDS was putting together its visionary Port Huron Statement, and a year later the Free speech Movement took hold at Berkeley. The last Harvard professor to be fired a century earlier was Ralf Waldo Emerson for telling people to leave the church and find their own God. Harvard told Leary and Alpert “you may be making Buddha’s out of everyone but that’s not what we’re trying to do.”
After Harvard Leary and Alpert setup shop at a resort in Mexico (1963) where they created a temporary experimental transcendental community based in part on Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic utopian Novel Island. At the time Leary said “We’re simply trying to get back to man’s sense of nearness to himself and others, the sense of social reality which civilized man has lost. We’re in step with the basic needs of the human race, and those who oppose us are far out.”
Eventually (1964) Dr.’s Leary, Metzner, and Alpert moved to Millbrook where they lived communally 90 miles north of New York City on a 5 square mile property with 7 houses, polo fields, stables and tennis courts. They continued their research, held classes and reported back to the real world from the “big house” a 64 room mansion. They called themselves the Castalia Foundation after an intellectual colony in Hermann Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game. The core group consisted of about 30 people.
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by Court Tefft
Without Deviation from the Norm
Progress is Not Possible
“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda…you could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.
The Great Shark Hunt
a medicine – a different kind of medicine. It makes you aware of the universe, so to speak; you realized how foolish objects are. But LSD is not for groovy people; it’s for mad, hateful people who want revenge. It’s for people who usually have heart attacks. They ought to use it at the Geneva Convention.
Bob Dylan, 1966
In the summer of 1963 another acid infused communal group was taking hold on the west coast. Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters immortalized in (1968) by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and earlier by Hunter Thompson (65) in Hells Angels, The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, purchased a cabin off Hwy. 84 in La Honda, with the money he made from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest his anti-authoritarian bestselling and soon to be movie, novel. Kesey’s intention was to finish another novel and soon to be a movie, Sometimes A Great Notion about a family of loggers in Oregon. La Honda, which means slingshot or valley between the hills in Spanish, seemed like the perfect place.
La Honda in many ways never changes, it’s frozen in time, the last outpost in San Mateo County where folks who don’t see eye to eye with society can take a stand and be strong. Hill people are different. You have to be, the environment is harsher.
La Honda is and always will be a community with strong ties to the logging industry. Loggers are the last vestige of an independent rough and tumble, no bullshit breed of men who don’t care much for city folk and city ways, a lot like the old time ranching families scattered through out the hills around La Honda and down to the coat in San Gregorio.
Even today (2008), despite the infusion of Silicon Valley commuter yuppies, La Honda proudly holds onto its identity as a separate place an outlaw community with a rich history where folks identify more with the earth grounding coastal communities of Half Moon Bay and Pescadero then they do with high fallotin Palo Altoans.
The locals tolerate the flatlanders, motorcycle and bike riders who clog Highway 84 on weekends as tourists driving slowly thru the majestic and mighty ancient redwood forest on there way to the beach, but they don’t like them.
When Ken Kesey headed for the hills in 1963 La Honda was even more remote. A lot of people didn’t live year round in town, they had summer cabins. Rents were still affordable and availability was high down in the flats with its almost perfect weather, orchards and almost small town suburban feel.
Today of course the Peninsula, thanks or no thank, to Silicon Valley globalization and the New World Order of un-regulated capitalism, is for sale on the international market to the highest bidder. Housing competition is stiff and there’s not much room for artists, bohemians or slackers to exercise their creativity in a myriad of ways outside of the high tech arena. There is even less room for those intent on just having a good time. There is no time even for many of those with lots of money and time saving devices.
La Honda has always been a party town and home base for some great local musicians. Weekends always meant good times at Venturis, Boots or Apple Jacks. When Kesey moved to the hills he was leaving behind another legendary bohemian party scene and community known as Perry Lane, which had nurtured and supported him while studying at Stanford. Creative writing was his thing and psychedelics had helped him tune into the MUSE.
Having been introduced to psychotropics courtesy of the Veterans Administration Hospital where he also worked part time in the psyc. ward, Kesey had been paid $75 a day indirectly by the CIA as a guinea pig in their mind altering enhanced interrogation techniques program known as Mk-Ultra. Kesey would later say “I thought the drug experiments were to help the crazies not make people crazy.
Toto I have a feeling were not in Kansas anymore.
Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz
Pandora’s Box had been opened. The crack in the door to the other worlds was widening and as more and more people squeezed thru heading for the light…the door opened wider and wider. At first it was just a trickle of folks and usually broke down along generational lives. Many of the old guard bohos in the Perry Land circle of friends wanted nothing to do with drugs.
Jay Stevens would later write in Storming Heaven, LSD and The American Dream: “Those lacking the nerve to go through the Door and take a good look at their “books” were left behind with their wine bottles and Zen. It was a syndrome that all fledgling psychedelic communities seemed to go through, the separation of the world into the aware and the rest, and Perry Lane was no different.”
The fissure or split later known as the generation gap was just beginning to crack as the first wave of baby boomers moved from adolescence into young adulthood.
Neil Cassidy the inspiration for Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s “On the Road had shown up at Kesey’s on Perry Lane. Feeling Kesey had looked into his soul, when he created Randal P. McMurphy the smart ass free spirited working man proletariat and con man in Cuckoos nest, Cassidy attached himself to Kesey calling him Chief.
Cassidy became known as Speed Limit. Big brained to begin with he had an affinity for speed…not the soul sucking super potent crystal meth variety of today but more along the lines of “weeds, whites, and wine” the type of speed used by truck drivers and college kids at exam time. The type of speed Dr’s were overly prescribing to overweight 12 yr. olds, low energy depressed housewives, and overly ambitious businessmen.
Cassidy like Randal P. McMurphy had a tendency to liberate those around him by sheer force of personality and will. Later both men would become snared in their own traps and perish.
Cassidy could be exhaustingly hyper but Kesey would say “listen to Cassidy, he’s there” There being Za Zen, the Zen Buddhists state of non-attached mindfulness. Cassidy also had the ability to multitask to the max, exhibiting the ability to carry on 3 or 4 conversations at once. He was very quick and intuitive.
His crazy driving was legendary even before he piloted the infamous day glow 1939 International Harvester bus cross country to the New York Worlds Fair in 1964.
Kesey described Cassidy’s spiritual path as “the yoga of a man driven to the cliff edge by the grassfire of an entire nations burning material madness. Rather than be consumed by this he jumped, choosing to sort things out in the fast flying but smog free moments of a life with no retreat.”
Cassady introduced Allen Ginsberg to Kesey around 1963. Ginsberg had been on a spiritual pilgrimage for 5 or more years traveling through India and Japan in search of the illusive oneness moment of Zen hoping to become a bodhisattva. It wasn’t happening. He became depressed, gave it up, let it go and then it happened…a satori of sorts, a dialectic new vision a new direction. Move the group…organize, synthesize, and harmonize the politicos and the hippies was the revelation… something Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin with their inherent intuitive media savy and prankster mentality would later refine and define.
Ginsberg was all over the place he had strong ties to Leary and Company on the east coast of whom he would later say “Millbrook was much more sedate and expansive, not half as rough and ready and wild and American, gun-ho as La Honda. It was another generation. It was more like a psychedelic circus (at La Honda) than a pschodelic community, though they both had strong central family relationships with kids and wives.”
As Kesey finished” Sometimes a Great Notion” in La Honda he began to entertain on a full time basis and eclectic group of pre-hippie acid heads that came to be known as the Merry Pranksters. Later Kesey would say “we often thought of ourselves as a Karass. We weren’t exactly a coven we weren’t a cult but we did seem to be involved with each other before we even met each other.”
Tom Wolfe would write of the group “there was no theology to it, no philosophy, at least not in the sense of an ism. There was no goal of an improved moral order in the world or an improved social order, nothing about salvation and certainly nothing about immortality or the life hereafter. Hereafter! That’s a laugh. If there was ever a group devoted totally to the here and now it was the Pranksters.
Mt. Girl (Caroline Garcia), the mother of Kesey’s daughter and later Jerry Garcia’s wife and mother of two of his children would say: “The Pranksters were a clever invention by deranged people. The derangement was deliberate, and the concept of Pranksterism was an attempt to keep it kind of light, I would say mischievous rather than hooliganisms. The idea was to startle and to shock and to bring about a change in the perceptions of the people who were watching the Pranksters.
From their base in La Honda the Pranksters launched a series of acid Tests throughout the Bay area “The purpose of psychedelics”, said Kesey is to learn the conditioned responses of people and then to prank them. That’s the only way to get people to ask questions, and until they ask questions they’re going to remain conditioned robots.
The acid tests were multimedia public-private acid fueled parties…tribal celebrations of an emergent hippie scene. The house band was the Grateful Dead who like the Allman Brothers would become a traveling jam band communal scene.
The Pranksters were more intent on exploring the unknown and the future or going “further” as they would name their famous and probably the first of the legendary psychedelic school busses.
Kesey and the Pranksters had a different approach to acid; a more macho, whatever happens go with the flow (Tao) spontaneous in the moment, goofball, Zen like get over your hang ups style with an emphasis on the group mind, an organism unto itself fueled fed, and influenced by the individuals within the group
Kesey who became known for appearing out of nowhere, answering a question you were about to ask and vanishing would say this about LSD “suddenly people were stripped before one another and behold we were beautiful”.
Synchronicity, magic and telepathy were in the air. The Pranksters took an Animal House” superhero metaphysical comic book approach to acid with an emphasis on enhanced abilities and just do it, as opposed to the east coast Millbrook intellectual observational approach.
The Pranksters were by no means anti intellectual or without philosophical roots . Many in the group were hip to Robert Heinleins sci-fi Stranger in A Strange Land (1961); a tale of telepathy, synergistic, communal living and youthful upheaval whose group values and lifestyles spread and initiate a global religious revolt. Some saw it as a precognitive myth.
Kesey never took credit for being the Leader of the pack, “he was the non-navigator”. He was also the no-teacher. Kesey’s explicit teachings were all cryptic, metaphysical; parable, aphorisms: “Your either on the bus or off the bus”, Nothing Lasts”, “What did the mirror say”, “Put your good where it will do the most.” At one point Kesey said “Your soul will continue on. It’s how your soul is doing in its path to eternity, not how your body is doing in its path through this life, that’s important”. Creeping religiosity did play a role often expressed via The I Ching or Chinese Taoist Book of Changes which was often use to determine the energy of the moment and its relationship to the future.
The Pranksters were adept at shock and awe. Freaks Outs were to be dealt with here and now-a tool or a s Frank Zappa would say “a process whereby an individual casts off out moded and restricting standards of thinking, dress and social etiquette in order to express CREATIVELY his relationship to immediate environment and the social structure as a whole.”
The town of L Honda and the San Mateo county Sheriffs didn’t see it that way. They freaked out and not in a positive way when Kesey hung a huge banner (15ft. by 3 ft.) near his house and plainly visible from Hwy. 84 stating: the Merry Pranksters Welcome The Hells Angels.
Hunter Thompson stopped at Baw’s General Store and overheard this conversation before the big party.
“That goddamn dope addict”, said a middle aged farmer. “First it’s marywanna, now its Hells Angels. Christ alive he’s just pushin our faes in the dirt.”
“Beatniks, said somebody else. “Not worth a pound of piss.”
There was talk of divvying up the ax handles in the store and “going up there to clean the place out”. But somebody said the cops were already on the job. “Gonna put em in jail for good this time, every damn one of em…so the ax handles stayed on the rack.”
The two day Aug. 2, 1965 party is of course legendary for its guest list which included Ginsberg, Cassady, Thompson, Albert Garcia, and others as well as its mythical big bang impact on the emergent counter-culture. The ripple effect is still being felt in various subtle and not so subtle ways, thanks in large part to coverage of the event by Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
In many respects the La Honda scene helped give birth, credence and respectability to the New Journalism, as it has come to be known. Co-founders Wolfe, and Thompson began telling stories using scenes rather than historical narrative. They also placed an emphasis on conversational speech as opposed to quotations and statements. The story would be told from the position of the underdog…from inside his head, while recording everyday historical details. The approach was in some respects a non-fiction version of Jack Kerouac’s new prose with the author immersing himself into the story.
The style first showed up and was used in magazines like Rolling Stone or later on in Steward Brands (Rancho Diablo) Co-Evolution Quarterly (1974) founded with the proceeds from the Whole Earth Catalog. The Quarterly whose blend of futurism, arts, social science and technology, would grow into another strong and long enduring branch on the hippie tree.
On the first night and for the next two days the hills were alive with the sound of music. The place was wired with costumed people and speakers everywhere. Strange voices came out of giant redwood trees as The Warlocks (Grateful Dead) improvised and bounced off each other as only they could. Kesey dressed as a Druid priest, welcomed the Hells Angels led by the notorious S.F. chapter President Sony Barger.
The town of La Honda, long proud of its outlaw heritage from bootlegging to horseback riding, stagecoach robbing, or Southern Pacific railroad safe blowing bandits like the Younger Bros., of Jesse James Gang fame, was also known for its lack of police enforcement and as a place to hideout. La Honda even celebrated yearly with a Bandits Day parade and festivities. But the town didn’t know what to do or how to respond when this later day band of self-proclaimed freaks and outlaws showed up to party…especially when 40 Hells Angels came thundering into town.
The acid beer bash had a quieting mellowing effect on the Angels who found momentary peace unlike the locals, according to Thompson who had first heard about acid from Michael Murphy at Easlen (Big Sur) back in 1959 or 1960. Murphy had told Thompson not to take acid because he was by nature to violent. Thompson opened the door for the first time along with the Angels that night at Kesey’s. “I liked it” he would say “It was wonderful. I never had any trouble with acid. What I like about it is that it cleans out the pipes”.
The self-proclaimed Dr. or Duke of Doonesbury, founder of Gonzo Journalism (branch of the New Journalism) taped recorded portions of the event and gave them to Wolfe who would incorporate them into an article he was writing for The New York Herald Tribune Magazine that would later grow into The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.
Allen Ginsberg would write a poem entitled First Party at Ken Keseys with Hells Angels:
cool black night thru redwoods
cars parked outside in shade
behind the gate, stars dim above
the ravine, a fire burning by the side
porch and a few tired souls hunched over
in black leather jackets. In the huge
wooden house, a yellow chandelier
at 3am the blast of loudspeakers
hi-fi Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Beatles,
Jumping joe Jackson and twenty youths
dancing to the vibration thru the floor,
a little weed in the bathroom, girls in scarlet
tghts, one muscular smooth skinned man
sweating dancing for hours, beer cans bent
littering the yard, a hanged man
sculpture dangling from a high creek branch,
children sleeping softly in bedroom bunks,
and 4 police cars parked outside the painted
gate, red lights revolving in the leaves.
It wouldn’t be long before the eclectic, everyman cauldron of the unexpected based in La Honda would bubble up and over into the real world-capturing the imagination of America for generations to come.
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by Court Tefft
To fathom hell or soar angelic
Just take a pinch of psychedelic
Whoever controls the media, controls the mind
In the top 40 half the songs are secret messages to the teen world to drop out, turn on and groove with the chemicals and light shows at discotheques
Johnnies in the basement mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement thinking about the government
The man in a trench coat, badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough wants to get paid of
Subterranean Homesick Blues
The generational fissure, later known as the generation gap, was just beginning to fracture as the first wave of baby boomers began to take charge of their own lives and music; moving from adolescence into young adulthood.
In the folk arena The Kingston Trio, Christy Minstrel, crew neck, v neck, flat topped sweater crowd with an “oh gosh swell kinda feel”, was taking a back seat to the harder edged more meaningful, political and real Woody Guthrie branch of the folk tree. Hootenannies, cafes and Joan Baez were happening.
When Dylan the black sheep, prodigal son of the folk movement hit the road, shifted gears and went “electric”, a metaphor for acid; he floored it and didn’t look back. With tires squealing and “Nadine"on his brain; he gave the poetic style of the beats a little rock minus some roll.
Soon insurrection introspection and electricity would give us folk and acid rock. Acid rocks gentler side of stringed baroque orange skied musical landscapes would evolve a long side the harder edged fuzzed and distorted lead guitars of the Ventures on acid in your garage scene. Suffering from an improvisational psychotic reaction to the breaking up is hard to do…I want to hold your hand blandness of the early English invasion and sick of the greaser, beach boys, city girl tough, suburban rock of the times the music became more experimental and confrontational.
Soon lyrically dreamy songs about elusive butterflies, time and space or incense and peppermints, sung by Sunshine Supermen convinced a lot of people that everybody must get stoned.
The word psychedelic appeared for the first time on a record in 1964. The Greenwich Village based bluegrassey, acoustic folk duo with jug band leanings and a sense of humor, The Holy Modal Rounders added a new verse to the Leadbelly classic Hesitation Blues. “Got my psychedelic feet in my psychedelic shoes; I believe Lordy Mama, I got the psychedelic blues.” They also sang Euphoria; “floating around on a Belladona cloud, singing Euphoria”, a song popularized by and somewhat sanitized by the Youngbloods.
In 1965 another N.Y based rock band with a primitive sound, a political consciousness, a sense of humor and roots in the folk and jug band scene sang “I wanted to fill my head with light, whipped out my pipe and stuffed it full of grass, gobbled up a cube of LSD”, on I Couldn’t Get High.
In 1964 after years of favorable press based on positive therapeutic results the mainstream press began to turn against LSD and its proponents. LSD was becoming a recreational drug. Brian Wilson, who in part lost his mind behind LSD, had this to say, “As soon as I took it, I started to feel a little bit creative, I went right to the piano and wrote California Girls (1965). A lot of artists felt inspired and got creative. Some “allegedly” took it too far and ended up institutionalized. Suspected casualties include Syd Barret (Pink Floyd), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), Skip Spence (Moby Grape), and Stacy Sutherland (13th Floor Elevators). The Texas based Elevators were the first band to openly pay homage to psychedelics on The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators in 1966.
Behind the music of the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s was LSD. Even if you never took the plunge…you felt its impact. It gave new depth and breadth to folk, country, jazz, pop, rock, soul and gospel.
Everybody knows what psychedelic rock sounds like and who played it…”the San Francisco sound”, but where did it come from and what is it? In sixties Rock, Michael Hicks a professor of music at Brigham Young University, describes psychedelic music in the vernacular of LSD research terminology. “To understand what makes music stylistically “psychedelic” one should consider three fundamental effects of LSD: dechronicizaton, depersonalization and dynamization”.
Dechronicization is the intent to move the listeners and the musicians beyond the normal constraints of time…”does anybody really know what time it is?” Songs are lengthened, for example the beat is slowed down to create a feeling or an illusion of moving fast when you’re really moving slowly. A couple of examples might be: You keep Me Hanging On by the Vanilla Fudge, or Who Do You Love, by Quicksilver. Depersonalization is the intent to move the listener and musicians beyond self and into other realms of consciousness often characterized by a sense of oneness and unity. The song may soar and take off into the wild blue yonder like Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd.
Dynamization is a bit more subjective and difficult to explain…kinda likes LSD itself. A group might create a choral like effect combined with a Bach like organ to create a church like flavor and feel of otherworldliness. This style even permeated breaking up or falling in love themed songs on Led Zeplins psychedelic blues based first album. Under the influence of dynamization, sometimes the other worldliness would drift off into a carnival like atmosphere to help create a whirly swirly liquid and strange world. All the better for the listener to observe himself observing himself.
Psychedelic music simultaneously honored and undermined all that had come before it by bringing in other sounds, instruments, musical genres. One major influence was John Coltrane’s early 60’s free flowing improvisational jazz which he got in part from Ravi Shankar. The Doors Light My Fire as well as the Byrds 8 miles high, opening guitar licks, are tributes to Coltrane. The Beatles paid tribute directly to Shankar while other groups like Traffic gave their music an eastern mystical spiritual feel. The incorporation of flutes into the mix created a sense of pagan like mystery or spookiness, conga like drumming gave the music a tribal feel.
Technology had a lot to do with psychadelia. The emergence of stereo…moving sound from one speaker to another. The wah wah pedal and synthesizer, distortion and feedback, drawing out the tones with a vibrato arm and using the guitar as a lead singer all came out of psychadelia.
Album sides became one track layered musical collages with fade out endings full of absurdist overdubs. A song might end…begin again and seque into another song that starts out folk like and ends jazz like with a different beat. Musicians might play in different keys or sing off key. Psychedelia was designed to blow your mind, feed your head, make you laugh, maybe make you dance, and take you on a magic carpet ride.
Vocals could be strange…how do you sound when your underwater. Lyrically the music progressed beyond diddy wah diddy and baby its you. The lyrical content tended to be anti suburban middle class homogeneity. Plastic people and businessmen were scoffed at while the working class and revolution were embraced. Sometimes the lyrics were intentionally out of context or just plain incoherent. For the most part the music was idealistic and positive with an emphasis on the sacred nature of life. Despite its embrace of the satirical rock had become serious and for the most part dropped the roll.
Bob Dylan said it best “Popular songs are the only art form that describes the temper of the times…that’s where people hang out. It’s not in books, it’s not on the stage, and it’s not in the galleries.” (1966)
The “word” was spreading in all sorts of ways never expected by or anticipated by Huxley and Leary. Everything was amplified turned up and on including Stewart Brand who in the mid 60’s had taken up with USCO (The Us Company), a traveling circus like performance art commune based north of Manhattan in an old Methodist Church. The USCO troop combined mysticism and technology to create psychedelic happenings on the east coast.
Featured in a Life Magazine cover story 9/9/66 where Life proclaimed “the world of art is “turning on”, and went on the explain how USCO had built multimedia backdrops for Timothy Leary lectures and would close one version of the We R All One show with 10 minutes of multiple “Om’s coming from multiple speakers, in a show designed to distort ones sense of time and place.
One artist said “we try to vaporize the mind by bombing the senses.” Another artist said “art should be a vehicle for meditation”. Life explained that “to a tuned in mind almost anything can have psychedelic import. Paisley patterns for example are considered extremely psychedelic.”
Brand would later hook up with the Pranksters in La Honda and take their infamous Acid Tests to the next level by promoting and putting on the Trips Festival (1966). The two day event had vendors, music, light machines, movie projectors, strobe lights, black lights, day glow, costumes, oscilloscopes, tape decks, live dancers kaleidoscope machines, closed circuit TV, etc.
The idea of course was to use technology, energy, electricity and light as a tool for social transformation and enhanced communication.
Life magazine stated “The USCO artists called their congenial wrap around environment a “be in” because the spectator is supposed to exist in the show rather than just look at it.” Life critiqued the show as a “bizarre amalgam of painting, sculpture, photography, electronics and engineering aimed at inducing the hallucinatory effects and intensified perceptions that LSD, marijuana and other psychedelic drugs produced – but without requiring the spectator to take the drugs.” Yeah right!
On the west coast the psychedelic poster and ballroom scene had in part emerged from the Pranksters traveling Acid Tests. The ballroom scene brought together diverse acts and talent that went on often until sunrise the next morning. All for a few bucks… literally.
The short lived pinnacle of the pre-computer generated psychedelic poster art scene of the 60’s and 70’s was based in S>F from 1966 -1972. The form developed and spread internationally drawing inspiration from the Dada, Pop Art, and Art Novveau movements.
Used as a tool by the underground press and comic books to express revolutionary, political, social and spiritual sentiments, as well as a means of promoting rock concerts; the art form long maligned and disregarded for not being “fine art” is finally being honored and recognized internationally.
Rock promoter Bill Graham made the early artists he employed turn it down a bit. Some of the Avalon Ballroom Concert posters took a lot of work to decipher. The form soon spread to album covers and just plain old poster art.
poster by Victor Moscoso
Rooted in the surrealist movements dreamy imagery, psychedelic art tended to be more up beat, satirical and inspirational. The collage art aspect is considered by many to be its most advanced form.
Poster by David Singer
By the mid 70’s the style had been diluted and co-opted into the mainstream. Peter Max was the first to make it big on a corporate ad agency pay roll.
By 1965 the underground press was becoming a powerful counter weight to the mainstream media as well as to the traditional alternative press. Later know as the “free press” the underground rebelled against the politics and cultural stances of traditional alternatives like the Village Voice in N.Y.
The LA Free Press (64) began “getting hip” as did Paul Krassnors Realitst (N.Y.) in 1965 as the Berkeley Barb emerged from the Free Speech Movement. “Getting hip” was often a euphemism for becoming psychedelisized.
As the free press began to sprout up everywhere one fundamental principle stood out “information should be free”. Today that spirit lives on keeping the internet free for the time being anyway.
Homegrown community based newspapers sprang up nationally and internationally with the emergence of UPS, the Underground Press Syndicate. UPS distributed for free articles and comic s by well known visionaries like Buckminster Fuller or satirists like R Crumb and Sidney Sheldon.
The papers tended to cover avant garde theater, poets, musicians, artists and authors, while paying homage to communes and radicals. The underground press became a powerful force covering that which was being ignored by the mainstream media. In time the mainstream was forced to cover issues like the Vietnam resistance, women’s issues, gay rights, the environment and nuclear power.
The style was sometimes psychedelic, printed “over under sideways down” and sometimes combined the handwritten with type set and collage.
The FBI and CIA were not amused and began to monitor, wire tap, infiltrate and harass. “Bust em for pot” was an easy way to censor journalists and editors.
Henry Luce, the publisher of Life Magazine and an experienced tripper who along with his wife had praised LSD when taken by the “right people” in a proper setting, was called to action. The party was getting out of hand.
On 3/25/1966 Life published a negative fear based propaganda piece on LSD in an effort to stem the tide. Life didn’t feel impelled to totally trash it but they did a good job. At the time LSD was still legal.
Here are some highlights:
“The colorless, odorless, tasteless substance called LSD can be made in any college chemistry lab. A black market dose costs only $3.00 to $5.00. But that is enough to send a person on a 10-hour “trip” – sometimes into a world of beautiful serenity and shimmering insight, sometimes to frenzy and terror. In either case the person who has taken this remarkable drug never sees life quite the same way again.”
“Starting in bohemian and intellectual circles, the cult has now become a dangerous fad on the college campus.”
“In the big cities “a girl just off the bus from Boise” can find it quicker than the YWCA”.
“LSD is being dropped in girls drinks. Terrifying parties are being given with a surprise in the punch.”
“Many discover that life is only a game, and then begin playing it with less and less skill. Their vision becomes a beguiling scrim drawn over a life of deepening failure”, it’s all down hill once you take that pill.
Life offers us a testimonial:
“I’m a hard-headed, conservative, Midwestern, Republican businessman (no name) under no circumstances would I consider myself a person who goes around taking strange drugs. “But” he did and found “My conscious mind was sort of sitting on my shoulder – watching everything I was doing” then he found God, “I knew that I was God.” He goes on to say “That really sounds ridiculous but I knew that all life is one and since God is life, and I am life, we are the same being.
After listening to some music and enjoying his hallucinogenic experiences he decides to confront his fears. “They all got together in a mob and started to come up after me – a flood of bogeymen. But I knew I was stronger than all of them, and I took my hand and wiped them out.”
He concluded the danger with LSD is “Anyone who motioned with his hand and couldn’t wipe out the creatures has to stay down there with them forever.”
Dr Sidney Cohen a worried expert says “Many people are doing to themselves what we would never consider doing experimentally. Someday their brains may wind up in the laboratory and give us the answers.”
“Hospitals and doctors are suddenly treating scores of panic-stricken young patients who have “taken a trip” on LSD with disastrous psychological effects. Some have been hospitalized for weeks.”
“LSD can convince those with criminal propensities that they are above the law.”
“One young Californian walked in front of a speeding car convinced it couldn’t harm him and was killed.”
Life warns us that people with heart and liver trouble, unstable personalities or epilepsy should not take LSD.
The article comes with pictures of people on a “bad trip” as well as a picture of Dr. Alpert with the caption “a pioneer propagandist”. Life informs us that “only last week, former Harvard Psychologist Timothy Leary, a long time user of and proselytizer for LSD, was sentenced to a 30 year prison term for smuggling marijuana and pointedly held for psychiatric tests”
Another expert testifies when asked, if everybody should have the right to take LSD? “Emphatically not.” A LSD trip is not always a round trip. What the LSD user may be buying is a one way ticket to an asylum, a prison or a grave.
The line in the sand was being drawn. Society was clamping down. Those “experts” who adhered to a libertarian belief system were losing ground. The contrasting “expert” opinion was best summarized by Dr. Solom in 1964.
“I believe that the astonishing human brain is mans most inalienable possession, his intellectual birthright. No person or institution has the moral right to muffle or inhibit its development. No social authority can successfully arrogate unto itself the right to dictate and fix the levels of consciousness to which men may aspire, whether those states are induced pharmacologically or otherwise.”
In 1965 Congress had begun investigating LSD in various committees. A new agency was created to go after illegal manufactures. One Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, headed by a conservative Democrat, lashed out at “pseudo intellectuals who advocate drug use.” Experts painted a portrait of users as losers…self pitying under-achievers. LSD was creating non-conformists, potential threats to society and the American family.
A new national agenda was emerging HALT…the spread of LSD...look past the facts, create new facts (chromosome damage) create a climate of fear, discredit research (positive) and researchers. Use the media.
Not all the experts agreed. Senator Robert Kennedy led one congressional probe on drug research and regulatory programs and concluded “I think we have given too much emphasis and so much attention to the fact that it can be dangerous and that it can hurt an individual who uses it…that perhaps to some extent we have lost sight of the fact that it can be very, very helpful in our society if used properly.”
In 1966, under govt. pressure, Sandoz recalled all the LSD issued to research scientists. The disinformation campaign intensified. LSD might have potential but Leary and Alpert were crazy scientists…Frankensteins poisioning our youth in pursuit of illusionary utopias and new man fantasies. They were nothing more than dime store mystics engaged in parlor tricks and ego games for personal gain. The culture wars had begun.
painting by Dr. Gerald Oster
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By Court Tefft
The panties were dropping as fast as the acid
Gordon Liddy on Millbrook
It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is not longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.
The Dream of the Earth
Meanwhile back in New York’s Duchess County assistant DA and former G man G. Gordan Liddy had been staking out the Millbrook estate for months. Liddy, who would later mastermind the first Watergate break in and served 4 ½ years in prison, had become convinced that “research” at Millbrook was just a front for decadence and perversion.
Hyped up on caffeine and sugar, Liddy and his army of deputies kicked in the doors to Billy Hitchcock’s 64 room mansion early one morning in April 1966. Certain they were on to a mother lode of dope and porn the police spent 5 hours inside the house on their search and destroy mission. All they found was a little pot. Later the bust was thrown out of Court.
Legality was never an issue for G. Gordon Liddy and many of the ideological zealots in his camp. In this instance they hadn’t felt the need to inform the “suspects” of their rights and one of those “god-damned liberal judges” had dismissed the case. It didn’t really matter to Liddy and his kind; the opposition had been wounded and was bleeding. Time, money, lawyers and media would finish the job they had begun, or so they hoped.
Later that year (Sept.) Leary announced he was forming a psychedelic religion known as The League for Spiritual Discovery. He made the announcement at a press conference at the N.Y Advertising Club. The groups mantra was turn on, tune in, drop out, which was also the title of a book of essays Leary had written.
“Turn on means to go beyond your secular tribal mind to contact the many levels of divine energy which lies within your consciousness, tune in means to express tend to communicate your new revelations in visible acts of glorification, gratitude and beauty; drop out means to detach yourself harmoniously, tenderly and gracefully from worldly commitments until your entire life is dedicated to worship and search.
In 1980 at another press conference I asked Timothy Leary if tune in, turn on and drop out was relevant for today. He laughed and said “you bet”! (Laughing Louder). I then asked him what he thought about Ronald Reagan and the New Christian Right. Here is his reply:
“I give them hell in my act and do my best to get everyone to laugh at them.
Christianity is the most single dangerous organization in the history of our planet. 2,000 years of Christianity is an unbroken record of murder, deceit, persecution, burning at the stake….you name anything and a total antagonism to women and the human body and to everything that is beautiful and wonderful about life…so the Catholic Church and the Christian religions…if they want to do their thing…(fine) but were not going to let them intimidate us…we’re not going to let them scare us…were going to stand up and look them right in the eye smile and say live and let live, love and let live…the Christians can’t stand that…the Christians can’t stand the idea that anywhere there’s two or 3 smiling people that are scientific pagans and don’t want to fall on their knees and turn on the fatigue weary submission button in their brain…were gonna do it…we’re not gonna be intimidated by so called moral majorities…are we?" (press concurs)
Leary’s response reminded me of my own families beginnings in America. First generation American’s Joshua Tefft and his brother Samuel both spoke the native Algonquin language and were living in Rhode Island (1675) when King Phillips war broke out.
King Phillip was an Indian Chief nicknamed King Phillip for his adoption of European dress and customs. He was the son of Chief Massasorts who had saved the Pilgrims from starvation…remember Thanksgiving.
The Teffts had lived peacefully with their Narragansett Indian neighbors for 14 years when 1,000 troops of the Puritan United colonies attacked an Indian stronghold 2 miles away from my families farm. Joshua stayed on to protect the livestock as most of the other family members fled.
On January 18th, 1676 Joshua Tefft was drawn and quartered and hung for high treason. The order was given by the Governor of Plymouth Colony.
During his interrogation, taken by Roger Williams, Tefft claimed that “himself had no arms at all” yet he was portrayed as some sort of super charged Rambo like /Englishmen killing machine.
Turns out part of the problem was some of the puritans in the neighborhood claimed Joshua had not only married a squaw but “he had in his habit conformed to them amongst whom he lived.” Rumors being rumors and gossip being gossip Tefft was said to have “renounced his Religion, Nation and Natural parents”. He was condemned to die the death of a “Traitor
The supreme punishment for high treason:
For high treason, if a man, he being accused by two lawful witnesses or accusers, shall be drawn upon a hurdell unto the place of execution, and there shall be hanged by the neck, cut down alive, his entrails and privie members cut from him and burned in his view’ then shall his head be cut off and his body quartered; his lands and his goods all forfeited.”
The broad ax was typically used in this type of execution.
Ultimately King Phillip lost the war and his head …which was displayed on a pole in a public place. His wife and son were sold into slavery. Don’t forget…public executions were a fun day often held on a Sunday…a family affair and celebration of old time family values.
Here’s how King Phillip’s great great grandson explained the incident in a famous, celebrated and controversial speech in 1836. “The pilgrims said he was a traitor (Tefft), and therefore they said he must die. So they quartered him and as history informs us they said, he being a heathen, but a few tears were shed at his funeral. Here then, because a man would not turn fight against his own wife and family, or leave them, he was condemned as a heathen.”
In the end it appears Joshua Tefft was not guilty…oops….it’s a very famous case.
Being raised in the 1950’s and early 60’s meant indoctrination into the American Mythology of the time. Collectively we were the righteous underdog who had risen to the top of the heap. Despite fierce opposition our shimmering ideals and willingness to defend and sacrifice for homeland family and those less fortunate (Europeans) had made us a superpower.
For most Americans empire was a dirty word…we hadn’t asked to rule the world; it was like slavery it had just happened and we dealt with it. Collectively we didn’t take…we gave. Manifest Destiny, Monroe Doctrines, Andrew Jackson…it was all good.
It came as quite a shocker in the late 60’s and 70’s when “multi- culturalism” was introduced into the media and educational system. That which had been glossed over…exclusion acts, interment camps, segregation, reservations, broken treaties, and stolen lands became focal points. We learned that America had a dark side. Tonto meant stupid and the savages we had scalped, given small pox blankets to and forced to play our game were actually human beings.
(poster by Wes Wilson)
We learned that our democratic roots and republic were in part based on long standing Native American alliances and traditions. We explored their pantheistic spiritual world view and it made sense. Many of our founding fathers were deists not theists hence the First Amendment to the Constitution… freedom of religion
As rivers that you could develop film in were catching fire so was the evolutionary new and improved revolutionary science of ecology. The spirit of the earth was reawakening. Remember Geronimo, Little Big Man, Chief Dan George, Rolling Thunder and his review, the tear, the Trail of Tears, Black Elk Speaks, Ghost Dancers, Wounded Knee I and II, Dennis Banks, Leonard Peltier, Marlon Brando, Alcatraz and the American Indian Movement (AIM)! Well beneath the political surface was a spiritual undercurrent that deeply influenced “hippie” life and thought in America. The hippies in fact created a powerful feedback loop with their reverence, teepees, tribal ways and emulation that in turn stimulated the re-discovery of “old ways” and native pride among America’s indigenous peoples.
According to Alan and Heath in the Domebook -
Pacific High School
, “Along with the igloo and yurt, the teepee, is an original shape. The mobile Plains Indians perfected its design. It is the architecture of motion. It is made up of triangles that can be collapsed and dragged on its struts (poles) behind a horse. The greatest advantage of a teepee is its portability”.
The living space in a teepee is circular. The circle represents totality, wholeness, eternity, protection and completeness. It is much easier and more intimate to communicate in a circle.
The Native Americans had meaningful spiritual rituals something many baby boomers were looking for. They were also secret, mysterious and private. Those invited to participate were honored and privileged.
Purification rituals, hot springs, saunas, dance, peyote, vision quests, peace pipes, medicine men, shamans, spirit guardians, dreaming, creation myths, mother earth, father sun all were here and now in real time, an unsung treasure trove of sensual spiritual awareness very straight forward, practical and easy to understand wisdom.
The following series of quotations are compiled from a group of books I have been reading and will list later :
Englishman! Although you have conquered the French, you have not yet conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods, and mountains were left to us by our ancestors.
Minavaurna (Chippewa) 1761
You have talked to us about concessions. It appears strange that you should expect any from us, who have only been defending our just rights against your invasions.
Unnamed (12 Delaware tribes) 1793
If we had some disputes about our hunting ground, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed upon this island. Their numbers were small. They found us friends and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country on account of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them and granted their request, and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison (rum) in return.
Brother, you say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?
We never quarrel about religion, because it is a matter which concerns each man and the Great Spirit. Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you, we only want to enjoy our own.
Red Jacket (Sencca) 1805
Brothers! We do not worship the Great Spirit as the white people do, but we believe that the forms of worship are indifferent to the Great Spirit. It is the homage of sincere hearts that please him, and we worship him in that manner.
We like our religion and do not want another.
Red Jacket 1811
Before the soldiers came along we had good health; but once the soldiers came along they go to my squaws and want to sleep with them and the squaws being hungry will sleep with them in order to get something to eat, and will get a bad disease, and then the squaws turn to their husbands and give them the bad disease.
Struck By the Ree (Yankton Sioux) 1865
Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers. These laws were good. They told us to treat all men as they treated us: that we should never be the first to break a bargain; that it was a disgrace to tell a lie; that we should speak only the truth that it was a shame for one man to take from another his wife, or his property without paying for it. We were taught that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything and that he never forgets; that hereafter he will give everyman a spirit-home according to his deserts; if he has been a good man, he will have a good home; if he has been a bad man, he will have a bad home. This I believe and all my people believe the same.
Chief Joseph (Nez Perce)
We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God.
Chief Joseph (Nez Perce)
They branded us as pagans and evil worshippers, and demanded that we renounce our gods as false. They even told us that we were eternally lost unless we adopted their faith and all its symbols.
We believe that the spirit prevades all creation and that every creature possesses a soul in some degree, though not cecessarily a soul concious of itself. The tree, the waterfall, the grizzly bear, each is an imbodied Force, and as such an object of reverence.
The rites of this physical worship are wholly symbolic, the Indian no more worships the sun than the Christian worships the cross.
poster by Alton Kelly
We recognize the spirit in all creation and believe that we draw spiritual power from it.
It has always been our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. It's apppeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way it will in time disturb the spiritual balance for which we all strive.
Many of us believe that one may be born more than once, and there are some who claim to have full knowledge of a former incarnation. There are also those who believe in a “twin spirit” born into another tribe or race.
The Great Spirit is Our Father but the earth is Our Mother. She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us, and healing plants she gives us likewise. If we are wounded, we go to our mother and seek to lay the wounded part against her, to be healed.
Big Thunder (Wabanakis Nation) 1900
We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as “wild”. Only to the white man was nature a “wilderness” and only to him was the land “infested” with “wild” animals and “savage” people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.
Chief Standing Bear (Oglala Sioux)
How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? That is why God will upset the world- because it is sore all over. Everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore.
Katie Luckie (Wintu Shaman)
This we know
All things are connected
Like the blood
This unites one family…
Whatever befalls the earth,
Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth
Man did not weave the web of life;
He is merely a strand in it
Whatever he does to the web,
He does to himself
Ted Perry ( inspired by Chief Seattle in 1970’s)
One evening a wise old Cherokee told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people. “My son the battle is between two wolves inside us. One is evil; it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false-pride superiority and ego.
The other is good, joy peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about if for a minute and asked, “Which Wolf wins? The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Continue to contaminate your own bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.”
A day will come when a people with white skin will walk our lands, their hair and clothing will be as ours and they will adopt our customs. We will know them because name their names will sound like our names…
(to be continued)
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By Court Tefft
We are the caretaker of life
The balance of nature depends on us
The world will be what we want it to be
True happiness lives in the finding and maintenance of natural harmony of spirit, mind and body.
Apparently everywhere in the “developed world” human communities and their natural and cultural supports are being destroyed, not by “acts of God” or invasion by foreign enemies, but by a sort of legalized vandalism known as “the economy”.
Almost 10 years before moving to Pacific High with the Hog Farm Hugh Romney now known as Wavey Gravy had “tuned in, turned on, and dropped out – way-out, entered deep space.
In 1963 Romney left his old life behind and “journeyed to Northern Arizona to join up with the Hopi Indians and await the coming global cataclysm ( The Hopis said I was early but let me hang out anyway and regroup my head) I connected with the interconnectedness of everything and surrendered to the Law of Sacred Coincidence.”.
Hopi prophecy says “the Earth will shake three times: first the Great War, then the second one. Now what would the third one be? This the prophecy does not say. For it depends on which path humankind will walk: the greed, the comfort, and the profit, or the path of love, strength and balance.”
Hopi means “the people of peace” Hopi society is communal and matriarchal a place where each individual finds purpose within the “group soul.” To the Hop peace is synonymous with balance.
The Hopis believe the world and the individuals composing it must always expand and grow but in a balanced fashion. To work with no time to play or to focus on the technological at the expense of spirit is to be out of balance. The Hopis believe that when the world is out of balance nature the great regulator will intervene with earthquakes, drought, famine, floods, eruptions and severe storms to convince humankind of the need for balance. This is nature at war.
Romeny got his head together and left the reservation “to float aimlessly on the ocean of one thing after another” where he would eventually cross paths with Ken Kessey and the Merry Pranksters.
“It almost didn’t happen, this expanded family commune of mine. If Ken Babbs, “you can never trust a Prankster” hadn’t high-jacked the good bus Furthur and hightailed it south to hook up with Ken Kesey in Mexico, effectively stranding most of the Merry Pranksters in Hollywood, there might never had been a Hog Farm. “Kesey was on the lamb in Mexico after being busted for pot on Steward Brand’s apartment house roof in S.F.
A believer in Synchronicity, or the Law of Sacred Coincidence, Romney says “It took almost two hours for the Universe (1965) to conjure up our deliverance”, a neighbor came by and suggested they care take an old hog farm, hogs and all.
Before morphing into Wavy Gravy the famous clown; and well known Ben &Jerry’s ice cream flavor; Mr. Gravy was best known as that dude at Woodstock in a cowboy hat, missing his teeth who announced “ Good Morning what we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400 thousand.” He also announced “don’t take the brown? Acid” which set off a wave of paranoid bum trippers who flocked to the medical tent to be talked down by “experienced” hog farmers.
According to Wavy the “true meaning of Woodstock was spiritual”, even in a disaster area peace was possible, as the whole world watched history in the making. (1969)
At Woodstock, also known as the Aquarian Exposition, the Merry Pranksters and Hog Farmers were put in charge of security by the promoters. 85 New Mexico communards flew to N.Y. to help put on the event. According to Mr. Gravy “We had the cream of the hippie communes in the state of New Mexico”.
Mr. Gravy the pacifist, clown, activist is deeply committed to the spiritual side of life. He says “I owe a lot to those early chemical insights, like the irrefutable knowledge of the inter-connectedness of all life.” Mr. Gravy once ran for city council in Berkeley and lost. His campaign slogan was Elect a real clown.
Mr. Gravy was deeply impacted by his early experiences with LSD. ‘I felt first hand that God was real and I wanted to go to work for Him, her or it. Sounds kind of wacky and pretentious, but it was true then and it is still true today. What a long strange trip it is. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” These days (1992) I rarely need the drugs to keep myself on course. Mostly I just breathe and meditate and pray.
Before settling in Berkeley and purchasing the 600 acre Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville (Hog Heaven) the Hog Farm spent a lot of time on the road, in a convoy of busses as sort of an activist traveling minstrel show.
“We spent 10 tight years rambling the highways and byways of the Planet Earth before we ran out of gas.
By 1966 in Haight Asbury the counterculture had become such a curiosity that for $6.00 (a lot of money), a touist could travel behind the “beaded curtain” and see real hippies in their natural habitat. The bus driver narrated the tour over a P.A. system. “Among the favorite past times of the hippies, besides taking drugs are parading and demonstrating, seminars and group discussions about what’s wrong with the status quo; malingering; plus the ever-present preoccupation with the soul…”
In 1972 before moving to Pacific High school Mr. Gravy has his third and final spinal fusion and is transformed into a coffee table. When they made the full body cast “I stuck my tummy out a little extra when they applied the plaster so when I chose to suck it in (my tummy) there was room for a couple ounces of Marajahoochie (pot, refer, grass). I was the stash. This helped to assure me of continuous company in my coffee-table incarnation and I was unbustable without a buzz saw,”
David Crosby rented a portion of Pacific High (South Skyline) for Mr. Gravy and the entire hog farm to recuperate. The following year rumor has it; Mr. Gravy gave a commencement address “dressed only in top hat, boots and cape open to the elements.
How has the Hog Farm stayed together? Mr. Gravy says: Chalk it up to love, slack and good sense of humor. “We always solve our problems in a circle. We are each a cog in the collective hog, although the tracks of the elders are honored and respected.” “Consensus was almost our downfall. We now are a consensus minus one operation. The Hog Farm can have one true fanatic and still get things done.”
Mr. Gravy maintains that: Our true wealth is each other and the bonds we have forged in our first quarter century.” “We have fair shares and rent but whatever is put in beyond this is an individual decision. It is possible to be a millionaire and be a Hog Farmer if you pay your fair share. Your millions are your business.” “Many of the early communes were too gung ho for their own good. Everything was sacrificed to the group, not so in our scene.”
In 1992 after scanning a copy of Intentional Communities and seeing how many listing there were Mr. Gravy said “It helps bear out my theory that there are many more communes existing today than in the 60’s. It makes good ecological and financial sense to live with a group of people today.”
To be continued
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Intro Stairway to Heaven Phase II
By Court Tefft
Who am I
To stand and wonder
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away
Who am I
Who am I
Country Joe and the Fish
I looked under chairs
I looked under tables
I tried to find the key
To 50 million fables
They call me the seeker
The seeker is that which is being sought
Social historians tend to overlook the spiritual explosion implosion of the counter-culture movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. Each decade has its own flavors dejoure and they all ran into one another. Common ground, synthesis and symbiosis were the underlying flavor of the times. Everything was connected to everything else.
For many countercultural veterans of the 60’s and 70’s that’s what the revolution was about, that’s what the transformation was about. Spirit was the tangible and lasting component, the catalyst for change that manifested in a myriad of forms beyond the political and continues to this day.
The spiritual component was so vast and complex that it tends to be overlooked, ignored or placed in a category of its own “other”. The traditional story minus the spiritual or what I call “the greatest hits historical package” goes something like this. In the later part of the 60’s the politicos meet the hippies” merge and all hell breaks loose.
The stereotype is the hedonistic hippies took drugs, danced in the streets and wanted to be free while the politicos were serious, focused and quite often revolutionary. They didn’t dance they marched and organized while the carefree hippies embraced spontaneity and celebrated chaos.
The political spectrum on the left was wide ranging from the hard sometimes Marxist, Maoist lefts call to arms to the soft left, compromising by liberals content with incremental change and dialogue.
The hippie’s spectrum was also wide, ranging from the hedonistic burnt out speed freak acid casualties or the self-righteous proselytizing authoritarian close-mindedness of those who felt their experimentation and explorations had led them to the truth and the way, to those who happily continued down the road on the journey of self-discovery.
The exploration of self, in part a natural phenomenon of a youth movement was intensified by use of psychotropic drugs. Consciousness raising and liberation were emphasized continuously in political and apolitical realms.
Be ye hippie, politico or synthesis of the two the doors of perception had opened, God was alive…magic was afoot, East was meeting west, it was after all the dawn of the age of Aquarius and the wisdom of Atlantis was rising. If the cataclysmic and prophesized events of the eve of destruction were to be turned around individuals needed to come together …right now and reverse the course. If that was not possible it was important to master the survival skills necessary to emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually survive in a dark and dangerous world where the mainstream culture seemed to be on the Highway to Hell. We had taken a different road on our ascent to the Stairway to Heaven and we were having fun-fun-fun all along the way. This was the zeitgeist of the back to the Land and communal movement.
Skoop Nisker KSAN news director, author, and meditation teacher puts it this way, “The hippies were mythological collage artists borrowing from various religions and cultures – whatever spoke to us or fit our fancy. Maybe we just wanted to feel connected to something: the universe, our bodies, the natural world, the movement of the planets (what’s your sign?), and the mystery itself. Since we couldn’t seem to make these connections in our churches and synagogues, we started looking for them on the fringes
of society and in other spiritual traditions. We turned to ancient pagan and mystical practices of meditation, breath work, sweat lodges, tarot, and astrology, music and drugs”.
Spirituality was huge rampant and hip in the early 1970’s. Even if it wasn’t your cup of tea, its aroma permeated everything. Even the long haired Jesus became a psychadelisized mushroom eating politico revolutionary Kabbalist who spoke of reincarnation and lived tribally on a commune with the gardening Essences after studying with eastern yogis (The missing years) before reaching Christos (enlightenment).
On the communes being spiritual was kinda like being in a rock and roll band…the women would sometimes be heard saying “he’s so spiritual”. Even the more mainstream folks were into Jonathan Livingston Seagulll. The story of a renegade Seagull who sets out on his own path to higher awareness. Kung Fu with hippie David Caradine was on T.V. Tough guys could be spiritual too, with martial arts.
Folk singing nuns, anti-war priests, and long side-burned ministers couldn’t stop the mass exodus away from the mainstream religious denominations. The eastern traditions were exotic, erotic, ancient alive and mysterious. They had survived the test of time, they were practical, experiential and intellectual. They made you healthy, got you high (you are what you eat) plus they came with a sound track, books and bards.
Well I left my happy home to see what I could find out
I left my folks and friends with the aim to clear my mind out
Well I hit the rowdy road, and many kinds I met there
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There’s so much left to know and I’m on the road to find out
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On The Road Again
By Court Tefft
One of the most influential books of the time was Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda came to America in 1920 after graduating from Caleutta University and receiving his spiritual training from Christ like master- Sri Yukteswar.
Considered by many to be a spiritual masterpiece Autobiography of Yogi documents Yogananda’s spiritual travels throughout India, and along the way he illuminates many potential paths for generations to come on the road to self-realization.
Yogananda meets renunciates who like Siddartha, St. Francis and many a hippie had given up wealth, power and position to pursue spirituality. One such sage states “I have left a few paltry rupees, a few petty pleasures, for a cosmic empire of endless bliss. How then have I denied myself anything?” The great yogi goes on to state, “The short-sited worldly folk are verily the real renunciates! They relinquish and unparalleled divine possession for a poor handful of earthly toys!”
Yogananda’s journey continues “We are on our way to see an eighth wonder of the world – a women saint whose diet is thin air! Her name is Giri Bala” (a yogini) “She employs a certain yoga technique which enables her to live without eating. The technique includes the use of a certain mantra and breathing exercise more difficult than the average person could perform.”
Giri Bala lived without food or drinks for over 50 years and was supposedly observed in isolation by skeptical doubters to have really lived this way. Yogananda had been excited about the prospect of teaching others in food scarce India to do the same. “Mother he asked “why don’t you teach others the method of living without food?” “No” she said shaking her head “I was strictly commanded by my guru not to divulge the secret. It is not his wish to tamper with God’s drama of creation.”
“Mother he asked “what is the use of your having been singled out to live without eating? “To prove that man is Spirit.” Her face lit with wisdom “To demonstrate that by divine advancement he can gradually learn to live by the Eternal Light and not by food.”
We learn that Yogananda’s master is a time traveler able to be in two places at once, able to project thought across great distances as well as accurate images of future events. The man is here there and everywhere and he’s not on drugs.
Let your Soul and Spirit Fly …Into the Mystic.
“I saw a yogi remain in the air, several feet above the ground, last night at a group meeting.” Yogananda’s friend excitedly tells him. Yogananda responds “I have seen him in remarkable feats. He has expertly mastered the various pranayamas of the ancient eight folds yoga outlined by Patanjali/”
We learn that yoga is considered by its practitioners to be a science, philosophy and psychology not a religion. Religions tell people what, when, how, where and why or not to do things. Yoga teaches you to be. What to do needs to be balanced with how to be.
The benefits and goals of yoga are to attain health, happiness peace, and bliss via self-knowledge obtained thru exercise, discipline and meditation. To know ones self is the first step in knowing the Whole.
Yogananda warns us to beware of fakers, those who master certain yoga techniques and perform amazing feats of materialization or can read minds but are not highly developed spiritually. Many para-normal abilities come naturally with the attainment of higher levels of consciousness but for some they become another ego trap holding one back from the ultimate goal of self-realization.
Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks,
As each unconscious sufferer
Beware of Maya
Maya means illusion. The veils of illusion separate and limit us from attaining oneness.
“To surmount Maya was the task assigned to the human race by the millennial prophets. To rise above the duality of creation and perceive the unity of the Creator was conceived of as mans highest goal. Those who cling to the cosmic illusion must accept its essential law of polarity: flow and ebb, rise and fall, day and night, pleasure and pain, good and evil, birth and death. This cyclic pattern assumes a certain anguishing monotony, after man has gone through a few thousand human births; he begins to cast a hopeful eye beyond the compulsions of Maya.”
“To tear the veil of Maya is to pierce the secrets of creation” or to walk on the water so to speak or turn the water to wine. “So long as man remains subject to the dualistic delusions of nature, the Janus-faced Maya is his goddess; he cannot know the one true God.” If one is to consider self-realization as a possibility one must first and foremost be open minded. Yogananda opens us to the possibility that contained within are the keys to the doors that lead us beyond the duality and into the oneness. A new hippie mantra was born: Question Reality.
At the core of Yogananda’s teaching are the Vedic scriptures or Hindu sacred texts dating from 1200-1800 B.C. Veda means knowledge.
One knowledgeable modern day saint encountered and befriended by Yogananda on his road trip is Mahatma Gandhi. Yogananda reminds us that not so many years ago Gandhi refused anesthetics and smiled and chatted cheerfully with his disciples throughout his appendectomy.
Gandhi had this to say on the nature of Hinduism. “Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for worship of all the prophets of the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. It has no doubt absorbed many tribes in its fold, but this absorption has been an evolutionary, imperceptible character. Hinduism tells each man to worship God according to his own faith or dharma and so live at peace with all religions.”
Yogananda like many of the eastern sages before and after him have roots and even degrees in science which they tend to embrace enthusiastically and incorporate into their teachings.
In America Yogananda befriends Luther Burbank the great American horticulturist and plant breeder from Santa Rosa. Yogananda referred to Burbank as my “American Saint.”
Houseplants, gardening, fern bars, old barn wood décor, mother earth, compost, worms, herbal remedies, folk lore wisdom. Kirlean photography and pyramid power were big in the 1970’s. The Secret Life of Plants, which scientifically illuminated the fact that plants had consciousness, was a big seller.
We learn from Yogannanda that Burbank is a visionary healer of humans and plants, a scientist in tune with the power of love. Burbank tells Yogananda “While I was conducting experiments to make spineless cacti, I often talked to the plants to create a vibration of love. You have nothing to fear, I would tell them. You don’t need your defensive thorns, I will protect you. Gradually the useful plants of the desert emerged in a thorn less variety.”
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by Court Tefft
Only the shallow know themselves
Out where the desert meets the sky
Where I go when I want to hide
Oh Peyote – Oh Peyote
She tried to show me
d to Show me
Eagles – Bernie Leadon
(Picture by Rick Griffin)
Like the spiny thorns on Luther Burbank’s cacti the ego is composed of the offensive-defensive shields we erect at various points in our life to assist in our survival.
All travelers on the road to self-realization, higher consciousness, liberation or enlightenment must stop rest and refuel at the Ego Motel, a huge and sprawling complex located at the center of the universe in the middle of nowhere.
While on the road in Mexico anthropologist Carlos Castaneda met Don Juan Matus a Yaquai Indian sorcerer, shaman who introduced Carlos to the teaching of the native Toltec peoples of ancient Mexico.
In the 1970’s Don Juan’s teaching spread like wild fire, part of the initial appeal to the expanding hippie tribe were Don Juan’s early teachings which employed psychotropic plants as a tool for ego transformation.
The original eight books magical mystery series unfolded in real time between 1966 and 1987. Before his death Castaneda summarized his shamanistic travels in a book of quotations “The Wheel of Time” (1998) taken from the original writings.
We learn from Carlos that “to change our idea of the world is the crux of shamanism. And stopping the internal dialogue is the only way to accomplish it. When a warrior (spiritual) learns to stop the internal dialogue, everything becomes possible; the most far fetched schemes become attainable.”
Castaneda expressed it this way “Human beings are perceivers but the world they perceive is an illusion: an illusion created by the description that was told to them from the moment they were born. So in essence, the world that their reason wants to sustain is the world created by a description and its dogmatic and inviolable rules, which their reason learns to, accept and defend.”
Carlos informs us that our fellow men are “black magicians” bound of course to the devil himself…the out of whack ego and its earthly manifestations. Early on Carlos is tricked into dealing with his ego while he builds his strength as a warrior.
The ego motel is a scary rundown broken-down palace of mirrors located at a crossroads where one opts for freedom light and love or slavery, darkness and despair. Carlos implores us to “Think for a moment. Can you deviate from the path that your fellow men have lined up for you? And if you remain with them, your thoughts and your actions are fixed forever in their terms. That is slavery. The warrior, on the other hand, is free from all that. Freedom is expensive, but the price is not impossible to pay. So fear your captors, your masters. Don’t waste your time and your power fearing freedom.”
Carlos gives us some tips for dealing with our personal history and traditional components of ego. “A warrior acknowledges his pain he doesn’t indulge in it”. There is no way to get rid of self-pity for good.” Changing the façade of self-pity means only that one has assigned a secondary place to a formerly important element.”
Self importance…another ego mask is explained this way. “Self importance is mans greatest enemy. What weakens him is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of his fellow men. Self-importance requires that one spend most of ones life offended by something or someone.”
Carlos appeals to the positive side of our ego. “The hardest thing in the world is to assume the mood of a warrior. It is of no use to be sad and complain and feel justified in doing so, believing that someone is always doing something to us. Nobody is doing anything to anybody, much less to a warrior.” The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.
The shamans of ancient Mexico encourage us to learn to be humble, imaginative and willing…impeccable in our actions and intent. “If that is accomplished the road is clear. One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential.”
After many years on the road Carlos concludes that “Realizations are of two kinds. One is just pep talk, great outbursts of emotion and nothing more. The other is the product of a shift in the assemblage point; it is not coupled with an emotional outburst, but with action. The emotional realizations come years later after warriors have solidified, by usage, the new position of their assemblage points.”
Castaneda reminds us that “for an average man the world is weird because if he’s not bored with it, he’s at odds with it. For a warrior, the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, and unfathomable. A warrior must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous time.”
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Be Here Now
by Court Tefft
To define God is to Confine God
Baba Ram Dass
Jesus said: I am the way.
It’s the same Way
Is The Way Is
Baba Ram Dass
(photo by Don Snyder)
Funny Thing about all the secrets
Of the east or the secrets of mysticism
THEY’RE NOT SECRET!
Baba Ram Dass
Dr. Richard Alpert; Timothy Leary’s cohort at Harvard had eaten enough LSD and related substances by the late 60’s that he began to morph into Baba Ram Dass spiritual student and teacher long before his famous road trip to the east, the journey he documents in Remember Be Here Now 1971.
Alpert attributes his initial interest in the evolution of consciousness to being around Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley. Leary, Albert and Huxley became intrigued by Buddhism and Hinduism, religions that explored and explained the nature of consciousness in terms that are personally relevant and meaningful. Leary wrote “Western literature had almost no guides, no maps, and no texts that ever recognized the existence of altered states. We had no rituals, traditions or comforting routines to fall back on.”
At least in the east the ancient Hindu text, the Rig Veda, elaborated on altered states produced by the plant soma. Leary had been to the east and Huxley had written and created a synthesis and interpretation of Eastern and Western mystical traditions entitled The Perennial Philosophy. Now it was Albert’s turn to hit the road. He headed out on the “hashish trail”, looking for answers to the questions posed by his own psychedelic experiences. Alpert says, “I was aware that I didn’t know enough to maintain these states of consciousness. And I was aware that nobody else around me seemed to know enough either. I checked with everybody I thought might know, and nobody seemed to know.”
I asked Bobby Dylan
I asked the Beatles
I asked Timothy Leary
But he couldn’t help me either
They call me the seeker
I’ve been searching low and high
Finally in Nepal, Dr. Alpert meets someone who “Knew”. “There was no doubt in my mind. It was just like meeting a rock.” Bhagwan Dass was his name and he was a long haired 23 year old hippie from Laguna Beach, Calif. In Hindi, Dass means servant of.
Dr. Alpert explains it this way. “I never felt so profound an intimacy with another being. It was as if he were inside of my heart. And what started to blow my mind was that everywhere we went, he was at home. “Lamas from Tibet, followers of Shiva, southern Buddhists and swamis…they all knew him. “He knew all their stuff. He had been in India for five years, and he was so high that everybody just welcomed him, feeling he’s obviously one of us.”
Soon Alpert and Bhagwan Dass meet Bhagwan’s teacher known as Maharaji (great king), who once again blows Alperts mind by recounting a very personal event from the day before that only Alpert knew about. In time Alpert realizes that Maharaji “knew everything that was going on in my head, all the time and that he still loved me.
“This guru-Maharaja- has only his blanket. You see, he’s in a place called SAHAJ SAMADHI and he’s not identified with this world as most of us identify with it. If you didn’t watch him, he’d just disappear altogether into the jungle or leave his body, but his devotees are always protecting him and watching him so they can keep him around.” Alpert stayed and studied.
Dr. Alpert had a pressing question for the great teacher. “What is LSD?’ The guru eats three hits of extremely pure and potent acid and with a twinkle in his eye, gives Alpert his answer, “Nothing – nothing.”
The message was clear; the key to higher consciousness and the maintenance of expanded states of awareness was beyond drugs.
As Stevie Windwood said :
Come down off your throne and leave your body alone. Somebody must change.’
Take extra care not to lose what you feel
Apple you’re eating is simple and real
So water the flowers that grow at your heel
Guiding your vision to Heaven
And Heaven is in your mind.
Albert went to work with his new guru and discovered what Sri Krishna Prem had told Timothy Leary a few years earlier; “The true guru, was the inner voice of ones highest self. But very few people were attentive enough to hear that murmurus whisper. They needed an outer guru, a teacher, who would act as “a sort of amplifier for the inner guru.
“Maharaji teachings were simple yet complex. He taught Alpert that which he already suspected to be true. For Alpert it was more a process of affirmation and confirmation via deep self-realization than outright revelation.
Albert became Baba Ram Dass (servant of Ram) and shared his personal revelations and realizations with us in Be Here Now.
Be Here Now was the Whole Earth Catalog of eclectics spirituality on acid. Reading it was like hitting the random select button on a multi disk CD player…where within a certain framework you never knew what to expect.
Baba Ram Dass became a way shower. He told us where we might go and what we might encounter. He presented us with enlightened masters and points to ponder with quotes from Hermes, Ouspensky, Jesus and others. The cool thing was Ram Dass was one of us…an outlaw on the fringe of an insane world.
He presented us with questions and answers, exercises and meditations, mantra, tantra diet, yoga, chanting, mudra, breathing, paradox, healing, planes of reality and the potential for peace of mind amidst the chaos. While the Doobie Brothers and Byrds sang “Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright oh yeah, Ram Dass presented us with alternative questions and answers. Anything was possible in the Here and Now.
The place to start, the launching pad to initiate change via personal growth was here and now. If we didn’t believe Ram Dass we could try it ourselves. This was after all the dawn of the Age of Aquarius where collectively we moved away from the Piscean Age characterized astrologically by blind faith into the Aquarian Age, characterized by direct experience of that which was spiritually transformative.
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Ram Dass gave us exercises:
Ask yourself: Where am I
Ask yourself: What time is it?
Say it until you can hear it or for specific periods of time focus your thoughts in the present.
Don’t think about the Future
Just Be Here Now
Don’t think about the Past
Just Be Here Now
For many, “Be Here Now” was spiritual lesson #1, a tool and a mantra of sorts used to peel away the layers of onion we call self, and reality. It was a tool for accessing soul and paving the way to mindfulness, creativity, gratitude, happiness and change via meditation. The place where you can get beyond ego chatter with its focus on the pain, the past, on could ah, should ah, and would ahs and the worrisome future.
Ram Dass says “I don’t think people thoroughly grok the fact that here is where it all is.” There’s no getting away from it – that’s the way it is. That’s the eternal present. You finally figure out that it’s only the clock that’s going around…its doing its thing but you – you’re sitting Here Right Now Always. Nobody is going anywhere. Nobody is coming from anywhere. We’re all here. We’re all here in eternal time and space.”
Ram Dass taught us to be. Together we explored the earthly and mystical realms of consciousness. He told us “a teacher points the way, a guru is the way.” He gave us a sense of the sacredness, beauty and interrelatedness of all life by teaching us about ritual, purification, energy, vibration and love.
He educated, illuminated and stimulated by teaching us about paradox and paradigm. He is a holy man not a saint. He explained his journey this way: “There are three stages in the journey I have been on. The first is the social science stage; the second the psychedelic, and the third, the yogi stage. They are summating – that is, each is contributing to the next. It’s like the unfolding of a lotus flower.”
When recently asked to sum up his life’s message he said “I help people as a way to work on myself, and I work on myself to help people…To me that’s what the emerging game is all about.”
In 1997 Ram Dass suffered a stroke that left him with expressive aphasia. He continues to lecture, write, and teach from his home base on Maui.
Here is his web site:
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by Court Tefft
Almost every hippie had an affiliation on some level with Meher Baba-his picture was everywhere. Salvador Dali like in appearance he was often perceived as a zany whacked out happy go lucky holy man. His motto, Don’t Worry be Happy had as much impact on the counterculture as Be Here Now.
Despite his anti-drug message Meher Baba was a hit in pot smoking psychedelic circles. In 1953 he declared himself an avatar by proclaiming “I am the Highest of the High” An avatar is one who is not bound by the wheel of rebirth and comes to humanity as a messenger from the world of spirit in order to bless and aid humanity in its spiritual growth.
Meheer Baba means Compassionate Father. For 43 years (1894-1969) he traveled the world telling stories using an alphabet board and sign language, rarely breaking his vow of silence, Word of his teachings spread in part because disciple Pete Townsend of The Who listed Beher Baba in the credits on the “rock opera” Tommy album.
Meher Baba was a sufi (Muslim) trained in part by Hindus. He claimed he came “not to teach but to awaken. The task of humanity is to realize the teachings. The message is love, the teachings have been given by the great messengers of the past”, Baba wrote.
In the 1970’s the concept of karma was making its way into the hippie lexicon. John Lennon sang of Instant Karma.
On Black Mt. Patsy had a dog named Karma. She would say “good karma” when he did something right and “bad Karma” when he did something wrong – Karma was run over and killed on Skyline.
According to Meher Baba,. “the actions of past lives determine the conditions and circumstances of the present life, (Karma) and the actions of the present life have their share in determining the conditions and circumstances of future lives.”
We learn Karma is not a system of rewards and punishments handed out by a benevolent God keeping records in Heaven but instead according to Meher Baba, “Karmic fate is mans own creation pursuing him from the past lives, and just as it has been shaped by past Karma, it can also be modified, remolded and even undone through Karma in the present life.”
Karma we learn is the result of ones personal attitudes, beliefs, choices and decisions. Meher Baba explains that “proper understanding and use of the law of Karma enables a man to become master of his own destiny through intelligent and wise action.” Today we call it creating ones own reality, the trick of course is to do so consciously.
According to Meher Baba “You, as a gross body, are born again and again till you realize your Real Self. You, as mind, are born only once and die only once, in this sense you do not re-incarnate. The gross body keeps changing but mind (mental body) remains the same throughout. All impressions (sanskaras) are stored in the mind. The impressions are either to be spent or counteracted through fresh Karma in successive incarnations. Buddha’s wheel denotes the cycle of births and deaths. The wheel goes on it’s ceaseless round. It lifts you to the heights,” it brings you down to the depths.” Or as Jerry Garcia sang in 1972…
The wheel is turning
And you can’t slow down
You can’t let go
And you can’t go back
And you can’t stand still
If the thunder don’t get you
Then the lighting will
Won’t you try just a little bit harder
Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?
Jerry Garcia’s music and Robert Hunters lyrics (1972)
The concept of Karma and reincarnation was reinforced further when Crosby, Stills Nash and Young sang on and in Déjà vu (1970)
I feel like I’ve been here before
Feel like I’ve been here before
We have all been here before
We have all been here before
Meher Babas message was at times simple, since you’re here anyway. “Why Worry? Worry is unnecessary. Necessary worry is not good, but unnecessary worry is madness.”
To Meher Baba happiness...your own, was a spiritual act that helped others…it spreads. When you are garlic faced it makes others unhappy “he said, This may be your self-centered intention but it does nothing positive for you or those around you. Your situation changes when you change. You change when you address your ego issues.
Meher Baba states that “In this world of innumerable frailties, the greatest of all frailties is the common fault of not being able to face, accept and acknowledge ones own weakness. This is the frailty of all frailties. It gives rise to hypocrisy.”
Hypocrisy comes from the world of ideals we construct for ourselves or imagine that we are, the problem is we are not. “The temptation to seize the ideal imaginatively and pose as having realized it is so irresistible that there are very few who do not succumb to it.”
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Now and Zen
By Court and Patsy
Leave your self-importance at the door along with your shoes
Those who know do not speak
Those who speak do not know
When one looks at it, one cannot see it,
When one listens for it, one cannot hear it,
However, when one uses it, it is inexhaustible
God against man
Man against God
Man against Nature
Nature against Man
Nature against God
God against nature
Very funny religion!
Dr. D.T. Suzuki
You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.
Counter Culture and Zen
The emergence of American Buddhism has deep roots in the counterculture. Neil Cassidy, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Alan Watts and most famously Jack Kerouac introduced popularized and paved the way for the Dali Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and a host of other Buddhist teachers to establish roots in America.
Jack Kerouac, believed he was destined to convert and teach the Dharma to millions of people in the early 1950’s. Essentially Dharma means truth that uplifts the soul and provides for spiritual growth. Kerouac novels like The Subterraneans, Mexico City Blues, and The Dharma Bums in particular focused a lot on Buddhism.
Kerouac studied Buddhism intently for many years. He wrote a book of Haiku’s a form of Zen poetry. Many of Kerouac’s Buddhist writings were published posthumously.
Known for his life-long attachment to Catholicism, Kerouac liked to emphasize the similarities and overlaps between the lives and teachings of Jesus and the Buddha. Kerouac personally favored Indian Mahayana Buddhism with its philosophical nature, social bent and emphases on gentleness.
Kerouac and the Beats syncretism was deeply influenced by the scholarly teachings of D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts and the Buddhist Bible; an anthology of Buddhist texts and sutras.
The Beats and later the Hippies were also greatly influenced by their experimentation with mind altering substances which for many became a bridge or catalyst for the exploration of the various meditative yogas associated with eastern traditions, as well as the more physical practices associated with “orentalalism” like Hatha Yoga or Tai Chi.
Teachers not Preachers
D.T. Suzuki (1870 – 1966) is credited with introducing Zen to the west. Born in Japan he became a Zen monk and a professor at Columbia University with friends like Carl Jung, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Eric Fromm and Alan Watts to name a just a few.
Zen masters point the way to the heart of Zen…the awakening to the non-conceptual…beyond words; non dual insights of ultimate reality. “This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called satori. Without it there is no Zen.” “Satori means the unfolding of a new world hither to unperceived in the confusion of a dualistic mind.” “Satori is a sort of inner perception - not the perception,” – “the perception of Reality itself, so to speak.”
Suzuki writes “the true object of Zen, which is the unfolding of mans inner life,” requires “methodical training of the mind in order to mature it to the state of satori,” in other words the process takes some will power and discipline. Carl Jung refers to satori “as an art and a way of enlightenment.”
Satori comes from within, it is a state of illumination. – Masters only point the way, “in Zen the satori experience of awakening to “our original inseparability,” with the universe, seems, however elusive, always just around the corner.”
Enlightenment is an objective on al Buddhist paths – some paths say it is a mandate for when one flower opens there is spring everywhere. Zen comes from a place that enlightenment is available here and now, this instant, in a flash of insight known as satori. Those who awaken… those who are realized – so it is said in Zen; tend to just go about their business. A
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water
Alan Watts writes, “Zen maintains that the Buddha transmitted awakening to his chief disciple, Mahkasyapa, by holding up a flower and remaining silent.” “From the standpoint of Zen, this experience is the essential content of Buddhism, and thedoctrine is quite secondary to the wordless transmission of the experience itself fro generation to generations.”
The story goes that after his awakening the original Buddha laid out his prescription and diagnosis for pain and suffering – The Five Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
Zen as a practice does not focus on Buddha. Spiritual training is practical and systematic. Zen never explains it only affirms. Zen is very individualistic, it is non linear, a way - a view of life.
Zen is an aberration of sorts, “it has no creed, no philosophical system, no cannon of scriptures, no intellectually comprehensible doctrine.” Zen has no God to worship. Zen does not deny the existence of God; it’s just not the concern of Zen “The metaphysical complexity of other schools of Buddhism or Buddhist – Hindu or Buddhist-indigenous shamanistic are not the focus of Zen. Zen is a more personally focused path on the way to Satori.
“Life according to Zen ought to be lived as a bird flies through the air or as a fish swims in the water.” The Zen concept of “no mind” – is a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club.”
If one were to complete books on the subject to the end of time, they would not explain it, for all that could be written would only be ideas about Zen but not Zen itself.
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