The Man Who Turned on the World
4. The Exile's Re-Return
1963Once more I wandered through the gigantic city of New York, and the busy arteries of Manhattan and its mighty Central Park. It was January. And it felt good to be back.
I had had quite a few new ideas since leaving Harvard about extending the availability of LSD to new groups, organisations, and selected individuals, which might lead to locating space for the psychedelic experience in modern American society. It was clear that if psychedelics were to enter into proper competition for society's mandate, we would need some kind of structure to disseminate our new knowledge. The need for a legal framework into which psychedelics could be smoothly fitted was very great indeed, for non-medical use of these drugs, including LSD, was not yet governed by the Food and Drug Actand if we were to use our legal advantages in a collaborative way, and fast, we might be able to get a project off the ground and circulating through inner space before the law finally got round to outlawing their use or amended the Act to prevent their use for religious purposes.
An American legal authority, Roy C. Bates, writing about 'Psychedelics and the Law'what he called 'A Prelude in Question Marks'comments on the situation of about this time, as follows:
'It may seem far-fetched but would be altogether in accord with the (Federal) Constitution to organise a group as a church, with the prospect of privilege.'
And he based this observation on a decision by the Honourable Yale McFate in 1960 in favour of a member of the Navajo Indian Tribe appealing a charge of illegal possession of peyote, a sacramental food of the Native American Church. There was also another Navajo-peyote case on the books: it was decided on July 26, 1962, by the United States District Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington), to declare a section of the Code of Indian Tribal Offences'Peyote Violations' 'null and void, invalidly authorised and unconstitutional'.
As to such religious practices, William Blake (b. 1757) has this to say: 'I then asked Ezekiel why he ate dung, and lay so long on his right side and left side. He answered, 'The desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite; this the North American tribes' practice.' (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).
Bates also noted that
'Inner space law today (1963) is in the stage of underdevelopment outer space law was in A.D. 1903 when the Brothers Wright launched their airplane at Kittyhawk or, perhaps, when the Brothers Montgolfier ascended in the first air balloon, a hundred years earlier. Until it has matured, scholars in search of external on behalf of internal freedom will feel frustrated. They may believe themselves to be fugitives from injustice but in truth are victims of legal confusion engendered by the reversal of scientific objects, from the universe without to the universe within. Until psychedelics have found their place in law, a good many concrete questions will not be answerable with confidence.'
Tim Leary had also taken note of the legal uncertainty surrounding the use of psychedelic substances, and working independently in Cambridge, Mass., started a unique organization called 'IFIF' (International Federation for Internal Freedom) to preach the gospel that man's salvation lies in the expansion of his own consciousnessthat the fruits, which hitherto have fallen only to the lot of him who renounces the world, can now be shared by him who partakes of the LSD sacrament, and that, no matter how little happiness can be regarded as the goal of individual human aspiration, it is yet the best means to its attainment. They sited the IF-IF offices on Storey Streettwo blocks from Harvard Square. 'We welcome anyone interested,' Alpert wrote in The Harvard Crimson.
While Alpert continued to conduct his course in motivation at Harvard for undergraduates and graduates, and Leary taught his graduate seminars in research methods, IF-IF staff took care of enquiries, official correspondence, and mailing packets of literature to Harvard undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and anyone interested anywhere in the country. There was an application blank for membership in IF-IF (dues $10 per year), an 'Agreement to Indemnify and Hold Harmless'.
For good and valuable consideration, including access to the literature
and other facilities of the INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR INTERNAL
FREEDOM, its agents, servants, associates and employees, I agree
to indemnify the said INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR INTERNAL FREEDOM,
its agents, servants, associates and employees, and save them
harmless for any loss, damage or expenses arising from the claim
and demand of any person against the INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION
FOR INTERNAL FREEDOM, its agents, servants, associates or employees,
in connection with the use of LSD, psilocybin and related drugs.
And messages from the Cambridge headquarters began to move along
the system, telling the news, of odd happenings in Mexico, how
'Internal Freedom' is going to be like Zen this year, and of 'several
million thoughtful people who have heard the joyous tidings and
who are waiting patiently for their psychedelic moment to come',
for whom LSD is becoming a major religious and civil rights controversy.
It was a brilliant astonishing concept, even by eccentric New
England standards, and deserved all the support it could get;
indeed, it seemed for some of its membership to offer the umbrella
under which they could enjoy their psychedelic experiences without
much spiritual or financial outlay.
'Perhaps one could start with or on the IF-IF members as the natural audience and introduce the notion through the news letter, then encourage everybody to send in a return-addressed and stamped envelope. This would reduce the cost. Also send out all material in duplicate, with the instruction to give one copy to an interested friend. That would snowball the development. Also, initially perhaps the comic Zen koans ought to be relatively simple yet not too easy. Something in the nature of different languages, references to significant passages or books, or records, or anything. It is important to get people involved through action, they have to work to solve the koans. Then, gradually . . . one could make it more difficult, and more in "code"you could circulate original "manifestos" analysing possible game hang-ups and traps in society; and you can build up a body of references one can allude to. Then make it gradually more difficult to obtain information, so that one would have to go through several persons and piece things together.
Doctor Strangelove, indeed . . . But it was left to the Grand Master and High Priest Tim, to explain how, in future, messages (verbal and non-verbal) were to be found in the seed that lies at the core of each one of us. He wrapped it up in his own esoteric way'IF-I F is conservativeit seeks to return to the wisdom of the tribe, to the wisdom of the body, to the wisdom of the nervous system.'
It was all perhaps just a problem of 'unicornity', for Hermann Hesse had written of the pilgrimage:
'Throughout the centuries it had been on the way, towards the light and wonder, and each member, each group, indeed our whole host and its great pilgrimage, was only a wave in the eternal stream of human beings, of the eternal strivings of the human spirit towards the East, towards Home. The knowledge passed through my mind like a ray of light and immediately reminded me of the phrase which I had learned during my novitiate year, which always pleased me immensely without my realising its full significance. It was a phrase by the poet Novalis, "Where are we really going? Always home!" ' (The Journey to the East).
And in a practical way, IF-IFif, IF!had anticipated Marshall McLuhan's theoretical basis for what lysergised nervous systems believe about non-verbal, i.e. telepathic, communication:
'Tribal man is tightly sealed in an integral collective awareness that transcends conventional boundaries of time and space. As such, the new society will be one mythic integration, a resonating world akin to the old tribal echo chamber where magic will live again: a world of ESP.... Electricity makes possibleand not in the distant future, eitheran amplification of human consciousness on a world scale, without any verbalisation at all.' (Playboy interview).
Something similar happened to us in New York, where a parallel development was simultaneously taking place at the offices of The Agora Scientific Trust, Inc., on the corner of Eighty-First Street between Madison and Park Avenues. It was only in New York City the game possibilities were different, that's all; it required a different scenario, new players, a fresh response to the organisation possibilities inherent in our new situation.
Agora was to be a living metaphor for the kind of idea-sharing an LSD session entails. In our 'Statement of Purposes' a group of us introduced a theoretical model for Agora as a Foundation for Mind Research, and wrote:
'In the seventeenth century Rene Descartes advanced the theory that the body is a machine and is subject to the same investigational techniques that we apply to the natural sciences. In contrast, he considered the human mind to be of immaterial and supernatural design, linked to the body by means of some unknown divine fiat. The ramifications of Cartesian dualism were to provide all areas of Western science with the result that today the body is accorded extensive study and scientific analysis whereas those aspects of human life which are identified with the mind have been greatly neglected by experimental scientists. The tremendous advances of modern biology and medicine are the direct products of the great progress made in the knowledge of the body-machine which have resulted from the mechanistic procedures initiated by Descartes. On the other hand, these same procedures have had a debilitating effect on the study of the phenomenon of consciousness thereby seriously curtailing the studies related to the problem of life. Since biologists tend to extend the machine paradigm to living organisms, they neglect the phenomena not found in machines. Qualitative change is needed in the pattern of our studies if we are to discern an enlarged meaning of nature and of man extending beyond mathematical and experimental analysis of sensory phenomena and human behaviour. We believe, finally, that man has reached a crisis in consciousness within which he has the choice to continue in the path of the growing technicisation of human nature or to enter upon an intensive and comprehensive investigation of mind and its creative process in the pursuit of a greater use of human potential and a deeper understanding of the nature of reality.
In addition to myself, there were two other directors, John Beresford, M.D. (a long-term friend from the old London days of the fifties, who now lived in New York), and Jean Houston, Ph.D., a young, beautiful woman with two Off-Broadway acting awards and an impressive list of academic involvements and interests (Instructor in Comparative Religion and Philosophy of Religion, Columbia University; Instructor in Philosophy, Hunter College; Associate Professor in Philosophy and Religion, The New School for Social Research; author of The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Re-evaluation of the James Work in the Light of Modern Psychological Theory, and Tragedy In an Age of Scepticismand was later to co-author with Bob Masters The Varieties of the Psychedelic Experience, a work based largely on her experiments at Agora, where she was guide to many intensive LSD sessions). And to help and advise us, we gathered an impressive group of active 'research affiliates', including Victor Lownes as our 'Tantric' consultant, a position he filledor fulfilled admirably.
The set-up on Eighty-First Street was tasteful, cosy, well-equipped, and expensive; we rented the floor-through garden apartment in a private building with three rooms, toilet and bath, and a tiny tree-shaded garden at the back.
By chance or by good fortuneor it may even have been by magicwe had discovered in Howard Teague, the Nassau millionaire, that rarest of cultural beings, the patron. He had understood our needs and made the acquisition of the property and furnishings possible, in a very open and generous way. All we had to do in return was keep in touch and maybe visit him in Nassau now and again.
The large centre room fronting the garden was our 'session-room'. No interior decorator ever devised this psychedelic paradise of Swedish six-inch pile rugs and huge, canvas 'mandalas' on ceiling and walls, but once inside you dissolved all normal barriers of consciousness and flowed off into the well of infinity. We had been on a spending spree during the first few hectic days of getting the place readya hi-fi sound system with tape-deck and two speakers; a stroboscope; a machine for emitting sub-audible (low-frequency) sound waves; and a 'synchrotron', a device which delivers sound to the right and left ears alternately. This room was also my bedroom
The front 'office' had a couple of desks, telephones, chairs, electric typewriters, small bar and cabinet, a miniature FBI-type wire recorder, things like that, but was nonetheless decorated in the conventional Manhattan office style, without anyone ever actually using it, except possibly as a place to smoke dope (very illegal in those days!) if there were otherwise straight subjects undergoing a session in the other rooms.
At first, most of the planning and programming was shared by Jean Houston and myself, each with our own little slot to fill or speciality to develop. Jean was curious about what she called 'Phylogenetic recall', the proposition by Jung that in-built in the psychology of modern man there exist archetypes related to the early history of the human race. She was interested in setting up drug-related experimental designs and a foolproof methodology of administration of long-term and short-term psychedelics, most particularly the administration of LSD-25, psilocybin, Dimethyl- and Diethyl-tryptamine, which we had at the office in large supply; and, for myself, the question of my role in Agora is a bit academic since I was both artist and spectator at one with it and myself at the same time, though I remember I used to write memoranda quite a lot and papers, doubtlessly altogether quite meaningless, with titles such as 'Multicentricity and Incongruity; Epistemological Significance of Recent Findings in Research Using LSD-25' and 'Experiments in Thought Acceleration using Psilocybin' and 'The Nature of the Subjective LSD Experience', all of which was, admittedly, pretty didactic stuff compared to IF-IF, but nonetheless rather funny and inspired for all that.
In our psychedelic yellowstone we had found food for both the lion (science) and the unicorn (fantasy/myth/magic), even if in the end we could not persuade them, for all the correctness of our opinions, to lie down together. What we had tried to do was to blend new concepts and theoretical frameworksutilising such diverse areas as the geometry and energy dynamics of molecular 'flowing' structure to biochemistry, genetics, vision, memory, and accelerated learning: Yes, ethical and moral practice, toowith all the magical arts, including the 'I Ching', 'Quabhalla', The Tarot pack, and Alchemy, in order to shed new light on what webelieved was a crisis in the 'Order' and 'Symbolisation' in Western civilisation. I suppose you could say that our orientation was humanistic. Our 'humane science' aimed towards a simultaneous description of Man from multiple points of view, which itself is nothing more than the multidisciplinary understanding of the way mind and matter work in man.
Sir Julian Huxley, from London, wrote,
'In the psychedelic drugs we have a remarkable opportunity for interesting research. Nobody else, so far as I know, has done any work on different types of psychologically healthy and normal peoplepeople of high or low IQ, of different backgrounds, of different affective dispositions, on verbalisers and visualisers. This would be of extraordinary interest: we might find out not merely how to utilise our mind more energetically and more dynamically, but how to promote creativity by enhancing the creative imagination.'
But as a research area, the psychedelic experience was baffling for most researchers, whose speciality was 'compartmentalized' and who could not visualise the possibility of a 'whole', when perhaps even a new branch of knowledge would have to be developed to embrace new claims, concepts, as happened in mathematics with the discoveries of quantum mechanics and relativity theories, which revolutionized our understanding of the forces at work in the external world but which have yet to be integrated into a unified field theory of modern conceptual knowledge.
In modern America in 1963, the available literature looked more frightful than fruitful. Perhaps understandably, the revolutionary impact of psychedelics was not recognised during the early period of research. Occasional glimpses were found, but the majority of reports suggest that the researchers describing their results were seriously biased by their existing frames of reference. A carry-over of former conceptual systems into the radically new experience provided by these drugs inevitably caused distortions in interpretation of the material covered. Thus, while the work of the British psychiatrist, Dr. Humphrey Osmond, concerning the biochemical nature of schizophrenia was furthered by the introduction of LSD et al. during the mid-1950s, at the same time psychedelic theory itself was not advanced. It was in fact restricted into a pre-existing mould by the unconscious association that came to be made between psychedelic drugs and mental illness, which subsequently proved to be as erroneous as it was misleading.
However, even in restricted scientific research, sometimes something could happen to provide a valuable psychedelic programme. In the field of treatment of alcoholism, for one, there were several studies showing a close to fifty per cent (one in two) control rate following 'LSD therapy', a figure which cannot be matched by any other therapeutic approach to this problem, and successful beyond the wildest dreams of Alcoholics Anonymous, to say nothing of conventional psychoanalysis, which has a success rate of curing alcoholics of about one in every hundred, which is nobody. Or on another part of the investigational spectrum, Dr. R. A. Sandison, a Canadian psychiatrist, has reported the emergence of archetypal material during psychedelic sessions, lending weight to the hypotheses of C. G. Jung. Then there were a number of 'naturalistic' studies from different schools of thought, artistic and otherwise, as well as all the Harvard reports when subjects reported states of consciousness, variously described in terms of transcendental experience, i.e. visionary, mind-manifesting, consciousness-expanding.
Yes, a lot of research had been done with psychedelics, by comparison with perhaps every other important area of research, the total volume was minute. At the same time, it was also becoming increasingly evident that there were deficiencies in the published work which existed, and, curiously, there had been little if any advance during the previous two to three years over projects well under way before the 1960s. For example, a review of the position by the psychologists Terrill, Savage and Jackson, published in November, 1962, but dating from a round-table conference in January, 1960, is not essentially different from reports published in 1954 and 1956. There were grounds for believing that the main factor which stimulated the widespread interest in psychedelics, which characterized the period of the mid-1950s, was the belief that, through their use, long-standing problems in psychiatry were about to be settled; further, that with the abandoning of this hope a general decline of interest became noticeable in psychiatric circles.
There were even disagreements between some of the developing 'psychedelic theoreticians'. John Beresford, for one, believed that what he called 'the Leary attitude' results from
'a static, unidirectional, relatively fixed set of preconceptualisations of entity caused by and arising from deep psychological disturbances, displaced on to and hence "derealising" a potentially dangerous drug. The error stems fundamentally from passive-receptive tendencies on part of erstwhile principal investigators, causing passive, permissive attitude during the highly suggestible LSD-state, criminally neglecting to acquaint the subject with the essential knowledge, that he can always control whatever his mind is involved with, rendering the subject helpless, and at times, extremely fearful.'
Beresford was a proponent of the counter-theory that the LSD experience is a bi-phasic phenomenon: You must act, as well as feel; decide, as well as submit; allow out, as well as in. He felt quite strongly that LSD provided the
'only curative hope for the "crisis of civilisation" type of malfunctioning', and that 'the cure can be summed up in the one word "integration"; and that integration requires activation of both self and image store. Leary fails miserably because total resistlessness in the end saps strength, leaving character no room in which to grow or form. Partly out of diabolical "Gnosticism", and partly no doubt due also to ignorance, some of Leary's group have flipped out, and sometimes for months at a time, in sessions conducted according to the Leary precepts.'
Beresford believed sincerely in the vast potential of psychedelic drugs. 'With safe and intelligent handling (of LSD),' he wrote, 'the following facts can be substantiated:
1) There is no possibility of "psychic accidents".
Beresford wanted to keep the drug and the research in proper perspective as tools of the scientifically trained as specialist. But any tool can only be as goodor as badas the competence of those who use it. Certainly, one must not assign to LSD intellectual problems which defy our present intellectual capacities.
Jean Houston, on the other hand was interested in advancing the intellectual capabilities of the modern Americanto meet and solve the problems not of today or tomorrowbut the day after tomorrow. And by means of a process that you might call travelling in the 'ANTECEDENT FUTURE'that is inducing the ego to scan the cognitive parts of the cortex in order to develop the ability to bring into the present what is already in the memory and retrieve 'forgotten' information which is then integrated into the normal intellectual processes of ordinary consciousness.
Jean was an intellectually brilliant thinker in her own right, and, if such things still mean anything, it had been discovered in a nationwide survey of the I.Q.s of American Ph.Ds, that Jean's was the highesta little over the 200 mark', she once told me, though there was never any question in my mind about her obvious intellectual gifts, which were always adequate to meet her function as an Agora director, our third and most junior member.
As with Beresford and myself, she saw modern culture strangled by a crisis of value correlative with a breakdown of its traditional ontological structures. The 'eleventh hour condition' of humanity is that of 'the dark woods'. We are lost in the woods
'Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood
W. H. Auden
The poignant theme of the dark wood emerges in the life of the mind as a symbol of the chaos that must precede the restoration of Order and the revitalisation of the human condition. How then is it possible for modern man to extricate himself from the 'dark woods' of his mind? Jean believed that in psychedelic drugs we had a means to dispel the clouds of despair, and spoke of the promise they held 'of Homecoming'; and of the possibility
'of guiding man past the dark woods of non-being, past deep shadows of aloneness to a world where no longer does man view himself as a creature separated and estranged from all other creatures but rather as a participant in a rich and fertile reality, a reality so interrelated and so full that it could only best be described as a dynamic continuum; the new reality that unfolds in the "psychedelic experience".
Jean believed that the reality of the existence of archetypes had been confirmed and demonstrated in the LSD session, which seemed to bring mythological and archetypal structures into conscious awareness. Thus, the role of the session guide is crucial if the subject is not to lose his way in the woods.
'The guide must steer a course of gradual intensification and enhancement of consciousness. The first suggestions must be simple and familiar, geared to focus the subject's attention on the heightening of colour and form perception of well-known objects. Pictures and flowers, music and natural objectsthese are the data of initial discovery and consciousness enhancement in the experiencing subject. It is only after several hours of helping the subject build up a familiarity with his extended reality that the guide may begin to prepare the subject for an exploration of transpersonal and phylogenic material.'
Simple, in theory, perhaps, but what in praxis ? Jean ran many LSD sessions at Agora, which she conducted along the lines just adumbrated with some quite astonishing results. She makes some observations on these sessions, as follows:
'In the course of my experimentation I have discovered that a most conducive mode of preparation for phylogenetic investigation is to be had by taking the subject through a "Cook's Tour" of world history. A variety of historical situations and occurrences are suggested in a sketchy manner. The subject, whose eyes are closed, is asked to describe the pictorial display of historic scenery and activity which now he "sees". This he often does with a detail and amplification and frequently an accuracy which far exceeds his normal historical awareness. Whether or not this is owing to the activation of previously learned but long forgotten historical information or to a utilisation of as yet unknown processes of historical evocation cannot be answered at this time. Suffice it to say that the probability rests with the former theory and that the subject's heightened imagination adds to the vividness with which he responds to these suggestions.
Of course, Agora was not entirely free from the crackpot element, in whom the doors of perception seemed, if not permanently unhinged then certainly wide open. One correspondent writing from Flamingo Marina, Miami Beach, told of his work with 'a magnetic machine which will hypnotise you and a second machine which goes inside the brain by rays and removes that part of the moral degeneracy involved'. And added 'The patient may be slightly ill for a few days, but his tendencies to sin will be gone.' I simply replied that we already had one to deal with the libertine tendencies of our staff, and hoped that his fine work in ' "prophylactic phrenology" would have wider application, perhaps as an instrument of the church'.
Then there was a complicated correspondence with an American Air Force Major from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, who wanted Agora to build a 'life-size' Moebius Strip for people to climb in and walk around 'accompanied by the entire spectrum of colour and music'. The object of the envisaged 'Strip' is
'to evoke in the participant any synergic, intuitive or emotive process/product of which he may be capable. This is for the purpose of unlocking his particular iron curtain by working directly on his subconscious through symbols (including language), the energy spectrum (light and colour), form, and even motion and odours if feasible. The super-computer qualities of the mind, including an ageless universal memory core, above-time-space programme actions, and conscious read-outs makes the mind our greatest resource, yet our greatest enigma. It is easy for this mysterious "black box" to be fed with sensual inputs that turn out a disordered state of consciousness.'
In both these examples, it is impossible to ignore the high moral tone of the two inventors. On the other hand, which of us would not settle, at whatever cost to our reason, for a febrile and creative, rather than static way of life ? And the fact that the light these two ideas throws is a murky one, doesn't, after all, seem inappropriate to our present situation. Indeed, you could say that they illuminate the stresses placed on the modern psyche in its relationship with modern society.
And yetI was sensitive to the fact that much of the stuff going on at The Agora Scientific Trust must sound every bit as 'crackpot' as the two examples just noted. The intellectualization of what we had and were doing was a formidable task. We had to find a way to describe certain changed or altered states of consciousness, which lie beyond all rationalization and even beyond all power of words, in a completely new way which would also be intelligible for other people, whether they'd taken LSD or not. Thus, no area of possible fruitful research was ever turned down which could be organised on the basis of rational belief, and we decided to structure into an existence an idea or a series of ideas which were derived from peoples' experience with LSD. During the first few months of activity our own 'internal' viewpoints were projected on to the outer world with a content that was found to be full of meaning for other people.
There is an intuitive basis which precedes the intellectual which provides us with something like a magic armour with which during LSD sessions nothing ever goes wrong. Objectively my initial intuitive behaviour during a session when I have given a person LSD can be codified into a set of precepts and illuminations which may collectively serve as starting-off point for others who may want to consider the principles of what it means to be an 'LSD guide'. The following are some facts and ideas from our 1963 Agora days I have assembledthey involve the means by which the 'internal logic' of the LSD situation may be realised in ordinary consciousness, with what assumptions one proceeds, with what goals, and what are the determinants of the goals, and what is the relationship of the knowledge gained through the LSD experience to daily life and ordinary affairs.
I had by this time given LSD to some 300 people and taken it myself about 100 times, and learned by making mistakes, as was inevitable, that no prior frame of reference can do anything but hinder. I 'knew' certain things I had no way of telling before. The intuitive leap had become standardised. For this reason perhaps it was inevitable that I would sooner or later leave Agora, terminating one phase and starting another.
But what sort of people did we give LSD to ? We had hundreds of requests from people all over America who wanted to take it, but the facilities on Eighty-First Street were lacking for such a large-scale operation. Perhaps I could note four sessions which can be accurately dated and leave it to the reader to decide how far they are relevant. (1) An abstract painter, (2) a Captain in the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research, (3) a Yogi, (4) a hedonist sceptic, a wealthy resident of Manhattan's fashionable Beekman Place and of Gstaad, Switzerland.
(It should be understood that axiomatic to my belief-fabric is that with LSD each person discovers, or gets, what they want.) The abstract painter, in the course of the most extraordinary visual experiences, in concrete and specific detail, of a mythological residue of a pre-Hindu Indian religious fantasy, discovered the identity of the image which had been eluding him from his paintings.
The Captain achieved extraordinary insight into a problem of mathematical 'transformations' with which he had been unsuccessfully grappling for the past five years. His work was in artificial intelligence via computer design. During the LSD session, he wrote to us afterwards.
'I suddenly realised that whenever I concentrated on a single form and brought it into focus, the situation was analogous to setting up a random set of sensor inputs and connecting these inputs via a fixed but randomly designed network to a series of nodes. I realised that recognition of any given pattern is dependent upon calling a halt in the normal flow of transformations; and, most importantly for my own work, the achievement of really useful automata would appear to depend on mechanism that can effectively monitor the products of a large number of transformations, select from them the important one for study, and the halting of the process long enough to classify the signal from the one transformation for purposes of pattern recognition.'
(Translated into ordinary English, the Captain was trying to invent a 'seeing' machine as effective as the human eye, for use in atomic submarines.)
The Yogi, a man who spent seven years before his arrival in America (where he had become a successful Wall Street stockbroker) studying yoga in a dhoti on the banks of the Ganges, jumped from the eighth of the twelve yoga stagesthe name eludes me, but that is as far as he had gotto the twelfth, called Samadhi, and the very highest form of Bliss, wherein he achieved the state of total identification with all of reality that made himmomentarilyGod. The man from Beekman Place for the first time in his life was appraised of a higher, that is more embracing and inclusive, logic than the one he had known hitherto.
In each of these four instancespeople widely different in background, education, character, nationality and physiqueit was nonetheless possible to abstract a basic, simple set of philosophical understandings, which are valid enough to permit anyone to integrate on a higher-than-usual level of awareness without any danger of paranoia (the common defence against chaos, and one which mitigates against anything of value deriving from the LSD experience) or of anxiety. The talked-about 'hellish experience' is actually completely unnecessary, avoidable and non-contributory, reflecting inadequate mental 'set' or physical 'setting' or technical knowledge on the part of the guide or a mixture of all three.
There was of course no scientific follow-up on these four individuals, but it was possible to deduce certain things when we saw them again a few months later. The painter had entirely reoriented his method of painting and when I last saw him, was working fast and productively (and his paintings do still sell in New York). From the Naval Captain have come some engineering hardware'resistor networks to accomplish types of transformation to be included in patent disclosures being processed by the Office of Naval Research, Washington under Navy Case 29093'. The Yogi was found to be, I fear, bewailing the ordinariness of not being God, but wasand still ismaking money nicely on the Exchange, while the millionaire believed that he had undergone a complete change in his beliefs about other people. He has not been heard from since.
It was thus with the establishment of the New York centre, plus a form of status stabilisation with Washington (via the U.S. Navy, who intervened on our behalf with the Federal Drug Agency by placing our work in a rosy, even golden, light which resulted in a letting-up of investigative pressure on Agora by the FDA), plus the sketching out of rational (or neo-rational) methods of managing LSD sessions, that this New York phase ended. An astonishing, fascinating period, filled with interest, and with lots of humour at all times to prevent us from becoming LSD's dupes. But it was only achieved by an enormous amount of work fed by the energy from our emotional fires. At once the impatient reminder comes, and it is true: Agora experiment was achieved at the cost of 'real' emotional contacts with other people, including, at times, ourselves. The emotional content of my existence was reduced to a working absolute minimum (though it was difficult to recognise this process as going on at the time; only afterwards did one realise at what cost the work had been achieved). Perhaps it was all an elaborate form of 'self-therapy' during the tormenting time after the collapse of my marriage in 1960 and plans to reconciliate with my wife and the consequent loss of my daughter which became formalised at the moment of my 'rearranging of priorities' intellectual, rational/artistic creative work = No. I; love, emotion pleasure, sanity = No. 2. I had reached the end of my emotional tether; I had been 'on the way' before I took LSD, but the paving had given out, and there were not even stones left to pave new intentions. The country ahead was dark, impenetrable. I was alone at the mercy of my own awful fluidity of self; a time indeed of that 'eleventh hour condition' of which Jean Houston speaksan impossible hour of the day which is not marked by the sort of clocks you see in shopsso I was never sure of the present or certain enough to determine the content of my emotional future. It is the temptation to withdraw from emotional involvements, perhaps even to curl up inside and stay remote from even the slightest continuity. But of course all things pass'an afternoon does not last all day, nor a sunset all night'and by the end of the year I began to realise that the pointer of my 'eleventh hour' was turning and that 'deadened time' was gradually being displaced by a palpable and love-centred present pushing to the future. 'The world, like the big wheel in a deserted funfair, spun slowly toward the final revolution.' (Roger McGough).
All I had really achieved at Agora was the realisation that the sombre doctors, scientists, technicians point only to the rigour of their own particular method. Ah ! but to go without aid in search of truth; perhaps this is the beginning of wisdomto proceed with the utmost determination towards a forbidding future through a series of 'crisis' instants in which you think you're about to slip over the edge into the aweful Abyss of Elsewhere, but catch yourself just in time but by not shrinking from the lightning and thunder, by hurling yourself forward, unafraid of taking risks, in your struggle towards love, consciousness, enlightenment, light and God. And thus the Way was suddenly much smoother; I was over the hump of the year. And it was in this way, out of such emotional despair, that I stumbled out of my dark existential forest into the daylight honesty of Millbrook . . .
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Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
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Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
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