Chronicle Section Two:
Beyond any book, here in the text you are reading now is the story of a different kind of immersion; one of spiritual depth, if spiritual can be defined as those brief moments of feeling breathed rather than breathing. It is a sharing, a confession of struggling with reality, resulting in a shifted perspective that still looks much like the pre-shift-reality, but has no ground, up, down, or gravity of mind.
This chronicle and the book are written out of my own necessity. I consider the adjustments and learning outlined here my wisdom-to-date, worth writing down if only for my own sake. To all the other elders out there you might have a similar story and for those older or younger and certainly those much wiser, this writing is dedicated. Glean what you will and pass on what you find of value.
Now retired from a very long career in graphic design for advertising, I am rested and getting back to my avocations in life as autodidactic student of the philosophy of consciousness, expositor-writer, and eclectic-artisan. These are the highlights in a time-line of events and realizations starting abruptly 26 years into my life. Whereas, the book appeared in 1980, the events around the book began in 1965.
I purposely say philosophy of consciousness, to distinguish my interest from that of a student of "Cognitive Theory." A casual reviewer once mistakenly placed the book under that classification. Yes, it is difficult to categorize any notion connecting the dots in consciousness of a not-so-stable reality to deliver a stable perspective on First Principles. Shelve the book under: " Metaphysica / Philosophy / Consciousness. "
I started writing the book in 1973 , while teaching advertising art at a private academy in the Ohio valley. When I had finished the book, seven years later, the "flashback '70s" were over and the day-glow "psychedelic '60s" had faded. Circumstance moved me to the Northwest where the book was published. I then waited to see if my audience had learned as much as I had from those decades.
The psychedelic era and its impact on ordinary spirited seekers like me and perhaps like you, has not received good-news press for much of the past half century. Perhaps my story is not typical, but it should give assuring insight to those who may have been disillusioned by such experience, induced or spontaneous, and with or without having actually ingested a psychedelic (mind manifesting) catalyst.
I found that in the '80s, the ex-Harvard trio who wrote the book: "The Psychedelic Experience - A manual based on the Tibetan Book of The Dead;" were themselves thought by many to be dead, in prison, or worse: unknown. Now in the internet age, I must assume that if my reader is not familiar with the "Millbrook and Castalia" experiment in consciousness [s]he will "google" it to find out more.
I recall one of my art students bringing a book to class titled: " Remember, Be Here Now." I knew, glancing at the title, what that was all about, and although I was engrossed in my own writing, I was made suddenly aware that the '70s decade was being called the "New Age," by even beginning students of consciousness, an age not to be confused with today's commercial version of "new age."
Be Here Now gave fresh inspiration to my writing and one summer break from teaching I visited The Lama Foundation near Taos, New Mexico where among things spiritual, I was also shown the holes in the adobe walls of the main building where the over-size manuscript pages were hidden for posterity's sake. Remember, Ram Dass co-authored the book in collaboration with that eclectic community.
"Toward the One - The Perfection of Love, Harmony & Beauty - The Only One," was another book that fell into my hands around the same time. Authored by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, son of Sufi Murshid Inayat Khan, it was written in a style very similar to the flamboyant pages of "Be Here Now ." I made it a pilgrimage to also visit Pir Vilayat's "Abode" community, at New Lebanon, NY.
The impact of these two books on the "new consciousness" of seekers like myself cannot be measured in the number of copies sold, although reprinting scarcely kept up with even a modest demand. My own review would have them juxtaposed around an identical and singular illumination: the first arrived at "it" in a mere decade, while the second revitalized a tradition that arrived at "it" several millennia ago.
This was literary enlightenment. I like to call it "The Altered State of Word" and thus the subtitle I used for my book. With the new illumination of "typographics," we achieved in that literature a level of consciousness quite beyond "paragraphics." In my own work, I refer to the over 5,000-year evolution of word and its three formative stages, and introduce the recent emergence of a fourth, calling it "metagraphy."
Psychedelic diaries in comprehensible prose should also be considered a class of that "New Age literature" which is now a genre almost a half-century old. The point of my work was to reduce metagraphics to a universal paradigm, accepting but not reverting to tradition in any particular age. Exemplary metagraphs are well illustrated in the first chapters of the book and my reader is urged to find out more about them.
Each is from a respected tradition and attempts to communicate a reputable metaphysica concerning the structure of consciousness, but it is the common components or archetypes of circle and sphere, which are key to the power of metagraphy. That sacred geometry is the first law of metaspheric perspective, the means by which a word or idea is given its sphere of influence or "metadefinition."
I mentioned a few paragraphs back, that I knew what "Be Here Now" was all about, even before I had opened the book or saw the author's name (Ram Dass). But, perhaps some of my readers do not know what the book was about. The insight I can offer is hidden in the title instruction: "Remember," and the full mantra, which stabilizes the mind by short-circuiting the otherwise discursive orbiting of thought .
That practice was my own for several years before it appeared as the title of that book. For those like me who had ventured out or into the altered state of consciousness, upon return, that mantra provided a necessary healing power. Later on, it simply expressed the place of enjoyment: "now." In my perspective, the word now is synonymous with the word "reality" or "what is."
Back to my story: I knew Ram Dass when his name was still Richard Alpert, Ph. D., Psychologist, fired from Harvard for his experiential research into altered states of consciousness. I first met him in 1963, when he hosted a summer workshop at the Castalia Foundation, in Millbrook, New York. I had taken a vacation from my position as assistant art director at a Cincinnati advertising agency.
Would-be mystic, I still had not taken LSD. Preparing for the promised illumination, I was conscientiously reading Alpert, Leary, and Metzner's research, both before and after the firing. I would read the latest Psychedelic Review and had followed the trio since the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Alpert was a charming seminar host with the calm collected jargon of a Harvard man.
There in the old Hitchcock mansion at Millbrook along with other invited retreatants, I looked across the makeshift coffee-table-height communal dining table into the eyes of my host and his staff, for any inkling of what their realization was. The only clue was their heart disposition and sparkle. I listened intently to Alpert but all I heard made little sense. Nothing they could have said would have prepared me.
I returned to Millbrook the summer of '65. A few familiar faces were there, but the mood seemed different. The psychedelic movement had expanded. New "experiential models" were propounded; all was abuzz with multimedia and talk of Kundalini yoga and consciousness, not in the brain but in the whole body. I returned from that vacation informed but still a psychedelic virgin.
A few weeks later there was a knock on my Cincinnati apartment door. To my surprise two young men introduced themselves as having been given my name from the Castalia Foundation mailing list. They told me of their experimenting with what substances they had found available and about getting sick on Morning Glory seeds and such. I told them I had some LSD25 but had not had the opportunity to take it.
They said to me what are you waiting for and agreed to be "session guides" and one afternoon at their home, "setting" was thoughtfully prepared. Leary's public advice for anyone's first trip was to ingest 500 micrograms based on the "Good Friday" experiment. That afternoon I did just that, two tiny white capsules. I was about to open a door that has determined the spiritual course of my life.
This is not an endorsement for taking a psychedelic for any reason. Also called a hallucinogen, by definition one must expect it to produce hallucinations. To one not having had hallucinations previously, that fact is understated. What one experiences with or without a psychedelic (mind-manifesting) substance is "real", except for what you think or are convinced is not.
The difference between real and not real opens a whole can of existential worms. Leary might say: depending on "set," or one's state of mind to begin with, and "setting," how one has prepared, the session environment, and the set of the other participants, there are countless factors that will determine the course of the "real" during that 12 hour session and certainly for a time afterward.
No one can say with certainty that the outcome will be illuminating, beneficial, or even useful. The risk of a "bad trip" is well publicized. I have taken a psychedelic only one and one half times. It is not relevant to explain the "half" occasion. As for the one time, it can be described as a mind-shattering world-quake, reality-shift of unexpected magnitude. In the book (pg 68, 2nd col), I write a more lyrical version.
It took ten years before I gathered the courage to even begin to write down the experience, perhaps only to gain perspective on what had been the lesson, who or what had been the teacher and what was I going to do about it? Eventually, I formed the conclusion that there was "no figuring it out," and the paradoxical feeling that I had to do so, was the cause of an overwhelming suffering in those ten years.
To use Greek mythos, I irrationally felt the pain of Atlas, with the weight and fate of reality on my shoulders. Had I been given the secret teaching, had the "Orphic Egg" been placed between my fingers, would I drop it or hold on to it? What should I do? No conscious decision seemed possible. At times there was tacit instruction received from a felt "presence" while at other times there was "only me."
I had met a ruthless teacher, which instructed me by the very intimate intrusion of the body and mind, without regard neither for the pain of my resistance or for the ecstasy of my acceptance and surrender. It also dawned on me that this presence has always been there. I had simply not been "made" aware of it. This relentless teacher went unnamed, except for my reluctant labeling as "Presence."
Next Chronicle Section (3)