The Man Who Turned on the World
10. The Capital of Kingdom Come
1969The anti-diluvian DC-9 swam through a sea of milk all the way from Delhi. It was only just before landing that the clouds cleared for an instant and I saw the magical city of Kathmandu cradled by the snowy ranges of the Himalayaa non-euclidian landscape of terraced paddy fields surrounding a dream form of pagoda-like temples and golden palaces, rising into view and spinning from the horizon as the plane circled to land.
I was thirty-eight, on my first visit to Asia with New York left well behind, carrying a typewriter, some hand-baggage, a few hundred trips of Californian 'sunshine' acid which a friendly psychiatrist laid on me, and about $1000 left from a colour video movie I made about tripping to the moon. It was July 16, 1969, and my pilgrimage was destined to begin at the precise moment of the Apollo 11 blast-off for man's first landing on the moon.
At a more ordinary level, it was, I gathered later, absolutely the wrong time to visit Kathmandu, as the monsoon was imminent; the air was stifling with humidity and the bumpy taxi ride from the airport made me sick; and I longed for some air-cooled Manhattan bar where a couple of iced lagers could revive a sorely tried spirit. Whatever expectations of romance I had nursed had been shrivelled in the heat by the time I reached my hotel. I had the insane urge at this point to drive straight back to the airport and continue to Bangkok, settle down to a routine English-teaching job, get rid of my beard and long hair, become super-straight, like my friends Al Cohen and Richard Alpert, and maybe continue to Australia but as the beauty of the valley began to exercise its subtle magic through the windows of my room, I just knew that this was indeed the one place in or out of this world where I wanted to be. I took a bath, changed into a Tibetan shirt and Indian dhotia sort of bin cloth you wrap around yourselfsmoked a couple of chillums of good Afghani dope; and nearly fainted in dream of dreams.
The view through my window was brilliant with the afternoon sun. Amazement was the first element of my muted delight at these bright green paddyfields between myself and the snowcapped ranges still visible through the shimmering heat; and mystery, of what lay beyond them, unseenthe distant half-chartered ranges of Tibet, home of the fable-seeking imagination. The spell of the Himalayas was upon me. The beauty of my surroundings began to penetrate a hardened carapace, for these mountains had begun to exercise a magic thraldom all their own. And now I was part of it. In some way which I could not rationally explain, I just knew that I was gazing at the mysterious container of the history of the world, the magical amphitheatre in which Siva dances with Nataraja. I was a visitor in the ancient land of gods and abode of rhishis, tapaswis, sadhakars, saints and philosophers who come to meditate in glacial deserts to make their beings as pure as the snow which covers the tops of their sacred mountains and their minds as clear and transparent as the water of the holy lakes... they offered their adherents a way of life, a path to happiness:
'In the body as it is in reality are contained all worlds, mountains, continents and seas, the sun and the other constellations.. . ' says the Pretakalpa of Garuda-Purana. I also had a sense of what was meant in the passage from the Hindu epic Ramayana: 'He who but thinks of the Himalayas does greater things than he who is destined to tarry in Benares'. And, by implication, he who tarries in Canterbury, Rome, Salt Lake City, Belfast, and Jerusalem.
I realised with an immediacy akin if not identical with revelation that I had travelled halfway across the world to find in Kathmandu what I sought in vain throughout my wanderings in the West.
There were certain immediate needs, however, like scoring some local hashish, for which Nepal was rightly famed. And some more suitable clothes.
It was still early, and even if it was like a furnace outside, I decided to venture forth into the maze of dusty streets and alleyways, all somewhat reminiscent of the imaginary Baghdad of The Arabian Nights.
The city is not very large and within a matter of minutes I found myself in the central square. It was like something out of the Middle Ages, with street vendors sitting by their piles of cloth and vegetables and boxes of cheap ornamental beads, with enough activity going on to keep the eye fully occupied. A huge bull emerged suddenly from the crowd, sedate and reasonable, wandering with the scores of shoppers, even defecating without so much as a pause, unnoticed, except, that is, by myself. The houses were of red brick, all built in a strange pagoda style which eliminated straight lines, with latticed windows and overhanging balconies, many with hanging potted plants. There were temples and delicate stupas, huge sculptured statues, beautifully proportioned by some anonymous race of master artists. The faces of these deities seem self-absorbed in contemplation; sharp cheeks and supple chins in the case of the male gods, and sweetly smiling lips, sensitively sloping fleshy cheeks with elegant curves in the case of the females. Some of the faces had been almost worn away through the passage of time, which gave them a special mystery. Yet each oneand there were hundredswas strangely complete in itself and fostered the message of the divine. But what was interesting was to see how they were still objects of veneration and worship by the people. There was one in particular that caught my eye, a sculpture of the god Vishnu, the divine ruler of the Hindu Triad; the face looked serious, with just the right degree of rectitude and probity as befitted his position. He had ear ornaments hanging above his shoulders and had all the traditional attributes or ayudasthe crown, the necklace, the garland of flowers and the hip-belts, all exquisitely shaped; the upper garment, the sacred thread or yajnopavita, and the dhoti were emphasised with oblique lines through the chisel-marks. In front was a rounded platform, a stone, for rubbing and making chandana paste from sandalwood.
It was a glimpse of this Other World, of something that I had seen and read about but had never had direct experience of before. Here I could actually feel this something.
I still had to score some hash and get a Tibetan shirt or two and a dhoti. I also wanted to discard my shoes. I remembered that someone had told me that Rana's teashop was a good place to score so along I went. It was up a tiny alley, dustbin dirty and smelling of cow shit and urine. Outside sat a small boy, a beggar, and I gave him a handful of rupees before I went inside.
Rana's was an extraordinary place. There was pop music on twin speakers, very loud, and a few stone-topped tables at which were gathered a group of perhaps fifteen young Westerners, silent, smoking chillums, and oblivious. They were dressed in a gay medley of Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese costumes, bedecked with beads and beards. One of them looked up, smiled, and handed me a chillum, which I smoked. The effect was instantaneousI almost passed out, and had to sit down.
I don't know how long I remained seated at the table, perhaps an hour, perhaps two. The hash was the strongest I'd ever had and completely immobilised me. Rana, the dapper young Nepalese owner of the place, would come over every now and then and ask if there was anything more I wanted. 'Tea?' or 'Porridge?' I merely shook my head and continued just sitting in my utter stupor.
Finally, I was able to stand up, and I indicated to Rana that I'd like to buy some of his hashish. He brought out a simple handheld set of scales and weighed a tolaabout one-third of an ouncewhich cost me about four shillings. Then I split.
I was still in somewhat of a daze when I got back to my hotel, and had to lie down again. It was dark when I awakened. I decided to undress and go to bed. It was only eight o'clock, but there was really nothing I could or wanted to do. I was completely stoned.
I awoke at daybreak. The bright yellow sun flooded through my windows and I felt wonderful. Today would be a good day. And, as things turned out, it was.
I made a telephone call to the Royal Palace to talk to Narayan Shrester, private secretary to the Crown Prince, who I had known in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about one year ago. He seemed pleased to hear that I was in Kathmandu, and said he'd drop by the hotel to see me.
Narayan dropped by for lunch. He showered me with smiles and greetings and love. And we had a great reunion, recalling our past meetings at Harvard and lots of questions about why I had come to Kathmandu. 'Why Kathmandu? Surely there must have been somewhere else?' was a characteristic question, for I'm sure his own dream fantasies of paradise cities were directed towards Paris or even San Francisco. I told him I'd come in order to sort out 'my priorities', to gain a new amplitude, to enjoy the experience of living in a foreign country, things like that. I told him that even in the short space of twenty-four hours I could not only see but actually feel that indigenous and elusive quality in Nepalese life. It was that quality, which hitherto I had only been told about but could never really experience, which indeed has yet to be expressed outside the occasional rare poem. He thought I should write a book about Nepal. Then we laughed.
During the lunch I brought up the matters of my visa. I had, I told him, about $1000, and lots of enthusiasm about starting a poetry magazine in Kathmandu. I had even got the titleFlow. I reminded him that one of the things we had chatted about in America was the phenomenon of hippies and how I had taken him around the various colleges and to private homes so that he might better understand the new life-styles now emerging in America and in Europemany tied into oriental religions. Narayanwho has a degree in English from Leeds University had been tutor to the Crown Prince (now King Bihrendra of Nepal), and I had been anxious for the Crown Prince to also appreciate that, if these developments were to continue, new possibilities for religious-minded Westerners would have to be developed in India and Nepal, the two Asian countries which had perhaps most to teach. Hippies were not long-haired layabouts in most instances, but had chosen to spend some time in the East living with and through the ordinary people, or in Ashrams or monasteries; they had come to learn, as seekers, not as tourists with lots of dollars to spend. And I was one of them.
He said that he'd discuss the matter of my stay with the Crown Prince, and that I would be hearing from him the next day. He envisaged no difficulty. As it turned out, I received a year's visa, extendable at any time should I wish to stay on in Nepal. It was something I had cause to be very, very grateful for indeed, as visa formalities can and usually do involve a certain amount of hassle with the authorities, with something like six weeks considered to be about the average length of stay permitted at that time.
Narayan had a little Volkswagen and offered to drop me somewhere. I said I'd like to see one of the museums, so he drove me a mile or two outside the city to the National Museum near SwayambhuNath, one of the Holy Buddhist Centres of Nepal. He himself had to get back to the Palace. He had given up his job as English Lecturer at Tribhuvan University and was now private secretary to the Crown Princewhich meant he had to work that much harder!
The exterior of the museum was in the traditional Nepalese style of architecture and beautifully preserved. And as I walked around inside, gazing at the sculptured Hindu Gods, the bronze figures of the Goddess Curga, prayer necklaces of Rudraksa beads, incense burners shaped as the tree of life, and paintings, I was glimpsing into a past that was still very much a living present, for here was a highly developed, sophisticated art tradition that had reached perfection when Nepal had been the flower of a great Asian civilisation. I looked at the statue of Vishnu, this one dating from the fifteenth or sixteenth centuryit was very massive and majestic, standing completely erect on a bold-relief lotus-flower, and flanked on either side by his two female consorts. The female deity at his right hand held a chalara or 'fly-whisk' (I suppose that even the most powerful of Gods were not totally immune to the ubiquitous valley mosquito) and a lotus flower. The female at his left carried a lyre in her hands pressed closely against the breasts and the belly. But the real beauty was in the faces and forms of Vishnu's consortstheir slender waists and exceptionally beautiful and delicate breasts conveyed their profound feminine frailty....
At closing time I stepped out once more into a daytime present 'when the mountains were again the mountains; the clouds were again the clouds'. A car sped by on the tiny road in front of the museum. I suppose I could have been run over. For what I was still experiencing was this profound sense of somehow living the continuation of a glorious past in the presentwhich is something that no Western museum had ever done for me, being, for the most part, 'dead' places. I don't think I shall ever again experience anything more radiant than my visions of that afternoon in my life. I just knew that I should no longer feel 'alone', which is to live in my own naked spiritual reserves, that the body-mind was capable of being filled up again with the light through the simple process of looking. How easy it all seemed.
I ambled along the road like an old priest, stopping now and again to observe the view, the bloom of a wild rose, a particularly wondrous cloud structure. And since I was walking in the direction of the Buddhist temples of Swayambhu, I decided to proceed into the village.
But first a stop at the chi or teashop. There was a group of heads sitting on a bench outside, chewing the breeze, smoking the indigenous chillums, and several more inside, in the cavernous half-light.
No one was talking much; it was considered a 'downer'bad formto use words, but communication was no less intense for all that. The young Nepalese owner came outside with a mug of thick tea, dark brown and very sweet, and asked if I'd like anything. I shook my head. He smiled, and disappeared into the dark interior of his teashop. The fellow sitting next to me passed me a joint. His eyes stared at me widely, his mouth still hung open as if to keep the last word of his sentence in mid-air. Everyone here believes in all the magic, I thought.
I took a couple of deep tokes. 'Good grass,' I said, handing him back his huge seven-skin joint.
He looked at me. And I was reminded of a French poem I'd read somewhere 'in the depths of a dilated pupil shines the lamp of the poor'.
As I got up to leave, he asked whether I'd been to the Bakery Ashram yet, and he pointed to a small passageway between two buildings. 'Just follow the path and take a left when you get to the temple. They've got a new sound system.'
Since I was stoned anyway, and since I had nothing particularly to do, I decided to follow the path to the Ashram.
I heard the electronic music quite clearly through the natural sound of Buddhist chanting outside the temple, and, following the path, came suddenly upon a compound garden filled with lots of young Western heads, all dressed in their dhotis and Tibetan shirts and Indian silks.
The Ashram comprised two principle buildings, one, a former factory of the now bankrupt SwayambhNath Bakery concern, and the other, a long shed. And it was from the shed that the sounds came.
Inside, seated quietly in a circle round a central fireplace, were about twenty people, mostly male. There were several chillums being passed around simultaneously. Room was quietly made for me to join this charmed circle.
The two five-feet Sony speakers made all verbal communication impossible. It was like sitting on stage with the Stones. The sound of the music eclipsed all cognitive function. It was like a river into which you had been plunged. And all you need do was float, float, F-l-o-a-t.
Hoursmaybe even dayspassed in an instant. Time ceased to exist for those of us who sat stoned in our mystical ring round the fire. And it was with this insight that I was born into a new world. A new form of consciousness had taken over, that we were somehow all together because in some strange way we had been brought here. It was as though a gust of wind had come from another existence, and had plucked us from the streets of Rome and London and Detroit, and propelled us to this Himalayan valley; our new myth-mother.
It had grown dark outside, and the people who had been in the garden, now crowded inside the Ashram. The smell of food from the far-end, invisible through the haze of wood-smoke and hashish reminded me that I had not eaten all afternoon. Soon there were people sitting around with plates on their laps eating rice and vegetables with chopsticks. I saw a line of people with empty plates in their hands, so I got up and joined them.
The Ashram provided one sensible meal a day, in the evening which cost one rupee to anyone who could afford it, otherwise it was free; tea was a few cents extra.
After we had eaten dinner, the poet Kristof walked across to the record player and switched it off. He returned to his place in the circle. There was a hush, a stillness, a sense of expectancy. Kristof announced that he was going to read a 'love poem', which he had just finished writing. Everyone looked up smiling when Kristof finished; he was assuredly one of their verbal magicians.
It was a strange place this salamandrine Ashram of glassy eyes staring from fiery lake beside the sound of music through my leafy dreams but soon the speakers were back on again at full blast, so I decided to make my way back to the hotel.
It was dark when I stepped outside, and it was with great difficulty that I found my way down and on to the road again. Swayambhu is about two miles from the city, and I walked slowly, savouring the stillness; no sound from anywhere; even the dogs were quiet as I made my way through the maze of tiny streets and alleyways. The city was almost deserted, yet it could not have been much later than ten o'clock. It reminded me of the City of London at night or downtown New York, after the crowds of office workers had long since gone, the same sort of eerie stillness.
Back in my hotel room, I smoked a nocturnal chillum and then got into bed with a manuscript translation of some poems by the Nepalese master poet, Bhanubhaka Archarya, which Narayan had left with me. There was an interesting description of Kathmandu a century or so back which the poet compared with the Celestial City of Alaka (the god of wealth); he also noted its resemblance to Lhasa, Lucknow and London. And it was with these images in my mind that I fell asleep.
I was awakened in the morning by a knock at the door. I stumbled out of bed and opened the door, expecting to find a cleaning-woman. But, no, it was a young, handsome man who introduced himself in perfect English as Madhusudan Thakur from Northern India, a Brahmin, and former English lecturer at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, and a Sanskrit scholar. He had been given my name by Narayan, who had suggested we might have much in common.
I apologised for the state of my book-strewn room and invited him in.
Madhu, as he called himself, began to tell me a bit about his life. He had studied English in Canada for three years, and was now into translating Nepalese poetry into English. He was also working on some Sanskrit translations. But what fascinated him most was the increasing number of young Westerners living in Kathmandu, and their impact on the cultural life of this city. For Kathmandu was the 'third eye' of Asia, and the eye that gets in when reality gets out. It had a special place and played a special role in Asia. In fact, he had written an article on young Western visitors for the leading intellectual monthly magazine The Rising Nepal and wanted me to look over the manuscript. It was entitled 'Kathmandu: A Coincidence'. Would I like to hear bits of it? Sure, I said He began to read:
'It happened only the other day by what is called in northeastern India a Samyoga, fair coincidence. At a public place in Kathmandu, two elderly gentlemen debated, and I overheard them in spite of myself. They were discussing whether the large group of young unkempt visitors from the West now in Kathmandu had any principles guiding their visit to the East. The gentleman whose tone of voice caught my attention first was saying "Iniharuko kehi pani siddhanta chhai na", meaning "These people have no principles at all, you know''. He seemed to be informing his friend, who, however, paid little attention to his companion's tone and presented his view of a whole ideology motivating and guiding these young people and their venture abroad. They were, he said, on a very important mission indeed. Life in the West had lost its meaning for them and they had come out here to seek and find new meanings, fresh perspectives, among the cultures of the East in art, religion, philosophy, in traditional, time-honoured ways of living, in forms of life and manner still untouched by the sick hurry and commercialism of modern Western civilisation: indeed, they were true seekers.
I was very impressed, and said so. I told Madhu that I thought we were all on some kind of sort of quest and had found in Kathmandu the perfect place to start. Kathmandu was a city of refugees, the new Jerusalem of the Sadhakas, who had come to savour of the fruits of Paradise.
We ordered dinner in our room, and were now perfectly relaxed in each other's company. I liked him. He was open and honest and a man for whom the invisible world was obviously visible.
I told him that I was planning to bring out a poetry magazine, but needed more material, especially modern Nepalese poetry. I proposed to include material from the West dealing especially with the nature of the spiritual quest, including some essays by myself on the phenomenon LSD. I said it would serve a two-fold purpose. First, it would introduce Nepalese poetry to Western readers and second, it would enable Nepalese readers to orient themselves to the psychology and background of their young visitors. I had a little money, and since printing was cheap in Kathmandu, I already had enough to cover costs. Madhu said he'd be very interested indeed to help in any way, and that he was already working on the English translations of several poems. And thus began a partnership that resulted in the publication of Flow One several months later.
One thing led to another, and before long we had also agreed to start a centre for both Western and Eastern seekers, especially those who wanted to learn Sanskrit. Madhu emphasised the importance of Sanskrit amongst the intellectual artistic circles as well as in the higher levels of Government and at the Palace. Sanskrit played the same role here as Latin did in the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, it was a sort of lingua franca of any philosophical discussions.
He said that Narayan would almost certainly be interested in hearing about such a project, and maybe could even get the Crown Prince as its patron. Could we draft an outline proposal, since he would be seeing Narayan for dinner later that evening, and would like to have him put it before the Crown Prince? The sooner we acted, the sooner the project could get official sanction. I would also need permission from the Prime Minister to publish, but he didn't foresee that there would be any problem.
Madhu went downstairs to make a few telephone calls, and I cleared the desk and prepared a chillum to facilitate the creative processes.
When Madhu returned, he looked very excited. Yes, Narayan would like to see the proposal this evening. And he had had some luck. He had called Balakrishna Sama, the Vice-President of the Royal Nepalese Academy, who wanted us to come over to his house for afternoon tea and for a chat. Madhu said that Balakrishna was one of the truly great poets of Nepal, and certainly of international stature. The problem was that Balakrishna wrote his poetry in Nepalese or Sanskrit, though of course his English was perfect. As a result, he was virtually unknown outside his own country, a situation Madhu planned to rectify by translating into English all his work written over the past sixty years.
He brought up a chair to the desk, and we began to formulate the proposal. Madhu didn't smoke hash himself, but had no objection if anyone else did. After a couple of chillums and an hour's discussion, we had agreed upon the main details, and all that now remained was to write it. We addressed it to His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Nepal.
When we finished, Madhu suggested that we should go round to see Balakrishna Sama who lived at the other end of town, not far from the Chinese Embassy. We took a taxi and within ten minutes were walking up the drive of his house; with Hindu statues in the garden and a huge Garuda bird painted on the door. I was already impressed. The house itself was large, half-timbered like a medieval manor, two or three storeys high, and painted white.
A servant let us in and ushered us into one of the downstairs living rooms. He said his master would join us in a moment.
The room was like a miniature museum with statues of stone and bronze of the various Hindu pantheon, paintings and early Nepalese iconography; books in Nepalese, Sanskrit, English and French, and, nicely laid out on a silver-topped table, a Victorian tea-service.
We had to wait only a minute or two before the poet entered. He made a short bow and shook hands with us and apologised for keeping us waiting. His English, like so many of the cultured Nepalese, was almost entirely without accent, and he spoke it with feeling, spontaneously, and without affectation. He was perhaps seventy years of age, delicate and radiant with health, and had the face of a man who had obviously lived a life of the mind, very sensitive and aristocratic, as though his inner and outer worlds matched. He was dressed in shiny blue silk in the traditional Nepalese dress, and I felt that I was in the company of an exceptional, rare person, perhaps even a saint but certainly a wizard of some sort.
He seemed very pleased to see us, especially Madhu, whom he embraced warmly as he beckoned us to the tea-table. His servant appeared with a silver tea-pot, and a plate of cakes and toasted scones.
Madhu then started to talk about the Himal Centre project, and to read him bits of our afternoon's work. Balakrishna was most attentive and sympathetic and said that he would certainly encourage a centre such as we had outlined. The only problem he thought was the financial one. He made a few calculations on a sheet of paper and said that for the scholarships alone we would need $595,000.
Madhu said that although $500,000 might sound a like a lot of money, in reality it was not too much if one considered the possibility of help from some of the larger American Foundations, who were used to giving away much larger sums for less realistic projects. I remained silent, though I nodded in agreement with Madhu's analysis.
We then began to discuss the envisaged poetry magazine, Flow, which Madhu briefly described. Nepal, being a country in which poetry was highly esteemed, had a lot to offer, and it would make sense to make available some of the best Nepalese poetry in English, as well as make available contemporary Western poetry to Nepalese poetry lovers. Balakrishna then turned to me and asked in his quiet, pleasant way, what the editorial policy might be and whether I thought Nepalese poetry was sufficiently good to warrant translation into an international language like English.
I was pretty stoned and my mind was already soaring into giddy heights of inspiration. 'Flow is essentially a magazine of poetry, art and religion, and we should dedicate it to the man of tomorrow who has understood the burden of his dim past, synthesised the heritage of his many cultures, solved the crises of the present age and lives according to his genius!'
Balakrishna smiled broadly, and said that Camus, the French Existentialist, had probably meant something similar when he had noted somewhere that 'Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present'.
I then asked the poet whether he would read some of his poems, but he demurred, saying his English was not really good enough to express his meaning, though Madhu could read something if he wished.
Madhu pulled out a fistful of manuscripts from his briefcase.
'I think I'd like to read a verse from your most recent poem, which I have just finished translatingTo Soma, which was, I believe, inspired by the recent Apollo 11 manned trip to the moon. But I think I ought to explain for the benefit of Michael here, that the word Soma in Sanskrit also means "moon" as it is also associated with the sacred elixir of the gods of Vedic times. It was the fruit from the mystical tree of knowledge which, when taken, loosened the "Tongue of the Way" and in this sense would correspond to the Greek ambrosia, the elixir of immortality from the stream of Castalia under the Temple of Diana. '
Madhu stood up, bowed graciously to the poet, who sat silent, his face grave and serious
'Sweetly, O Soma, do I remember you again today,
It was a long poem followed by a long silence, and we all looked as if something very special had happened, like the shock following upon a great discovery.
Impatient or unwilling to remain silent, I finally broke the spell by saying that it was one of the most incredible poems that I had ever heard, and that I wanted to put it into the magazine for the world to read. I also added, by way of a comment, that I had arrived in Kathmandu on the very same day that Apollo 11 had blasted off for the moon.
Balakrishna then said, looking at me straight in the eyes, though centred in the middle of my forehead: 'A most auspicious omen for you.'
It was time to go, and we stood up, bowed and took our leave.
Madhu danced down the driveway, obviously pleased by our reception.
There were no taxis in sight and I told Madhu that I'd really
prefer to walk back to the hotel, which was fine with him.
Three months later
The monsoon was over. The air was as clear and fresh as Vichy water. I had rented the lower two floors of a large house called 'Shangri-La' in Bijuswari, a secluded suburb of Kathmandu close to Swayambhu. The house belonged to the Nepalese Director of Tourism, Tirtha Raj Tuladhar, a Buddhist and a man of great personal charm and sensitivity, who had translated many of King Mahendra's poems into English. And from my window I had a clear view across the valley to the distant snow-capped peaks of the high Himalayan range. The house stood by itself in a narrow lane which was really a cul-de-sac and was thus unvisited by motorised transport, except once in the morning and once in the evening when a chauffeur-driven car came to pick up and deliver the Tourist Director. It was a haven of stillness, and the only sounds you heard were natural onesof birds, or animals or passing people. There was a large meadow extending across the lane; and a large well-kept garden immediately in front of the house, which seemed forever ablaze with flowers, especially roses, which the tourist director would tend for hours at a time, removing by hand, bugs from the petals and leaves, one at a time, never killing them, but putting them on a sheet of paper and every now and then blowing them off into the winds of fate or fortune. A typically Buddhist gesture. An orchard of pear and apple trees flanked either side of the house and at the very rear, beyond the back garden was a small stupa of exquisite design. It was an ideal place to be. This was my landscape, the one that absorbed me, with joy, into the hot blood of myths and gods, back into the roots of total being in which, at times I could truly believe that there was no longer any 'I' or 'me' but that I was somehow the All.
And in the mornings, with my rooms filled with bright sunlight and the sound of temple bells opening the well of my ears, I could feel that inexpressible peace as:
I was learning that man is born in ignorance of his element, and must somehow find it, like the cygnet finds the water.
My mornings would usually start early, shortly after daybreak. I had a small paraffin burner on which I would make my breakfast, usually a plate of porridge made from water-buffalo milk, and several cups of tea, followed by a chillum. I usually took this in the garden. I'd then try to work a little on the magazine manuscripts before Madhu would arrive, usually at about ten o'clock. It was an idyllic existence.
Kris, the poet, would usually join us for lunch, and after lunch we would be joined by five or six other Westerners for some Sanskrit lessons, which Kris had arranged. He had a degree in Sanskrit from Oxford, and was a very patient, clever teacher, who used his skill to get us to learn this amazing language.
But mostly my time was taken up with the manifold problems of getting the magazine together. We had found three printers and had decided to parcel the material out as three separate sections, which we would then assemble into the final magazine. Already the shape of the magazine was discernible, if in silhouette only, but the energy was theremy slight paranoia was that with the unlimited amount of hashish and LSD we had, all this energy would dissipate before completion, for with psychedelics the impetus to 'attend to business' is not always present! So it was something of an effort of will, for I was determined to get the damn thing published, even if it killed me, which, as it turned out, it very nearly did through what you would call over-indulgence in drugs (though other matters played their part, like rising costs and two of the printers refusing to print or return the manuscripts entrusted to them).
The least of my difficulties, surprisingly enough, was obtaining official permission from the Prime Minister to publish the magazine. I had been told by various people, including the French Ambassador, that no foreigner had ever received such permission, 'not even the Americans'. And the British Embassy was equally sure that I would be refused, though in every other way they were most encouraging.
I needed, of course, someone who had access to the Prime Minister and who was also a poet. And I found my man in the person of Soorya Bahadur Singh. He was an extraordinary gentleman in his late thirties, who worked in the Singha Durba, the parliament building, and who wrote poetry in English. He came round to see me one day with a pile of poems about one foot deep, which he wanted me to publish.
Mr. Singh had connections inside the Parliamenthis brother was private secretary to the King. So I asked him to arrange for me to see the Prime Minister. This he arranged in a matter of a few hours for the following day, which didn't leave me much time to find something suitable to wear. My normal dress was a Tibetan shirt and dhoti, a piece of coloured Indian cloth wrapped around my waist, and my shoes had long since been given away to a Tibetan Buddhist priest, who had wanted them for his Rimpoche (a High Lama) as a gift.
Accordingly, as soon as Singh told me that I had to be at the Singha Durba at eleven o'clock the next morning, I went into town to buy an outfit. I settled for what I was told was a traditional Nepalese costume for formal occasions. It was made of silver cloth and the trousers were right up to the knees and opened up at the top like jodhpurs, together with a long jacket nearly down to the middle of the thigh. The collar was tied by means of ribbons. I also got a pair of cheap Indian sandals.
I spent most of the night preparing my brief, and felt able to answer any questions the Prime Minister might put to me. Mr. Singh came with a taxi at 10.30 to take me to the Singha Durba. He seemed to be almost as nervous as I was. I had difficulty getting dressed in my new Nepalese clothesthe legs were too tight, but I finally managed to get into them, and off we set.
The Singha Durba was an impressive building, huge and in the style of architecture of the British Raj. The taxi dropped us off at the main entrance. The entire building seemed to be a labyrinth of corridors, and we walked rapidly, moving through this maze, up stairways, down small corridors, along long ones until we stopped before two huge polished mahogany doors with a sparkling brass curved doorknob. Mr. Singh knocked, and we entered. This was the Secretary's office. The secretary was a pleasant young man, who smiled broadly when he saw me, and said that the Prime Minister was expecting us. He disappeared for a moment through another set of huge doors, and then came out and indicated that we were to enter.
The Prime Minister sat at a desk at the far end of a palatial room. He was wearing a white open-necked shirt with the sleeves rolled up. When he stood up to greet us, I noticed that he was wearing ordinary Western-style navy blue trousers and a belt. It was quite a distance from the door to his desk, but already I sensed a faux pas on my part. The Prime Minister began to smile as we approached and the smile gradually broadened into a grin. By the time we reached his desk he was almost uncontrollably shaking with suppressed laughter.
Of course I didn't know it then, but the costume I had bought ready-made from one of the tourist shops was from a period around about 1890as though in the West I had gone to meet an official dressed up in a Dickensian outfit.
But the broad grin was infectious, and I, too, was laughing when we shook hands. Tears streamed down the Prime Minister's face as he took the form that Singh handed him and which he had to sign before we could officially go ahead with the publication of Flow. He hardly glanced at it, and signing it with a flourish, managed to say between giggles, 'I hope you don't write anything bad about Nepal.'
Mr. Singh then bowed and said that was all and that we now had permission to print. I said I thought the Prime Minister was an exceptionally jolly fellow. And Singh merely nodded. He then asked me whether I'd like a tour of the building, to which I readily assented. We must have walked three or four miles through the endless lengths of corridors, and somehow ended up walking along a subterranean corridor, lit by light coming through tiny iron-barred windows. Singh said he had to see someone for a moment, and we went into an incredibly small room that seemed to be littered everywhereon the shelves, on the floor, on the desks, with bundles of envelopes. There was a very old man sitting at one of the desks, who barely glanced up as we entered. 'This is the censor's office and this is the chief censor. I think I will show him the Prime Minister's signature on our document, just in case.' Singh said something to the Censor and gave him the signed piece of paper. The Censor removed the thin wire spectacles which he had been using to read the letters, and produced a magnifying glass, and read the paper Singh had handed him.
He nodded, dug out a stamp from a drawer, and after putting some ink on to the pad, stamped the document. 'Now it's completely official. We can publish anything we want.'
I was glad to get out of the building with its associations of prison and other large institutions, and I welcomed Singh's suggestion that we should go somewhere and celebrate, which for Singh meant getting very drunk. I called an American teacher friend and asked him if he could let me have a bottle of whisky, explaining the purpose, for it was still not yet noon. No problem. And by mid-afternoon we were both reeling about the centre of Kathmandu singing songs and reciting poetry. Finally we got to Rana's teashop, and stumbled in. All the heads turned as we noisily entered. And on many of the bearded faces was a look of disapproval. Rana's was a place for chillums and pop music, not a bar. Singh insisted on having the music turned off, then climbed on to the top of a table and, with tears streaming down his face, said that never in his entire life had he met such a great poet as Michael Hollingshead, and that it was his wish that everyone in the teashop should stand up and sing 'God Save the Queen'. A few heads split immediately, sensing a scene. And Rana just stood there watching, not knowing quite what to do. Finally, I managed to pull Singh off the table and out from the teashop into the yard. I then carried him to a taxi and paid the driver to take him back to the Singha Durba to sleep it off.
And thus the days passed into weeks and then into months. By now we had a lot of material ready for the printers. I had also got a translation of one of the King's poems, which I decided to print in red. It was called A Self-Portrait
'Like the dark night I am
With rotten, hollowed roots,
A blind man I who gropes
Ever am I in the mid-stream
It was a very fine poem, and modest, considering that King Mahendra was the supreme ruler of Nepal, and also recognised as an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu.
I had also had quite a few acid sessions during the time I had been there was a constant stream of visitors coming to 'Shangri-la' to score some 'sunshine'. There was quite a bit of acid in the city, mostly brought in by Californians or some of the bigger dealers, who would exchange acid for hashish. I believe LSD was known by the few Nepalese who used it as 'Western hash'.
It was traditional to take LSD at full moon, and people would congregate at the Bakery Ashram, and drop it in the late evening so that they could listen to music during the night, followed by a climb up to the Buddhist temples to join the monks for early morning service. It was very rare that anyone ever freaked out' or went berserk, though it could happen. I remember a young Dutch boy who, when he got to the temple, took off all his clothes and began running amok, knocking over prayer bowls and trying to climb up on to the head of a huge bronze Buddha. There was nothing we could do to quieten him down, and we felt it had all gone a little too far. The monks, who had been chanting during all of this had seemingly not paid any attention, that is until the statue began to sway and it looked as if it would come crashing down. About six monks suddenly moved across to grab him, and gently they carried him back to the circle of other monks. They then tied him up and gagged him and placed him in the centre, and continued their mantras as if nothing had happened.
But perhaps the thing that disturbed local people the most was that, on average, one girl a month would flip out on acid and insist on walking through the centre of the city completely naked. I think the Nepalese were terribly shocked by this, for often the girl would be extremely beautiful. I think the syndrome, as far as one can say anything about human behaviour, is connected with the notion of total freedom, the freedom to walk naked being merely a manifestation of this wish. Throwing off your clothes is an act of liberation. Or so someone once told the young Californian girl whom I saw briefly just before she was put on the plane to India, having been found by a policeman wandering naked through the main street. I think there was also a great fear on the part of the authorities that one day King Mahendra might see such a spectacle, and that would create a major incident, for the king had a habit of cruising the streets at odd hours behind the wheel of his Ferrari.
In fact, although I was not held directly responsible in the case of the American girl, it had not escaped the notice of the authorities that I was somehow involved with the LSD-cult, as they called it. At first it had seemed innocent enough, merely another religious group, who used something similar if not identical to hashish, which had a place in certain forms of Eastern worship. But this thing about girls taking off their clothes every now and then had them worried. Consequently, I was approached by one of the editors of the English language daily, The Rising Nepal, who asked whether I would write an article for the paper about what young Westerners were doing in Kathmandu. 'It would help relations with the public very much indeed; yes, really, very, very much. Thank you.'
I did so, and called the article 'The Divine Mutants' which was sufficiently obscure I thought, with still a slight religious or spiritual bias.
'THE DIVINE MUTANTS
'The term, "hippy", if a recent journalist can be believed was invented by the media so that ordinary people would have something to pray for salvation from. If so, and if the phenomenon "hippy" is the unholy invention if sub-editors and people with mass circulation magazines to sell, we ought to be able to look at the matter more objectively and see what myths and legends have sprung up around this strange creature.
The editor seemed very pleased with the article and asked whether I'd like to write more for them. I then wrote a series on Tantra called 'Old Art in the Hands of New Artists (Notes on the relevance of Tantra to Modern Western Art Movement)' which they wanted to serialise over twelve issues.
Tantra, in fact, had interested me a lot during my stay in the East, and I had consulted both Lhasa-trained Buddhist tantrikas as well as Hindu masters. There was also a Western Hindu monk called Bhagawan Dass, from California, who practised Tibetan Tantra vitally and who had a lot to tell me about its left-handed aspect. It was also Bhagawan Dass who first took Richard Alpert to his guru in India, Neem Karolli Baba. Richard was converted into orthodox Hinduism and given the name Baba Ram Dass, or 'servant of God'. He claims to be able to maintain a 'forty per cent hashish high' without the use of drugs or sex, which is admirable.
My talks with both Bhagawan Dass and Baba Ram Das confirmed that their guru had used LSD: in fact, the first time he did so was when Bhagawan introduced him to Ram Dass. The story of what happened is now part of LSD lore, but is worth repeating, even so. The guru asked about LSD, and Ram Dass said that it did something equivalent to what he had read about in the writings of the mystics, both Eastern and Western. The guru asked Richard, as he then was, if he had any. Richard said he had six 'whitelightning' pills left, and that they were very powerful indeed. The guru asked Richard to give them to him. And promptly swallowed them. Richard sat silent watching for any sign. An hour passed. Finally, Richard asked the Baba what effects he was experiencing. 'None', exclaimed the guru. And Richard was immediately impressed and declared his allegiance to the guru, and gave him his Land Rover.
There was very little interest in LSD amongst the Nepalese, however, with one notable exception, Rama Prasad Manandhar, who had been the Nepalese Ambassador in London for seven years (he had once entertained Queen Elizabeth to dinner at his London Embassy). Rama Prasad was a tantrika, a poet, and a philosopher, a man of wide learning and culture, who lived in one of the oldest and most beautiful houses in the city.
He came round to visit me one day, and a friendship sprang up. One thing led to another and finally he asked me one day whether he could try some LSD. We arranged a session at 'Shangri-la', and I told him the strength or dosage, and he selected a dose of about 300 gamma, which was quite a lot for a first trip.
The session was very quiet, meditative, and serious. Rama Prasad did not talk very much. I remained totally silent. About midway through the session, Rama Prasad complained about being indoors, and said that he would like to go into the garden. We walked into the garden together. It was a beautiful afternoon of bright sunlight, and everything looked absolutely radiant and perfect. Rama walked over to one of the roses upon which a gorgeous butterfly had just alighted. And exclaimed: 'We must try to expand the "moment" into infinite duration!' He asked for a pen and paper and then wrote a poem, which I reproduce exactly as he wrote it and as I published it later in Flow One. It is called The Moment and The One-Ment.
'THE MOMENT' and 'THE ONE-MENT'
Rama Prasad Manandhar
At the crest of Time I stood:
In between, I stood:
The Butterfly had just scarcely alighted
In the kiss of the lovers
The deep-mouthed bay of the hound
This is more than full:
It was shortly after the Ambassador's session that Rama Prasad came round to see me about arranging a meeting with the celebrated Buddhist monk and saint, His HolinessGyalwa Karmapa, who was visiting Kathmandu and staying with the monks at SwayambhNath. Rama knew Karmapa quite well, and had even entertained him once at a reception in his town house. I was naturally very interested in having an audience with Karmapa, for I had heard and read much about him. He was the head of the Kagyudpa Order of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, and recognised as the sixteenth Karmapa incarnation.
The audience was arranged for dawn on the following morning, and Rama Prasad said he'd pick me up at my house in his car.
I stayed up all that night, preparing myself for the temple meeting, and performing chillum and acid Sadhana. When Rama Prasad collected me, I was very stoned indeed, and could hardly find my way out of the garden into the Mercedes. Then we sped off into the blackness and reached the top of Swayambhu just as the first light of dawn appeared through the gaps between the surrounding mountains. It was a glorious sight. And I felt a very special sense of reverence; there was a holiness about the place, more intense than I had ever experienced there before; my head and heart were open to anything.
We were taken up some stairs to the top floor and shown into an antechamber where a monk tied a piece of orange cloth around my neck. He then indicated that I should follow him, and he led me from the chamber into a huge sal brilliant with tankas, and murals, and statues. At the far end, seated on a throne, sat Karmapa; and next to him, seated on a cushion in the full lotus position, was Rama Prasad.
I approached Karmapa slowly, my eyes to the floor, with short bows every few steps. When I reached the throne, I looked up and saw a beam of bright light issuing from the centre of his silver crown or it may have been a beam of sunlight catching a reflection through the lattice-work windows. But the effect was quite startling. It really could seem that he was emitting light from his 'third eye' in the centre of his forehead. I recovered from this startling hallucination, sufficiently anyhow to hand him the white silk scarf I had brought as a present. Karmapa then spoke to me through an interpreter: 'According to the tradition since the Buddha, it has been customary to preserve the record of gifts, as a token of one's inner sense of benevolence. This is so that it may serve as a historical record of the Dharma too. Your name will therefore be added to the names of people contributing to this tradition.'
I was then asked to say anything I wished to Karmapa.
What I wished to say was for the future: to see many of the Lamas and families of the esoteric Dharma move to the West. And, how this work could be furthered by the lamas opening a dialogue with the Chiefs and Elders of the North American Indian Tribe called the Hopi whose villages I had once visited in Arizona. The lands of the North American Indians stretch from parts of Canada down to the Mexican border and comprise some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, parts of which are remarkably similar to Tibet, particularly in Colorado and New Mexico. But these lands are now under siege again, for, as the indigenous Indian population is encouraged to leave the reservations and accept an alien white culturewhich is happening in the case of the young Indians at a truly frightening ratethese holy lands will be taken over in a few years by the U.S. Government, and then by the builders. Yet potentially they could provide a sort of 'spiritual backbone' for a future, more spiritualized America.
Karmapa remained silent throughout all this. When I had finished, he beckoned me closer and, as I bent my head, his hands touched the centre of my head, and suddenly, unaccountably, like a bolt, I experienced Samadhi one of the most extraordinary moments of consciousness of which man is capable. And I felt utterly and completely cleansed, as though the divine thunderbolt had gone through me like a million volt charge. It was a feeling that was to remain with me for quite some days.
The memory of this great Initiation persists. I believe that on that special morning when I met Karmapa my life was changed and in ways that I am only now beginning to understand, which I have yet to assimilate, and, in time, express outwardly and through my being. For if ever there were a living god, Karmapa is it: of this I am utterly convinced.
Ninety-five per cent of all Buddhists, from Ladakh to NEFA (North Assam) belong to the Kargyudpa esoteric sect, of which Karmapa is the spiritual leader.
Like all the other Karmapa incarnations, His Holiness is famous for his erudite scholarship, integrity of character, and excellence in yogic practices. The embodiment of compassion, in human form, Karmapa cares for and loves all human beings, and takes pains for their spiritual salvation.
He is equally well-honoured and followed by Kings, Lamas and laymen, in Tibet, China, Mongolia, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, as also throughout south-east Asia, Japan, Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Canada, Great Britain, U.S.A., Sweden, Denmark, Spain, etc., etc.
And daily now Karmapa prays for the world 'May all spiritual leaders enjoy long lives and prosperity. May the Singha multiply and fulfill their duties. May the blessings of the Dharma liberate all departed souls. In the world may sickness, poverty, wars and all evil influences be cut at the root and destroyed. May all things of the Kali Yuga (Black Age) be dispersed.'
Finally, of course, the first number of Flow appeared,
minus about half the material, which two of the printers had kept
after I refused to pay increased printing costs, which I considered
to be very unfair.
THE CROWN PRINCE OF NEPAL
AND HER ROYAL HIGHNESS
ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR MARRIAGE
KATHMANDU FEBRUARY 27, 1970
The days drifted lazily. I had made a number of friends in Kathmandu, both Nepali and Western, and would often spend pleasant afternoons walking around the city, occasionally venturing forth to BoudhiNath, a small Tibetan settlement just outside Kathmandu, with a characteristic huge stupa or temple in the centre of the village, with three large eyes painted on the top, which were visible from afarone of the silent sentinels of Kathmandu Valley. It was a colourful placethe old Tibetan women slowly circumnavigating the temple, spinning the eternal prayer-wheels, the men hanging around in change shops, a few Easterners buying Tibetan ornaments and clothes in the inevitable string of tourist shops. One of the large houses around the stupa belonged to the Chini Lama, and, having heard that the stupa had been recently struck by lightning, I decided to pay him a visit one afternoon, for the Chini Lama was like the unofficial mayor of BoudhiNath and the guardian of the stupa, which he generously endowed.
According to local gossip the Chini Lama had been doing a good trade moving tankas, Tibetan rugs, and hashish and the lightning thunderbolt had struck the stupa as art obvious warning from above.
The Lama received me hospitably with the traditional salt-and-butter tea, brought in by a lovely girl. As we sat and talked, I was impressed by his incredible outfit, which included orange-red robes in various silks, a fur hat, from underneath which his smiling eyes looked at me with a penetrating curiosity. I finally asked him about the lightning matter, whereupon he told me that it was indeed an auspicious omen as he had found a Garuda egg embedded in the stupa just afterwards. I beheld in my stoned mind's eye a vision of a mythical bird, for the Garuda is a familiar creature to the readers of Hindu mythology, not unlike the phoenix in appearance, whose wings are made of gold studded with diamonds; so I suggested that I could arrange for an incubator to be sent out to the stupa, if there were any real possibility of hatching such an unusual bird as the Garuda. The Chini Lama looked at me wistfully for what seemed like a long time and finally said: 'I am afraid it is too late. I have already sold the egg to a Hong Kong businessman. The shell is famed throughout China as a great aphrodisiac. '
We parted on the best of terms and he suggested that I visit the monastery of Ogmin Chang Chub Choling, established by a former Miami beauty Queen, Princess Zinaide de Rachevski, who had been ordained into the Tantric Buddhist Order by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who had also shaved off her head of hair; and it was rumoured she was the first incarnation of Madame Blavatski
It was a two-mile walk from the village, and I made the ascent of the hill with some difficulty; the path was fairly steep and narrow and I had to avoid occasional flocks of descending goats and the occasional water-buffalo led by tiny Nepalese children. The hill levelled out and soon I was inside the gates of the monastery. The Abbess was sitting on the lawn in a circle of beautiful girls with the occasional male sadhu seated quietly within their midst.
I sat down next to Zina, as she liked to be known by old friends (we had known each other briefly in New York, in the mid-sixties, during her time there as a stunning East Side socialite), and she told me many interesting things about the training people received at the monastery, the essence of transmission being telepathy or more exactly darshana kind of 'flash' or vibration that is transmitted in the guru-gela relationship.
One of the resident Lamas, who had received his training in Lhasa, now spoke a little English, and during the course of the conversation I asked him about the Chinese invasion into Tibet. The Lama gave me a curious answer: From one point of view the invasion had been an historical tragedy, certainly for the Tibetan people who were now scattered as refugees throughout the Indian continent. Yet from another vantage point, the 'cosmic' one, this was all somehow necessary in order to spread the dharma and make of this planet earth a Heaven for all living creatures. 'The seven seals of silence were broken and a new epoch would come.'
Now my time in this tiny Himalayan Kingdom had come to an end. I had lived in Kathmandu for one year and had seen and experienced many new things, and much had been given, more, indeed, than I could ever hope to repay. But some inner restlessness was calling me back to the West, and I decided to follow its prompting. Thus it was on one sun-drenched morning in August that I boarded the tiny DC-9 to Calcutta and thence by connecting jet to London, arriving back in the metropolis the next day as though in a foreign city, lost, and not a little sad for what I saw . What had I really learned in my decade of bizarre psychedelic trips? That it takes a great deal of acid to produce even a little elevation of consciousness? That there are times we can know more than we can tell? That reality must still count for something? That it is impossible to become what one is never not? That the future lies in a Tantric vision of cosmic sexuality combined with a cult of ecstasy? That we can make of the planet earth a Holy Land yet? Or is it with a finger pointed to the moon that I should reply? But one thing is certain: that there is no need to mean by a 'culture of humanity' anything more than the liberation of the higher faculties. Whoever has any experience in this matter will know how right Cato was when he said: 'Never is he more active than when he does nothing, never is he less alone than when he is by himself.'
What at last is left for the psychedelic theorist? Must he honour the extreme doctrine of individualism and concede that, after the elimination of radical evil and the provision of material abundance, people must be left alone, simply to be and do what they want?
Our mind craves dreams, those magical realms, for ever present between somewhere and nowhere, which beguile us with a thraldom all their own and help keep our sense of wonder alive. And if the new 'matter-of-factness' encroaches on our brain to no other end than to make of our life a thing and not, as it longs to be, an instrument of self-transcendence, we feel distressed by our inability to dream as once we did; and all delight is gone, our life somehow diminished, which is the cause of most of the angst in the self-the knowledge that what is most human in our life is being determined not by our 'true' needs, which are divined from the centre of our being, opening like the petals of the lotus and are beyond thought, beyond intellect, 'beyond striving', but are on the contrary, determined entirely by external forces, through no choice of ours.
We are at once the victims and the beneficiaries of modern technological advances. Reality is now the new myth-making substance. We are manipulated by man-made dreams which develop artificial wants: frozen and tasteless foods, bland, homogenised lives; cliché-ridden beliefs and standardised rituals; conspicuous consumption; the 'pooled self-esteem' our Western forms of nationalism make possible; mechanical gadgets; devotion to science and the 'preality-principle'; and the abandonment of any religious revelation, so that even our religious leaders and intellectuals do not use words like 'spiritual' and 'idealistic' at all freely, for they are themselves quite happy with their material comforts and the labour-saving world of gadgets and good health that goes with them, and would consider those who preached that the happiness people want should be sought for in any kind of nirvana, mystic ecstasy, theoria, transcendence, as certainly other-worldly.
What the spread of technological culture has done is to push the boundaries of the literal miracle, the 'other-world', the magical far outside the range of ordinary everyday human happiness. Miracles, our politicians tell us, do not originate in some supernatural religious state but must be realised in this world and have their basis in the familiar facts of technological progress, in communication, education, transportation, public health, etc., etc. But those who have found a source of happiness in a life of the spirit are of the opinion that there has been a retrogression in our aim for a true culture of humanity. While we are busily pouring ever-increasing intellectual efforts into improving our means, we have forgotten the ends they are intended to achieve. Do we really know what we want?
This question is more likely to be answered in the Alternative literature of protest, the theme of vagabondage, and the exploration of individual human consciousness via drugs, Zen Buddhism, Yoga, esotericism, Buddha, the Hermetic arts, alchemy, visionary experience, Tantra, hesychast methods, hypostatic union of Christ and man, and all the charismas of the spirit. Those who affirm that the real truth and source of all human joy and happiness lies wholly 'within' must try, with whatever means they can get, to break the hold of that view of life which has replaced the potentialities of the human mind with the perspective of its mechanical extensions, the extensions of transportation and social planning and mass conditioning which are now turning on the body and strangling it as the serpents did at Laocoon.
Modern society is growing infertile, devoid of a living culture, no longer productive of any personal form, an abstract, lifeless, cinematic world of machine-made interpretations about the self. It is not surprising therefore if we tell ourselves that all revelatory experience is foolishness, so much so that man sees himself increasingly as nothing but an 'energy slave' or a cipher on the face of a moral and spiritual void. And as the knowledge of his own disorientation cannot be handled within the framework of so-called normality, he turns more and more to his brave world of machines. And through the power of his machines he acts out the uncomprehended tragedy of man's inner disruption. Yet it was the Ancient Chinese Sage, Huang Tzu, who proposed some 2500 years ago that dependence even on a simple kind of machine causes man to become uncertain of his own inner impulses; and further, the result may lead him to forget how to master his own world.
So we have learned instead how to master our machines, because machines do not serve us unless we service them, but in the process we have had to adjust our human organization to our equipment. We tend to get what the machine can best give us rather than what is most desirable.
For the rest I have tried to write this book as an inwardly conceived and inwardly coherent work of fiction that isn't exactly fiction, and only those who read it as a novel will discover its real meaning. I hope that those who are prepared to read the book in this spirit will catch a glimpse, not so much of a utopia possible in theory, but rather of an attitude of mind capable of attainment in practice, in which all problems of modern technological existence will appear to be solved, that irreconcilable contradictions will pass away, and a newer and fuller significance of individual human existence will be revealed. In this connection, I can do no better than to refer the reader to Aldous Huxley's last novel, Island (1962), which is a very imaginative effort to protect a way of life based in nature, that is lived organically as a flowing growing process.
According to his brother, Sir Julian Huxley, Aldous took LSD eleven times, gaining thereby 'new extensions of his perception of beauty and transcendence'. Huxley believed that from LSD the individual could achieve what the poet Cowper called 'a closer walk with God'.
For myself, I believe I have investigated the phenomenon LSDthese words!as much towards this same spiritual end as my intelligence and faculties permitted me to go. And perhaps the long, arduous, oppressive decade I passed through came to benefit at least one creative effort.
And how do I now think of LSD et al.?as certain truths about the nature of my inner self came to be manifest in my conscious mind, my interest in psychedelics began to wane proportionately, so that today I do not believe that LSD can help me towards self-realisation. It had never been more than preliminary, one may say, a pretext to me to explore inwardness and unfamiliar mental states for whatever they might reveal. But LSD has nothing more to give me. And I am therefore determined to return to the world, and in time, to integrate myself with it. In relation to any religious beliefs I now hold, I am a confessed Franciscan, though I freely admit that I have a very long way to go before I shall be able to express this outwardlywith my entire beingthe love Saint Francis of Assisi showed was for all living creatures, and in respect to love of this kind, I must to this extent be regarded as clumsy. Yet in Saint Francis evolved Love of the very highest order for his delicate and feminine sensibility offered Love a unique possibility of manifestation. And thus, in the light of this knowledge, I can no longer take my psychedelic trips seriously. I know that many readers, and by no means the worst among them, would disapprove of such measures as taking LSD; one should be strong enough, they say, to exist by faith without the aid of drugs. Yes! One should be, but what if one is too weak?
And the impulse which now drives me back into the world is precisely the same as that which drives so many into monasteries or to keep the offices of prayerthe desire for self-realisation.
St. Mary at the Cross, Glasshampton, Worcester.
Contents | Feedback | Search | DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library
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
Information on Alcohol
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
|Drug Information Articles|
Taking a drug test:
How To Pass A Drug Test
Beat Drug Test
Pass Drug Test
Drug Screening Tests
Drug Addiction Treatment