The Man Who Turned on the World
5. The Millbrook Happenings
1964Although the world of Millbrook may seem nonsensical by rational standards to the outside world it was merely another way of saying reason is not enough. We lived out a myth which had not yet been integrated into our personalities. Millbrook was itself the work of art, or a mirror, or simply something going fast like a watch, some time. Like Kafka's castle, it gave out messages into the ether in the form of one high resonant sound which vibrated on the ears of the world as if it were trying to penetrate beyond the barrier separating 'us' from 'them'. We felt satisfied that our goals were every man's, a projection of every man's private ambition. We sought for that unitary state of divine harmony, an existence in which only the sense of wonder remains and all fear gone. Here was a philosophy of TO BECOME in which appear bits of Vedanta and bits of popular pantheism, bits of the Tao and bits of the Ching.
In the Fall of 1964 I arrived at Millbrook. Leary and Alpert,
who had proclaimed themselves the International Foundation for
Internal Freedom (IFIF), had had to leave Zihuatanejo, Mexico,
where they had set up a training centre for people using LSD.
They got back to New York and started looking for an alternative
base somewhere in the States. The solution to their problem came
in the form of a sixty-four-room mansion on a 2000-acre walled
estate within two hours motoring distance of the city. They had
rented the estate from the young millionaire Billy Hitchcock,
at a nominal rent more or less$500 a month.
'The pattern sings like crystal constellations,
Tim was greatly interested in the writings of Hesse, but at this time, it was the glass bead game that held him under its hermetic spell Joseph Knecht ('servant'), hero of the novel, rises to be a Magister Ludi, the High Priest of the Castalian Order. Gradually he becomes dissatisfied with the exclusive and esoteric nature of those who play the game, for the rules of the game had evolved into an astonishing complexity:
'These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several sciences and arts, but especially mathematics and music.... The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture.... All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual propertyon all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ (the Game represents) an elite, symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself in other words, to God.' [Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, tr. by Richard and Clara Winston, Jonathan Cape, 1970, p. 14ff.]
Knecht left the rarefied world in which he performed with such eminence and resolved to fashion a link between Castalia and the outside world. After making this decision, Knecht fortuitously drowns in an Alpine lake with his protégé, a misfortune that yet points a precedent for action, as the protégé feels henceforth, life will 'demand much greater things of him than he had ever before demanded of himself'.
Tim thought most people missed the real message of Hesse, himself the member of the Hermetic Circle; entranced by the pretty dance of words and theme, they overlook the seed message, for Hesse, in the spirit of Mercurious, is a trickster. Like nature in April, he dresses up his code in fancy plumage. The literary reader picks the fruit, eats quickly, and tosses the core to the ground. But the seed, the electrical message, the code, is in the core. The seed meaning is within, concealed behind the net of symbols. Millbrook's Castalia Foundation was its own 'sublime alchemy', and its own High Priest in Timothy Leary, who saw in Hesse's story of the Castalian Order, both an inspiration and a warning against constricting rigidity.
'Groups which attempt to apply psychedelic experiences to social living will find in the story of Castalia all the features and problems which such attempts inevitably encounter: the need for a new language or set of symbols to do justice to the incredible complexity and power of the human cerebral machinery; the central importance of maintaining direct contact with the regenerative forces of the life-process through meditation or other methods of altering consciousness; the crucial and essentially insoluble problem of the relation of the mystic community to the world at large. Can the order remain an educative, spiritual force in the society, or must it degenerate through isolation and inattention to a detached, alienated group of idealists ?' [Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner, The Psychedelic Renew, Cambridge, Mass., Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1963, p. 179.]
For those of us who comprised the household, Millbrook was simply 'a house', in the sense that a house is also a home. We lived as a community of people who had accepted a certain way of living, which had rules and goals, shared by all. We felt that our life-style was a creative solution to the problems of living in the cinematic, labour-saving world. We wanted to explore our spiritual individuality, discover our secret life within, but also to test the validity of our search by means of living and loving and sharing with other people in close community. It was some kind of heightened feeling of self, combined with movement, a natural and instinctive reaction in such a setting, the light, the landscape, an all-pervading tactile quality about the place, the texture and the music of natural surroundings, created a corresponding ambiance of colour, affective tonality, and seriousness in our minds. Here we could travel into our own minds, to remote and hitherto inaccessible realms within. We sought the god who inhabits each and every man. We took this lofty house and turned it into a small stepping stone.
Elevated or metaphoric levels of consciousness have been sought by a few men in each generation. The possibility of transcendence has attracted the thoughts of men throughout the ages. The visionary experience has coloured the visions of a few Western thinkers, and has been recorded by many Eastern mystics. It is described in the seventh book of Plato's Republic and mapped in the Bhagavad Gita and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. For the most part, Western psychology has ignored the possibilities of mind-expansion and has become almost entirely externally oriented. During the last hundred years particularly we have gained an incredible expertise in manipulating the objective environment while simultaneously setting up barriers against the exploration of the internal. This imbalance between the outer and inner creates an over-emphasis on action and aggressive behaviour, and a neglect of the fundamental question of what consciousness is.
Everything is internal. Everything happens in the mind. At Millbrook we wanted to develop a methodology to guide us in our journey within. In the West our most ready metaphors are neurological. At Millbrook we wanted to substitute a more apposite imagery. We wished to confront the realities of our nervous system, not in a clinical but in a creative setting. To overcome the superstitious dread of 'tampering with the mind' we set out to learn the language of inner space. Can this internal language be understood? The problem is phenomenological. To go into external space we have to overcome gravitational inertia. By analogy, our ego spins around inside the mind compelling us to be tied to its field of gravity. Transcendental experience is the only escape from the prison imposed by the ego. It is the Saturn rocket that boosts us into a more differentiated and freer space. Yet so far from LSD being the withdrawal of the mind from reality, it has enabled people to appreciate the authentic beauty of what we understand by objective reality.
In the early days at Harvard we didn't know much about this. We knew enough not to impose rules, roles, rituals on the brain of another; enough to plan sessions beforehand in an open way, to remove any fears a person might have that he was going to have an experience put over him. And while we knew not to get people out of their minds, we had to find a way to bring them back. It was like having no equipment to plot re-entry. Millbrook was an attempt to bring people back in a position to sustain their spiritual transformation. And while we drew on the collective wisdom of the great mystical texts we were not attempting a crude transplant. We desired a coalescence of Eastern insights and Western intelligence. A combination, for example, of the Tantra and Western psychology.
Regularly the permanent members of the household would participate in group sessions, using LSD, and we would take it in turns to plan these. Fourteen people would turn on together. The appointed guide would be responsible for the music, the tapes, the readings, the lights. In one of these run by Dick Alpert, we agreed not to speak for three hours, but to wholly give ourselves in responding to the input. Dick read from Meher Baba, the celebrated Indian mystic who ceased to speak on July 10, 1925 and communicated, through disciples, by means of an alphabet board:
'The sole purpose of creation is that the soul should be able to enjoy the Infinite state of the Over-soul (Paramatman) consciously. Although the soul eternally exists in and with the Oversoul in an inviolable unity, it cannot be conscious of this unity independently of the creation which is within the limitations of time. It must, therefore, evolve consciousness before it can realise its true status and nature as being identical with the Infinite Over-soul, which is One without a second.' [Meher Baba, 'The Divine Theme for Meditation', cited in C. B. Purdom, The Perfect Master, Williams and Norgate, London, 1937, p. 309.]
After three hours we looked in the little hand mirrors we had all been supplied with before the session and watched the various physiognomic metamorphoses. For some people it was like entering the world of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray watching 'in the dim light the hideous face on the canvas' and realising, like Dorian, that 'each of us has Heaven and Hell in him'. Some had a horrific experience of seeing their faces melting or turning bright orange or red or green.
In fact these paranoid symptoms are described in the Tibetan mystical writings where they are hallucinations of devils. In Tibetan tanka paintings fearful dragons with huge red eyes belch flame and smoke from their nostrils. These are images of energy that exist in the mind. Under the session conducted by Dick we also saw the snake, which is the coiled DNA, the Kundalini serpent which lies at the base of the spine. Once released it fills the mind and heart with light. Unprepared for such images they create fear and terror. As we became more sophisticated with the use of drugs and studied the mystics we could deal with the images. We saw them as mandalas, as screens of energy. By suspending analysis we were able to pass through the screens. We noticed that in the centre of all these images is a black hole, the vortex of mystical works. By focusing on this swirling, sucking void we moved through its entrance to the other kingdom. The blind spot in the centre of each mandala is recognised by Tibetan monks as a device to reach transcendence. It comes to life and triggers off archetypal images. We learned to move through the mandala to Nirvana, the state of absolute bliss.
In our hand mirrors we saw former selves, lives past, and lives we might yet live in the present. And in this session with a dosage of 800 gamma LSD (justified because of the secure supportive system) we saw the multiple facets of our potential. Indeed, 'it might be proposed that what we encounter here is an activation of the phylogenetic inheritance.' [R. E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, Anthony Blond, London, 1967, p. 217] I had experiences of living in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and of living in India 2000 years ago. I also dissolved into a very old man, receded into a young man, spun and shrunk into a baby being born.
After five hours we still had not started to verbalism We silently prepared for the period of re-entry. Here daily consciousness is slowly intruding and our conceptual mind perceives it with all its inhibitions, its whole pathology of content.
'So far you have been searching for your past personality.
At peak experience the being is filled with love, joy and ecstasy; under LSD it is impossible to think of killing anything. On reentry we would try to choose who we wanted to be. If we were to return from spiritual heights we wanted to do so changed, still possessed of love and radiance. This was the point of the session, but none of us really managed it. The re-entry periods we wanted to freeze were elusive.
Dick's session was followed by a walk in the woods, a silent exercise in looking. And after experiencing the sensuous impact of the grass, and the trees, and the animals we went back to the house and prepared a meal of rice and tamara, wine and cheese, and we began to speak to each other.
We also played behavioural games with each other, accumulating evidence to test various hypotheses. As an example, in June 1965 we had all been studying Gurdjieff's Meetings With Remarkable Men, Ouspensky's The Fourth Way, and Orage's Psychological Exercises. Gurdjieff maintained that most people sleepwalk their waking hours away, and saw his own role as that of an alarm clock to wake people from this diurnal somnambulism. To test this we planned a Self-Remembering game. It started at 9.00 a.m. and, in an arbitrary sequence, a bell would ring four times an hour throughout the day. The bell was the signal for us to stop and record what we were doing at the time. Under the heading EXTERNAL we answered the questions Where are you? and What game are you playing? Under the heading CONSCIOUSNESS we answered the questions When? (i.e. Past, Present, Future), Where? and What game? As the house was full of behaviourists this seemed a normal thing to do.
Tim's wedding to 'the beautiful blonde Swedish model' Nena Von
Schlebrugge took place six weeks after I had moved into my upstairs
room at Millbrook. It was a radiant morning and we were up early
to welcome the guests, most of whom drove up from New York. The
marriage service was held in the Episcopal church in the village
of Millbrook in the early afternoon and afterwards we returned
to the estate where we had arranged a Swedish-style buffet in
all the downstairs rooms of Castalia, so guests could wander around
the house eating delicacies. I had met most of the guests individually,
or in small groups, but this was the first really big gathering
of assorted heads. There were some 150 of us, all high on LSD,
or pot, or both. It was a brilliant festive occasion with everyone
dressed up so brightly that it was like watching an idyllic pageant
from Elizabethan England. Most of the girls had dazzling ornaments
over Indian saris. They held flowers and seemed to glitter in
an extraordinary delicacy. The men wore robes and brightly coloured
costumesharlequin pants, richly textured jackets, sumptuous
shirts. To view them on the lawn from the roof of the bowling
alley was to peep into a kaleidoscopic garden party of glorious
humanity. Castalia had been transformed into a palace and it embraced
'Dear Tim and Nina. We're missing you very much. We've been studying the works of Meher Baba, particularly his book God Speaks and we find this fundamental to our journey. We've also been reading Rene Daumal's Mount Analogue and our souls are climbing the mountain. Our bodies too: we've built our own mountain from chicken wire and plaster of paris, and we've painted routes and markings on this mountain, a metaphoric statement of where we're at, all climbing the mountain together. We ran seven sessions last week. Some wonderful. Jacky and Susan are very well. Jack is doing well at school, making new friends who he brings round to watch the deer in the park. Susan has been learning to bake. On Tuesday some of us went to Salvador Dali's birthday party at the St. Regis hotel. We were all dressed up, wearing ski masks, each with a different musical instrument. They were about to throw us out when they discovered we were Dali's guests. Gabi gave Dali his pet iguana for a present. Later, when Dali took us to the Stork Club for a meal, he paid and left the iguana on the table as a tip. We are sending you some LSD by next mail, to c/o American Express, New Delhi. Enough for forty trips. Love from Millbrook.'
Gabi, the photographer, had entered Millbrook during the time Tim and Nena were away, a period when we spent a lot of time working on multi-media techniques. The genesis of the multimedia show 'Psychedelic Theatre' came about when, late one evening, Arnie Hendin arrived at Millbrook with his girl, Lois. He was a very active person, tall with a little beard and long hair. He told me he was a photographer. None of us had thought much about using photography in sessions, but Arnie mentioned it as a possibility and asked if he could show me some of his slides. He set up two projectors in the session room, selected some music, and we took some LSD. Then he began to manipulate the projector to inform his photographs with a dynamic quality. Inexorably I was caught up in this dance of the fixed image. It was a weird mosaic of visual rhythm, pulsating vibrating colour. Arnie used our huge mirrors to reflect his slides and bounced them round the room. He took them in and out of focus, blended photographs together, and used this controlled agitation in uncanny counterpoint with the music. These pictures were real! I lived in them. A shot of the East Village, New York, would come so alive that I could see the sounds, sense the smells, watch the people move. At times I had to avoid the traffic. Suddenly Arnie switched to a pastoral scene of an old New England barn, and the mood changed abruptly. He had a triangular arrangement of three mirrors which he put in front of the lens to break the image up into multiple facets. Taking the slides out of focus he elevated shapes to forms, and then reduced these to primal blobs of chaotic colour. It anticipated Stanley Kubrik's psychedelic continuum in 2001 when the space pod enters the visionary atmosphere of Jupiter. I felt Arnie had visually duplicated the early stages of the LSD experience. Words had never been equal to the ineffable. These graceful gymnastics of colour which Arnie had produced, by sheer artistry, were the apotheosis of distraction.
He was a magiciannot only a technically brilliant photographer, but a being possessed of mysterious creative powers, able to utilise new forms of energy. He had understood that LSD is a non-verbal, visionary experience. An intensity of seeing whether the eyes are opened or closed. Arnie had changed our session room from the inside of a cigar box to the inside of a diamond.
I asked him if there were any other photographers who were his peers in these realms.
'Yes,' Arnie said. 'There is Gabi. He comes from Detroit like me and came to New York to take up a scholarship at the Cooper Union. Gabi spent one day looking round the place and decided it was not for him. He lives in a small basement in the lower East Village.'
I had to go into New York the following day to pick up a Tibetan monkey which had been gifted to us. Why not see Gabi then ? Arnie told me the address, but asked about the monkey. I explained that the Tibetan monkey had been destined for the Baltimore zoo, but had been rejected by the zoo. The donors were friends of the Fergussons and suggested to them that the Castalia Foundation could have it if we wanted. Of course, we did. So I was to drive in and pick it up from an animal emporium just off Broadway, near Wall Street.
I drove into New York next morning in the Ford station wagon we had, and went first to see Gabi. He was seated at a table in his basement sticking coloured polo mints on to a discarded car axle. Quite naturally he showed me a champagne glass with broken polo mints stuck around the base. Then a silver spoon hanging from a string in a box with the coloured sweets stuck on to it. After a period spent looking at these and similar creations Gabi introduced me to his animals. He had a pet iguana, a pet crow, a pet mouse. Later on the crow ate the mouse, and the iguana freaked the crow by doing something the crow could not doblink! It was this same iguana that ended up on a table in the Stork Club as the Salvador Dali tip.
Gabi was a six footer, with long blond hair, and the largest blandest eyes I had ever seen. He looked a bit like Lewis Carroll. I suggested he come out to Millbrook, but told him that first I had to pick up the Tibetan monkey. Would he help me as obviously he had a way with animals ? Certainly he would, but if we were going on to Millbrook he wanted to take his animals. Gabi put on his head the northern hemisphere from a metal atlas, and we boxed the mouse, and put the iguana in a cage. Gabi felt that a trip to the financial district might so upset the iguana that it might bite, and we didn't want that. The crow, however, was not nearly so sensitive so we let if fly above the station wagon and follow us to the Wall Street district.
We got into the emporium without incident, and the crow still hung about the station wagon. The monkey, about two-and-a-half feet high with snowy white eyebrows and beard, was put into a huge cage. Gabi said he could speak to animals, so I carried the cage and he carried the monkey. So we walked back to the station wagon, an extraordinary trinityme in my raccoon coat and tam o'shanter, Gabi with half of the world on his head, and the Tibetan monkey completely at home in Gabi's arms. From the looks on the faces of passers-by it seemed as if a whole section of New York had freaked out! Rush hour took on a new meaning.
As soon as we got back to Millbrook everyone wanted to see some of Gabi's psychedelic magic. He installed the animals and then set up projectors, as Arnie had done. We were soon transfixed by the beauty, dazzling colour, and unique insights performed by Gabi with light and colour. The magicians were taking over. And we liked it.
This development led to other groups coming. Probably the most important was USCO'US company'three performers from the artists' colony at Woodstock, N.Y. The group comprised Gerd Stein, poet and former Playboy correspondent; Steve Durkee, previously a pop artist; and Michael Callahan, an electronics technician. USCO communicated through a multichannel media mix, a psychedelic orchestra of film, colour slides, kinetic sculpture, strobe lights, and live actors. They had developed a system of linking all projectors to one control manual. With this ability to control all visual effects from one source they used techniques of spinning sound from one speaker to another. This, in conjunction with the images, seemed to us to offer an exciting dramatic possibility, a unique form of theatre. A performance where the audience would be involved intimately in the field of action, participating.
At Millbrook we did not isolate ourselves hermetically from the world outside, but wished to contribute to and reflect something of the spirit of our time. Our Psychedelic Theatre or 'Tranart' (transcendental art) did not arise like a diversion or arrive like a gilded Pavlova. It grew out of alembic of creative minds, from aspects of personal experiences of living. We continually exposed ourselves to novel departures in our conceptual, label-making process and tried to get rid of ideas of what art must necessarily be.
In the case of the Psychedelic Theatre we suspended the general assumption that Theatre is concerned solely with formal, fixed construction like the plays of Ibsen. We wanted to avoid the mistake tacitly committed by both spectator and artist of submitting to a mental trap of knowing what is expected of them. The Psychedelic Theatre arose out of something like the cave-paintings of primitive man interested in constructing a piece of reality from the flux. It was a theatre of controlled spontaneity, offered not as a virtuoso performance by a signature-artist, but as a sensory embrace.
The first public psychedelic event ever performed was at the Village Vanguard jazz club in Greenwich Village on Monday, April 5, 1965. Those taking part were myself, Dick Alpert, Alan Watts, Charlie Mingus, Pete La Roca, Steve Swallow, Charlie Lloyd, Ralph Metzner, Susan Leary, Mario (a dancer), and Bjoern Von Schlegrugge as stage manager in charge of the electronic equipment.
I introduced the event thus:
'Our purpose in being here is to expand our awareness. To assimilate and to see aspects of the psychedelic consciousness. To observe the phenomena of inner space. This is the Magic Theatre. By magic we mean the phenomena of everyday life through which we pass most of our time asleep. Tonight we shall be mixing auditory and visual phenomena. The brain is capable of processing all this data. It will see different images moving in a random/planned fashion. Sound tracks, some of which have been cut up, will be heard. Films and light will perform. All you have to do is focus on one point. And then you will see the rest. Diversity will be unity. But do not try to understand. The brain will do all that later. Here you will have 10,000 visions. So sit back and relax. Extend yourself to an aesthetic distance. You may have the opportunity of leaving your body. Leaving your mind. You are going on a voyage. The price of admission is your mind. For if you attempt to analyse and conceptualise you will cheat yourself of the opportunity to see things in a fresh manner.'
Then I read:
Is it a dream ?
And we began. The impact of this event is perhaps best appreciated from the review in the New York Times of Sunday, April 11, 1965:
'Tamara, her blonde hair falling to her baggy white pyjamas, was passing out Tibetan incense.
As well as passing out jelly beans (which some of the audience imagined, with delight or apprehension, depending on their attitude, to be treated with LSD) we gave Dick Alpert a spot. He sat on a stool and began telling funny stories about his experiences at Harvard, about his early experiences with his millionaire father, and how this world now seemed several light years away. The audience laughed uproariously at Dick's stories and, after the show, the owner of the Vanguard, Max, came up to Dick.
'You are a natural-born comedian. Would you like to try a week here as a comedian, doing what you did tonight?'
Dick said he would try it.
A couple of weeks later Dick took up the offer. Unfortunately only half a dozen people were watching him and they were boozy and incapable of understanding Dick. Apart from myself, who accompanied Dick to New York for his 'gig', and some friends, no one got the point of his humour. It simply seemed crazy to them that a man could jeopardise an enviable family security and a top academic job to live as Dick was doing then. It was clear to us that for Dick's jokes to be understood everyone had to be high.
Subsequent to the Village Vanguard evening we set up a regular Monday night series of 'Psychedelic Explorations' at the New Theatre, East Fifty-Fourth Street, in collaboration with USCO. There would be lectures, psychedelic improvisations, discussions, performances by the Castalia Foundation and USCO, and finally an informal question-and-answer period. The idea was that the Psychedelic Theatre would illustrate and amplify the themes discussed in the lectures which in turn supplied the theoretical background necessary for an understanding of the new techniques of audio-olfactory-visual alteration of consciousness. Our other main forum was the Coda Galleries in the East Village. This opened in April 1965 and acted as a salon for exhibitions, discussions and demonstrations. It proved immensely successful and on one occasion some 6000 Villagers tried to cram into the sixty-five-person capacity gallery to hear a panel of psychologists and artists discuss the value of chemically-induced transcendence for artists. The Coda's director, Ray Crossen, also sponsored the 'Theatre of the Ridiculous' and many poetry-readings in which I took part. There is no question but that the work we did at that time in New York has been seminal in the development of kinetic and optical art, the new cinema, and freer forms of theatre. It opened up a whole vista of new entertainment possibilities. Arnie Hendin, who had suggested so much of this potential growth on his first evening at Millbrook, was by now developing into a one-man theatrical event; as three Yale psychologists were shortly to find out.
So involved had we been in the Psychedelic Theatre and so closely
had we communicated with Tim in India that it seemed like days
not months had passed when he eventually returned with Nena. After
the preliminary salutations of welcome, Tim made it very clear
that he had mainly learned from India that all fire and metals
should be kept underground. 'The great work of the future,' he
said, 'will be to return fire and metal back to earth. This will
be a work of joy. All works of destruction involve fire and metal.
We must overcome them. In future we will separate our garbage
into metallic and non-metallic substances. All the metal must
Millbrook was not confined to the activities of the permanent household. As its name spread we received many people we admired. As I had been the first person to turn Tim on to LSD, with what he felt were satisfactory results, I was usually called upon to act as guide for the special guests. Several of these had memorable trips. Feliks Topolski got in touch with me, saying he had heard about me from Alex Trocchi in London. Feliks had come to New York to do murals in the St. Regis Hotel and when he arrived at Millbrook we agreed to do a Cook's Tour of the mind. We went to the upstairs room of the bowling alley and I decided to concentrate the visual input on colour, using the projectors to suggest amorphous masses of undifferentiated tonality. I blended images and sounds and let Feliks think on them.
The session commenced in the late afternoon, and at one point Tim came into the room with Billy Hitchcock. Not wishing to disturb Feliks they sat in a corner, talked briefly, and then left without interfering with Feliks. To Feliks, however, this seemed like a conspiratorial tête-à-tête, and he said to me when they'd gone: 'Wow, they're just like gangsters.'
Our session continued into the early hours of the next morning and as the first light was being refracted from the clouds I took Feliks out on to the balcony of the bowling alley. Just as we stepped outside there was a flash of lightning.
'The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
Feliks was stunned.
'My goodness,' he mumbled in his gentle way, 'look at that.'
'Yes,' I smiled, 'we try to do our best for someone on his first session.'
Dawn came, and later sunlight filled the entire room. Another day, another world, had come. We went back on the balcony, smelling the air, listening to the sounds of the birds, feeling as if we were being reborn with the day. And as our eyes were scanning the horizon we saw a car being driven very fast up the road followed by clouds of dust. The car halted at the bowling alley and out stepped Arnie, a male friend, and a girlfriend. They were naked, and painted all over with colourful symbols. One of Arnie's legs was blue, another green, and looking down I could make out a painting of a torso on his forehead. All he had on was a feather in his hair. He brought a flute out of the car and his friend got a saxophone. Then they started to play and dance at the same time. It lasted a few minutes and then they got back into the car and drove off. They came from nowhere, hadn't been expected, and went away again. Disappeared.
'This was a very vivid hallucination,' Feliks said to me.
I knew it had not been an hallucination, but had to question the whole concept of what was real and what unreal at Millbrook.
Saul Steinberg the cartoonist, who lived in New York, came up for an LSD session. He was very fond of romantic composers and I played records of Ravel, Debussy and Chopin. I laid on some large drawing cards and pencils in case he wanted to draw, but he didn't. Nor did he want any slides. We used a downstairs room in the house, and respecting his wishes for as much solitude as possible, asked the others not to disturb him. After turning him on I left and looked in every hour or so to see how he was doing. He was quiet, smiling at the fire, but asked me to stop the music. He was finding it abrasive and brittle though this was his normal preference for music. Hours later he came out on his own and spent some time with our coatimundi, a South American animal resembling a raccoon. It was a friendly beautiful animal and it curled up in Saul's lap. He put his finger to its mouth and it gently rested its teeth on his finger. I sat beside Saul on the porch for a while, then he went off on his own for a walk through the woods.
Driving him back to Poughkeepsie for the train to New York next day, l asked Saul if he had gained anything permanent from his LSD experience.
'I discovered trees,' he said.
Saul's life was usually spent either in his New York home or in his little summer house in East Hampton, a select Long Island bathing resort for the very wealthy. The trees he saw there seemed desiccated.
'At Millbrook I discovered real trees. I have never thought about trees before. That was the principal thing I got from the session.'
And sure enough about two months later, on the New Yorker cover, there was a Steinberg drawing which featureda huge tree.
On Monday, April 19, 1965 Paul Krassner came for a session. Krassner, editor of The Realist and later, with Abbie Hoffman, founder of the Yippie party, took LSD with me upstairs in the bowling alley. Krassner later recorded his experience in The Realist No. 60, June 1965:
'My LSD experience began with a solid hour of what my "guide" described as cosmic laughter. The more I laughed, the more I tried to think of depressing thingsspecifically, the atrocities being committed in Vietnamand the more wild my laughter became . . . I laughed so much I threw up.
Millbrook was music and musicians, too. Charlie Mingus and I were in the kitchen one evening, high on LSD, and unaccountably the tap started making yowling sounds followed by bangs. Charlie got out his bass and played arco in counter-point to the sound coming from the watertap. He seemed to know exactly the pattern of the sound. 'I am conducting the sound,' Charlie told me. 'I've taken it over. I've tuned into the vibrations and resonate to them.' Millbrook was Charlie Lloyd playing his flute in the woods. I walked in the woods during the afternoon following the agitated sound of flute music. And there was a very high Charles Lloyd playing to a squirrel who jumped from branch to branch. Charlie performed a flute obligato which matched and predicted the movements of the animal. It was as if it was bewitched by the music as it slowed down and relaxed. It was like watching a Disney film.
Millbrook was Pete La Roca, the drummer, taking LSD and wanting to play. We hung a sheet from the ceiling and projected on to it a nine-minute time-lapsed colour film sequence of a frog embryo. From a black dot in the middle of the screen it grew into a tadpole and the eyes and head appeared. Pete drummed in the dark, behind the sheet, providing a rapid pulse that speeded up at the climax of the film. His wife said she had never heard him play so fast. He seemed hypnotised by the record of creation before him. And Steve Swallow, the bass player associated with Mingus, took LSD and watched one of Arnie Hendin's photographs of a flower being taken in and out of focus and mixed with colour filters. I was operating the projector, when I heard Steve stop playing his bass and groaning 'It's so beautiful, it's all so beautiful'. Then there was a double crash as Steve and the bass fell to the floor. He had fainted.
Jazz musicians, psychiatrists, social scientists, people who were crazy enough to think us crazy. Mediums, spiritualists, people who had had spontaneous visions, church ministers. They all came to Millbrook by special appointment.
From my point of view one of the most interesting, fluent and beautiful visitors was Joan Wainscott, an American girl in her mid-twenties who had been studying anthropology at London University. She had acquired a convincing English accent, very sharp and unbreakable. She told me she was a second-degree witch in the British Coven of Witches, and that she had spent a year in Africa living with primitive tribes. Before our LSD session she told me about witches. She reckoned they were priestesses of religion who had simply had a bad press down the centuries. They followed a divine calling.
We chatted one another up and then had our session. During this I read her 'Gate of the Soft Mystery', the Sex Cakra:
'Valley of life
It became obvious that we were going to make love. We fed each other grapes, and touched each other on the hands and face. Slowly we merged together in an ecstatic union.
What disasters we did have usually had a comical aspect. As most of the household had taken LSD anything up to 200 times we did not see fit to store it surreptitiously. For example, some liquid LSD was poured into a half-empty port bottle and left on the top floor, usually out-of-bounds to visitors. A Canadian TV crew came to record a Weekend Experimental Workshop for a programme called Seven Days on Sunday. The head of the CBC crew, a large man of about six feet, eight inches, began to wander about the house on his own. When he saw the bottle of port, to him a measure of normality in an inscrutable world, he guzzled down a few slugs. Within twenty-five minutes he was on a very high LSD trip, something he was not prepared for. We were sitting in the dining-room when this huge man lumbered in with one shoe off, his tie half undone, his jacket buttons ripped off,
'his doublet all unbrac'd;
The weekend visitors found it somewhat extraordinary that this huge TV producer, ostensibly present to record the activities with a detached professional eye, should be stumbling around under the influence of LSD quite incapable of doing anything. We sat with him through the night, comforting him and playing music, until he was afraid no longer. In the morning he was fine. I hope the programme was too.
It is the sudden impact of the unexpected that causes so many bad trips on LSD. Or any other drugs for that matter, as I was to discover when I tried JB118 (the space drug) in an attempt to go as far as possible in mapping the inner Hebrides. The connection with NASA, who were developing JB118 came quite by chance.
One morning the telephone rang. It was a Dr. Steve Groff calling from Miami. As staff hypnotist with NASA he was interested in the use of psychedelic substances in connection with astronaut training. He had just come from the space centre and told me that all the astronauts had taken LSD to prepare themselves for weightlessness and disorientation due to the lack of external coordinates from which to take their bearing. Could he come to Millbrook for a session to see how we were administering LSD? Could he examine for himself our claim to have joyful experiences with LSD, a claim in direct contradiction to the results of sessions taken in clinical psychiatric surroundings ?
'Of course,' I said.
Groff arrived and I ran the session for him. During the session he played the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night so many times that I, as guide, felt it truly was a hard day's night. Then after he was saturated with the music we took a walk on the lawn. He told me how he had been in the Olympic sky-diving team and that the LSD experience had certain similarities with a free-fall from an airplane. After describing his sky-diving exploits in some detail he suggested we go to Poughkeepsie airport to rent a plane.
It was easier than I expected. At the airport he presented his Hertz rentaplane card and his flight licence and within minutes a small Cessna had been put at his disposal and we were airborne. As we had no maps we followed the winding road to Millbrook and flew towards the turreted house where apparently miniscule Tibetan flags fluttered.
By this time there were people up on the roof, and some on the verandah and we were 4000 feet high physically, and higher still metaphysically, when Groff began to zoom to within twenty feet of the roof before shooting back into the sky. We did this about a dozen times and enjoyed seeing friends waving up at us. It was a strange visceral experience, like going on a huge roller-coaster on Coney Island. I felt no fear, but enormous elation and was disappointed when after half an hour Groff returned the plane to the airport.
Over lunch Dr. Groff told me of his friend Jim Arender, the former world champion sky-diver. If anyone would appreciate a session it was Jim. And three days later Jim arrived, twenty-six, handsome, dynamic. All-American in appearance but with an un-American interest in astrology. Jim brought along a movie of himself sky-diving and we showed this to him backwards during his session by bouncing the images off a mirror. He was stunned at the correlation between memories of actual flights and the heights reached during his session. And he stayed on at Millbrook to repeat the experience many times.
The links made through Dr. Groff with NASA resulted in us obtaining some JB118, the space drug officially on the secrets list. Dick and I volunteered to try it and remarked that it looked as if we were becoming the guinea pigs for NASA and the CIA. We went to the recording room and when Dick sat down on the couch I took up the lotus position on the floor. We ingested the drug and waited for the slight change in body metabolism one associates with LSD. But wham ! ! ! ! This took effect instantly in the somatic sensory areas. I felt myself moving round the room in leaping acrobatic backward somersaults. I could not prevent this, yet I was not hitting any of the electronic equipment in the room. I was spinning round and round the centre of the room gliding past everything. I had the absolute conviction that I was in a small space capsule about the size of a tennis ball and that I had broken loose from the safety-belts.
I felt alarmed and sensed a paranoic antipathy to whoever had been careless enough to put me in the capsule in such a dangerous way. Suddenly a door in the capsule opened and Whoosh ! ! ! ! I was sucked out and down towards the atmosphere, hurtling down an air corridor, free-falling, able to move any way but upwards. Observers said that all the time I was spreadeagled on the floor, lying on my stomach. But I remember a horrific sensation and suddenly there was a lurch and I stood up. It seemed a parachute had opened just a foot before I hit the earth's surface. Yet it had broken my fall.
I wanted to fly again and I was a crow. I started to caw and flap my arms. Caw! Caw-caw! My eyes were tightly closed and I knew what it was to be a bird. I started to hop around the house, pegged my way downstairs and into the dining-room. With my eyes still tightly shut I touched people to see who they were, let my blackfeathered wings brush over human faces. And still I didn't bump into anything. With my eyes closed I steered my way through the house several times. Through doors. Through corridors. Through passages.
Eventually I was coaxed back upstairs with a piece of bread as bait and I nested militantly until I finally evolved back into a man and came round. The whole trip had lasted three hours. Dick had sat on the couch for the duration of the trip. He told me his experience was fantastic.
'The first thing I saw was this young chick coming in. She was beautiful with long dark hair. She had a glass in her hand and asked me if I would like some grapejuice. I said yes. She put a glass on the floor and proceeded to fill it with grapejuice until it overflowed and then a red trickle of grapejuice moved across the floor, up the side of the opposite wall, along the ceiling, down the wall near me, on to the floor again, and towards the couch. I had to get up as it threatened to pass over me. I managed to avoid it and it got back into the glass. It was utterly real.'
I agreed. This JB118 drug made hallucinations palpably real. LSD gave a sense of bliss and oneness with life. JB118 was a solid slab of hallucinatory experience that offered nothing for the traveller to bring back to the real world.
Even more extraordinary, if we indulge our empirical prejudices for a moment, was the experience of Alan Eager and Arnie Hendin on the space drug. They went on an identical trip and were aware of doing so all the time. Like me they were pulled into the vacuum of space and moved freely above the blue curvature of the earth. They saw a little dot approaching them and noticed, when it came closer, that it was a space-craft, with the hammer-and-sickle on the side. As it floated towards them they clung to the side and saw two Russian cosmonauts inside the craft. The men saw Arnie and Alan and seemed frightened. So agitated did they become that Arnie and Alan decided to float away on their own and eventually they returned to earth in Millbrook. Next day, March 19, 1965, it was reported that the Soviet Voskhod 2, containing cosmonauts Pavel Belyayev and Alexei Leonov, had encountered difficulties in reentry. On their first attempt to do so their automatic re-entry system failed and the Voskhod 2 pilots had to make an extra orbit and then bring the spacecraft back to earth themselves. This change in landing site meant a long wait in the winter cold before rescue helicopters located them.... As few of us at Millbrook took much interest in current news it is doubtful if either Arnie or Alan had heard of this flight. They were sure they had not read about it prior to taking the space drug and firmly maintained that the delay in re-entry had been caused by the panic of the cosmonauts in seeing them. We await confirmation from the Soviet Union.
Alan and Arnie were to take another sort of trip, this time through the heartlands of America.
'In New York we set up a centre in a large townhouse with a full working theatre in the basement, bought a roomful of divers musical instruments and opened another chapter in the history of psychedelia. In reaction to the programmed existence at Millbrook, a constant party developed which continued nonstop for months. Many of the Millbrook tribe would visit with us on their days off to play and learn. After a while we got restless. There were too many people around and it got repetitious and dull. We decided to take a trip. It was very cold in New York. I was shooting a lot of DMT at that time a smoking form had not been discovered. Arnie, Cathy, Simba the Siamese cat and me, plus guitar, soprano sax, pocket coronet, phono, records, psychedelic magic kit and a suitcase of drugs piled in the white Alfa and headed for warmer territory. The I Ching might have suggested it, I think.
Probably the most highly-publicised feature of our work at Millbrook was the Weekend Experiential Workshop. These were held on alternate weekends when some fifteen guests would arrive at 7.30 on Friday evening and leave on Sunday afternoon. The idea was to simulate the LSD experience by means of Hindu and Buddhist yogic traditions, Gestalt therapy, Gurdjieff's selfawareness training, and Psychedelic Theatre techniques. We wanted to use all the means at our disposal to provide a nonchemical means of transcendence. Our handout advertising the Experiential Workshops outlined three steps to take to the ideal of maximum awareness and internal freedom:
'The first step is the realisation that there is more: that man's brain, his thirteen-billion-celled computer, is capable of limitless new dimensions of awareness and knowledge. In short that man does not use his head.
It was to provide the answers implied in the third step that the weekend workshops in consciousness-expansion were instituted by the Castalia Foundation. We noted carefully in our brochure that 'because of the complicated current legal situation in the United States, psychedelic drugs will not be used in these workshops'. This did not prevent many visitors from asking us for drugs but we had to protect ourselves by refusing these paying guests. Several guests, wise to our methods, took LSD before arriving but that was not officially our affair.
The vulgarisation of these weekends commenced at an early stage. In an article in the New York Sunday News of August 29, 1965, beneath a banner headline asking ARE THEY OUT OF THEIR MIND ? and suggesting 'You might call these sect members a bunch of weirdos', the article noted:
'On alternative weekends they are joined by ten to fifteen paying guests recruited by direct mail and word of mouth. Most are middle-class professionalsteachers, doctors, psychologists, students. The fee of $75 a person or $125 a couple includes plain home-cooking and a mattress on the floor.... There is no happy hour of cocktail chatter. Instead, each guest is escorted silently to a box-like room in the old servant's wing and left there for an hour to meditate.
Such succinct details suggest the guests were paying for a self-imposed ascetic exercise in hardship, but it was nothing of the kind. The money from the workshops paid for oil-heating bills and food, and helped to secure a self-supporting community for the weekends. The Castalia Foundation, after all, was a non-profit corporation.
Before the guests arrived on the Friday the guides, of which I was one, would prepare spiritually by taking LSD or pot and would reflect on the imaginative possibilities of Millbrook. The house would be completely silent and the guests were met by a beautiful girl in a sari holding a flower and giving out copies of Max Picard's text on silence:
'Silence has greatness simply because it is
This observation of silence had two reasons. First, as Tim said, 'One of the oldest methods of getting high is silence.' Secondly, it allowed us to impose an essential mood that saved the time of the visitors. For the first workshop we had welcomed the guests with a cocktail party, to break the ice, and the straights immediately plunged into the cocktail party game of which they were the experts. 'Hi, I'm Jack Smith from Denver, who are you?' 'Jack Smith, eh?' And so on. The whole evening had been wasted, and as we were novices in the cocktail party game we were completely flattened. The guests were merely putting an extra spin on their social whirl, while the household was brought down by the experience.
In instituting the idea of silence we wanted to impress on the guests that they were entering a new kingdom. That they were tuning out of their everyday 'normal' world and turning on to ours. Passing through the gates of Millbrook had to be like stepping on to a spacecraftthey had to leave behind them all their usual judgements and normative expectations.
Having welcomed them with silence we gave each guest MESSAGE ONE which requested absolute silence and asked them to look, listen, to non-verbal energy and experience directly. With the initial ambiance established we took each guest to a separate small room on the ground floor and gave them three more messages to read in solitude:
This period of silence is designed to help you clear your mind from routine thoughts and to encourage an opening of your awareness in several ways.
Please follow this programme:
1. Fill out the question sheet.
2. Then spend the next ten to twenty minutes trying to meditate. Focus on the candle and see if you can turn off planning and thinking. Concentrate on the moment-to-moment flow of time.
3. After ten to twenty minutes turn on the light and read MESSAGE THREE. This is your game contract for the weekend. There are many implications and meanings contained in each paragraph. Read it carefully. Make note of any questions or comments. These will be taken up later.
After reading MESSAGE THREE, then re-read it.
4. Turn off the light and meditate again for fifteen minutes. Watch how your mind keeps interrupting.
5. Next, turn on the light and read MESSAGE FOUR.
6. Wait serenely until you are contacted by a staff member. Be aware of your body, your flow of thoughts, your emotion (you may be bored, or feel rejected, or irritated; you may be excited, hopeful, etc.).
"HOW TO PLAY THE 'EXPERIENTAL WORKSHOP GAME' "
What Do We Mean by Game?
Finally MESSAGE FOUR reiterated the five most important areas
of consciousness accessible to the average personintellectual,
emotional, body movement, somatic-sensory, sexualand requested
the visitor to spend the next ten minutes reviewing his stereotyped
methods of awareness in each of these five areas.
'Our ideas dictate to us what we imagine reality to be. And we are very much affected by the imprints we have, particularly those of colour associations. When someone says sky, we think of blue, when someone says meadow we think of green, when someone says scrambled eggs we think of yellow. But this is a mental hangup. It doesn't really make any difference whether scrambled eggs are green as they are today, or whether they are yellow. Why is this ? All of these colour changes were achieved by a non-toxic, odourless, tasteless vegetable dye and as you are eating your green scrambled eggs and drinking your glass of black milk try to reconcile in your mind the different subjective responses that you have, and notice how your brain deals with this input.'
Needless to say Ralph always took the precaution of eating before the visitors and he would sit and observe their attempts to appreciate the anti-food. Hardly any visitor got through this breakfast and, as well as having a mental impact, this method of serving food cut down our weekend budget as we only needed to offer very small portions.
The rest of the morning was spent in sweeping up the parquet floors, and in relaxed preparation for the simulated session. In the afternoon I would take groups to the waterfall where, submerged in the gently churning water at the bottom of the fall, I had a bottle of sherry on a string. As my group stood looking at the waterfall I would slowly pull this piece of string, finally revealing the sherry bottle. I also had a box of glasses hidden in the bushes flanking the waterfall.
After spending some time in the woods we went back for the evening meal, taken in the huge dining-room where guests sat crosslegged or knelt on cushions around a circular table raised six inches above the ground. From this room, dominated by the massive fireplace, great windows offered a view of the front lawns. There was an oak-panelled ceiling, a carpetless parquet floor, and sliding doors which led off into the corridor. The meal was simple brown rice or wheat and fruit. Hiziki soaked in water. Baked pumpkin. Aduki beans and onion. And our own bread baked from roast corn flour, water-salt, and sautéed vegetables. The meal itself was a yoga.
Once the guests were seated, the mantra OM was chanted by Tim, followed by a suitable period of silence. Then a little bell would ring and a disembodied message would be relayed into the room: 'With the next mouthful of food contemplate on the wonders of the body: where this food goes, how it is digested, how it is transformed into energy, into you. Think carefully as you chew the next mouthful.'
Observe its structured wonders
After the meal we took the guests to a long darkened room at the back, the session room. It was dominated by mirrors and a huge mandala painted on the ceiling. I always felt conscious of the wood panelling and felt that at times it was like being in a cigar box. All around were mattresses covered with Indian prints. Slide projectors were humming in the dark. Six speakers were linked to a tape recorder so that we could get circular sound. Several pre-programmed movie projectors were ready. I would then say: 'This is not a show, not something outside yourself. We, for our part, will experience some of the same things as you. This is a teaching device. All of us in the household have been engaged in psychedelic work for a number of years and we have developed methods of duplicating the world we see on these trips. We want you to share some of these methods of seeing inner space. We want you to go out of your minds and into your heads.' And I would read:
'Let there be simple, natural things to contact during the session
In an instant, from all sides, came an electric bombardment of sound and image including many of the images used in the Psychedelic Theatre: the US flag, Buddha, the frog embryo, amorphous colours. A voice would spin from speaker to speaker saying:
Then there would be silence and darkness relieved only by candlelight. Watching the perplexity on some faces I thought how strange it was that modern Americans should find something strange in a technique that had been used for thousands of years in one form or other. It was clear that the one who resisted the experience needed a new morality, a set of natural harmonious rules to follow as they spun off into neurological space.
They sat, some responsive, some astounded by the assault on their senses. Just as they were becoming accustomed to the candlelight, the stroboscope would start making multiple divisions of light, hitting the retina in a staccato burst and forcing chemical changes. By now the whole concept of environmental reality had been altered. We encouraged the guests to walk around in the flickering movement-stopping light. As a body moved in the stroboscopic light it looked like a series of still photographs being crudely animated. Guests who tried to dance in the light were reduced to chaos because they could not coordinate with their apprehension of their partner's movements. Abruptly the strobe was stopped and we saw only the candles, their light weaving in the warm air of human breath. Slowly the room was bathed in yellow which is the colour of the Root Cakra which we reinforced with Tibetan chanting music. After twenty minutes the Water Cakra would be played on the tape-recorder:
'Can you lie quietly
Twenty minutes after this came the Sex Cakra when the room would be suffused in a pale silvery light and we thought of the energies surrounding our sexual feelings. Ravi Shankar music would dissolve into a Caribbean bossanova and we watched slides of men and women in the act of love.
So on to the Heart Cakra. Colour of red fire. The room bathed in crimson light. Music by Scriabin and Miles Davis and Bach. And the sound of a child's heartbeat. Then the Throat Cakra: blue bubbles of air. Debussy, Indian music, Japanese flute music. Finally the Head Cakra with Stockhausen and the sounds of outer space. Slides of the stars and galaxies would edge around the room.
At the end of this timeless session we would bring the visitors back, carefully prepare them for re-entry:
'As you return
Undoubtedly many of our visitors obtained genuine spiritual edification from these simulated sessions, though it is my experience that they can never be a substitute for the sacrament of LSD. For their money they had been changed in some ways. Even those who did not seek change had access to the Millbrook facilities of seminar rooms, meditation house, forest paths, the lake for swimming, vegetable gardens, art and photographic libraries, music and book libraries with an extensive section on Eastern Philosophy, and our library of tape lectures and experiential films. Some were astounded at what they found. Those willing to drop the sensation-seeking game had an insight into the religious aims of Millbrook. Though many members of the public who might have been otherwise willing to open themselves to the experience were alienated by lurid press reports of which the following, from The Charlotte Observer, is typical:
'A quick belt of whisky from the suitcase improves things considerably. OM.
The fact that the local press had praised our work in maintaining the house and improving the lawns and planting three acres of corn and vegetables is beside the point. Like so many people, that reporter looked without seeing, listened without hearing, calculated without thinking.
I had been a guide for invited guests, a guide for paying visitors, and after taking so many people on an internal journey I felt it might be time to do the same in other countries. Mark Twain said that 'Guides cannot master the subtleties of the American joke', and though he was not thinking of a psychedelic guide, he had a point. There were too many American jokers doing injustices to Millbrook. One of the greatest guides, Virgil, says to a Dante tormented by frightening phenomena
'But, as for thee, I think and deem it well
And Dante passes through a hell which in its realistic aspects corresponds closely to the unenlightened daily life. It is the desire of the guide to take his voyager to paradise. As guide to many travellers I have taken them out of their hell and offered them at least a temporary glimpse of paradise.
'The role of the psychedelic guide is new in our society, but the newness of the role should not blind us to the antiquity of its precedents. Priest and shaman, after all, were the first purveyors of its technique. Seer and sibyl mapped the cosmography of its domain. Perhaps the finest of its precedents is to be found in the figure of Virgil in Dante's Divine Comedy.... It should be one of the chief tasks of the guide to assume the role of Virgil in this chemically-induced Divine Comedy and to help the subject select out of the wealth of phenomena among which he finds himself some of the more promising opportunities for heightened insight, awareness and integral understanding that the guide knows to be available in the psychedelic experience. [R. E L. Masters and Jean Houston, op. cit., p. 130f.]
I guided Leary and Alpert through their first trips. I guided the authors of the above passage through theirs. I acted as guide to Krassner, Topolski, Steinberg, Mingus, Steve Groff and dozens more. None had bad experiences. None returned with distaste for the spiritual or natural worlds. I endorse the ideal of the guide as Virgil, though could not claim to be an ideal guide. At the most I could claim to be conscious of my subject's creativity and that, in itself, is a step on the road to paradise.
And so I felt it to be time to take to the road again myself. By September 1965 I felt that the Experiential Workshops had been stimulating and often extremely successful. I felt satisfied with our work in New York developing the Psychedelic Theatre. Americans, the sensitive ones, were responding to the wonderful implications of LSD. Artists and scientists were admitting they could learn from mind expansion. LSD was becoming quite popular with a growing number of people and, in addition to the black market supply emanating from the West Coast, two very devoted student alchemists were synthesising it at Yale.
As a European I felt the time had come for us to share with Europe some of the things we had discovered about the methodology of taking LSD in positive settings. I wanted to rid people of their inhibitions about mystical writings and demonstrate to them that The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Tao Te Ching, and the I Ching were really basic manuals with fundamental instructions about taking LSD sessions. We felt we had supplemented this ancient knowledge by the exploitation of modern technological means of transmitting aesthetic phenomena.
From what I had heard in letters and conversations, the psychedelic movement in England was small and badly informed. It appeared that those who took LSD did so as a consciously defiant anti-authoritarian gesture. The spiritual content of the psychedelic experience was being overlooked.
We had a meeting at Millbrook to discuss this question of disseminating the results of our experimental research. It was agreed that I should return to London with the idea of introducing The Tibetan Book of the Dead in the translation by Tim, Dick and Ralph; the cyclostyled typescript of the Tao Be Ching by Tim and Ralph; and the Psychedelic Review, a magazine devoted to the theoretical discussion of psychedelic experience.
Tim came to see me on the day of my departure. He was going to join me in London in January 1966, which gave me three months to set the scene for his arrival. The idea was to rent the Albert Hall, or 'Alpert Hall' as Tim called it, for a psychedelic jamboree. We would get the Beatles or the Stones to perform, invite other artists, and, as the climax of the evening, introduce Tim as the High Priest.
Taking a piece of paper from his pocket Tim said, 'These are your marching orders, your instructions.' What they were I don't know because he decided to scrap them and took a clean sheet of paper and wrote the following on it:
'HOLLINGSHEAD EXPEDITION TO LONDON 1965-66
Purpose: SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
To introduce to London the interpretation and applications and methods developed by and learned by Michael Hollingshead.
A YOGA-OF-EXPRESSION BY MH.
Thus it was I arrived London in the fall of 1965, with several hundred copies of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and thirteen cartons of the Psychedelic Review on their way.
* Tranart was the term we used to describe the art of psychedelic simulation. The name never became widely accepted and to this day there is no adequate label for psychedelic art .
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