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The Man Who Turned on the World
5. The Millbrook Happenings
Although 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 mansion was empty when they and their tiny followship arrived,
but it was the ideal place for them to be; it was secluded and
spacious and not entirely lacking in antiquated charm. It had
been built in the 1890s to the rather bizarre architectural specifications
of the German-born gas-lamp magnate, Charles F. Dieterich, who
christened his country seat 'Daheim'.
The spires and turrets pointing above the trees into a clear open
sky, 'Daheim' looked, at first glance, like the creation of some
neo-baroque American King Ludwig. In addition to the main building,
there was an out-building that consisted of a downstairs bowling
alley and a large fireplace room upstairs. It was built in the
style of a Bavarian chalet and had a little verandah from which
access to the roof was easy. There was also a lodge house at the
entrance to the estate, in which Maynard Fergusson and his beautiful
wife Flo lived with their children.
Millbrook was the headquarters of the Castalia Foundation, so
named after the intellectuals' colony in Hermann Hesse's book
Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game), the last and
finest novel by Hermann Hesse, the story of which is set in the
Alpine province of Kastalien around the year 2400. In this emotionally
chill utopian future, isolated from the mass of population, the
elite monastic Castalian Order displays its intellectual mastery
through the ritualised game of glass beads, a game encompassing
all human knowledge.
'The pattern sings like crystal constellations,
And when we tell our beads, we serve the whole,
And cannot be dislodged or misdirected,
Held in the orbit of the Cosmic Soul.'
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
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
'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
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,
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.
Unable to find it, you may begin to feel that you will never be the same again,
That you will come back a changed person.
Saddened by this you will feel self-pity,
You will attempt to find your ego, to regain control.
So thinking you will wander here and there,
Ceaselessly and distractedly.'
(The Tibetan Book of the Dead)
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
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
It was one of those days when everyone was happy and joyous and
loving. Felicities filled the air. Charlie Mingus played his bass,
Maynard Fergusson cogitated on his trumpet, and other musicians
joined in to produce an elegant weaving series of improvisations.
Don Snyder took a wonderfully sympathetic series of photographs.
Before Tim and Nena left for New York to catch the plane to New
Delhi for their first visit to India there was a receiving line
and we all filed past with our presents. Psychedelic presents
of course. Some gave hashish, some gave bags of excellent grass.
Some gave mushrooms. A snuff box of cocaine. A quantity of LSD.
The entire range of mind-expanding substances were proffered to
the newly-weds, and all the while people were turning on. When
Tim and Nena left we carried on with the celebrations into the
dawn, and watched the sun edging over the horizon as the earth
heaved over and took us into another day.
Tim was away for more than a month, during which time we sent
him messages about what we were doing. Tapes would arrive at New
Delhi via American Express and would be taken up to Tim and Nena,
about a mile away in Almora.
'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
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
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
Then I read:
Is it a dream ?
All forms emerge
From this second
Back to the ancient beginning
(Tao Sutra 21)
And we began. The impact of this event is perhaps best appreciated
from the review in the New York Times of Sunday, April
'Tamara, her blonde hair falling to her baggy white pyjamas, was
passing out Tibetan incense.
' "That's because it's delightful," she explained.
'The patrons who jammed the 123-seat basement jazz club accepted
the offerings with an equally earnest mysticism, for they had
come to experience the debut of the Psychedelic Theatrea simulated
"session" with the consciousness expanding drug Lysergic
Acid Diethylamide, or LSD.
'It was "speakout" night at the Village Vanguard
last week an LSD symposium transcended the merely verbal because,
as a grave young man backed by a throbbing bass declaimed, "Our
limited lexicography, with its procrustean subject-object limitations
cannot communicate this experience."
'Darkness. Up tempo bass. Lights flash through the audience; slides
flash on a sheet: Mount Rushmore, biological specimen, Buddha
sliding in and out of focus. Drums and a clarinet pick up the
rhythm. Tamara, accompanied by Tasha, a thin, haunted-looking
young man also in baggy whites; they dance, not quite to a twist,
with Siamese arm motions. Later, more dancing, to the Beatles,
while a flickering blue light seems to stop the motion into jerks....
A noise like three monotone bears trapped in a sewer, transforming
itself into an oriental fluting, bonging and chanting. A movie
of a frog embryo in a glass bowl, evolving rotating and flipping
to a cool jazz score, while a voice quietly intones universal
truths and insights: "
muddy water cannot be fathomed."
'A hundred would-be experiencers were turned away, business at
the bar was slow, and the audience was rapt and curiously split.
"There's an awful lot of uptowners here," muttered a
hostile hipster, glowering at a section of Wednesday matinee women.
'There was a scattering of ageing beards, but the other face was
that of youth, sure of its terminology"Cosmic consciousness",
"re-entry", and "set".
'Some matched the religious fervour of the performers, residents
of a Millbrook, N.Y. "utopian colony" who soberly passed
out jelly beans and balloons during intermission.'
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
I took it upon myself to bury all the empty tin cans by sticking
them upside-down into the footpath through the garden. So we would
walk on the metal and it would eventually subside into the earth.
Tim began to take up his psychological work with some intensity
and announced one morning that three senior Yale psychologists
were coming to see around Millbrook that afternoon. Tim wanted
this to be a serious exchange of ideas so he asked Arnie Hendinwho
wore funny hats, trousers made out of multicoloured curtain-material,
and bellsif he would mind discarding his technicolour clothes
for the duration of the psychologists' visit.
'Uhuh,' nodded Arnie.
And, true to his word, he went to borrow a lounge suit and a tie
and a white shirt and shoes.
The psychologists arrived for lunch and sat, rather stuffily,
listening to an affable Tim making jokes and lighthearted conversation.
Most of the members of the household present for lunch were stoned,
but, in deference to Tim's wishes, we maintained an external propriety.
In the middle of lunch Arnie walked in sporting his splendidly
conventional outfit and carrying a copy of the New York Times
under one arm. He nodded and sat down opposite the three psychologists
who seemed suitably impressed by his impeccable attire. Arnie
opened the Times and began to read it. Then he smiled and,
as he did so, a trickle of green liquid started spilling from
the corners of his mouth, and slowly ran down to his little beard.
Next Arnie opened his mouth a little and the green liquid spurted
over his chin and on to his white shirt. By now everyone was staring
at Arnie, so he opened his mouth in a yawn and the green gushed
from his mouth over his newspaper and his shirt, all the while
reading the news as if nothing was happening. Arnie had filled
his mouth with green vegetable dye and it produced the first one-man
happening I had ever seen. The psychologists observed this event
fastidiously and seemed, from frowns and raised eyebrows and movements
of the mouth, to have agreed that this irreproachably dressed
young man was inoffensivemerely afflicted by a slight idiosyncrasy.
Tim said nothing at all about it. Neither did we. It seemed the
wisest course to smother the scene in silence.
After lunch, Arnie having excused himself with a nod, we suggested
to the psychologists that we show them around the house. Indulging
the frivolity of a moment, one of the psychologists asked if we
had any animals in addition to the four dogs that wandered about
the front porch. Tim pointed to the line of Tibetan monastery
flags strung along the turrets on the roof of the house and jocularly
linked that with the presence of our Tibetan monkey upstairs.
Often the monkey roamed about the house, but at meal times it
had to be kept in its huge cage because it would perch high up
on shelves and throw eggs at people. Obviously that couldn't happen
to a distinguished group of Yale psychologists. Tim said he would
remember to show them the monkey. We got to the room, entered,
and there, sitting in the cage with a banana in one hand and engrossed
in the New York Times, was Arnie. Tim let the psychologists
draw their own conclusions.
Arnie was not only magical and mischievous, though; he could be
practical. Once Dick Alpert got a severe cold, dosed himself with
aspirins and sleeping pills and retired to the bowling alley where
he curled up in a sleeping bag before the big log fire. Arnie
asked me about Dick and I confirmed that Dick was miserable and
had just gone off to try to sweat out the cold in front of the
fire in the bowling alley.
'He doesn't need to do that,' said Arnie.
'Oh ? Why not ?'
'I know of a way to cure colds.'
I had considerable faith in Arnie's powers and agreed to accompany
him at midnight to see Dick. When we got into the bowling alley
Dick was sleeping like a twisted log in front of the burning fire.
Arnie started to prepare the room. He arranged coloured pieces
of glass on the floor and built a shrine with a statue of the
Buddha quite near to Dick and his sleeping bag. Then Arnie lit
about twenty candles. I was watching him, at a loss to see what
he was doing other than to create a setting that would normally
appeal to Dick. Arnie rushed out again and came back with a primus
stove and a huge metal crucible in which he melted lead.
'This,' smiled Arnie, 'is an old recipe for curing colds.'
Every now and then Arnie would throw an apple or a banana into
the molten lead and they rapidly disintegrated into sparks which
filled the room with a pungent smell. Arnie felt he should now
wake Dick but it proved impossible. So Arnie filled a hypodermic
with DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptaminea very fast-acting but temporary
psychedelic drug which throws the subject into fantastic realms
and renders him incapable of physical action) and injected Dick
in the buttocks. Just as he was pulling the needle out, Dick sat
bolt upright and we watched him maintain this position rigidly
for half an hour while he swirled through neurological space.
When he came round, Arnie fed him 800 gamma of LSD from a spoon.
After about fifteen minutes Dick turned round and saw the flowing
colours of the glass, the Buddha, and the crucible. He looked
at Arnie, who was wearing a hat with a tassel of bells, like a
troll from Ibsen's Peer Gynt, and who still periodically
threw fruit into the molten lead. As a final measure Arnie put
on three separate record-players simultaneouslya Beethoven
symphony, a Coltrane record, and a Stockhausen record, all at
full volume. Dick seemed to swim in this incredible sonic tidal
wave for an hour. Arnie asked Dick if his cold was any better.
Dick smiled: 'It's gone completely.'
The wonder was that he was still there after such drastic treatment,
but in fact the cold never returned. We might, therefore, claim
that Arnie had found a cure for the common cold, but somehow I
cannot see his methods being universally adopted by the medical
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 hallucinations which you may now experience,
The visions and insights,
Will teach you much about yourself and the world.
The veil of routine perception will be torn from your eyes.
Remember the unity of all living things.
Remember the bliss of the Clear Light.'
(The Tibetan Book of the Dead)
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.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, 'God's Grandeur')
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
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.
'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
'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
'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.
The nearest "outlet" ws a windoe. My hands seemed
absolutely unable to open it. My guide opened the window with
ease, and I stuck my head out. Was this a guillotine ? Was he
to be my executioner ? Such fantasy occurred to me, but I trusted
him and concentrated instead on the beautiful colours of my vomit.
'On the phonograph, the Beatles were singing stuff from A Hard
I started crying
for false joy, it
'I had seen the film with my wifewe are separatedand there
was, under LSD, an internal hallucination that she had not only
helped plan for this record to be placed, but, moreover, in doing
so, she had collaborated with someone she considered a schmuck
in order to please me.... Filled with gratitude, I decided to
call her up (the power of positive paranoia), but I also
decided that she had planned for me to call her up against my
will.... Then I calledcollect, since I was in another city.
'The operator asked my name.
'I suddenly answered: "Ringo Starr !"
' "Do you really want me to say that ?"
'I was amazed at my calm, logical response: "Of course, operator.
It's a private joke between us, and it's the only way she'll accept
a collect call."
'The operator told my wife Ringo Starr was calling collect, and
naturally she accepted the call. When I explained why I was calling,
she told me I was thanking her for something she didn't even do.
I had been so sure I'd communed with her.... '
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
Gate of the Soft Mystery
Beginnings in the lowest place
Gate of the Soft Mystery
Gate of the Dark Woman
Gate of the Soft Mystery
Seed of all living
Gate of the Soft Mystery
Gate of the Soft Mystery
Use her gently and
Without the touch of pain.'
(Tao Sutra 6)
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;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd
Ungarter'd and down-gyved to his ankles;
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors.'
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
'The total picture we gave freaked out every cop south of the
Mason-Dixon line and we were busted every time Arnie drove. (From
the driving seat that is
we all drove at once which can
be very tricky sometimes but taking a trip while tripping is another
tripif you know what I mean.) Arnie and I were in costume,
he looking like Jesus, but in baseball pants, high sneakers, beads,
etc., which is quite the mode now
in '64 it was extraordinary
and worth a hundred gamma just to look at it. When he would add
extra touches to his gear like those kid space-helmets we wouldn't
get half a mile before a cop would see us go by and flip. No harm
. . . we were always released very quickly. Arnie, in his best
prophet manner, would promise interrogating police chiefs fire
and flood unless we were released at once. It always worked....
He's a fine magician. Our clothing was a time trip and it caused
short circuits in robot people. Although we ate in all types of
restaurants we were never asked to wear ties or jackets. Mainly,
I think, because it never occurred to them. It would have been
like asking an Eskimo to wear a tie. After a few days' travelling
we had it worked out pretty well. Anything we needed from the
establishment would be gotten by Cathy as she had a fairly straight
'We had gotten into warm weather and we travelled and explored
all over the countryside on and off the roads
fields and meadows and treating the Alfa as if it were a Land
Rover; stopping at our slightest whim. Antique stores, underground
far-out little towns with one gas pump the man cranked,
little stores that sold penny candy in glass jars and had spittoons
that were used. Rural America almost unchanged in fifty years.
'In Charleston we checked into the bridal suite of the Holiday
Inn, had supper in our room (preferable to going out) and after
bathing proceeded to set up shop. Out came the incense, candles,
bottles, India prints, mirrors, toys, comics, phonograph, musical
instruments, movie camera, fireworks (we had bought $100 worth
a few hours before), magic kit and the drugs. We had everything
the brown rice of drugs. Arnie tried to score
some from our coloured bellhop but his mind had been whitewashed.
He brought us a bottle of vodka which we duly set in place unopened.
We had about thirty-five caps of beige acid which we hadn't tried
yet. We each took a cap. As it came on we saw it was good and
took a few more. We were feeling great and proceeded to get married.
We had bought funny fake marriage licences which we signed with
our other names; Vazy McKoops, Ring, Hank and the Cat Paw Print.
We kissed, danced, lit roman candles off the balcony and sparklers
inside, which Arnie photographed in the candlelight. We danced
and drew arabesques with them, and I drew a showering sparkler
out of the bell of the golden soprano. We were flying !
'I took some more caps. Arnie followed. We were travelling very
fast now. The speed of sound (all motion is relative) at least.
Again we took some more caps and now really started to move. We
were at a rate that was so glorious that we decided to add a little
JB840 to it.
'I went out into the hall and got some Coke. Then instead of putting
a normal dose in a glass, overcome, we poured three-quarters of
a bottle of JB118 into the glass and drank. Suddenly, violently,
and with a sickening lurch we were moving faster than light. I
fell back on the bed and had a vision of a Roman or Etruscan warrior
holding a sword to my stomach. It was no vision. I knew it was
real. We had poisoned ourselves. Death was here. Real Death. I
remembered and gave in surrendering to it. A pain lanced through
my right side and my convulsive gasps stopped. BLACKNESS. And
then pinpoints of light in the stygian dark. I realised the lights
were stars and we were moving through the very edge of our solar
system at some unknown speed, but without the feeling of movement.
Then to the front of my mind, I sensed an alien intelligence.
'Curious, I probed further, trying to contact it, when it started
a mind-probe in an area it thought empty of life it tripped every
alarm in my nervous system and body. I could feel my body on earth
panicking, ready to explode with terror. I had to withdraw the
mind-probe and take care of my terror-struck earth body. My mind
came and, carefully, slowly, I began to turn off the alarms and
unlock the muscles, sinews and nerves, calm and soothe the glands
and get my body back to normal.
'As I was working I realised through visions in another part of
my mind, that all of us on earth are remnants of other races and
civilisations from various solar systems seeded into earth bodies
for a reason not yet revealed. I had been from this solar system
originally and had been a galactic ambassador, quite used to dealing
with other cultures. Arnie was not of this universe originally,
and I vaguely saw his shape as it had been; huge, swift and somehow,
fifteen feet tall, five tons and covered with golden
'I opened my eyes, candlelight flickered, and the Holiday Inn
took shape. Then a silent screaming came into my mind. It was
on the edge of sanity driven there by fear. It was Arnie, Arnie
the Great, The Prophet, Magician, Seer, Artist, Arnie was flipping
out. I tried to lock my mind on to his, but he was so frightened,
his mind was like greasy Jello. I couldn't hold on, so I followed,
and when it would stop for an instant, I would hover and try to
coax him back. It would have been all right, but Cathy didn't
understand. She was trying to help vocally, and every sonic vibration
only drove him further out. It was horrible! Arnie was moaning
and flickering in and out of reality, sanity pain and dimension.
I finally took Cathy to the next room and made her promise to
remain silent, but she has a very strong mind and, when she began
thinking of medical help, I couldn't block her thoughts completely.
Soon Arnie began to think for help.
'After a time I gave up and called the desk for a doctor. Less
than three hours had passed when we started and we were still
very high to say the least
plus slightly in shock. The doctor
after a game attempt to get Arnie hospitalised, reluctantly gave
him a mild sedative. After several stern reminders from me that
he was a doctor, not a judge, he finally left, radiating disapproval.
'After a few more eonsearth time, about an hourArnie fell
asleep. By then it was dawn. We were asked to leave soon after.
When Arnie awoke, we moved to the nearest motel (a block away
I think) and ate in bed rather quietly and slept till the next
day. When we awoke we ate some more, discussed the dumb doctor,
and the strange intelligence we had encountered, took stock of
our drugs (we had thrown out all of the JB), and packed, giving
all the fireworks to a bellhop as Arnie was afraid he would set
them off mentally. We were quite down from the experience so we
each took two capsules (Cathy wasn't having any), and I drove
us out of Charleston through spiral type buildings, heading south,
the top down. By the time we were out of the DMT-coloured city-limits
and on the open road, we were feeling normally glorious. The car
purred, the cat slept, and overhead the most tremendous, white
thunderhead in a purple-rose sky formed a glorious paean to earth
and the future and we sped into the technicolour southern dusk.'
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.
'The second step is the realisation that you have to go out of
your mind to use your head; that you have to pass beyond everything
you have learned in order to become acquainted with the new areas
of consciousness. Ignorance of this fact is the veil which shuts
man within the narrow confines of his acquired, artifactual concepts
of "reality", and prevents him from coming to know his
own true nature.
'The third step (once the first two realisations have taken place)
is the practical theoretical. How can consciousness be expanded?
What is the range of possibilities outside of our current verbal-cognitive
models of experience? What light do the new insights perhaps most
important, how can the new levels of awareness be maintained ?'
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.
'The rooms are decorated with madras hangings, wall-sized paintings
of Buddha, a collage of words and images collected from a psychedelic
fantasy, or religious posters from India. The only furniture besides
the mattress may be a lamp, a bookcase or a writing table.'
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
It is and that is its greatness, its pure existence
There is no beginning to silence and no end
Man does not put silence to the test, silence puts man to the test
Silence contains everything within itself; it is not waiting for
anything, it is always wholly present in itself and completely
fills out the space in which it appears
Silence is original and self-evident, like the other basic phenomena,
like love and liberty and death and life itself
And there is more silence than speech in them, more of the invisible
than the visible
There is also more silence in one person than can be used in a
single human life
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,
"HOW TO PLAY THE 'EXPERIENTAL WORKSHOP GAME' "
What Do We Mean by Game?
A game is a temporary social arrangement with the following characteristics:
goals, roles, rules, strategies, space and time limits, values,
All of these characteristics of any game are subject to revision.
Ecstatogenic games are voluntary and the contract explicit.
You have been invited to participate in the "Experiential
Workshop Game" during your stay at Millbrook. This means
you are a three-day member of a social system which in some ways
may be novel to you. This contract is designed to lessen your
"culture shock" and aims to set up a memorable weekend.
1. To communicate and exchange ideas about consciousness
and its expansion and control. Relevant theories about
consciousness-expansion will be discussedneurological, philosophic,
religious, psychological, oriental. A wide variety of methods
will also be reviewed.
2. To employ several of these methods during the weekend, to expand
the consciousness of participants and to maintain as high a level
of ecstasy as possible.
While there are many roles involved in running such an enterprise,
in this contract we are solely concerned with the roles involved
in the visitor game.
The roles which have been most comfortable to you and of which
are of most use to you in your regular life will be of lessened
utility here and, indeed, may handicap you. The aim of the workshop
is to get out beyond your routine robot consciousness. Thus there
is little interest in who you are (were) and much more concern
with where and how far you can go. What you can obtain during
the weekend depends in part on how much of your routine ego you
can leave in your room.
. . . Why don't you check it in your suitcase ?
Staff roles. Around ten people will be present during the
weekend whose job is to facilitate the goals of the seminar. Their
functions are assigned and scheduled. Visitor roles. In
general, the actions of visitors are addressed towards the two
goals of the seminar: i.e. to learn as much as possible about
the theories and methods of consciousness-expansion and to put
this knowledge into practice. It is assumed that each visitor
is here because of his past experiences and his current interest
in consciousness-expansion. It is hoped that you can contribute
any special knowledge you have when it seems relevant.
The Seeking Help Role. This is not a psychotherapeutic
situation and the doctor-patient game is not played. Personal
problems cannot, therefore, become the focus of discussion.
1. Be aware of and try to minimise the attempt of your robot to
capture audiences for its personal dramas.
2. Please obey the laws of the land. In particular do not bring
marijuana or any other illegal chemical to the weekend workshop.
3. Visitors are asked to maintain their own room during their
The ecstatic-psychedelic experience can be reached by several
One of the aims of the workshop is to encourage expansion of consciousness
in all five of these functions in some sort of balanced harmony.
(Consciousness-expansion in the sexual will be limited to indirect
methods.) Since the average person quickly falls into habitual
and stereotyped modes of awarenessmental, emotional, physical,
sexual, and instinctivethe weekends are designed to produce
novel experiences which deliberately "break through"
these stereotypes. If you feel yourself reacting with shock or
outrage at the challenge to your favourite habits, please remember
that this sort of friction probably points to an under-development
of some function and is a challenge for growth. For the same reason,
do not concentrate only on one of these methods of consciousness-expansion.
Take advantage of this opportunity to expand consciousness at
After a while one of the staff will show you around the house
and grounds. During your leisure time you are free to use any
areas except for the third floor (which is residential) and the
kitchen, except during breakfast period.
The schedule of programmes will be announced. Consult a staff
member about additions and revisions to the schedule and about
According to the "game model", values are specific to
the particular game and hold only for the defined spacetime limits
of the game. In the ecstatic game, the "goodness" or
greatness of your robot performance is of lessened importance.
Each person starts each second with a fresh neurological slate.
"Good" is what raises the ecstasy count of all persons
present and "bad" is what lowers the ecstasy count.
While any human behaviour sequence can be seen as unique and original,
another illuminating perspective can be obtained by recognising
that certain classic human games are continually being re-enacted
and that any social situation you find yourself in is a current
version of an ancient drama. The question is not How does it turn
out? (that is probably pre-ordained by the script and the role)
but rather, How well do you play your part ? and, How conscious
are you of your role at each moment ? and, How can you change
your my/this game?
The Millbrook Workshops are clearly a re-enactment of one of the
oldest and most ambitious gamesthe transcendental game, expansion
of consciousness, internal exploration, ecstatic discovery. Our
endeavours here are descended from and indebted to those groups
of explorers in India, Persia, China, Greece and to their current
The creation of consciousness-expansion experiences usually involves
ritualssome of which are directly practical, others of which
are designed to evoke mood or readiness to change. The use of
certain rituals (candles, mandalas, pictures, incense, etc.) is
strictly experimental and does not involve any commitment to sectarian
systems on the part of staff members or visitors.'
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.
Naturally many of the visitors were overwhelmed by reading MESSAGE
THREE in solitude, and there was always one guest each weekend
who would decidein silencethat the experience was going
to be too much. 'They think they have fallen into the hands of
a mad scientist,' Tim used to say, 'and that's when we hear them
creeping down the back stairs and screeching out of the driveway.'
Those who stayed on would be divided into groups of five and taken
by their appointed guide for a walk in the woods by candlelight.
We walked silently in Indian file, then returned to the oak-panelled
library for a lecture by Tim or Dick or Ralph or myself. We outlined
and discussed our philosophic and methodological ideas and hoped
that the guests would sleep on them. For some sleep was rather
difficult as they tried to anticipate what was to come.
Saturday morning breakfast was a food game. Everyone had to be
up at 7:30 for Ralph Metzner's yoga session, including instructions
on sitting in the full lotus and half-lotus positions, standing
on the head, and eliminating the doubting fly of the mind. After
this Ralph took them to the kitchen for breakfast (where a cupboard
door bore the legend 'Take LSD and See') and let them look at
it for a while. He had reversed the visual connotations of all
the food. The scrambled eggs were green, the porridge was purple
or bright orange, the milk was black. As the guests sat down to
eat Ralph would say:
'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
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
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 your body
Mandala of the universe
Observe your body
Of ancient design
Holy temple of consciousness
Central stage of the oldest drama
Observe its structured wonders
net of nerve
Observe its message.'
(Tao Sutra 24)
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
'Let there be simple, natural things to contact during the session
a touch of earth
a splash of water
fruit, good bread, cheese
a warm hand
anything which is over
five hundred years old
Of course it is always best to be secluded with nature.'
(Tao Sutra 19)
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:
'That which is called ego-death is coming to you
This is now the hour of death and rebirth;
Take advantage of this temporary death to obtain the perfect
Concentrate on the unity of all living beings.
Hold on to the Clear Light.
Use it to attain understanding and love.'
(The Tibetan Book of the Dead)
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
'Can you lie quietly
in the fierce slippery union
of male and female ?
Warm wet dance of engeration ?
Endless ecstasies of couples ?
Can you feel the coiled serpent writhing
While birds sing ?
Become two cells merging
Slide together in molecule embrace
Can you, murmuring
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
At the end of this timeless session we would bring the visitors
back, carefully prepare them for re-entry:
'As you return
Remember to choose consciously
Power is the heavy stone wrenched
from your garden of tenderness
Virtue is the heavy stone crushing your innocence
What can be learned
From nature is
Shun the social
Cuddle the elemental
Avoid angles, lie with the round
Shun plastic, conspire with seed
Do no good
For God's sake
Nature's order will prevail'
(Tao Sutra 3)
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,
'A quick belt of whisky from the suitcase improves things considerably.
' "I am Michael Hollingshead," says the man in the doorway,
half an hour later. He is tall, thirty-ish, baldish, with cold,
cruel grey eyes. "I am your guide for the weekend. Will you
follow me?" He has an English accent and a soft voice of
'Down the hall (OM OM OM) down the stairs. Outside four people
gather silently in the back of a battered Land Rover: two women
and two men, one of them an egg-bald bespectacled young man from
"'Right now we're in the period of silence," says Hollingshead.
"First we'll go for a little drive, then a little walk, then
dinner." He drives along a track through dusk-hushed woods,
then out into a field and stops at a pond
a bottle of cocktail sherry and paper cups. Dusk deepens. The
pond is covered with a film of green growth, which creeps.
' "Is the period of silence over ?" asks the poison
ivy woman, emboldened by sherry.
' "Not for you," says Hollingshead with a little smile.
'The drive continues through the woods and fields, then back to
Timothy Leary enters and sits. He is tall, forty-five,
handsome, barefoot, a dentist's son, the father of three: a boy,
a girl, and the psychedelic movement
reason psychedelic experiences are important and valuable is that
people live their lives by their own "chess-boards",
playing the lawyer-game, the merchant-game, or some rule-ridden
ego-game, rarely if ever expanding their consciousness to the
point of true awareness and understanding of man and nature, including
'He demonstrates: Susan Leary and Hollingshead enact a short skit,
she as a wife asking her overworked husband to take a holiday,
he as a school principal firing a teacher. Their chessboards do
not match; they do not understand each other
'The appearance of things around Castalia's baroque bastion indicates
a certain abandonment of modern survival values
concern is shown for the house
Castalians are above the
landed-gentry game. Furniture is not important to them
'The woodwork and windows need washing, the old parquet floors
anoint the porch at will
'An air of sad decline pervades the house, like a Rolls-Royce
being used as a dump truck.'
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
Thou take me for thy guide, and pass with me
Through an eternal place
(Inferno, Canto 1, tr. Dorothy Sayers)
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
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
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.
No specific programme of expression can be specified in advance.
The Yoga may include
1. Tranart* gallery-bookstore.
2. Weekly psychedelic reviewslecturesquestions and answersTranart
3. RadioTVnewspapermagazine educational programme.
4. Centre for running LSD session.'
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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