Neo-American Church

How to Guide a Session

There are a variety of requirements to assure the success of a guided session, but chief among them is the conspicuous presence in the session room of a copy of Popular Mechanics (in the case of women, a magazine such as Cosmopolitan should be substituted). All statues of people with three or more arms should be removed, as well as all dogs, goats, blackbirds, insects, people who are too bad, people who are too good, anyone in bizarre dress who isn’t smiling, anyone wearing a beard* who isn’t smiling, and all other trash of similar character. The selection of paintings, photographs, and decorative objects in general is to be left to the victim, but we might encourage representations of Buddah, Ramakrishna in Samadhi, Tim Leary with a flower behind his ear, and so on, while gently discouraging pictures of Jesus Christ on the cross, mob scenes from the Second Bardo, Hell Worlds of Hieronymous Bosch, and so forth.

A safe rule is to make the initial session as pleasant as possible, even at the risk of being insipid. Daytime instead of night if possible: outdoors rather than indoors, if possible. Nothing is gained by trying to blow the victim’s brains out with weird music, weird pictures, and weird talk—his own imagination will supply all that is necessary in that department. To force it, or attempt to force it, will merely create resistance, and encourage the victim to believe he is being manipulated—a not at all unreasonable assumption. On later excursions, particularly those intended to accomplish a specific purpose, when the victim has some glimmering of what is at stake, one may take the risk of provoking unpleasant experiences in the interest of economy, but I really think very few such occasions arise. Most of the weird stuff can be best understood as bravado or sado-masochism on the part of the guide.

For convenience, we may divide the psychedelic experience into two basic categories: the Ivory Experience (“spiritual”), and the Horny Experience (“psychological”).

People setting out to guide other people through the labyrinthine ways of the personal unconscious really ought to have some kind of experience with non-psychedelic methods, or at least be reasonably well read in the field, for Christ’s sake, before taking on this kind of work. There are too many nitwits floating around, copies of Kahlil Gibran and Meyer Baba in hand, who, when confronted by a gaunt moose eating a teddy bear sandwich, or something of the sort in the imagery of the victim, conclude at once they are dealing with a hopeless psychotic, or the lone survivor of the Whiskey Age, and call Bellevue. Professional training is not essential, anyone can read Freud and Norman O. Brown; anyone can keep a dream book; anyone can administer and interpret H-T-P, Rorschach and T.A.T. tests to family and friends (an excellent adjunct to seduction, anyway).

I also strongly recommend the early L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics. In fact, Hubbard’s techniques are so good, so mechanical in fact, that I will go so far as to approve their use by even a downright ignoramus if he is clever and business-like about what he is doing.

If mechanical techniques are not used, however, it is essential that the guide be of very superior intelligence, very well read and experienced in the ways of the world. The gods themselves are helpless before stupidity. I would personally draw the line between the sheep and the goats somewhere in the vicinity of the 95th percentile in verbal intelligence as measured by a reliable individual test or the Miller Analogies, so far as the selection of guides for Horny Sessions is concerned. Thirty is a good age to start on a full-time career with organizational sanction and whatnot, with exceptional exceptions, of course, and really, we ought to develop some sort of book list as well.

I am not in favor of hypnotism under any circumstances. The hypnotic state is the psychotic state. This condition often involves expanded consciousness, but it is half-assed and the ego is shot. The ego has been stolen. We must not be a party to such rapes. The ego does not exist in order to be destroyed, as some fools imagine, but to be properly used.

So my advice to anyone setting out to guide Horny Sessions is very simple: become a psychologist first.

This is not to deny that some people “handle” a victim who is flying very high and blind better than others. What do you do in regard to bad behavior? How do you respond to odd talk, and particularly, how do you answer odd questions? The best rule is to do and say as little as possible, but most importantly, one should at all times put the best construction on everything. If the victim asks you a question, for God’s sake, try to The problem of suffering is a respectable philosophic problem (in the classic meaning of the term) if, and only if, the externality of relations is denied. answer the question instead of “treating” the questioner. Here are some do’s and don’ts:

Question: “Who am I?”

Good Answer: “You are my next door neighbor, Mrs. Klotch. But I guess you are going through a period where you won’t pay much attention to that and will see things from a more universal point of view, so to speak. It happens all the time. Nothing to worry about.” (This is a good answer only if the victim actually is Mrs. Klotch. If Vice-President Humphrey was the victim, it would not be a good answer.)

Bad Answer: “Ah, that is the question. What meaneth these cards of identity? We are all One, are we not?”

Bad Answer: “You are not your body.”

Bad Answer: “There is a Self beyond the self.”

Bad Answer: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Bad Answer: “The whole Universe trembles as you ask that question.”

Bad Answer: “Try not to think about it.”

Bad Answer: “Hey! Look at that beautiful drop of snot on baby’s nose!”

The last two undesirable answers may require some explanation. The intentions, conscious and unconscious, of the guide are good, but his assumptions are wrong. As long as there are complaints about or fears of loss of ego the ego is not lost, nor is it diminished in any simple way. You are not, in this situation, dealing with a six year old child, who can easily be put off or led down the garden path. The ego at bay is a mobilized ego, alert to all danger, suspicious of your every move and word. Always assume that the victim can “see right through you,” no matter how bizarre his behavior. Be honest. If you honestly think distraction is called for, then say so. For example, “Well, if questions like that are bothering you, why not look at some of these pictures instead?” Don’t pretend a sudden interest in something you are not really interested in at all. As for saying, “Try not to think about it” or something of the sort, well, try not to think of a purple cow yourself and see how much luck you have. Also, by not explaining why you feel the victim shouldn’t think about it, you will probably encourage the victim to believe all of his fears are justified: if he does think about it he is a goner for sure.

Question: “Are you my father?”

Good Answer: “No, actually. I’m Mr. Klotch from next door, but I guess you must be seeing things from the point of view of a little kid or something. If you want to go through some childhood scenes, I’ll try to play along as best I can. Do I actually look like your father? (wait for answer) This LSD stuff is pretty fantastic, isn’t it?”

Bad Answer: “Yes.” (Unless you are, of course)

Bad Answer: “No.” (There is such a thing as being too Hal about all this. It is unnatural and therefore frightening, to answer a fantastic question as if it were commonplace. This is where the Rogerian method of ordinary psychotherapy falls down. Do not manipulate!)

Bad Answer: “Why do you ask that question?” (This sort of answer is evasive and suggestive of the sinister.)

Bad Answer: “How do you feel about your father?” (O.K. if the contract is for psychotherapy.)

Bad Answer: “How old are you?” (O.K. if the contract is for psychotherapy.)

Bad Answer: “Behold. I am thy father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, son, indeed, I am all things and all things are ME!!!!!” (This may be true, but there is no reason to get swellheaded about it.)

Question: “Am I really dying?”

Good Answer: “I really don’t think you’re physically dying. Good grief, you’re healthier than I am. Now you might stop being conscious of your body, but that doesn’t mean your body is gone. Your body will take care of itself. After all, every night when we lie down to sleep we do the same thing—we just relax and let the body take care of itself. There is nothing to be afraid of.” There are many variants of this response. Adjust your language to the intellectuality of the victim, as you would in any ordinary conversation, but not more so. In the interest of avoiding panic reactions, your response to this question (or statement calling for a response: “I’m dying!”) is most crucial. You must be prepared to answer in a reasonable, relaxed, and confident manner.

Bad Answer: “Yes.”

Bad Answer: “No.”

Bad Answer: “I don’t think so.” (Why don’t you know? Is there some doubt about it?)

Bad Answer: “Life and death are mere illusions of the mind! Let the rotten apple fall to earth and bring forth a new and better tree! Oh, grave, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting? etc., etc., etc., etc., etc….”

Again, this sort of thing may all be “true,” but that is no excuse. If you have any sensitivity whatever, you will know when the victim is ready for talk of this sort and when he isn’t. But even when the victim initiates this sort of thing himself, even during the coming-down period, try to merely give your opinion instead of pronouncing dicta.

There are, of course, an almost endless number of questions and answers we could consider here but the above examples give the general idea.

(1) Don’t initiate anything. This is true even of the “tuned in” guide who appears, or might appear to a third party, to be initiating things. Natural and normal comments about this and that are perfectly O.K. (if the relationship is clearly teacher-student, the teacher can, in fact, must do and say any damn thing that comes into his head; but no genuine teacher needs me to tell him that.)

(2) Abortion agents. I am in favor of having them on hand, but I am sensible to the arguments on the other side. Again, all bets are off if the guide is an enlightened teacher. On the other hand, the technical preferences of your teacher are no more than his technical preferences, his style of operation.

If you do have thorazine or niacinamide or whatever on hand, don’t rush to use them, a panic reaction immediately preceding ego-loss lasting a minute or two is nothing to worry about, but if it becomes obvious that the victim can’t let go, won’t let go, and has no intentions of ever letting go, and is frozen in a state of sheer terror, well, why not? But don’t fake it! The body knows very well what it is getting: it always knows.

(3) Guiding people who are experienced “users.” On the face of it, this seems an unlikely situation, but it is not at all uncommon to find people who have had hundreds of LSD experiences still seeking enlightenment. People in this situation should find a guru. If they are having bad trips, they should stop taking LSD.

Regarding Ivory Sessions in general, I must make it clear that I do not think any training is possible, nor are any objective standards possible, nor can I offer any advice which will be comprehensible to anyone who really needs it.

To begin with, it is impossible to “guide” anyone “towards” enlightenment, the presumable objective of an Ivory trip. If the victim regards the guide as his guru, if the relationship is magical, and is magical outside the context of psychedelic experience, then something may happen. If not, not.

We must consider here the possibility of some kind of intermediate experience—to put the best construction on it, “the exploration of the Self,” or, to put the worst construction on it, “an occult experience.”

I am not impressed. An enlightened person knows that there is nothing to explore. Everything is created, and since anything may be created, to check out the possibilities is nothing more than an insult to the Self, which has already made Its choice. The only exception is the (conscious) use by a Master of this kind of bullshit, or any other kind of bullshit for that matter, to suck people into a position such that the avoidance of certain questions becomes virtually impossible. All others should stick to working on the vehicle or seeking enlightenment. I am also opposed to occultism, even frank, flat-out, self-aggrandizing occultism, although someone who is trying to raise the dead in order to beat the stock market is certainly a more agreeable and entertaining fellow than some moron who thinks he can meditate Vietnam out of existence instead of doing the dishes. To each his own.

Let’s come right out with it: unless you are enlightened, don’t bother trying to guide Ivory Sessions—sit by if requested to do so, but make no pretense of being anything more than a servant, “ground control” or whatever the hell you want to call it. The fact of the matter is that fakery is impossible in this situation anyway; there are no standards; there is no third party, no precedents, no law. It all depends, and it depends on nothing constructible. Circumstances, and circumstances only. “The motions of Grace, the hardness of the heart, the external circumstance.” To understand what is necessary makes what is necessary unnecessary.

The development of guides, therefore, is on the one hand no more than the rational selection and education of psychologists, and, on the other hand, out of our hands.

It is better to concentrate on externals than to mull over these intricate problems which we have manufactured in order to avoid the answers which we have possessed since the beginning. Get appropriate real estate and the appropriate people appear automatically. Set up a press staffed by the right people and the right papers will be published automatically.

If, as it appears, our task is to produce a cadre of competent psychedelic guides, then let us proceed to do so with a minimum of horseshit. What we need is always directly at hand. Novice psychologists are a dime a dozen. Good teachers of psychology, driven from their soft berths by the current persecution, are a dime a dozen also.

As for the other relationship, it will, as it always has, take care of itself.

If you are bent on murder, you will find yourself surrounded by co-operative victims.

If you want to save the world, your army is at hand.

If you desire enlightenment, your guru is just around the corner.

* This was written back in ’36, when beards were a sure sign of impending barratry. † I now believe that thorazine should never be used. A couple shots of booze can help. Grass on the up and the down will often make for a smoother ride. But for flat-out screaming flight, I’m afraid there is nothing like a rope.