Neo-American Church

Chapter 34


The law is clear: it doth not require the claimant to prove ye are slaves; it requireth you to prove ye are not.

Laying on an Israelite tribal ceremony at the beginning of the band-of-brothers phase of the Psychedelian revolution was most appropriate, in a reverse kind of way, in Fazzm terms. Big Daddy was in for a hard time of it.

“Go home and kill your parents,” Jerry Rubin had said at one point, probably the nadir of the phase of which I speak. Jerry and his buddy, Abbie Hoffman, had been promoted to leadership status in “the movement” by the media moguls of the day, who appreciated the political services rendered to the forces of reaction by Abbie and Jerry’s egalitarian, rabble-rousing style. Like Tim, who was always well aware of who owned what, and the official roster of media-certified “anti-establishment” geeks in general, they never violated the grisly icons of Judaism while trashing everyone else’s icons with gleeful smirkitude.

Such genocidal advice made the Neo-American Church look pretty decorous and old-fashioned. We weren’t with it anymore. What was all this “Enlightenment” shit? Whatever it was, it was counterrevolutionary.

Well, we still had Millbrook, so I wasn’t worried. The gathering at Peggy’s house, a five-story job just off Fifth Avenue, was no meeting of the rabble to plot pillage and rapine, nor of the rich to figure out new ways to tread them underfoot. I doubt if anyone present spoke one word about politics all night.

Maybe I shouldn’t call it “Peggy’s house,” since, strictly speaking, it wasn’t. When Peggy had divorced her pill-pushing husband, the story went, she gave him the house and a million in cash to show there were no hard feelings, or something. “The family” had reacted by putting her on an allowance for a while. When I asked her to confirm this she replied, “Well, yeah. I knew how much he loved that kind of stuff.”

But all of this was treated as mere paperwork which would be taken care of down in Pittsburgh. Everyone continued to call it “Peggy’s house,” and Peggy continued to use it as a place to flop and throw parties in just as she had before.

A bar had been set up in the second-floor hall, at the top of a curving, marble staircase. Peggy’s butler poured and stirred, and a dozen people, drinks in hand, were milling around in a large sitting room to the right of the stairs, most of them looking pretty uptight. Within an hour or so there would be about a hundred, and nobody would look uptight.

Peggy led Bill and me up to the third floor where, in a closet bar in a paneled office, she showed us a large punch bowl, the cups that went with it, and a small bottle with a dropper, all on a silver tray. “250 mics a drop,” she said, “but I don’t think there’s enough to make it 250 a cup. I’ll let you guys figure it out, OK?”

Peggy returned to greeting her guests. Haines and I measured the number of cups of punch in the bowl and the number of drops in the bottle. It worked out to about 40 mics a cup, which we both thought was about right, considering everything. A low enough count per cup to make novice freakouts unlikely, or at least manageable, and there ought to be enough, assuming no heavy guzzling, so those who wanted boosters could get them.

“Did you recognize anyone downstairs?” I asked, as Bill poured and stirred with mock-dramatic gestures and chortlings.

“They look like a bunch of deadheads to me,” he said. “I didn’t see anyone I knew, but there was one fellow in a round collar. That may be promising. Wait until you get a taste of this. I wonder if Peggy is telling everyone what’s in it?”

“Oh, I think so,” I said. “What the hell. It said ‘psychedelic seder’ right on the card.”

Peggy’s ex, wearing a dark suit with vest and a wooden expression, entered the room during our preparations. If he said anything to us, I can’t remember it. He sat behind his desk as if turned to stone. Watching the demonic forces at work? Conveying disapproval? Guarding his lair? Letting us know we had a witness? I couldn’t figure it out.

Very slowly, because the glittering crystal punchbowl was almost full, I carried the tray downstairs and set it on the bar in front of the butler.

“So, this is the real stuff, huh?” he asked, in tones implying he was not impressed.

“There ain’t nothin’ realer,” I replied. “You can tell those who ask that one cup of this should leave them standing but in the right frame of mind to appreciate the philosophic meaning of it all. Why don’t you have a cup yourself?”

“I think I’ll stick to Scotch,” he said.

I poured myself a cup and went into the main salon. People were seated and standing all around the room, talking in small groups. New guests arrived in a steady stream, and I noticed a few taking cups of punch.

Bill and I went around telling everyone the sacraments were served. Dutifully, they trooped off to get their rations, but quite a few looked like they were going up the Amazon, against their better judgment, to wrestle alligators. I saw Tim talking animatedly to the young Episcopalian priest whom Bill had noticed earlier.

I went over and sat next to Bill. I could feel the acid coming on and I wanted to get over the hump in the company of someone I knew. I had never taken LSD with so many novices and strangers around, and it made me apprehensive.

“Don’t worry about it,” Bill said. “It’s a party. You’re supposed to act funny. By the way, I just got a new sidelight on dear old Timothy.”

“What’s that?”

“When he came in he came up to me right away and asked, ‘Where’s the acid?’ He really looked nervous. I never saw him act like that before. I think he really needs the stuff to do his stuff. He’s an acidholic.”

At the time, this seemed like a strange idea. It was the function of booze and other downers to relax tension in social situations. Acid was no tranquilizer.

True, but with experience, I learned that, with experience, it’s possible to be dexterously extroverted on the stuff, if that’s the way you want to go. At the Ashram in Arizona, I sometimes took acid with Haines, who made a habit of it, on Sunday mornings, although Sunday was open house, and we had all kinds of visitors, including the local sheriff’s deputies and square tourists who were there to view the weirdos and buy some pottery.

One time, on a pretty heavy trip, I had to get rid of three armed and drunken cowboys who had fallen prey, sort of, to Bali Ram. It’s an interesting way to trip, the main lesson being how unbelievably stupid and blind straight consciousness is most of the time, but I don’t recommend it to novices.

The ceremony, conducted in the dining room, went smoothly. Tim and I, seated together, got up to read our respective parts of the service, which was printed in booklets. Tim was the old geezer and I was his youngest son. A young rabbi, extremely Reformed, I assumed, was seated next to Peggy. He said a few unmemorable words.

While we were having after-dinner brandy, Haines, who had left the room a few minutes earlier, bustled in, stuck his head between me and Tim and put his hands on our shoulders.

“Listen, you guys,” Haines said in a heavy whisper, “I want your advice.”

Well, that was a switch. Tim and I both grinned.

Haines had gone up to the library for a few moments of “quiet meditation.” He had been sitting in a corner of the library in the dark when the priest had come in and telephoned his bishop, unaware that Haines was present to hear him.

“He kept saying things like (Haines fluttered his hands) ‘Oh, Bishop, it’s so terrible, you have no idea. They are all drinking LSD and everyone is talking in a perfectly insane way’ and stuff like that. I think it’s an insult to Peggy that one of her guests should sneak behind her back to squeal on her like that.”

“Well, what can we do about it?” Tim asked.

“I think we should bomb him,” Haines said. “He deserves it.”

Haines was not reluctant to bomb those he thought merited the honor. He didn’t do it to politicians, cops or ordinary people but only to those whom he thought were “asking for it,” so to speak.

A BBC television crew had recently visited the property to make a documentary. The director had blandly informed us that he was “naturally stoned.” He wasn’t afraid of taking LSD. Heaven forbid.

He didn’t need it.

This line of shit will drive all but the most saintly Psychedelians who hear it up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the other side. It’s an insult, and such blatant self-deception it’s almost unbearable to listen to it.

The spiritual four-flusher visiting a Psychedelian community should avoid saying things like “the vibrations around here are terrible” or “I’m a witch, you know” or, “oh sure, I talk to trees all the time myself,” but of all the comments likely to enrage his hosts, “I can do anything you can do but I don’t need LSD to do it,” or words to that effect, are provocation in a class by itself.

It’s like saying, “the law can’t touch me, baby” while drunk and disorderly in a Chicago police station at 3 a.m. It’s an insult to the honor of the group, and something has to be done about it. Haines let the director have it in his coffee one morning, and he went bounding and sprinting all over the woods and fields for about four hours, bellowing like a moose. When it was over, he admitted he had been afraid of it all along and didn’t understand anything about it. He then packed up his staff and stuff and left. We never saw the documentary, if there ever was one.

“That strikes me as a happy idea,” Tim said, in response to Bill’s suggestion that we bomb the priest.

I also gave my blessings. This was clearly a case of the exception which “proves” the (shows that there is a) rule. With great aplomb, Haines walked around behind his target’s table and deftly demonstrated that the hand is quicker than the eye. It became evident, an hour later, that the priest loved the stuff. The transformation was abrupt. One moment he was grimly sitting in a corner sipping his gin and the next moment he was on the dance floor with Peggy, putting on an exhibition of pelvic-thrust, head-jerk dancing worthy of the most primitive teenager. You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

Or, as Gotama is said to have said:

“The conduct of the passions and attachments is the same as the conduct of a bodhisattva, that being the best conduct.” (Guyasama Tantra)

Or, as Lui Pa is said to have said:

“What use is meditation? Despite meditation, one dies in pain. Give up all complicated practices and hopes of attaining siddhis and accept the void as your true nature.

Or, as Sahara is said to have said:

“The childish Yogins like the Tirhikas and others can never find their own nature. One has no need of Tantra or Mantra, or of the images of the Dharanis; all these are causes of confusion. In vain does one try to attain Moksa by meditation. All are hypnotized by the system of the Jhanas but no one cares to realize his own self.”

You can say that again, Sahara.

As the festivities were winding down, Billy invited me to stay over at his apartment and go up to Millbrook in the morning with Fred Blacker, who had not been invited to the party, but was scheduled to drive the Cadillac back to Millbrook. The Hitchcocks, a couple other people and I then gathered together, why I don’t know, on the curving stairs in front of the bar, with the result that the other guests had to weave among us to get downstairs as they departed.

We probably would have stayed on the stairs for some time, since all present were in a mood of hilarity and clarity which a combination of psychedelics and booze will sometimes produce, but Peggy’s butler, who was hovering unsteadily above us, started injecting put-downs of Billy into our conversation; incredibly stupid insults, like those I remember exchanging regularly with my friends in junior high school. Furthermore, he dropped his New York prol dialect and started sounding more and more like Jack back at Millbrook. Another Scot, evidently.

Billy was not amused. The butler had him cornered. In company, if some jerk says, “You always were full of shit, Hitchcock,” you can’t ignore it no matter how rich you are, if your name happens to be Hitchcock. The butler was on a mean drunk, probably felt one-upped by all of us acid heads, and was looking for trouble.

When he said, “You may be rich, Hitchcock, but I have character,” Billy seemed to be at a loss for words but finally said, “So’s your old man.”

We all got up and left.

In a general McPozzm way, I interpreted the psychedelic seder as a demonstration of the abrupt high status I had somehow acquired in Psychedelian society and in the eyes of the powers that were. According to the program, I was Tim’s junior, his “son,” but I was also trusted and accepted more than he was. It seemed natural and correct to me that this should be the case, but it had happened incredibly fast, and with no machinations on my part intended to bring it about, which probably explains, to some extent, why it had come about.

There were all kinds of heavy Fazzm meanings floating around like lead balloons, as one might expect at a psychedelic seder.

When Peggy cooked up the party, she was probably thinking of Fazzm ideals, with “Ecumenism, spirit of; LSD, enhancement by” at the head of the list. This fantasy, then as now, was a popular concept. It sounds good but it doesn’t float.

In contrast to what I think Peggy intended, the thing about the party I liked best was the spirit of hilarity and irreverence that LSD produced in the teeth of one of the world’s most savage celebrations of tribal vengefulness, primitive supernaturalism and cruelty to children.

I don’t see Psychedelianism as blending and refining supernaturalist religions into some higher and finer froth. They are all rotten to the core. Nothing can be done with them. The garbage disposal is called for, not the blender.

A week or two after the seder, Noel Tepper came over to the office that Wendy and I used in the Gray Buildings, with the New York State incorporation papers for the Church. Billy, as a charter member of the Board of Toads, was on hand, and so was Tommy. It seemed like the right moment, so I asked the twins if it would be OK for the Neo-American Church to take over the Gatehouse. After a brief private consultation in the press room, Billy and Tommy agreed.

Whew. Not only did the Church now have a private setting, Wendy and I would soon have a whole building to ourselves. Since the “great migration” of the Ashram from the Big House to the Gray Buildings we had been sleeping in a cranny above our office which hardly deserved to be called a closet. And, since the seder, Tim had become increasingly hostile. While it seemed that Wendy and I might remain in the Big House, he had referred to our work on the Catechism as “a labor of love” and “the only constructive thing that’s being done around here.” Now, I was frequently informed, I had joined Bill in the doghouse. My appalling alcoholic intake, rather than my admirable literary labors, was what Tim usually mentioned when my name came up.

And how long could I depend on Haines? I had been politically useful when the Ashram was in serious danger from Tim but my continued utility to Bill, now that he had prevailed, was another matter entirely. I was a potential competitor for both Tim and Bill in various ways. What if Billy did donate “real” money to the Church? In what way would that be good for the League or the Ashram? And what if Peggy made me an offer I couldn’t refuse? I knew that nothing was happening, or likely to happen, on that front, but Bill and Tim didn’t know it. What then, for Christ’s sake?

I could clearly see the bumpers flashing in both noble craniums and small steel balls with my name on them going for wild rides, somewhat wilder on Tim’s machine than on Bill’s, and then dropping into the “watch out” slot in both cases.

It was a big relief to cut out both middlemen and deal with the Hitchcocks directly. I was now an independent power on the place for sure. Things were looking up.

Otto attended this pleasant gathering, and since Noel was present, I mentioned Otto’s complaint that his father was draining his trust fund. Otto went down to the Big House, where he still lived in the cellar, and returned with his papers. Billy and Noel looked them over. Sure enough, Otto’s capital was rapidly withering away instead of flourishing and sprouting new growths, despite the manifold benefits of the wonderful invasion of Vietnam all capitalists should have been enjoying at the time. He had every right to be suspicious. Score another one for Otto?

A little later, we got expert testimony which seemed to confirm one more highly implausible Otto story. He had long claimed that his Oriental rugs, on which he and Winnie slept, were unique examples of something or other and really belonged in a museum. An importer friend of Bill’s, stopping by for a visit, took a close look at them and said they were “priceless.”

“Where does he get this stuff?” Haines, who already had his eye on the Black Buddha, asked in bewilderment.

It wasn’t much use asking Otto. If the circumstances of his life were hard to believe, the explanations he offered were more so, and went on forever, and strayed from the point the way Alice traveled through Wonderland.

The next day, Otto and I went down to the Gatehouse to clean it up and to turn on the water and electricity. Otto wanted to fix up a cubbyhole for himself next to the furnace in the cellar. I didn’t expect Wendy would be enthusiastic about it, but I told my troglodyte companion that it would be OK with me if it was OK with her. Until she returned, in any event, he was welcome.

The Gatehouse was a mess, but after a couple days of hard work, we had running water and electricity and had repaired all the broken windows. We thought we had the portcullis mechanism figured out pretty well, but it seemed that a large and oddly-shaped crank needed to turn the winch had, wisely I’m sure, been removed to some other location.

In the days of the Fergusons, a fire in the top tower room had charred or covered with soot everything on the third floor. I decided to leave it as it was. Someone I liked would probably come along who would be willing to clean it up as the price of occupancy. Our living quarters would be on the second floor, which had a tower bedroom with a fireplace, a bathroom, a small guest bedroom, a pantry, and a living room, with an open kitchen built into a counter attached to the inside wall. Small but quaint. The windows faced toward the bridge on one side of this room, and toward the outside world on the other. In the summer, looking inward, one saw the bridge and masses of green leaves; in the winter, the bridge and a tracery of twigs against the sky. A door led to a stone porch, over the grotto-like sitting room for the grooms with its pedestrian gate.

In Dieterich’s day, the story went, these grooms not only raised and lowered the portcullis and shoveled horseshit but also raked away all the tracks made in the white gravel roads to the Big House. On the inside of the porte cochère, three steps above ground level, a heavy, arched, plank door, into which I drove a new lock, led to the entrance hall, and up a step, to a half-paneled, parquet-floored, circular room at the base of the tower, which I later furnished as an office.

All the walls were made of stones and boulders, some of which must have required a steam crane or lots of horses and blocks and tackle to lift into place. They fit the romantic picture, however, with the curved clay tiles above and the portcullis in the middle and the wrought-iron hinges and light fixtures here and there. Right behind the Gatehouse itself, two stone walls defined the perimeter of a large parking place and then became the walls of the bridge over the inlet between a small lake and a large pond.

On the bridge, a fanciful stone tower incorporated a winding staircase which led up from the road to a small porch, and down from the road, in two-and-a-half turns, to the pond. Descending these corkscrew stairs while on LSD, as almost everyone did at one time or another, seemed to take much longer than it should have, causing an enjoyable, amusement-parkish kind of uncertainty about where one was in relation to the water level, exactly.

Otto and I spent as much time drinking and shooting the shit about this, that and the other Ottoish kinds of things as we did working. My excuse, which I think any fully-informed jury would have applauded, was self-defense.

During this period, while Wendy was away and the Catechism was being printed by Sheatsley and the Drucks (even Howie lent a hand, and seemed to enjoy it), I got to know Billy and some of his outside friends, notably Charlie Rumsey and Sam Clapp. An awareness, if not a full appreciation, of the diplomatic situation between Tim, Bill, Billy and me began to supplant, or at least amend, what had been a sentimental set of attitudes.

Easter came. Although we were now dispersed in three distinct centers, everyone got together again for a three-day party in the Big House and on its sunny porch roofs. A variety of psychedelic sacraments were available, many manufactured and distributed by Owsley, a California underground chemist who was visiting Tim at the time. Owsley was a Narad-style paranoid, but with a more organic flavoring. His Weltbild was of a universal abattoir. An ecological sausage chain of cosmic gobblers, in which mankind was situated as the most bloated link, comprised the All. To properly conform to his status in the Great Lunch, he ate only meat, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Tim held court, relaxed enough by the fine internal and external weather to swap funny stories with Bill and me instead of arguments and accusations. One story concerned his ex and her husband, the bald-headed Tantric. She was expecting, and Tim had offered congratulations when he ran into them on the streets of New York. “You know what the baby will be, don’t you?” asked the husband.

“No,” said Tim.

“The Messiah, of course,” he replied.

Of course. What else?

Even Dick Alpert showed up for a while. He was sitting in Jean’s room, one of the windows of which was serving as the main door to the porch roof, wearing a bed sheet and beads and generally looking holy. I couldn’t take it. Not again. I waved, received a nod in return, and avoided him thereafter, as, I noticed, did almost everyone else around.

Then I relented. I had him down as “Protector of the Youth” in the Catechism. Was that OK with him? It was.

I didn’t know it at the time, but he had not only switched his attire, from J. Press to bed sheets, but his name from Dick Alpert to “Baba Ram Dass.” This additional fraudulence was too much for me. In both the Neo-American Church Catechism and Handbook of 1967 and the Boo Hoo Bible of 1971, he appears under the name his mother gave him. Be Here Now, the book Dick produced in his new persona, is a farrago of good, bad and indifferent selections from eastern religions. The omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent God Almighty is frequently mentioned. Evans-Wentz would have loved it.

Oddly enough, for years our inventory of the Boo Hoo Bible and Dick’s inventory of Be Here Now were stored in the same ranch outbuilding in tiny San Cristobal, New Mexico. (Dick’s “Lama Foundation” supported a community of Slobovenoid Blobovenoidalists nearby.) Even more oddly enough, my rooms in San Cristobal were on the same site Aldous Huxley occupied when he was visiting D. H. Lawrence and wanted to maintain a prudent distance from Frieda and Mabel up the road. I included a photograph of his old shit house, a two-holer from the rough and ready days of Elmira’s original motel, in the Boo Hoo Bible.

Later, in Burlington, Vermont, the newly minted Middlebury graduate who was to become my wife, best friend, chief bee hee, and mother of my youngest daughter, and I went to see a film at the University of Vermont in which Dick presented his philosophic and religious illusions, delusions and hallucinations. After about fifteen minutes, we couldn’t take it anymore and drove to the nearest Dunkin Donuts for first aid.

We had met on a trip, her first big one. Having gotten it right the first time, she not unnaturally asked, “Boo, what is wrong with that man?”

Before I could frame an adequate reply, a kid across the U-shaped counter from us accidentally spilled his net bag of marbles on the floor and they rolled all over the place, to the great amusement of all present. Her question had been answered in the best way possible. No gloss was necessary.

As time passed, I understand, Dick became more of a standard supernaturalist Sado-Judeo-Paulinian, maybe even a genuine Christian, to some extent. That’s a step up from the likes of Meher Baba, I would say, so I hope it’s true.

Owsley, a scrawny specimen, walked around naked, although his two dim and dusty-looking girlfriends did not. One night, Wendy and I, driving back to the Gatehouse in a used, but very reliable, car her father had recently donated, found Owsley wandering along the road, clothed, toward the west gate. He was looking for “Hitchcock’s house.”

“I thought it was one of those houses over there,” he said, after we picked him up, swung around, and headed up the road in the other direction. He pointed to the lights of a couple of small houses which were located outside the sacred precincts, and just barely visible from the Big House. Conclusion: This guy tends to jump to conclusions.

“No, he has a little place up the road this way,” Wendy said.

“He owns the whole scene, huh?” Owsley asked. He sounded much less confident than usual.

“Fifty-fifty with his twin brother,” I replied.

“Really?” Owsley asked. “They’re twins?”

That was all the opening Wendy needed. A natural fan of all celebrities, great and small, good and bad, she was in her element. It was an opportunity to tell one of these sublime beings all kinds of things she knew and he didn’t know about two other celebrated beings even more celestial than himself. The twins were fraternal, not identical. Billy was light-haired, Tommy was dark-haired; Billy was right-handed, Tommy was left-handed; Billy was an extrovert, Tommy an introvert, and so on. She ticked off all these differences on her fingers, while Owsley, so to speak, licked them off with tail-wagging gratitude.

Little things can mean a lot, after all.

When we stopped at the entrance of the Bungalow, which seemed even more enchanted than usual in the moonlit, scented, spring night, Owsley froze and his mouth fell open for a moment, but he pulled himself together quickly, bounced up the steps, and rang the bell. I could see Jack coming to open the door, so we drove away.

Wendy and I exchanged the knowing smiles which seemed to constitute the foundation of our relationship.

“What are you going to say to Billy if he goes for it?” Wendy asked.

Since the name “Hitchcock” had escaped Owsley’s lips, I don’t think either one of us had any doubts about what “it” was.

“I hope I won’t hear anything about it,” I said. “If Billy can’t tell that guy is a fruitcake, well, we’re just going to have to wait until he acquires the rudiments of human wisdom, or something.” Wendy thought that, as a friend, it was my duty to warn him.

“That’s what all the other fawning sycophants are always doing,” I replied. “They spend half their time warning Billy against each other. So far, I stand out as the lonely exception. If he wants to play cops and robbers, let him. I’m not going to compete with every con artist who comes along, God damn it.”

When Owsley left, his car, a veritable rolling laboratory, was stopped on the Taconic by Guardians of Virtue from the Place of Overflowing Shitholes. It was widely reported that he had pulled $10,000 in cash from his boots to get free. Based on my experience, this would mean that he had probably donated one or two thousand, which he happened to have in his pockets at the time, for benevolent police purposes.

With Tim’s blessings, the Ashram settled down in the old common room of the Big House they had recently officially vacated, for what everyone thought would be a one-night trip on STP, the new wonder drug Owsley was pushing. He had recommended 30 milligrams per person, so that’s what they took. The consequences, as those of us who declined to try it had feared, were much crazier and more unpredictable than trips on the New Reliable.

For three days and two nights, meals had to be served on trays, because no participant could do anything much more complicated than visit a toilet and return. Even on such short excursions, they often strayed, got lost, and had to be led back by whomever was playing nurse. Haines, who held up better than anyone else, nevertheless claimed at one point that he was sitting at a table with some old crone while the sea rose slowly all around them. Bali, off and on, was transformed into the evil Hindu goddess Maya. With flashing eyes and a cackling laugh, Bali-Maya slithered through the halls, freaking out everyone who crossed his or her path.

“I don’t know how to explain this stuff, Kleps,” Bill said to me as things were winding down. “The main problem is it comes and goes. You think you’re down and then three seconds later you’re high as a kite again.”

I tried it later, with Bill and Wendy in Arizona. Sure enough, that’s the way it was, even at half the dosage. Why did Owsley push the stuff? I have no idea.

In Asa Elliot’s The Bloom Highway, which includes a pretty funny interview with me while I’m smashed and stoned, there is an account of a Neo-American Church wedding party which is an accurate and, for experienced Psychedelians, hilarious, description of what’s likely to happen when a bunch of neophytes get together and take large doses of LSD.

Note the desperation with which Elliot’s friends seek some kind of pseudo-philosophic generalization, or slogan, to explain what is happening to them, in order to make it stop happening. It’s the uncontrollability that’s terrifying. The hand holding and chanting of the “we are one” mantra have a palliative, anti-high function.

It’s all defensive and repressive. Almost nobody wants to learn anything. On the contrary, if the heaving masses do encounter any new information, they try desperately to arrest learning as quickly as possible and by any means available. In a way, one might say, they will “throw him Ernie” rather than face the facts. Sacrifice a goat. Buy off God. Propitiate. Repress.

But one must face the facts before one can see through the facts. If the reader is not familiar with the standard “mechanisms” of repression, by all means read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.

At the peak of a major death/rebirth experience, one should see everything in terms of synchronistic dream themes based on solipsist-nihilist epistemological assumptions, or not try to interpret anything at all. As a general rule, “Why?” is probably the least productive question one can ask on a trip. Time will tell. Leave the interpretations for later. Not accepting the situation as it is is dangerous for the same reasons that ignoring one’s surroundings is always dangerous. To deny on a big trip that one is “living in some kind of dream world” is to refuse to face the facts as they are presented.

“What’s the rush?” is often a much better mantra than “We are all one.”

But Enlightenment is exactly what freaks most people out the most, no matter how readily they may entertain correct ideas about it in an abstract way when straight or on grass.

A death/rebirth trip almost always involves a few moments of stress or even panic, as do all major transitions. One must try to get past this phase with a minimum of fuss instead of prolonging it by trying to shorten it. Be polite. Don’t upset your friends with your transitory anxieties. Most likely, they have their own foolish apprehensions to deal with.

If you refuse to discard your usual McPozzm assumptions and hang on to the first clump of “metaphysical” trash that floats by, you will come to shore imagining that the junk you grabbed was the central meaning of the trip rather than the means you employed to avoid and deny it. Your new mental set, if any, will be determined, not by the truth, but by the repressive ideas to which you clung when the truth was too close for comfort.

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