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Ram Dass


Tape 42 Ram Dass 21.01.45-21.20.45 pp 290-295


A good one. Am I a new age person. Uh -- I think in probably the way I conceive of new age yes, although the new age isn't really new. I'm a perso that is tuned to a certain kind of reality, that is very ancient, but it keeps coming around again and again and so I'm part of this coming around at this moment.


Well it's probably new age is manifesting from probably many, many determinants, all that summate in some way. I mean when you - when I look back to the - like the '60s, which was some kind of critical turning point, I see the effects of - of people learning to live with the reality of the bomb. I see affluence in this culture. I see mobility. I see a communication media and the information age dawning. I see a lot of major determinants. I see um a shifting of world power structures in terms of the image the America has of itself.

Then there was the introduction of psychodelics which was certainly a major ah -

It just goes on for - until ---




Start that whole thing again.


This round of what changed goes back into the '60s. I'm sure there are threads behind it, but at - from my point of view, at the '60s, there was a coming together of an awful lot of forces, or a lot of things that forced shift in awareness. And they were things like ah the continuing presence of the bomb and the cold war and what that was doing to the consciousness, the collective consciousness. It was changing the meaning of time, of history. Because the people were beginning to get a fatigue and an awareness that they could end - life could end any moment and the bo.. the power of bomb, the tests and so on. There was the dawning of the information age, and there was - a result of that was a - a lot more people had a lot more power because there was more information disseminated more widely. Then there was this incredible mobility that started to happen so that people were moving around a great deal more. And there was the affluence to do it. And the media were learning how to make instant information available from anywhere in the world so that there were shifts - there were the fundamental shifts in time and space that didn't go with the old models we had. It was like what Einstein did to Newtonian physics, I mean Newtonian physics was right for the reality it was representing. Einstein just said it's all relative and if you stand in another place it's not - those aren't the laws. And in a way that's the major shift that happened in the social psychological sense, what Einstein did to physics is what happened in the '60s in the way of seeing reality. One thing was that the psychodelics which were things like silisivan, LSD, things like that - helped people over ride their habitual ways of seeing reality. And having in a way a kind of a fresh view. It was like having - regaining innocence for a moment. In a way you could say it's the reintroduction of innocence. That's what does it again. It's the reintroduction of a - of the purity of seeing the universe uncut by the human conceptual structure. And we - we - we live - a society lives in such a conspiracy of conceptual structures - we all agree that something is real. And it's interesting to go back to looking at this and not necessarily immediately your mind grabbing of some hand, but just seeing light and dark and shadows and going back to that. And ah that kind of awakening - undercuts in a way the conspiracies like the power conspiracies. I remember going to Washington and looking at things like the Pentagon and the - and the Treasury, and they all looked like papier mache creations of the fear of humanity. Wanting to be very impressive and be somebody. And part of what happened - certainly to me at that time - and to many thousands of us - tens of thousands of us - was that through our psychodelic experiences, we experienced a part of our being that was not part of the social context. We had found a place in ourselves behind that. It was as if there was an intuitively wise presence in our being and the - in Hinduism they call it the Ottman, they call it the Buddha mind, they call it Christ consciousness. You know. It's the Allah within. I mean you can find it in many many traditions. Just that intuitive wisdom. Once you tune in on that, you begin to_trust yourself and the society was based on the fact - in a way it's like the Protestant Reformation. It - it's a point where instead of having to have you - the mediation between you and truth - be it the church or the state - you are regaining your intuitive trust in your own self as a - as a way of knowing truth. And what that does is it undercuts the - a lot of social structures. And that began - I mean that was the precursor of sexual freedom, of minority movements. Now the minority movements didn't come out of drugs. I mean that was clear - but what the drugs did, which then went through rock and roll lyrics, and all - it went into a whole generation of people - was that it started - it opened Pandora's box. It opened the door of the possibility that - that it all could be reassessed, re-thought through. And that led in a lot of different directions. For some of us, we realized we had tasted something that was very graceful and very precious. I mean - but it was like in the Bible they talk about going to the wedding feast, but you get thrown out 'cause you're not wearing the wedding garment. And that was the feeling. Like you'd go and then you'd just taste it, and then you'd go back and we were very naive. Becuase we sort of assumed that the taste was - we had become the taste. And actually we'd only tasted it. And we assumed that what we had seen, once we saw it -- for example, when you look at other human beings, when you've grown up in a world where every -- where separateness is reinforced, and you have a somebodyness and you're busy being somebody, and then you look at somebody else and you shift your consciousness a little bit. You look at them, and instead of them being them, him or her, you look and you see us. And then you look even further out - I mean when you get out further mystically, you look and you see I. And then if you keep looking everything disappears. Now are those all just illusions and - I mean when I was a psychologist, when I first took these chemicals to alter my consciousness, as a research tool, I thought interesting hallucination. Because compared to the reality I had embraced and I was a scientist of at Harvard, this all was an altered state of consciousness. But William James, the philosopher, said our normal waking concsciousness is but one type of consciousness, while all about it parted from it by the filmiest of screen, there lie other types of consciousness. We may spend our entire lives without knowing of their existence. But apply the requisite stimulus and there they are in their completeness. Whatever their meaning, it behooves us not to prematurely close our accounts with reality. Now this was a major social philosophy - a psychologist. And it's interesting, 'cause I then got thrown out of William James Hall, at Harvard. And, I mean, he was like as far out as - certainly further out than I was.

And for me, for example, when I got involved with the psychodelics at Harvard, it was obvious that Harvard was a temple to the rational mind. And that psychodelics were over riding the rational mind and seeing the rational mind as a subsystem, and there was a metasystem. And it was like a - it was like heresy within that church and I think that Harvard was absolutely right to fire us. I mean I think - I would have done the same. If I had to represent that lineage. 'Cause it was - they were lineage holders. And I was not honoring the lineage, 'cause I - because visionaries and mystics are always heretical within a social system. The system is designed to keep this game together and this keeps pushing it out and creating new. And a - and a culture that's healthy should allow not total chaos, but some edge, some pseudopod of - some way for it to play with that innovative, and it should enfor... it should support it, not punish it. And it's got to find a delicate balance and not lead it into anarchy but to keep it going. So, then there was another thing was that we went to the moon. We got - we got out in outer space first. And so there were pictures of the earth as like this sphere floating in space, and it was our home. So tht a lot of the idea of nationalism, of um practically lived through the period - I mean when I was young, the world wasn't flat, but still the ocean was vast and it was weeks before you heard about what was going on in Africa, or in you know - and now we were beaming up satellites and you were seeing the whole thing. And it's - people don't - can't quite comprehend what is happening to them. How profoundly all these things are affecting their consciousness. Because as you change the meaning of time and space, and you open the possibility of other realms of reality. It's like ah everybody has in them the experience of these other planes of reality all the time. But more of the time their models of reality are so strong that they treat that as irrelevant or as - interference, or as ah aero variance or something like that in a scientific study.

So um what happened was, once the psychodelic I - I remember going to a - to Haute Villa in Arizona to meet the Hopi elders. To arrange a - ah Hopi hippy Be In, in Grand Canyon. Okay. Because we saw them as our spiritual elders. Because they had carried the torch of that rootedness to spirit and to um earth, not mediated by the intellect so much. When - in 1960, when I was a professor at Harvard, I was so disengaged from the earth and from my body, from everything other than my intellect, and that was the - that was how you became a high priest in that system. And that was science was the be all, end all, and technology was going to give us everything. I mean the splitting of the atom was going to change the whole scene of poverty in the world.

So once I had started to shift my consciousness then you look and you see history differently, because you're looking at history - suddenly Thoreau and - and Emerson and Whitman all come out at you as your - your ancestors in this journey. And the American Indian start to come out and suddenly - and after them seeing the white man as these people who were manipulating and exploiting them as objects, you could feel why they couldn't trust us. Even though we were beginning to understand the universe as Chief Seattle describes it or - or any of the great Indian wise people talked about.

Now, after it got in - in '65-6, all through that area - era - is this too slow? Or is this --


In '65-6-7, before it was called the summer of love, but all that period in through there. Um young people were beginning to ah recognize their own individual power in relation to the social structures. And they were dropping out of the game. They were not willing to play. Because they wanted more immediate gratfication. And the whole system was based on delayed gratification and that's been an interesting issue, all the way - I mean I wrote a book called "Be Here Now", which was misinterpretated means, get it while you can. In the most profound sense it means be fully in the moment which includes the past and the future. So it's a whole - depends on which level you're looking at it from.

What happened in the mid '60s was that Kennedy died. And that was another way in which the institutions became suspect. It was like the big institutions would kill the spirit. There was some way in which that - they - 'cause he was part of a myth. He was young. He was born in this century. I mean the whole thing was - he was the first one of those. And uh Martin Luther King's death - that whole - all of that was a big impact on disillusioning people. Also once they felt free of the verticality of social institutions, then people felt free to challenge the institutions. And the group bifurcated in the mid '60s so that some people saw that we had started to mine a treasure of ah - of wisdom, that came from iner work. And many of us turned to the east at that point. I remember when Aldous Huxley brought us the Tibetan Book of the Dead and we - I read this book - I had been taking psychodelics and I read something that was written by Tibetan lamas, 2500 years ago to be read at the time, the 49 days after death, and they were describing what had happened to me two nights before. In terms of the bardos and the experiences. These islands in between - states of consciousness. And I realized then - 'cause we thought we were reinventing the wheel. I mean we thought it was all new. Because Bob Dylan was beginning to sing about it. All - you know - and the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. And - but with Allan Watson, Aldous and various people who had - were tuned, we began to realize how - that we had opened the doors of perception but that behind those doors was a wisdom that at first we described as ineffable, as indescribable, but there were maps for them. And these maps were mainly in esoteric Christianity or Judaism, but in esoteric Hinduism and Buddhism. I mean they were available - really available in the east.

So a lot of us felt we gotta go and study more deeply and convert ourselves. Because we began to see - there was a moment where I think we began to understand that getting high wasn't - was - it was naive to think that everything was going to fall_before us because we had seen this thing. And that everybody wasn't seeing it that way. And we started these dramatic things of how could you get everybody to see it. It was clear you couldn't just say it and they could hear it, there had to be some experiential thing. But the experiential thing was too alien to the mainstream of the culture. The idea of taking a chemical as part of your education to alter your consciousness was just too radical for the society to understand, as an educational vehicle. So um - but the seeds were planted at that moment. And some of us felt we should go inward and learn the maps and do the deeper study and others took this new freedom in social institutions and turned it into political activism. And that started the anti- Vietnam movement, which came out of that whole world. Also this - this opening that happened was amorphus undefined. We wanted to - - we created communes at that time, new economical social structures. That's the beginning of what's called the new age. 'Cause a lot of the communes - I mean I'm connected with a commune now that's 25 years - 24 years old now. And ah still alive and healthy. And these were our attempts to create social structures that honored the individual more, that were less repressive of the individual spirit. I think that's - and honor the spiritual dimensions of life. And use bartering, and you change the economic game a lot too.

Tape 43 Ram Dass 21.30.54-21.50.44 pp 296-301

Whenever something comes into collec... Social consciousness, that has power, almost immediately people that want to use the power for their own personal end, start to move in and take it over. And that's the corruption. And you have a moment when the something is innocent and pure and then you have the whole subsequent corruption. And so to say that the new age is nothing because it is - it is a travesty of itself, in a way, 'cause it's the old culture just written in with new labels, is missing the original juice in it, that's still lurking in it all somewhere. And - but it gets so distorted by people ripping it off for - in order to - to touch the power and play with it, but not give up their - where they're standing. Because it's clear that when something that profound comes along, anybody that has vested interest in the old way of social structures is going to feel threatened by that, 'cause they start to lose their power. Because the minute you go from vertical power to more horizontal power, a lot of people lose power, while a lot of people are gaining the power. And, I mean, what's happened to the white population United Stats - the blacks and Hispanic population have increased and it's exquisite. It's a beautiful moment of forced growth for everybody. And I think Martin Luther King's line that - that - he said that the way we do this process has to be something that heals everybody - white and black alike. Not just the black people. Don't just win. Everybody's got to win. And Gandhi saw the same thing in the way social change must occur. And I think that what happened was that the anti Vietnam movement was taking the energy and interpreting it too much in revolutionary and not evolutionary terms. In fighting father, in fighting the bad guys up there and not a full recognition that - that they - the qualities in human - of human condition such as greed or lust or fear or - are in all of us, and that it's an inner battle that we're dealing with. We're fighting ourselves. We're not fighting them. It's not like the bad guys in the White House or something like that. So that there was an impurity or an immaturity in the way the energy was then taken and - and yet, it was against injustice and against um old shibeloths, old belief systems that - that were no longer - no longer relevant. I mean a lot of the Puritan values, a lot of the Protestant ethic. We were dealing with an affluence and a culture that allowed for leisure time, but the Protestant ethic wasn't - nobody expected - nobody knew what to do with leisure time. I mean leisure time was for fun. The whole idea of growth movements, which came later, it was interesting that people worked so hard, in this country, to get it going - after they took it away from the Indians - that they got to the point where when they had a few minutes they - they rested. It was the 7th day, or they played later. The idea that you would use your time to deepen your wisdom, so on, wasn't - it was in the religious traditions but not in the secular tradition. So uh the scene bifurcated really in the late '60s._Between the political activist wing and that was the most visible wing. And - and um then all of the other things turned sour. I mean the - and the eastern influence which - I mean in '67 I went to India. And there I found people who - who not only were familiar with the maps, but lived their lives according to the tenets of the maps. I mean I met Tibetans and I met Hindus and I met Terravadden Buddhists and I met beings who had spent their lives on inner work. And they were a statement of what I had taken a psychodelic to touch. I remember when my guru took ah 1200 micrograms of LSD, which is a huge amount of LSD, and nothing happened to him because when you're in Detroit you don't have to take a bus to go to Detroit. I mean he was - he already had altered his consciousness. He didn't need - he wasn't clinging to any conceptual structure.

What happened to me in the early '60s, I would say 28 years later, I am still attempting to integrate. And it seems to me that what the new age is attempting to do is when one of those moments when you could say the clouds part, and God looks at earth, or the Spirit comes in, or the human heart is reinvested with the truth, then the human mind starts to take it over and do something with it. And then it gets - it starts to get veiled again and veiled again and veiled again and then the energy starts to disappear. And unless you're constantly working on the practices of yourself, and through the '70s it was called the ME generation. Because many people realized that there was some taste of something but they had to clean away a lot of psychological stuff that was there. And that, a lot of people got trapped. They got so enamored of the psychology. I mean there were - along the way there were many people that stopped to smell the little flowers along the path, and they don't keep going, you know. It - and people say look, part of the yuppie movement in this country was - has been people saying uh my consciousness is - what happened to me in the '60s and early '70s has allowed me to see how to play the game more playfully. I'll now play the game of the establishment, rather than pitting myself against it, and when I play it, I can play it so easily and I can get the benefits of it so easily. And they they only begin to see that they're substituting new attachments, they're substituting another veil, in a way, that - but yet, it's a healthy process. Because when you've pushed away stuff from a revolutionary point of view, it's still in you. You haven't gotten rid of it. And then you've got to come back and eat it alive. You've got to come back and go through it until your BMW is just a car. Until your - all of the stuff is just lovely stuff. And then you're beginning to be ready to hear again. So there is - at the same moment there is a corruption that has gone on for the 20 years. There is a purification that has gone on. A purification realizing that the original thing was too innocent, too naive. The realization that you have to have - you have to purify yourself in order to be a container or a holder for that quality of compassion, and that quality of wisdom and that quality of emptiness. That there's a lot of work one has to do on oneself.

And that seems to be lurking in what happened in the '70s was there was a big influx of gurus from the east, ashrams, spiritual trainings, which were partly that process of reminding and awakening, instead of drugs. And then there was the growth movement, the psychological growth movement, like Esselin and places like that - Omega - which were designed to - the transpersonal psychology movement, that was all designed to help people reperceive psychology from a relative reality point of view. I would say that was what that was ... and there were a lot of new --- the - the kind of monolothic structures in government, in psychology - like Freud, then Jung was this kind of interloper over here, but Freudian theory was, and then suddenly there was Mazlow and there was this and there was Reich and there was all kinds - it was a wide open thing. And then the - we went from this incredible, puritanical denial of the body. Then there was this sexual freedom movement. And then there was sensuality, and California was like the leading edge of that, of the touchy feely movement where - where the baths and the massages and suddenly people realized that the relation between mind and body and spirit were - were the work of being a human. That the work of being a human wasn't just the development of the intellect, and it wasn't just the - the romanticism of the heart. It was a deeper quality of existence that was possible. But it took that balance. That kind of anarchy in the structures - social structures - led to the whole holistic health movement, where people could start to have some control over their own health destiny. And didn't have to just trust. I remember going from - when I hurt my neck, the only thing you did, when I was young was you went to an orthopedic surgeon and he gave you aspirin or put you in tension. Then I remember there were osteopaths. Those were pretty far out, right. But they were still MD's, so that was allowed. Then it was years before there was a chiro--- I mean chiropracters were like you didn't even talk about them. If you were a scientist. And then suddenly I was going to chiropracters and they were aligning my spine and they were helping me. And it's the same way, when I was at Harvard, the whole health service - the mental health service - was 9 psychiatrists and me. And I was the first psychologist they let do therapy. Not ten years later, social workers were doing the therapy, psychologists were now the greybeards, but the whole thing kept changing. There was a kind of a - just a wild opening of this kind of horizontal power structure where more power was distributed more widely. More self help programs, all the - all the self help programs kept getting generated out of the original AA concept.

Okay, that --


Um - first of all the geography and the climate had an effect. The - just the physical beauty and the availability of the outdoors is a major component. And so that that - California attracted - it was a different kind of scene. New England and the east coast was entrenched power. California was always the leading edge of the renegade, the rebellion, the whatever that was - it was always the outer reaches of that social structure. It wasn't quite taken seriously by the eastern establishment for a long time, you know. Hollywood, when it first made films, was seen as kind of a joke, by the eastern establishment. And it was only in recent years that the power economic bases have significantly shifted. But because of that, it was freer to play - it - it wasn't as linked to England and to Europe - it wasn't as linked to those social structures. And so there was a more experimental, more nature, more playful, more open, more radical, more innovative environment that could nurture something changing. And um - the exciting moments, like in the Haight Ashbury or the early '60s, in the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park, when there was new music, there was the San Francisco sound. There was the psychodelics. There was the art of this new kind of psychodelic art. And there were also the um the beginnings of new movements, of psychology, of ah - I don't - I can't think of political things that were very innovative out here then.


Yeah, but that was later. That was a little later. And - but Jerry, sure. Jerry came out of, you know Zen Buddhist training and the Catholic Church. So that combination was interesting.


Exactly. And also - the immigration from the east into - 'cause San Francisco was already a cosmopolitan city, but different. It didn't have a European constituency. It had an Asian constituency. And Los Angeles had a combination of Hispanic and Asian. And those things were affecting it also. There was a lot of cultural input. So that even in the '50s, in the North Beach, when Allan Ginsburg and Gregory Corso and Larry Philgetti and all those people - Bill Barazol - there was an easte..... Alan Watts was out here doing -- I mean when I was a graduate student of Stanford here, and it's '56, '55 - I used to religiously listen to Alan Watts on the radio every Sunday morning, the talkings and Buddhism. And that was in the early '50s. So that it was - and the Asian - his Asian Institute, which became the California Institute of Integral Studies was - that was all um had a - it had a fertile soil to grow in out here.

When they - the kids - when they started to - it's interesting that the - the energy did move to the Bay area, for example. It did move here. It didn't move to New York initially. I mean I remember, in New York it was much more the elite musicians, the elite poets. It wasn't the mass - because the climate - you couldn't live cheaply in New York like you could live cheaply out here. It was much easier to live on - to be a street person out here.


You had to suffer, exactly.

And in suffering, climates it's a different kind of a social scene that gives forth. And ah -


... spirit of reality, external freedoms ... information age, networking. Separatism - nothing terribly important. I think ..


I think that the um - the most profound aspects of perceptual shift have mainstreamed. They've come into the mainstream of culture. The ones that were really going to be an evolutionary step forward. So I don't feel now that there is a new age thing that represents something that is separate from the culture any longer - that's new in that sense. I ah - it's got the palest reflections of what it once was, of what it tasted - it's come down through so many permutations now. And ah -- I can -- it certainly hasn't manifested - well let me put it a more positive way. There are elements in the art world, in the music world, in education, that are still going on, still resonating. I think we're still finding ways - it's like each different part of society then has to be slightly transformed to bring it up to date. It's the way in which multi nationals are changing the meaning of nationalism. I mean it all has to go - as - as Jerry Brown once said to me, the ship of state of turns slowly. You know. But after something profound has_happened, before it get all institutionalized it takes generations for that to happen. And ah so that there is still all that atunement and alignment going, because it's very hard to have the social perception of seeing other people as family or as yourself, and then acting out of a group of laws that are based on seeing them as them. And how quickly - how slowly the laws change, or how slowly all that stuff changes. So I can feel those relignments happening. Because, like a magazine, or a radio show or television show, that represents that deeper truth, when it isn't rebellious or anti- establishment, runs and people - it resonates with a place in people, that they know is true now, that they know is true now, that they didn't know before. It was - it was - that they'd never had an externalized representation. I did a series of television shows called "How Then Should We Live" that were run on PBS. And uh I was amazed at the feedback from mainstream culture. And when I do lectures in the midwest and I look at my audience and none of them - I'd say 70-80% never took grass or drugs. They never read eastern mysticism. And yet, I'll say the things that come out of the deepest truths I've found, and they're going like this. And I realize the joy that we've cut through the method we got there, you know, into I've got this great story of giving a lecture where there was a woman sitting in the front row who was ....

TAPE 44 Ram Dass 22.00.49-22.21.20 pp 302-309

I was giving this lecture back in the 70's and everybody in those days wore white, and they had flowers in their hair and we sang a lot, and we were all - it was like an explorers club coming together, and sitting in the front row was this woman about 70 years old and she had - she had a bonnet on with little strawberries, plastic strawberries, and cherries and things and she had a black patent leather bag and solid oxfords and a print dress and she was a very - I kept thinking, she was so unlike everybody else in the audience, I kept thinking what is she doing here. I thought maybe she's somebody's grandmother or somebody brought her or - so I would tell these far out stories that what happened to me under psychedelics for the most part or deep meditation, and I'd look over and she'd be going like this, and I thought well maybe she has a neck problem. I mean it was inconceivable to me that she could understand what I was talking about, and she kept going like this and I kept getting more far out and watching - I mean the whole evening became focussed on this woman. And at the end I couldn't stand it, the evening was over. And I just had to know and I kind of smiled her up - actually couldn't get away, and she came up and she said oh thank you that's - the way you said it she said that's just the way I understand the universe to be, and I said, how do you know? What have you done in your life that has put you in the space where you know these things, and she leaned forward very conspiratorily and she said, I crochet, and that moment of realizing that just the simplest thing, that in the way she did that took her into those spaces and realizing at that moment that I had gotten so hooked on my method, and that methods are methods are methods and people do it all different kinds of ways, and that's part of what the society now has done, is it's embraced these shifting perceptions within frameworks that it's comfortable with and familiar with.

I think we can stop there.