OWSLEY ACID

        In the late 60’s, after putting out the first edition of a community-based poetry and photography magazine, People on the Streets, based in Washington, D.C., and engaging in several large anti-War rallies, my friend and I decided to take a break and travel to Mexico. Friends had told us about a village high in the mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean that San Francisco hippies had discovered. So, late in December, after a long drive South, we crossed the border and arrived at Zacatecas where bright-eyed Huichol Indians (who take psychedelic peyote and play tiny violins) live. Leaving that city behind, we traveled to Puerto Vallarta where we boarded an ancient ship (resembling the African Queen) which took us down the coast to Yelapa. Left on an empty white sand beach, we were greeted by a tall young blonde woman who told us to leave our baggage on the beach (because no one would disturb it) and go into the village to rent a pelapa (cottage). This pelapa was constructed out of stone and colored glass bottles in the lower third, dark timbers with large open wooden windows in the middle, and a thatched reed roof on top. In the interior, stone steps led up to a one-bedroom loft. We had been told, and the young woman confirmed, that Owsley acid was readily available. The next day, after taking the acid, we climbed to a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful tropical trees and multi-colored birds surrounded us, while beyond the blue, shading into deep blue, Pacific Ocean was shining. Taking acid was like having the coverings of one’s eyes torn off – forcing us to see everything “fresh” – like looking at the world through a newborn’s eyes. It was exhausting seeing everything as if for the first time. Later on, coming down just a bit, I thought this must be how Jesus saw the world – no “ego,” no “self” – just pure consciousness.

       When I came completely down, I wanted to experience life like this all the time, but knew this experience had been a gift of “magical” chemicals and that I would never be able to repeat it in the same way – no matter how many “trips” I took. I understood that I needed to earn my way back – by changing my life and becoming more “like” Jesus and by some serious study. I also understood it would be a long road and wondered if I would ever be able to accomplish it.

        If one thinks about consciousness as an open circle, the part accessible to one’s ego is a very thin slice – maybe 10% – 20%. From early childhood on, that’s the tiny part of ourselves we choose to live within – with our experiences needing to fit within that narrow slice or be excluded. Our ego requires, as the price for its effectiveness, that each and every experience outside the scope of its chosen roles to be methodically and ruthlessly pushed back into the unconscious – sealing off wider and wilder experiences out of our consciousness.

       When we’re “born again,” we gain access to all our consciousness – all 360 degrees of it – and are able to experience full reality. We become completely “free” – open to all experience – just like when we first came into the world. This rebirth, however, doesn’t happen within an ego – it only happens after we break free from that ego and start living outside it. That’s what Zen training, for example, prepares one for – to get “outside” oneself. This, essentially, is the path Jesus took, and what he was able to demonstrate for us. 

A BABY’S EYES

As a young lawyer, I represented art galleries, dance companies, “movement” activists, and various educational and religious groups, especially those wishing to qualify for federal tax-exempt status. During that time, I was representing a small Zen Buddhist group in Washington, D.C. At one point, they requested whether I would also represent their parent group, a large Zen Buddhist monastery in the Catskills. I agreed, but they then told me I would first have to personally meet their Zen Master, Eido Roshi. Every year he came to Georgetown University to give a talk so I would be able to meet him there. When the time came, I went to Georgetown and was led backstage for a face to face meeting. I was a bit apprehensive – what would it be like to meet a “real” Zen Master? The man I was introduced to was in his mid-sixties, but when I looked at him, the first thing I noticed were his eyes. I was looking at an elderly man, bearing a lifetime of experience, who was looking at me through a “baby’s” eyes. (Of course, how this actually works is that one automatically sees oneself through the other person’s eyes.) This was shocking to me – I had never seen anything like it!  What I learned was that human beings exist who are able to combine the openness and spontaneity of a child with a deep adult wisdom. I learned that human beings are not all alike and that, with respect to my own life, I certainly had a long way to go.

LOST IN THE MIST

The truth is we no longer have names
Since the old names no longer apply –
Now, we’re becoming as anonymous as God.

No one knows the original name of God either –
All those religions inspired by God’s ancient names
Have been shedding their names
Along with all the adjectives clustered around them.

That’s why I’m waiting for a new God without a name
To suddenly appear, like happened in the old days –
For example, when Jesus first arrived, no one knew who he was,
But now, everybody knows his name.

Pretty soon, many more of us will have lost our names
And forgotten who we are –
Lost in the mist –
Inadvertently painted over.

I myself was born with a name
But I’m about to lose it
When I step out into a sky of pulsing, radiant stars
I’ll become someone – way up there –
Someone who I no longer remember, and you don’t remember either –
Yes, it’s true – I’ll still be alive –
Alive, but no longer having my own name –

For now, just call me “God.”