Elder Interviews: Jim Fadiman, 1998 Part 2

On Sale Now! The Hasheesh Eater

Here we go with the second part!

Elder Interviews: Jim Fadiman, 1998 Part 2

Second Half Continued:
He died of a heart attack, running around his swimming pool in California, doing his exercises to prevent a heart attack.

: But do you know that he had a psychedelic experience?
JF: That’s correct, as Stan has told you.

: But you also found a certain level of hostility from some of the entrenched powers of the humanistic movement. Where was that resistance corning from? Because, in other respects, they were rather progressive for their time. Why was the psychedelic issue, the transpersonal movement, so antithetical to where their belief systems were?

JF: Since I made an interior move from their position to mine, I really have a good feeling for it, which is: If you have been brought up in a world where there is only this world, in a sense you’ve been brought up intellectually provincial. The only experiences you’ve had with religion have been with people who also have never had any spiritual experience. If, you’ve been brought up where there’s formal religion. You then have people who are speaking in all the metaphors of religion – because that’s the best language we have – but all it brings up for you is your own rather impoverished spiritual background. You then project onto them or to me that if I’m speaking about being a divine agent of God, that I’m clearly a paranoid schizophrenic about to knife you. Because paranoid schizophrenics talk about being the divine agents or angels of God. You get people who are truly dealing with the fear that their entire worldview is little. When you’re in a position of power and your entire worldview is little, it’s not unrealistic for you to say that the people who are attacking it must be wrong.

Psychology has a wonderful way of turning disagreement into derangement, into disability, into pathology. When I said I wore a coat and tie at Stanford that was a very conscious and deliberate effort to make sure that people did not even ask me what I knew. A very nice way of saying it is: Fear in the scientific world is usually called skepticism. The people who I ran into – and run into today- truly are saying, as Werner Erhard might say, “From my observation and experience, everything you’re talking about does not exist.” If you read ancient history and you get, Herodotus’s view of certain ancient peoples who lived in places he’d never been, maybe carried their heads under their arms – I believe that was one of the groups that he writes about. If I’ve had no experience with that it’s unlikely, it’s unlikely that if you’ve never seen a giraffe or an elephant, that either exists. If you’ve had a little bit of biology, it’s highly unlikely that a duckbilled platypus exists. If someone comes to you and says “I would like you to meet my friend the elephant who will carry us in his trunk into the jungle.” Correctly, you would say “I’d rather you go away, and I certainly don’t want to hire you in my school. I certainly don’t want to publish your articles.”

: Would you say that this is also reflective of why the culture at large became so hostile to psychedelics, and why, after the initial enthusiasm, there was a wave of repression which included shutting down your Stanford program?

JF: Well, the way I’ve looked at it is that psychedelics were a wave growing in magnitude, and Vietnam was this stone wall. When psychedelics met Vietnam, the country split apart, the old guard who had created and maintained a Vietnam and were into war and so forth were correctly, terribly threatened. Because the psychedelic people were saying “We are not really interested in any of your institutions, and we’re willing to do what’s necessary to tear them down. We’re willing to eliminate your university, not to add some courses. We’re willing to eliminate your military, not improve training. We’re willing to turn your churches into parks, because true religious experience does not work well in stone halls. Each of those institutions said, “I don’t know what you guys are up to, but I’m so deeply threatened, to the extent that I can stop you, I will. Basically, you saw got an amazing unity of the major institutions against the psychedelic wave. What the major institutions said was, “We control all the guns. We control all the universities. We control all the roads. We control medicine. And, by God, we are at war with these people who are not content to let us live our lives, but are determined through the most dangerous and most vulnerable part of us, our children, to take away the love and respect and support of our institutions and ourselves.” From their point of view, it’s hard to know what else they could have done.

The Feast

: … also, you’re a great storyteller.

JF: I once looked at my speaking patterns; they are closest to pre-stroke Ram Dass. I was listening to him a couple of times and I got “Whoo!”

: You’ve just got the tempo …

JF: Tempo, well, the use of timing, use of humor, only for serious points. For instance, I never tell jokes, and I can. I don’t do anything for humor, but I use humor continuously as a way of breaking frameworks.

JF: It can be, but it’s the way I see the world. I mean, I really do see the world in its dramatic potential.

.: Recently I looked through a listing of all the articles in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology over the years. In the first six or seven years are a great number of articles addressing the psychedelic issue. Then for about the next 12, 13, 14 years there’s not one article on psychedelics. What happened with the evolution of the transpersonal movement, and why did psychedelics fall out until relatively recently, when they re-entered?

JF: Let’s make the question just a little larger: Where did psychedelics really deeply influence parts of the culture? If you go down a list of the major people in transpersonal psychology, or spiritual psychologies in general, what you will find is: Almost everyone was deeply affected by their own psychedelic experience. Let me give you a parallel world, which is if you go to a conference of the great computer hackers and breakthrough computer people of the first wave of computer companies, all of them were deeply affected by psychedelics. You will not find any mention of psychedelics in the history of computers, because it didn’t serve them to mention it, except to one another. At some point there’ll be a great outing of those people. Many of them have been asked and they have said, no, they would rather not come out at this point. What you got were people who were working with consciousness in the transpersonal. We’re also creating and trying to define what this branch of psychology was. What we found is: As we expanded, there were more and more people who were deeply concerned with one or another aspects of a spiritual tradition and how that affected consciousness. In a sense, psychedelics were less and less important to filling in the puzzle.

While the major figures all were affected by psychedelics, maybe continued to use them, maybe not, what was transpersonal became far larger. The way I like to talk about it is: People say, “Well, what is transpersonal psychology versus conventional psychology?” I reply, “Conventional psychology is at least 150 years old, and transpersonal psychology is 5,000 years old. What we learned is there are a lot of people who had actually explored things for hundreds of years that we were just discovering. We tended to begin to look to the Buddhists and the Tibetans and the Hindus – not for exploring our own personal experience, but for seeing how the worldview was discoverable through these much longer and sophisticated lenses. I mean, one of the things, as my blackboard incident says, is my understanding of things was not very large. I understand the fundamental truth of the universe, but if you ask me to describe that, I will fall into one metaphorical system or another, because I don’t have any choice. Transpersonal began to realize that we were able to publish articles of incredible depth and sophistication by drawing on thousands of years of other people’s work, rather than our early issues where we were drawing on our own personal experience which was initially naive and certainly kind of wobbly.

If you look at Castaneda’s work, you know, the first book of Castaneda says “I am a jerky graduate student, and I fell into a bunch of people, some of whom were illiterate, but all of them knew about a thousand times as much as I ever will, and, at the end of my book, I will throw in a little anthropological nonsense to prove that I am still a graduate student.” Gradually you lose any possibility that Castaneda knows anything of relevance, and that he is working from a worldview unknown to the rest of us, of the Native Mexican-American tradition. As we learn, he begins to understand that he was given psychedelics a lot because he had such a thick head and had so many conceptual boundaries that the question is: What can we do to get him to understand anything at all? I think Charlie Tart says that there are some of us who need to be hit across the head with a 2×4 to get our attention. We basically moved from our own self-congratulatory explorations to a much wider version of the world. I’ve given lectures and written books on certain religious traditions. Can I find psychedelics in those traditions? Of course. Do I need to mention it? Not particularly. Also, of course, as psychedelics had worse and worse press, and became less associated with fundamental religious experience, and more and more connected to whatever the federal government’s dishonest take of the day was, it was just less useful. Now you meet people in the transpersonal world – particularly people from other countries – who have come to transpersonal entirely without psychedelic experience, through various spiritual traditions.

Dialogue Of Dreams

: I guess now in the last six or seven years you’re starting to once again see articles on psychedelics in the transpersonal literature, there are xx [?] on psychedelics at the transpersonal conferences. What are the implications of this latest turn?

JF: The trend in the culture is to gently begin to admit, that while the federal government has stopped research, and the journal stopped accepting articles, and the funding organizations dried up, that young people are still taking psychedelics. Young people, predominantly better educated, and they are beginning to kind of admit to each other that the decades of misinformation hasn’t really held as well as the makers of disinformation would like. Just as it is generally known among approximately 12 to 20 million people that marijuana is not bad for you. Ginsberg said many years ago, “Imagine, given the success of marijuana and other psychedelic drugs, given the entirely hostile and wrong information about marijuana – imagine if we were allowed to advertise like tobacco.” What you’re seeing is another generation, of which some of you are members, that say, “I honestly had to look at my own experience versus the walls of misinformation, and my own experience seemed to be more valid. It’s now not so terrible to talk about psychedelics, because if you say in any public forum, “The government is both misinformed and misinforming,” no one is upset. Hitler had a theory that the Big Lie would work. And it does, unless you have personal experience.

Twenty years of Grateful Dead concerts have left a kind of road on which the culture of people who’ve had personal experience travel. The reason that marijuana is now available for medical use, whether the State of California likes it or not, is because too many physicians were saying it was a good idea. In spite of all of the rules that said that you are not allowed to tell the truth if you are a physician. You’re not allowed to tell the truth if you’re a psychologist. I did a series of films on psychedelics many years ago for KQED. And what we learned is – this was in the mid-Sixties, ’67 or so – that young people already knew that if someone was introduced as a government official or a physician that they were about to be lied to. That was the starting place in ’67. That core understanding – that you cannot trust your government to tell you about your own inner experience – has been maintained. We’re now seeing a kind of another wave of people who are in positions of authority and knowledge and responsibility who are being asked – particularly again by their children, now the third generation: “What’s the truth?”

: Were you also saying that, back then at least, you could not trust your physician to tell you the truth about your health?

JF: Right. This was at a period when if you had cancer your physician wouldn’t tell you.

Dream Engine

: Well, what about today? Looking at this, we had the origins of the transpersonal movement, which were heavily grounded in the psychedelic experience.

JF: Right.

: A long maturing period where the great world traditions were embraced, incorporated. Now, there’s a sense that psychedelics are opening up again, a bit perhaps in a less dramatic way, a bit more subtle. Looking at the role of physician, let’s say, who seem to have monopoly over administering drugs, can you envision a phenomena, a transpersonal psychiatry which would more directly address psychedelic drug administration?

JF: Well, I think there are two contexts for psychedelic. One is psychedelic, and the other is entheogenic. Entheogenic is that one’s religion must be a private act, and that government suppression of private, internal events is fundamentally against humanity. President Clinton, on his first trip to China, said there are certain fundamental human freedoms. One of them has been, in the United States. the freedom of religion. That’s the entheogenic path. That’s the path that I am committed to, because I now realize that the government did not stop my research with that letter ending the research in the next room on creativity. It basically said, “You may not practice your religion, or we will physically imprison you.” That’s a rather striking departure from what the United States has historically done.

The other use, what my dissertation, for example, reports, which is the use of psychedelics to help people live better lives by having less neurosis, less psychosis, less fixations, less perversions, whatever. It’s a very different question. Maybe that should be in the hands of the people who historically in a culture administer interventions, which have been called ‘medical.’ Now I’m personally a lot more radical than that, because I recall in the United States around 1830, the laws were: Anyone could practice any kind of healing or medicine they wish. If you hurt people, you could be sued. If you didn’t hurt people, then you wouldn’t be sued. That’s where I’m coming from, which is the freedom to help people. We’ve lost that to many professions. I am not a licensed psychologist, which means that I cannot legally help people and charge them. With that said, I’m also a minister, and I can help people if I wish. I have that freedom to be helpful. If I were a psychologist I would have an enormous set of restrictions on how I could help them. If I were a physician, I would have a different set of restrictions on how I could help them. I’ve opted for the religious way, which gives me the maximum freedom to be of maximum use.


: Looking in your crystal ball, projecting ahead into the future, do you prognosticate a role for psychedelics, for entheogens? At least in these models?

JF: Until we get to the bottom of this current era of enormous moral repression, things will not change much. This is a real Inquisition era that we’ve moved into, where the goal of enormous number of people in this country is to prevent other peoples having the right to choose: the right to have children or not to have children, the right to have medicine or not to have medicine, the right to have religion or not to have religion. We’re reached reaching a pretty ugly place in terms of the decline of personal freedom. Hopefully, we’ll bottom out, and the next wave will not only allow psychedelics in the medical model, and entheogens in the spiritual model, but will really begin to set up structures that make sense. Just as there are now some religions coming out of Brazil which have found not only, very sensible structures for entheogen use, but are remarkably middle class – non socially disruptive, non tear-down-the-foundations-of­ society – groups. The problem that we had in the ’60s: It’s not that our vision of what the world could be was incorrect. It was, that by tearing down the buildings we happened to be standing in, we made it doubly difficult. It’s like Yugoslavia really has pushed itself back to about the 14th century by everybody shooting at everybody. Yes, they had some disagreements, but everyone lost enormously because everyone went too far. In a sense, that was the problem with the ’60s. That isn’t happening on this next round. The nice thing about the desire in the medical profession to alleviate human suffering is: that everyone at some point gets that they could be helped. The entheogenic route is a little more difficult, but will probably occur as country after country stops buying into the United States’ demands to have a drug policy that meets our morally conservative paranoia. The camel’s nose under the tent is really medical marijuana. Once you admit that a substance that your government says is unmitigated evil for all people at all times, no matter what, and we should not learn anything about it, should we be wrong has been wildly wrong, thing start to change. At some point, grownup nations start saying, “Golly, this really doesn’t sound like the way grownups behave. Even if the largest bully on the planet keeps saying, ‘You gotta do it our way,’ our own citizens really deserve better.” At this moment in England, the House of Lords is looking into if medical marijuana a good idea. Same time, the drug czar of England has recently busted his own son. Okay? We are dealing with a little bit of nuttiness here, at a very high level. But we’re not dealing with nuttiness in the House of Lords, because the House of Lords really doesn’t have a great stake in medical marijuana, for or against. We in this country have bought into such a set of lies that it’s very hard for a politician to say, “Huhh! All my colleagues and I have been lying to you for 30 years. All the people who I trusted for information when I was just a hustling attorney trying to get a job in Congress, lied to me and I continue to pay them.” Hard. It’s very hard to find grownup politicians who will say, “I was wrong.” We have Havel, Mandela, – a few great beings. But most politicians feel afraid to say, “I was wrong.” However, I think the future is basically bright-in cycles. In some ways, I’d like it to get to the worst as soon as possible, so we could get done with it.

: Jim what would you say to young people about psychedelics?

JF: I would basically give them my ’60s lecture on set and setting, which is: If you’re going to use psychedelics, do it with someone you love, and hopefully someone who’s been there before you, and be aware that you may find out that the world is even better than you ever thought. Sometimes people do ask me that. I recently was talking with a recent Stanford MBA, who was really asking that question. I saw that MBA about three months later, and she said, “The world is really wonderful!” She said, “And yeah, to think I was afraid.” I said, “Well, when you’re afraid, that’s not the right time.” Really, what I say is – If it feels correct then you’re going to go ahead, and by all means try and understand what the truth of these things are, which is that they are very powerful, and that you can indeed make a lot of mistakes. I can tell you about all of our mistakes, because, you need to make your own mistakes, while you’re on your own path.


: How would you say that the psychedelic experience in your own life has affected your personal views, about aging and death?

JF: Those are really two separate questions. Let’s take death, because that’s easy. My psychedelic experience is very clear that for Jim Fadiman death is certainly going to end a lot of interesting anecdotal material. As Jim Fadiman, I certainly think that’s terrible. But as I- this other I – big deal! -I deeply have the realization that my personality is like my shirt. When my shirt really gets ragged enough, I’ll take it off. There are other shirts. “In my house, there are many shirts,” to ruin a perfectly good quote from Edgar Cayce. Death is something that I don’t particularly look forward to it, even if, it’s as someone said, it will cure whatever ails you. Eventually all your troubles, whatever your conditions are, you don’t have to worry. So that’s fine.

As for aging, I haven’t found much going for it yet. That’s why I’m one of the psychedelic “pioneers’” and I’m very happy to be joining psychedelic “elders,” who are certainly considerably older than I am.

: I think one way of our looking at ‘elders’ was: What information would they want to pass on to younger people.

JF: I understand. The word ‘elder’ from a shamanistic position is the right word. Ram Dass used to use a different term – which I think is really more what pioneer is about- which is “explorer.” What he said is “Now and then you’d go back to the Explorers Club and they’d say: ‘Where you been?”‘ I feel more like someone who’s part of National Geographic than the Akashic Records. What I say to young people is basically to understand that the government has misinformed you very, very badly, and that it would be an awful lot better if you knew what the truth was before you worked with psychedelics.

That is probably because the level of misinformation is so great, people are using psychedelics a little too young. What I learned from my own research is that psychedelics took your life experience and composted it, so that something new could grow. If you really didn’t have too much experience it didn’t seem to be much effect. You didn’t seem to gain enough. I look at psychedelics always as learning tools. Even in the middle of a psychedelic experience I would begin to think, “I wonder what I’m going to do with this?” I’d like it to be over so I can start to get to the digestion and assimilation and new brain cell production. The act of the psychedelic experience itself wasn’t what was of major interest.

Mind’s Eye

: Amongst indigenous peoples it’s not the young people going off on their own to take plants, psychedelics. Rather, it’s the elders facilitating a ritual of initiation to really, who’s desire it’s not for them to have a great personal experience but to fully incorporate them as functional adults within the society, within the community.

JF: Unless you know something about the nature of life and death, you’re not a grown up. Once you know something about the nature of life and death, then you don’t have much choice but to be a grownup. That’s the model that makes sense to me. So back to aging … As I got grew up fairly quickly during the ’60s, in terms of the deep things I know, I have filled in a lifetime of the shallow things: the making a living, and writing books, and having a family, and so forth. All of which, I’m very happy with. I’m not at all distressed about my life. But you do those whenever they come up. What I notice is that when I was much younger, old people were the age I am now. At my age, I still find old people are somewhat older. I don’t have much of a grasp on aging. I don’t do it much. I notice friends get into it but doesn’t attract me. When friends say, “Do you want to get cardiovascular improvement?” or “Would you like to go to the Galapagos?” I’d still rather go to the Galapagos.

Chelation doesn’t look like something I’m going to get excited by. Also, I’m a social being and what I’ve found is that one of the things about aging is that you become invisible to certain age groups. I don’t really find being invisible feels good, in terms of my neurotic needs and my desire to be liked and to do speaking and tell stories, it just doesn’t work for me. When someone says, “I’d like to learn something from you,” I’d prefer that we don’t have an age barrier. A problem, at least in this culture, is that aging raises those little barriers.

: Have you used psychedelics in more recent years? And if so have you found anything new?

JF: I had a long period in which I didn’t use them. Partly again, problems of set and setting. Making things illegal really doesn’t improve them. Most of my work was legal and legitimate. When I took psychedelics near the end of that period, it was still basically an acceptable thing; the thought police had not arrived.

There was a long period when I didn’t take them, but in the last year or so, I had a major psychedelic experience. My major concern, from that place of psychedelic clarity, could I say if had I lived my life within the framework of this larger vision. It was like a precursor of the Last Judgment, where they get those scales out and they weigh all those dirty things you did and all that groovy stuff you did, and you just watch the scale. I was relieved to find out that my life’s all right. Now, at higher levels, it couldn’t matter less what my life was, had I been a mass murderer and given bubonic plague to millions of children – at a high enough level, that’s just the way the universe was working.

The level I was looking at was a very conventional, which is: Did I make use of what I’d learned in the way I treated human beings, the way I treated myself, the way I loved, the way I expanded. I was taking a kind of long evaluation session. I could very comfortably, certainly wanted to go back to a more what I would call directly spiritual, where we bypass all that. Didn’t happen. What I got out of it was a reaffirmation that my personality doesn’t hold my interest. It’s a good tool; I like it. It’s a tool for the kinds of things I do in the world. But so is my Honda.

: What does hold your interest?

JF: I’ve been freed from reading psychology, which is just an enormous gift of personal liberation. I returned to literature, where all the great psychological thinking was. From there, I’ve moved into writing fiction. What I’ve finding is that, as someone said, “If it’s fiction, it better be true.” I can say more clearly what interests me and explore it more deeply using the structure, the superstructure, the scaffolding of fiction more than anything else. I’m also looking at: Where am I totally deficient due to my education? The visual arts. I had a sixth-grade teacher who managed — with enormous perseverance over my sixth-grade year -to kill any possibility of drawing or painting or any kind of making imagery. In the last couple of years, I’ve taken drawing classes, basically to get over that. What I’ve found is: There is a kind of meditative clarity, putting my personality aside, when I am trying to draw. After several years, I’m still not very good, but the feeling of pleasure in the doing keeps increasing. Without keeping learning, I feel I would have become boring to myself and I certainly couldn’t have maintained a decent marriage.

I have a pretty good idea of who I was as a Harvard undergraduate. As someone once said of me, “Does he ever have a serious thought?” I was a silly, smart, clever, sarcastic, childish, arrogant yecchh! I mean, I’m amused by who I was, but I certainly wouldn’t have him for dinner. My world was very, very tiny. It was based on having a very large vocabulary, a moderately large IQ, and so little soul, that if you measured it in teaspoons you probably wouldn’t have tasted it. I wasn’t bas but I wasn’t much. I am very clear that psychedelics were the fundamental resource upon which I have drawn to become a human being. Does that. .. ? [laughs]

Our Lady Of The Inner Journey

: That’s a great answer, in fact, yeah. Who do you think should take psychedelics? Say, if it was in your power to design policy?

JF: Right, if it were in my power to design policy I would probably design something the way adult literacy is designed. For people to be given this experience in a good enough setting, those who are interested in helping other people would be empowered to do so. Certainly, there is no historical precedent for them to be people trained in either mental health or physical health as the primary criteria. It is very useful to have such people available, because sometimes there are problems, because these are very powerful and important materials. I would certainly feel very strongly that to return entheogens to a guide relationship, which has been true in every culture that I have studied, and during the years when I studied all cultures for their kind of entheogenic relevance, that’s what I found. The idea that people should go off and trip with people their own age, who don’t know any more than they do, be they 50 or 20 or 12, has never worked very well, and it didn’t work real well in our culture. If I were the religion czar, the spiritual experience czar, and decreed that people would be allowed to have freedom of religion in the United States of America, I would start by saying that freedom of religion of an entheogenic sort will be done similarly to the way one flies a private plane, which is: You don’t go up alone, you go up with someone who knows more than you do, and they steer the plane till you know how.

: What advice would you have for those of us who are interested in working within the system to make psychedelics available for healing? And similarly, what advice would you have for those like Bob Jesse who want to work within the system to make psychedelics available for religious experience?

JF: For those of you in the healing arts my advice is: Never trust anyone in the media to give you a fair shake. Even if you have given them psychedelics and their entire life is devoted to serving it.

: I’ve been through that one.

JF: That’s the first bit of advice. The second is – I don’t have any advice for you, I feel a combination of admiration and sorrow at the large rock you’re pushing up a very steep hill. When you get it up to the top each time, somebody pushes it down. In some sense you are a holding action; you are preventing the wisdom from being lost totally.

It’s like the Irish monks in the.9th and 10th centuries: You’re holding the knowledge until it can be used again but, honestly, the work that you’re allowed to do is damn little. If you were allowed to do research, I would be much happier for you, but to run studies to see if if it’s going to help cancer patients is as if you’re finding out if masturbating will get you off. It’s known.  I just admire you, really, for being willing to do this work that I clearly have dropped out of, because I was unwilling to push the rock Then again, you came up and that was the only door that was still open. The one’s I’d used were all closed. I watched them close a number of them in my face.

Therefore, I took some alternative routes to keeping the vision alive, if not the way of getting there. That’s the psychiatric side. On the spiritual side, I encourage that people continue to let the Divine Wind blow through them, however that can be done. If it’s satsang; if it’s meditation, whatever. I find that the national park system is a set of absolute cathedrals designed for people to let go of their small self.  I’m very supportive of the national park system. Give me Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Zion, Yellowstone. The one thing that the government has not figured out is how much sedition is created by people falling in love with Nature.

Her Mysteries

: Anything we haven’t talked about, generally, or anything we have left out?

JF: Are we down to that one?

·: We’re getting there. We’re getting close.

JF: I don’t get to send a message to Zalman. He is one of the few people that would make the world want to be Jewish. Most theologians, of whatever persuasion, make you really are glad you’re not that. But Zalman really does the best I’ve ever seen at overcoming everyone’s concerns about the rigidity within the Jewish tradition. From a personal standpoint –this is a terrible time, where I don’t have any personal freedom, I live in this globalization country where “let’s make the poor, poor enough so that there’ll finally be a revolution, and the rich, rich enough so they can escape to some other country,” you know, choice, personal freedom, personal freedom of speech. There’s so little freedom speech anymore; it’s called political correctness. Unless you’re a right-wing fascist bigot, you can’t say what you want. Since I’m not-. I think I’m not – and I can’t say what I want in most public venues or I get attacked. We’re back to sexual repression as well.

As someone said, “I liked the Sixties.” My brother Jeff said it well. “For a few years a small percentage of the population was actually sexually satisfied.” That was a wonderful part of the Sixties, that people were free to love each other. I find this a very terrible time: From a slightly larger perspective, however, this is one of those “act two” eras, where act one was the Sixties and act two is now when everything gets terrible. When you work in fiction, you know that act three is where either you have a kind of joyful exuberance of discovery and reunification and the evils get undone, or you have a tragedy. Either one is art. Now that I can see more about what you do with fiction, either can have the same message, which is: No matter how great the darkness, there are still places of light.

One of the things I’m seeing in the 12th century is it was full of light. The 13th century was “pfft!’ – the darkness totally wins. The Catholic Church is at its unjust worst. It got so bad that we had the Reformation, that people said “God! This just can’t be the only game in town!” The Catholic Church said, ”Well, it actually is. We have eliminated all the other paths.”  The Catholic Church makes Microsoft look like, Ben & Jerry’s! Now, again, this is for people who are interested in being bold and brave and, as Ram Dass says, “Standing up. This is a wonderful time to be a hero, because the forces of darkness are everywhere. You know, in a time of universal peace, all this warrior stuff is inappropriate. I’m having a wonderful time at the moment. I’m aware that there is so much to be done. I mean, I used to give a talk on, “Don’t worry if people are not into your cause; there’s more than enough causes for them to participate in. As long as everyone is doing something, that’s very encouraging. Goethe says, “If every one in the world would sweep their front porch, the world would be clean.”

The High, The Holy

: From the long view, are you optimistic?

JF: On the long view I would say that there is no record of human history moving much. Socrates is still about as good as we get. We’ve now had a few thousand years, and there have been no improved models. I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic. If you’ve been in enough theater, what you realize is, the play will go on. You’re either going to play your part as well as you can, or you’re going to be a big drag. I’m personally optimistic, because my life is really quite wonderful, and the people that I try and affect, I want their lives to be wonderful. If I could affect millions of people, I’d prefer that. But the people who tend to affect millions of people tend not to be able to make their lives much better. Okay? Therefore, the more optimists there are the better it is. One of the things about correct use of entheogens is that you can tap into a core of optimism that no amount of “this world” can defeat. Because this world is not the only game in town; it’s not the best game in town, but as they say, when you’re a gambler and the only slot machines are crooked, you’re still going to play.

: I guess if Socrates is as good as it gets, then can we return to Eleusis?

JF: Socrates had the advantage that his government allowed him religious freedom. until he didn’t. He was able to use such psychedelic materials, with guides, as were available. Certainly Buddha had the same opportunities. So, that’s the nice thing. If you look through history through an entheogenic lens, what you realize is: The truth is always available. People are going to discover it one way or another in every generation. Therefore, in this generation a lot of us had a chance to discover it, not in a formalized institutionalized setting where we all have the same words. The other side of it is-and this is the very positive side – there has never been a time in the history of humanity when all the spiritual traditions were as close as your nearest bookstore. No one ever has had that!

: Or your computer screen.

JF: Or your computer screen even wider. That means you don’t have to live near a bookstore, which is also a new thing. So that’s really different. You know, in the 12th century there were just a couple of paths, you could find: the Kabbalah, the Arthurian legends, chivalry and a few mystical traditions. But those were only if you were one of the very, very, very tiny few in Europe with a lot of education and could do a lot of traveling. We’ve never had access to all the spiritual traditions. In spite of the government’s blah blah blah, there’s still easy access to entheogens. This could be… What do they say? ”This could be the start of something swell.”

Entheogenic Eyes

· : Looking at history from entheogenic eyes, are you of the opinion that all the religions have an entheogenic core that may be long repressed but this would have been the original inspiration for what ensued?

JF: At the center of every spiritual tradition that is worth the name there is, somebody who had a break through into understanding what reality was. They were at that time in some kind of cultural matrix, so when they came back into being their bodies and their own cultural matrix and their own personality. They’d ponder, “How am I going to share this with anybody?” They did it in some way, and then eventually, they had ·a lot of people who hung out around them. Eventually some of the people hanging out around them said, ‘”I’ll do the shit work. I’ll arrange the meeting, I’ll bring in the food, I’ll handle things.” And the handlers gradually, as they always do, got control of the situation.

The original founders passed away, and then the handlers started to make it easier for themselves, because it’s easier to bring in the food if it’s every Sunday. It’s easier if everyone has ‘a certain place to sit. And so the bureaucrats always end up eating up spiritual food of the founder. Without a continual infusion of spiritual food you end up with what we call a religion. If you look at the religious right in Judaism, where you kill your prime minister; in the Arab world where you kill lots of other people; in the Christian world where you want to kill almost everybody -the religious right seems to be absolutely the same in every tradition, which is the farthest away from individual experience of universal love and compassion.

The religious urge cannot be repressed any more than the sexual urge – the need to be part of your whole self. But the expression of it always, inevitably – and I say that, without even any ill will anymore, gets “solidified.” That’s the nicer term; it gets ossified. Right? The bones start to be inflexible. Inflexible bones lead to inflexibility and that’s fine. My concern, for instance, with humanistic and transpersonal, is that it’s still run by people like me. I want to know who’s going to get rid of me, who’s going to throw us out. I’m looking towards – in a sense – the next psychedelic generation to say “What a bunch of tired old farts you are with this journal and this association and this old-fashioned transpersonal psychology when God is all around you!” I want then to say, “Carry him out!” I’ll say, ” Yes. Carry me out of the palace. You win! Let them tear down the walls and get back to basics.”

: So, maybe that’s your advice as an elder?

JF: Right. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t shoot me. But please take my job!

– : Okay. Thank you, Jim.

JF: You so very welcome.

: That’s excellent.
[End of interview]

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One Reply to “Elder Interviews: Jim Fadiman, 1998 Part 2”

  1. God, I love Jim Fadiman! Thank you for posting Gwyllm.

    “The one thing that the government has not figured out is how much sedition is created by people falling in love with Nature”

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