Elder Interviews: Jim Fadiman, 1998 Part 1

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Going with a different format this time around on the Blog…

Elder Interviews: Jim Fadiman, 1998 Part 1
Part 2 will be published tomorrow…There will be an dedicated page to these interviews coming up.

We are happy to host this Interview with Jim Fadiman.
A big shout out to Diane Darling for doing the original transcriptions.
All Illustrations, yers truly. Just click on them for enlarged view…

This is a great read. For those of us who weren’t there/born yet, this is first person accounts of a time of great change, that influences the world to this day. (There are more stories out there, and they should be told!) I am pleased that Jim decided to let this interview be published.


This is my homage to the Human Be In… January 14th, 1967 Golden Gate Park…

Elders -Jim Fadiman
: This is July 18th, 1998. We’re here today with Jim Fadiman in Menlo Park. And I’m Charlie Grob, here along with Gary Bravo and Alise Agar. Jim, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to spill your guts today.

JF: So far, it’s a pleasure.

: I really do want to thank you for spending the time with us to talk about your early experiences in this field and your current views. In a sense, this is a follow-up meeting. We met with you ten years ago, Gay and myself, and we had a similar conversation. So, one thing to look at is how have things changed. But perhaps first we can start with: How did you get involved with psychedelics and the work you did with psychedelics?

JF: You know, I’d say I’m one of the inadvertent pioneers because I was an undergraduate at Harvard and I ended up in a small tutorial with a young, dynamic, and – at that time – somewhat neurotic professor named Richard Alpert. Out of my being an undergraduate and Dick being an assistant
professor, we got to be friendly.   Then I was offered a summer internship at Stanford where Ralph Metzner and Dick and I were all involved in a research project that had been ongoing for some years about children and the Thematic Apperception test for children, and cognitive skills, and, various psychological stuff.  I was very much the junior partner on the project.  As it worked out Dick Alpert and I rented a house together for the summer, so we really did become quite close. Then I went on in my senior year at Harvard. Nothing psychedelic was happening for either of us.

I went off to live in Europe. At the end of a certain amount of time in Europe Dick Alpert showed up in Paris with Timothy Leary and Madison Presnell, who was an African-American psychiatrist. They were off to go to Copenhagen to deliver the first paper on some work with low-dose psilocybin.  Basically Dick Alpert was in wonderful condition. I had known him, and he was enchanted that I was this young man bopping about Paris, as he was someone who had never really been to Europe. He said to me, “The most wonderful thing in the world has happened, and I want to share it with you.” I said, as anyone would, “Of course.” Then he reached in his breast pocket of the jacket and took out a little bottle of pills. I thought, “Pills? Drugs? What kind of weirdness is this?” I really had no idea what he was talking about. However, that evening I took some psilocybin, sitting in a cafe on the … [pause while aircraft passes overhead] Literally I took some psilocybin from this little bottle, sitting in a cafe on a main street in Paris. As I’m sitting there, I said to Dick, “I’m feeling a little awkward because the colors are so bright and sounds are so piercing.” He had not taken any material, but he said to me, “Well, that’s the way I feel just being in Paris.” So we withdrew to my hotel room where he was basically a sitter for this session. Out of that came a first realization that the universe was larger than I thought, and that my identity was smaller than I thought, and that a lot of my attachments seemed became more tenuous. There was something about human interaction that I had been missing. It was definitely what we would call a bonding experience, but it was not at all stripping away the levels of reality that came later.

However, whatever happened that week, one week later he was in Copenhagen and I had followed him, somewhat like kind of a dog that gets lost hundreds of miles from home and finds their master. I showed up in Copenhagen, and we had another evening session. The realization that night was that when human beings were close to one another, you could really ask anything of each other because you would take into account the other’s needs first. You would not ask anything that would be a true imposition even if you really needed something. There was a level of, The Three Musketeers that seemed to arise out of that. A while later I was traveling in Scotland with Arthur Kopit, the playwright, who was at that point a young genius, also just a year out of Harvard. I felt that Arthur really didn’t understand all the beautiful things I was experiencing. I was this incredibly open, loving little being at that point. So much so that a local Scottish lass who we came across ended up a while later as my fiancé. I was clearly radiating goodwill. I asked for some more material to show Arthur what life was all about, but, by the time it arrived Arthur had gone off in his life, while I was back in Paris doing other things. I ended up actually giving my brother a session, which led to his being much more open and getting engaged to someone shortly thereafter. That was all at the level of human closeness, authenticity- what the humanistic psychologists define themselves as. This was not looking at all at spiritual issues, at religious traditions, which didn’t interest me particularly then.

Due to some other things in my life such as the war in Vietnam and my draft board -I had a letter from them saying, “Would you like to join us in Viet Nam? “ I considered the alternatives open to me by law, one of which was graduate school. I’d been accepted to Stanford the year before and had said, “I’ll just put a hold on that because I would rather leave the country.” But after my draft board wrote me, graduate school looked really good. I saw it as much, much, much the lesser of two evils, but truly something that had no great value for me. I showed up at Stanford as a first-year graduate student somewhat embittered, because I was truly there as a way of dodging the draft. I really felt that the United States government would make a terrible mistake having me as a soldier. A combination of distaste for war, not wanting to kill people I didn’t know, cowardice, and a number of deep· philosophical truths which I hadn’t come across yet.

At this point, I’m starting my graduate work and feeling fairly disappointed with what psychology might be, because also, now I’d used psychedelics, and I knew there was a lot more. I didn’t know what “more” was, but I sure knew that psychology was not teaching it. In the book of university courses, hidden away in the back, were what are called “graduate specials.” Willis Harman taught one. It was called The Human Potential. In the little write-up it said, “What is the highest and best that human beings can aspire to?” It suggested various kinds of readings. I read it and I thought, “There is something about psychedelics in here. I don’t know what it is, but this man knows something of what I know. I was going around at that point dividing the world into people who knew what I knew – which wasn’t very much, but more than I’d known two weeks earlier and everyone else. I’d look at Impressionist paintings, and I’d think, “Did this person see what they were painting or are they copying other Impressionists?” And like- I knew. Whether I knew correctly or not was totally beside the point to me. Anyway, I wandered into Willis Harman’s office, which was a typical professor of electrical engineering’s office in a building that was as drab as a contemporary hospital. I said “I’d like to take your graduate special,” and he said, gently, “Well, it’s full this quarter, but I give it again. Perhaps you would be interested at a later date.” I looked at him and said, “I’ve had psilocybin three times.” He looked at me, and he got up, and he walked across his office past the engineering bookshelves and closed the door. Then we got down to business.

The Golden Road

As it turned out, I had guessed very correctly that this course was his way of dealing with how do you teach this material in a way that doesn’t get you either discovered or fired, because I don’t believe he was tenured by then. We agreed that I would not only take the class, but I would kind of co-teach it. Because I was totally willing to be open with what was happening with me, and he was not. I felt that I had much less to lose, which was probably true. So, we gave it together, and gradually we began to go through his “What is the best and highest that human beings can aspire to?” Near the end of the class, we read the mystics and then moved on to discuss personal experiences. At some point that fall, I was also starting to work with the International Foundation for Advanced Study that had been set up in Menlo Park as a way of working with psychedelics. Myron Stolaroff funded it from his time at Ampex Corporation, Willis Harman was involved, and a number of other people. They had no psychologist on their team, so I became their psychologist, which at the time was a little ludicrous since I was about two months into my first year of graduate work, having not been a psychologist as an undergraduate. We began to work on a paper called, “The Psychedelic Experience” for the Journal of Neuropsychiatry.  It reported the results of the sessions they’d been running for people, and it contained beautiful transformative experiences, and people who had discovered love and truth and goodness in each other, and also a great many mystical experiences. I went over this paper and I carefully noted all the mystical experiences, and took scissors – cut-and-paste in the pre-computer era – and cut them. Didn’t paste them anywhere, just put them aside. Willis said, “What are you doing?” I said, “No respectable journal is going to print that kind of stuff.” Willis looked at me; I looked at him, and he said, “That’s fine.” He took all my little scraps and carefully put them in a little appendix to this paper.  I said, “What are you going to do with that?” He said, “Well, I’ll just show that to some friends.” I said, “That’s fine.” So, he sent the paper and the appendix to the journal over my unknowing dead body, and they published it.

At some point during this time – because some months went by between acceptance and publication – Willis said “Maybe you’d like to have a session with us.” Because here I was, filled with my psilocybin-Dick Alpert-Tim Leary-human closeness-low dose experience. I said, “That’d be great!” So, I showed up on October 19th, 1961 at the Foundation’s headquarters, which were two living room-like suites above a beauty shop looking out over a parking lot. I was offered the opportunity to take some LSD with Willis as a male sitter, a lovely woman professor of electrical engineering as a female sitter, and a physician, who was Charlie Savage. The physician basically did his physicianness of giving me the material and then left to resume his private practice down the hall as a psychoanalyst. I took some material and looked around and said, “Well, aren’t you taking something?” Because that had been the model I had from Dick and Tim and the session I had with my brother and so forth. Willis, I think, took a little amphetamine to kind of keep me cool. I then put on some eye shades, lay down on a couch, listened to music – this being the method that they had developed through the work of Al Hubbard and others. Basically, I had my little mind washed away, much to my surprise.

The day went on in kind of classic psychedelic high-dose entheogenic fashion. I discovered that my disinterest in spiritual things was as valid as a ten-year old’s disinterest in sex. It came out of a total unawareness of what the rest of the world was built on. I went to a place where there was the total aloneness, the got-to-walk-this-valley-by-yourself deep awareness of separation from the universe, and that there really was nothing that you could hold onto. Which fortunately is very, very close to the place next to it where there is only one thing, and you’re part of it. At that point, there was what might be called songs of jubilation throughout the heavens at that moment another jerk wakes up to the realization of not who I, Jim Fadiman, was, but who/what I was part of. What a relief!  I then moved into a space of feeling that I was-not part of everything, but everything was part of everything and I was clearly part of that. It was obvious there is no death. It’s obvious that the fundamental waveform of the universe is best described in human terms as love.

This was all incredibly obvious. For some peculiar reason, which was unclear to me at the time, but was clearly a question, is I was being given this awakening to my true self.  From that place, for the rest of the day I looked at various structures in my life, and they were all – at best – amusing. That being a graduate student, avoiding the war, seemed to be a perfectly plausible thing to do since one had to do something in this incarnation, in this body. It was unclear whether I, Jim Fadiman, as a personality had lived before. But it was also not very important, because the Jim Fadiman that was in that room on October 19th wasn’t very important. He served as the box I came in. That evening, before going home with Willis, I went up to the top of Skyline and looked out, and the feeling I had of identification with Creation was such that I kind of walked around saying things like “I’ve really done a splendid job at all this.” The “I” was clearly not me, not Jim Fadiman, but the “I” was pleased with Creation, and pleased that part of me was observing part of me. Like singing songs of praise to the Lord is an Old Testament notion. You wonder, from a down-here position, why the Lord is at all interested in that, since He wrote the songs and so forth. But when you’re in the praising mode, it feels like a very nice way of congratulating yourself for jobs well done.

I saw an 80-year-old filmmaker the other night, looking at some of his films done 30 years ago. Someone said, “What do you think of when you look at your old-films?” He said, “Some of them are pretty good.” It was that feeling. I wasn’t into being the Creator, but having been the Creator it was a very nice place. I went home to Willis’s house to kind of come down for the evening, and looked into, among other people’s, eyes his son, who was crawling at that point, Dean Harman. Dean and I looked at each other, and it was one of those, “Hey man! Hey man! It’s cool, right?” He was an old soul, too, yeah. “You’re in just a little baby body.” “Yeah, that’s what I’m doing now, but don’t worry about it.” There was at feeling that the nature of personal identity was a fascinating topic, but not a way of identifying yourself. Eventually I was dropped back into my little graduate student hovel. I emerged the next day, wondering, “What do you do when you know all this?” Given that you’ve been reincarnated as a first-year graduate student at Stanford, a world not at all hostile to any of this, but totally oblivious.

I continued a rather delicate career as a graduate student, committed to making this more available to everybody, since, at that point there was no one, I could see who would not benefit from knowing what I would say was the fundamental truth of existence. I became a kind of dual agent, which is, I was a somewhat boring graduate student by day. I took to wearing a coat and tie. I was the only graduate student that looked the least like a hippie possible, since I felt that the department then would not assume that I was anything other than what I looked like (which was a great stratagem). Then, at night, I was reading what I needed for my education, which was the Gita, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and whatever Wasson had written by then. From time to time, I’d stop reading and go out and sit in front of a small tree and watch it begin to vibrate and look like energy in the shape of a tree. That would reunite me with what I was about. There’s also a huge beautiful church at Stanford with large stained glass windows that I would also spend time in and relax until the characters and colors were also in motion, which I identified with psychedelics. There is something called visual constancies, which we all have to keep the world from looking a little odd, so when people cross a room they don’t go from small to large. What I learned from psychedelics is you could relax your constancies and actually see things as they were, without the editing function thrown in. That turned out to be very useful.

That’s an initial answer to the question, because then I remained part of this team – Willis Harman, Myron Stolaroff, Charlie Savage and others, – but at a very different level, because now I knew what on Earth we were doing. The question was how we could do what we were doing and what was our vision? One of the things I did was say, the Harvard group really needs to be brought up to speed, because they’re still at the level of human closeness. I did manage to get some meetings of the two to happen, but it turned out that the Harvard group and the Menlo Park group had somewhat different ways of looking at the political structure. Tim, as we all know, had a habit of would trying to destroy any structure he was in. The group I was working with had a habit of cooperating with the federal government at whatever level seemed necessary, including letting them know what we were doing, and really being in touch with what were beginning to be the drug police of the United States. We were totally watched and investigated endlessly in our little research unit by the federal government. One of the nicest was at one point, they said “The mescaline you’re using needs to be assessed for its purity, because we’re sure that it may have problems.”

It turned out that the mescaline used by the federal government to calibrate ours was the other half of the same batch as ours. We were in this dance with the government. When they said you can’t use mescaline, then we would work with LSD, and back and forth. We actually became not substance-dependant for the work we were doing.  The work was determining that if you could give psychedelics in a totally supportive atmosphere, a non-medical setting, with a high enough dose to matter, could you facilitate what we would now call an entheogenic experience, and would that be beneficial? This was with total federal approval for a few years except for these little dances about materials and that we were being watched. Because our mentor was Al Hubbard, and Al Hubbard was this very mysterious character who was at various times a Canadian agent, a federal agent, and had through his own transformative experiences decided that this was what he was going to do with his life was to make this all possible. He was really the guiding light and certainly the major disturber, and kind of the shit-stirrer in our little world. Whenever Hubbard would come through, any of the convenient relationships that we had with one another would be disrupted by both his presence and what he would do. Also, advanced training as it came to be called was done with Hubbard, and was not done in Menlo Park. :
In Canada?

Eleusian Invocations

JF: No, it was usually done in Death Valley. Death Valley, from that standpoint, was the most kind of intense outdoor setting that existed, and that it allowed a kind of opening that didn’t seem to be as easily achieved in any other place.

: What was the set and setting there? Or how did you do it? What was the structure?

JF: Set and setting for Death Valley was very different. You went out in a car from Lone Pine and at some point you stopped and you took a bunch of material and then you drove to some locations and spent time there, usually ‘eyes open/dealing with what was visible- or visible on the invisible planes there, the notion (and this is things I didn’t experience) was that there are very large entities in Death Valley, entities half a mile high, some kind of energy beings from some other way of looking at the world. You also dealt with your own life much more directly because of literally, the harshness and the enormous beauty and enormous barrenness of that area. I actually only went out there once, but that was the advanced training center which was a major way of making sure you didn’t get caught in your belief systems.

I was also involved on the other end of things with the Ken Kesey world because Dorothy, my wife to be, had been involved with Ken, and I met her through that group. I was one of the few people who was deeply involved in totally legal experimentation, high-dose religious experience, and also hanging out with – not the psychedelic pioneers but the absolute first group of psychedelic outlaws, who were total explorers and had no restrictions on what they explored or how, and really did much more dangerous and exciting things. At one point, we discovered through research and Richard Evans Schultes’ writings that certain varieties of morning glory seeds contained an analog of LSD. This, I think, is representational of the kind of cheerful naïveté that I, at least, worked with. Some of the people in the outlaw world were thinking of taking these, and I thought that they also might have terrible side effects and might be poisonous and so forth. One morning Willis and I ground up a whole bunch of morning glory seeds that we bought from our local gardening store and ate them. I realized my intention was to see whether they were bad for you.

As I look back on that, that’s a kind of personal research I wouldn’t practice anymore. We then walked from Willis’s house up into the Biological Preserve above Stanford and lay around for the day. I did find that if you eat enough cellulose that you do feel sick. The seeds did contain an analog of LSD, which absolutely took you toward the same place. During that session I had one of those visions that forever colors the way you hold certain attitudes and ideas. The vision was that I, (being in the academic world, you have academic visions), was writing on this huge blackboard a very complicated and very sophisticated analysis of reality as I understood it with the help of psychedelics. With that, God came in and looked at this and said that it was just wonderful! – and then erased it all.  I said, with more than a little bit of concern, “Why have you erased it?” He says, “That was just wonderful. I just loved that. I certainly hope you’ll do others.” I realized that what I was being told is that the chances of me – in this body, in this lifetime, with these languages and in this civilization really understanding reality was zero. But it is extraordinarily entertaining and even nourishing – it was a good thing to invent these theoretical castles in the air. The transformation for me was that I, from that point on, was not committed to my deepest core beliefs. Because I began to see that my deepest core beliefs were among the beliefs that I was changing. If I looked back a few years, there had been real shifts in the beliefs that I now felt were core. So, since I was letting go of some core beliefs every few years, I had no reason to assume that the core beliefs that I had now were going to last any longer. There was a certain relief, a kind of letting go of pretentiousness. And a willingness to argue …

{Audio Tape goes haywire here: looks okay but sounds like it’s running fast forward! Must of happened in dubbing process – SL}

JF: We were just kind of finishing up the destruction of belief systems. That’s been partly, I think, my career of not being too attached to any given ideological stance was really clarified in that particular session, which is different from the experience that all systems are valuable that lead toward this fundamental experience. It’s a different way of looking at it. This was more understanding that my own personal take on things was always going to be personal, subjective, limited, and inaccurate.


: Would you say some more about Al Hubbard and the way he conducted sessions?

JF: Well, one of the things that interesting about Al Hubbard was that he came out of a kind of non-sophisticated Catholic background. One of the questions that he had originally had asked the Virgin Mary to give him something, a purpose in life. Out of certain visionary experiences he had, he then discovered psychedelics, which tied in, for him, what he’d been told he might work on. But one of his concerns was always dealing with the Catholic Church and the Catholic hierarchy. So, one of the things, for instance, in the work in Menlo Park, where we had a number of Catholics and we knew we were dealing obviously with fundamental religious experience, we had a letter from someone within the Catholic hierarchy that basically said yes, they understood what this experience was about, and it was acceptable for Catholics to have this experience. Now, for Catholics and Christians in general, one of the things that this living room had was one wall with a curtain. If you drew the curtain, what you saw was a mural of the Last Supper, without any features on any of the faces, but a very traditional Last Supper rendition. This was not mentioned before a session began. So, for people with a strong Christian issue or orientation or devotion, when you were in a certain level of psychedelic work and you have this to project through, some remarkable transformations occurred.

The other item that was used was a Salvador Dali painting of the Crucifixion, because this is an incredibly drawing taking you up through energy levels. With my, I think, iconoclastic orientation beforehand the vision I experienced on that October 19th included something with Jesus, where I was rising toward that light in the universe through which all love and all energy came through, and in front of me was a crucified Christ. However, as I continued on my journey I passed it. I was somewhat confused because I had been amazed to see it. As I looked back, it was clear that it was a cutout. It was like a set piece, and literally you’d see the structure of the set construction, you know, the 2x4s crossing where your set design was constructed, perhaps because I had a background in drama. What I realized is indeed Christ was “the way”, but if you think about it, you don’t stop on the way, it’s the way to something. For people for whom that was important, that was an opening. I also knew that Buddha was a way, and so forth and so on. Personally it made the Christian experience a little more a comfortable, a little more sensible. For Al Hubbard, I don’t think that one would say that Hubbard was a Catholic any more than one would say any of the major psychedelic pioneers have-any single identification. For example, to say that Zalman is just Jewish would be really a great disservice to him, and so forth. Does that answer that?

The Sacred Rites

: How long were you able to conduct this research with psychedelics at Stanford?

JF: I was able to complete my dissertation, which was “Behavior Change During Psychedelics (LSD) Therapy,” a title I that I came up with so that Stanford would not throw me out. My dissertation, if you really have no idea what I’m talking about, looks like a fairly ordinary dissertation. It took me two years to get a committee who would be willing to have their names on it, and about six or eight weeks to complete the dissertation after that, because I had most of it done. Later we were allowed by the federal government to do a totally different study on creativity, on the question of could psychedelics facilitate problem solving of a technical nature. Oscar Janiger and a lot of other people had done work with artists. However, with people like Willis and Myron, it was clear that we wanted to be able to do more scientistic science, as well as more scientific science. We were really not sure, if we could use these materials and get people to work on highly technical problems, when we knew that if you upped the dose enough, they would be much more interested in letting go of their personal identities, and letting go of time and space, and seeing God.

To put it to the test, was we got together one night – Myron and Willis and James Watt, our current physician, and I-and we took a very low dose of LSD, 25 mcg. We then played music to ourselves and waited until the walls were breathing just a little, and we were at a reasonable state of whatever the biochemistry is, and we were in flow. Then we worked on the study. Our reasoning was that if we could design a study under a low dose, then one could run the study, because we were doing exactly what we were asking people in the study to do, which was to focus down on the technical problems of research design, and not get caught up in the beauty and grandeur of the universe. Which we did. It was truly bootstrapping in the nicest form. Then we began to run this study. I was a PhD. By then and therefore had learned a certain amount of research design and blah, blah, blah. We began to run this gorgeous study where we had senior scientists from a number of companies – research scientists – and what we said to them is, “We will assist you in your most pressing technological problems, particularly if you’re stuck.” Our criteria for admission to that study were: “At least three problems that you have spent at least three months on.”

We had a range of people from hard sciences, theoretical mathematicians, architects, a number of people. We would work with four of them at a time. Because of our connections at Ampex, we had the best audio equipment available because, it turned out, good sound quality seemed to matter a lot – four sets of headphones. We basically would take them through the morning as we would for a high-dose experience, which is: relax, headphones, eyeshades, music, and don’t work on your problems. Then, we would pull them out around noon and ask them to work on their problems. They would have brought pens, pencils and, pads of paper. Someone did bring a slide rule, but decided it was not applicable after a while. They worked ’til maybe 4:00. Lunch was slipped in, but most people didn’t eat. Around 4:00, we would begin to basically get into more of a relaxation – not social, but convivial time. They would also begin to review their work and make such other notes as they needed to make. Their discussion was basically: How did it work? Out of those sessions, a number of patents emerged. One of my favorites was a lovely architect who had the task of designing a small block in Santa Cruz into a set of shopping, eating and sitting spaces.

It was a task of complicated architectural possibilities. What he said was, at the end of the four hours, he’d seen the entire structure. He’d spent the afternoon making drawings. What was most exciting to him was he hadn’t seen the concept; he’d seen the buildings! He drew in the parking spaces; he was drawing in very kind of inside-the-walls specifications: size of beams, nature of bolts. For him this was just a total pleasure, because that is not the way he’d ever been able to do a project before. He literally had seen it and walked around in it. It was designed. It existed as a kind of platonic form. That was the kind of marvelous thing we were doing.

One morning we had four people running – It was between now the nine and noon, and I’d stepped out for a while. We got a letter from the federal government. It said, almost this curtly, “ As of the receipt of this letter, your experimental drug license is terminated.” We learned much later that over 60 psychedelic research projects had been canceled on the same day. Seemed counterintuitive for the government to shut down the only regulated uses while the counter culture was rapidly expanding. The theory that I came up with was that there was a meeting in Washington that went something like this: “We are now concerned that psychedelics are widely available and that people are misusing them. There are things happening in the youth culture, and we really can’t do, as far as we can tell, a thing about the things that bothers us. But we can stop somebody somewhere, and that will make us feel better. So, what we’ve decided to do this morning is stop all research in the United States. Our reasoning {my best guess here} is that was the only thing that we controlled, so at least we can stop somebody.”

Reading the letter with our little crew, we thought about the four people in the next room who represented major scientific minds, and agreed that we had gotten this letter tomorrow. However, that effectively ended our research. We did publish those results and there are a number of rather distinguished, very happy scientists in this area. One became the vice president of Hewlett­ Packard, another has won every major scientific award that the computer offers, and so forth- from that research. So, we in a sense … It’s as if you strike oil and you get that scene of the geyser spraying dirty oil on everyone, and everyone’s smiling and hugging each other and laughing, and then someone comes along and says ” Cap your well. No more oil in the United States.”  At the peak of our finding a way into the culture, totally acceptable, and also acceptable to us, not denying people’s spiritual values, because these were problems that people wanted to work on and mattered to them.

We were asked to please not only stop, but to – as we all know – to try and deny whatever we had already learned and to maintain as high level of ignorance as we could while millions of people then experimented without knowledge, help, support, etc.


: Given that you are instructed to terminate these activities, and given that you had had profound visionary experience yourself, what did you do with your psychedelic vision at that point?

JF: I really stepped back, and at that point… I was more aware of the absurdity of this moment in the drama than feeling personally affected, because I was at a place where things didn’t personally affect me much; they just happened and I did whatever I needed to do. And so I thought, “Well, what else is available?” At that point, because of the millions of people using psychedelics, numbers of other pathways were starting to open up. What had been the other traditions – of which meditation was the most obvious, speaking now – but it was not at all obvious in 1965: fasting, vision quests, self-immolation, the use of shamanistic practices, the peyote way. In a sense, given that I couldn’t use what seemed to be the cleanest, best, easiest way to work with myself and other people, I then said, ” What else is there? Since I’m not going to, you know, begin to sell life insurance.”

Given that I was this just fresh PhD without employment. I was offered a position as a counselor at San Francisco State – because they were desperate for someone who had experience with these materials and could work with students who came in with drug related issues. Until, however, they thought about it and realized that if they hired me or anybody like me, it would imply that there was some truth or legitimacy to what was going on. Rather than have someone who knew what was going on, they decided not to. I then realized that my career was on rather shaky grounds, since my dissertation exposed me as one of ‘them,’ whoever ‘them’ were.  I had snuck through Stanford. By the time I got done, Stanford’s great terror was that they would be known as the Harvard of the West, which would mean – since Tim and Dick had been fired by that time for doing research, less controversial than the research I’d been doing.


: So, what did you do with the psychedelic vision, then?

JF: I tried to make use of it in my life in a very simple-minded way, which was: If I knew or had learned anything, then I had to somehow in my life exhibit it. There’s a country & western tune that says: “If you’ve got religion, show it.” An even more wonderful song by Bessie Smith, that says, “If you got it, bring it in here or else you got to leave it out there.” One of the things I did was begin to work with what became the transpersonal, and – among other things – helped create the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, which was a place in which different religious traditions could talk, not about doctrine or differences, but about experience. We could cooperate with each other in a way that hadn’t really been possible in religious circles or in psychological circles. That whole association and journal came out of a meeting at Esalen that we put together with the help of Michael Murphy, where we brought together the best Catholics we could find – the most open, the most liberal, the most scholarly – and a number of us – we weren’t outlaws because there weren’t too many laws yet, but we were clearly beyond the fringe.

We had a meeting with them for a weekend. What we came away with is to realize that the bridge between spiritual experience and psychology had to be built, and that these Catholics weren’t going to lay a stone of it. So, it was up to us. We really felt that one model that existed was the humanistic journal, association, friendship group. We began to form that on a friendship basis, and we wrote to all the editors of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, and said, “We’re moving on. There is more to the human condition than we have experienced in our humanistic orientation. We don’t quite know where we’re going, but here’s among the things that we’re going to look at. Would you like to join us?” About half of them said something like “I have some vague idea of where you’re going and I’ll go with you” or and the other half said, “Absolutely not.” The major “no”s that come to mind were Victor Frankl, who said “Total nonsense.” and Rollo May, who, for various reasons, became a enemy of the spiritual, willing to work against it. Particularly, what seemed to frighten him was adding the spiritual back into psychology. Along the way as a graduate student, I had become a devotee of William James. James basically not only invented psychology, but also the psychology he invented was the full transpersonal realm from the highest and most abstract or non-form spiritual experiences to human learning and personal interactions and how the visual system works under stress and so forth. Here was this incredibly full vision of psychology that turned out to be the foundation of psychology. In sharp contrast, there was what I’d had at Stanford, and then mainstream psychology has only become more shrunken since.


: I have a historical question that I put together. We interviewed Stan, who mentioned that Maslow his whole life had resisted taking any psychedelics.
JF: Uh-huh.

: And I guess Stan had talked to him, maybe you had talked to him, and other, xx [?] talked to him, and so on. And according to Stan, at the end of Maslow’s life, he had a heart attack.

JF: Right.

: After he had a heart attack he came either to Ram Dass or to Tim – we’re not sure who – and said “I’m ready sure I don’t have a lot of time left.” He then had a psychedelic experience and apparently personally made the leap between humanistic and the transpersonal. According to Stan, it was at that point that-. I think, and this is what I want to get clear and check out with you – I guess you and Stan and maybe Maslow began to really create what is now, put the seeds of the transpersonal xx [?] group together. So, I’d like to get a little bit of the historical from your sense.

JF: Let me give a different history. Tony Sutich is the unsung hero of both humanistic and transpersonal psychology. One man created two of the four psychologies. Tony Sutich did this while being almost totally physically paralyzed. Tony lived on a slant bed and had the use of muscles in one arm enough to turn the phone on and off with a little pull chain, and about half of his facial muscles. That’s about all he had. The internal organs worked well enough so he could live. Lying there he became friends with a lot of people. He also made a living as a psychotherapist. But lying there he created humanistic psychology and he created the Association for Humanistic Psychology as a covert way of getting more funding for the journal, because you could charge people twice for the same journal. It was Tony who began to realize that we needed to move on, that the highest and best were beyond what the humanists were talking about. It was around that time that I appeared with my little psychedelic fresh-scrubbed face.  Maslow was certainly on the fence in those years. But Maslow, as he got older, began to have what he called “plateau experiences.” which were that he would get very high off of something in Nature or in human beings, and he’d stay there for a while. He really had no framework.

At one point he was redoing The Psychology of Being. We were on our way to a Spring Grove conference, which was early consciousness researchers hiding out in the Midwest where no one would suspect us, and talking truly openly about everything. Abe and I were on a flight together, and he showed me the introduction. It had a footnote, which basically said the I Ching and astrology and Eastern thought in general was bunk and hokum and should not be looked upon by grownups.  I said, “Abe, I don’t think you want to put that in. Even if you don’t know, it’s not going to serve you.” And he took it out. But that’s where he was coming from; he is truly someone who had come through the Western mind. Originally, he was an animal researcher. So, he’s made more of an intellectual and growth leap than any of us ever had to do. Someone in Freud’s circle talks about standing on the shoulder of giants.  I think Freud’s retort was “And the giant still is a giant,” something like that. We could go beyond where Abe could go comfortably. Yes, it was near the end of his life that Abe became comfortable with all that. But it was a hard road for him.
To Be Continued….

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