“Psychedelics helped me to escape..albeit momentarily..from the prison of my mind. It over-rode the habit patterns of thought and I was able to taste innocence again. Looking at sensations freshly without the conceptual overly was very profound.”
Ram Dass, whose birth name was Richard Alpert, was Born April 6, 1931 in Boston, MA.
Here’s a short background leading up to his psilocybin story…
Ram Dass grew up in a middle to high class family and lived life “just like everyone else” — Pursuing all the things that society deemed would make him successful.
He became a Harvard psychology professor, had a nice house, a plane, nice car, and a bunch of “stuff” – lots of material items that made it appear to others he was successful, but it was during his first psilocybin experience that he realized his happiness was actually a facade.
Let’s talk about Harvard for a moment.
So yea Ram Dass was a professor and in his early years of teaching he became intrigued with this man down the hall named Timothy Leary — Ram Dass said he actually feared Leary a bit – that Leary was the only professor Ram Dass feared because Leary didn’t conform or concern himself with Harvard’s “serious ego-ness.” — with identifying himself superior to others because he is a Harvard professor!
They ended up becoming friends and in the early 60’s Ram Dass flew out to Mexico to meet Leary. When Ram Dass arrived Leary told Ram that he just learned more in the past 5 hours from taking psilocybin mushrooms than he had previously learned in the prior 15 years of teaching psychology.
There weren’t any more psilocybin mushrooms at the time but Ram Dass was intrigued. On March 6th, 1961 during that year’s biggest snowstorm Ram Dass ingested psilocybin mushrooms with Leary & others at Tim’s house. (which was two blocks away from Ram Dass’s parent’s house)
Some of Ram Dass’s first experience when the psilocybin took effect was panic. He worried that Leary’s dog who had just come in from running around in the snow, was going to die because it was panting heavily. Leary’s son came downstairs and assured them it was ok.
Then as he sat alone in the living room he experienced an internal panic in a way — It was like a peeling away of layers of who he identified himself to be. He saw himself from an ego-less perspective and saw everything he was currently living for but the psilocybin has the effect of peeling all those things away and leaving a person with “nothing” — with just awareness.
Except before Ram Dass got to experiencing that awareness he was worried as all these layers were peeling away.
He wrote: “And what’s clearly going to happen now is that I’m going to be an amnesia case because I’m losing my identity. I wont know who I am.”
His panic increased and said that he wanted to scream, but he didn’t.
Psilocybin’s effects continued and Ram Dass reached this point..
“And I became aware at that moment that although everything by which I knew myself was gone, still there was something in me that was watching this whole process disappear.”
“And I remember jumping up and I ran out into the snow and danced in the snow. And then later I recall going back through the drifts to my parents home around five in the morning and deciding as a young tribal buck that I would shovel the snow in the front and I was shoveling and my parents came to the window and opened the window and said “You damned idiot come in, you don’t shovel snow in the middle of the night.”
“And I looked up and I heard this voice which was the kind of voice of external sanction to which I had always responded since that’s how I got to be where I was, and I listened to the voice inside and the voice inside said it’s cool if you want to shovel snow, its all right, there’s nothing immoral about that. And I looked up at them and I smiled and I danced a bit of a jig and I went back to shoveling.”
“And the window closed and I saw them smiling behind it.”
He goes on saying: “Well now I was presented with a peculiar dilemma, because the next Monday when I had to get up and give my lectures in human motivation – the theory of ego psychology which I was expected to present as a responsible member of the psychological community, I saw, was not adequate to the experience I had had. Because that place that I had gone to, I couldn’t find it in the book. I couldn’t find it in the book anywhere.”
“… And I couldn’t find the words to tell anybody about what had happened and I hid behind what we all got to use quite frequently of ‘This was an ineffable experience. I’d like to tell you about it but it’s ineffable. Sorry.”
Here are some of my favorite Ram Dass quotes:
“You may have expected that enlightenment would come Zap! instantaneous and permanent. This is unlikely. After the first ‘ah ha’ experience, it can be thought of as the thinning of a layer of clouds.”
“We had gotten over the feeling that one experience was going to make you enlightened forever. We saw that it wasn’t going to be that simple.”
“If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family.”
“In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.”
“A fellow satsang member asked Maharajji how to meditate, he said, “Meditate like Christ.” I said, “Maharajji, how did Christ meditate?”
He(Maharaji) became very quiet and closed his eyes.
After a few minutes, he had a blissful expression on his face and a tear trickled down his cheek. He opened his eyes and said, “He(Jesus) lost himself in love.”
“There’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing to accomplish, there’s no merit. It’s just this, just this.”
“We’re here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.”