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متن انگلیسی فصل

BY “PSYCHEDELIC UNDERGROUND,” I don’t mean the shadowy world of people making, selling, and using psychedelic drugs illegally. I have in mind a specific subset of that world, populated by perhaps a couple hundred “guides,” or therapists, working with a variety of psychedelic substances in a carefully prescribed manner, with the intention of healing the ill or bettering the well by helping them fulfill their spiritual, creative, or emotional potential. Many of these guides are credentialed therapists, so by doing this work they are risking not only their freedom but also their professional licenses. I met one who was a physician and heard about another. Some are religious professionals—rabbis and ministers of various denominations; a few call themselves shamans; one described himself as a druid. The rest are therapists trained in dizzying combinations of alternative schools: I met Jungians and Reichians, Gestalt therapists and “transpersonal” psychologists; energy healers; practitioners of aura work, breathwork, and bodywork; EST, past-life, and family constellation therapists, vision questers, astrologers, and meditation teachers of every stripe—a shaggy reunion of that whole 1970s class of alternative “modalities” that usually get lumped together under the rubric of the “human potential movement” and that has as its world headquarters Esalen. The New Age terminology can be a little off-putting; there were times when I felt I was listening to people whose language and vocabulary had stopped evolving sometime in the early 1970s, at the very moment when psychedelic therapy was forced underground, freezing a subculture in time.

I tracked down several of these people in the Bay Area, which probably has the largest concentration of underground guides in the country, without much difficulty. Asking around, I soon discovered that a friend had a friend who worked with a guide down in Santa Cruz, doing an annual psilocybin journey on the occasion of his birthday. I also soon discovered that the membrane between the aboveground and the belowground psychedelic worlds is permeable in certain places; a couple of the people I befriended while reporting on the university psilocybin trials were willing to introduce me to “colleagues” who worked underground. One introduction led to another as people came to trust my intentions. By now, I’ve interviewed fifteen underground guides and have worked with five.

Considering the risks involved, I found most of these people unexpectedly open, generous, and trusting. Although the authorities have so far shown no interest in going after people practicing psychedelic-assisted therapy, the work remains illegal and so is dangerous to share with a journalist without taking precautions. All the guides asked me not to disclose their names or locations and to take whatever other measures I could to protect them. With that in mind, I have changed not only their names and locations but also certain other identifying details in each of their stories. But all the people you are about to meet are real individuals, not composites or fictions.

Virtually all of the underground guides I met are descended in one way or another from the generation of psychedelic therapists working on the West Coast and around Cambridge during the 1950s and 1960s when this work was still legal. Indeed, just about everyone I interviewed could trace a professional lineage reaching back to Timothy Leary (often through one of his graduate students), Stanislav Grof, Al Hubbard, or a Bay Area psychologist named Leo Zeff. Zeff, who died in 1988, was one of the earliest underground therapists, and certainly the most well-known; he claims to have “processed” (Al Hubbard’s term) three thousand patients and trained 150 guides during his career, including several of the ones I met on the West Coast.

Zeff also left a posthumous (and anonymous) account of his work, in the form of a 1997 book called The Secret Chief, a series of interviews with a therapist called Jacob conducted by his close friend Myron Stolaroff. (In 2004, Zeff’s family gave Stolaroff permission to disclose his identity and republish the book as The Secret Chief Revealed.) On the evidence of his interviews, Zeff is in many ways typical of the underground therapists I met, in both his approach and his manner; he comes across rather as folksy, or haimish, to use a Yiddish word Zeff would have appreciated, rather than as a renegade, guru, or hippie. In a photograph included in the 2004 edition, a smiling Zeff, wearing a big pair of aviator glasses and a sweater vest over his shirtsleeves, looks more like a favorite uncle than either an outlaw or mystic. Yet he was both.

Zeff was a forty-nine-year-old Jungian therapist practicing in Oakland in 1961 when he had his first trip, on a hundred micrograms of LSD. (It might have been Stolaroff himself who first “tripped him,” to borrow one of Zeff’s locutions.) The guide had asked him to bring along an object of personal significance, so Zeff brought his Torah. After the effects of the LSD had come on, his guide “laid the Torah across my chest and I immediately went into the lap of God. He and I were One.”

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