Have Scissors, Will Travel
“People are strange when you’re a stranger.”
– Jim Morrison, the Doors.
Upon my return to the City by the Bay it felt to me as if everything had changed. The city was exactly the same as it had always been, but I could sense something new about myself, inwardly. That made all the difference. It was as if some unknown and slightly confusing dimension of being had begun to open up in me, and now suddenly the everyday business of living among all these people seemed like just a thin veneer to me. It all seemed a little bit thin. I felt like a stranger in my own skin. It was as if there was something missing, something that I could sense, but I still couldn’t put a name to it, whatever it was.
My experience with Alex Horn on the mountain had shown me that it was easy to get lost if I blindly followed someone else’s version of the truth, instead of listening to my own heart and my deepest intuitions. I wanted something real, not just more of the same. I knew that I had to stay true to that authentic feeling, that particular “something” that was calling me from deep inside my soul. The only problem was that it was a slippery, unexplainable kind of thing – almost like a sixth sense, or like a premonition, and I couldn’t nail it down, let alone make a decision as to what to do about it.
I felt as if my life was at loose ends. I made up my mind to dissolve all my ties with Elizabeth Arden’s Salon, and in fact, I didn’t want to work in a Salon ever again. My appointments with Revlon i cancelled that one too, but I still had plenty of wealthy clients inviting me to their homes, at least. I was freelancing, and blowing like a leaf in the wind. My motto during that time might have read something like: “Have scissors, will travel.”
The trouble was – I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life next. But, as it turned out, fate had a few more surprises up its sleeve. There was a message waiting for me from Paul Henri, who had telephoned for me while I was up on the mountain. Paul was an architect and interior designer from New York. We had met and got to know each other through my dealings with European Craftsmen Limited.
I called him back, and he told me that he wanted me to help him hunt for artifacts for his upcoming design projects. He thought I would be the perfect person to help him, and he even offered to pay for a one way ticket back to NYC. I accepted gladly, without hesitation. I could see that it was time for me to return to my $68 rent-controlled apartment, and I was ready to take the first step of a 1,000 miles starts with the first step . My time in San Francisco was coming to its inevitable conclusion, and it felt like I had come “full circle.” It was time to move on. But before I boarded the plane, there was one last crazy experience that left a lasting effect on my psyche, and one that opened up my mental horizons even wider.
One Last Crazy Adventure in the San Francisco Moonlight
“Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends.
Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening.”
― Allen Ginsberg.
Allen Ginsberg reads Jack Kerouac’s novel in a San Francisco bookshop
If you’ve ever heard of Allen Ginsberg, and his famous book of psychedelic poetry called, Howl, or Jack Kerouac or William S. Burroughs, then you will know something of the Beat Generation, and the strange sub-culture of San Francisco of the late 60’s. It was mind-expanding, to say the least.
Winds of change were blowing in from the Far East, and new seeds of metaphysical ideas were finding fertile soil in the minds of the youth, and the crazy lost souls. People were questioning the philosophies and religions and politics of the West, and it was thrilling to be alive in that place and time.
San Francisco might be seen as liberal and open-minded today, but that was not always how it was. It used to be much more conservative. The youth of that time were fearless in challenging the old, established ideas of America. It was a free-spirited rebellion, mixed with poetry, music, and open enquiry into meditation, yoga, and mysticism, and of course, mind-expanding substances. We wanted to be free, to push the limits, and to open the “Doors of Perception.” We wanted to taste life, in all its richness and magic, and to create our own kind of Utopia. We wanted to feel alive, and real, and true.
Before I left for New York, I was invited to a party in the Haight. I remember sitting in the living room of someone famous, and next thing I knew, the host was walking around with a silver tray loaded with pills, and we was nonchalantly offering them to everyone.
“This is an Upper,” He was saying, “We’re heading to Fillmore West, and you’re all invited.”
What the hell. Why not? I took one of the pills, and swallowed, as I downed my drink.
A bunch of us left the apartment, and jumped into a couple of cars and headed out. Along the way I started feeling very strange. There was an odd tingling sensation going through me, and it felt like I was slipping away, or unravelling, losing my firm grip on ‘reality.’
Piercing the Veil
My first LSD experience had been in New York with a guy called Bobby. He told me the stuff would “liven up our adventure in the city,” – and that it certainly did. That first trip was a strange soul-safari, and it felt as if we had pierced the veil of illusion that we had been trapped in all our lives, and as if we could finally see the truth about existence for the first time.
Bobby gave me the LSD, and when it started coming on, he placed me in a bubble and floated me all the way down from 88th street to The Village. I felt like Toad of Toad Hall on a magical mystery tour of the city, insulated in my magic capsule. I came to see that there was an entire, mysterious Universe inside me, and my mind was totally blown. I remember at one point that Bobby maneuvered us into an elevator, and pressed the button for the 35th floor. The door closed, and Bobby looked at me very seriously, and told me that we were now in a space ship, and that I should pay careful attention, because I would see amazing things if I looked out the porthole.
As I looked out I could see that it was true. The cosmos with all the planets and all the stars floated serenely outside, as if suspended in jelly. Bobby seemed to be talking for hours, like some kind of cosmic tour guide, explaining the mysteries of time and space, as we went up, up and away into the great expanse above. The doors finally opened after what seemed like an eternity.
All night we floated around in our “bubbles” – all the way down 7th Avenue, from Upper to Lower Manhattan, until our mystery tour wound down to an end in an all-night diner in Greenwich Village. We ordered a lot of food, but didn’t eat any of it. When it was all over I crashed out, and slept for the rest of the weekend. That was my first experience with LSD, and three years later, there in San Francisco, it was about to start all over again for my second, and final trip.
“That, my friend, was the finest LSD in the city.” He said, in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, and I realized that I was about to have an out-of-body-experience again.
Fillmore West is one of the most famous music venues in the country. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Jimmy Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival were regulars there. It was an ‘underground’ culture that would one day blossom into an amazing worldwide phenomenon, and we were fortunate enough to be there, during the heyday.
Somehow we arrived at the venue in one piece, and when we got inside, the music was pumping from five different stages. It seemed like there were thousands of people, all dancing to “Let’s all get stoned.”
By then the LSD waves were coming on Full Blast Man, and I was “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out.”
At some point I got separated from my friends, and I was just drifting through the crowd, floating along on the psychedelic vibes, dancing like a wild thing, leaving my body and then returning again, and my mind was flooded by an unstoppable surge of impressions. It was intense.
I remember that I looked at the stage where someone was jamming the saxophone, and I saw the notes peel out of the instrument and drift into the air in the most delicious way. I felt myself irresistibly drawn to them, and then I was actually eating them.
It was indescribably beautiful, but then I realized what was actually happening, and at that very moment a policeman came into my field of vision, and I instantly sobered up. But that didn’t last long either. Next thing the musical notes were floating gorgeously in the air like ethereal artworks again. I remember that it felt completely satisfying, as if a new kind of sense ability had been opened up in my mind, beyond the usual five. I could taste colors, and feel sounds.
Some part of me was overjoyed that I could now experience what I had been looking for in such a direct way, but of course, it was completely impossible to explain how it was happening, and I knew that it was only temporary. That didn’t matter to me at the time. It was an immaculate sensation, and it filled me up to overflowing.
Finally, I vaguely remember that someone drove me home, as I drifted between these odd levels of consciousness. As it was with the first trip in New York, I just crashed out for a couple of days after that.
At the time, I knew very little about hallucinogenic drugs, or as some call them today “entheogens.” For me it was just an amazing experience, but I somehow sensed that there was more to it than I could understand.
Learning to Fly
I later learned that there’s actually a very interesting connection between entheogenic substances like LSD and the mystical state of mind you can achieve through meditation. The word “entheogen” actually means a substance that gives you a direct experience of the Divine. It’s like flipping a switch in your mind, and suddenly your mental world expands to include a lot more than you’re used to, or that your rational mind can accept as ‘real.’ You can suddenly see that ‘reality’ contains dimensions than you never suspected.
A few years later I met John G. Bennet, who explained to me what these kinds of substances are really for. They’re not meant purely for entertainment, or just to ‘get your kicks,’ as we were doing back then. When speaking about different psychedelic plants and drugs he told me:
“These plants and elements are here to give us a taste of the other worlds. When we take them, and experience these altered states of mind, we can begin to learn how to do it naturally, without needing to use those substances.”
That makes a lot of sense to me now, and although I never took LSD again, that night will forever be etched into my memory. It gave me a small taste of the ‘other world’ – and I became very curious to know more about these things.
Not long after that I boarded the plane back to the Big Apple, where my journey would continue. It was there that I found my first real teacher – who would expand my world view in so many important ways. I would end up uncovering the Chinese mysteries, discover the Fourth Way, and continue on my path towards understanding, with the help of some remarkable people.
Jack Kerouac once wrote: “The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view” As you will see in the following chapters, that’s exactly the spirit in which I decided to continue my quest. A One Way Ticket back to the Big Apple / Mission accomplished / Closing one door and Opening another but this time with a whole new bag of tricks / my new found Magician the Unknowable Mr Gurdjieff and soon to be Movement and dance teacher / Enter Lord Pentland Head of the American Gurdjieff Foundation for Harmonious Development