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480 pages, Hardcover
First published May 15, 2018
Normally, rites of passage help societies knit together as the young cross over hurdles and through gates erected and maintained by their elders, coming out on the other side to take their place in the community of adults. Not so with the psychedelic journey in the 1960s, which at its conclusion dropped its young travelers onto a psychic landscape unrecognizable to their parents. (p. 216)
Self and Spirit define the opposite ends of a spectrum, but that spectrum needn't reach clear to the heavens to have meaning for us. It can stay right here on earth. When the ego dissolves, so does a bounded conception not only of ourself but of our self-interest. What emerges in its place is invariably a broader, more open-hearted and altruistic – that is, more spiritual – idea of what matters in life. One in which a new sense of connection, or love, however defined, seems to figure prominently.
Suddenly I realized that the molecules of my body, and the molecules of my spacecraft, the molecules in the bodies of my partners, were prototyped, manufactured in some ancient generation of stars. [I felt] an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connectedness...It wasn't 'Them and Us,' it was 'That's me! that's all of it, it's one thing.' And it was accompanied by an ecstasy, a sense of, 'Oh my God, wow, yes' – an insight, an epiphany.
So maybe this, then, is the enduring contribution of Leary: by turning on a generation – the generation that, years later, has now taken charge of our institutions – he helped create the conditions in which a revival of psychedelic research is now possible.
Love is everything. Is a platitude so deeply felt still a platitude? No, I decided. A platitude is precisely what is left of a truth after it has been drained of all emotion. To re-saturate that dried husk with feeling is to see it again for what it is: the loveliest and most deepest of truths, hidden in plain sight. A spiritual insight? Maybe so. Or at least that's how it appeared in the middle of my journey. Psychedelics can make even the most cynical of us into fervent evangelists of the obvious.