The Secret Chief - Chapter 1: Early Beginnings
Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Epilogue | Appendix I | Appendix II | Acknowledgements
Jacob: What I was hoping was that you would be able to prepare questions - I work better in response to a stimulus rather than just talking out of my head.
Myron: How did you first get into the use of psychedelic agents?
Jacob: I think it was in 1961, something like that. One of my former patients called me and said, "Jacob, I want to see you. I want to talk to you about something." I said, "All right." She said, "I want to tell you about an experience I just had. I can't talk to anyone else about it because I don't think they'd understand it." So I said, "Sure. Come on in."
She came in and sat down and told me that she had recently had an LSD trip. She told me about her experience, and I was fascinated by it. She felt that I was the only one who could understand it because I was Jungian. I had training as a Jungian analyst and I was doing Jungian analysis at that time.
Well, I was just amazed at this experience, just flabbergasted, because, my God, here I'd been working over 30 years in various disciplines and studies and meditations and all that kind of stuff and every now and then getting a glimpse of the truth on an experiential level. Here, this gal comes in and tells me she dropped this minute quantity of material and she had a solid day of nothing but all those beautiful peak experiences that people will get out of it, and tremendous insights and many growth things and all that. I was very surprised. Didn't do anything about it, particularly. I asked her some questions, but I knew that there was nothing that you could even question about it. You just listen to it and get what she's saying. I got a contact high from her, though! (He laughs heartily.)
About three or four months later another person, a man whom I had worked with earlier, called me. He said "Jacob, I've got to talk to you. I've got to see you about something." I said, "Fine, come on in." He came in and he sat down and he told me he had just had an LSD experience. Well, he told me about his experience, and it was every bit as spectacular as the other one that I'd heard from the lady. Then I really got interested. Not only that, I wanted to find out how the hell I could get into something like that!
I decided to look into it. I had some friends here, and they were into it and knew a lot about it. I wanted to get some information about this stuff for myself. One of them had Sandoz's annotated bibliography of every article that had come out that had been printed until then, and he let me read it. There was something like 1,000 different references, all phases of psychedelics and a paragraph digest of many of the articles. I read that through from the beginning to the end and was very, very impressed because of the tremendous potential that was pointed out from the material in terms of the experience that people had from it. It was mostly LSD and psilocybin. All the tremendous great things they said about it and what came out of scientific journals.
There were only two or three references to something bad. Those mostly were because somebody gave it to somebody without telling them what it was or under the wrong circumstances. I believe one of them was when they gave it to a nurse in a hospital while she was on duty. She didn't know what was happening. She freaked out and jumped out the window, down about seven stories, something like that, and killed herself.
Then I really got serious about exploring. One of the first things I did was find out who's doing it. One of the first places I found out who was doing it was a place set up for just this purpose. I found that out because one of their staff came to give a talk to some psychologists. He talked about the LSD. I met him; that's the first time I ever met him. We had a talk, and he got to realize that I had a great interest in it. He's the one that told me about their place. I went down to visit them and he showed me around, told me things, and gave me the idea of the setup.
I found out other people who were working with it at that time. We had a meeting of people who were interested in it and did a lot of talking about its potentials, shared experiences that people had and all of that. Then there were a couple of other places that I went where people knew things about it. In fact I went to a meeting where Aldous Huxley spent an evening with us telling us all about it. He had a place for tripping in Mexico, a health resort. I went down there once for a trip with another therapist and her group.
When I was so interested and fascinated by it someone whom I don't remember any more said, "Jacob, why don't you try it? Find out what it's all about?" I said, "I'd love to, but I don't know where to get it or who to talk to." He said, "What're you talking about? All these people, any one of them, could give you a trip."
I knew someone who was interested in these materials. I was talking to him and asked him if he knew anyone who was willing to give me a trip. He says yes, he knew where I could get a trip and he told me about a fellow who was doing this work. This guy arranged one for me with him and his wife. So I went over there and had a trip. Didn't have much; didn't take much. I get a full trip out of 100 micrograms acid. They gave me the acid, and I took it, and - nice circumstances, very pleasant, secure. Then I start to turn on. I lay down on a kind of divan that they have there and we played some music and as I really started to turn on, they started to turn on.
I remember that the first thing I said was, "Why can't it be like this always?" It was a very deep, emotional trip. He asked me to bring some things along that were important to me, and I brought my Torah. I have my own Torah in its ark. Someplace along the line he was playing Kol Nidre, I think. He laid the Torah across my chest and I immediately went into the lap of God. He and I were One. That was - (feeling strong emotion). I can't remember all the different things. What happened was another thing I said out loud - he copied down what I said out loud - I use tape recordings to catch what people say - I said, "Jacob, if ever again you are frightened you deserve the pain of the fear because you will have forgotten that God is with you and protecting you all the time."
As I was coming down I had some pictures that I brought along - pictures of my family - pictures of my father and my brothers and my mother. The outstanding experience there was, I looked at pictures of my father and my brothers and myself as I was a little boy - and we all were the same person, all of us. There was no difference between us.
I looked at the picture of my mother that I had there and it came alive and I took hold of her hand and we walked through a forest glade or something like that. And I told her - I can cry again, my God - I told her all the different things that I'd never been able to tell her in my life. Just told her what they were! And she listened to them all, she heard them, she did not respond yet we were communicating beautifully. There were other things that happened on the trip, but now I'm going to stop and go to another point.
The space that I was in at the time that I tripped - I was just in the beginning of the late forties - the 50 year crisis that people have going into the second half of life. I see it more as the time when you really get into the spiritual search. I was pretty damned depressed and pretty well ridden with anxieties which are characteristic of that stage. I was dissatisfied with myself, dissatisfied with my work as an analyst. While I was aware of the value of the work I was doing, I was more acutely aware of its limitations. Having the people come in once a week - I never did see people more often than once a week, maybe twice a week if they were in a crisis - and talking and talking and having hit the desert space, the dead space of life where nothing's happening. And listening to them talking and talking, trying to get out of it working with dreams and all that and nothing happening, and realizing God-damn, Jacob, there's nothing you can do except wait until life comes along and gives them a big kick in the ass and they get going again. Nothing's going to happen from me except to be there to listen and to support them.
Well I was in that kind of a space myself, not knowing what to do, where to go. I could only do what I could do; I tried different solutions, but they didn't work. I read books, I read about spiritual things, about God and all that. I got value from it, but it didn't get me out of where I was, actually.
One of the things on the trip that occurred to me was, Jacob, this is the answer you've been looking for! If something like this can do this to you, then - well, I don't know if I filled it out other than saying well, my God, this can jar people loose, this can break people through, this can do all kinds of things. Look what it's doing for you.
I decided then to explore it much more thoroughly. I wanted more trips, to have more experience, to develop it more. I had to find people who had material, that I could get them to sit with me. I remember being with - oh, he was a physician - he was exploring the materials, and I wanted to try grass. He said all right, come by the house here, and I'll have some grass for you and we'll turn on. Well, I was smoking cigarettes in those days. He laid out some joints for me and told me how to inhale it and hold it and all that and so I started to smoke the grass. I smoked it like cigarettes. I inhaled a big drag, held it in my lungs as long as I could and blew it out, then inhaled another one. I did that through two and a half joints, and this was good stuff.
What happened was I really freaked out. I got paranoid as hell! I was lying down on the couch there after I had finished a piece. The agony of the damned went on and on and on such as can happen. Paranoid as hell! Scared to death of everything. If the phone rang I knew it was the police coming in and there was nothing I could do but just give myself up and all that kind of stuff. It was torture! It was a horrible bummer; I had never had a bummer like that in my life until then.
Myron: Were you alone?
Jacob: No, he was there. Some place, about two to three years into it, he came by and put a dish down by me and I picked up my eye and looked at it. I didn't know what it was. I picked up my eye a couple of years later and looked at it and it was some ice cream, with a spoon. He said, "Have some ice cream, Jacob; go ahead."
I picked it up and I took a spoonful of ice cream. I never tasted such ambrosia in my life! It was the exact opposite experience of what I was having. Heavenly! I ate and ate and ate for I don't know how many years. Every bite was so beautiful! Finally I licked the spoon and I licked the bowl clean. I put it back down, laid back on the couch, and went right back into the bummer!
It took quite a while for me to come down from it, and I did. That was my second trip. I had some other trips that were very nice. I can't remember specifically now. I did have mescaline; that was good, very spiritual, very nice. I took acid some more. Two very interesting and important experiences I had. One was with an experienced psychiatrist, let's call him Louis. Let me see if I can remember what the hell I had then. I think it was an acid trip. I remember I was smoking at that time, I was smoking a pack and a half a day, which is a lot of cigarettes. I was having problems at home with my wife, and was pretty unhappy then in my home life. On this trip I was talking - I was coming down from it, somewhat - and I was talking to Louis about things. He had asked me questions to get me to talk, and I was talking about Jane. I was saying something about the problems that I was having with her. I couldn't talk to her, I couldn't relate to her, she was very frightened about anything that I was doing and very paranoid about me. Very jealous, absolutely no reason of any kind at all. I used to have migraines in the early days, but more than anything else what bothered me the most was the fact that she smoked, constantly. And I'm allergic to cigarette smoke. I was telling him that. I was telling Louis, "See. I can't stand cigarette smoke." Louis looks at me and I'm sitting there with a cigarette in my hand. I say, "I'm allergic to smoke, to cigarette smoke."
He says, "You're allergic to smoke?"
I said, "Yes."
He looks at the cigarette and looks at me, and looks at the cigarette, and I look at the cigarette, too. I'm still pretty stoned. I looked and looked and looked for a long, long, time, I looked at that cigarette. Hours, just looked at it. Many things were going through my mind. Louis says to me, "Well, if you're allergic to cigarettes, are you going to stop smoking?"
After a long pause, I don't know what time it was, but I responded. I said, "That's the wrong question, Louis. The question is not, am I going to quit, the question is, have I quit?" I watched that cigarette burn down to the cork tip in my fingers, and I stuffed it out. And I've never smoked a cigarette since then. I was never able to. I had tried to stop many times, you know how you try to stop. I've never smoked a cigarette since then.
There's another incident, too, an experience in my home that I had that was a very important one. I've had migraines all my life. The earliest memory I have of myself is lying on the front porch of my house at home while they're paving the street and the tar was there as they were paving the street and bricks as they used in those days and the tar smell was making my head ache so bad. That's the earliest experience I had. About three, maybe four years old. The headaches were extremely severe and painful. Pretty bad constantly.
One day I was tripping in a group trip. I was having an ibogaine trip. Do you know ibogaine? It's a fantastic medicine, really. I think I mentioned that we use the word medicine rather than drugs.
You get the answers to all your questions on this trip, on the ibogaine trip. Everything is clearly stated, any questions you have. You go into the trip with questions if you want to. You ask the question but you don't try to answer it. The answer comes to you. This time I decided to ask Mr. Ibogaine - we call him, the person from whom you get the answer, Mr. Ibogaine. Anyway, my question was, what is this with these headaches that I have, that I suffer from? That's all. I was really turned on and deep in a trip and the question occurred to me. Okay, ask it. "What is it with these headaches?"
The answer came. I've had a number of ibogaine trips and the answer always comes. You may not recognize it for what it is, it may be very ambiguous or somewhat like that, but you've got the answer for sure, you'd better hang onto it. The answer came back and said, "You're going to die." I looked, and I said, "What?" That's what it said. I know it said it. I looked around it, and it said I'm going to die.
You don't get frightened with an experience like that. You just take whatever's handed to you and look at it, handle it. So I looked at it, and I looked at it and I said, "Jesus Christ, what does that mean, I'm going to die? Well it means you're going to die, that's all it means." Die when? Of course I knew I'm going to die some day. I know that, that's nothing new. This isn't the kind of "You're going to die" that Mr. Ibogaine was saying.
I said, "Well, gee, this is something between me and Mr. Ibogaine. It is not something that I can tell anybody about." On the report of my trip - we all gathered the next morning and told what happened on our trip - on the report of my trip, I could not say anything to them about Mr. Ibogaine's saying I'm going to die, since that would scare the hell out of everybody. They wouldn't know how to take it.
I didn't know how to take it. I never did know. I kept reflecting on it for quite some time. And it was about a month later. The only relief I could ever get for migraine was codeine. And I took one helluva lot of codeine. I was certainly habituated, but not addicted because there were times I wanted to quit taking it, and I decided I was going to quit. I did quit; I quit for weeks, and I could do it! Without too much trouble. And my migraines would be easier on me even then. But then I'd get back on it again. I was taking as many as four to eight half- grain tablets of codeine every day, so that I could function without the pain.
A month after this trip I took another trip. I don't remember what the material was. It wasn't ibogaine. I was with somebody, I can't remember who it was, I don't even remember if it was a man or a woman. I took something, I think it was acid, and had my trip. As I was coming down from the trip, as most of the people liked to do and as I always wanted to do, I walked down to the water. I walked along the water, which was a very important place for me. That's where I had my greatest conversations with God. That was really a very important thing to me. I remember walking along, talking to God, and coming back up to the house. As I was coming up the hill something flashed in my mind, something that was a result of the space I was in from the trip. What flashed in my mind was a phrase.
I know that when lots of times you take an ibogaine trip you get something that's enigmatic, you don't know what it is, and later on you'll get something that fills it in. Completes the sentence is really what it does. It turns out that "You're going to die," was part of a sentence. The second part of the sentence flashed into my mind. "Unless you stop taking codeine."
I rolled that one around and rolled it around and rolled it around and looked at it. God-damn! How can I function, unless I take codeine? I just played around with it a lot. Maybe I haven't got the right message, or something like that. Then I said, "No, Jacob, don't fuck around with this stuff. You know the answer. You take it. You got the right message. Take it, just as you got it. I'm going to die unless I stop taking codeine. Okay, I got the message. That's the truth, I know that's the truth. So, what am I going to do about it? Am I going to quit taking codeine? It doesn't bother me to die. I'm going to die some day. But - I'm not ready yet. I don't want to, right now. Am I going to quit taking codeine?"
And it flashed in my mind the answer, this statement. "Jacob, that's the wrong question. The question is not 'Are you going to quit taking codeine?' The question is, 'Have you quit taking codeine?'" The same thing that happened with the cigarettes.
And I knew the answer. Right then and there I knew the answer. I had quit. I had quit. For a long, long time. My migraines got less and less. Occasionally they would get real strong, I would take some for a little while. But it was over with. I was over taking it as I used to. Well as you can imagine, that was a very spectacular thing in my life.
Those are personal incidents. Some of the rough times that I went through.
Then I got some other people interested. In fact, some of the people I used to work with - I was doing groups then, too - I was telling people about my experience and they all got excited and interested and said, "Hey! I'd like to do that!"
Fine! Somebody had said to me at one point, "Jacob, you should be doing this. You'd be a natural at this kind of thing."
I said, "Who me? I can't do that kind of thing. That'd be too big a responsibility. I wouldn't know how to handle it."
But this person whom I knew very well wanted to have a trip and I made the arrangements and I gave her a trip and she had a fabulous experience. And that was the beginning. Several people wanted to have a trip. But after a dozen or so had had a trip they were complaining because there was nobody they could talk to about it. Look, you couldn't talk to anybody about it. They wouldn't understand it, they'd think it was a terrible thing or something. So I said, "Fine, let's have a meeting at my house. Everybody who's tripped, we all get together and talk about our trip." We did that several times. They'd talk about it, we enjoyed it very much and one day somebody said, "Jacob, why don't we all take a trip together?" Somebody suggested I should be doing group trips, too.
I said, "What?" They were all clamoring about it. So I said, "Okay, we can try it once. We can all spend a weekend together and we'll have a trip."
There were ten or twelve of us. We had a little ceremony developed and plenty of preparation and security, and I stayed straight. I only let them take 50 micrograms of LSD because I didn't know what the hell was going to come from it. Well, a few of them turned on a little bit. Not very many of them did turn on. But I wasn't going to go any further that time. After it was over we talked about it and had a good time for the weekend, but not much happened.
I decided we'll do it again, only next time I will give them their base amount which I knew from their individual trip. They'd all had individual trips with me. Then we'll see what happens. We did that again about a month later and that was a fantastic experience. That began the whole program of group tripping.
There's the individual trip and the group trip. The evolvement is something I would like to be able to describe. There was so much that went on. It was all experimental, all exploring, everything that we did. We tried this, we tried that, in terms of what went on during a trip. First, I want to go into the development of the individual trip.
In the early days, whenever I had an individual trip, I always had a physician present. He would come in and see the person first and check them out. It was just a procedure that I wanted to explore and see what was necessary and what wasn't. This was mostly for my own feeling of security in case anything happened. He was present the first couple of hours of every trip. These trips were all done in my office. I had a folding bed that I put up and went through a lot of preparation with them first. I explored different things. I read everything there was about what was important to do in preparation for a trip. I tried a lot of them.
A physician worked with me a lot. He liked to work with people throughout the whole trip. I started to do that and then very gradually did less and less of it, until finally I did not work with them except at a point when they wanted me or needed me. He explored on a psychoanalytic basis. He used that model which I couldn't use. It was not my model.
It was less than a year that my doctor friend would come into the office. After that I didn't need anybody. I knew I didn't need anybody. In fact, it was better not to have him. He would try to do some work with the person which was anti what I was doing.
In the beginning I worked with the people on trips - I can't describe what the work was right now. I helped support them in turning on. They got frightened, you know? I'd hold their hands or I'd hold them in my arms and tell them to go ahead, experience it out. I would talk to them in advance about this so that they would know that this was available.
Most of them were blissful trips, but if somebody got frightened with the transition point between one stage of consciousness and the other I would prefer to be close to them. At times I would ask what they were experiencing. If they were in pain or something like that I would ask them to describe the pain, where it was, and go into it. If it was a pain in the stomach, I would say, "Okay, now, think about opening your mouth, and going down into your mouth and describe what you see. It's dark, it's this, that, and keep on going. Describe what you see as you go down. Go all the way down, into your insides." Frequently they would burst into a beautiful world of paradise. The pain would immediately be transformed into ecstasy. Something like that would happen. I tried many different things. As they were coming down from the trip we would talk, and they would talk about where they'd been. You can't talk much, you know, until you're coming down.
Also there was physical contact. It was important in those days that they would have something to resist before they turned on. Or as they were turning on. They were having trouble turning on - I'd tell them first that this might happen - I would lie down on top of them, grab the edge of the bed and say, "Now what I want you to do is push against me." I want you to know, I hung on for dear life. I said, "Push harder, harder, harder!" And they did. When they succeeded in getting me off they were through to the other side! Their report of what happened as a result of that and later what they experienced was just a fascinating thing.
One of the things I had everybody do that I tripped was after or as soon as he or she could sit down and make notes of whatever he or she could recall - write up the whole thing - for themselves, and for me.
Myron: Did you keep copies of these reports?
Jacob: I kept a file of these reports, but some years ago, the file got thrown out. Of all the trips - I had hundreds of them - they would have made a good book themselves.
The screening process and the preparation process: we talked a lot. I had them go through a lot of rituals for themselves - fasting, learn how to do some fasting. I had certain things that I had them read, spiritual literature that was very illuminating and they were able to get it.
Myron: Do you have a few favorites along those lines?
Jacob: Not any more. Not any more, I don't. I don't suggest readings any more, because the people that come to me have gone through a lot of things in terms of reading, and they're ready for something besides reading.
Myron: I'm thinking in terms of people who are just looking into this, and looking for some helpful ways to get started.
Jacob: Very little that I've come across I would recommend. Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, those certainly are ones. Those are the only things I found that were important. I used to give a lot of reading, but that didn't make any difference. This experience is such a very different dimension. They left it all behind very quickly. It did not help in getting them prepared. Their greatest help was their contact with me - talking and experiencing. For the most part the people that I do now are people who make a big difference in the world, with people. They're therapists and psychiatrists, physicians, they're government people who have very high positions and great influence.
Myron: I've always had this dream that you could somehow bring this about, yet we have never succeeded at that at our Foundation (the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, California).
Jacob: They didn't give you the chance.
Myron: I don't know; we brought a lot of stuff on ourselves. We were pretty immature.
Jacob: Of course. I look at the progress I made down through the years and the different changes that I made as a result of my experience - I can't recall them all but I continually changed my procedures and my thinking about it and my ideas about what happened and what could happen; how to set situations so that you get the best possible setting and so that they could get the best possible trip. The most useful trip for them.
Some of the rough things that I went through on trips - the roughest of all is they get paranoid and run away. That's scary as hell until they are located. They see me as the devil. No matter what I say to them the devil is trying to destroy them. If I try to get them to take some niacin, which is supposed to bring them down, that's poison. They won't touch it. No way. Or a sedative or whatever. I learned not to do that; I learned to screen better. I could sense after a while whether a person was likely to get paranoid on a trip, or violent, or something like that. And I was alone on all this.
This was such a fascinating thing to be doing! I didn't have to do much of anything at all except provide the opportunity and the material and then to see the fantastic results! The transformations that came in all of those people. It was really something.
We went on, I kept on doing it, one or two a month.
Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Epilogue | Appendix I | Appendix II | Acknowledgements