The Secret Chief - Chapter 2: Selection and Preparation
Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Epilogue | Appendix I | Appendix II | Acknowledgements
Selecting the Client
MYRON: What would you look for when you screened? What were the characteristics that were important to avoid?
Jacob: I screened very carefully. I'll try to tell you what my screening process was. A lot of it was based upon experience. Not knowing at first who was a suitable candidate for the kind of trip I did under the circumstances I set up, I would offer to trip people who weren't suitable. As a result I had some pretty paranoid trips. That's extremely painful to go through, to stay with them until they finally come down. Even though afterwards they said it was the most fantastic experience they ever had in their life. It changed their whole life. That always happened when they had those paranoid trips. Painful experiences, weeping, listless; I was very encouraged when they could go through this.
One of the things I learned about tripping very early was that we get in touch with feelings we've never been able to experience before and at a depth and a level that we've never been able to reach. That could be fear, it could be love, it could be ecstasy, it could be anything. Just as long as it's feelings - sadness, grief. Lots of times they would start to cry on a trip and cry for the longest time so deeply. To me it seemed so satisfying because they were getting something out. I liked that.
I learned to watch out for my motivations for wanting to trip somebody. To make sure that - I don't know what word would be suitable here - I use the word pure, but it's not the word I want. Clean. That I wasn't doing it for self-aggrandizement or something like that. I learned very early that I am an instrument. I do not bring this experience to anybody. I provide them with the opportunity; they have the experience. They bring their own experience to themselves, and I have the privilege of sitting with them while it's going on.
Myron: I think I've picked up an awful lot of junk sitting in sessions. I was so inexperienced and I'd never been trained as a therapist and I used to get so tired. I'm sure it was my self-involvement - I wanted to do something for somebody.
Jacob: To try to help them. I very soon learned that my traditional techniques of helping people in therapy do not work, they just don't work. Just leave 'em alone! They know what the hell's wrong with them or the God within them knows what's wrong with them and provides them with whatever they need which I don't know anything about and they don't even know anything about. They don't know what their real needs are. All they know is what their wants are. That's true for all of us, of course. (Laughs.)
Just how you know you have a good candidate is very difficult to describe. I've tried to relate this many times. I've tried to teach. It's nothing you can teach. Only your experience will give it to you. My intuition was the most important thing, and my stomach. My stomach would respond to something that was not right. Something they would say - or just being with them, no matter what they were saying, because I couldn't trust what they were saying as being them. It isn't them, what they were saying. I would get a vague feeling of anxiety that would stay with me after I had talked to the person and certain questions, certain things that they had said would come to my mind.
I would just look at them. Then I would talk to them again a time or two and see if I wanted to proceed more along the exploring. Always I told them this is exploratory until I was really sure I wanted to trip with them and they were really sure that they wanted to take the trip. Then we would arrange for the trip and do some preparation.
Myron: Would you describe it as you would have to feel a certain kind of bond with them?
Jacob: Yes. I would have to have that feeling that I would really like to trip this person.
Other factors besides those subjective ones: How much work they have done on themselves in terms of their own individual growth. How long they've been working on themselves. What training they've had. What workshops they've gone to. What readings they've done. What they feel they've accomplished. How far they've gone and what their complaints were about themselves in terms of inadequacies, like, "I know all the things in my mind, but I want to get them in my heart." I can tell in getting their history if they're searching, how far they've gone, how much of it has sunk in. When I get the feeling that I'm really interested in this person, like, "Oh, boy, a trip would do just exactly what they want, what they're asking for!" Then I knew this was o.k. If I didn't get that kind of thing I wouldn't stay with them longer or I would say no, I don't think it's time yet.
I had to turn down people very seldom because before they even get to me there's always a selective process going on. They are referred by somebody who knows me and has tripped with me and has worked with me. Before they even get to know who I am or get to see me this person will call me and tell me, "You know, here's so-and-so that I would like to refer to you for a trip."
I would say, "Well, tell me about the person." They would tell me a lot of things - how well you know them, do you trust the person, a lot of questions. Questions are what you want. "What do you know about the explorations that they've made already? You know that we are spiritually oriented. Are they also interested in that and oriented in that?" They know these are questions I'm going to be asking, so that the people that are referred to me are already screened by them as good candidates. It might be the spouse of somebody that has tripped, too. A boyfriend or a girlfriend of somebody or a colleague or somebody who is on the search with them.
In other words they know this person. They've already screened them. The person really wants to have a trip. They know that. They just don't know where to go or how to go and they've heard what great things have come from them, and what great things have happened to the person that is making the referral. They're close, in some way. They'd like to have that happen to them, too.
Then the referring person calls me, because no one can ever give out my name without prior clearance from me. They call me, I get all the information. I say, "Yep, it sounds okay. Tell them to call me and I'll set up an exploratory with them."
And that's what happens. Very rarely do I have to turn anybody like that down. Very rare. Although sometimes I don't have the right feeling about the person and I know that the person who referred them doesn't know much about them, really, but just believes they might be a good candidate. That one I would turn down.
There are these particular questions, some of them I've mentioned that I think of now that I would ask them or explore with them in terms of their state. What their expectations are. What they'd like to get from such an experience. I used to see them six, eight, ten times before I would decide. Not any more. One visit is all I need. One visit with the person for me to experience them and to get the feeling, "Yeah, this is one I really would like to trip." Or for them to get to experience me, for that's very important to them. The feeling of trust that they have in me is extremely important. How do they feel about me? When it turns out that we really make a connection, that's all there is to it, we arrange a trip. No more than that. All the circumstance surrounding the trip, that I'll be talking about some place along the line, too.
So, it's mostly based upon the experience that I've had already and it's mostly a feeling and an intuitive process which I don't see operating, I just see the results which come in my willingness to relate to a person.
Myron: Are there certain kinds of presenting problems which are a factor, like certain kinds of difficulties that a person has that make it a more difficult situation or is it more just a feel of the individual?
Jacob: You see, the point of presenting symptoms, specific problems that they want to have dealt with, doesn't come into the picture. There are no symptoms, really. They just say, "I would like to have this kind of experience because I want to grow, as so-and-so has been doing. I want to get the kind of religious experience that can come out of this thing. That's what I'm looking for."
They will come in, and I'll ask, "What do you want to take a trip for?" Then they'll tell me what's going on in their life that they're dissatisfied with, that they'd like to come to terms with, that they'd like to change. They have lots of anxieties, worried about things - they're not getting along well with their job, with their boss, with their wife, with their family, colleagues or friends or whatever or they've got complaints, presenting complaints. It's not the kind of thing that you find when somebody comes in for therapy and they give you a list of their neurotic symptoms or something like that and that they want to have changed. Sure they want change. Many of them have already gone far enough to learn that it's not the outside that needs changing, it's the inside that needs changing and this is the approach that they want to take for changing the inside. Because when you change the inside what you see outside is different.
Myron: So the people you work with would generally be far more growth-oriented than what the usual therapist works with.
Jacob: Mostly, yes. Every now and then somebody comes from some part of the country that is a person who is referred by somebody whom I've trained out there who does a lot of tripping, too.
Myron: Would it appeal to you if somebody had some unusually tough problem that they were unable to get anywhere with in therapy and they thought that maybe this procedure might be a breakthrough and might be helpful? Would that kind of a case interest you?
Jacob: That's a familiar thing. They say, "I've been working on this for a long time and I haven't been able to get any place with it. Maybe a trip will help me break through it." I've heard this. It could be a specific thing or it could be a general condition that they talk about.
Myron: Most people have a resistance to therapy. They don't like the idea that something's wrong with them and that they've got to go for help. In another case it might be the expense, or whatever, so usually before a lot of people will go into therapy there has to be some really tough problem. Maybe they've got colitis, or maybe they have a serious marriage problem or they know they have a very difficult relationship and maybe they've worked in therapy for a long period of time and haven't seemed to get anywhere. They seem to be really blocked.
Jacob: I see what you're saying. A number of people like that were referred to me and referred by people who know them and know their history. And I say, "Look, I can tell you about something that very possibly may help you break through on this."
Myron: To focus on this issue, maybe they're not even interested in spiritual growth but they just really have a serious problem.
Jacob: Oh, yes, that's right! I never mention the word spiritual to them unless they bring it up. I've had many people, I mean many people who've come to me who have been in analysis for a long time. Some have been in analysis four times a week for eight to ten years continuously. They said they had gotten a lot out of it. However, there was always something that they never could get to. They have taken a trip and in one trip afterwards have said, "I got more out of that one day's experience than I did in my whole eight or ten years or whatever of psychoanalysis." I've done that numbers of times.
Clients with Previous Psychedelic Experience
Here's another one that happens a lot. People will come to me who have already tripped who want to have my particular kind of way of tripping. One of them had tripped at least five hundred times on acid, others who have tripped three, four hundred times, down through the early Sixties, clear up to recent times. You know, plenty of trips their own way, who've heard about people who have tripped with me and where they got to so they want to have this kind of trip. We talk about it, and they would be good candidates so I'd say, "Sure." They would have their trip on acid. Invariably these people have said, "I've never had an acid trip before in my life! This is the first time I've ever really had an acid trip."
Myron: I'm real interested in that, because frankly I've had a lot of resistance to Tim Leary and the tremendous effort he made to make it so generally available. I feel that so much of the potential has been missed by kids using it on their own in the way they've used it. There's been a lot of self-gratification, there's been a lot of pleasure experiences and a lot of what Al Hubbard called "sharpening your wits" to reinforce "I'm right, you're wrong." I feel by and large that not too many have seen the real implications. So your experience here really interests me.
Jacob: Yeah. I would always ask them, "Did you feel that you ever got any value from your previous trips?"
They would say, "I got some great insights from it." They would say that in advance. But afterwards they would say, "No, nothing like what I got this time."
Myron: I think that's really marvelous. It says a great deal for you and your procedures. And it confirms some of my own hopes in this area. Did you keep any kind of records where you might be able to give some kind of a numerical assessment for this sort of thing? Like, how many individuals came to you who had many, many acid trips who arrived at this conclusion as a result of a single trip?
Jacob: I didn't keep any records but I can give you a fair estimate. Looking over more than 3,000 people who have tripped with me individually and in groups I would say that between five and ten percent have tripped before. That's on psychedelics, not just grass. Certainly five percent have tripped; some a little bit, some a lot. It's those who have tripped a lot - well they will all say that the trip they do with me is very different, very different.
Myron: You can say that that's just about universal?
Jacob: Yes. For those who have tripped before on acid or any of the psychedelics or psychoactive materials even, except for grass. Yeah. Once or twice a number of them - I can't recall now how many - have had very bad trips and came to me to have a trip under these circumstances. Usually where they were interrupted, and unable to get all the way through it because somebody took them off to the hospital and they were given Thorazine or some kind of shit like that. They didn't get a chance to really complete it, to go through all the bad spaces that they had to go through. They would come to me and we would trip. Under my circumstances I helped them through their fears so that when they came out they were really reborn. That's Stan Grof's whole model, that's a rebirth experience. Transformation is rebirth and all that.
Clients in Therapy
Myron: Do you think you can make an estimate of how many had been in extensive therapy who as a result of a trip with you found that they had made a really profound gain compared to the therapy they had previously been in?
Jacob: Yeah. How many had been in therapy - a lot of them. Let me see if I can say how many. Eighty to eighty-five percent had been in therapy before. Some of them were currently in therapy and wanted to have this experience. I want to come back to that, so you remind me of that. Out of that eighty to eighty-five percent, whatever it is, all of them said they got much more out of their tripping.
Now, they're not putting down their therapy. In fact, this experience illuminated the insights that they got from therapy but didn't get very deeply. It validated their therapy. For many people, too - I don't know how many, it would be hard to estimate this - it brought them to the realization that they wasted all of their God-damned time; they didn't get a thing out of therapy. They worked hard at it, stayed long at it, many of them, labored at it, and thought there was something wrong with them. In fact, they had just gotten with the wrong person, that's all. If anybody came to me that was in therapy I first stipulated I cannot bring you this experience unless you get clearance from your therapist. There was an immediate screening process taking place. There were those who said they couldn't do that, they just didn't want to tell him about it.
I said, "That's quite a commentary on the relationship you have with your therapist. I can't do this. I will not do it. If you tell your therapist that you want to do this I need assurance that he agrees that it's okay for you to do it. I'd like for him to talk to me if he wants to." No, I stopped doing that. I didn't want to be identified.
Myron: I was going to ask you about the exposure.
Jacob: I want the therapist to know that the person I'm talking to about this has already agreed not to reveal my identity to anybody without prior clearance from me. That's the first requirement I give to anybody.
Myron: So if they went back to their therapist to get clearance they would say, "I've found somebody that's real good to take a trip with," and the therapist asks, "Who is it?" They'd have to say, "I can't tell you."
Jacob: Right away that would bust up the relationship.
Myron: I can see where a lot of therapists would really get on their high horse about that. On the other hand, were there any who got to know you and would keep the trust and even be willing to refer their patients to you?
Jacob: Most of the therapists who would do that have tripped themselves. I always warned the person who was in therapy that, "I want you to understand and realize that it's quite possible that after you've had your trip you will terminate your therapy." Invariably it happened. In a very few cases they could keep on working with the therapist. They could do that if the therapist had tripped. But you cannot trip and work with a therapist who hasn't tripped and get any value out of it. You can't relate back and forth. You can't trip as a patient and work with a therapist who has not tripped because he has not had the experience and you cannot relate to him about it. It ends up that I can only trip people who are in therapy with a therapist who understands tripping and is willing to refer.
Let me mention something about my original position when I first started out. I had the traditional psychological or psychiatric attitude towards this stuff. This is dangerous, this is bad, you shouldn't do it, and anybody who does it is crazy, and all that kind of stuff. That was my position in that regard.
There's no easy way to satori. You've got to work hard and you've got to suffer. I was like the typical Christian who didn't have much confidence in grace. Yet I knew what grace was. I did experience grace many times. I had to overcome all of those prejudices first before I could really explore honestly and openly. And of course my first trip dispelled all my doubts. My own first trip. Since then there was never any problem.
Myron: Would you care to say approximately how many therapists you have provided the experience for?
Jacob: In all categories - psychiatrists, M.D.s, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, transactional analysis people, all the different schools that exist where people see patients whether they're licensed or unlicensed, there's quite a spread of all of them - altogether, a hundred and fifty. That's what comes to my mind. It's over a period of fifteen years since I've been really doing it.
Myron: And these are all people who would have a practice of their own where they would be counseling others.
Jacob: Right. People-helpers - that includes nurses, physical therapists, people who are very important to other people. At times I would get referrals from them.
Myron: Of the roughly 150 people-helpers you have worked with, how many are actually psychiatrists and psych-ologists?
Jacob: I would say about one-fourth. The others are psychiatric social workers, family counselors, professional helpers like that.
Myron: Well gosh, you've started a real significant move-ment here.
Jacob: (Laughs.) It extends very much around the world, really.
Myron: It's been kept very, very quiet, it seems to me.
Jacob: The selective process has helped with that. The security practices that everybody's imbued with right from the beginning. That's what's important. I've been able to function this way. Yes, it's underground, and all of that. I've been able to function this way for all of these years because I trust the people and they know about our security situation. A few people have broken security. It has happened. Nothing has come from it, of course. They've told somebody who tripped them.
Myron: Security must have been a terrible problem. Can you say more about what it's like to work under such conditions?
Jacob: We were always security-conscious and we made everybody who came in contact with us security-conscious. Most people were able to really be ethically security-conscious and a few weren't. The few who weren't who talked about it, maybe blabbed, talked unnecessarily or identified people - no harm has ever come from that.
You see, again, a spiritual trip is what's involved here. This I have to say - it's the only way I know how to talk about it - what I do and even how I do it is not up to me. I'm guided. I can't define that, I can't explain it. I know that that's true. If I wasn't supposed to be doing this, and I've said this before, I wouldn't be doing it. If God didn't want me to do it He would have stopped me a long time ago. I have a lot of faith that that's true. At the same time I keep a close eye on my integrity and my security. Everybody else's security is bound up in mine. We're all in it together.
I definitely have suffered, I have suffered considerably with fears, what I call "just in case" fears or "what if" fears. What if we're sitting there, laying there and having a trip, you know, everybody's all laid out and stoned out of their God-damned mind, their pupils are as big as saucers, and somebody knocks on the door and it's the police raiding us. I don't know how many times that's come across my mind. What if somebody died on a trip? What if - I don't know, all the "what ifs" that I had - what if somebody freaked out and ran down the street screaming? That happened!! Paranoia! Everybody has it, I know, and I have it! If I hadn't been doing this to be paranoid about, I'd be doing something else to be paranoid. It's only since I've taken the Course in Miracles that I've gotten over my guilt and my fears.
Many years and many times I'd be in much agony falling asleep, and wake up in the morning and have it hit me. That's true. I've looked at it and I've said, "Jacob, for Christ's sake what are you exposing yourself to all this shit for? You don't need it." Then I'd look and I'd say, "Look at the people. Look what's happening to them." I'd say, "Is it worth it? Is it worth going through all of this shit for that?" Inevitably I'd come back with "Yeah, it's worth it." Especially at the end of a weekend when I'd see what fantastic things have happened to these people. I would say clearly to myself, "Jacob, it is worth it! Whatever you have to go through. It's worth it to produce these results!"
Security has been a terrible problem. It hasn't been a problem in that sense, but like I'm describing now. What I've gone through because of fear of discovery. This is a part of security. Actually, my worst fears in every situation have been realized. I have said many, many times, whatever you are afraid of never happens. And I know that's true. And yet sometimes the exact incident that you're afraid of happening does happen. However, what you were afraid would be the consequences did not happen. So what you're afraid of didn't happen. That's happened in my life a number of times. Some of them have been in connection with psychedelics, with what I'm doing.
There are those people who know that I'm doing something. I believe they know the kind of work I'm doing and know that it's under very good control and a creative process. They don't bother me. They won't do anything to me. You'd be surprised at the different walks of life people have come from for tripping.
I'll bring my analogies in here at this point. When I'm talking about a trip to a person who hasn't tripped and they want to know, "What's it like?" It's hard to describe what it's like but I have a couple of analogies that I use.
One is, imagine that you're on a stage, a very large stage, a round stage, circular. You're standing in the center of the stage. Around this stage is a huge curtain, very, very high and it's closed and where the curtain comes together there's about say three feet of space, of an opening. You're standing in the middle of that stage and you're looking out through that opening. Everything you see is the totality of your experience of yourself.
What happens on a trip is by some mysterious means the curtain very gradually is pulled back. Very gradually. It's pulled back until it's pulled all the way around the back and you're given the opportunity to see everything that's been there all the time but you couldn't see it before because there was a curtain. All the different levels of experience that it's possible to have, you have. All the different truths, all the different things, you have. You experience it. Then, as you start to come down, very gradually the curtain gets pulled back around until you're all the way down.
When you're all the way down, the difference is that before, you had about three feet of space that was open to look through. You now have about fifteen feet of space. You have really expanded your awareness, which is what they call these materials, awareness- expanders.
Myron: The curtain might have even gotten a little transparent.
Jacob: Yeah, (laughs), that was what I was going to follow with. In addition to that you have a lot of memory of what you did experience before. So in a sense that's true, the curtain has become almost transparent. You don't remember everything, you don't need to remember everything. You don't need to. You remember everything you need to remember.
There's another analogy that I use, too. It's similar to that. That is, imagine a castle, a huge castle, very large. Many rooms, many turrets, many levels of it. There's only one way to get into this castle, and that's the front door. The front door is solid steel. Impregnable. You can knock on that door all you want. You can do everything you can to tear it down. You can't get it down. Every now and then you might somehow or other move it a little bit to get a glimpse of what's behind it, but that's all. There's no way, and you've tried every way possible to get into that castle. Which is yourself.
What happens on a trip is by some mysterious magic means this door is dissolved, and you have the opportunity to go in and explore that castle. Any place you want. You go in and you look around, and you find many, many wonderful places, strange places maybe, scary places and all that. You can go to the top and you can go to the bottom and you get a sense of what the totality of yourself really is like. As you come down, what happens is that the door somehow or other gets back up there. But that's all right, because you have a memory of what possibilities are there and what you've experienced. The biggest experience that it brings to you is that it connects you with feelings that you've never been connected with before. They are now open to you. Not on the level or the intensity that you had in the experience but certainly much more than they ever were before. That gives them an idea. "My God!" they say. "How soon can I have one?" (Laughter.)
Myron: God, Jacob, those are so good. I think of places where I can use those analogies myself. Do you have any objection if I use them?
Jacob: It's the greatest privilege in the world for me to be able to share them, so if they're of value to other people they're welcome to them.
Myron: One of the problems that you run into is that very often you get people who have rather powerful internal conflicts and it's really difficult for them to confront them and they'll dodge and go off in different directions. Did you ever do anything to try to encourage them to confront that sort of thing? Similar to the way you described if it manifested as a pain - you had a beautiful technique for dealing with that. Did you have some other techniques along those lines?
Jacob: Yes, yes. Whenever I was aware of anything like that - whenever they'd get really frightened - I'd ask them to, "Look at what you're afraid of, just look at what you're afraid of. All you have to do is just look at it; don't do anything about it, just look at it. Just keep on looking at it and just tell me what you experience when you're looking at it." Most of the times they'll go off into some kind of a visual trip. Experience something. But they were not experiencing a specific block that you do experience consciously. It wasn't that. It was a painful fear. That's what I had them live with and stay with until it became transformed. As it did, the block was gone. I don't think we even knew what the block was. It was not a specific fear. It seemed to me at the time that it was an accumulation of all the unfaced fears that was being expressed at that time. By facing them they dissolved them - to some degree at least.
Myron: One of the marvelous things about this is the honesty - that once you're willing to face it, it becomes resolved. This is one of the major uses of these substances, I think.
Jacob: I use an analogy with them when we're going through preparation. You know, if you're walking along and there's someone behind you and you're worried or scared about it and you start to run, the more you run in fear from it the greater the monster becomes. Once you stop and turn around it turns out to be some little silly funny thing, and their fear disappears. There're many little anecdotes like that that I would give in preparation for trips.
One of the things I have them do for the trip is to get a bunch of pictures from a list that I give them. These pictures actually as you'll see are a history of their lives. They go back home or get them wherever they are or write for them. They get all the pictures that they can and bring them to wherever they are. Then I ask them to select the pictures in a particular manner which is really very important. I say, "Give yourself plenty of time. First let me give you the list of pictures that I want you to get." Here's the list:
1. Starting with the pictures of themselves, one at age two and one every two years thereafter through adolescence, sixteen or eighteen.
2. A picture of their mother and a picture of their father when they were young but they can still remember their mother and their father, and a recent picture of each.
3. Same thing about each of their siblings, an early one that they remember that way and a recent one of their siblings and their families if they have one.
4. A picture of a grandparent that was significant in their life.
5. A picture of any aunts, uncles, or cousins that were significant in their life.
6. If they're married, I ask them to bring some wedding pictures because wedding pictures usually have all the relatives and it gives them a chance to see them. If they don't have any pictures I'll say a picture of the woman you married either just before you married her or when you got married, an early picture. And a recent one of her or him, as the case may be.
7. If there are children, a picture of the children when they were about two years old which is when they begin to start to have a little personality of their own. And a recent one of each. And if they are married, with their families. And even if they're not married, a picture of any woman or man who has had great significance in their life. Lovers, current or past or whatever.
8. Other significant pictures.
I ask them to select the pictures in this manner: Gather them all together - boxes, albums, however they are, and put them in front of you, and start with one. The top one or anything like that. Pick it up and look at it. Just look at it to see what you experience in connection with that picture. Look at it a little while. You may not experience anything. It's all right. Put it aside, pick up the next one, then look at it. If it provokes any memories, kinda sit with the memories a little bit, let them go where they want to go. Whatever feelings you have, allow them to be there. Whenever you come across a picture that's on the list, set it aside in a separate pile. Go through all the pictures you've got, every single one of them, doing that. You may have to have two or three sittings to do it. I ask them to do it no further away than a week before the trip, as close to the time of the trip as they can. I want to tell you something. That really turns them on. When they come they're in the middle of their trip.
Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Epilogue | Appendix I | Appendix II | Acknowledgements