Timothy Leary Psychedelic Prayers & Other Meditations. Introduction by Ralph Metzner. Preface by Rosemary Woodruff Leary. Bibliographic Preface by Michael Horowitz.
Berkeley, CA: Ronin Publishing. 1997.
Psychedelic Prayers is Timothy Leary’s only book of poetry, is also a practical psychedelic manual inspired by Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching. Written while the author was visiting India in 1965, it was finished at the celebrated community estate in Millbrook, NY, the following year. The events and persons surrounding the trip to India and the Millbrook community are described in Leary’s autobiography Flashbacks (1983) and in the memoir by Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner, Birth of a Psychedelic Culture (2010). Leary said he was drawn to the “psychedelic quality” of Lao Tse’s ancient work, dating to the 6th century BC. “My objective” he wrote, “was to find the seed idea in each sutra and rewrite it in the lingua franca of psychedelia.” The result was this book of “prayers” which was a title I had suggested. It was intended to be read slowly during a session as a guide to transcendental experiences. This edition of Psychedelic Prayers contains six newly discovered poetic meditations by Leary and several illustrations from prior editions. Of course they can also be appreciated for themselves. In the introduction RM relates how the Psychedelic Prayers came to be written: "I had gone to India on a kind of spiritual pilgrimage, and ended up in the Himalayan village of Almora, visiting with Lama Govinda, the Buddhist scholar from whose work on the Tibetan Book of the Dead we had adapted our manual for spiritually-oriented psychedelic sessions. Back in Millbrook in the meantime, Leary had gotten married in a spectacular ceremony described in Birth of a Psychedelic Culture (2010). Leary and his new bride Nena, who is referred to as “Nanette" in Psychedelic Prayers, came to India on their honeymoon, where the three of us visited the Taj Mahal and then spent time in a house in Almora, visiting with Lama Govinda and Shri Krishna Prem... This was the place and circumstance where the first draft of what became the Psychedelic Prayers was written. For Tim and Nena (Nanette), their visit to the Himalayan village of Almora involved extraordinarily heightened creativity and spiritual insight, but it also spelled the beginning of the end of their marriage…Tim had brought along nine English language translations of the Tao Te Ching. Each day, sitting on the grass in the warm sun under the pine trees, he would pick one of Lao Tse’s verses, read each of the translations and attempt to distill the essential meaning – using the perspectives gained from psychedelic experiences. Lao Tse’s cryptic and profound meditations on the invisible, all-pervasive universal energy flow process were rendered into language that psychedelic voyagers would recognize. Then he would reduce them down to the sparest possible formulations, distilling, extracting the essence, carving the words like a sculptor hewing and polishing the stone to reveal the figure within. These meditations on the art and science of consciousness expansion are serene, sensuous, funny and wise. They are among the most inspired writings by one of the outstanding visionary geniuses of the 20th century.