“Nothing weighs as heavily on the fate of a child as the unlived life of their parent.” -C.G Jung

I often get asked how I started with the work I am doing and find the question so complicated as to be unable to give a cogent answer. . But the origins of my work probably lay in the unlived life of my mother. Before you think, “Come on man, you’re fifty years old, it’s time to forget about your mother,” let me say I have clients in their seventies and eighties who are still talking about their parents during their work with me. Our parents are a template of consciousness. Our perceptions of them is a part of our consciousness throughout our life, no matter our age. Our parents are part of our fate.

My mother, who is still alive, was in the Stanford Graduate Creative Writing Program with Ken Kesey. She had a relationship with him that was part friendship, part rivalry, Her first novel was called, “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah,” and revolved around Kesey and his wife swapping friends on Perry Lane in Palo Alto. He got hold of the galleys and told her publisher if it was published as is, he would sue them for defamation of character. She made changes, but Kesey still responded by having a character named “Nurse Gwendolyn” in the original galleys of Cuckoos Nest. This character followed everyone around and wrote about their pain. She responded in kind and threatened to sue his publisher unless the character was removed, and it was. She also was a character in the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. She was accurately represented as someone who did not approve of Kesey’s wife swapping and psychedelic adventures. In her own way, my mom was kind of square. She went to Stanford to become a novelist, while Kesey turned his time at Stanford into an experiment in alternative lifestyles and consciousness exploration. She thought Kesey blew his writing talent on his psychedelic adventures. I always reminded her that he wrote two great american novels(One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, and Sometimes a Great Notion) and that was more than most people accomplish. She wasn’t so sure. But she also didn’t realize the impact he had on American culture with his acid tests, which made him the Johnny Appleseed of LSD in American in the mid 1960’s, while also providing the Grateful Dead with the laboratory to shape themselves into a late twentieth century psychedelic minstrel show.

In her defense, my mother did have a couple of adventures with Kesey. The first time she smoked marijuana was with him in 1961, and it was a habit( that I don’t really approve of) that she keeps up to this day. He brought a joint over, lit it, took a hit, and passed it on to her. She took a hit and at the moment she inhaled there was a knock on the door. She looked through the peep hole to see a member of the Palo Alto Police Department standing at attention. “It’s the police,” she whispered to Kesey. He promptly ran through her living room, pulled up a window, leapt out into her backyard at a full sprint, and flipped himself over a fence and disappeared.. “Yes,” she replied. “Are you Gwen Davis?, “ the police officer asked. “I am”, she replied. “You left your credit card at a restaurant.” She opened the door and took the card without exhaling. I can’t help but think that the excitement she felt from this first experience of smoking marijuana with Kesey, is one of the reasons she never stopped smoking, and that Kesey’s athletic sprint and flip was something she was reminded of whenever she smoked.

While my mother was aspiring to become a great novelist, Kesey was taking part in CIA experiments at the Palo Alto mental hospital. He wrote the first pages of Cuckoos Nest while under the influence of Mescaline, and when they administered him LSD, he thought so much of the experience that he stole an almost lifetime supply from the hospital. This supply is what fueled the Acid Tests at his home at La Honda where the Grateful Dead was the house band. It would also be disseminated on Kesey’s cross-country bus trips where he threw “Acid Tests” that introduced thousands to the effects of LSD. I once heard Grace Slick say that one year, The Jefferson Airplane toured college campuses throughout the midwest and people came dressed in Ties and Jackets, and the next year everyone was in tie-dye and paisley.” Most likely because in the interim, Kesey had passed through with his punch bowls laced with LSD, and his light shows. That was how big his impact was. It was culture-changing.

Flash forward to 1993. I am a graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies studying with Psychedelic Pioneers, who were like Vietnam Vets. The war was over and they had lost. Psychedelics were illegal(and had been since 1970, and had no legitimate medical or Psychological use). I was at a convention in Santa Cruz, marking the 50th anniversary of the discovery of LSD. It was organized by the nascent Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies(MAPS). As I looked around the scene it seemed to me like a warning about the long-term use of LSD. Grey-haired, ponytailed hippies, were everywhere. It made me feel sad. One of the presentations was a visual montage of famous people sending their well wishes. Albert Hoffman( who discovered LSD) was one person who appeared. The other people I recall were Ken Kesey and Wavy Gravy. Kesey smiled and said, “These days we only take LSD on Easter. Lucky for you guys, today is Easter.”

My mother’s circumspection about Kesey and his psychedelic philosophy is a part of my experience as well. I see a lot of people without training or education, declaring Psychedelics as the answer to all of society’s ills. People who helped somebody on a bad trip at Burning Man(a direct descendant of the acid tests) and now consider themselves healers. I also see a medical, pharmaceutical, and psychological community grasping to be the arbiters of how psychedelics are utilized in the culture, without having the imagination or creativity to maximize their potential. My fate has been placed somewhere between my mother’s circumspection and Kesey’s Beat Credo(the first acid test bus trip cross country was piloted by Neal Cassady, the real-life inspiration behind Dean Moriarity in On The Road), “People are either on the bus or off the bus.” The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

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