By Thomas Duckworth, DKM, L.Ac.
The story has no beginning but one chapter tells of involvement with collegiate political rabble-rousers who advocated laissez-faire everything and ingested psycho-tropic substances, often with the intent of attempting to explore the depths and boundaries of the human mind, yet continuing with the same intellectual and spiritual compromises. It was 1966. I had been ritualistically ingesting peyote for 5 years before I first took LSD. In one eight hour period, LSD doubled the sum total of the psychedelic spiritual experiences I had had in the past five years. The senses and sensibilities were taking on new meaning; the rational mind was going into retirement, or at least, time out.
Our little group had founded the Alliance of Libertarian Activists (ALA) in response to the Right-wing Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and Left-wing Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). We focused our activities on the University of California-Berkeley campus. First we sponsored a talk and discussion entitled “Fuck Communism, A Right-wing Case for Sexual Freedom.” It drew a small but appreciative audience but we wanted a bigger presence. What could we do?
The idea was fairly collective. I don’t know how we got our speaker or who scheduled the lecture hall. I do remember showing up early to meet and greet our guest, Richard Alpert, Ph.D, formerly of Harvard University, now unemployed psychedelic advocate extraordinaire and first such type of speaker invited onto the Berkeley Campus. Our little organization had achieved stardom!
I was looking at a tall, lanky 35 year old with dishwater curly blond hair, a white, puffy-sleeved Mexican wedding shirt and multi-colored checkered pants. Visually pleasant if you’re ‘trippin’’ on acid. I was. Later that year, I too adopted the practice of dressing as if everyone I encountered might be in an expanded state of consciousness and would appreciate good visuals.
He did not look like a 1966 college professor. Well, maybe he looked like a college professor who had been fired by Harvard for the crime of advocating expanded consciousness. Everything seemed pretty “far-out,” and I couldn’t figure out if it was his vibe, his attire or my current state of mind. I had a very strong urge to talk with him. After his presentation, he agreed to talk with me privately.
I do not know what Dick Alpert addressed in the auditorium. I was in an altered state. Afterwards, we went for a walk and talked. My previous psychedelic experiences had been deep and far reaching, in very foreign terrain and unguided. Now I was on a guided journey with an older brother. Primarily he assisted me reaching into myself for deeper self-awareness. He endorsed my looking into my own mirror to see the light and recognize how I was casting the shadows on my own mental and spiritual landscape. We talked of consciousness and family and the role and goal of the visionary or scout; the potential and the ability to respond to an ever new moment. We talked for hours.
He returned to New Hampshire where he lived, I returned to my family and continued with my studies and inner journey. We corresponded occasionally and he continued to offer insights to my questions.
One day I was on a psychedelic journey and I was very much in my head with the “Who am I?” “What if……” “Is there any sense to this or any experience?” Thinking and wondering and trying to figure out what life is all about, I wandered out into the yard and stood staring at a young maple tree, a sapling. It spoke to me and said, “I am. Be. All is complete and perfect. Be.” As they say, it blew my mind.
As that experience settled in, I wrote a letter to Dick and shared my “burning bush” experience.
Months went by and I did not hear from him. That was unusual and I thought, “Oh boy, I went over the deep end and he is putting distance between us.” Actually, I really did not feel abandoned. I had confidence in him and in our relationship and I told myself to be patient and to remember the sage advice of the maple tree. Sometime later, I heard that he gone off to Africa or India or someplace exotic, probably in search of psychotropic substances.
It was about a year and a half later when the letter arrived. The handwriting and the Franklin, New Hampshire postmark told me who it was from. I was wrong, it wasn’t from Dick Alpert.
The 5 1/2 x 8 sheet of golden rod colored paper had gold ink writing on it. Close examination revealed Sanskrit beautifully written all over it. The letter was written in black ink. At the top, he had drawn the OM symbol. The letter read:
“Difficulty at the beginning works
Furthering Through perseverance"
Do nought with the body but relax
Shut firm the mouth and silence remain
Empty your mind and think of nought
Like a hollow bamboo
Rest at ease your body
Giving not nor taking
Put your mind at rest
Mahamudra is like a mind that clings
Thus practicing in time you will
The Song of Mahmudra
Desire is a trap
Desire-less-ness is MOXA.
I have no scruple of change nor fear of death,
Nor was I ever born, Nor had I parents.
India (Bharat) took me by the hand &
led me through the door
I am doing Sadhana
In a cabin in New Hampshire
The only battle is within!
Clearly, a new chapter was now in the works. A spiritual teacher had materialized. To be continued.