New Edition of “Zig Zag Zen” Just Published

zigzagzenI have a Chapter in the lavishly illustrated new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, which has just been published by Synergetic Press.

Zig Zag Zen contains an expanded display of stunning visionary artwork including new pieces from Alex Grey, Android Jones, Sukhi Barber, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, and Amanda Sage, as well as the work renowned modernists Robert Venosa, Mark Rothko, Robert Beer, Francesco Clemente, and others.

The book includes new essays on ayahuasca’s unique influence on Zen Buddhism, a recent interview with Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, my essay  “New Look at the ‘Psychedelic Tibetan Book of the Dead,'” and a public dialogue on mixing dharma and psychedelics, with James Fadiman and Zen monk, Kokyo Henkel.

“Entheogens have entered Buddhism to stay; there can be no turning back from the point that has been reached. Nor can the issue any longer be swept under the rug. The facts that bear on the matter are contained in these pages, as are the leading theories that try to make sense of the facts. Compelling visionary art and vivid accounts of personal encounters lace the facts and theories together in ways that make for a gripping experience. This book will be a landmark for years to come.” – From the Preface by Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions.

Foreword by Stephen Batchelor  |  Preface by Huston Smith
Allan Badiner, Editor  |  Alex Grey, Art Editor

From a Review of Zig Zag Zen by “Harvard Psychedelic Club” Author Don Lattin:

The psychotherapist Ralph Metzner pens another one of this edition’s original essays: “A New Look at the Psychedelic Tibetan Book of the Dead.” He is the author (along with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert) of the influential 1964 book The Psychedelic Experience, a manual on how to take an LSD trip. Metzner, Leary, and Alpert based their tripping manual on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a self-styled English translation of texts popularized by the American Theosophist W.Y. Evans-Wentz, first published in 1927. Whether or not The Tibetan Book of the Dead reflects ideas that are authentically Tibetan or Buddhist, Metzner and his coauthors helped establish the idea that a psychedelic drug trip was another route to the mystical insights one could achieve—with much more work—through the discipline of Buddhist meditation.



New Essay in Tyr – 4: The (Nine) Doors of Perception: Ralph Metzner on the Sixties, Psychedelic Shamanism and the Northern Tradition.

Tyr: 4New essay, in Tyr – 4: The (Nine) Doors of Perception: Ralph Metzner on the Sixties, Psychedelic Shamanism and the Northern Tradition.

You can order a copy of this volume, Tyr 4, with Ralph’s essay, signed, from Green Earth Foundation, for $25.

The annual monograph series Tyr contains the above 20-page essay interview with Ralph written by Carl Abrahamsson and Joshua Buckley in its vol 4.

Although Tyr presents itself as a kind of journal – it is actually a 430 page book, no. 4 of a series named after the mythic Norse deity Tyr, who was the upholder of the traditional ways of knowledge the in the Nordic pantheon. The monograph-journal describes itself as radical traditionalist, celebrating “the traditional myths, culture and social institutions of pre-Christian, pre-modern Europe. It means to reject the modern, materialist reign of quantity over quality, the absence spiritual values, environmental devastation and overspecialization of urban life and the imperialism of corporate monoculture.” The monograph series as a whole is edited by Joshua Buckley and Michael Moynihan and presents both European and American scholars and writers.

The interview-essay, which also contains a number of black and white photographs, is the first time I have returned to many of the themes discussed in my book, The Well of Remembrance, since its original publication in 1994. Topics we discuss include: the work of Marija Gimbutas, the worldview changes and political upheavals of the 1960s, the role of psychedelics, the meaning of the myths of Odin, C.G. Jung’s views and many others.

The Tyr volume also reprints an essay by my friend the German ethnologist Christian Rätsch on “The Mead of Inspiration” – and what specific plant and fungal preparations might have been involved in that mythic brew.

Other essays in this lavishly illustrated and handsomely produced volume Tyr 4, include: What is Religion? by Alain de Benoist; What is Odinism? by Collin Cleary; Traditional Time-Telling in Old England, and Modern by Nigel Pennick; Garden Dwarves and House Spirits by Claude Lecouteux; Germanic Art in the First Millenium by Stephen Pollington; Finding the Lost Voice of our Germanic Ancestors: An Interview with Benjamin Bagby; On Barbarian Suffering by Steve Harris, and others.

Timothy Leary – Writings From The Harvard Years

Harvardcover-smTimothy Leary – The Harvard Years  Early Writings on LSD and Psilocybin with Richard Alpert, Huston Smith, Ralph Metzner, and others. Edited and Introduced by James Penner. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2014.

Click here to order a copy signed by Ralph Metzner from Green Earth Foundation ($25).

This book, by James Penner, who is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, is a demonstration of the process  of how experimental and empirical studies in psychology and the social sciences can become, in time, the subject matter of studies in cultural history. Penner is not a psychologist or sociologist, using quantitative empirical methods – he is a professor of English, who previously wrote a book on “The Rhetoric of Masculinity in American Literary Culture.”

The book is a reprint collection of articles originally published in psychology and social science journals in the early 1960s, many of them hard if not impossible to find, with insightful introductions by Professor Penner.  From the back cover: “Presenting the first collection of Leary’s writings devoted entirely to the research phase of his career, 1960-1965, this book offers rare articles from Leary’s time as a professor at Harvard…including writings from the Harvard Psilocybin Project, the Concord Prison Project, and the Good Friday Experiment.”

These essays… explore the nature of creativity and the therapeutic, spiritual and religious aspects of psilocybin and LSD. Featuring Leary’s scientific  articles and a rare account of his therapeutic approach, “On Existential Transaction Theory,” the book also includes Leary’s final essay from his time at Harvard, “The Politics of Consciousness Expansion,” as well as controversial articles published shortly after his dismissal.

With an editor’s introduction examining the Harvard drug scandal and a critical preface to each essay, this book of seminal essays by Leary – appearing in unabridged form – shows why and how he quickly become an articulate spokesperson for consciousness expansion and an iconic figure for the generation that came of age in the 1960s.”

Interview by Lorene Mills for “Report from Santa Fe”

Ralph Metzner interviewed by Lorene Mills on Report From Santa Fe

ralph pbs

In this video interview, Ralph discusses: What it means to be a “consciousness researcher,” the concept of “consciousness expansion” (compared to “psychedelic,” which has become an overloaded term), the cultural context of the 60s (how “mind expansion” was a completely new idea), normalizing the concept of consciousness expansion and contraction (focus, concentration, as in performing a skilled set of actions, surgery etc.), states of fear and rage, and how these states trigger fight or flight behavior (internal or external), normal and usual every day consciousness changes, triggers of changes in consciousness, and more.


William Blake’s Visionary Poems Sung as American “Roots” Music

This CD  – Martha Redbone Roots Project – The Garden of Love –  is an enchanting  revelation, matching Blake’s visionary poetry with a contemporary folk-blues interpretation. From a review by Jonathan Widran:

Martha_Redbone  “A truly hypnotic and eloquent roots Americana exploration, The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake beautifully and unexpectedly matches two powerful voices, two centuries, continents, and cultures apart. The mastermind is Martha Redbone, an Independent Music Award winner, renowned for blending Native American vibes from her Cherokee and Choctaw background with R&B grooves, blues, and dashes of Appalachian folk.

Her muse is the compelling poetry of English poet William Blake, who died in 1827. One of the fullest expressions of her stark and powerful, stripped-down aesthetic, Redbone — working with producer John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — pits her vocal incantations and harmonic textures against a swampy ambient acoustic guitar background on the title track.

Her vocal modulation is interesting, as tunes like “Hear the Voice of the Bard” and the rollicking “I Rose Up at the Dawn of Day” feature urgent gospel-influenced shout-outs, while others like the lyrical, swaying singalong “How Sweet I Roamed” and the easy-rolling “A Dream” and sparsely eloquent “Sleep Sleep Beauty Bright” feature a sweeter, more romantic approach. Appropriate for its subject matter, “I Heard an Angel Singing” is a haunting, ethereal piece with chamber music instrumentation.”

A Scholar of Religion Looks At California Psychedelic History

This is a most interesting paper/presentation on the “California Religion of Psychedelia, 1960-1972” by Professor Josef Chytry, who teaches at the University of California Berkeley and is a senior adjunct professor in critical studies at the California College of the Arts.

This paper was presented at the Religion in California Conference, UC Berkeley, April 2014:

From Castalia to Mowie Wowie

By Josef Chytry

One of the more provocative features of the decade of the 1960s (the so-called ‘”Sixties”) was the rise of the phenomenon of a “psychedelic culture,” often interconnected with the concept of a “counterculture” yet distinguishable from it.  An important aspect of such a psychedelic culture was its claims of helping to initiate a new religion or religiosity inseparable from the luminous experiences presumably granted by the effects of a host of psychedelic potions, including mescalin, psilosybin and particularly LSD…

This paper takes a look at such an ambition by focusing on some of the texts that played a key role in its development during the earlier stages.  The first set of texts covers the history of the idea of an alternative culture, (such as) … Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s account of a “pedagogical province” in Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years, Hermann Hesse’s vision of a future community called Castalia in The Glass Bead Game…

The second set of texts includes contemporary writings by such intellectuals as Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts during the 1950s and early 1960s that developed such themes and sometimes even envisaged possible “psychedelic” utopias such as Huxley’s Island. The final set of texts covers traditional ”sacred” writings that were seen as invaluable guides of what might emerge as the facets of a psychedelic religion.  Such texts included the Chinese I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te King, the Hindu Bhagavat Gita, and the Christian New Testament.




The hubris of empire and the courage of whistle-blowers

In The Six Pathways of Destiny, I wrote about critics, spies and whistle-blowers exemplifying a blending of the path of the warrior-reformer and the path of the signaling-communicator (pp. 117-119).  “In social organizations and communities it is the role of the critic and reformer to identify weaknesses of corruption and degeneration and thereby seek to bring about reforms to correct them.” Laws to protect whistle-blowers of corruption and theft in business corporations have been passed in recent times – but the potential for them to lose their livelihood or their liberty is still high in most countries. The stakes – and the risks – are astronomically higher in cases where the whistle-blower exposes corruption and malfeasance in the government of the military-industrial complex itself. In the 1960s, the country and the world were riveted by Daniel Ellsberg’s exposure of the Pentagon Papers for which he faced and survived the risk of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Currently, the revelations of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have been casting a startling and bracing bright light on the globally pervasive nakedness of information imperialism. All three of these reformer-warriors were highly trained and skilled initiates in the secret world of digital information management – and all three came to the point of being appalled at the endemic violations of human rights and privacy that they witnessed.

Julian Assange has managed to find personal refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living for a year, while the network of digital allies he developed continues with its periodic exposures. Bradley Manning was arrested, held under torturous conditions in a military prison for over a year and is now facing a possible life-sentence for his revelations. He has not yet been sentenced. A campaign to award him the Nobel Peace Prize has generated several hundred thousand signatures, while mainstream American politicians and commentators denounce him as a “traitor.”

Edward Snowden, after entrusting his story and encrypted information download to two courageous independent journalists – Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras – ended up in the Moscow airport, stripped of his US passport, was unable to fly to any of the three Central American countries that offered him refuge because of fear of being arrested in mid-flight  – a fear that turned out to be justified when a plane flying from Moscow carrying the Bolivian head of state was intercepted by anonymous authorities in Vienna who searched the plane for no apparent reason. After living in the Moscow international airport lounge for two weeks, Snowden was granted provisional asylum in Russia, despite strenuous pleading and attempted pressure for extradition by US authorities from the President on down. Reminding his American counterparts that the US and Russia do not have an extradition treaty, Russian president Vladimir Putin, clearly relishing the opportunity to score diplomatic points, remarked with sardonic humor  “Ask yourself a question: should people like that (human rights activists like Assange and Snowden) be extradited so that they can can put them in prison? I prefer not to deal with such issues. It’s like shearing a piglet: a lot squealing and little wool.”

The NY Times Sunday Magazine,  August 18, 2013 published a story by Peter Maas, entitled How Laura Poitras helped expose what the American government does in the name of security. In the course of reporting his profile of Laura Poitras, Peter Maas conducted an encrypted question-and-answer session, for which Poitras served as intermediary, with Edward J.  Snowden. now living somewhere in Russia. The interview was accompanied in the magazine by a photo of a crowd of people in Brazil holding masks of Edward Snowden at hearing on the NSA surveillance programs, which have sparked outrage around the world.

Below are selections from that conversation, providing fascinating insight into the enormous courage and fierce intelligence which these whistle-blowers are demonstrating. Both Greenwald and Poitras now have chosen to live outside the US (Greenwald in Brazil, Poitras in Berlin) to protect their person and their journalistic writings from seizure.

Edward Snowden Speaks to Peter Maass of the New York Times

 Peter Maas: Why did you seek out Laura and Glenn, rather than journalists from major American news outlets (N.Y.T., W.P., W.S.J. etc.)? In particular, why Laura, a documentary filmmaker?

Edward Snowden: After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period.

Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures. She had demonstrated the courage, personal experience and skill needed to handle what is probably the most dangerous assignment any journalist can be given — reporting on the secret misdeeds of the most powerful government in the world — making her an obvious choice.

P.M.: Was there a moment during your contact with Laura when you realized you could trust her? What was that moment, what caused it?

E.S.: We came to a point in the verification and vetting process where I discovered Laura was more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously paranoid. The combination of her experience and her exacting focus on detail and process gave her a natural talent for security, and that’s a refreshing trait to discover in someone who is likely to come under intense scrutiny in the future, as normally one would have to work very hard to get them to take the risks seriously. With that putting me at ease, it became easier to open up without fearing the invested trust would be mishandled.

P.M.: Were you surprised that Glenn did not respond to your requests and instructions for encrypted communication?

E.S.: Yes and no. I know journalists are busy and had assumed being taken seriously would be a challenge, especially given the paucity of detail I could initially offer. At the same time, this is 2013, and he’s a journalist who regularly reported on the concentration and excess of state power. I was surprised to realize that there were people in news organizations who didn’t recognize any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world. In the wake of this year’s disclosures, it should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless.

P.M.: When you first met Laura and Glenn in Hong Kong, what was your initial reaction? Were you surprised by anything in the way they worked and interacted with you?

E.S.: I think they were annoyed that I was younger than they expected, and I was annoyed they had arrived too early, which complicated the initial verification. As soon as we were behind closed doors, however, I think everyone was reassured by the obsessive attention to precaution and bona fides. I was particularly impressed by Glenn’s ability to operate without sleep for days at a time.

P.M.: Laura started filming you from nearly the start. Were you surprised by that? Why or why not?

E.S.: Definitely surprised. As one might imagine, normally spies allergically avoid contact with reporters or media, so I was a virgin source — everything was a surprise. Had I intended to skulk away anonymously, I think it would have been far harder to work with Laura, but we all knew what was at stake. The weight of the situation actually made it easier to focus on what was in the public interest rather than our own. I think we all knew there was no going back once she turned that camera on, and the ultimate outcome would be decided by the world.