It’s unfortunate how little video footage got captured during the first Whee! festival outside Eugene, Oregon. The entire adventure had begun as my plot to establish a Weed Woodstock. (Although, in truth, the original was funded almost entirely by weed money, and the event helped cement Woodstock as a weed distribution center.)
I remember taking the trustees to lunch at some five-star restaurant and saying, “You have to be committed to a new event for five years, because that’s how long it may take to break even.” But I assured them after five years, my Whee! fest would be as big if not bigger than Woodstock. And I believed this because the event was promoted as a prayer for world peace, a serious non-denominational ceremony recognizing cannabis as the sacrament of peace culture.
Of course, Whee! exploded immediately, drawing 20,000 to the event, most of whom got in for free and were fed free by a non-stop crew kitchen, and anyone could volunteer to be crew.
After the OM circle, someone handed a bottle of whiskey to Felipe and said he was done with this. Felipe and I did a bunch of powerful ceremonies together, and that was certainly one of the best.
But the day after the event ended, we invited the Pranksters to our motel room to celebrate and eat pizza. Only Ken Babbs showed up, and this is what transpired. The next day, we went to see Kesey, and he introduced me to non-linear video editing, just going prosumer. I had been a devoted follower of improvisational ritual theater as practiced by the Pranksters, and took this direction very seriously, devoting the rest of my life to capturing video of the ceremonies I was staging. Sure glad I kept these memories, and if you want to know what Hager ceremonies look and feel like, this will clue you in.
As soon as I got back to New York, the trustees informed me that Whee! had been a financial failure. Although I knew that was a lie. Through immense efforts I manage to resurrect one more Whee! at the same site the next year before my precious Whee! ceremony was cast to the winds, and thus ended my longstanding campaign for the recognition of spiritual rights for cannabis users.
Rainbow Farm was something of a watershed for me, the end of the four-year trail trying to manifest a cannabis festival that could rival Woodstock.
The mission had begun with a trip to visit Ken Babbs of the Merry Pranksters. “I’m thinking about calling it the World Hemp Expo Extravaganja,” I said. “That’s great,” said Babbs, “but you should just call it Whee!” That’s when a lot of stuff clicked in my head and I realized the vibe we were really trying to scout was fun, and I endeavored to manifest the world’s most fun festival possible, and I am sure in many people’s minds succeeded. Just ask Fishbone. But I was saddened to see a recent attack on the festival in the Portland Mercury, a savage piece of hippy bigotry posing as humor if ever there was, a piece that failed to mention a single ceremony, much less the amazing birth of a baby. Although it’s true the site was comically packed with people stoned out of their minds, we were used to that vortex from years of producing the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and referred to the telepathic effect as “entering stonerville.” Whee just had ten times more stoners.
John Sinclair, Dennis Peron, Stephen Gaskin and Paul Krassner did a peace circle with the Rainbow Gypsies early the first day while tents were still going up. Just seeing that circle made the event for me, but there would be dozens more to follow over the weekend, some small, and some immense. I was sure we were well on our way to rebuilding the counterculture and couldn’t imagine the difficulties that lay ahead.
One significant problem was Oregon was infested with meth heads, and that scene carried a ton of bad vibes and rip-offs. The other problem was the owner of the site was way out of tune and had no respect for the Pranksters and no idea who Ken Kesey was on the cosmic scale. But after two festivals, he ended up losing the property, while fighting county officials and local law enforcement the entire time.
The next property owner to volunteer to host my event was Gideon Israel in Washington. But after one Whee, he was also taken down by a local sting operation. Gideon’s festival site was a campground called Rainbow Valley.
I made a plea at the Cannabis Cup for someone brave enough to hold a Whee! festival considering the first two were crushed by the authorities. That’s when I joined forces with Tom and Rollie of Michigan. They were the brave ones who stepped forward, only this time the authorities weren’t just taking the property. First, they had child services take away their son and refused all contact. Although a gay couple, the boy was Rollie’s child and the most important thing in their lives. And after losing the boy, they both lost their minds and decided to go down swinging.
I was in Woodstock when it all went down and had just returned to New York City. While picking up some video tape at B&H, a teller told me a plane had struck the Trade Towers. I noticed the smoke while riding my Honda Hawk across town. But when I got to my office, I was horrified to discover a string of voice messages from Tom and Rollie, the first of which announced their plan to stage a Waco-like event to bring awareness to the benefits of cannabis legalization. But as the messages went on, they became more and more frantic, until it was just Rollie. By that time, I’d already searched online and discovered they were both killed by FBI snipers. The story was already nearly a week old, but virtually nothing had penetrated the national media. And, of course, this was September 11, and a story was unfolding that would wipe Tom and Rollie’s quest for glory from the pages of history.
Fortunately, Dean Kuipers wrote a book about the event, and the book is being made into a major motion picture, so hope remains alive Tom and Rollie’s quest for martyrdom may not have been in vain. This is a difficult subject for me because it accompanied the shock of 9/11 in a massive double whammy. I had a string of people join me on my missions only to wind up in prison for a few years. But now the authorities were taking lives as well as prisoners. For years, I found it impossible to write anything about Rainbow Farm or about 9/11.
The saddest part for me was the Whee! vibe was all based around improvisational fun and peace ceremonies and learning how to foster and spread non-violence.
When I emceed the first circle to be held at Rainbow Farm, Tom came running up to join in and hold hands, an indication he really wanted to participate in peace culture.
Gatewood Galbraith, a trail-blazing attorney from Kentucky, was pushing armed revolution at the time, and may have helped hook Tom up with the spook-infested Michigan Militia, a huge mistake. I will always wonder if I’d been at work that week, would I have been able to talk Tom and Rollie out of this insane plan to create a Pot Waco? Could my participation in some way have prevented their deaths? Had I known what was going on, I would have attempted to mediate a peaceful solution when the stand-off began. I just never got the chance to play that role and it haunts me.
But you can check out that first peace circle at Rainbow Farm on a video from my archives first posted online two years before their deaths.
Once you identify the principle polemicists salting the intel-sponsored propaganda, you’re halfway to enlightenment; and once you identify the major memes those polemicists are salting, you can easily ID a lot more spooks and avoid their rabbit holes to nowhere. Anyone supporting obviously fake memes is either a spook or hoodwinked true believer and there is no other option. Spooks and true believers can’t be trusted, so divide conspiracy research into two categories, trusted and not trusted, and learn from both categories. With practice and a keen eye for detail, you’ll soon be learning more from the disinfo than the authentic intel (mostly because there’s a lot more noise than signal). But you must avoid falling into the traps, what I call the rabbit holes, the biggest of which is racism in any form. The most powerful forces promoting ethnic cleansing are spook-driven, manufactured to assist the war-for-profit scenarios with their divide-and-conquer propaganda, something always easily identified.
The post-WWI generation was turned against Jews in many ways and on many levels, but mostly through Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, both of whom demeaned the culture whenever possible. These were the two most influential novelists when novels were an influence. At the time, Jews were not integrated into high society, not allowed to join the country clubs or fraternities of the oligarchy. Instead, rich Jews had their own aristocracy centered on families holding stock in the Federal Reserve, the ones who also owned some of the biggest investment banks, the ones linked to names like Rothschild and Warburg. This division between these two powerful oligarchies along the Eastern seaboard was intentional and in place prior to the Civil War. They are still separate in some quarters.
I suspect Revilo P. Oliver worked for OSS during WWII. He was a brilliant intellectual and mastered a dozen languages, and was considered an expert in the origins of religion. He taught at the University of Illinois, where I grew up, evolving into a major player on the national stage.
Residing walking distance from campus on Ohio Street, Oliver could be seen slouching off to his office in the Classics Department wearing an enormous black fedora and ankle-length trench-coat, looking like a parody of an intelligence operative. His vicious letters to the editor of the News Gazette probably served mostly to recruit members to the local lodge of the John Birch Society, an organization Oliver had a hand in creating.
Soon, however, his buddy William Buckley, a Boner from Yale who ran the National Review, dropped Oliver as a contributor. And then the Birch Society began purging the most virulent racists off their rolls, of which Oliver was the ringleader. Oliver responded by publishing evidence the Birchers had been overrun by the same Jews manipulating the State Department, United Nations, and world-wide Communist conspiracy.
During Halloween, local children in his neighborhood collecting donations for UNICEF were warned in advance to steer a wide birth from his block, lest they cross his path and engender a political rant on the evils of globalism.
“When my sister was reading Nancy Drew she and Connie Marshall, whose dad became a federal judge, went all around the Oliver’s house tapping the walls for secret entrances,” recalls Mary Gates DeRosier. “Mrs. Oliver had a funeral for her dog and invited the neighbors. My mom went and told us that the dog was laid-out on the sofa surrounded by flowers. Mrs. Oliver was always giving us flyers about the dangers of Coca-Cola and of fluoride in the drinking water.”
Oliver moved on by creating the National Alliance, now known as the National Vanguard, the wellspring from which many generations of terrorists with strange links to intelligence operations have sprung. Funny, how nobody writes or talks about Oliver today, except his supporters, even though his role as a spook propagandist should be obvious with hindsight.
Soon after JFK’s assassination, Oliver published a dissenting opinion claiming JFK was a communist who’d been murdered by the communists because he’d decided to “go American.” He claimed Lee Harvey Oswald had been trained by the KGB, and the Warren Commission had been preordained to claim Oswald was a lone assassin. This was published after the commission was announced, long before the 888-page report appeared. Oliver’s theory was peppered with distortions and outright fabrications, as well as some amazing secret truths, evidence of inside sources. The government, especially the State Department, was heavily penetrated by a secret communist conspiracy run by Jews, claimed Oliver, and as evidence he cited the impossibility of a Marine formerly posted at our most secret base in Japan defecting to Russia, and then freely returning to America, and yet not monitored by the FBI. This could only happen if the State Department was infested with cooperating communist conspirators claimed Oliver, ignoring the more obvious explanation Oswald was an American spook who was returning from a failed penetration operation in Russia.
“The identification of the murderer was a near-miracle. If not the result of divine intervention, it was the result of a series of coincidences of the same order as might enable a bum with a dollar in his pocket to enter a casino in Reno and emerge with a thousand,”noted Oliver, in another one of his many spot-on assessments. This miraculous identification and capture of Oswald began with the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald’s wallet was discovered at the scene, along with four spent cartridges from his revolver. Strange Oliver could recognize the anomaly of Oswald’s strangely trouble-free re-entry into the USA after supposedly defecting to the enemy, but missed this highly improbable wallet, especially considering Oswald was captured an hour later with a wallet in his pocket (and a revolver that didn’t work). Which means the wallet at the scene must have been planted. There’s also the witnesses to the Tippet slaying who claim Oswald was not the man they saw fleeing the crime. The only other option is believing the official story Oswald murdered Tippet, then calmly emptied his revolver, tossed his wallet on the ground and then fled the scene, found a new wallet with ID, found a new revolver (that didn’t function) and discarded his working revolver, which is the version Oliver opted for in this instance.
“Americans known to be opponents of the Conspiracy, including General Walker, prominent members of the John Birch Society, and leaders of other conservative organizations, began to receive threats of death by telephone from creatures who somehow knew that Kennedy was dead before he reached the hospital,” wrote Oliver. I believe this detail is also spot-on in that Texas John Birch supporters put up the $150,000 to pay the shooters and were among the first notified of the mission’s success, but salting that observation with the lie these calls included death threats to the paymasters is an obvious misdirection that recalls Edwin Stanton’s efforts to claim he was a target of the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, and not one of the instigators himself.
Oliver was especially harsh on the then director of the Council on Foreign Relations, the recently-fired former CIA head, Allen W. Dulles. “Dulles was the head of an American spy ring in Switzerland during the Second World War and is said to have done a fairly good job,” began Oliver, “although it was believed at the time that his organization was infested with double agents who were really in the employ of the Soviet — and even more serious implications can be drawn from the testimony given in Karlsruhe last July by Heinz Felfe, a Soviet agent who had been Mr. Dulles’ German counterpart and supposed competitor in Switzerland.” Yes, Dulles was head of OSS in Europe and was posted in Switzerland, and recruited the bulk of the Nazi spy network into the CIA in a secret surrender with Malta Knight Reinhardt Gehlen, who was later rewarded by becoming head of the West German secret services, but Felfe was a minor figure when posted in Switzerland compared with Dulles, and just one of many spooks accepting pay from all comers.
“One writer has recently suggested that it was the C.I.A. that arranged the assassination of Kennedy; I know of no evidence to support that opinion, but obviously Mr. Dulles’ creation is open to suspicion. Perhaps that is why he is a member of the “special commission,” wrote Oliver in a brief and startling moment of spot-on clarity that was instantly jettisoned.
Oliver claimed the commission would paint “Comrade Oswald as a poor, lone critter who done it all alone. Probably ‘psychiatrists’ will be produced to prove he done it ’cause, at the age of six months, he had to wait an extra five minutes for his bottle.” Strange that Oswald was likely worked on by CIA psychiatrists while a teen in New York, prior to his being hypnotized by David Ferry while a member of Ferry’s Civil Air Patrol in New Orleans. The fact he knew the outcome before the investigation began was yet another spot-on.
Oliver was called before the Warren Commission to testify, and I imagine that was a scripted encounter. Mark Lane was another one of the few independent investigators allowed to present evidence directly to the Commission. It took me decades to realize Lane’s testimony was likely scripted as well, for he was also a former OSS officer, and was likely guided into a role as the premier debunker of the official story. He soon tainted himself by embracing Willis Carto’s holocaust denial movement. Isn’t it strange that both Oliver and Lane were on polar opposites of the political divide, one far left the other far right, and yet both believed in a Jewish conspiracy running the world?
If you want to find a contemporary salter of disinfo, check out Jan Irvin, who treads in Oliver’s footsteps with lies and distortions. Irvin produces propaganda supporting the theory the hippies were created by the CIA, and that Tim Leary, Ken Kesey and me are employees of that agency, and not its critics. Since I’m on the inside of this particular conspiracy theory, it’s impossible for me to ignore Irvin is making shit up. So I put him in the “not trusted” category. And wouldn’t you know, he also believes Jews are running the system through some secret satanic cult based on the teachings of Aleister Crowley, which just confirms my suspicions intel is exploiting Crowley for propaganda. But they do the same thing with their phony UFO evidence they are constantly manufacturing.
My advice: avoid any variation on any rabbit holes resembling: the Communists are running the world; the Jews are running the world; the Satanists are running the world, the aliens are running the world, or the CIA created the hippies.
I’ve met many magic characters in my time, but Bobby Faust and Chef Ra really stand out as the two of the most powerful bodhisattvas I’ve known.
Apparently, Bobby descended into gloom a few years ago after being confined to a wheel chair, but a new pain management specialist lifted his spirits a month ago, and suddenly, he was his old self and contacting people and posting his favorite personal photos on facebook. He posted my Whee utility belt from Whee! 2, and I sent him a link to my latest ebook. The next day he messaged to say he was “blown away” by this manifesto on Bitcoin, and I could tell Bobby was knee-deep in the Bitcoin Revolution and ready to invest. Bobby and I had parted ways on his Y2K apocalypse theory many years ago, when I advised him: “The apocaplyse is always greatly exaggerated.”
Bobby was one of the greatest story tellers I’ve known, and his favorite story involved a trip to Levon Helm’s estate in Woodstock (the same place I went to buy my home). Until he passed away two years ago, Levon was the central spirit of that famous town—Jerry Garcia of the Catskills. One day, Bobby went to visit Levon and discovered him playing basketball with Joe Walsh and Keith Richards. Upon seeing Bobby arriving, Lee tossed him the ball and said, “Show ’em what you got, Bobby.” Now Bobby was never very good at basketball. In fact, it was his worst sport. But that day Bobby summoned up all this chi, and swished five baskets in a row. In fact, he made seven out of ten before Lee let him take a break. And you know what? That’s the last time Bobby ever touched a basketball.
There were several hilarious stories like that one being shared yesterday, many involved his dog Boogie, or his frequent disarming of police and/or firemen, or taking heroic amounts of psychedelics, but one story I neglected to share that I treasure involved Ken Kesey and Mountain Girl.
Bobby was my right hand at the Whee! 2, my eyes and ears at Mission Control as 6/22 and I patrolled the campground independently. After the festival, the Temple Dragons were invited by Kesey and Mountain Girl to visit Mountain Girl’s house—provided we didn’t shoot any video. (I was a bit video crazy during the Whee phase because I wanted to document the ceremonies we were manifesting. In fact, Bobby was a key member of the video crew.)
We were all sitting on Mountain Girl’s patio, probably sharing a joint, when Kesey began busting on Ina May’s speech concerning nipple phobia. Both Bobby and I immediately rose to defend Ina May, but I stepped back and just let Bobby take charge of the situation. “We luuuuuv, Ina May,” crooned Bobby. I could tell Kesey would probably never speak ill of her again, even in jest, so great was Bobby’s power. But that’s the sort of energy any bodhisattva carries around, I guess.
The first real-life shaman I met was a kid my age named James Wilson, who became an activist for peace while in high school. Jim was inspired by music and had filled his bedroom with Jimi Hendrix posters long before he discovered psychedelics. He liked the new styles that were coming out and his biggest influence and role model soon became Fred Hampton, who was still alive when Jim made his transformation, but sadly was assassinated by the Chicago police some months later. Fred had recently been named Chairman of the Black Panther Party after ending the gang wars in Chicago, and was steering the organization towards non-violence when Jim suddenly began looking like a Black Panther. Jim went on a mission to single-handedly heal our school’s considerable racial divides and largely accomplished the mission by becoming Senior Class President (the first black in our school’s history to achieve this honor), and by organizing education and harmonization ceremonies. Back then, nobody realized Jim was doing magic. We didn’t know he was a natural shaman. Later he would transform into the Great Chef Ra and it would become obvious.
In 1969, Jim and I both ended up at Woodstock, and he was the first person I knew who I ran into. He was standing at the gates, watching people stream in with a huge glowing smile. I’d never seen Jim so happy. We all felt the vibes of arriving in New Jerusalem. And, of course, we’d get to study some of the grandmasters of our culture up close, like Wavy Gravy, Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner. The Pranksters arrived with the magic bus, but not with Kesey, who was certainly my biggest role model at the time. Kesey was hiding out in Mexico as he wished to avoid the fate of Timothy Leary, who’d been railroaded into a lengthy prison sentence for possession of a few seeds of cannabis on the floor of his vehicle. At Woodstock, I came into contact with Wavy’s style, as he seemed to have a handle on the type of magic I wanted to manifest. He’d been studying improvisation under Viola Spolin. Wavy, like Jim, understood the importance of costumes in ceremonies.
A couple years after Woodstock, I got introduced to Jasper Grootveld of Amsterdam and became utterly fascinated, especially since Jasper had started the Happenings, of which I was a great student (and especially since John Cage did his biggest Happenings in my humble town of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois). John Cage was into monster displays of energy and media, similar to the Pranksters, while Jasper dressed like an African medicine man and used zero technology in his rituals. Jasper claimed his ceremonies were self-promotional, but they often carried a political message. Most of the time he railed against the tobacco companies and encouraged cannabis consumption as a more healthy alternative. He’d been a journalist briefly and sent by his editor to interview a New Age cult leader who claimed to be god. While Grootveld was interrogating him, the cult leader asked, “what do you believe in?” This stumped Grootveld for a minute, and finally he came up with, “I believe in Sinterklaas [Santa Claus].”
Many decades later, I’d discover Santa is really the Scythian father god that inspired Zoroastrianism, which in turn influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It replaced the pagan pantheons with a dialectical balance between two divine forces, one creator, one destroyer. In earlier times, Santa had a scary sidekick who punished the wicked. In Holland, this devil figure morphed into an African toddler named Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), while in America the sidekick morphed into magic elves. But in the earliest Scythian versions, the sidekick role may have started as a large bird. The Scythians were famous for domesticating birds and animals.
Grootveld began promoting “Klaas is coming!,” while dressed as Zwarte Piet and wearing blackface. Gradually, this ceremony took on his anti-tobacco message. When he began holding public exorcisms at a small statue erected by the Dutch tobacco industry, teens from all over Amsterdam began attending. Eventually, this would manifest the Dutch Provo movement, certainly one of the most enlightened emanations of our time.
I also learned a lot about magic from Ina May and Stephen Gaskin, who I knew about from Sunday Morning Services in Golden Gate Park back in the late sixties. Stephen had studied most of the major spiritual texts from the East, and could translate difficult concepts into easy-to-understand English. Both had interesting upbringings as their fathers were Masons of the 33rd degree. At age twelve, Stephen was inducted in DeMolay, but would soon reject Masonry for a synthesis of various cultures centered on non-violence. He was a former Marine, however, and believed unruly teens sometimes required a trip to the woodshed to straighten out their path. Ina May inspired the global midwife movement, sharing long forgotten insights on the importance of telepathic vibrations, some of which had been learned after helping deliver home births while tripping.
While I never met John Griggs, founder of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, I now believe he may have been the nearest thing to a true hippie avatar, and like many avatars, he had died young, at the zenith of his creative powers, certainly a tragic loss for the world. John’s heart was immense. James put me on the path of political action, the Pranksters put me on the path of fun, Stephen put me on the path of philosophy, but Griggs put me on the path of unconditional love. It’s strange how some of the most important figures in the history of the counterculture remain unknown and uncelebrated, and John Griggs would be the prime example.
Which is why I think it’s so incredible that I discovered yet another aspiring hippie messiah: Father Yod, founder of the Source Family. Who knows, I may have even run into some of them at a Rainbow Gathering over the last 20 years, but had no idea the manifestations of this hippie saint and his flock. Yod was doing improvisational ritual theater pretty much non-stop and he mixed up many spiritual styles, similar to what I was doing for 25 years in my own humble fashion, organizing ceremonies like the original Cannabis Cups and Whee! festivals. You can watch the amazing documentary on the Source Family on Netflix. Once when the family needed funds, he successfully robbed a few banks, crimes that were not uncovered until after his death.
The biggest problem with attempts to forge a hippie religion was the tremendous pressure put on the leaders. The more spiritual the group became, the more pressure. Many commune founders went off the deep end with egomania or they began taking advantage of people because they had too much power over their flocks. Or the communes went on a ‘kill the guru” phase like what happened to Stephen.
My ceremonies are always improvisational, and everyone is equal, although some are naturally more creatively talented, we can all crank the ceremonial vibes (or try to bring those vibes down).
One day Father Yod began telling his flock he was God. Soon, he woke up, called the family together, and said, “I lied. I am not God. We are all God.” Then he decided to take flight on a hand-glider with no training, crashed and was carried into the house. Although the injuries did not seem life-threatening, he passed over to the beyond nine hours later. There is an important parable in this story.
The greatest thing about Ra is even though he never lost his counterculture flamboyance, he always retained his humility, and refused to surround himself with sycophants like Old Carlo and so many other self-styled counterculture gurus.
It was only late in the quest that I uncovered an important insight: the true avatars reveal themselves through their creative powers, which is when I decided Bob Marley was the true hippie avatar, as well as Bob Dylan and John Lennon.
Moral of the story: Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters. I can’t really recommend LSD or any other synthetics as I have seen the devastation they caused to a few, and because you never know what is really in pills or powders. I advise people to stick with plants in their most natural forms and remember, very often the less you do, the higher you get.
As an infant, I was trained to get on my knees every night by the side of my bed, clasp my palms together with fingers extended upward and say the same prayer every night. Only I always had a queasy feeling about that prayer….”if I should die before I wake.” Why even bring up that concept? Something just didn’t feel right. I mean, don’t you get what you ask for?
Can you imagine if millions of kids went to bed every night in that same position across the world saying: “Now I lay me down for the night, I pray my friends will never fight, a day will come we’ll all live in peace, and all these negative energies will finally cease.”
How long would it take to manifest world peace if we got something like that going in a major way I wonder? I doubt many of the religious institutions will pick up on this idea, however, much less spread it to their congregations.
I was in the 6th or 7th grade when my older brother finally clued me into the fact our Lutheran upbringing was basically a Santa Claus story. I was absolutely furious. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me sooner?” I snarled. I felt like I’d been walking around acting a fool believing some white-haired dude lived in heaven and was watching over me? It shattered not only my religious faith, but also my faith in my parents to tell me the truth, although my mom was real sheepish about the whole fiasco when I confronted her and said she’d only pretended to go along to please my dad’s parents who’d grown up in south-eastern Kansas. They went to their graves believing in that white-haired dude in the clouds.
I didn’t deal much with religion or spirituality for a long time after that and was basically a punk for many years with no moral foundation. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the hill on Yasgur’s Farm that I finally got zapped. Probably Wavy Gravy helped that process since he was the main emcee and what a wonderful job he did.
But the 1970s was a terrible time for my generation, at least those of us that choose to fight against the establishment. We were herded off on a trail to nowhere, and gradually watched our entire scene diminish and fade away. But it didn’t fade away. Around 1990, I went to my first National Rainbow Family Gathering, and plugged back into that spirit I’d felt at Woodstock in 1969.
I went to a lot of gatherings after that and even organized many on my own, only I called mine the World Hemp Expo Extravaganjas (WHEE!). I had started the concept with the clinical “World Hemp Expo,” but Ken Babbs told me it would be a million times better with another “e” on the end so it sounded like fun. The fun vibe was my main trail at the time and always had been. Babbs and Wavy were both Pranksters, although Wavy just dropped in for a brief time before starting his own group, the Hog Farm.
When Abby from Daily Beast interviewed me, I started talking about the people I’ve known and studied under, a list that includes John Cage, Julian Beck, Jasper Grootveld, Ken Kesey, and Wavy Gravy. This is basically the whos-who of Improvisational Ritual Theater, the art form they pioneered and I struggle to keep alive even though most people don’t know it exists and a some people even claim I’m a fraud mouthing a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and have no art at all? Abby had never heard of Wavy Gravy, but I think she did recognize John Cage. Maybe not. Her interview has yet to appear, which makes me think the bosses on high killed her story on 420.
Anyway, after I started going to gatherings, I’d usually be the first one up on peace meditation day, often a Sunday, or in the case of the National, always on July 4th. There’d be silence throughout the camp that morning until noon. I’d be the one who got up before dawn, however, in order to be the first at the peace pole, so I could sit there for hours, burning incense, taking a few hits of pot every hour or so, but focused on one thought, please bring an end to violence and the suffering it creates, and keep that thought until the OM broke out at noon, followed by a big drum circle and dance.
I know both John Lennon and George Harrison approached meditation the same way. When they discovered it, they’d chant for hours until both lost their vocal cords and had to stop.
Does this meditation have any positive effect? Well, it always leaves me feeling cleansed and energized. I’m always very sad to leave the natural world after living in a forest as an environmental monk for a few weeks. And I look and act like a road dog for a few days before I morph back into my Babylon identity.
I will have to avoid the TV news for a few days. I have kids in my house and I certainly don’t want them seeing the endless replays of the grisly facts. Like everyone, I feel tremendous sorrow for the victims and their families, but I also wonder why it takes an event like this for people to even address why violence so prevalent in our society today.
I have some positive suggestions for how to move forward.
First, I don’t think these shootings should be covered on national TV for days on end to the extent that they are. In fact, I think they should barely be mentioned at all, and the shooters should remain as anonymous as possible. Some of them undoubtedly are seeking fame and publicity and the way our media reacts to these tragedies makes that dream come true. I’m interested primarily in one fact: was the shooter taking prescription medication? I realize many popular medications have bizarre side effects that some pill companies may seek to conceal. I know these shootings never happened until we put half the country on pills. So is there a cause and effect? This is a health study we desperately need right now.
The gun lovers are never going to give up their guns and I wouldn’t be so stupid as to ask them. It’s a right they will defend to the death. I get that, but can we make a few changes, like closing the gun show loophole, and restricting mental patients with a history of violence from obtaining weapons? I’d also like to see taxes on some weapons greatly increased so a national fund can be created, a fund that would compensate the families of the victims. Not that any amount of money could replace the life of a single child, but simply that all these gun lovers and violence worshipers should contribute to easing their suffering. I also think violence pornography needs to be better identified and taxed as well. Sponsors of violence pornography should be forced to pay into the fund. And so should consumers. So we need a special tax on violence pornography video games and violence pornography TV shows.
Ken Kesey had a novel idea, inspired by his grand-daughter. Ban the bullet. Make it very hard to get anything but rubber bullets and paint pellets, which are perfect for target practice, which is the only thing most people do with their guns. Lead builets, on the other hand, should be much more closely controlled.
Of course, the gun lovers need guns to protect themselves against the government. As if a civilian population in this country could engage the government in open warfare in the streets? Those days are over. The only revolution that will succeed from here on is a non-violent one. We really need much more respect for the grandmasters of peace, people like Gandhi and Bob Marley, and we need more celebrations of peace, and more respect for peaceful cultures, especially the counterculture, which is as American as rock’n’roll and apple pie.
At the second Whee! festival in Oregon, the Merry Pranksters unveiled plans to take on the gun lobby in the usual Prankster fashion (by tricking the bozos). Check out the video:
The most vibrant cultural movement of our time was founded in Congo Square, New Orleans, because that was the only place in North America where anyone could mix and forge new ceremonies. On Sundays, use of the square had been set aside for the French-African slaves, who’d been transplanted from Haiti after a revolution broke out there. These slaves welcomed the Houmas natives, who probably had the best drums and undoubtedly reminded the Africans of their own tribal heritage. Congo Square was an appropriate name for this place because it was also the only place where slaves and Indians could legally play drums because they provoked fears of an impending attack throughout the original Colonies. The site had been used for years by the Houmas to hold harvest ceremonies and was considered a sacred spot. There may have been some sort of drum circle or jam session going on at Congo Square every day, but Sunday afternoon was the peak moment when the best performers went off. Congo Square created blues, jazz, rock’n’roll and reefer smoking. This culture traveled up the Mississippi, eventually infecting Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago. When it hit Chicago, a Jewish teen named Mezz Mezzrow jumped onboard and the rest is history.
One of the most important things I learned from cannabis: the more diverse your gene stock, the more vibrant your F1 hybrid. The Great Spirit That Runs Through Everything loves diversity and shows this affection in many ways. The reason Congo Square erupted with such creative energy is because so many diverse cultures were mixing ritual and ceremony to create a unique hybrid that respected all cultures. When you visit Mardi Gras you can clearly see the deep appreciation for Native American tradition. As blues evolved into jazz, elements of Western culture (like harmony and orchestral instruments) were incorporated. The foundation of this culture was always based in improvisation, whether it be in music, dance, slang, or gesture. The counterculture encourages freedom in every aspect, which is why every generation looks and talks different, yet all grow from the same trunk.
The most important influence in the early sixties came in the form of a Magic Bus of Merry Pranksters. Ken Kesey went from celebrated novelist to customizing his jeans and encouraging total freedom, similar in many respects to Julian Beck’s cry of Paradise Now!, only the Prankster version initially involved taking LSD as often as possible, a lifestyle that quickly proved unsustainable. Acid was too powerful and potentially dangerous, although it proved to be a great medicine for those who used it sparingly. If anything was learned in the sixties, it was that reefer is the only safe daily sacrament.
The most influential group to emerge from the Haight (aside from the Grateful Dead) was a commune called The Cockettes. After the Pranksters called everyone to council, strangers began creating instant communes in the Haight that mixed people from all backgrounds. One of these communes was super eclectic and included a few gays, who were really glowing at the time because this was their coming-out party after centuries of oppression and they encouraged everyone else in the commune into dropping acid, dressing as wild as possible, and channeling whatever energy emerged. The Cockettes launched a lot of different styles, but Glitter Rock was their most important. They blazed a stylistic trail soon followed by the New York Dolls and David Bowie, among many others. They also created the cult movie scene, because their original performances evolved out of dressing up and attending a local cinema, where they used the film as a sounding board. Before long, the film element was discarded as the audience was more interested in the Cockettes, so their improvisational antics became the entire show. If the Club 57 crowd had lived in the same commune 24-7 they probably would have fomented something huge, although in a way that’s exactly of what happened when Keith and Kenny moved in together. Andrew Carnegie and Napoleon Hill would’ve called that forging the master-mind, one of their many telepathic keys to success.
The one lesson I’d take away from this is that there’s probably a relationship between the diversity of a Master Mind group and the amount of creative energy that group will eventually unleash.
And isn’t it interesting that our dominant religions work against these laws of nature, encouraging bigotry against other cultures and declaring jihads and crusades against the unbelievers? That’s because war is a profit stream constantly being mined for revenue, so the accepted religions need to do their part to manufacture the conflicts.
I didn’t plan to take over High Times, in fact, I was a sporadic user of recreational drugs most of my life. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City in 1979 that I got really tempted. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum; I got empowered and began manifesting ceremony and ritual like crazy.
My initial vision was constructed around hemp being essential when this country was founded, yet the symbols (or sigils) of our founding fathers were under the control of the radical right wing, unfair and inaccurate to say the least.
So I launched a campaign to create a wave of awareness that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were devoted hemp farmers, and that hemp could save the world by replacing oil, a concept recently introduced to me by Jack Herer. I flew out to Jack’s home in the Valley and laid out a plan to create a national group called the Freedom Fighters, based around the Boston Minute Men, who would attend rallies across the country. The rally movement had basically died out and I felt between us, we might be able to rebuild that movement, with Jack as the leader, of course. “And I want you to come to the Rainbow Gathering with me,” I told Jack. You see, both Rainbow and the Dead scene had considerable overlap, but I knew Rainbow was the center of energy on the real spirituality, while the Dead scene was tainted around the edges. Probably, I also wanted to pull Jack out of hard drugs and bad food, only one of which I was successful at.
The first year I hit the rally circuit I was dressed in a psychedelic shirt and tri-corner hat and carried a snare drum, but by the time the next season came around, I was wearing a brain-tanned leather outfit made by Agatha, and, on my head was a huge top hat with a pink psychedelic peace sign painted on the front. (Later, Agatha became the seamstress of choice of the local Hell’s Angels, but the original leather jacket she created was a replica of the double-breasted black leather jacket I wore throughout the sixties.) I was wearing Agatha’s Native American warrior outfit and beating a round Native American drum with a peace sigil painted in psychedelic paint and chanting some Native American-type chant to Mother Earth (yes, I guess I was trying to move the energy from a father sigil to a mother sigil) and I was leading this immense parade down the main drag of campus-town in Madison, Wisconsin, one afternoon, when some student jutted up and asked, “Are you a shaman?”
See, a lot of us magicians are into magic long before we even realize what we’re doing. These energies move through us naturally, so as I stood there for a few extra beats, I was thinking, am I a shaman, political activist, or guerrilla street theater performer, or what they hell am I? Pretty soon, I decided if I was a shaman it was time for something really bold, something with even more immense vibe than this 30,000 person rally. If I could just reassemble the greatest magicians of the sixties revolution, you know, the Gaskins, the Pranksters, the Hog Farm, Paul Krassner, John Trudell, John Sinclair, and what if we called that ceremony Whee!?
People are bugging me. They want to hear stories about Whee! I dunno, I might, or I might move in new directions. Stay tuned for my next unexpected episode because I don’t know which way I’m going. Funny thing about the Freedom Fighters, though, we made a Tri-corner hat for Jack right away, and that very hat sits on my altar. And that, my friends, is what my magic is all about. Planting positive sigils in your orbit.
Many people make the mistake of thinking religion is something handed down from God, manifested on earth by a chosen prophet. By design, that sort of thinking turns every other religion into a false culture, making jihad not only possible, but transforming jihad into an honorable ceremony of death. In fact, spirituality can be found in all things, good and bad, and one man’s noble cause is another man’s holocaust.
All these systems run on magic, no matter what they tell you, or what side of the fence you’re on, and magic works under basic principles, most of which are obscured to keep mud in the water and keep their magic working on you without you realizing it. Magic is the original form of mind control, and once you understand that concept, you can slip off the leash. The first step to enlightenment is realizing all religious services are, in fact, magic ceremonies, and although ceremonies can have many forms, the most common form are ceremonies of harmonization, designed to create a group telepathic mind to focus energy on an idea, icon or symbol. The tools used in these ceremonies take on telepathic power as a result of the meditations. But that power only works on those who believe in the ceremonies. If you don’t believe, there’s no magic. It’s basically the same whether you’re sitting in church or going to a live concert to hear your favorite band. Both are magical ceremonies.
One of my satori moments came while visiting one of my primary spiritual teachers, Stephen Gaskin, when he said: “You know, Steve, enlightenment is not like climbing a mountain or ringing a bell. It comes and goes. Sometimes you’re enlightened and can stone people with your presence, and sometimes not.”
The idea of an individual retreating to a high mountain cave, meditating for years, finding enlightenment and returning to civilization is a false myth, although such meditation may be necessary to quiet a manic mind. One thing about spirituality, there will always be scores more fakers and frauds than real messiahs. We found that out the hard way in the 1960s, a decade that brought out the craziest of New Age cults. I ended up sticking with just a handful of elders: Stephen and Ina May Gaskin, Ken Kesey and the Pranksters, Wavy Gravy, Chef Ra, these titans emerged as my spiritual teachers.
The secret is realizing you have the power to invent your own ceremonies, and the more you hybridize and raid from other cultures, the deeper your ceremonies will project across the astral plain. The real avatars are people like Bob Marley and John Lennon and not the ones wearing big hats in big cathedrals and temples. Creativity and spirituality are the same thing. Through ceremonies, you can discover magic. Just ditch the dogma because there’s really only one rule: don’t hurt anybody.