LSD is like a Christ coming to America

Excerpt from

Ram Dass Lecture at the Menninger Fondation – May 5, 1970

LSD is like a Christ coming to America”


QUESTIONER: I haven’t read anything written by you. I only know you as Leary’s associate. By the way, I should probably give a brief introduction of how I got into Ram Dass. I’m a follower of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and recently we were meditating in a group meditation and somebody had listened to a tape you had made. He made the statement that your guru said that LSD came to well, God came to the United States in the form of LSD and as far as I know drugs have very little to do or almost nothing to do with consciousness, even though, you know, I mean, of course, to get on the Leary kick he’ll give you the seven levels of consciousness and how on the highest level, it’s … which I don’t agree with at all. And my own guru, the Maharishi, which I feel . . .

 Excuse me, one second. I think we have to define this evening as an evening of questions and answers, so instead of making a long presentation I think you’d better limit yourself to a specific question. O.K.? I think I’m going to have to do that. Right?

Playboy, February 1970

QUESTIONER: What did you imply by that statement, because I think this was included in that interview in Playboy also-that God came to the United States in the form of LSD?

RAM DASS: I didn’t imply anything. I reported the information I had picked up in India, which is the information that I have available from people whose consciousnesses I totally trust. Alright? And the quote I gave was a quote from my teacher, with whom I lived for six months, who was, as far as I could see, one of the purest and highest beings I have met. When I asked him what LSD was he went away and several weeks later he came back and he wrote, and the quote is almost exact, “LSD is like a Christ coming to America”.  America is a most materialistic country and they wanted their Avatar in the form of a material. The young people wanted their Avatar in the form of a material. And so they got LSD. “If they had not tasted of such things, how will they know-how they will know?” was his actual wording.

Now, this plus the fact that my guru took 900 micrograms of LSD and nothing happened to him, and I watched this process happen, were the two bits of new information I had collected about LSD which I reported back to the intellectual community. I have no … I am not at this moment using LSD nor am I not using LSD. Right? I am doing a type of yoga which is . . . does not require at this moment the use of LSD. I honor LSD … that LSD has for me, anyway, made a major change in my perceptual field, and I feel that under suitable conditions it is a major breakthrough of technology, allowing man to change his levels of consciousness.

I share Tim’s vision in almost every way. I think I’m not as attached to certain kinds of polarities in terms of establishment and good and evil and dropping out and so on as Timothy is, but I think he is a great visionary and my feelings about LSD are: I honor it. I also think that it is very quickly becoming an anachronism.

I think it is totally falling out of date because I think that the types of consciousness that it opened allowed the Maharishi to do the work he did in the United States and allowed the Beatles to do the work they’ve done and allowed all of that process to happen. I think that only took about five years and it seems to me that the values in the culture shifted dramatically enough, as a result of the psychedelic movement, to bring in a . . . another set of cognitive . . . consciousness possibilities into the Zeitgeist, enough so that they would become researchable, they would become studyable, and explorable; and yoga, which was a dirty word seven years ago, can now become a highly respected and thoughtful science, as it should be, as it is. It is an entirely different matter for people who have known of an experience of another state of consciousness to work on themselves than for people who have not.

If I observe the Gurdjieff students, a lot of students, those that come into a group in order to get some kind of group affiliation and are just good, pure people, can meditate and do the work for long times and very little happens. However, as my teacher said, “If a person knows of such things, then…. ” And that’s mainly what all of the Indian literature says-that once you know, once you have tasted of this possibility, then your work becomes tremendously directed toward this . . . then your meditations work at a much, much faster rate.

So that, in terms of the statistics with the Maharishi Mahesh group, of the numbers of drop-outs from the program, it is clear that a large percentage of people originally were not able to maintain that degree of involvement because they didn’t have a frame of reference which made them able to use the mantra in the spirit in which it was invested. There is no doubt that the Maharishi teaches a classical method that works beautifully. It is just what he says it is. It does just what he says it does. And when the investment is made in the spirit and received in the spirit, it has done remarkable things to thousands of people. If you come into it as an experiment to see if it will work, or come into it for a lot of other reasons, there is a very, very high probability you will drop out unless you’re really ready, unless you’re ready let’s put it that way.

So now the Playboy interview is very interesting because that was done four years ago, before I went to India, and in fact none of those people ever met. See, that was a phony panel. It was put together by the editors of Playboy to make a colorful article and we were all asked a series of questions and I had answered those questions four years ago before I had ever done any yoga. Then when they sent it to me now, they said, “You’ve already sold us this article. We have the right to use it. We’re going to use it. Are there any changes you want to make? You have only a day to make them and they should be minimal.” So all I did was … I added the new information that I had which was: (a) what my guru did, (b) what my teacher did, and (c) the fact that I am not now using LSD. Those all went into the article. And those clues were the clues that I had to contribute to my fellow man at this moment. That’s my explanation. 

See the full interview here:

Ram Dass Lecture at the Menninger Fondation – May 5, 1970