The Houseboat Summit

February 1967

An extended conversation between Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder on the problem of whether to “drop out or take over,” conducted on Alan Watts’ houseboat in 1967.


This is Alan Watts speaking, and I’m—this evening, on my ferryboat—the host to a fascinating party sponsored by the San Francisco Oracle, which is our new underground paper, far-outer than any far-out that has yet been seen. And we have here Allen Cohen representing the paper, The Oracle. We have Allen Ginsberg: poet and rabbinic sādhu. We have Timothy Leary, about whom nothing needs to be said. And Gary Snyder: also poet, Zen monk, and old friend of many years.


Everybody is all bugged because they think, one: the drop-out thing really doesn’t mean anything. That what you’re gonna cultivate is a lot of freak-out hippies goofing around and throwing bottles through windows when they flip out on LSD. That’s their stereotype vision. Obviously stereotype.


Sounds like bullshitting.


Second—no, it’s like… it’s no different from the newspaper vision, anyway. I mean, they’ve got the newspaper vision.

Then, secondly, they’re afraid that there’ll be some sort of fascist putsch. Like, it’s rumored lately that everyone’s gonna be arrested. So that the lack of communicating community among hippies will lead to some concentration camp situation, or lead—as it has been in Los Angeles recently—to a dispersal of what the beginning of the community began.


These are the old, menopausal minds. There was a psychiatrist named Adler in San Francisco whose interpretation of the group Be-In was that this is the basis for a new fascism: when a leader comes along. And I sense in the activist movement the cry for a leader, the cry for organization.


Yeah, but they’re just as intelligent as you are on this fact. They know about what happened in Russia. That’s the reason that they haven’t got a big, active organization. It’s because they, too, are stumped by: How do you have a community, and a community movement, and cooperation within the community to make life more pleasing for everybody—including the end of the Vietnam War—how do you have such a situation organized, or disorganized, just so long as it’s effective, without a fascist leadership? Because they don’t want to be that either. See, they are conscious of the fact that they don’t want to be messiahs; political messiahs. At least, Savio in particular. Yesterday he was weeping, saying he wanted to go out and live in nature.




So, I mean he’s like basically where we are: stoned.


Well, I think that—thus far—the genius of this kind of underground that we’re talking about is that it has no leadership. The Western world has labored for many, many centuries under a monarchical conception of the universe where God is the boss, and political systems and all kinds of law have been based on this model of the universe that nature is run by a boss. Whereas the… if you take the Chinese view of the world—which is organic—they would say, for example, that the human body is an organization in which there is no boss. It is a situation of order resulting from mutual interrelationship of all the parts. And what we need to realize is that there can be—shall we say—a movement, a stirring, among people which can be organically designed instead of politically designed. It has no boss, and yet all the parts recognize each other in the same way as the cells of the body all cooperate together.


Yes, it’s a new social structure.




It’s a new social structure which follows certain kinds of historically known tribal models.


Exactly, yeah! My historical reading of the situation is that these great, monolithic empires that developed in history—Rome, Turkey, and so forth—always break down when enough people (and it’s always the young, the creative, and the minority groups) drop out and go back to a tribal form. And I agree with what I’ve heard you say in the past, Gary, that the basic unit is tribal. What I envision is thousands of small groups throughout the United States and Western Europe, and eventually the world, as dropping out. What happened when Rome fell? What happened when Jerusalem fell? Little groups went off together.


Precisely what do you mean by drop out, then? You dropped out of your job as a psychology teacher in Harvard. Now, what you’ve dropped into is, one: a highly complicated series of arrangements for lecturing and for putting on the festival—


Well, I’m dropped out of that.


No, but you’re not dropped out of the very highly complicated legal constitutional appeals, which you feel a sentimental regard for, as I do. You haven’t dropped out of being the financial provider for Millbrook, and you haven’t dropped out of planning and conducting community organization and participating in it. And that community organization is related to the national community, too. Either through the Supreme Court, or through the very existence of the dollar that is exchanged for you to pay your lawyers, or to take money to pay your lawyers in the theatre. So you can’t drop out, like drop out, ’cause you haven’t.


Well, let me explain.


And so they think you mean like, drop out, like go live on Haight-Ashbury Street and do nothing at all. Even if you can do something like build furniture and sell it, or give it away and barter with somebody else.


You have to drop out in a group. You drop out in a small tribal group.


Well, you drop out one by one, but you know, like, you can join the sub-culture.


Maybe it’s: “Drop out of what?”


Gary, I think that you have something to say here because you, to me, are one of the most fantastically capable drop-out people I have ever met. I think that, at this point, you should say a word or two about your own experience of how to live on nothing. How to get by in life economically. And this is the nitty-gritty; this is where it really comes down to in many people’s minds: where’s the bread going to come from if everybody drops out?




Now, you know expertly where it’s gonna come from—living a life of integrity and not being involved in a commute-necktie-strangle scene.


Well this isn’t news to anybody, but ten, fifteen years ago when we dropped out, there wasn’t a community, and there wasn’t anybody who was going to take care of you at all. You were really completely on your own. What it meant was: cutting down on your desires and cutting down on your needs to an absolute minimum, and it also meant: don’t be a bit fussy about how you work or what you do for a living. That meant doing any kind of work. Strawberry picking, carpenter, laborer, longshore—Well, longshore is hard to get into; it paid very well—shipping out… that also pays very well.

But at least in my time it meant being willing to do any goddam kind of labor that came your way, and not being fussy about it. And it meant cultivating the virtue of patience—the patience of sticking with a shitty job long enough to win the bread that you needed to have some more leisure, which meant more freedom to do more things that you wanted to do. And mastering all kinds of techniques of living really cheap, like getting free rice off the docks because the loading trucks sometimes fork the rice sacks and spill little piles of rice on the docks, which are usually thrown away. But I had it worked out with some of the guards down on the docks that they would gather 15, 25 pounds of rice for me, and also tea. And I’d pick it up once a week off the docks, and then I’d take it around and give it to friends. And this was rice that was going to be thrown away otherwise, you know? Techniques like that.


Second day vegetables from the supermarket.


Yeah, we used to go around at one or two in the morning, around the Safeways and Piggly Wigglies in Berkeley with a shopping bag and hit the garbage cans out in the back. And we’d get Chinese cabbage, cabbage, broccoli—lots of broccoli and artichokes that were thrown out because they didn’t look sellable any more. So I never bought any vegetables for the three years I was a graduate student at Berkeley. When I ate meat, it was usually horse meat from the pet store because they don’t have a law that permits them to sell horse meat for human consumption in California like they do in Oregon.


You did make delicious horse meat sukiyaki.


Well, I want to add to this, Gary, that during the time that you were living this way I visited you on occasion, and you had a little hut way up on the hillside on Homestead Valley in Mill Valley. And I want to say, for the record, that this was one of the most beautiful pads I ever saw. It was sweet and clean, and it had a very, very good smell to the whole thing. And you were living what I consider to be a very noble life. Now, then, the question that next arises: if this is the way of being a successful drop-out—which I think is true—can you have a wife and child under such circumstances?


Yeah, I think you can. Sure.


What about when the state forces you to send the child to school?


You send it to school.


Oh no. Come on, I don’t see this as drop-out at all.


That—no, I want to finish what I was going to say. That’s the way it was ten years ago. Today there is a community, a huge community which, when you drop out—when any kid drops out today, he’s got a subculture to go fall into. He’s got a place to go where there will be friends, and people that will put him up, and people that will feed him, at least for a while, and keep feeding him indefinitely if he moves around from pad to pad.


But that’s just stage one.


Stage one?


The value of the Lower East Side—or of the district in Seattle, or the Haight-Ashbury—is that it provides a first launching pad. But that must be seen, clearly, as a way station. I don’t think the Haight-Ashbury district is a place—any city, for that matter—is a place where the new tribal individual…


I agree with you.


…is going to live. So, I mean drop out! And I don’t want to be misinterpreted. I’m dropping out, step by step. Millbrook, by the way, is a tribal community. We’re getting closer and closer to the landing. We’re working out our way of import and export with the planet. We consider ourselves a tribe of mutants. Just like all the little tribes of Indians were. We happen to have our little area there, and we have to come to terms with the white men around us. Yes! There’s no—we can’t…


Now look, your drop-out line is fine for all those other people out there. You know, that’s what you’ve got to say to them. But I want to hear what you’re building. What are you making?


What are we building?


Yeah, what are you building? I want to hear your views on that. Now, it’s agreed we’re dropping out and there are techniques to do it. Now, what next? Where are we going now? What kind of society are we going to be in?


Well, I’m making the prediction that thousands of groups will just look around the fake prop television set American society, and just open one of those doors. And when you open the doors they don’t lead you in, they lead you out into the garden of Eden, which is this planet. And then you find yourself a little tribe wandering around. As soon as enough people do this—enough young people do this—it’ll bring about an incredible change in the consciousness of this country, and of the Western world.


Well, that is happening, actually.




But that garden of Eden is full of old rubber truck tires and tin cans right now, you know?


Parts of it are. Each group that drops out has got to use its two billion years of cellular equipment to answer those questions. Hey, how we gonna eat? Oh, there’s no more paycheck, there’s no more fellowship from the university! How we gonna eat? How we gonna keep warm? How we gonna defend ourselves?


What is very important here is that people learn the techniques which have been forgotten; that they learn new structures and new techniques. Like, you just can’t go out and grow vegetables, man. You’ve got to learn how to do it. You know? Like we’ve got to learn to do a lot of things we’ve forgotten to do.


I agree.


That is very true, Gary. Our educational system—in its entirety—does nothing to give us any kind of material competence. In other words…




…we don’t learn how to cook, how to make clothes, how to build houses, how to make love, or to do any of the absolutely fundamental things of life. The whole education that we get for our children in school is entirely in terms of abstractions. It trains you to be an insurance salesman, or a bureaucrat, or some kind of cerebral character.


Within the next five years, probably, a modest beginning will be made in sub-culture institutions of higher learning that will informally begin to exist around the country, and will provide this kind of education without being left to the establishment, to big industry, to government.


Well, it’s already happening on quite a wide scale.


It’s already happening. I think that there will be a big extension of that, employing a lot of potentially beautiful teachers who are unemployed at the moment. Like, there are gurus who are just waiting to be put to use, and also drawing people who are working in the universities with a bad conscience off to join that.




There’s a whole new order of technology that is required for this. A whole new science, actually. A whole new physical science is going to emerge from this. Because the boundaries of the old physical science are within the boundaries of the Judeo-Christian and Western imperialist boss-sense of the universe that Alan was talking about. In other words, our scientific condition is caught within the limits of that father figure—Jehovah or Roman emperor—model, which limits our scientific objectivity and actually holds us back from exploring areas of science which can be explored.


Exactly, Gary. Exactly.


So that, really, you know—like, our new technology goes with this.




But it’s like the guy in Los Angeles who had a bad trip on LSD, and turned himself into the police and wrote: “Please help me. Signed, Jehovah.”


Beautiful. It’s about time he caught on, huh?


Yes! But here, though, is this thing, you see: we are talking about all this, which is really a rather small movement of people involved in the midst of a fantastic multitude of people who can only continue to survive if automated industry feeds them, clothes them, houses them and transports them by means of the creation of immense quantities of ersatz material: fake bread, fake homes, fake clothes and fake autos. In other words, this thing is going on—you know, these huge, fantastic numbers of people, increasing, increasing, increasing—people think, you know, the population problem’s something that’s going to happen five years from now. They don’t realize it’s right on us now! People are coming out to the walls!


We have to start immediately putting the technology underground. I can think of different ways we can do this symbolically. The solstice—last April 21st [sic]—a group of us went out in front of the house in Millbrook, and we took a sledgehammer and we spent about an hour breaking through the road, and we had this incredible piece of asphalt and rock—four inches—and then we said: “Hey! Underneath this planet somewhere there’s dirt!” And it was really magical. And once you get a little piece taken out—it took about an hour to get one little piece—then you just go underneath it and it begins to crumble.

So I think that we should start a movement to—one hour a day or one hour a week—take a little chisel, a little hammer, and put a little hole in some of this plastic, and just see some earth coming up and put a seed there. And then put a little ring of—mandalic ring—of something around it. I can see the highways, and I can see the subways, and I can see the patios, and so forth: suddenly the highway department comes along, and says, “There’s a rose growing in the middle of Highway 101!” And then—then—the robot power group will have to send a group of the highway department to kill the rose and put the asphalt down on the gentle, naked skin of the soil. Now, when they do that we’re getting to them. There’ll be pictures in the paper. And consciousness is going to change. Because we’ve got to get to people’s consciousness. We’ve got to let people realize what they’re doing to the earth.


That’s the area of poetry you’re dealing with there.


Here we go! I’m the poet and you’re the politician. I’ve told you that for ten years!


I know someone now at State who studies psychology and who doesn’t know whether to drop out or not, and who’s pulled in two directions. I think there are many people like this.


Yes, I think he should drop out. And I want to be absolutely clear on that. And the papers—nobody wants to listen to that simple, two-syllable phrase. It gets jargled and jumbled, and—I mean it. Now, everyone has to decide how he drops out, and when, and he has to time it gracefully, but that’s the goal. Now, I can foresee that you might work for Sears & Roebuck for six months to get enough money to go to India. But that’s part of your drop out. And what I’m doing today, Allen, is part of my drop out. I’ve got responsibilities, contracts, and I don’t think that anyone should violate contracts with people that they love.


But look at all this—


Contract with the university? Ha! Fine, quit tomorrow. Therefore, I have to detach myself slowly. When I was in India two years ago—


India… but look—you know the university is personal relations also. They’re not in contact with the university, they’re in contact with persons.




They can’t reject those persons, necessarily. There might be a Bodhisattva among those persons.


You can—as Tim says—you can gracefully drop out—




—at one time or another, which I take to mean—


I was teaching at Berkeley last week. What do you mean, “drop out?”


You’ve got to do your yoga as a college professor. It’s part of the thing you’re gonna have to go through, and after you do that then you shudder and run for the door.


Surely the fact of the matter is that you can do this on a small scale, as an individual, where just a few people are doing this, as they always have done. There have always been a kind of elite minority who dropped out; who were the sages in the mountains.


You’re talking a drama here. You’re not talking about, you know, anthropological realities. The anthropological reality is that human beings, in their nature, want to be in touch with what is real in themselves and in the universe. And that, for example, the longshoremen with their automation contract in San Francisco: a certain number of them have been laid off for the rest of their lives with full pay, and some of them have been laid off already for five years, with full pay, by their contract. Now, my brother-in-law is a longshoreman, and he’s been telling me about what’s happening to these guys. Most of them are pretty illiterate, a large proportion of them are [African Americans]. The first thing they all did was get boats and drive around San Francisco Bay, because they have all this leisure. Then a lot of them got tired of driving around boats that were just like cars, and they started sailing. Then a few of them started making their own sailboats. They move into and respond to the possibility of challenge. Things become simpler and more complex and more challenging for them.

The same is true of hunting. Some guy says, “I want to go hunting and fishing all the time, when I have my leisure, by God!” And so he goes hunting all the time. Then he says, “I want to do this in a more interesting way,” so he takes up bow hunting.




Then the next step is—and this has happened—he says, “I want to try making my own arrowheads.” And he learns how to flake his own arrowheads out. Now, human beings want reality. That’s, I think, part of human nature. And television, and drinking beer, and watching television, is what the working man laid off does for the first two weeks. But then, in the third week, he begins to get bored, and in the fourth week he wants to do something with his body and his mind and his senses.

I think that automation in the affluent society, plus psychedelics, plus a—for some curious reason—a whole catalytic, spiritual change or bend of mind that seems to be taking place in the west (today especially) is going to result—can result, ultimately—in a vast leisure society in which people will voluntarily reduce their number, and because human beings want to do that which is real, simplify their lives. Like, the whole problem of consumption and marketing is radically altered if a large number of people voluntarily choose to consume less. And people will voluntarily choose to consume less if their interests are turned in another direction, if what is exciting to them is no longer things but states of mind.


That’s true.


Now what is happening: people are becoming interested in states of mind, and things aren’t really substitutes for states of mind. So what I visualize is a very complex and sophisticated cybernetic technology surrounded by thick hedges of trees—somewhere, say, around Chicago—and the rest of the nation a buffalo pasture…


That’s very close to what I think.


…with a large number of people going around making their own arrowheads because it’s fun, but they know better. They know they don’t have to make them.


Now, this seems like our utopian visions are coming closer together. I say that the industry should be underground, and you say it should be in Chicago. This interests me.


Yes, but that’s the same idea.


Well, those who want to be technological engineers will be respected and are going to do that. And the other thing is, like, you can go out and live close to nature, or you can go back and—


But you won’t be allowed to drive a car outside this technological—


But you won’t want to!




That’s the difference, baby. It’s not that you won’t be allowed to, it’s that you won’t want to. That’s where it’s got to be at.


Because it’s the same thing when we get down to, say, the fundamental questions of food. More and more one realizes that the mass-produced food is not worth eating and therefore, in order to delight in things to eat, you go back to the most primitive processes of raising and preparing food. Because that has taste in it. And I see that there will be a sort of flip, that as all the possibilities of technology and automation make it possible for everybody to be assured of having the basic necessities of life, they will then say: “Oh, yes, we have all that. Now we can always rely on that. But now, in the meantime, while we don’t have to work, let’s go back to making arrowheads and to raising the most amazing plants.”


Yeah. It would be so funny! The thing is that they would all get so good at it that the technology center in Chicago would rust away.


Right! Right, right, right!


They needed it, even.


That’s exactly what’s going to happen. The psychedelic drop-outs are going to be having so much fun. They’re going to be so much, obviously, healthier.


But Tim, do you see any indication among people who are, at present, really turned on that they are cultivating this kind of material competence? Now, I haven’t seen too much of it yet. I went to—


Some of those kids at Big Sur have got it.


Yeah, maybe you’re right.


They’re learning. Like, A few years ago they used to go down to Big Sur and they didn’t know how to camp or dig latrines. But, you know, like what Martin has been telling me lately, is that they’re getting very sharp about what to gather that’s edible, how to get sea salt, what are the edible plants and the edible seeds. And the revolutionary technological book for this…


Alright, now. But—


…state is A.L. Kroeber’s Handbook of the California Indians, which tells you what’s good to eat and how to prepare it.


Oh, well then, that’s what I wanted you to [...] out. But the thing is this: look, so many people I know—


And also what to use for Tampax: milkweed fluff.




And diapers made of shredded cedar bark. The whole thing is all there.


What was the writer of the book?


A. L. Kroeber.


Handbook of the California Indians.




But the thing that is this: I’ve found so many people who—you know—are of the turned-on type, and the circumstances and surroundings under which they live are just plain cruddy. You would think that people who had seen what you can see with the visions of psychedelics would reflect themselves in forms of life and art that would be like Persian miniatures. Because obviously Persian miniatures, Moorish arabesques are all reflecting the state of mind of people who were turned on. And they are rich and glorious beyond belief.




Majestic, yeah! Well now, why doesn’t it so occur? It is slowly beginning to happen because I’ve noticed that, recently, all turned on people are becoming more colorful. They’re wearing beads and gorgeous clothes and so on and so forth, and it’s gradually coming out because—you remember—the old beatnik days when everybody was in blue jeans and ponytails and no lipstick and drab and crummy.




Now something’s beginning to happen!


Well, it wasn’t quite that bad, but we were mostly concerned with not being consumers then.


Yes, I know. Now I see it beginning to happen. Timothy here, instead of wearing his old—whatever it was that he used to wear—has now got a white tunic on with gold and colorful gimp on it.




Gimp. Yes. And it’s very beautiful, and he’s wearing a necklace and all that kind of thing, and color is at last coming into the scene.


Well, okay. Let’s get back—


That’s going back before the Roundheads, and before Cromwell.


Yes, it is.


Let’s get practical here. I think we’re all concerned about the increasing number of people who are dropping out and wondering where to go from there. Now let’s come up some practical suggestions which we might hope could unfold in the next few months.


There’s three categories: wilderness, rural, and urban.




Like, there’s gonna be bush people, farm people and city people. Bush tribes, farm tribes, and city tribes.


Beautiful. I… that makes immediate sense to myself. How about beach people?


Let me throw in a word. The word is evil and technology. Somehow they come together, and when there is an increase in technology and technological facility, there is an increase in what we usually call human evil.


I wouldn’t agree with that, no. No, there’s all kinds of non-evil technologies. Like, neolithic obsidian flaking is non-evil technology.


But in its advanced stage it produces evil.


Yes, but what you mean, I think, is this: When you go back to the great myths about the origin of evil… actually, the Hebrew words which say good and evil as the knowledge of good and evil being the result of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. These words mean advantageous and disadvantageous and they’re words connected with technical skills. And the whole idea is this—which you find reflected in the Taoist philosophy—that the moment you start interfering in the course of nature with a mind that is centered, and one-pointed, and analyzes everything, and breaks it down into bits—the moment you do that you lose contact with your original know-how by means of which you now color your eyes, and breathe, and beat your heart. And for thousands of years mankind has lost touch with his original intelligence, and he has been absolutely fascinated by this kind of political, godlike, controlling intelligence where you can go ptt-ptt-ptt-ptt-ptt and analyze things all over the place, and he has forgotten to trust his own organism.


Now the whole thing is that everything is coming to be realized today. Not only through people who take psychedelics, but also through many scientists. They’re realizing that this linear kind of intelligence cannot keep up with the course of nature. It can only solve trivial problems when the big problems happen too fast to be thought about in that way. And so those of us who are in some way or other—through psychedelics, through meditation, through what have you—are getting back to being able to trust our original intelligence are suggesting an entirely new course for the development of civilization.


Well, it happens that civilization develops with the emergence of a specialization in labor.




And the emergence of a class structure. A class structure can’t survive, or can’t put across its principle, and expect people to accept it if they believe in themselves. If they believe—individually, one by one—that they are in some way godlike, or Buddha-like, or potentially Illuminati. So that it’s almost ingrained in civilization. And Freud said this—you know, “Civilization as a Neurosis”—that part of the nature of civilization is that it must put down the potential of every individual development. And this is the difference between that kind of society which we call civilized, and that much more ancient kind of society which is still viable and still survives—which we call primitive—in which everybody is potentially a chief and which everybody—like the Comanche or the Sioux—everybody in the whole culture was expected to go out and have a vision one time in his life. To—in other words—to leave the society to have some transcendental experience, to have a song and a totem come to him which he need tell no one, ever, and then come back and live with this double knowledge in society.


In other words, through him having had his own isolation, his own loneliness, and his own vision, he knows that the game rules of society are fundamentally an illusion.


And the society not only permits that, the society is built on it!


Is built on that, right! But now that—


And everybody has one side of his nature which has been out of it.


—that society is strong and viable which recognizes its own provisionality.


And no one who ever came into contact with the Plains Indians didn’t think they were men!


Didn’t think what?


Right. They were men.


They were men.




Every record of American Indians—from the cavalry, the pioneers, the missionaries, the Spaniards—says that everyone one of these people was men. In fact, I learned something just the other day. Talking about the Uroc Indians, an early explorer up there commented on their fantastic self-confidence. He said, “Every Indian has this fantastic self-confidence. And they laugh at me,” he said, “they laugh at me and they say: Aren’t you sorry you’re not an Indian?” “Poor wretched Indians!” this fellow said. Well, that is because every one of them has gone out and had this vision experience, has been completely alone with himself, and face to face with himself, and has contacted powers outside of what anything the society could give him. And society expects him to contact powers outside of society, in those cultures.


Yes, every healthy culture does. Every healthy culture provides for there being non-joiners. Sannyasi, hermits, drop-outs too. Every healthy society has to tolerate this.


Now, this is the next step. See, a society like the Comanche or the Sioux demands that everybody go out there and have this vision, and incorporates and ritualizes it within the culture. Then, a society like India, a step more civilized, permits some individuals to have these visions but doesn’t demand it of everyone.


We often wonder why some people are more ready to drop out than others. It may be explained by the theory of reincarnation. The people that don’t want to drop out can’t conceive of living on this planet outside the prop television studio are just unlucky enough to have been born into this sort of thing, maybe the first or second time. They’re still entranced by all of the man-made props. But there’s no question that we should consider how more and more people, who are ready to drop out, can drop out.


If there is value in being a drop-out—that is to say, being an outsider—you can only appreciate and realize this value if there are, in contrast with you, insiders and squares. The two are mutually supportive.


Yeah, if someone says to me, “I just can’t conceive of dropping out,” I can say, “Well, you’re having fun with this go around. Fine!”




Because we’ve all done it many times in the past.


But the two groups, the insiders and the outsiders—


The whole thing is too big because it doesn’t say drop out of what, precisely. What everybody is dealing with is people—it’s not dealing with institutions. It’s dealing with them but also dealing with people. Working with and including the police.


You have to be able to—if you’re going to talk this way—you have to be able to specifically say to someone in Wichita, Kansas, who says, “I’m going to drop out. How do you advise me to stay living around here in this area which I like?”


Yeah. Right. Let’s be practical. Let’s be less historical now for a while and let’s be very practical about ways in which people who want to find the tribal way, how can they do it, what do you tell them?


Well, this is what I’ve been telling to kids all over Michigan and Kansas. For example, I tell them first of all: “Do you want to live here, or do you want to go someplace else?”




All right, they say, “I want to stay around where I am.” I say, “Okay, get in touch with the Indian culture here. Find out what was here before. Find out what the mythologies were. Find out what the local deities were.” You can get all of this out of books. Go and look at your local archaeological sites. Pay a reverent visit to the local American Indian tombs, and also the tombs of the early American settlers. Find out what your original ecology was. Is it short grass prairie, or long grass prairie here? Go out and live on the land for a while. Set up a tent and camp out and watch clouds, and watch the water, and watch the land, and get a sense of what the climate is here. Because, since you’ve been living in a house all your life, you probably don’t know what the climate is.




Then decide how you want to make your living here. Do you want to be a farmer, or do you want to be a hunter and food gatherer? You know, you start from the ground up, and you can do it in any part of this country today, cities and all. For this continent I took it back to the Indians.


Yeah, I agree with you completely.


Find out what the Indians were up to in your own area. Whether it’s Utah, or Kansas, or New Jersey.


That is a stroke of cellular revelation and genius, Gary. That’s one of the wisest things I’ve heard anyone say in years. That’s exactly how it should be done. I do see the need for transitions, though, and you say that there will be city people as well as country people and mountain people. I would suggest that, for the next year or two or three, which are gonna be nervous, transitional, mutational years—where things are gonna happen very fast, by the way—the transition could be facilitated if every city set up little meditation rooms, and little shrine rooms, where the people in transition, dropping out, could meet and meditate together. It’s already happening at the psychedelic shop, it’s happening in New York. I see no reason, though, why there shouldn’t be ten or fifteen or twenty such places in San Francisco.


There already are.


Yeah, I know, but let’s encourage that. I was just in Seattle and I was urging the people there. Hundreds of them crowd into coffee shops, and there is this beautiful energy. They are liberated people, these kids, but they don’t know where to go. They just need—they don’t need leadership, but they need, I think, a variety of suggestions from people who have thought about this, giving them the options to move in any direction.


Well, I’d like to see the—


Just a minute, here. The different meditation rooms can have different styles. One can be Zen, one can be macrobiotic, one can be bhante chanting, once can be rock and roll psychedelic, one can be lights. If we learn anything from our cells, we learn that God delights in variety. They’ve got to meet each other and form these tribal—I would say—reincarnation groups. Because the people who are ready to drop out and turn on will come to these centers, and they’ll wander around, and they’ll form natural cellular groups, and they’ll leave the city.

I would suggest a practical step number two: that the Human Be-In, in San Francisco, be a model. We’ve all tried different models of summer schools at institutes, and research projects with individual drop-outs, psychedelic celebration, and so forth. I would say that the human Be-In was a tremendously important thing in the consciousness of San Francisco. Now, that thing could happen in every large city in the country. And again, the beautiful thing about the Be-In was: it had no leadership, it had no big financing, it would just grow automatically.


Yeah, but we’re accused of being leaders. What are we doing up on the [...]?


There were 50 people on that platform; every one of them was a leader. So were the people in the audience. The reason was that nobody came out and said we are the leaders.


No, nobody said that.


But I remember sitting up there—


—every time they say you’re a leader—


Well, now, look here—


But I do that anyway.


Yeah, I know. But the press has a leadership complex.


Yeah. But you keep calling everyone disciples.


Oh, they want to find a ring leader, because—




One of the four philosophical questions is: “Who started it?” And whenever the police or the press barge into a situation they want to know who started it. In other words, because they’re still thinking about God and the first cause, and they want to know who started it, who’s in charge, and so on.


Right, exactly.


Let’s get back to a fundamental thing. I think that what you are really—all of you—are having the courage to say is that the absolutely primary thing is that there be a change of consciousness in the individual: that he escape from the hallucination that he is a separate ego in an alien universe, and that we all come to realize, primarily, that each one of us is the whole works. That each one of us is what is real and has been real for always and always and always and always and will ever be. And although the time language may not be appropriate here, but nevertheless, we are that, and to the extent that it can be spread around that that’s what you and I are, and we lose our anxieties, and we lose our terror of death, and our terror of unimportance, and all that kind of thing—that this is the absolutely essential ingredient which (if we get hold of that point) all the rest will be added on to you, you know? In the sense of “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.” Isn’t that what you’re saying? I mean, isn’t that absolutely basic that, even if this is only realized from a statistical minority, nevertheless it’s immensely powerful?


It affects consciousness.


It affects everybody.


I would add to practical step number two that more celebrations be set up over the—or more Be-Ins—


The practical—it just occurred to me—the practical details. The model of it is something like the maha-lila. Like, you’re asking how is it going to work. Well now, the maha-lila is a group of about three different families who have sort of pooled their resources, none of which are very great. But they have decided to play together and to work together and to take care of each other. And that means all of them are doing—have ways of getting a small amount of bread, which they share. And other people contribute a little money when it comes in. And then they work together on creative projects. Like, they’re working together on a light show right now for a poetry reading that we’re going to give. And they consider themselves a kind of extended family or clan. And like, when they went to the Be-In, they had a banner which said maha-lila—like, that was their clan banner.


I saw that.




That’s the model.


That’s the model. And the model for the time is that breaking out of the smaller family organization, we work in slightly larger structures—like clan structures—in which people do work at various jobs and bring in whatever bread they can from various jobs. But they’re willing to pool it and share it, and they learn how to work and play together. And then they relate that to a larger sense of the tribe, which is also loose. But for the time being everybody has to be able—from time to time—to do some little job. But the reference is—the thing that makes it different—is that you don’t bring it home to a very tight individual or one monogamous family unit, but you bring it home to a slightly larger unit where the sharing is greater. I think that’s where it starts.


Oh, I think that’s very important.


Extended family is the key.


The extended family, I think, is where it starts. And my own particular hobby horse on this is that the extended family leads to matrilineal descent. And when we get matrilineal descent, then we’ll have group marriage, and when we have group marriage we’ll have the economy licked. Because with the group marriage, capitalism is doomed and civilization goes out.


Practical step number three, which I’d like to see [...]


I think we should encourage extended families everywhere.


Well, it’s very practical to encourage extended families because the present model of the family is a hopeless breakdown because, first of all, the family is an agrarian cultural institution which is not suited to an urban culture. Because all the family consists in is a dormitory where a wife and children are located, and the husband—who engages in a mysterious activity in an office or a factory, in which neither the wife nor the children have any part nor interest, from which he brings home an abstraction called money. And where there are lots of pretty secretaries in the scene in which he actually works, exactly. And so they have no relation whatsoever to what he does, and furthermore, the awful thing about the family as it exists at the moment, is that the husband and the wife both feel guilty about not bringing up their children properly, and therefore they live for their children instead of living out their own lives and doing their own interesting work, in which the children would automatically become interested as participants and watchers on the side.

As it is, they were doing everything. They say, “We live. We work. We earn our money for you, darlings.” And these poor darlings feel all these things thrown at them, and they don’t know what to do with it. And then they are sent away to school—shrilled off to school, as Dylan Thomas put it—and to be educated for everything and nothing.


By strangers.


By strangers.


Who are dubious…


Who would teach them all sorts of purely—


…moral, spiritual, intellectual, and sexual characteristics.


Right. Abstract formulations and things they’ll learn, and the family has no reality. And the greatest institution today—in the American family—is the babysitter: someone to just take the children out of our consciousness while we enjoy ourselves.


And the death-sitter to take the old people out of our consciousness.


And the death-sitter; exactly!


And even death has been taken from the people.




Everything has.


The—courtesy of the mortician. Yes.


A good death.


A good death is no longer possible, practically. So—


I have a four-stage thing. American Indian technologies…


Practical, now.


…meditation centers, group marriage, and periodical gatherings of the tribes.


I don’t agree with group marriage. We are a tribal people. You cannot have infidelity in a tribe. Sexual freedom…


Infidelity is defined as going outside the tribe.


…is anonymous. Impersonal, anthill sexuality. Every woman…


Now wait a minute—but I said…


…let me finish. Every woman is all women. If you can’t find all women in one woman, it’s your problem.


I do think it’s possible for some of us to have found all women in one woman.


I want to get back at something. Just let me say something with him. Infidelity means denying your commitments. Now, if your commitments are within a group marriage, then fidelity is being true within your group marriage. And infidelity is being untrue or dishonest outside of that. Now, there are some cultures in South America in which all forms of marriage are permitted. There are group marriages, polyandrous marriages, polygamous marriages, and monogamous marriages.


By group marriages—just a moment—let’s get a question of definition here.


Okay. Group marriage is where a number of people—as a group, whatever the number is—announce (a marriage is a social announcement of commitment) announce that we will be responsible for the children we produce and for each other.


In other words, all males and all females in this group can be in mutual intercourse with each other?




But not outside the group.


Not outside the group.


Outside the group—


You make rules to take care of that. You’ve got to bring in—


I’m not making the rules. I’m just telling you what the anthropological precedences are in these things.


Yes. Yes, yes, yes.


It happens that—in this South American culture—that the majority of the marriages are monogamous, but it also happens that there are some polyandrous, some polygamous, and a few group ones. And I think that what we can allow is people to combine in whatever combinations they wish.


Oh, I certainly would agree with that.


When people—just as Lao-Tzu said—when the great Tao was lost there came talk of duty to man and right conduct. And so when the essential idea of love is lost there comes talk of fidelity. That actually, the only possible basis for two beings—male and female—to relate to each other is to grant each other total freedom and say “I don’t put any bonds on you, you don’t put any bonds on me. Because I want you. I love you the way you are. And I want you to be that.”

The minute you start making contracts, and bonds, and signing on the dotted line, you are wrecking the whole relationship. And you just have to trust the fact that human beings should be legally allowed to trust each other, and to enter into a fellowship that does not involve a contractual arrangement.


I think we all agree with that.


You know, because if you don’t do that, you’ll kill it!


In primitive cultures marriage is not a contractual arrangement, but what it is is: it’s a public announcement. It’s a relationship which is made public.


What was your fourth point, Gary?


Occasional gatherings of the tribe. Tribes. That wasn’t a point, it was an activity.


Well, I—it seems to me, then—


Say, rather than group marriage, extended families. Extended cooperation structures, in other words. American Indian technologies, meditation centers, extended cooperative clan-type or extended family-type structures—with much more permissiveness in the nature of the family structure than is permitted, say, in Judeo-Christian tradition—and gatherings of the larger tribes periodically.


The practical suggestion number six: I suggest that we have meetings in cities April 21st. I suggest we have, say, national meetings—or one national meeting, perhaps—June 21st, and that we start moving through Europe to the East so that we would, on September 21st, on the door between India and China, with as many Indians or Westerners or people we’ve picked up on the way, I think that’s the quickest way to end racial prejudice and the war in Vietnam.


Some cultures aren’t going to understand this.


You’ve got to get more than 20,000 people. And that was done anyway, all the way around. And that was done anyway by Shankara [...], and he got stopped at the border of Burma. [...] when the Indians were upset.


There’s a social and historical problem here. One is that California is one of the places ready for that problem.


Right. San Francisco is the place in it.


Yeah. Like, you couldn’t do this in Japan.


Well, it’s already done that. Now let’s—


No, but you can’t do it yet.


It hasn’t done it yet.


A great percentage of the world is going to have to [...] through the drama of Western culture and technology in some accelerated way. Therefore, they’re ready for this. Like, America’s [...] culture in which a number of people have seen through it and are able to move beyond it. Japan isn’t ready to, for example. It would be incredibly eccentric to them. Nobody’s ready to try it.


I question that. I think that if you look at the spread of American ideology, France is just now starting to get super-drugstores.




You must not fail to realize the authentic, deep American spirit behind this, and I think that if it’s taken 50 years for France to accept the super-drugstore, why not six months to accept the Be-In in San Francisco?


Well, because…


The way they spread drugs, or Pepsi-Cola, or Coca-Cola, was they—when Coca-Cola first showed up in the Grand Canal in Venice, or Coca-Cola first showed up in Pakistan—it was an eccentric. But Pepsi-Cola can do it. The energy and the cellular activity which started here can move much more quickly because it’s talking to deeper things in a human being than Pepsi-Cola. I think


But these people are—some of these people in Africa and Asia are caught up in the drama of progress.


They want nothing more than to come to America and get a large apartment, and a large car.


This is really—this is part of the paradox.


We can tell them! I feel the same way about the problem with the American Negro. Does he have to become a middle-class White before he can then go on and leave that? I don’t think we have to go through these historical periods. Anything’s possible, but move it faster. And to jump.


Well I hope it’s possible to accelerate it. But you can’t take it around the world this year or next year.




Like, the drama is changing. What people are interested in is not things, it’s states of mind. That’s the cultural shift.


Now this is a very important statement, this.






Yes, yeah.


We’ve turned a corner. It’s a bigger corner than the Reformation.






It’s a corner on the order of the change between paleolithic and neolithic. And it’s like one of the three or four major turns in the history of man; not just culture, but man.


Right. Now: an enormous number of people go into the heart of New York every day for no other reason than to shop. They are, to a large extent, frustrated women living in these wretched dormitories; their husbands are working. And the women go in in order to get some kind of sense of existence, of being, by buying things. Now, supposing it happens that, instead of that [...], they change their state of mind.




Instead of going out—you know—and buying something, they’ve changed their state of mind sitting where they are in the first place. Then Bonwit Teller, everything in the middle of town, simply collapses—Lord & Taylor, and so on—have no more reason for existence. It’s like Market Street in San Francisco, where everything is slowly falling apart because it’s so ridiculous to park there and you can’t get at the place anyhow.


But where are people going to buy their Uher tape recorder machines?


Supposing they don’t want them?


Pardon me?


Suppose they don’t want them.


Well, we all have them.


We’re transitional figures. We don’t need them. Like, I would be happy to hear Larry Bird sing his Corn Dance and his Buffalo Dance and I don’t want to tape it, you know? I’ll hear it and that’s in my mind for the rest of my life.




I mean, the problem here is there’s a withering away of the state. Advanced electronics.


It’s called: let the state disintegrate.


Well, the—


In an advanced technology such as we are talking about, that lets you imaginatively transform it into some Buckminster Fuller process, you know, and each individual tribe can operate and create whatever it needs. Other than that, there is the technology as we know it now, like a large electronic network.


I think that the technology withers away as people learn to do it themselves. Like, it’s more interesting to do it yourself at home with your friends. Like, sit around and blow the buffalo horn and blow the conch horn and not turn on the television.


That was like conditions that were possible when the continent held fifteen million Indians.




But now the continent holds a great many more.


They have still what’s the most interesting. To do what you can do yourself.


The whole problem is reproduction. It’s not only the reproduction of the species in a sexual way, but reproduction as we are now reproducing what we are saying on tape. Because: if, supposing this conversation were very turned on and far out (I don’t know whether it is or not) people would say, “Oh, what a pity! That didn’t get recorded.”


Somebody remembers.


See, because it didn’t really happen unless it was recorded. And increasingly we are developing all kinds of systems for verifying reality by echoing it.


Well, trained minds remember. And the words of the Buddha were all remembered.




Oral Tradition, oral tradition.


And the words of the Buddha came down for 200 years before anybody put it in writing because people were paying attention to what he said.


Only then did they start embellishing it.




But Krishnamurti would argue that remembering it was already a fallacy.


Well, he’s very pure.


When Alan said he was a [...] he wanted to be a bridge-builder. Now, that [...] we’re all going to be bridge-builders in one sense I think perhaps. He was told in Haight-Ashbury amongst the acid heads, and no one gave him a push. If we’re telling the kids they’re doing something holy, they have—to a certain extent—we have to be a little bit holy. And holiness is [...] We have to learn to give. The [...] have said that since the Be-In on January 14th, thousands and thousands of kids who don’t really know where they’re at, but they’re attracted because they want to know where they’re at and come to the city. But they come to the city and they don’t know whether to be defiant, they don’t know—they don’t know what to be. And unless they can become bridges for themselves—each person a bridge for themselves—so they can show that what they have got is something giving. The message doesn’t get across. The cause should be pushed.


Exactly. It’s not enough to tell them that what they’re doing by dropping out is right.


Yeah, that’s the point I’m trying to get at.


Yes. Well, that’s very important. It’s the point that we’ve got to become saints.


Which is not even a silly thing to say.


It’s not. Exactly. That’s exactly it. They’ve got to be told that they’re pursuing the holiest role.


They have to understand what that means.


Well, there should be—again, if we had these meditation centers in all cities there would be centers where the Gita would be read, where the ancient Sutras would be read, where they would be reminded. This is not teaching.


What we need is personal example all over the place.


Right. But I would suggest that in these meditation centers there be some program of readings. Not in the sense of educating or teaching facts, but just reminding young people and any person who drops out and turns on that they are part of an ancient profession. The only holy profession. The profession that’s kept the flame going. And it certainly should express itself in pushing that Mercedes.


Do you think it’s practical to try to get some sort of meditation in the public schools?


No drop-outs at public schools. The public schools cannot be compromised.






We’re not compromising with IBM or General Electric. We’re simply saying, as Gary has said, that part of man’s karmic heritage is the ability to do incredible things with his hands and his analytic mind. But they should be holy things.


Well, it’s a question of right occupation and right conduct. It’s not like technology bad or that schools are bad.


Well now, look here: what are we saying when we say, now, that something is holy? That means you should take a different attitude to what you’re doing than if you were, for example, doing it for kicks. Now, there’s a curious thing here. I have noticed—with Allen Ginsberg—that when he chants Hindu sutras he doesn’t do it in a pious way.




There’s a joyousness, and there’s a feeling of delight to doing this chant that has more zip to it than anything we knew pas as being holy. Now, when you were doing something holy past, you had to put on a solemn expression, saying, “We’re doing this, but it hurts. But it’s good for us.” He’s not doing that when he chants. He’s not saying it hurts and therefore it’s good for me. He’s saying it’s good for me because I enjoy it. It’s gorgeous. I’m going right in there and I’m going to say all these Om Hare Rama Krishna Rama Hare Rama Hare et cetera. You see?


He’s turning himself on.


Right. And I told some nuns a little while, when the mother superior came, and they were all talking about the reform of the liturgy, and how the Catholic church has gotten itself into a mess by translating the Latin liturgy into terrible English, and all the magic has gone out of it. And I said, “You should come and listen to Allen Ginsberg chant the sutras, because then you’d know how to celebrate mass properly!” So when we’re talking about something being holy we’ve got to be very careful. We’re saying now, Gary, you were saying alright, people have got to be saints. And you said, well, that’s not just a joke to say this. But it’s got to be saints in an entirely new sense. Not this masochistic kind of sainthood, whereby I am holy because I hurt and the amount of personal hurt that I’ve piled up is the… measure of my holiness.


Well, that’s the Judeo-Christian idea that says the cross is at the center of the universe.


Well, what about India, where we do have a giant psychedelic community, and many tribal groups, and tribal gatherings which serve as a model for our own? What kind of material system is that? And would that be acceptable to Mario Savio?


Sure, it’s acceptable.


So what do you think of Swami Bhaktivedanta’s plea for the acceptance of Krishna in every direction?


Why, it’s a lovely, positive thing to say ‘Krishna.’ It’s a beautiful mythology and it’s a beautiful practice.


Should be encouraged.


He think—but he feels it’s the one uniting the thing. He feels a monopolistic unitary thing about that.


Well, the one thing’s—


Well, I tell you: I think why he feels this is that it is… the mantrams, the images of Krishna, have in this culture no foul associations. The word ‘God’ is contaminated, so Tillich would say Ground of Being instead of God. Anything except saying God. The words “get down on your knees and be humble before your heavenly father,” that gives everybody the creeps, it’s just awful to say something like that, you see? Because all these Christian images have horrible associations attached to them, whereas when somebody comes in from the Orient with a new religion which hasn’t got any of these associations in our minds—all the words are new, all the rites are new—and yet somehow it has feeling in it, and we can get with that, you see, and we can dig that! And it can do something for us that it can’t do in Japan.

For example, in Japan, when young people hear the Buddhist sutra chanted, they think, “Ugh. Don’t let us hear that thing,” because they associate all that with fogeyism. Here, in the Buddhist churches—in the Niseis—they can’t stand it when the priests chant the sutras in Sino-Japanese language for the oldsters. They want to hear “Buddha loves me, this I know, for the sutra tells me so.” You know? They want to be as much as they can, like Protestants, because that’s exotic to them.


We’re writing our new myth and…


Yes! But we all—


…but we have to, in our sessions, relive the Christ thing, the Buddha thing, the Krishna thing


I know we do, right.


But we’re creating a new myth.


Right. You are, Tim.


And we won’t have saints.


But we do. We do it in our own way. Everybody, on his own, discovers the immemorial truth which has been handed down, and that’s the only way you can get it. Because you can’t follow the truth as other people have taught it. You can’t imitate it. You can only discover it out of your own thing. And by doing your own stuff you keep repeating the eternal pattern. And this probably is the sort of situation we have.


Well, you think because an egg was thrown at me at Santa Monica that I’m going to be—


Oh, I’m not just talking of that egg. I’m talking of what was thrown in a shoe at Laredo.


That worries me not at all.


Well, that’s as it should be.


In game activity [...] might wander to the television studio in order to do things… if I can beet 50% [...] done are wrong, [...] ridiculous, I shouldn’t’ve done that.


I know. But we all make fools of ourselves occasionally, good God!


I make a blunder, at least, [...] celebrations were a mistake. The first four were great. They were spontaneous religious outbursts. But then it became a success and people said yeah, you’ve got to keep them going, you’ve got to take it around the [...] and so forth. That was a mistake. It was a mistake to make it commercial, a mistake to have it in a theater, a mistake to charge admission, a mistake to keep a static point growing; the [...] dropped out of it.


Well, what are you going to with [...]self?


What was beautiful, though: these four celebrations were—


Have you any way of finding a ritual for celebration in which you’re making use of the established rituals—or the historical knowledge that’s been coming out lately on rituals—to make a celebration which is, you know, like, really a communal and beautiful… or do you want it [...]


I think that… yeah…


—and every time I’ve talked since that Be-In I’ve said, “Listen, we’re dropping out of the theater celebrations. Good-bye, show-business!”


Robert Oppenheimer is reported to have said quite recently that, obviously, the world is going to hell, and the only way that it could be stopped is not to try to prevent it from happening. In other words, when there is a game going on—


He’s the guy who designed the atomic bomb!


—when there is a game going on that’s on a collision course, and that this game obviously is going to lead to total destruction, the only way of getting people out of a bad game is to indicate that the game is no longer interesting.




You see, we’ve left this game and it bores us. And we’ve got something going on over here which is where it’s at. You know?


That’s a good point.


And this is where it’s at, and everybody who’s played this game—you know, they’re in the plane going NNNYYYEEOOWW on the mark, you know? And suddenly they realize that that’s not where it’s at. So many people today live on the other side. And they go, “What’s going on there? Let’s go out to Haight-Ashbury and see what’s happening over there, because maybe something’s happening.”


Instead of the emphasis on the dropping out—I think, in a sense, it’s one of the points to say there’s something else going on.






It doesn’t sound alliteratively correct, though. Tune in, turn on… there’s something else going on. Unless his language, his interpreter, didn’t know words as understandable and acceptable.


Well, that’s a matter of finding a euphonious formula.


[...] drop out, tune in.


What he really means—drop out, he keeps saying, and then [...] back in all the time.


People like [...] are offended by the word dropped out because it offends their bodhisattva feeling of compassions.


Yeah. Very definitely.


They want what’s best [...]. And because it’s negative rather than positive, and they say [...].


Well now, look here, Tim: at that thing in Santa Monica you made two points. One was a: you can’t stay high all the time, because when you finally come down from the high you realize that the ordinary state of consciousness is one with the higher state. This, to me, has been the most fantastic thing in all my LSD experiences: that the moment I come down is the critical moment of the whole experience. I suddenly realize that this everyday world around me is exactly the same thing as the world of the beatific vision.


Right. Right.


Now—then, how do you integrate that realization with the drop-out?


Alright. We’ll change the slogan. I’m competing with Marshall McLuhan. Everything I say is just a probe; I’m trying to get people to…


Yes, I get that. I do the same thing.


Seattle—you know, we were banned in Seattle. And I went up there to talk about menopausal mentality and drop out. And all the cocktail parties: “What does he mean? Drop out? Menopausal? Menopausal; what the hell does that mean? Drop out?” I would agree to change the slogan to: “Drop Out, Turn On, Drop In.”

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