This is the story of The Trees Community, a semi monastic Christian group that left NYC on a bus in 1971 on a journey of faith. When most of our money burned up the first night, we relied on God for all our needs and he provided! We traveled the United States growing in our new faith, finding a ministry in music and eventually becoming artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Seven years, seven "stories" are woven into this amazing journey.

The Loft

"Shipen" William Lebzelter

This chapter is a rough draft from a book Shipen was writing about The Trees. This chapter is about the Loft before our arrival, as seen through Shipen’s eyes:

When our community came together in an attic apartment in lower Manhattan, it was out of necessity both economically and spiritually. We lived in one room, 25 feet square and to enhance privacy, each of us pitched tents, holding the center of the room as meeting and common ground. There was one tiny and ineffective heater that had the job of trying to heat us all, then eight, as the snow piled up on the five thin glass skylights and leaky windows. Coming in off 4th Avenue was somewhat of a trial on middle class upbringing because there were two things one would notice immediately, utter darkness and stench. To climb to the Loft you had to hold tightly to the shabby railing that wound up five flights. It was pitch dark since that part of the electricity had long ago failed. The building was condemned – yet we paid $150/month rent. Now our beloved loft is a parking lot.

On the fourth floor was the first sign of life – a room with a single working light bulb. In the room was a refrigerator, a sink, a bathtub, a john, and a cupboard – no partitions. It was the common room for the two apartments on the fourth floor and our commune on the top floor. It was the place wherein fifteen people prepared dinner in an ancient black stove, took baths, and other things, washed dishes, and congregated to talk and discover.

There were a few technical hindrances that were somewhat bothersome. The water pressure was such that it would take 40 minutes to fill the bathtub to 5 inches of water, which had to be preheated by a gas heater, which would explode if not carefully checked. Thermostats had not come to the Loft. Bathing fifteen people generally, under the circumstances meant at least two at a time, and certainly not every day. Bath schedules would have everyone cleaned once in about five days.

Because the water had such a difficult time making it to the fourth floor, it seemed exhausted and, like a camel, refused to ascend into the toilet box. We had to flush by bucket. To fill a bucket you had to plan ten minutes either to sit, or if organized, to prepare the flush water before approaching the john. There was one boarded up window in this room and the walls were stained off white with little trickles of muddy brown going from the sagging plasterboard ceiling down to the wainscot lumber, and below that were the usual kitchen stains and spots, which, after scrubbing, remained unharmed. The accent color on the wainscot board, around the open shelved cupboard and the chopping cupboard was red enamel.

The floor was gray widely spaced planks with patches of gray and red linoleum here and there, but mostly under the bathtub. Because of the piping arrangements, the sink, which was meant for doing dishes, had given up, and so we returned once again to the bathtub to fill all our water needs. There was one interesting phenomenon concerning this bathtub water. It tasted unlike any New York water I had had, and was in fact, delicious! People would come all the way up just to drink it. It actually tasted as good as any artesian well, and was the subject of much excitement and wonder.

On the walls over the tub there was a picture of the Last Supper and over the refrigerator a Mandela of seven energy centers expounded in Kundalini yoga. Also there was a post card sized picture of the enshrined Madonna with a prayer, and that hung on the side of the cupboard. The size of this room was eight feet by 14 feet or thereabouts. It was not a terribly generous room. But the botherations seemed an inherent and unchangeable part of her personality, and somewhat charming. As I remember, our having lived for one year in the Loft didn’t change her at all except in the last days when the water and refrigerator completely gave out and our water had to be carried from the church basement down the block, in canvas bags to sustain us. The priests at Grace Church were somewhat unbelieving of the whole situation, some of the younger having been refused permission to investigate both the premises and the people. But they did tolerate our coming for water. Also by that time we had incurred a Frenchman named Paul Greiner who lived two blocks away and had a shower with hot and cold water that came out like a mountain stream. It was a luxury we tried hard not to abuse; but somehow Paul had caught wind of the emerging affair in the Loft and was properly and sensibly sympathetic.

Alongside the kitchen were the two apartments that shared the bath/kitchen. Robert, who was tie-dying his way to fame, and David J. Marks who was painting his way to the sky, lived in them. Robert’s room was the result of his failing in a 4 room apartment and having to move, without sacrifice, everything into the one room. One could see a small desk being totally overpowered by stacks of reference books and magazines, artist’s supplies, rugs, and furniture that seemed to run everywhere. If ten people were to enter and sit down, they would all be in complete privacy – and the room was only 14 x 14 square. The only place for intimate relationship was the bed, and it was not used infrequently. Most of the time Robert’s door, which came off the bath/kitchen by the refrigerator, was locked – and somehow a stigma was placed in that room so that one would feel relatively uncomfortable there, especially when urged to use the telephone. Telephone privileges were granted us at the beginning. But by the time the water quit, all privileges had been suspended.

David’s room was quite large. About 25 x 12 feet and it was typical of an art student at the School of Visual Arts. In it was a pot bellied stove, a bed, and many canvases of half finished work that accompanied perfectly the personality of our Jewish mystic. David had been the one to invite two of us to occupy the Loft when we were homeless. We were terribly thankful for his kindness.

David would hear only within certain auspices. He was involved in working through trying to discover existence on the Buddhic plane, while studying the teachings of Don Juan, and carrying on with his Max’s Kansas City friends far into the ecstatic Lower New York evenings. A natural Boy with a forehead of constant questions, wax in his ears, and heading for parts unknown. Traveling with David into conversations that he constantly pursued would have you left and abandoned at the gates of confusion every time. He was dead set on obliterating the natural line of logic and relative thought, and conscientiously held to his position of leading one to, I think, what he hoped would be an instant sublimity. Somehow I did not trust him fully, and generally left the conversations desperately trying to subdue my anger and regain whatever basic sense I felt endowed with. I suppose our common attraction had to do with the intensity of an underlying desire to find out something, he in his way and me in mine. We touched philosophy briefly in clairvoyance and auric discernment and sometimes would become involved in conversations dealing with the colors that shot out of people’s brains and bodies; but to David it was beautiful, to me mostly a subject of concern. By the time the water quit there was no successful line of communication. The time between the beginning and the end of the Loft, as I have said, was one year. The year of great changes. Now our Loft building is a parking lot.

It was in David’s loft that Ariel and I first pitched our tent. This is a literal truth, which afforded us privacy and a few more degrees of warmth. Burning good cannel coal in the ancient pot bellied stove gave us sufficient heat in our lonely corner of the room, and being in the tent allowed us to discover a marvelousness that could only be equaled somewhere in the wilds. Transferring the sounds of Fourth Avenue into the sounds of the sea was a feat that we sometimes accomplished except for sirens. They were difficult to translate. Because of Ariel’s fastidiousness and my middle class upbringing, the tent was most always in a pleasing arrangement. There was a bed at the far end of this 6 x 10 foot space, a low cut lamp stand, a kerosene lamp, a pretty stone on the table and horsehair pew pads taken from a Quaker meeting house in the front area where the bed wasn’t. Suspended from the ceiling of this small monster shaped Abercrombie and Fitch tent was a circular wire mobile where a single dove swung and a single Persian sheep bell hung. Climbing into the tent by guests would make the bell ring and the bird spin. Inside this space only sitting was possible, and there were times when there may be 10 or 12 people sitting there while the greater space of David’s Loft was left unoccupied. David, infatuated with this general effect was soon to construct a tent of his own, but seldom was it occupied save for moments of intimacy with loved ones, or a place for a crasher to hide out for a while. I can’t remember ever going inside it. For that matter, at the first I can’t remember leaving our tent much except to chop the onions for the beans that would cook during the day for our evening’s meal.

Ariel continued to work as a butler for Benjamin Sonnenberg on Gramercy Park. He owned a 40 room mansion on the park, each room filled with incredibility’s of the world of art and literature, but because of Ariel’s sub-butlerhood, earnings were medieval, but did allow us to pay David $50.00 a month, plus share the phone bill and utilities and to buy food. Ariel’s main duties at the mansion were to lay fires and polish brass. This was his full time occupation.

I was not working at all by the time we came to the Loft. My past had been a generous mixture of success and Madison Avenue madness and because of my college education at the University of Michigan, I was endowed with a certain ambition toward the finer things and worked my way to a commercial film director cameraman with Bert Stern with good earnings, and private work that brought me around the $400.00 a day bracket for my work.

The circumstances of my success was short lived due to sacrifices I was not willing to make concerning the cost of having money and fame. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul, seemed to be a long truth that hung on to parts of me, and I couldn’t successfully cut the cord to allow my freedom to gain what in essence it despised.

On the same day we moved to the Loft another also came to share this space. His name was Bruce and he had come, all 6 foot of him, including a foot of blonde carefully glowing hair, from Minnesota with special designs on New York City, same as all of us – and as green as we were eight years previous when we entered the great Babylon with trepidation overpowered by a curious movement in the stomach toward excitement and fantastic fulfillment. Bruce was an actor, and like most actors was successful at incorporating this condition into his private life. His lines were light and full of breathy life. His talent came probably from the very same qualities inherent in his physical structure – innocent but seductive, and he was old enough to know it and use it. And somewhat joined to the idea that this would be his route to fame and fortune. Not soon after his arrival he was found by Richard Scheckner to portray a bankrupt Christ in his new play. It seemed that Bruce’s calculations were correct; in spite of everything he became dearly loved and full of an amazing cosmic humor that was truly and delightfully innocent.

There were times, in this humor, when he would confuse an issue to such an extent that minds would be interchanged and we would be left wondering which mind was ours. A curious relationship this kind of insanity, and a perfect escape into the identity of another. Even though haphazard, it was a real release to the growing pressures that began inwardly to turn us. Somewhere in this humor, small glimpses of the unicorn came between visions of reality.

Bruce also pitched a tent of blankets, shapeless and hung by cords. It was not in any way reminiscent of a tent as the mind would choose to see one and so for us it was quite invisible.

So there we were in a triangular arrangement, doors facing center where the pot bellied stove was and worlds behind the doors of cloth. Norway, Germany, Israel, and Egypt – Egypt and Germany occupying the same territory, a feat of extraordinary vigor because of the problems that yelled for solution. This was the relationship between Ariel and myself. Anxious and removed. Time after time we would attempt conferences of the more weighty matters that concern nations, and our conversations would run something like this:

I have seen the light in my Bankrupt Christ.
Did you ever meet George? Oh!
Nothing is everything and everything is nothing.
What are you trying to say?

Norway, Israel, Germany and Egypt. Now our Loft is a parking lot.

None of us relished the idea of living together, but because our lives had grown accustomed to dealing with circumstances however grave, we learned to toss off our alterior hopes and be thankful with what we had. Questions concerning the filth, the smell, the lack of luxury, were insistently not entertained, and we began to look in other areas for our joy. The contradiction between my Riverside Drive fully automatic apartment and this situation went far beyond any hopes to explain rationally and so I learned not to deal with the whys. Small changes, I suppose, would lend themselves to a sensible suspicion, but this was ridiculous and beyond explanation. I merely know that it had happened, and best make the best of it.

One thing had been discovered to this point, and that was the celebration of life in its marvelousness and its absurdity. The drugs had accomplished another awareness, reducing life to its essentials, and then just being in it and letting it be in us. Of course when we were not in it or it in us, then came the heavies, the searches, the reasons, the systems, the answers, the religions, the “you can be happiers.”

There was also a pinch of curiosity, “You’re so pretty and lovely, what makes you tick.” Why is God? What is his will for mankind? How can mankind be made aware of the mystery of God’s power? How can I be powerful? How can I be God? And other riddles and attempts.

Celebration would go on nearly every night as soon as Richard came to feed Bruce a joint, sit him in a chair, put goggles on him, turn him into the Red Baron and then go sit and watch. The kerosene lamps would be lit, the beans and onions and rice would be served in the tent, and all would enjoy certainly nothing but the enjoyment itself. If you tried to enjoy the tent, you could only go so far not too much could hold the eye’s fascination, but there was a sense that somewhere in this limited space, was the feeding ground of the unicorn.

Sometimes for hours, we would sit, after hilarity, in silence, just looking around in expectation at each other and at the sloping irregular cloth walls. Ariel wanted to paint fresco’s on the walls, but I thought he had missed the point. Bruce’s eyes would go from blank to comic suspicion, to wonder, to expectation, to discovery almost continually as if he were constantly walking up a spiral staircase that was escalating down. And David, when he was there, was content to start seven or eight unfinished discussions, that erupted out of the silence like volcanoes of cold pea soup. I would allow myself a few brief insights per night, but generally merely generaled the discoveries as they happened around me. I was looking for the unique insight, not a restatement, nor a compound statement – but really a new insight. I knew the blanket of doubt between heaven and earth was so thick that it was virtuously impenetrable, even by the virtuous. Even if a single virtue could penetrate the gross darkness, it would seem to be ineffective. A drop in the bucket merely erases the good drop. It seemed that the only movement was for man to seek union with God. And so our occupation, from the time of the Loft, and before was narrowing to find God in all truth.

The first speculative accounts of our attempts centered around the basic premises of paradox and how they seemed to be present as an understanding gap between us and full knowledge. Being in awe of infinity was not consoling since we were not free of Logic and rational thought; and going before the yo-yo of life’s extremes presented an ever increasing complexity of philosophical dilemmas and confusions. In attempting to hold to a rigid transcendental purity, we merely discovered that we were trying to become escape artists, yet we tried and we tried, never fully capable of bending the oceanic emotional changes into obedience by sheer will power. The drugs helped in lifting us to planes of possibilities and more refined simplicities, but then the thought that we were stoned never left us, and so there was no real contentment in establishing even a transcendent fantasy and only a few laughs in operating within the fantastic.

Early in our discoveries, and to promote freedom from paranoia, groups of us would rent costumes (cheap) from Brooks Vanhord, buy Sunday’s cheap daisy’s from the corner flower man, and walk down 5th Avenue, handing the flowers to whoever might be wearing a mink coat, saying “God is Love” and getting off on the varied and splendid reactions of the oft frightened ladies.

In San Francisco that was the time when groups of hippies would run alongside the tourist buses as they traveled through Haight Ashbury, holding large mirrors up to the windows so that the tourists could be occupied watching themselves for a change.

It was also the time of the Mime street theatres, and happenings. The grandiose attempts at cosmic identity that put each freak in his own world of make believe – except that it was not meant to be make believe. It was meant to be a real alternative, an other world where ideals were realities and human beings were stripped to yield to their wildest and freest fantasies and desires.

It was the time of unspoken politics, when Bob Dylan could say, “You don’t know what’s happening do you Mr. Jones.” And that was enough to convince the sensitive and the aware that somehow a silent, eye winking, revolution was in hand to shatter the rigid and frozen nation of souls that somehow could not love nor see love, nor even desire to have it. It was the subtle politics of the Love generation. A noble enterprise that was to interpret the American Dream in terms of its active fulfillment.

But naive and innocent it wasn’t, and so by the time we reached the Loft, the subtle new “hip” policies had gone into effect and once again we settled to reflect on the hypocritical inadequacies of our generation and retreated from the whole world altogether.


Actually we couldn’t slam, because we didn’t have any doors to slam, only curtains to tie shut.


It seemed the only thing left was to walk the weary land alone, bereft of a meaningful insight, but aware of the possibilities of freedom and love, and depth and height and breadth, and unity, and the virtue of submission. There were to be no teachers specifically, but all must be listened to. There was to be no formal and serious joining of sect or faith – no life commitments as we were already too involved in the comfortability of change. Joining was a thing of the past in the Loft as already, Nicheren Shoshu Buddhism, Scientology, Kundalini Yoga, SUBUD, Integral Yoga, SRF, had at one time or another been joined and abandoned.

If there was a formal lonely cry it was “we don’t know where we’re going but we are going where we know.” And we were pretty sure of that.

The family of adherents to this basic search philosophy was small and unobtrusive. Ariel and I, and Bruce to an extent, and David to a different extent, and Roger and Claudia.

Roger Gumbinner

Roger had been my colleague in the film business and was equally disturbed by it. We had worked together for three years. Roger was a Park Avenue raised New Yorker and we met when I was a green Northern Michigan New Yorker. Roger was into Cardin, Vogue, New York restaurants and delicacies and Elaine’s and a bit of curiosity for the bazaar. He was tall, fitted the sleek fashion line of New York 1968, with an uncomfortable sense of knowledge as to New York ways and attitudes that somehow didn’t quite fit him. He was a boy, fascinated with authority was terribly suspicious and unsure of himself. There existed under the carefully chosen appearance of Roger, a distinct failure to be 100% given to what he was doing and so he was like all of us, involved in the mystery of discovering something more meaningful than the superficial garb and goals of the fame seekers of Madison Avenue.

It was Roger who renovated my naïve self and replaced my country worn blue jeans with several Cardin suits, Gucci shoes, blue silk ties with white poka dots, and to travel in all this by way of a BMW motorcycle.

Roger and I entertained life in the jet era by flying to New Orleans for lunch at Brennan’s; handling $75,000.00 commercial productions at poolside, Beverly Hills Hotel; lining up schooners for voyages through the Caribbean; and Lobster Boats for more robust commercials; trampling deserts and mountains for the proper locations for the moods that would sell the products. We trampled through three years of an adventure in commercial making, that offered us unlimited exposure to life as it existed in the tastemakers of the 60’s, and presented to the American public in one minute segments hundreds of times a day.

It was also Roger who opened the door of his E. 63rd apartment to me a year after I had quit him and the business. I was holding a tab of clear dot acid with a look of curiosity and invitation in my eyes, saying Roger, I think it’s time you made some real discoveries. He nodded, let me in, and a new relationship was under way. Shortly thereafter Roger left the Business, grew his hair, started wearing blue jeans, buying Ravi Shankar records and books and books of discovery techniques, that would occupy his whole day until the acid evenings would come around. He seldom left his apartment, save to come to the loft, and that was seldom. I was there quite often and Ariel sometimes.

On our first acid trip we proclaimed Love and its possibilities, and were, together, hopelessly tied to that hope of meaning in relationships. Realizing that we loved each other brought a certain relief from a 27 year old headache; but now the systems were upon us and the wisdom of the world was sought as ample embellishment to this situation of vocally proclaimed Love.

Claudia was Roger’s wife. She was a ballerina and lovely beyond description. I introduced Roger to Claudia many years before and their relationship began immediately and didn’t stop. Claudia was the strongest of the three of us and disciplined in mind and body as her craft began when she was 8 years old and continued, uninterrupted into her fame as a dancer. She was known as America’s Baby Ballerina and went from there into one of New York’s finest ballet companies. But Claudia was like all of us, involved in the mystery of discovering something more meaningful than the superficial garb and goals of the fame seekers of the dance world. It was many years before I discovered that she had already found the meaning she was looking for in Roger. Roger and I were mainly concerned with the discovery, Claudia was very patient in true love and pretended to be interested in change, but she was in love with Roger, something neither Roger nor I fully understood as we were preoccupied with Love’s definition.

But she went through the changes, listened to the records, was a dear and loving friend, got scared on acid, got worried a lot, watched the changing scenery in Roger’s apartment as it filled with incense and rugs and fascinating things. Claudia had originally stated that she was a middle class girl, and so for her, our two year intensive search was confusing, yet she loved us both, was committed in her heart to Roger, and patiently sat and watched the tennis match of philosophical TRUTH that bantered between Roger and I almost continually. I am convinced that Claudia almost never understood what was happening; but poor love abided it all beautifully, even to the extent of being thrust bodily into a tub of icy water that was somehow to wash her sins away; she along with the dog and various articles in the apartment that Roger and I felt needed cleansing took frequent trips to that icy bathtub.

I’m sure Claudia’s stomach began to rumble when Roger and I decided that we must eat only the purest bread and drink only the purest bottled water from Poland, and read only the purest literature, and live in only the purest vibrations. I am convinced that Claudia was an active Christian from the beginning, but was just having a tragically difficult time with the impetuous men in her life.

Roger and I would have many “A-ha’s” a day to Claudia’s confused wonderment and because she had wonderment, Roger was occupied with constant attempts to convert Claudia to the school of insight toward which she remained confused until the advent of our Christianity. She would, however, smile, nod, and be interested in every aspect of the discovery, but could not participate fully. She was in love with Roger and that was the simple truth. The unicorn knows.

I mentioned a two year drug association with my friend Roger. This period came before the Loft, but led up to and into it.

The school of thought was open and unending. Our ears were open to authority when it was involved in pure motives as opposed to political intentions. Politics were an abhorrent attempt to establish battle lines based on someone’s conception of right and wrong, and since so many past wrongs had been changed in us, we weren’t about to re-moralize a world that seemed to need understanding and acceptance more than it did coercion and judgment.

I had once talked to an Episcopalian priest, who after many years as a missionary in Africa, suddenly came to the conclusion that the African culture itself was quite lovely, and virtually unsuited to American Liturgy. His missionary efforts to change Africans into Americans, frustrated his Christianity so much that [he] came to the conclusion that he had no right being there until he could successfully view Christianity as possible within the African culture. How many conscientious priests there are I don’t know, but he was refreshing. I think many times culture and religion get interchanged so that one means the other. Culture becomes the religion, and then becomes political, whereas the only politic in religion is the eternal nature of its dogmatic truth. Culture changes. Truth remains constant, as interpretation changes. Culture is interpretation and a valid expression of religion.

In the Loft, it was religion that was important, not culture or interpretation. Either the truth hit or it didn’t and if it was true it needed no interpretation. We had discovered truth, and pursued it as a lover to find its source, so that we could participate fully in it as opposed to merely watching from a distance as critics might. Then we were not involved in heresies, as we trusted our inherent intuition as guide, thinking God was not basically a deceiver. Since our eyes were on God the ever-present, God the all powerful all merciful, invisible finality, we felt safe and protected, with a degree of integrity, and appreciation, and child like carefreeness. Nothing was more powerful than God. Not acid, or people, or spiritual wickedness, or Satan, or even mistakes or poor judgment. And so we were involved.

Truth was our fair sister, it was the Book of Wisdom minus a few prejudices, and St. Paul minus a few hang-ups, and Buddhism minus Buddha, and Christianity minus Christ. It was the time of visions and locutions and special revelations, and angels and saints and creatures of the sun and the wood. A time of being embarrassed by the sense of discovery, of becoming, of realizing, of guiltless enthusiasm, of free morals, of freedom itself. It was the time for every poet, but more especially every saint that had understood the mind and spirit. It was the time of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Oral Tibetan teachings and secret doctrines, the Sacred Liturgies of the Lamas and Bodhisattvas, the Mantras and Mandela’s of self realization, and cosmic identity, the transcendental systems of purity and magic, fascination and discipline, the floating relativity of anyone who had ever discovered anything for sure to anyone else who understood the yes; but it was all transcendent and unconcerned with the worn out knowledge of who human beings were with their limitations and boundaries of fear, their petty prejudices and ridiculous intentions. People had failed utterly to give other people what was needed – they failed to give love, to find acceptance, to accept love, to choose the good, to be at peace, to be themselves. They confined God to a small area of life where He was kept in check and under complete control – He was systematized, categorized, filed, and dealt with accordingly. He was a small and ineffective agent that somehow was connected but aloof. He was kept in the sanctuary, let out once a month, and locked in the Big 5th Avenue churches after 7:30 p.m. He was put into guns, and computers, and psychologies, and nations, and politics. He was thrown about by people who could run a better world then he. He was killed by an incensed mob of lynchers who wanted their own governorship. He was put behind every good intention gone wrong. He was the guarantee of a good social position (only certain denominations of him that is), a good Broadway Show, a prosperous job. He was all those things to all those people. There was no question that God was very much directly related to the affairs of men and to men themselves whether acknowledged or not.

In the Loft, we sought to set God free to be Himself and so we headed directly to the East for enlightenment as to how to accomplish this. It seemed that the Christian’s relationship with God was mundane and selfish and careless and crass. In our feeling sorry for God, we didn’t fully realize that he cherished each of the people who held these relationships with him, and we didn’t fully realize that we were in fact, in no better state than the worst sinner all loving not rejecting, still persevering with the kind of patience that indeed created us all, and united us all, and defended us all, and above all, waited for us all. In our attempts to find God, I guess what we wanted was to be free of Him, free not to have to consider his suffering, we wanted to be perfectly invisible from Him and like Him, not to cause pain – to be removed like a thorn, to take His place. We had not discovered Love in the Loft in the early days. We had discovered enthusiasm, and felt good about the cause, it was a step out of mediocrity, out of failure, out of the normal HAYDAY of imperfect relationships. Isolation seemed to be the key – the forgotten corner of the room, the tent, the single lantern, and the simplicity of beans and rice and onions. The studies and meditations brought environments beyond description or execution, and paintings, and writings that could not be uttered. Secrets. Discoveries. A magician’s knowledge. A wizard’s amazing feats – a baby. In our bodies we discovered enough energy to alter the structure of the world.

The studies also brought people, and with them, stronger and more precise drugs. After experimentation and chemists, we finally came to Jack the alchemist and 250 hits of clear dot acid – not for sale, and only for the closest friends – certainly not for novices or new friends. That meant that we were tripping almost continually.

The acid was discovered miraculously in our lives by an illusive creature called Jack. Just Jack – a last name would not be forthcoming, only a penetrating stare that tended to check on one’s courage and stamina, a strangely concerned boy with a mission – had seen all trips, and indicated a sort of compassion for than inward pressure that continued turning us. Somewhere in Jack’s eyes was the same curiosity that we all had, a sort of vicarious fever to observe. The Acid came on a piece of plain white absorbent paper, it could not be seen, and to take it, you just tore a small piece and ate it. It was bitter to the taste, but honey to the stomach. It set us to 8 months of heavy tripping.

Our trips experience involved the same preliminary conditions. First there was to be no chance of interruption. A free 12 hour period. Second only two or three people, or four at most so there would be no major confusion. No food would be taken that day. Third the first hour would involve no talking, leaving the room, listening to music, or nervous laughing. No communication whatsoever. Each person was expected to pass certain barriers unaided. Fear, vertigo, confusion, claustrophobia, shattering, and insanity must at all cost be persevered as atmospheric conditions, and stepped through as they came – and they inevitably did, every time. All hallucinations and untamed imaginations and insights were also to be avoided as unessential. Eyes were generally closed. If bodily energy became evident, it was to be channeled up the spine, through the neck, into the medulla oblongata, toward the forehead and back to exit the crown of the head. Other than those particulars, there was no instruction, no purpose, no specific hope, and no planned direction. During this first hour we followed no advice and listened to no one. Ariel, Roger, and myself would go – and sometimes Claudia and sometimes Bruce.

After the barriers were seen and surmounted there emerged a great calm – it was everyone’s calm as it had been everyone’s battle – and a nod and a glance from each other indicated that we had reached the first plateau. Here we would rest as if in free space, and just be free. Free of thoughts or intrusions from earth and its noises, free of speculation, of question, of annoyance, of separation. The condition was qualityless, formless, colorless, personless, and tireless.

From this point we were free to move, still no talking as it was unnecessary. The movement would be windy and pure, each muscle acting exactly in tune and with the wind that came from the center of our being – effortless, graceful, but intentional and creative, and it seemed to comply with the laws of gravity. Levitation had not been discovered, but no matter. Unity with the existent condition involved a full association with body, mind and spirit – all being in obedience to the latter, in full trust and mutual admiration. If the arm moved up it was observed, felt inside and out, and guided by a cooperation of the mind. It had no other intention than to move by the prompting of the spirit within. There was no conflict, no frustration as any limitation was accepted as normal, as was our natural restriction. Only once did the spirit leave its body, but its freedom was not enjoyed, since it was still connected by the silver cord, and seemed disjointed and unnatural. At one point I remember the real possibility of cutting the cord and entering death, but my mind was quickened by a strange sense of responsibility, and I decided against it, attractive as it was. To be away from the body was like forcing the eyes to cross, which was not a natural move, and so we did not encourage astral projection or bi location. To be away from the body was something that we could never fully accept, even though we were being taught that our fulfillment was in the land of spirit only – that the end of all things was to melt into the continuing love energy that was in all creation and become oblivious in our bliss. But somehow these ideas, no matter how glorious they became intellectually, didn’t seem to fit the pattern of our deepest needs, we didn’t know if we could get accustomed to being merely a floating disembodied spirit. If that were to be the case it would seem that we would be always seeking material to enter. In the Christian sense this would mean that we would become possessing spirits, demons of sorts. Without a substantial body of our own we would naturally seek to possess another.

In this world of discovery of the spirit, we made an allegiance with the spirits, and we were curious.

This welcoming of the realm of living spirits came after the plane of peace was reached. At this time we would experience a sense of rapture – the clear windy movement of the spirit would begin to reach profound areas of meaning. This would produce an ecstasy - showers of bliss, nirvanic pleasures – like being rained on by pure Love, or standing in front of the sun with no awareness of separation or difference – the barriers were down, and we would look at each other and laugh. I remember Roger and I once went into the garden in this state, looked up, and laughed gloriously for an hour. It was the freedom one would feel by standing under a waterfall that was chanced upon while walking through a mountainous green glade. Our efforts to escape the mundane had been successful. After the showers came the instruction. At this time we would separate to contemplate and to receive teaching from this world of disembodied spirits. To us these were not elemental haunting spirits that came to séance tables but were instead, high officials of knowledge and mystery.

I remember once finding myself in a very large room, huddled just inside the door looking up to a table of very important governors. I could not see their faces, but I heard them speaking an unknown language with such calmness and authority that I was totally taken up in their conversation. I felt somehow that I shouldn’t be there, that I was an intruder since they didn’t seem to be aware that I had somehow snuck in. Then I had the feeling that they did know I was there and that they didn’t mind, then I realized that I was a messenger boy, summoned to carry something of the discussion, back to earth. I became aware that I was being given a special revelation of truth to impart to the world.

Six weeks later I found that I had completed an automatic writing called Clear Children. It was a complex psychological dissertation on the hang-ups of the mind as viewed from 32 standpoints of reality, e.g. anger, fear, benevolence, jealousy, lust, desire, despair, vanity, pride, covetousness, illness, confusion, apathy, etc., etc. What the work tried to do was to approach these realities of the human spirit by means of the mind and to accept them as tools that the mind could reject after sufficient work had been done. Its intention was to get the mind so accustomed to these situations that it could finally choose to be finished with the work and enter into the free states of existence, namely hope, faith, grace, mercy, love, and peace. Finally, by a work of understanding in the mind, all the ills of human nature could be washed away. We were not clever enough at the time to realize that secretly we had put the spirit and soul in charge of the mind, to be obedient to the mind.

Clear Children was written from beginning to end without mistake and in perfect order. It claimed men’s right to be God. That he was totally responsible for his own realization – that what he thought went, that he had powers that were unimaginable. It seemed that even the gospels of Jesus Christ were in full accord with this attempt at perfection and power. Faith can move mountains, I believe was our chief encouraging scripture. It was quite clear that we ourselves were our own saviors, and that we had no need of intervention by another. We were brothers of Christ and co-equal. We were the embodiment of the same spirit that possessed Jesus of Nazareth and so we knew him by proximity and through the mystery of what we were being told was our human right. Jesus was the first fruits of a long line of Sons of God. Sons that could do even greater works than He. Sons that could understand the things that Jesus couldn’t tell his generation. “There are many things to say, but you can not hear them now.” Jesus was Buddha’s brother, he sat at that table of the most accomplished spirits in the universe. He had conversed and learned from the east, from Buddha, from Rame Krishna. He was mainly in charge of the western culture whereas Buddha’s teaching dominion was based in the east. The involvement was mysterious and the excitement to power was mysterious. We began to realize that we were in the company of the great teachers, and Clear Children was our ticket back into that room. “Every good boy deserves favor.” We had obeyed, we were welcome, and we knew it.  [End of Shipen's Excerpt]