WRITING: Tim Leary and Ovum - A Visit to Castalia with Ovum
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Jean McCreedy is the Third Guide (secretary) on the League of Spiritual Discovery's Board of Guides (the others are Tim Leary, First Guide-president, Robert Ross, Second Guide-vice president, Carole Mann, Fourth Guide-treasurer, Alan Marlowe, Fifth Guide- Ashram director). Her office was simple with a bed near the window as in Dr. Leary's office and short bookcases and bureaus near the bed. The air of the room was primarily Japanese (the room included several Japanese drawings and artifacts) but had not been planned to seem so. On the walls, there were, along with psychedelia and Oriental art, pictures by her two sons. One of these included words: "Who am I? [below] there is no I." [to the side] And it's me and everything and everyone!" Above her desk, there were several geometrograph designs from the Head Shop in New York City; there were mandalas, circular designs which are used as centering devices for trips, originally being Indian designs symbolizing the circle of eternal life in all people. On her bureau, Jean had an attractive arrangement of several objects which she told us was her Zen shrine. More or less enclosing the other objects, there was a piece of curved driftwood about six inches in length; this symbolized (to Jean-these are personal symbols) flow, especially the flow of life. A metal sculpture looking like a rough crystal ore sliver-plated symbolized "science-fiction" concepts, abstractions which are beyond symbol. Finally, a small handful of colored beads and stones symbolized things which are just pretty, with no inner significance.
While we talked to Jean, Jack found one of the first rough, mimeographed copies of "Psychedelic Prayers" and a printed copy of the second edition, which he sold to us for three dollars. "Psychedelic Prayers" is a collection of Tao prayers which Dr. Leary translated during LSD sessions and which is meant to be used as an aid to a trip. According to Jean, the poems in the book are more poetic than the original Tao poems. They "lift consciousness to a higher level". Jean admitted that it requires concentration to read during a session, but did not feel that reading would be inordinately difficult. The third edition is being printed by University Publishers, Inc., 239 Park Avenue South.
I noticed several underground newspapers on the desk. Castalia subscribes to about twenty underground newspapers, primarily those from England and California. We were given free copies of several magazines, underground and otherwise ("Inner Space", "The Psychedelic Review", "Innisfree"-the M.I.T. journal- and "Ave Maria"-a national Catholic weekly.-).
Probably the most interesting discussion I had about LSD trips was withX - the nine-year-old son of one of the League of Spiritual Discovery's board members. X and his older brother, Y, have both taken LSD; X has taken five trips. He told us about the children's group trips in the woods; accompanied by an adult guide, groups of children went to Castalia's woods to take trips. He has only taken LSD in the liquid form (rather than sugar cubes, for instance); it is easily mixed in other liquids, such as apple cider. X - whether because of his trips or his upbringing I cannot say- was very self-possessed and seemed far more mature than any other nine-year-old of my acquaintance.
I askedX about any hallucinations he had experienced under LSD. He said that he had never experienced anything that could be called a hallucination (no fantastic creatures, talking trees or such); Jack joined the discussion with the comment that LSD was definitely not a hallucinatory drug. Jean's comment was that LSD allows you "to tune in on the life process itself" and gives you a deeper level of experience.
I asked Jack how his father's fame and his general association with Castalia have affected his life at Millbrook High; he said that few people treat him as someone strange or different. Some parents do stare at him, but he just stares back, waves at them and laughs. Jack feels that there is no more than a "healthy curiosity" about him at Millbrook. (One boy told Jack that he had heard smoking hot peppers would make him high, but he tried it and just got sick).
Jack led us downstairs and out the door through which we had entered. We all walked up a gravel road to the large house several hundred yards in back of the main building; from the outside, this house - the printing headquarters for "The Guide" - looked somewhat like a reduced Fort Apache built of stone. We walked through a short, heavy-stone-walled hall into a dark primitive area that resembled the dungeons of Chillon, with heavy stone walls and small, high windows. Jack opened one large wooden door, then another (double doors for keeping out the cold), and led us into a dimly lit room with heavy black plastic curtains on its walls. This room contained a large black offset photographic apparatus, part of the equipment for "The Guide". We looked at this impressive piece of equipment for a short time, then returned to the dungeon-like space. From here, we went to another doorway at its far end and crossed a short room which formed the end of a very long corridor containing a row of desks (this was originally a bowling alley); from this short room, we passed under two large black plastic curtains into the printing office. Here, there were two large presses, one for offset work and one for linotype, covered with the same type of plastic used for curtains; on the other side of the room, there were type tray stands, two large desks (one of which had wedding announcements and poetry sheets on it) and a grey file cabinet. Jack told us that the presses and the offset machine had been bought from a friend for about 3,000 dollars.
Walking out of the printing building, Jack and I started talking about photography and discovered it to be a mutual interest; Jack offered to show us the Castalia darkroom. He led us into an annex that jutted out of the mansion's rear. On the way up the stairs, we met a boy about Jack's age and dressed in a suit, tie and white shirt. He joined us and said to Jack "You're not going like that, are you?" Jack gave him a verbal shrug. Later on, he introduced himself as Gerald Maggiacomo and told us that he and Jack were to drive out to Salisbury Prep School that night.
Jack led us to a small hall which ended in a full length mirror with the word "OM" (a phonetic pronunciation of \, a Hindu letter signifying the sound made by two things not striking together) printed in large letters on it several times, then down a long hall to the left. There were several rooms on each side of this hall; Jack told us these were for various resident workers and guests. At the end of this hall, we entered a small cramped flight of stairs which led to the darkroom. Jack has the use of four enlargers, three of which are in the darkroom. He and Joe Henry (that's a girl) do most of Castalia's developing. He showed me some of the equipment and discussed his work. Then he offered to show me her camera, so we all headed for his room.
Jack's room is a large attic room, at the top of the main house. It is comfortably crude. To the left of the door, there is a modern office desk, slightly cluttered, where Jack does his homework ("when I do it."). Across from the door, beside two windows, is Jack's bed, at the foot of which is a television and a chest of drawers. At the other end of the chest, there is a Dynakit combination radio-phonograph-tape recorder ("My father was getting one for himself so I talked him into buying me one.") (it takes up the whole end wall, not counting speakers, and looks like a beautiful set-up.). Opposite his bed -to the right of his door- there is an old radiator and some sort of wrought-iron floor lamp with a candleholder jutting out of its side. On the wall here, he has several posters and paintings including a picture of Dr. Leary, a poster advertising Dr. Leary's show "The Illumination of the Buddha", and two mandalas, one a black, circular Indian pattern, the other a red circle with confused patterns on it (an artist who formerly had Jack's room painted this one; Jack said it is his favorite by the artist, who paints primarily mandalas.).The main overhead lighting in the room consists of two sets of bulbs, one made up of red and yellow bulbs, the other of blue and white.
Jack showed me his camera (a Canon FT) and one of three movie cameras Castalia has. This was a Bolex 16mm triple-turret type; Jack said he never uses it, having no interest in motion picture photography. I framed shots with the Canon for a while, then joined my companions in talking to Gerald Maggiacomo while Jack changed his clothes. We talked about liquors; Jack mentioned that he liked red wine and ale, while our assistant editor expressed the merits of vodka made from Polish buffalo grass. One of Jack’s sweaters was a brown cashmere sweater of an unusual cut. Dr. Leary had had this and several shirts made specially in India; this is where he got the white shirts he is seen wearing in many pictures.
LAST UPDATED:March 2003