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Ram Dass and Terence McKenna in Prague

This is a really great YouTube discussion between Terence McKenna and Ram Dass, also known as Richard Alpert, filmed in Prague.

Both of these guys have spent their lifetimes engaged with the idea that the outer world is somehow a projection of the inner mind, and that by changing the inner mind we can, and should, change the outer world.

McKenna’s ideas were almost invariably potty, but he’s easily forgiven since he was also highly entertaining. At least he makes a refreshing antidote to the ultra-serious mode of existence that most of us spend much of our lives in. If you’re weary of your job or the demands of family life, McKenna appears as a bolt from the insane blue, a person highly concerned with questions so abstruse and downright peculiar that you can end up feeling like you’ve been transported to another, somewhat more interesting planet, just by listening to him.

McKenna was obsessed with “magic” mushrooms, for good or ill; he and his brother Dennis figured out how to grow them back in the 70’s and published a book on the subject. Although McKenna sadly died in 2001 (allegedly of a mushroom-shaped brain tumour), his voice and ideas, however crazy, live on in Internet form. The Internet is a richer place for it.

Ram Dass taught at Harvard in his earlier guise as Richart Alpert. It was there that he met Timothy Leary and became heavily involved with LSD. Alpert later traveled to India and became interested in Indian spirituality, largely ceasing to have much to do with LSD, since he seemed to later form the opinion that LSD can at best give one short-lived insights into something that only non-drug spiritual practice can attain for the longer term. He was renamed Ram Dass by his guru and in 1971 wrote the spiritual classic Be Here Now.

As of the date of publication of this blog post, he is still alive and still teaching, although he suffers some verbal impairment due to a stroke.

Both men in his video appear to be concerned with the question of how the inner world can change the outer world, and why so little progress appears to really occur. Dass seems the more optimistic of the two, although McKenna often expressed huge optimism in his speeches (alas, much of it was connected to his belief that something huge would happen on December 21st, 2012 – and as we now can say, if anything did happen, it happened pretty quietly).