Dale R. Gowin


Acid and the Avatar

First published in Harvest: Canada’s Up-Front Head Magazine #3, 1980

“Assume for just a moment that LSD’s cultists are actually doing what they suppose they are doing. If you can take their own word for it, they have been tinkering with the gears of the universe.
They have rushed in where Sigmund Freud feared to tread…”
     — William Braden, The Private Sea: LSD and the Search for God

“I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me, take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof!
They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self.”
     — The Book of the Law, II:22


Every 2,166 years the Savior returns to Earth.

In every age of history, sages of all lands agree, the Lord of the Universe dispatches an enlightened Messenger to try to straighten out the mess we humans have gotten ourselves into.
The Hindu philosophers call him the Avatar.

Buddhists look for the imminent reincarnation of the Enlightened One who once was Siddhartha Gautama.

In Judaism it is the long-awaited Messiah who will one day come to liberate the Chosen People and initiate them into divine wisdom.

In Islam the tale is told of the Imam who will come at the end of the age to conclude man’s rule of the planet and institute the Sovereignty of Allah.
According to Christians, the Son of God will return from the clouds in the “end times” to redeem the faithful and vent his rage on non-believers.

Some Native American tribes tell of ancient prophecies revealed in visions to holy men before the White Man came, of an age of tyranny and suffering and the death of the spirit of the people. But a time would come, it was said, when the Great Spirit would once again rekindle the hearts of men, and all tribes would be united like one big family. The rainbow in the clouds was given to remind the people of the promise of the return of spiritual light to planet Earth.

Occultists, Rosicrucians and Thelemites may tell you of the Equinox of the Gods, when at the end of every age the Forces that rule the Universe are readjusted and a new deity occupies the Throne. This is accompanied by a new spiritual dispensation, a new revelation from the Supernal Realm, a new way of conceptualizing the laws of the universe.
This event occurred, some say, in 1904, when a Message was dictated to a Magician in Cairo.

Meanwhile, in rural Ohio a Christian mystic named Levi H. Dowling (1844–1911) was learning to read the Akashic Records, the universal menstruum upon which all vibrations indelibly imprint their patterns. From this archetypal Book of Life he sought and drew forth new details about the life of Christ, including the years of which the canonical gospels are silent. His revelation was published in 1907 as The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, the Christ of the Piscean Age.

The occult theory of the precession of the ages is explained by his wife, Eva, in her introduction to his magnum opus:


Astronomers tell us that our sun and his family of planets revolve around a central sun, which is millions of miles distant, and that it requires something less than 26,000 years to make one revolution. His orbit is called the Zodiac, which is divided into twelve signs, familiarly known as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. It requires our solar system a little more than 2,100 years to pass through one of these signs, and this time is the measurement of an age or dispensation. 


The Age of Pisces, it is claimed, began around the time of the rise of the Roman Empire. Pisces is the sign of the fish, an early Christian symbol, and its attribution is to the element of water. Our ancestors mastered the sea and spread their empires around the world.

Two thousand years later, the world stands on the cusp of the age of Aquarius, an air sign. The Aquarian influence began to manifest during Levi Dowling’s lifetime as the first generation of aircraft took to the skies, human voices rode the radio airwaves around the world, and the force of the lightning was harnessed and compelled to run through copper wires and do our bidding.
Levi’s Aquarian Gospel prophecies thusly:


And then the Man who bears the pitcher [Aquarius, the water-bearer] will walk forth across an arc of heaven; the sign and signet of the Son of Man will stand forth in the eastern sky. The wise will then lift up their heads and know that the redemption of the earth is near. (Aquarian Gospel, 157: 29-30.)


As the new, airy vibrations of the Aquarian age began to blow into human minds, cults all over the planet began looking excitedly for signs of the promised Savior. The Millerites, antecedents of today’s Seventh Day Adventists, rallied a throng of believers in upstate New York with a promise that Christ’s return was scheduled for October 22, 1844. European astronomers discovered the planet Neptune in 1846, fanning the millennial flames with auguries of signs in the heavens. In Iran, Bahá’u’lláh revealed his secret identity as the supreme messenger of the almighty in 1863. Millennial excitement peaked with the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1910, then began to wane.

After the second world war there was another wave of messianic expectation that crested during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eastern sages and mystics flocked to the West in unprecedented numbers, and newly psychedelicized Western pilgrims sought out the ancient holy sites in India and Tibet. Fundamentalist Christians, meanwhile, experienced a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit; everywhere people were prophesying, healing and speaking in tongues, echoing the promise of the Hebrew prophet Joel:


And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions… and I shall show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. (Joel 2: 28-30)


Pretenders to the throne of Prophet of the New Age were everywhere. Guru Maharaj Ji (a.k.a. Prem Rawat), the 12-year-old Perfect Master from India, attracted a strong following among burned-out, highly suggestible hippies and established the Divine Light Mission in 1971 to initiate the masses into secret knowledge. Swami Bhaktivedanta (1896–1977) hit New York to call together an army of saffron-robed, bald-headed devotees chanting and dancing their way to liberation with the holy maha mantra (haré Krishna, haré Rama…). Silent, smiling Meher Baba declared himself to be the Avatar of the Age and scrawled on his blackboard the supreme wisdom of the universe to an eagerly waiting world: “Don’t worry; be happy!”

The messianic hope had been brewing in the Theosophical Society for decades. Founded in 1875 by H. P. Blavatsky, the movement wove together elements of spiritualism, Rosicrucian occultism and Oriental mysticism. The expected imminent appearance of an enlightened World Teacher was a recurring theme among the Theosophical faithful. Annie Besant recognized the One in Jiddu Krishnamurti, but he declined the honor and the search went on. American Theosophist Alice A. Bailey quintessentialized the millennial hope in 1945 in the form of the Great Invocation, which was earnestly beamed into space by millions of expectant mystics throughout the world:


From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into the minds of men.
Let Light descend on Earth.
From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into the hearts of men.
May Christ return to Earth.
From the center where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men—
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.
From the center which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.
Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.


This prayer, it may be, did not go unanswered.

The first acid trip in the world happened on April 16, 1943. Swiss biochemist Albert Hofmann (1906–2008) first synthesized the chemical known as “d-lysergic acid dietylamide tartrate 25” (LSD) in 1938, but its magical consciousness-expanding powers remained undiscovered until he accidentally absorbed a minute amount during a routine experiment.

“I suddenly became strangely inebriated,” Hofmann later wrote. “The external world became changed as in a dream… self-perception and the sense of time were changed. When the eyes were closed, there surged upon me an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness and accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscope-like play of colors….”

Intrigued by the taste, he decided to experiment with the drug deliberately. On April 19, 1943, he dosed himself, and he was barely able to make a few notes as waves of ecstasy rocked through him. Later, in a detailed lab report, he wrote:


…I had great difficulty in speaking coherently, my field of vision swayed before me, and objects appeared distorted like the images in curved mirrors… I lost all control of time; space and time became more and more disorganized and I was overcome with fears that I was going crazy… I was clearly aware of my condition though I was incapable of stopping it. Occasionally I felt as being outside my body. I thought I had died. My “ego” was suspended somewhere in space and I saw my body lying dead on the sofa… with closed eyes, multihued metamorphosizing fantastic images overwhelmed me. Especially noteworthy was the fact that sounds were transposed into visual sensations so that from every tone or noise a comparable colored picture was evoked, changing in form and color kaleidoscopically.


In a decade, news of the discovery had flashed around the world. International scientific conferences were being held about the use of LSD in psychotherapy, philosophy, theology, and the creative arts. There was speculation that the advent of the acid era opened the way for major breakthroughs unmatched since the Copernican revolution. Areas of metaphysics and epistemology which were previously limited to rational speculation now were opened up to direct empirical investigation as subjective mystical states of consciousness became available under controlled laboratory conditions.

The term psychedelic (from the Greek ψυχή, psyche, soul or mind, and δηλος, delos, to manifest or clarify) was coined in 1957 by Dr. Humphrey Osmond.

By the early 1960s people were turning on all over the world. LSD was heralded as the greatest wonder drug ever discovered by a growing base of aficionados. A spiritual and cultural renaissance was underway.

In the year that the atomic bomb was first exploded, an energy of comparable power had been released into the world, capable of exploding the limits of human consciousness.

It seemed that Alice Bailey’s Great Invocation had been answered, and that the Avatar had returned to Earth this time not as a man, but as a molecule.

The role of prophet of the new chemical Avatar fell to Dr. Timothy Leary, a Harvard University psychology professor. Leary’s first psychedelic experience was in 1963, when he ate seven psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico. “During the next five hours,” he wrote, “I was whirled through an experience which could be described in many ex­travagant metaphors but which was, above all and without question, the deepest religious experience of my life.” Shortly after this he was turned on to LSD by Michael Hollingshead. He began a research project on the psychedelics at Harvard that over the next few years quickly grew into a movement of world-changing proportions. In 1967 he wrote:


I call myself a prophet, a spiritual teacher. In other times I might have been called a messiah or a guru or a shaman or a medicine man, but I think the best term for my position is simply this: I’m like a radio announcer passing on to you the ancient message of a divine presence, passing on, if you will, the word of God. It’s the ancient message which the prophets have told you for thousands and thousands of years, because the message of God never changes. It may be expressed to you in six simple words: turn on, tune in, drop out.


Coincidentally, the year 1965 had been prophetically pinpointed by British occultist Aleister Crowley, in a letter to Grady Louis McMurtry dated November 21, 1944, as a “critical period” in the development of the religion of the new millennial age.

Though he died too soon to taste LSD, Crowley (1875–1947) has done extensive research with both mescaline and cannabis in pursuit of his philosophy of “scientific illuminism.” He sought a tool that could “loosen the girders of the soul” and amplify the results of yoga and mystic practices. In his essay The Psychology of Hashish he speculates that psychedelics may be “a new weapon ten thousand times more potent than the balance and the microscope” in the quest for spiritual attainment.

Crowley had been the recipient of a strange channeled message in 1904 that proclaimed the Equinox of the Gods, the precession of the ages, and the advent of a new spiritual law for mankind. For three days he sat at a table in his room in Cairo, Egypt, and recorded words spoken audibly by a disembodied presence. The result was a slim volume of three chapters entitled The Book of the Law that outlined the spiritual principles destined to guide the world through the next 2,000 years. The essence of the new teaching was: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This principle is known as the “Law of Thelema” (from the Greek θέλημα, thelema, “will.”)

Did Crowley’s revelation accurately foretell the advent of the Acid Avatar?

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