Dear Coach: Jack Kerouac to Timothy Leary
The following missives decribe Kerouac’s reaction to the magic mushroom extract, taken the day President Kennedy was inaugurated. The first, a postcard, is in the form of a brief poem, and there then followed a letter more descriptive of the experience.
Dear Leery By God you were Right Why did Donlin send you Or was it Newman? Joy the 23rd Loves you I guess I mean if He knew you Not that He is spellt with Capital Letters Like in Blake But bless you (later) Jack Kerouac
|“Dear Tim (coach)
I wrote yo stupid drunken letter, I mean postcard, addressed to Harvard Psychology Dept. which you may get. But Allen reminds me you want notes on my reaction to Sacred Mushroomsextract. Why not I make it in the form of a letter, here and now, without planning, and you can extract what you need for your article and researches. (Allen also suggested I send you my notes on Mescaline but I only have one copy now, will type it later for you, but in any case Mescaline is not the same as mushrooms, as you know)You say that Montezuma was high on sacred mushrooms andtherefore did not resist Cortez but I don’t think that wasthe whole story, because under mushrooms I felt myself more in the mood for self-defense than I am usually (because of a vow of kindness in the spirit of Buddhism made soberly years ago,and also old teachings of sacred young brother who died in 1926). No, in fact on mushrooms I feltqutie strong, quite angry in fact at the atheists for fighting Christianity (communism so-called vs. capitalism so-called, it says in the paper, but it’s really atheism vs. gnosticism.) (right?)Mainly I felt like a floating Kahn on a magic carpet with my interesting lieutenants and gods… some ancient feeling about old geheuls in the grass, and temples, exactly also like the sensation I got drunk on pulque floating in the Xochimilco gardens on barges laden with flowers and singers… some old Golden Age dream of man, very nice. But that is the element of hallucination in this acid called mushrooms (Amanita?) The bad physical side-effects involved (for me) stiffening of elbow and knee joints, a swelling of the eyelid, shortness of breath or rather anxiety about breathing itself. No heart palpitations like in mescaline, however. I felt that Donlin was asking for too many ‘fives’ all the time (in the trade they’d say he has an oil-burning habit, or is a “hog”)—But under the sympathetic influence of the drug or whatever it is called I kept agreeing with all his demands. In that sense there’s a lot of brainwash implicit in SM’s. So I do think we took too much. Yet there were no evil side effects.In fact I came home and had the first serious long talk with my mother, for 3 days and 3 nights (not consecutive) but we sat talking about everything yet went about the routine of washing, sleeping, eating, cleaning up the yard and house, and returning to long talk chairs at proper time. That was great. I learned I loved her more than I thought. The mushroom high carried on for exactly till wednesday Jan. 18th (and remember I first chewed the first pills Friday night the 13th). I kept it alive by drinking Christian Brothers port on the rocks. Suddenly on Friday the 20th (day of Inauguration) it started all up again, on port, but very mushroomy, and that was a swinging day, yakking in bars, bookstores, homes around northport (which I never do).
My report is endless, exactly. But here, remember what we were saying? “What? What did you say?” (to have a mumble repeated, the mumble being of excruciating importance.) And “Who are you?” “Are you sure?” “I’m not here.” — “What are we doing here?”— “Where are we?”—- “What’s going on?”—“Am I going to die?” — “No” — “I can’t see you, you’re a ghost” — “You’re the Holy Ghost” — “walking on water wasn’t built in a day” — “We’re just laying around here doing nothin” — “Even if I knew how to break your leg (utilizing Zen koan about Baso (T’ang master d. 788)) “even if I knew how to break your leg I wouldn’t do it?— besides you haven’t got a leg. Who said you had a leg? You? Who are you? I can’t see you? You’re not there! I don’t see nuttin! I hate you! Why? Because I love you!” “I love you anyway.”
We were at the extremest point of goofing on clouds watching the movie of existence. remember?)
Owing to the residue of Sacred Mushroom hallucination I woke up briefly the other quiet morning (Thursday 19th) feeling that everybody in my neighborhood was sleeping trustfully around me because they knew I was the Master of Trust in Heaven (for instance).
Everybody seemed innocent. Ladcadio became St. Innocent the Patriarch of Holy Russia. Donlin became the Paraclete, whom you waved over my head by an astounding show of physical strength (remember?) It was a defninite Satori. Full of psychic clairvoyance (but you must remember that this is not half as good as the peaceful ecstacy of simple Samadhi trance as I described that in Dharma Bums). When I yelled out the window at the three Porto Rican teenage boys walking in the snow “Avante Con Dios!” I had no idea where the word “avante” came from, Allen said it meant “forward with.” Clairvoyance there. I saw you, Leary, as a Jesuit Father. Donlin called you Doctor Leary. I saw Allen as Sariputra (the Indian saint). My old idea of St. Peter (about Peter Orlovsky) was strengthened. I saw Peter’s sister Marie as Ste. Catherine. Bob Kaufman as a Michoacan Indian chief. I saw Communists all around us (especially that Ben Rosenbluth, and others). Pearl became a Lotus of indescribable beauty sitting there in the form of a Buddha woman Bhikkushini. When someone mentioned people being electricity I said “Consolidated Coils.” Divine run-outs in my head, like when I went to pee I said to the toilet “It’s all your fault!” and could never leave the group without feeling that they were still with me (in the toilet.) Finally told my mother “C’est la Sainte Esprit” and she agreed. My old conviction that nothing ever happened was strengthened (ow). I felt like a silly agnel (angel) but now I know I’m only a mutterer in old paths, as before. I kept saying, however, to all kinds of people “What an interesting person you are!” and it was true. Finally I said “I think I’ll take a shit out the window” in desperation, it was impossible to go on in such ecstasy and excitement. Jokes were the Sacred Jokes of Heaven. The low dog of Dublin, Bob Donlin, was there by design, I’d say, to keep the good old Irish jokes going, otherwise we would all have been too serious, I say.
In sum, also, there is temporary addiction but no withdrawl symptoms whatever. The faculty of remembering names and what one has learned, is heightened so fantastically that we could develop the greatest scholars and scientists in the world with this stuff. (By the way, does Wm. Lederer the stuttering genius at Harvard, take it?) (He stutters with a method, most eerie). There’s no harm in Sacred Mushrooms if taken in moderation as a rule and much good will come of it. (For instance, I remembered historical details I’d completely forgotten before the mushrooms, and names names millions of names and categories and data.