The Houseboat Summit

Featuring Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder, Alan Watts and Allen Ginsberg

Part THREE: A Magic Geography



Snyder: There's three categories: wilderness, rural, and urban. Like there's gonna be bush people, farm people and city people. Bush tribes, farm tribes, and city tribes.

Leary: Beautiful. That makes immediate sense to myself. How about beach people?

Voice from Audience: Let me throw in a word...the word is evil and technology. Somehow they come together, and when there is an increase in technology, and technological facility, there is an increase in what we usually call human evil.

Snyder: I wouldn't agree with, there's all kinds of non-evil technologies. Like, neolithic obsidian flaking is technology.

Voice from Audience: But in its advanced state it produces evil...

Watts: Yes, but what you mean, I think, is this: When you go back to the great myths about the origin of evil, actually the Hebrew words which say good and evil as the knowledge of good and evil being the result of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge...


These words mean advantageous and disadvantageous and they're words connected with technical skills. And the whole idea is this, which you find reflected in the Taoist philosophy, that the moment you start interfering in the course of nature with a mind that is centered and one-pointed, and analyzes everything, and breaks it down into bits...The moment you do that you lost contact with your original means of which you now color your eyes, breathe, and beat your heart.

For thousands of years mankind has lost touch with his original intelligence, and he has been absolutely fascinated by this kind of political, godlike, controlling intelligence...where you can go ptt-ptt-ptt-ptt...and analyze things all over the place, and he has forgotten to trust his own organism.

Now the whole thing is that everything is coming to be realized today. Not only through people who take psychedelics, but also through many scientists. They're realizing that this linear kind of intelligence cannot keep up with the course of nature. It can only solve trivial problems when the big problems happen too fast to be thought about in that way.

So, those of us who are in some way or other--through psychedelics, through meditation, through what have you--are getting back to being able to trust our original intelligence...are suggesting an entirely new course for the development of civilization.

Snyder: Well, it happens that civilization develops with the emergence of a class structure. A class structure can't survive, or can't put across its principle, and expect people to accept it...if they believe in themselves. If they believe, individually, one by one, that they are in some way godlike, or buddha like, or potentially illuminati.

So it's almost ingrained in civilization, and Freud said this, you know "Civilization as a Neurosis," that part of the nature of civilization is that it must PUT DOWN the potential of every individual development.


This is the difference between that kind of society which we call civilized, and that much more ancient kind of society, which is still viable and still survives, and which we call primitive. In which everybody is potentially a chief and which the Comanche or the Sioux...EVERYBODY in the whole culture...was expected to go out and have a vision one time in his life.

In other words, to leave the society to have some transcendental experience, to have a song and a totem come to him which he need tell no one, ever--and then come back and live with this double knowledge in society.

Watts: In other words, through his having had his own isolation, his own loneliness, and his own vision, he knows that the game rules of society are fundamentally an illusion.

Snyder: The society not only permits that, the society is built on it...

Watts: Is built on that, right!

Snyder: And everybody has one side of his nature that has been out of it.

Watts: That society is strong and viable which recognizes its own provisionality.

Snyder: And no one who ever came into contact with the Plains Indians didn't think they were men! Every record of American Indians from the cavalry, the pioneers, the missionaries, the Spaniards...say that everyone one of these people was men.

In fact, I learned something just the other day. Talking about the Uroc Indians, an early explorer up there commented on their fantastic self-confidence. He said, "...Every Indian has this fantastic self-confidence. And they laugh at me," he said, "they laugh at me and they say: Aren't you sorry you're not an Indian? Poor wretched Indians!" (laughs) this fellow said.


Well, that is because every one of them has gone out and had this vision experience...has been completely alone with himself, and face to face with himself...and has contacted powers outside of what anything the society could give him, and society expects him to contact powers outside of those cultures.

Watts: Yes, every healthy culture does. Every healthy culture provides for there being non-joiners. Sanyassi, hermits, drop-outs too...Every healthy society has to tolerate this...

Snyder: A society like the Comanche or the Sioux demands that everybody go out there and have this vision, and incorporates and ritualizes it within the culture. Then a society like India, a step more civilized, permits some individuals to have these visions, but doesn't demand it of everyone. And then later it becomes purely eccentric.

Leary: We often wonder why some people are more ready to drop out than others. It may be explained by the theory of reincarnation. The people that don't want to drop out can't conceive of living on this planet outside the prop television studio, are just unlucky enough to have been born into this sort of thing...maybe the first or second time. They're still entranced by all of the manmade props. But there's no question that we should consider how more and more people, who are ready to drop out, can drop out.

Watts: If there is value in being a drop-out...that is to say, being an outsider...You can only appreciate and realize this value, if there are in contrast with you insiders and squares. The two are mutually supportive.

Leary: Yeah, if someone says to me, "I just can't conceive of dropping out..." I can say, "Well, you're having fun with this go around...fine! We've all done it many times in the past."

Ginsberg: The whole thing is too big because it doesn't say drop out of WHAT precisely. What everybody is dealing with is people, it's not dealing with institutions. It's dealing with them but also dealing with people. Working with and including the police.

Snyder: If you're going to talk this way you have to be able to specifically say to somebody in Wichita, Kansas who says, "I'm going to drop out. How do you advise me to stay living around here in this area which I like?"

Leary: Let's be less historical now for awhile and let's be very practical about ways in which people who want to find the tribal way...How can they do it...what do you tell them?

Snyder: Well, this is what I've been telling kids all over Michigan and Kansas. For example, I tell them first of all: "Do you want to live here, or do you want to go someplace else?"

Leary: Good!


Snyder: All right, say I want to stay where I am. I say, okay, get in touch with the Indian culture here. Find out what was here before. Find out what the mythologies were. Find out what the local deities were. You can get all of this out of books.

Go and look at your local archaeological sites. Pay a reverend [sic] visit to the local American Indian tombs, and also the tombs of the early American settlers. Find out what your original ecology was. Is it short grass prairie, or long grass prairie here?

Go out and live on the land for a while. Set up a tent and camp out and watch the land and get a sense of what the climate here is. Because, since you've been living in a house all your life, you probably don't know what the climate is.

Leary: Beautiful.

Snyder: Then decide how you want to make your living here. Do you want to be a farmer, or do you want to be a hunter and food gatherer?

You know, start from the ground up, and you can do it in any part of this country today...cities and all...For this continent I took it back to the Indians. Find out what the Indians were up to in your own area. Whether it's Utah, or Kansas, or New Jersey.

Leary: That is a stroke of cellular revelation and genius, Gary. That's one of the wisest things I've heard anyone say in years. Exactly how it should be done.

I do see the need for transitions, though, and you say that there will be city people as well as country people and mountain people...I would suggest that for the next year or two or three, which are gonna be nervous, transitional, mutational years--where things are gonna happen very fast, by the way--the transition could be facilitated if every city set up little meditation rooms, little shrine rooms, where the people in transition, dropping out, could meet and meditate together.

It's already happening at the Psychedelic Shop, it's happening in New York. I see no reason though why there shouldn't be ten or fifteen or twenty such places in San Francisco.

Snyder: There already are.


Leary: I know, but let's encourage that. I was just in Seattle and I was urging the people there. Hundreds of them crowd into coffee shops, and there is this beautiful energy.

They are liberated people, these kids, but they don't know where to go. They don't need leadership, but they need, I think, a variety of suggestions from people who have thought about this, giving them the options to move in any direction. The different meditation rooms can have different styles. One can be Zen, one can be macrobiotic, one can be bhahte chanting, once can be rock and roll psychedelic, one can be lights.

If we learn anything from our cells, we learn that God delights in variety. The more of these we can encourage, people would meet in these places, and AUTOMATICALLY tribal groups would develop and new matings would occur, and the city would be seen for many as transitional...and they get started. They may save up a little money, and then they head out and find the Indian totem wherever they go.


Snyder: Well, the Indian totem is right under your ground in the city, is right under your feet. Just like when you become initiated into the Haineph pueblo, which is near Albuquerque, you learn the magic geography of your region; and part of that means going to the center of Albuquerque and being told: There is a spring here at a certain street, and its name is such and such. And that's in a street corner in downtown Albuquerque.

But they have that geography intact, you know. They haven't forgotten it. Long after Albuquerque is gone, somebody'll be coming here, saying there's a spring here and it'll be there, probably.

Leary: Tremont Street in Boston means "three hills."

Ginsberg: There's a stream under Greenwich Village.

Voice from Audience: Gary, what do you think of rejecting the week as a measure of time; as a sort of absurd, civilized measure of time, and replacing it with a month, which is a natural time cycle?

Leary: What is the time cycle?

Snyder: The week, the seven day week. Well, the seven day week is based on the Old Testament theory that the world was created in seven days, you know. So you don't need it, particularly.

Voice from Audience: Right. It seems to me a formal rejection of it and a cycling of social events around the idea of monthly cycle...


Watts: I don't agree with that, because...everywhere that this week thing has spread, people have adopted it, where they didn't have this time rhythm before. But people have not understood the real meaning of the week, which is that every seventh day is a day to goof off. It's to turn out of the whole thing. The rules are abrogated. "The six days thou shalt labor, and do all that thou has to do. The seventh day thou shalt keep holy." HOLY DAY! and this means holiday. It means instead of a day for laying on rationality and preaching and making everybody feel guilty because they didn't operate properly the other six days.

Leary: You turn on.

Watts: The seventh day is the day...Yes, absolutely, to go crazy...Because if you can't afford a little corner of craziness in your life, you're like a steel bridge that has no give. You're so rigid you're going to collapse in the first wind.

Leary: There is also some neuro-pharmacological evidence in support of the weekly cycle. That is, you can only have a full-scale LSD session about once a week. And when they said in Genesis--"On the seventh day He rested," it makes very modern sense.

Ginsberg: You can interpret it psychedelically, but that's like new criticism...(laughter) You can actually LIKE new criticism...

Leary: I want you to be very loving to me for the rest of...and the tape will be witness...whether Allen is loving or not me, for the rest of this evening.

Ginsberg: That's all right, I can always use a Big Brother...

Watts: May I point out, this has directly to do with what we've been talking about.

Ginsberg: But I was just getting paranoid of you interpreting the Old Testament as a prophecy of LSD. That's what I was THINKING.

Leary: My foot has often led to other people's paranoia's at the time.

Watts: One day in seven, one seventh, is the day of the drop out.

Snyder: That's not enough. (laughter)

Watts: Now wait a minute. You're going too fast, Gary.

Voice from Audience: Gary, the first six days of the week you drop out, and the seventh day you work.

Snyder: Baby, we've gotta get away from this distinction between work and play. That's the whole thing, really. Like this one day in seven thing, the reason I don't agree with it is that it implies that making the world was a job.

Watts: Oh, that's perfectly true. I entirely agree with you on that.


Snyder: And any universe that is worth creating isn't any job to create. You dig it. I don't sympathize with his fatigue at all...He must have made a bad scene. (chuckles)

Watts: You are talking on a different level than we're discussing at the moment. You are talking from the point of view where from the very deepest vision everything that happens is okay, and everything is play.

Snyder: Well, I wasn't really talking from that vision.

Watts: Well, that's where you really are. Now, I'm going one level below this, and saying...

Snyder: What I'm saying is if you do enjoy what you're doing, it's not work.

Watts: That's true. That's my philosophy: that I get paid for playing.

Now, the thing is, though, that just as talking on a little bit lower day in seven is for golfing off...and that's a certain less percentage. So in a culture, if the culture is to be healthy, there has to be a substantial but, nevertheless, minority percentage of people who are not involved in the rat race.

And this is the thing that it seems to me is coming out of this. We cannot possible (sic) expect that everybody in the United States of America will drop out. But it is entirely important for the welfare of the United States that a certain number of people, a certain percentage, should drop out. Just as one day in seven should be a holiday.

Voice from Audience: That's the baby that's being born. That's the baby that's being born NOW. The problem that we have to deal with is how to get that baby out easily.

Leary: I think we must be more practical than we have been, because there are hundreds of people who are very interested in what we are talking about in the most A-B-C practical sense like: What do I do tomorrow!

Watts: Right!

To Be Continued...

back to index