On DNA and the Tao
by Stuart Sovatsky, Ph.D.
In sanctifying DNA as no mere molecule but as a potentially awesome experience and relating it to the Tao, Timothy Leary ascends far beyond simple analogy-making. In Psychedelic Prayers, as in all his works, he champions that the sparkle of awe is its own most worthy research discovery; without its wondrous quiverings during any looking or researching, we are truly without a prayer.
For prayers are nothing other than jaw-dropping, mind-silencing responses of grateful awe to each stunning detail of creation. Otherwise, as Leary says, we are Òdead men walking among dead symbols.Ó Water sinks to being a mere flushable effluent, no longer the wonder wine, the delicious Tao-God of Perfect Flow. DNA becomes merely a patentable, laboratory commodity instead of the most intimate experiential step on that carnal stairway to heaven that the human organism is.
Thus imagine, Learyesque, parallel to the Human Genome Project, an equally well-funded endeavor for ferreting out the awesome thrill of universal, immortal DNA-TAO, directly jacking us in to its primordial information banks. Imagine this projectÕs joyous methods (chemo-nutritional, artistic-ritualistic, cyberspatial, or simply yogic) becoming part of every high school and college education.
And if Lao Tse is correct, this effort would be more important than the Human Genome Project, sponsoring massive cultural contact with the Tao, and thereby initiating a harmonious, wise, and highly creative planetary society--or at least, loft of friends. We might even learn how to love troubled genomes into healthier expressions, while also learning from them about their more enigmatic and humbling secrets.
But Psychedelic Prayers was written in 1965, in the context of awakenings inspired by contact with LSD and ancient Eastern wisdom-teachings. We must be open now and hereafter to the development of an ever more refined variety of psychoactive methods (such as VR meditative simulations, artistic and various celebrative-altruistic endeavors, and as yet little-known yogic practices) and substances, some more akin to foods than drugs, perhaps among the class of molecules known as "smart drug" nutritional supplements and herbs. Such were also of utmost interest to Dr. Leary.
Although more gradual in effect than LSD, these more assimilable neuroendocrinal foods/activities would nourish and strengthen, more than launch, the imbiber. In such gradual, moment-to-moment subtlety, ÒOne does not [even] know that there is a [molecular] guide,Ó indicating Òthe greatest [of] sessions.../ When the greatest session [of life] is over/ The people will say:/ It all happened naturallyÓ/ ÒIt was so simple, we did it all ourselvesÓ (p. 47, Psychedelic Prayers).
And if texts such as the Tao Te Ching and the lives of their authors are reliable, the ongoing high resulting from years of contact with the DNA-TAO essence initiates a series of profound transformations of bodily tissues, substances, and organs on par with adolescent puberty, yet more as Òpostgenital puberties.Ó The Leary-Alpert claim that the brain and not the genitals is Òthe most powerful sexual organ in the universeÓ points toward such cerebrospinal puberties, with kundalini awakening being merely the first to enter Western parlance.
Here what we call ÒDNAÓ breaks out of its present identity as the molecular vehicle of reproduction whose ultimate task can be executed when the body has finished carrying out its genetic instructions for achieving the only bodily puberty we know of in the West, that of the progenitive fertility. It is here that the elaborate and vast bodily "immortality" yogas of tantra, kundalini, and Taoism arise, conjunct, and climax with another of Dr. LearyÕs visionary interests: life extension. For during advanced stages of the kundalini process, certain cerebrospinal structures (pineal, pituitary, hypothalamus, and hypoglossas) become uniquely ÒorgasmicÓ and an increasingly potent psychoactive rejuvenating secretion known as amrita (the ÒimmortalityÓ hormone) fructifies.
The traverse from the progenitive to these later puberties of spine (kundalini), tongue and hypothalamus (khechari mudra), eyes (sambhavi mudra, the Taoist Ògolden flowerÓ), and cerebrum (unmani mudra or the unnamed Tao) are barely accounted for in Western religions. Metaphors of a wily, serpentine eroto-intelligence living in a tree, or a semi-mad speaking-in-tongues supra-language, reflect a rudimentary grasp of the spiritualized body. And the culture-bound psychosexual lore of Freud, Masters and Johnson, et al., stops far too short. Thus, regarding Eros, spirituality, and the body, we in the West are sorely in need of more information.
Whether this data on the further reaches of human possibility is gathered in the laboratories of science, the spare lab of zafu and bell, or the tie-dyed lab of a summer day Òexperienced,Ó may it sparkle with the Learyan eye of a trip well-taken. May the Psychedelic Prayers and its similars grow into a detailed literature on the ways to ever more wondrous marriages of luminous molecules and golden spirit. Paraphrasing NietzscheÕs Zarathustra:
Verily, Dr. Leary had a goal: he threw his ball: ÒNow you, my friends, are the heirs of my goal; to you I throw my golden ball. More than anything, I like to see you, my friends, throwing the golden ball. And so I lingered a little on this earth; forgive me for that.Ó
is a respected scholar of Eastern Religion, a practicing
of the Kundalini Clinic in San Francisco, He is the author of Passions of Innocence: Tantric Celibacy and the
Mysteries of Eros (Inner Traditions, 1992) and Words From The Soul (SUNY Press, 1998). He was voted
"Most Likely to Be Seen Conversing With Timothy Leary" by the Princeton University Class of 1971.
Stuart teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and is the lead vocalist for the
trance-fusion band SUSHUMNA. He lives in Oakland, California.
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