(Painting by Susan Wright)
“The introduction of LSD and psychedelics into the culture
produced a transformation of the entire culture,
the consciousness of the culture.”
“For years I’ve followed a principle:
Read anything Ralph Metzner writes.”
“You have pulled the whole thing together
in a truly illuminated and illuminating way.”
–Joseph Campbell (about The Unfolding Self)
“…….When I asked him how to experience this teaching, he closed his eyes and his body seemed to de-materialize. Part of him went up and up in stages and then slowly came back down. …When he came back down, he told me to follow him to his cabin and he led me through an experience in which I felt all the negativity, doubt, fear, shame and pain that I’d been carrying for my whole life cleansed from my body, cell by cell, cleansed by a stream of white light. I felt clearer than I’d ever felt, confident and certain that this was the path for me to follow. Ralph (Metzner) had initiated me into the spiritual lineage of Agni Yoga and what would be a 45 year relationship with him as well as a meditation practice I use to this day.”
Ralph Metzner died two years ago and his birthday was last week, May 18th. The experience I recount above is part of an article for a Festschrift (tribute book) for Ralph that is being lovingly edited by his wife, Cathy Coleman. The piece above is about my first encounter with him in 1969 where he led a retreat on “Maps of Consciousness” and introduced me to the Western esoteric practices of Agni Yoga. I can honestly say that two years after his death I think of him every day. No one has been as important in my spiritual journey.
Ralph was a scholar, a prolific writer of books and articles, lecturer, teacher and ceremonial leader of inner experiences which were participated in by perhaps thousands. His influence in the fields of transpersonal and eco-psychology was profound. But to many of those of us who worked with him, nothing compared to his unique and innovative approach to guiding altered-state experiences with sacred medicines. Ralph was the teacher of teachers, the guide for guides, the shaman for shamans in the underground movement of entheogenic (psychedelic) experiences.
Ralph was the third, much lesser known of the three men from Harvard renowned for blowing the lid off the secret study of psychedelics. Tim Leary went on to be an icon of the wild side of the counter-culture while Richard Alpert became Ram Dass and brought Eastern spirituality to millions. Ralph took a quieter road and became deeply involved in disciplines of esoteric practices and finally integrated those with psychedelics bringing about his unique form of teachings and guidance. His legacy includes books which are filled with both scientific information and instructions for the use of: MDMA (Through the Gateway of the Heart), Ayahuasca (Ayuhasca-Sacred Vine of Spirit), Mushrooms (Teonanacatl-Sacred Mushroom of Visions), DMT and 5-Meo-DMT (The Toad and the Jaguar) as well as an all-inclusive manual (Allies for Awakening – Guidelines for productive and safe experiences with entheogen).
A master of shape-shifting and consciousness, he could also maintain his work as a psychologist, a teacher and dean at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and beloved husband and father. His books and articles took in-depth looks at consciousness studies, the roots of war and violence and the meanings of many of the world’s mythologies, metaphors and symbols.
The depth of his insights makes for more dense reading than most popular spiritual books. But my guess is that many of them will become classics for those seeking to penetrate beyond the superficial understandings of consciousness and spirit. For Ralph, the alchemical work was not an intellectual exercise. He practiced what he preached and transformed himself decade by decade. I miss him and yet know and feel he is still here.
For more information about Ralph and for many of his books, visit the website he developed for Green Earth Foundation: https://www.greenearthfound.org/.
As celebration of his birthday, Green Earth Foundation announced that what I think is his most comprehensive work, The Unfolding Self, has been made into an audio book. You can see more and order it here: https://www.pipewellstudios.uk/.