Just before New Year’s, we lost a great soul and a phenomenal psychologist. Richard Alpert, PhD, also known as Baba Ram Dass, shed his mortal coil on December 22nd, 2019 and departed this world for planes unknown.
Alpert, like his friend Timothy Leary, worked at Harvard University until both were fired for giving their graduate students LSD. The drug war, initiated by Richard Nixon, was a distraction from Vietnam and proved a useful tool for tarring the intellectual duo as dangerous men; Nixon would even label Leary “The most dangerous man in America.” While Leary fought the system, Alpert, desiring a deeper understanding of the inner vistas drugs had shown him, traveled to India to study Hindu mysticism.
The drug war has proven to be a phenomenal failure of epic proportions. Current research suggests that several psychedelic substances may possess therapeutic benefits for mankind including treatments for opioid addiction (ibogaine), PTSD (MDMA), and alcoholism (psilocybin). The total cost in lost and ruined lives is, most likely, incalculable. Nixon’s diversion proved disastrous for three generations of Americans.
Yet Alpert died during a period of realization and understanding. State-by-state, authorities are waking up to the persistence of drugs in our culture and to the greater benefit they may hold. Perhaps with the passage of Ram Dass, we can finally stop fearing the intellectual boogeymen of the 1960s and move toward a better if psychedelic reality.