Baba Ram Dass, a clinical psychologist turned psychedelics and spiritual pioneer, died on Sunday at his home in Maui, Hawaii. He was 88-years-old.
“With tender hearts we share that Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) died peacefully at home in Maui on December 22, 2019 surrounded by loved ones,” his official Instagram account announced. “He was a guide for thousands seeking to discover or reclaim their spiritual identity beyond or within institutional religion.”
While on a tenure track at Harvard University as a clinical psychologist, Dass helped kickstart the American psychedelics movement in the ‘60s with fellow Harvard professor Timothy Leary and Brave New World author Alduous Huxley.
Huxley, Leary, Dass (known then as Richard Alpert), and others at the university founded the Harvard Psilocybin Project, an experimental group that dabbled in psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin to better understand the drugs’ effects on human cognition and behavior. The Harvard Psilocybin Project would eventually ignite America’s fascination with psychedelics, fueling the Counterculture Movement led by hippies and black activists.
Although Dass was born and raised Jewish, he didn’t seek a genuine connection with Judaism until the ‘90s, when he was in his 60s. “I didn’t have one whiff of God until I took psychedelics,” he once said while still a professor at Cambridge. Dass also credits psychedelics use in Silicon Valley as being one of the primary causes of today’s digital revolution. And that’s not a bold claim, considering Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, Inc., considered him a close friend and confidante.
Later in life, Dass switched from clinical psychology to public speaking and writing books, where he popularized Hinduism and Eastern philosophy in the US. His most famous book, Be Here Now, introduced a generation of Americans to Indian belief systems, and continues to inspire spiritual movements in the West to this day. He also founded two charities, the Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. #RIP to a real legend and hero.
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