“Start Your Own Religion” (Timothy Leary, 1967)

An excerpt from this classic of the ’60s counterculture:

How to Start Your Own Religion

First, decide with whom you will make the voyage of discovery. If you have a family, certainly you will include them. If you have close friends, you will certainly want to include them. The question, with whom do I league for spiritual discovery? is a fascinating exercise.

Next, sit down with your spiritual companions and put on a page the plan for your trip. Write down and define your:







Space-time locales

Mythic context

Here is an interesting exercise. You will learn a lot about yourself and your companions. You will see where you are and where you are not.

You will find it necessary to be explicit about the way your clan handles authority, responsibility, sexual relations, money, economics, defense, communication.

In short, you are forming not only your own religion but your own natural political unit. This is inevitable because the basic political unit is exactly the same as the basic spiritual grouping-the clan. Did you really believe that church was only where you went for an hour on Sunday morning?

Make your clan unique. Do not slavishly copy the roles and language of other groups. The beauty of! cellular life is that each unit is both so incredibly complexly similar and also so unique. The more you understand the infinite complexity of life, the more you treasure both the similarities and the differences. But you have to be turned on to see it. At the level of the studio-prop game, both the similarities and the differences are trivial.

In defining the goal of your religion, you need not use conventional religious language. You don’t have to make your spiritual journey sound “religious.” Religion cannot be pompous and high-flown. Religion is consciousness expansion, centered in the body and denned exactly the way it sounds best to you. Don’t be intimidated by Caesar’s Hollywood fake versions of religiosity. If life has a meaning for you beyond the TV-studio game, you are religious. Spell it out.

So write out your own language for the trip; God or evolution, acid or sacrament, guide or guru, purgatorial redemption or bad trip, mystic revelation or good high. Say it naturally.

Develop your own rituals and costumes. Robes or gray flannel suits, amulets or tattoos. You will eventually find yourself engaged in a series of sacred moments which feel right to you.

Step by step

all your actions

will take on a sacra

mental meaning.

If you desire a more contemporary take on this theme, I recommend performance artist/cultural engineer M. Dudeck’s Invent Your Own Religion Workbook, which is available (US$20) here.

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