Ram Dass: Psychedelic Pioneer and Spiritual Guru

Ram Dass was a prominent figure in the 1960s counterculture movement. He was a spiritual teacher, author, and psychologist who became a pioneer in the use of LSD for spiritual purposes. In this article, we will explore the life of Ram Dass, his contributions to the hippie movement, and his enduring legacy in the world of spirituality.

Who was Ram Dass?

Who was Ram Dass?

Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a Harvard professor of psychology who became interested in Eastern spirituality and psychedelic drugs in the early 1960s. Along with his colleague Timothy Leary, Ram Dass began experimenting with LSD and other psychedelic substances, believing that they could be used to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

The Harvard Psilocybin Project

The Harvard Psilocybin Project - Harvard professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert in 1961.
Harvard professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert in 1961.

In 1960, Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary started the Harvard Psilocybin Project, a series of experiments aimed at studying the effects of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) on human consciousness. The project attracted many students and researchers, and soon became a focal point for the emerging counterculture movement.

Becoming a Spiritual Teacher

ram dass Becoming a Spiritual Teacher

After leaving Harvard, Richard Alpert traveled to India and met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. He was profoundly influenced by this experience, and returned to the United States with a new mission: to spread the teachings of Eastern spirituality to the West.

Richard Alpert wrote several books on spirituality, including the classic “Be Here Now,” which became a bestseller and helped to popularize Eastern spirituality in the West. He also started a foundation, the Hanuman Foundation, which aimed to promote spiritual growth and social justice.

LSD and Spirituality

Throughout his life, Richard Alpert continued to explore the use of LSD and other psychedelic substances as tools for spiritual growth. He believed that these substances could help to expand consciousness and provide a glimpse of higher states of being.

In the late 1960s, Ram Dass became associated with the Grateful Dead and other prominent figures in the hippie movement. He traveled extensively, giving lectures and workshops on spirituality and consciousness.

Social Activism and Service by Ram Dass

In the 1970s, Ram Dass turned his attention to social activism and service. He started the Seva Foundation, which aimed to provide medical care to people in developing countries. He also became involved in environmental causes and helped to found the Prison Ashram Project, which aimed to bring spiritual teachings to prisoners.

Legacy of Ram Dass

Ram Dass passed away in 2019 at the age of 88, but his legacy continues to influence spiritual seekers and countercultural movements around the world. His writings and teachings on spirituality and consciousness continue to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.


Ram Dass was a remarkable individual who lived a life of service and spiritual exploration. He helped to popularize Eastern spirituality in the West and was a pioneer in the use of LSD and other psychedelic substances for spiritual purposes. His legacy continues to inspire people around the world, and his teachings on consciousness and spirituality remain as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.

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