[Excepting minor spelling changes and one editorial correction, this is a true copy of the text originally mailed to about a dozen members of the Arica community in late spring 1996. One appreciative reader, Mick Winter, posted the text on an Arica related website. It attracted considerable interest and soon Mick was under pressure from Jim Hrisikos and others to remove it from the website on the grounds that freedom of speech and information were in total contradiction to the Arica Way. He did so and as a response, I developed the metaton web site which has proven over the last eight years to be a highly accurate and very valuable information resource about the depraved Arica cult. Additional commentary is enclosed in [brackets]. My Arica Story: Postscript, covering the period from 1996 to the present, March 1999, will be soon available on the metaton site. Some possibly unfamiliar terms are explained in the glossary.]
my arica story: by sterling doughty
This is a fofcfcaes (friends of fletcher christian fishing club and esoteric society) publication. Copyright 1996. Assistance has also been provided by Omega Mission. Copyright 1975, 1996,2009. The Big Sur logo/signature which closes the work is also copyrighted (1975, 1996, 2007).
The following is an abbreviated story of my experiences with Arica from 1969 to the present. I think it an interesting and sometimes amusing story. There is criticism of Arica. I think it well merited. There is also some chich and personal charge. So. This work also serves me to further clarify my own understandings, and I have attempted to keep it in reasonable balance, for example, in restricting the satire, an art form I appreciate, enjoy and often practice, but which is not Arica's favorite form of expression. There may be a few items that are out of chronological order.
This paper has initially been sent to the following Aricans: James and Virginia Hrisikos, Carolyn Baugh, Christian Intemann, Linda Cross, Jeanette Stobie, Stewart Karlan, Mary Ellen Klee and Malcolm and Nora Stewart. They are welcome to share it with other Aricans. I hope they will. I am open to receiving comment from interested Aricans before proceeding to publication, which may not be in this form. I would ask that my copyrights be respected, that circulation of this as yet unpublished document be kept within the Arica family and that no commercial use be made of my work. Also, I ask that the paper be shared in its entirety, with no omissions or deletions.
Okay, let's begin.
In 1969 I was living in Big Sur, in the old homestead down by Pfeiffer Beach. It was a wonderful place and time. My main pursuits were fast driving, drinking, dancing and making love. The house was a hangout for lots of people, including the Esalen crowd: Richard Price, John Lilly, Joan Leigh-Brewer, John Bleibtreu and so on. Elliott Dunderdale was working at the "Ranch" at the time (We practiced a new form of ranching, parceling up and selling land.). Word had been coming through, at first through Claudio Naranjo, that there was an extraordinary new master teaching in Arica, Chile and that he might consider taking some American students.
The information generated a lot of interest. Many of the people I knew were actively involved in some personal work and this master was said to be in the tradition of Gurdjieff, perhaps his successor. I had been an agnostic since I was kicked out of Sunday school at the age of seven for having called the teacher a hypocrite. When I was eight, I "met" Gurdieff at a park in Sacramento. He was a big guy, wearing a heavy coat and one of those Caucasian hats. I thought him very strange as it was summer and it was about ninety degrees fahrenheit. He gave me a job: take care of the little boat rental place at the pond, which I carried out successfully. I did not find out until many years later that he had been dead for a year when I met him. In Big Sur I was involved for a while with a Gurdjieffian group in Bixby Canyon, and we were studying with Willem A. Nyland, a student of Gurdjieff. John Lilly had also given me an acid trip, with pharmaceutical grade LSD from Sandoz in Switzerland, but I was still pretty sceptical about the Work, Esalen, and so on.
I guess John Bleibtreu made the first trip down to Arica to reconnoiter the situation. He was elated on his return. Oscar Ichazo, the master, proved to meet and exceed his expectations. Oscar could produce psychedelic like effects with exercises, without drugs. He said it was possible to have a long training, ten months, in Arica with selected American students.
Pretty soon there were all these rumours going on, with some people being told everything and others not. Blibtrip (my term of endearment for him) was involved in an elaborate "mystical" selection process to determine the chosen ones. There was incredible intrigue. I just mostly watched and learned. Most of the fifty members of the original Chile group came either out of the Esalen crowd or from a group being run by Claudio in Berkeley. I thought they were all nuts. Leave Big Sur and go for ten months to study on the edge of the Atacama desert? No way.
Well, in mid 1970, off they went. Reports began to filter back that there were some far out things going on. My life sucked. By February 1971 I was smoking two packs a day and and the equivalent of about two fifths of liquor a day. I was living then in Boronda, the old homestead above Walter Trotter's house, north of Torre Canyon. I had a beautiful house, plenty of women, enough money, owned land, and had a four wheel drive Toyota whose license plate read BIG SUR. One day I stopped my car to manuever for a photograph of an old man, all dressed in black, who was pushing a bicycle loaded with all kinds of stuff up Highway One near Deetjeen's. He looked at me and said: "You are not happy". I was stunned. So much so that I didn't take a photo. He was right.
I made a "lifestyle" change. I gave up smoking and drinking and went to see Richard Price, a Boddhisattva and one of my best friends. Richard (I never called him Dick) had indicated on many occasions that Esalen was always open to me. I was already on the permanent guest list, but I didn't go down very often. I thought the people too weird. Besides, I knew practically everyone giving seminars as they had often visited the ranch when I was there. Off stage most of them were not very impressive.
Anyway, Richard gave me a full scholarship for three weeks. I took workshops with Richard (gestalt), Charlotte Selver (sensing), and Gabrielle Roth (movement), who soon became my girlfriend. By the fourth week I was co-leading workshops. Seymour Carter (Gary Sohms et al) and Jeannie Butler had been in Chile and returned. They taught me the gym. After a couple of weeks, I began teaching it. Richard gave me a room to use and every morning before breakfast I would drive down from Boronda and teach. I did this for a couple of months. The class was open to anyone at Esalen who was interested. There was no charge. I also learned some mantras and fundamental theory. Gabrielle and I were having incredible experiences - Satoris. I was flying but not off (I was born without a handle).
John Lilly returned from Chile earlier than the rest of the group. He began giving workshops. Soon I was his assistant, teaching mostly gym and mentations. We toured around together with his lovely wife Toni in a big motorhome. It was fun. I remember once in Big Bear, in the Southern California mountains, we were giving a workshop when an Italian film crew filmed us. I was down in a sort of grotto-hot tub and suddenly I could feel the Crown Chakra going off, with all kinds of energy and flames and the feeling of a glowing Om coming out of the top of my head. The crew filmed the incident. They were very excited.
Then the Chile group returned. They had a lot of energy, faces were generally lighter and so on. But most of them were not awake. They said they were, but you can tell. Anyway, they passed through Esalen and took some time off before reassembling in a big house in Long Island, New York, to prepare for giving trainings.
There was a tremendous amount of excitement. It seemed half of Big Sur was preparing to go to New York City in the fall for a three month training the group, now called Arica Institute, was to give. I had no question, and arranged my affairs accordingly, giving up everything I had built during the time I lived with my great friend, Big Sur.
I arrived in New York well before the training started. Excitement and anticipation were high. Arica had arranged to hold the training in the Essex House, a nice hotel on Central Park South. The idea was that we would all live and work there and make a big impression on the culture, with this training right at the heart of the most powerful city on Earth. Just before the training started, Arica published a full page advertisement in the New York Times. It was entitled: The Mosquito that bites the Iron Bull. It was a really innovative and interesting ad. You can find it reproduced on Page 106 of the Reunion edition of the Arican. It is well worth reading. On the facing page, 107, is a great photo I took of Oscar in the three month training. It was used in a commercial publication without my permission, without payment and without credit or even thanks.
[ Note: numerous requests for return of my copyrighted material have been met with silence except once [letter: 20ct1990] when the AricaEntity said they needed Oscar Ichazo's permission. He must be too busy counting his trademarks to return someone else's.]
Before the ad appeared, Arica arranged to have a bank of about twenty phones installed in a room in the Essex House to handle the inquiries. I was there to photograph the event. The ad appeared. There were almost no calls. It was humiliating for everyone. I think we got one student, my friend James Strickler, for the training from the ad.
The first three month training began on October first, 1971. It was wonderful. I was living in the Essex House. I had a nice room with a kitchen, bath and view of Central Park on the twenty-eighth floor. It was a lot of work and we had a terrific time. I remember once we were all meditating together in a darkened room on the back side of the hotel when I heard gunshots and someone screamed. It was weird. Another time I "got" a real neat Samadhi, you know, with little colored teardrops, like are in some Tarot cards, falling like rain through "me". I foolishly ran around telling everybody about it.
The party at the end of the training was fantastic, the energy high and hopeful. We had been told that we all were to become teachers and Arica would save the world in ten years. The Chile group was horribly disappointed. They thought they would be the only teachers of humanity. After the party they all went to a side room and I later heard that the Crown of Heaven had descended and that Oscar had passed it and the line of transmission to the Chile group. So they felt better. I guess Oscar must have taken it back later, but I don't know exactly when. As wonderful as the training was, not many of the group made it to the promised Permanent 24.
I went back home to Big Sur for a while and then helped to develop the San Francisco facility. Arica was expanding, and we were to give three month trainings in San Francisco as well as New York. But interest was already fading, and the era of the three month trainings came to an end after five were given. I was hired by Arica and as I had a little extra money, turned half of my salary back so that someone else could be hired. Then Charlotte Taylor donated two million dollars to Arica. Practically everyone was put on salary. The money did not last very long.
Then I returned to New York for the Temple training. The new facility on West 57th Street was perfect and many of us worked hard to put it together. There was an escalator leading up to the space, and someone had the brilliant idea to put a fabric canopy over it. The effect was fantastic, like a time tunnel or something.
I remember a really funny incident. About four of us had been laying down carpet in the facility. We finished our work about eleven p.m. Then I had an idea. (Watch Out!) The carpet expert, an Arican, had a big truck. The Arica Institute office was in a room in an apartment building on West 86th street where a lot of Aricans lived. Fittingly, it was named the Orwell House. Well we went over there and started packing the stuff up. The funniest thing was I found a pair of swim fins (!) in one of the desk drawers. I laughed. Strange sense of organisation I thought. Well we got everthing in the truck and unloaded it into the facility. Then we went off to sleep. The next morning all hell broke loose. The staff had gone to the office, but it was gone, disappeared into thin air. It took them several hours to find out what had happened. They were pissed off at me, but I don't know why. I moved the damn office.
As we were working on temple exercises, it came about that some Aricans were going to possibly be thrown out of the school. I tried to bring this up with my group but they were mainly interested in whether they could buy Tarot cards cheaper in New Jersey than New York.
So the big day came. Five Aricans were to face Oscar and the Inner Circle or whatever they thought they were. There were about twenty of them, arranged in a semi-circle, with place for the defendants to hear their charges and make their case. The circle members had real nasty looks on their faces. The apartment was high up in a building on the East Side, called The Stacks. It was sort of Arica's castle, where Oscar lived and only inner circle people were welcome. No one was there to speak for the defendants except me. Some Aricans had told me that they were concerned about the affair but were afraid that if they did anything there might be repercussions on them.
So I got up and presented my thoughts. My argument was that throwing people out was not a high level of conflict resolution and that it did not set a good example for what was then beginning to be called the Metasociety. My arguments failed. All five were thrown out. Then I sat down with Oscar in a child's bedroom. We talked about a number of things. I told him of my difficulties. He asked me if I didn't want to reincarnate with the Aricans on into the future. I said that did not interest me particularly and that I was more interested in saving Humanity and the Earth. Then I told him I wanted to go to London and start an Arica center there. He told me it was too early and that it wouldn't succeed. I told him I would probably do it anyway.
Because of this and other things, I was having a lot of trouble with Arica at the time. I had been offered a place to live, along with Phil Reidford and Jenny Perada [Ms Perada long ago left Arica and a one hour interview of her on CD describing various depraved activities of The Prophet Ichazo is available without cost by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org ] in Oscar's old apartment, but I was starting to fly off. I had great difficulty reconciling what Arica said it was and could deliver with my perception of the reality. So I left the school and went to Washington D.C. where I tried but failed to dematerialize the Washington Monument. I managed to get mugged and then went to San Francisco where I joined the Aricans there.
Then I returned to New York. We got eight people together to go to London, including two of my dearest friends, James and Virginia Hrisikos. Well, we found a home to live in and a facility and after a few Zhikrs (as informal Arica promotion parties were then called), we had a group of about twenty for a forty day training. That felt pretty good. But then I started to go off again. Perhaps a disorienting release of stress from setting the whole operation up, perhaps too much Ibogaine. Another thing that bothered me a lot was the significance of our name, Arica London House. The first letters add up in Arabic to ALH, the consonant version of Allah. I thought shit, here we are claiming to be God and I am in charge. The fundamentalists might be after me. I was really paranoid.
While we were setting up the center, I met many people in the esoteric community. I went up to Sherborne for a weekend, where John Bennett, a student of Gurdjieff was giving a training. It was really neat. Everybody lived and worked together in the old boarding school Bennett had purchased. He was going to give five ten month trainings and then a sixth training for selected graduates of the first five. He died before he completed this project. For the first time I was able to see a performance of Gurdjieff's movements. Bennett's students performed the Great Prayer. I was transfixed. It was wonderful. I have photos of the performance that are practically alive.
So back in London one night I locked the door behind me, tossed my keys in through the window and went off to live in the streets. I must have been out there a couple of months although I passed by the house once in a while to say hello and get a little money for food as I didn't want to steal it although it would have been easy. I was pretty far gone but I met many interesting and lovely people and learned a lot about life in the bottom. I mostly slept under an old rug in an abandoned building site in Mayfair or in a skipper (a shelter you make from cardboard boxes) in a small park by Charing Cross. At about midnight a van would come by with hot soup. At about five a.m. the park crew turned on the sprinklers to drive us out. Eventually my father came and I went with him to Australia.
ahead to: my arica story - conclusion
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