Department for the Study of Religions, Masaryk University

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, LSD and Czechoslovakia: What is the connection?

The Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD) has undergone at least three rebirths in the West. The first was its fabrication, which was not a critical translation of the written source, but a new English text based on a Tibetan background. W. Evans-Wentz gave rise to the interpretation of one Tibetan text under the strange name TBD. This was the first rebirth; the second is C. G. Jung’s and the third is the psychedelic concept of the TBD. The paper will focus on the third version, which is related to the use of mind-altering drugs such as LSD. The best-known psychedelic interpretation of the TBD was made by T. Leary, R. Metzner and R. Alpert in the 1960s. However, there is also an interesting contribution of the then socialist Czechoslovakia, where the research on LSD effects on human behavior was conducted – not surprisingly – for military purposes. The psychedelic interpretation of the TBD was a phenomenon of the time; today it represents a curiosity rather than a generally accepted “alternative” explanation of the Tibetan ritual text.

Luboš Bělka