by T. Casey Brennan
This is the story of two dreams, two Hare Krishna gurus, and the Kennedy assassination. In the period from late 1983 till mid 1985, I had left my adopted home of Ann Arbor, Michigan and journeyed to California. In the 1970s, I had been known as a popular comic book writer, my work appearing in such titles as Warren comics' CREEPY, EERIE and VAMPIRELLA, DC's HOUSE OF MYSTERY, Archie's RED CIRCLE SORCERY and a few scattered small press publishers such as POWER COMICS, FANTASY QUARTERLY, and the Canadian ORB. But 1983 had found me destitute, and, with the help of my friends, I traveled to California, hoping for more professional validation. Favors from a power structure which now just barely accepted me had been slim; California had brought me a few scattered radio and television interviews, a comic con guest appearance at a building in Berkeley's Sproul Plaza, and a write-up in the U.N. World Health Organization magazine WORLD HEALTH, published in every major language in the world, October 1983 issue, page 30...look for it at your local UN office, your public library, or your university's public health library -- a follow-up report on me appeared in WORLD HEALTH, January-February 1986, page 9. Then WORLD HEALTH magazine editor Peter Ozorio had been supportive of my purported work, as an award winning comic book writer, to ban smoking in comic books. Later, in an interview in COMIC BOOK ARTIST magazine's excellent history of Warren Publishing Company, THE WARREN COMPANION, I would admit that it had all been a desperate publicity stunt. But then, in the mid 80s, it had been a vehicle for keeping my name and work alive, in a decade before the internet took hold, when the fans of my comic books had all but forgotten me.
Though this is a story, not only of dreams, but of drugs, cults, and murder, it must be prefaced with background information on my work. The 90s had produced not only my trade paperback, VAMPIRELLA: TRANSCENDING TIME & SPACE, a compilation of Vampirella stories by myself and Steve Englehart, but also my story of my adventures at the Berkeley Krishna Temple, whose title was a take-off on the title of my book: CONJURELLA FEVER: TRANSCENDING TIME & MK-ULTRA. The story had been published twice, in a comic book called THE STORK, back when editor Ray Earles had been intent on making THE STORK look like an underground comic, and in the Winter 1998 issue of an Austin, Texas based rock and roll magazine called SALT FOR SLUGS, carried internationally by Tower Records. March 1984 had found me penniless in Berkeley; I appeared at the Krishna Temple there, on 2334 Stuart St., suitcases in hand, and nowhere to go. I had run the gamut seeking money from friends and political contacts; Peter Ozorio had arranged for a check to be sent to me c/o General Delivery, Berkeley, from a United Nations account in Zurich, based on the first WORLD HEALTH article. The check had only a serial number for the issuer, and an illegible signature, but had been sent via airmail with a signed United Nations voucher; I had had no difficulty in cashing the check at the Best of Two Worlds comic book store in Berkeley, who knew me by name and professional reputation, but by now, it was long gone. In that bygone era, the Krishna people, besieged by scandals, had begun the long process of excommunicating their ill-behaved gurus, and, strangely, had initiated the process by ousting the least offensive of them, saving the worst for last. The first two excommunicated gurus, Srila Hansadutta and Srila Jayatirtha, were denizens of the San Francisco Bay, as I was now, quite unwillingly. I would have traded an arm to get back to Michigan then, but no one was buying human arms, so I stayed, quite miserable and mistreated, in the temple of poor Hansadutta, whom I later maligned for his escapades, in the aforementioned FEVER story. In that story, in had omitted my brief adventure with the Krishna people's only LSD guru, Srila Jayatirtha, much like my mentors, saving the worst for last. Jayatirtha had, it was said, originally been a protege of Timothy Leary. According to legend, he had renounced LSD before accepting the Krishna guruship, then later, resumed the practice, resulting in his eventual excommunication.
But this was the tale of two dreams. In 1996, I had written a story called "Castle Mirage: the Prelude - Conjurella", alleging my own, and my late parents' unwilling involvement with the JFK assassination. It was posted immediately by several conspiracy sites, inspiring dozens of Internet fan pages about me, and a host of sequels, of which the Hansadutta story, CONJURELLA FEVER, was only one of many. Ironically, the original CONJURELLA story did not see print off the Net, till it appeared with title and contents shortened, in the St. Louis-based political conspiracy magazine, STEAM SHOVEL PRESS, issue #19, summer 2002 issue, as "JFK Redux - Castle Mirage" on page 21.
So that was the first dream. The second must come later in this story, after I tell what I left out in CONJURELLA FEVER, after I tell of my meeting with Jayatirtha, and his eventual murder. Unlike the first dream, the second may not have happened at all. Unlike the first dream, the second may be only a joke among my many fans and followers, and, like my ill-fated ban-smoking-in-comics campaign, only an excuse for further professional exposure. Unlike the first dream, the second may be blasphemy; unlike the first dream, the second may be the lowest form of self-promotion; unlike the first dream, the second may be truly, truly evil. So, for now, I will wait in the telling of the second dream. And for now, I will tell only the facts of my meeting with Jayatirtha.
It was on Thursdays, as I recall, that Jayatirtha's disciples came to the Berkeley Temple of Srila Hansadutta, where, by early 1985, I was firmly entrenched as dishwasher, semi-unwelcome guest, and impoverished semi-follower of Srila Hansadutta. Except for ingrained rowdiness, the Hansadutta devotees, as the Krishna people call their followers, were not significantly distinguishable in their philosophy from their former parent group, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKCON. Hansadutta's followers were aware of their guru's inconsistencies, apologized for him, and followed him anyway, still attempting to promote among their supporters the ISKCON position condemning intoxication of any kind. Hansadutta had regretted his inability to follow that position; Jayatirtha had not. Jayatirtha had been defiant, and, following his removal from his formal position as ISKCON guru, had taken to selling marijuana and LSD at HIS temple, across the Golden Gate Bridge, in mountainous Marin County.
So it was on Thursdays that they came, I think. Like the Hansadutta devotees, they danced and chanted before the deities, the magical statues of Krishna on the temple's altar. The deities had not been invented by the Hare Krishna people, the system had been created thousands of years before, in India, when Hindu priests began the tradition of calling the presence of Krishna into statues of his likeness. To Christian missionaries in India, it had been idolatry, but to T. Casey Brennan, abandoned and impoverished in Berkeley, the beaming statues had been his only source of inspiration in a cult which, it seemed, had set themselves at variance not only with him, but with the rest of the world as well. The Berkeley devotees frequently hated each other, hated the stifling rules and regulations of ISKCON, and, at times, hated their own guru, but loved the deities. Consequently, the presence of the Jayatirtha devotees before our temple altar was not always considered proper, but I did not give a damn. I needed a secondary refuge besides the Berkeley Temple -- I advanced on the Jayatirtha cult, hoping to shift my loyalties, as I had done so many times before.
A Berkeley Hansadutta devotee named Dave had taken to the Jayatirtha followers before I had, and they to him. So much so, that they had offered him Initiation. Initiation, in the Krishna people, works like this: the trainee is initially a Bhakta, and is known by this tile, followed by his name, in this case, Bhakta Dave. But when he receives Initiation, he is given a Sanskrit name, and renounces his former life -- in this case, Bhakta Dave was henceforth to be known as Deva Das.
So on that day in 1985, a carload of Berkeley devotees embarked, with only minimal support from their comrades in Hansadutta's temple, to accompany Bhakta Dave on his initiation, and to smoke marijuana and take LSD in the process. Along the way, someone said, Srila Hansadutta was thrown out of ISKCON because he was into guns, Srila Jayatirtha because he was into LSD. I could not let that conversational opportunity slip away; T. Casey Brennan, former writer of comic book stories known for their quality and idealism in the '70s, was now a bitter cynic.
"I like both guns and LSD," I said, "So I like them both. Maybe they should get together on it -- start the 'LSD-GUN NEWSLETTER'." I think, only Bhakta Dave laughed. But then, that was the way of most of my jokes in Berkeley. We stopped along the way, to check tires or something. Bhakta Dave and I walked to the back of the car. He took out a pack of cigarettes, shook one up quite professionally, and offered it to me. I took it, and we both lit up, as the other devotees in the car looked around scowling.
We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and reached Jayatirtha's Temple in the mountains. Somewhere, we had crossed an expanse of smoke-belching factories. One of the girls had commented that she disliked the smell of the factories. But this was 1985, and I was intent on portraying myself as a conservative. "Myself, I don't like the smell of the unemployed, homeless people that are left when the factories close down," I said. That didn't get much of a laugh either. That same year, I appeared on KFCB's CALIFORNIA TONIGHT show, a religious talk show from Concord, clad in suit and tie, with shoulder-length California bleach-blond hair, made that way from constantly walking around in the sun (usually to avoid the Berkeley Krishna people) -- host Ron Haus had given me the biggest build-up I'd ever received on a TV talk show, noting letters of support from Art Linkletter and the aforementioned UN WHO articles -- and called for a return to the comic book burnings of the 1950s, as inspired by religious groups and a crusading psychologist of that bygone era. It had been my last TV appearance, as of this writing, in 2003, and was last broadcast, I believe, on Valentine's day of 1985.
But here I was no star, no celebrity; here I was the least of the Berkeley Krishna people, accompanying Bhakta Dave for his initiation by a rival guru, the now legendary and murdered Jayatirtha.
We parked and entered the huge mansion. My first impression was that it was bitterly cold, as the mountains in Marin usually are in winter. Jayatirtha had not yet arrived, but we approached the altar. Krishna's statutes were upon that altar, as was a photograph of Jayatirtha, but so also were statues of Jesus and Mary, in defiance of ISKCON regulations forbidding such things. I turned to one of the other devotees and said jokingly, "These are dangerous men," though, in fact, I was impressed by their soft-spoken gentleness. It was that T. Casey Brennan cynicism again, and again, no one understood, and no one laughed.
At some point, we were each provided with The Sacrament: LSD on rice paper, embossed with the word YES. Some weed was smoked, and periodically, I asked for more of the pleasant rice paper LSD. The devotees complied, tearing the YES squares in half with some difficulty, supplying me with half a hit at a time, each time I asked.
Gradually, due to the LSD, my mountainous surroundings, and the diverse nature of Jayatirtha's followers, I began to get the impression that I had entered some strange fairy tale kingdom. A hunchback arrived, some children, some Indian-born Hindus, and assorted Berkeley hippies, all in the bitter, shivering cold. It was night now, and Dave and I walked onto a wooden porch overlooking the majestic Marin landscape. At last, Jayatirtha arrived, apologized for the cold, and said it would be better when the fire sacrifice began. Though young in appearance, he had long gray hair, also in defiance of standard Hare Krishna custom, which preferred the shaven-headed-with-ponytail look. Jayatirtha was, it was said, Jewish by birth, and a British citizen. Though expelled by ISKCON, his tremendous charisma had caused Temples to spring up in England and India and elsewhere in Asia, following him still, whatever his course.
Bhakta Dave, of course, had the seat of honor, but was not handling his LSD as well as I, or the others. Later, though I was not present, he told me that, as he sat down, he suddenly shouted "They're going to kill me!" and bolted for the door. "I was scared," he told me later, back at the Berkeley Temple. Still with that 1985-style T. Casey Brennan cynicism, I'd replied, "If I'd known that, I would have pulled a gun and shot you in the back." But the gentle Jayatirtha had said, "You have to come back and sit down now, Dave. We're going to begin." And it had worked.
Now, not to be self-deprecating, but most of my life, I've been just a tad out of synch with what I'm actually supposed to do. The Jayatirtha initiation was no exception, and the LSD had nothing to do with it. My last television appearance had been in 1985 in Concord, California, but my first had been in the 1950s in Columbus, Ohio, on a children's show called THE FIVE AND TEN SHOW, so named because you had to be between ages five and ten to be on it. A row of children, including me, were supposed to do a dance with motions to "jump down, turn around, pick a bale of hay". I did all that, but completely out of synch with my child colleagues, and the last scene found me still spinning awkwardly, as the rest of the line of children bowed and left the stage. The Jayatirtha fire sacrifice experience was similar. On an altar fire of burning aromatic wood, we were instructed, on signal, to throw a handful of rice on the fire and chant "SVA-HA!"; it's Sanskit, I didn't know what it meant, I still don't. So each time the devotees shouted and threw the rice, I waited five seconds and did the same after them, and each time, they all turned to look at me contemptuously, as had the other children on THE FIVE AND TEN SHOW.
As we had been given the LSD, we had been told proudly that the building had once been the old Owsley LSD factory, since reopened. Owsley, like Leary, had been one of the early LSD pioneers. So I was tripping heavily by the time of Jayatirtha's sermon, as he finalized the initiation of Bhakta Dave, who, at some point, had become Deva Das. Jayatirtha told Dave that now that he was receiving initiation, the most important thing was that he be a good person. Jayatirtha paused eloquently, and added "Now that isn't always possible. But, always to try..."
I shall never forget those words or that sermon. After the initiation, we went to Jayatirtha's other mansion, and Jayatirtha led us in a song of his own making, "Temple of Peace". I was deeply moved. In the morning, we returned, and our driver was still feeling the effects of the LSD, speeding down the treacherous mountain highway at a breakneck pace. Dave, now, Deva Das, and I tried to calm him by nervously invoking the philosophy. "Well," I said, my cynicism replaced by mortal fear as the high-on-LSD driver negotiated the mountain curves at 90 or 95, "The devotees don't care about speed; no, the devotees have a more relaxed kind of lifestyle..." Deva Das chimed in, "No, the devotees don't care about speed, hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare, hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare..."
But the driver was chanting, "I love speed, I love SPEED!" I never thought I'd make it through alive. But I did. But Jayatirtha didn't.
Later that year, in the fall, I believe, the Jayatirtha temples made national news when they were raided, and LSD, marijuana, and cocaine, plus a half million dollars in British and American currency were seized. The story was carried in USA TODAY, and the San Francisco papers, and safely back in Ann Arbor, I saw footage of a hooded Jayatirtha in custody on television. Amazingly, there was no trial to follow, and no mention of the raid in the later books and articles chronicling criminality in the Krishna movement, though numerous pages are devoted to his LSD usage and sales. The raid and its consequences have simply ceased to be. History has been rewritten, even by ISKCON's self-professed staunchest critics. Several years later, Jayatirtha was found murdered in England, his head cut off, and a knife driven into his chest. A berserk former devotee was arrested and committed to a mental institution. No credibility was assigned to the theory that Jayatirtha had been murdered by the CIA for becoming too indiscreet with the LSD they had helped prepare for him at CIA LSD laboratories...the raid was not the reason, after all, it had never happened. Those who persisted in this account were told what was, they said, the REAL story. In hushed tones, they told what they said was the SECRET truth; the berserk devotee who had killed Jayatirtha had been inspired, not by the CIA, but by Jayatirtha's WIFE, whom he was in the process of leaving. And after the CIA blew Kurt Cobain's head off for the exact same reason, they told the exact same story about HIS wife. The names were changed, but the story the same, but then, I said there was a second dream, didn't I?
So this was the second dream. Jayatirtha's followers told a bit different story about his excommunication than did ISKCON. The Hare Krishna movement had been begun in America by an aged guru, a Hindu by training, though he despised that word, preferring the more specific term, Vaisnava. He was known as His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, usually called, simply, Prabhupada. They Jayatirtha devotees told me that Prabhupada had appointed Jayatirtha as his sole successor, a position not easily refuted, since his papers allegedly denoting succession upon his death, now appear, even in the eyes of the most impartial observers, to be, at best, unclear, or, at worst, forged or altered. I
In the second dream, there are two initiations taking place, one on this plane, one on a higher plane of existence. Here, Bhakta Dave was being initiated as Deva Das. But in the higher plane, the gentle, eloquent Jayatirtha tells the cynical, self-promoting T. Casey Brennan, "When I am murdered, you must take up my place, and tell what you know on the Kennedy assassination. When I am murdered, you must become Srila Kasipada, in direct succession to those who came before us."
"You are Srila Kasipada," Jayatirtha said, in the dream, "Meat-eater, fornicator, blasphemer, the last and the worst of Krishna's gurus."
And, you know? I guess I am. And that was the story of the two dreams, how Bhakta Dave became Deva Das, and Srila Jayatirtha became a murder victim, and the cynical, blasphemous T. Casey Brennan became Srila Kasipada, the last and the worst of the Krishna gurus.
Copyright 2003 by T. Casey Brennan
This, of course, is a sequel to the earlier CONJURELLA stories posted at: