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Full Review
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The Secret Chief Revealed: Conversations with Leo Zeff, Pioneer in the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement
by Myron J. Stolaroff
Reviewed by dogbreth, 3/10/2006

A quick read loaded with insights, The Secret Chief Revealed serves multiple purposes effectively. The actual “text” of the conversations is less than 100 pages, but the introductions, forward, prologue, tribute, epilogue, appendixes, additional tributes, and a special section devoted to resources, introduce the reader to some of the main personalities involved in psychedelic research, and extend the book to nearly double the length of the actual text.

Leo Zeff, now deceased, is revealed as a former Jungian therapist who tried LSD, originally around 1961, when it was still a legal chemical. He found insights that he had been looking for and believed that it was possible that some of his therapy clients could also benefit. He worked out a protocol, which changed over the years, for providing a responsible, safe, self-exploratory trip using LSD for psychotherapy. When the federal government outlawed LSD, Zeff made the difficult decision to continue to treat people using psychedelics (Zeff, having been a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, respected the government, and was yet very spiritual). It was most likely Zeff’s spirituality that kept him treating people with psychedelics after they were made illegal, as the chemical could bring about spiritual experiences, and it enhanced his clients’ lives.

Zeff did not like to refer to psychedelics as “drugs,” but rather as “medicine”. It could be used properly or improperly, just as morphine or antibiotics can. Working as a Jungian therapist, Zeff believed he was there, basically, to assist his clients in finding their own solutions, more of less by waiting it out. With LSD the solutions came much quicker, often with a single trip. In therapeutic use of LSD, Zeff had his clients agree to a basic set of rules: 1. they would not leave the house or place where the trip was taking place without his permission, 2. they agreed that there would be no physical harm or violence to them, him or anyplace they were, 3. reiterate the security agreement – they must agree that they will never reveal to anybody else where and with whom they had the experience without his prior approval, 4. there would be no sex during the experience, and 5. the client had to agree to follow Zeffs directions no matter what; the client had to agree to follow his commands without question and to have faith in him. Prior to taking the medicine, they would then read a prayer aloud. The clients were asked to bring in photographs of family, and important people and places in their lives, as well as personal articles which would stimulate a therapeutic conversation which would take place prior to the effects of the medicine. Once the medicine took effect the client would lie down, put a cover over his or her eyes, and put headphones on so that they could listen to music.

Music was played the entire time during the experience. Zeff believed this to be very important. This is one area in which I wish the conversation-text had delved more deeply. The music which was considered so important is barely discussed, other than to say that it was always on. It is mentioned that the music would be based upon the clients tastes; the impression I get is that classical or jazz were the main genres.

The conversational tone of the book provides wonderful insights into Leo Zeff as a person. He obviously had a good sense of humor and was living life to its fullest. His language is full of colloquialisms which enhance the readers’ ability to “see” him as he speaks.

In working with clients, the initial tripping experience was always with LSD; this was to establish the client’s base-level dose. Initial dose level would be 250 micrograms; if the client did not turn on with this amount, a booster of 125micrograms would be given after about an hour. Additional boosters might be given if the client did not appear to be affected by the medicine. Zeff makes the comment that some clients would claim that it wasn’t having an effect; he would tell them any additional amount wouldn’t benefit them, so they weren’t going to get any “and you know, when they find out they can’t have a booster, they lay down and the sons of bitches, they turn on! (Much laughter).”

Over the years medicines other than LSD were used, primarily psilocybin, MDA, harmaline, ibogaine, and MDMA (which, Zeff states, is a “beautiful trip”). The initial dosage and follow-ups would establish the baseline dosage levels for other medicines; Zeff states that three grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms was the equivalent to 250 micrograms of LSD).

The text of the book is informative and entertaining. Other sections provide the reader with excellent introductions to some of the main personalities in the psychedelic therapy and creation movement, but Appendix III is what I found to be of phenomenal value. It is the “Resources” area, and has an extensive list of books, internet sites and other areas of interest for the reader. Published by MAPS, 100% of the profits of this very reasonably priced book go toward psychedelic psychotherapy research.


  1. Great review. I had never heard of Zeff, although I am very interested in the use of psychedelics as a psychological medicine. Needless to say, I am going to buy this book now.

    Comment by Craig Collins — 3/12/2006 @ 6:39 pm

  2. Interesting. MDMA in particular can really have beneficial effects outside the direct experience, provided it is used in the right way. The fatigue and memory loss that some studies seem to indicate as negative after effects… you have to remember that people who take MDMA often go out all night and don’t sleep, sleep less or sleep at different times to normal, doing that alone on a semi-regular basis can bring about general fatigue and memory loss regardless of whether you are taking anything or not!

    Comment by Sharon — 2/6/2012 @ 6:31 am

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