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Selections from the Stolaroff Collection
Leo Zeff Remembered by Terence McKenna
Audio Excerpt from Zeff's Memorial -- April 17, 1988
by Erowid
Mar 2014 v1.1 (v1.0 May 2012)
Citation:   Erowid. "Leo Zeff Remembered by Terence McKenna." May 2012. Online edition:
"I felt when I stood near Leo, that I stood near a giant. And what the experience of standing near a giant was, was the experience of the wisest, kindest, gentlest, funniest man that I have ever had the privilege to know."

-- Terence McKenna, April 17, 1988

During the process of digitizing audio tapes from the Stolaroff Collection, we discovered a recording of the memorial held on April 17, 1988 for Leo Zeff. Finding this tape seemed particularly poignant, since Myron Stolaroff wrote a book about Zeff's work based on transcripts of conversations between the two: The Secret Chief: Conversations with a Pioneer of the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement. In the 1997 first edition of that book, Zeff's identity truly was secret; it remained hidden behind the pseudonym "Jacob" in order to protect those who may have been connected in some manner to the work that he had done. However, when the revised second printing of the book was produced in 2004, enough time had passed for Zeff's family to feel comfortable with allowing his name to be revealed, and he received the public recognition that he so richly deserves.

It was Terence McKenna who first honored Zeff by calling him "the Secret Chief". Stolaroff asked McKenna if he could use his pseudonym as the title of his book on Zeff, and McKenna was happy to see the meme spread in this way. Zeff passed away on April 13, 1988. The audio file from the Stolaroff Collection hosted here is excerpted from remembrances from his memorial; it features McKenna commenting about how impressed he was upon first meeting Zeff, and why he gave him the name "the Secret Chief".

[ LISTEN to MP3 - 12MB ]

Transcript of Euology by Terence Mckenna #
Thanks to Erowid volunteer Leonardo B for transcribing the audio!

I am Terence McKenna. I knew Leo for the last five years of his life. I feel deeply honored to be asked to speak at this occasion. There are many people here, I'm sure, who knew Leo longer and on more intimate terms than I myself did. I felt when I stood near Leo that I stood near a giant. And what the experience of standing near a giant was, was the experience of the wisest, kindest, gentlest, funniest man that I have ever had the privilege to know.

When I first met Leo I was so impressed by his vitality. After the public meeting at which we met I cornered him in private and I said: "Leo, I want to ride in your canoe. I don't care where you're going, I just want to be in your canoe." And he said: "You're always welcome in my canoe." And I felt that his saying that to me inducted me into a group of people that I think of as Leo's tribe, Leo's people.

And for Leo's tribe Leo was our chief. He was the secret chief. He had no theory to push, he had no ax to grind. In his chosen field which was psychology and the healing of the soul he understood better than anyone I've ever met that it's a matter of letting the psyche grow and flower according to its own rules. You stand present, you stand ready, and then you do as little as possible. And everyone who has ever had Leo sit for them knows that that was exactly how he worked.

One of the goals of Leo's life was the search for the perfect high. [laughter] And he inspired many of us to follow in his footsteps. [laughter] I trust that he has found that perfect high. [laughter]

There was a passage in Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet' that was very important to Leo. He read it to me twice in the space of six months, making sure that I understood every word of it. And I'll read it to you now:
"Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything. Everything is gestation and then bringing forth, to let each impression and each germ of the feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birthhour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist's life: in understanding as in creating. There is here no measuring with time, no year matters and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain, to which I am grateful. Patience is everything!"
Sometimes when Leo would sit with people they would come out of their reveries and want to talk with him about what they were learning and seeing. And Leo would listen for a few minutes. But he then would always say: "That's fine, that's good, now return to the music." And I think that, I like to think that Leo has now returned to the music. And some day so shall we. And to whatever degree we follow his example life here and the passage to whatever lies beyond will be made much easier.

Leo showed the way, because Leo knew the way. And I salute him for that, I say for all of us who were his tribe: Goodbye to the secret chief, goodbye to the man who saw most deeply. It's now for us to do as he would have had us do.

Revision History #
  • v1.1 - Mar 2014 - Erowid - Added transcript
  • v1.0 - May 2012 - Erowid - Published on