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Exile & Ecstasy (An interview with author Madison Margolin)

Exile & Ecstasy: Growing Up with Ram Dass & Coming of Age in the Jewish Psychedelic Underground is a new book from author Madison Margolin exploring the psychedelic path that occupies the crossroads between the Ram Dass movement and Hasidism. It's a path of seeking and escape, rebellion and return, medicine and magic...

Through the perspective of having grown up among "HinJews" in the community surrounding Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now, and in the cannabis legalisation movement, journalist Madison Margolin takes the reader on a journey inside New York's Jewish counterculture and the Hasidic underground, reconciling her roots, tackling ancestral Jewish trauma, and finding intersectionality between the Jewish and psychedelic experience.

Exile & Ecstasy (Hay House Publishing, November 7, 2023)

Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert in 1931, was a towering figure in the spiritual landscape of the 20th century. He emerged as a prominent teacher and exponent of Eastern philosophy and mysticism in the West. His journey began in academia, where he earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University and taught at Harvard alongside his friend and prominent psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary. Together, they delved into research on psychedelics, exploring their potential for expanding consciousness. However, it was a transformative encounter with the revered Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharajji, during a trip to India in the late 1960s that changed the course of Alpert's life.

Renaming himself Ram Dass, meaning "servant of God," he returned to the United States profoundly changed, dedicating his life to spiritual practice, service, and teaching. His seminal book, "Be Here Now," published in 1971, became a spiritual classic, guiding countless seekers on the path of self-discovery and awakening. Ram Dass's teachings emphasised the importance of love, compassion, and mindfulness in navigating life's challenges and finding spiritual fulfilment. Throughout his life, he continued to inspire and guide seekers through his writings, lectures, retreats, and humanitarian work, leaving behind a rich legacy of wisdom and compassion upon his passing in 2019.

Madison Margolin is a journalist covering psychedelics and spirituality. She is the host of the Be Here Now Network's Set & Setting Podcast, as well as the co-founder of both DoubleBlind Magazine and the Jewish Psychedelic Summit. She has written for publications like Rolling Stone, Playboy, VICE, High Times, Lucid News, and Ayin Press, where she works as an editor curating psychedelic stories and interviews.

Read on below for our new interview with Madison Margolin...

Tell us about your new book 'Exile & Ecstasy'. What do you hope it will offer people? 

I hope it offers people a sense of their own roots, inspiring them to look to their own lineage for spiritual sustenance and guidance. The story is for anyone who is looking to kindle their souls, and to question what it means to live a "psychedelic life" in which the consciousness of the medicine, so to speak, is integrated into the mundane. It was very cathartic to write because it is a first person story, featuring a lot about my life that I needed to process personally. The story is for anyone who is interested in Ram Dass, psychedelics, religion, and/or Judaism. 

How did you come to co-found Double Blind?

I co-founded DoubleBlind in 2018 with a classmate from journalism school. When we co-founded it, I was excited to use psychedelics as a jumping off point to explore other topics like mental health, environmentalism, policy, science, spirituality, culture, and more. I was also excited about the prospect of combining high end design with deep reporting. 

What does Spirituality mean to you and how does it overlap with Psychedelics in your personal experience ? 

Spirituality is a connection with the divine. It's beyond time and space, in a different realm of reality that expanded consciousness opens us up to. Psychedelics to me are inherently spiritual because they expand our consciousness to these different realms. 

What would you say drives you the most? 

I am most driven by the exploration of spirituality, and how we can bring that spiritual sustenance down to everyday life, so that we infuse the mundane with a bit of magic. Exploring the concept of and connection to God excites me, as well as seeing how people harness that connection in a grounded, embodied practice. 

What are you most grateful for & what does a perfect day look like for you ? 

I am most grateful for my family and community of kindred spirits who I've had the opportunity to connect with around the world, but specifically in California, New York, and Israel|Palestine. A perfect (week)day to me looks like waking up early in the morning, meditating a bit, going to a coffee shop and writing, taking a break to go to yoga, then getting to spend time with family or friends. 


You can discover more of Madison Margolin's work by checking out her website and following her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Exile & Ecstasy: Growing Up with Ram Dass & Coming of Age in the Jewish Psychedelic Underground can be purchased via any of the links below (click to view):



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