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Moving Into the Light
An Obituary for Elizabeth Gips
by Jon Hanna
Summer, 2001
from the Summer Solstice 2001 issue of The Entheogen Review
My introduction to Elizabeth Gips came when I read her book The Scrapbook of a Haight Ashbury Pilgrim: Spirit, Sacraments and Sex in 1967/68. What the book did best was to present honest snapshots of what it was like to be a participant in the spiritual questioning that blossomed in the '60s. While reading this book, I was surprised to find myself infected by the enthusiasm of the time. Gips was always a warrior, fighting the good fight with love as her weapon of choice. After reading her book, I began a correspondence with Elizabeth via snail mail, but it rapidly moved into cyberspace, with e-mails flipped back and forth. A few times she invited me and my family to Santa Cruz for a visit and interview (she was constantly interviewing people "in the scene" for her radio show Changes, which had been on the air since 1975). But it wasn't until 1997 that we actually met in the flesh, at the Mind States conference.

I had asked her to provide the commencement address, which she was happy to do. I should mention that anyone who knew Elizabeth, knew that she had a mind of her own and she wasn't afraid to express it. She hopped on stage and began the benediction by saying, "I need to start with a bit of a downer, because this particular forum of having a pyramid with somebody up on a stage telling all you bodhisatvas 'where it's at,' seems really anachronistic to me." Only Elizabeth would lambast the very forum that she was participating in, and I had to wonder if this wasn't part of the reason that she accepted the invitation.

Elizabeth contacted me when she was busted for growing pot, asking if I knew of a good defense attorney. (This was the first that I learned of Cannabis being a good treatment for irritable bowel syndrome!) Clearly, she said, her use was medicinal (even before the proliferation of medical marijuana initiatives). Of course the charges got dropped; as with Brownie Mary Rathburn, who wants to bust a little old lady? Nevertheless, gardening was a love of Elizabeth's, and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that she planted a few more seeds after the situation had blown over.

Elizabeth was someone who cared deeply about the happiness of others. And even when she was sick on and off for the last years of her life, she still radiated happiness herself. I recall one time when she sincerely queried an e-mailing list, asking about what plants might be useful for someone who wanted to end her life. There was no sense of self-pity in the request for information, but rather a clear note of self-knowledge. Before she was too sick to be able to participate, she held a party celebrating her "life and death." And even from beyond the grave, I got a letter and an e-mail from her, saying good-bye.

It was an odd synchronicity that I heard of Elizabeth passing away on the last day of the second Mind States conference that I produced in Berkeley. Our common interest in altered mind states allowed us to say hello at this event, and it was also where mentally I sent off my farewell wishes.

With her strong love of life and her activist bent, Elizabeth was a living example of the Margaret Meed quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." And, as Elizabeth herself said, "Be happy. It's in our happiness and our growth that we create change."

Elizabeth, I am happy that I had the chance to know you. -- Jon Hanna

Copyright © 2001 Entheogen Review