This LSD Love Guru Gave Steve Jobs His “Reality Distortion Field”

This LSD Love Guru Gave Steve Jobs His “Reality Distortion Field”

Steve Jobs was a man who adopted many mentors in his life, but one of his mentors deserves more than a passing look: Robert Friedland, a charismatic, free love wacko who dealt LSD and had his own free love commune on the same apple orchard that inspired Steve for the name of his company. It was also where Steve allegedly got his “reality distortion field” from.

Steve Jobs met Friedland at Reed in 1972 after Friedland was kicked out of Bowdoin forhaving $125,000 worth of acid and then doing two years in a federal prison. Highly charismatic, he journeyed to Reed, ran for student body president, and handily won.

Steve met him after arranging to sell him his IBM Selectic typewriter. When Jobs came into the room, Friedland was having sex with his girlfriend, and insisted Jobs stay and watch, which Jobs did.

Friedland then formed a commune out on All One Farm, an apple orchard that was granted to him by an eccentric millionaire uncle. People did acid and talked a lot about Eastern spiritualism there, and the Hare Krishnas would cook them meals.

Steve eventually decided communal living was not for him after sleeping in the kitchen and watching people steal each other’s food in the night. Upon leaving the commune, though, Steve Jobs had the inspiration to name his company Apple.

Jobs eventually fell out with Friedland, disliking the cult leader’s demeanor. 

That said, early Apple engineer Daniel Kottke said that some of Jobs’ personality traits were inspired by Friedland, including the reality-distortion field, where truths are much more subjective.

Friendland was also “charismatic, a bit of a con man and could bend situations to his very strong will. He was mercurial, sure of himself, a little dictatorial. Steve admired that, and he became more like that after spending time with Robert.” Kottke thinks Friendland taught Steve a lot about how being the open, take-charge charismatic type is the way to influence people and get them to do what you want.

Later in life, Friedland became a billionaire mining magnate. Once, he was in trouble for environmental issues and called up Jobs to see if he could hold some sway with then president Bill Clinton.

Jobs refused. He said about his relationship with Friedland: “It was a strange thing to have one of the spiritual people in your young life turn out to be, symbolically and in reality, a gold miner.”

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  • 3jw

    “When Jobs came into the room, Friedland was having sex with his girlfriend, and insisted Jobs stay and watch, which Jobs did.”

    huu ?

  • Bigbinks

    Read your source material dude! Steve wanted to leave immediately but Friedland said hang on, I’ll be right with you, just let us finish. Steve didn’t ‘stay and watch’, that’s all in your own dirty little mind Johnny!

  • jethrObama

    This may be a big mistake… certainly unbelievable; either way it’s more than I wanted to know.

  • qoqo

    Hmm, isn’t it funny that after all these years, Cult of Mac releases this information.  I searched the article for any references to a biography or other source, and none is provided.  
    So, I guess Mr. Brownlee kept this info to himself over the decades and it’s just a coincidence that he released it on the same day that Issacson’s book became available.  Hey, it could happen!

  • qoqo

    Sorry for the typo: Issacson’s should be Isaacson’s…

  • ArrowSmith

    RDF is so much nonsense. Jobs created a new reality instead of embracing the existing one. That’s what great men do – they alter reality and bring the rest of us along kicking, screaming into it. We’re all like infants compared to him.

  • Len Williams

    I’m sorry, I do not like these tabloid snippets about Steve. They are unverifiable and even if true in part–I don’t need to know them. Why blacken Steve’s reputation with this kind of pointless information? We all have incidents in our past we may not be proud of, but it’s the overall life that makes the statement of how one has lived and what contributions he made. Steve’s contributions to millions around the world far outweigh any early life errors in judgement he may have made. 

  • prof_peabody

    If he stayed, he watched.  Unless we are supposed to believe he hid his eyes like a little kid?

  • Mizterfox

    I have trouble seeing what Steve did that was immoral in this article. He was just experiencing things. 

  • snookasnoo

    COM is really reaching into the garbage for articles these days.  Making statements based on what?  Page view whoring?  Pathetic.

  • LG DACOM

    What sources have you for this post?  Amateur.

  • Deleo

    How come is doing acid or living in a commune something to be ashamed of?

  • Chris

    LOL. This whole article is stolen from Walter Isaacson’s newly released (today) biography on Steve Jobs. I suppose it took all of 5 minutes to piece this article together from Mr. Issacson’s work?

  • JMattP

    “Robert Friedland, a charismatic, free love wacko”
    I hate your blog. None of you can write and you have no journalistic integrity whatsoever. I wouldn’t read it if it weren’t for the occasional post on free or discounted apps. 

  • Len Williams

    I was referring to the “walking in on sex” and the “character traits of a con man” comments in the article. The “reality distortion field” that has been bandied about for years about Steve is pure hokum. Steve didn’t distort reality, he created new products and technologies, and inspired people to adopt them. Whoever dreamed up the “distortion” characterization was not giving a compliment, and was attempting to label Steve’s work as trickery and deceit to create sales–which has never been the case that I’ve observed with Steve’s products. His frequent keynote and product launch presentations have been wonderful. He’s a showman who can keep a crowd interested and help them envision the use of his products. Each time I use a new Apple product, I’ve never felt that it’s been over-hyped by Steve’s presentations.

  • Evan Benford

    reality distortion field has been a label for steve’s personlaity for a long time. well understood and accepted. i really dont see what he did immoral

  • Nutz320

    The person who created the term was commenting on his charm and charisma, so I think that’s a compliment.

  • gregoryfegel

    I lived at All One Farm during the spring, summer, and fall of 1975. I knew Robert Friedland very well and I spent time with Steve Jobs during several visits that Steve made to Oregon. All One Farm was run like an ashram. Drugs and alcohol were forbidden there and I never saw them used. Celibacy was the rule except for married couples, who were allowed their own private quarters. Everyone was expected to do sitting meditation together for a minimum of two hours a day, and every evening everyone gathered in the meditation hall for bhajan — singing Hindu holy songs. All One Farm hosted a Buddhist Vipassana Retreat, and the Vipassana organization has very strict standards. No way would there be a Vipassana Retreat at a venue where sexual promiscuity or drug use took place. All One Farm was also a working farm, where we all worked a full shift each day.

  • gregoryfegel

    I have read the relevant passages from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Neither Walter Isaacson nor Steve Jobs describe any “free love” or promiscuity or drug use at All One Farm.

    Steve Jobs describes walking in on Robert Friedland having sex with Friedland’s girlfriend while Steve and Robert were attending Reed College. The girlfriend is anonymous.

    I lived at All One Farm during the spring, summer, and fall of 1975. I knew Robert Friedland very well and I spent time with Steve Jobs during several visits that Steve made to Oregon. All One Farm was run like an ashram. Drugs and alcohol were forbidden there and I never saw them used. Celibacy was the rule except for married couples, who were allowed their own private quarters. Everyone was expected to do sitting meditation together for a minimum of two hours a day, and every evening everyone gathered in the meditation hall for bhajan — singing Hindu holy songs. All One Farm was also a working farm, where we all worked a full shift each day. All One Farm hosted a Buddhist Vipassana Retreat, and the Vipassana organization has very strict standards. No way would a Vipassana Retreat be held at a venue where sexual promiscuity or drug use took place.
     
    At All One Farm, there was always plenty of food. Everyone was served three square meals each day, the meals were sumptuous, and the kitchen was not off limits to anyone who wanted a between-meal snack. The kitchen did not skimp on quality or quantity, and the meals compared favorably with the best vegetarian restaurants. The residents worked hard and they had hearty appetites. If some people went to the kitchen for a midnight snack, no one minded it. Steve Jobs was a fanatic for fasting and food discipline. Steve’s complaint about food pilfering at All One Farm is irrelevant. Makes me wonder if Steve monitored the eating habits of his own family the same way.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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