inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #51 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Fri 16 Apr 10 06:16
    
Steve, I have not explored the new psychedelics you mentioned --
journalistically or personally -- but I am heading down to the big
psychedelic conference in San Jose today, so I'll check back with you 
later. The last psychedelic I got seriously involved with was MDA and
MDMA back in the mid to late 1970s. I loved that drug. Oh, the love,
the empathy, the joy. I made a great circle of friends from those days.
Some of them remain my best and most beloved friends, and we haven't
down drugs for many years. I just visited one of them on her deathbed,
and we still feel the love. We used to have amazing MDA parties at
their little house on the beach at Stinson. Blessed memories. I stopped
taking recreational drugs some years ago (including alcohol) so all I
have are the memories, but what memories...
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #52 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 16 Apr 10 08:43
    
The owner of 710 Ashbury is a former student of Ram Dass?  That's far out,
as they used to say.  (The house is not quite on that corner, but a block
and a quarter up the hill.  Still a pilgrimage spot for shaggy kids from
all over.)

Don, one of the things I found fascinating about your book was how you
traced the paths of each of the principals after Harvard and related their
fates to their characters.  Leary ended up at the center of a whirlwind of
hype about his impending death;  Ram Dass, while being painfully
challenged by his stroke, still seems like a figure of compassion and
wisdom;  Weil became an alt-med millionaire, etc.  (Weil was working with
HotWired, where I was the senior editor, right at that moment that he
switched agents and "blew up," as they say in the recording industry.  It
was quite something to watch him go from being a semi-popular columnist on
our website to becoming the public face of alternative medicine and
healing in a relatively short time.  Another hugely successful HotWired 
alumnus from that era, for better and worse, was Matt Drudge.)

With that in mind, what do you think the original psychedelic promoters
that you wrote about should have or could have done differently?  Can you
imagine an alternate future in which Leary *didn't* give that Playboy
interview advertising LSD as a drug that can give women millions of
orgasms and cure Allen Ginsberg's homosexuality (which was, shall we say,
an exaggeration) and serious psychedelic research continued after that as 
a subset of research into promising therapeutic agents for alcoholism 
etc.?

Though I suppose Kesey would have exploded onto the scene in his own way 
after the CIA-funded Stanford experiments and aroused the ire of the 
constabulary... 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #53 of 225: Earl Crabb (esoft) Fri 16 Apr 10 09:49
    
(I'll get the book when I get a chance, but meanwhile, a question:
was the Weil "expose" the Feb 14, 1963, article in the Crimson, or
did this expose come after that?)
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #54 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 16 Apr 10 10:52
    
Don, I have a question via Twitter:

@CaitlinPodiak: I would love to know if Don Lattin has any
thoughts/comments/advice for psychonauts of the Millennial generation.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #55 of 225: We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Fri 16 Apr 10 13:04
    
Set and setting, as they used to say.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #56 of 225: Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 16 Apr 10 14:59
    
from offsite reader John Vore (who apologizes for his length of post)

As a student of Timothy Leary's, I have to take exception to the binary
treatment showing up in the talk of him and Richard Alpert. I think we
should at least take the two men at their words in The Psychedelic
Experience, and not be so caught up in our own egos when shelling out kudos
or bardos.

If Leary played out "the ego trip" in one way, and Alpert another--are they
not both equals in being teachers? One makes us aware of IT, the other
passes stealthily through IT. Not sure who is trickier, and I cannot wait to
read Don Lattin's book.

Though I'm an Asergian, on whom talk of egos might be a moot point, I don't
find any less ego in those who comment on ego from a so-called humble stand-
point: they're still focused on ego, and oftentimes, they do more harm
(Steve Silberman has pointed out the worst example of this, the Catholic
Church, so no more need be said on this point).

Thanks, also, for posting this dialogue for free, when Well.com requires a
subscription! Now if you'll allow me, may I cite a few examples of personal
exchanges with Dr. Leary? They show him to be quite different from what has
comes so far in this exchange.

Leary, when I hosted him at Notre Dame in 1985, was a spectacular guest for
three days who gave students and faculty a discussion of the history of
information, still relevant 25 years later; after a long lecture, he
answered every single students' questions, fending off quite a few
conservatives with grace and humor. He met with students on-campus and off,
and I had the pleasure of introducing him to Theodore Hesburgh, then
President of the University. Off-campus I could barely pull him out of
conversations with undergraduates at one bar--and in another, he happily
posed for photographs for a celebrating couple and their wedding party.

Seeing I was shy and didn't have many friends (my Asperger's diagnosis
occurred in 2006), during the reception after his main lecture at Notre
Dame, Dr. Leary climbed up on a table (!) and thanked me by name in front of
all the assembled students. He was trying to make me friends! Before he
left, Leary invited me and my girlfriend to visit him--and we did, in
Spring, 1986--at his Beverly Hills home. There he showed off "Mind Mirror"
on his own PC, pressing me until I was uncomfortable to critique it  ("Mind
Mirror" is still an inspiration to me in my quest to create life changing
psychology software).

I met Leary again in the 90s, when he was one of the first "mentors" to whom
I came out; "that's great," he said--an unusual source of positive support
in Indiana (it would be the last exchange we shared). I had caught up with
him after an Indianapolis tour date and drove him back to his motel, but
drove the wrong way; he ranted against the Hoosier war memorials to
unnecessary death, which we kept passing, but never minded my being lost,
late into a long day.

I never saw, face-to-face the "egotist" many like to write about: a saw a
(to play the game) humble, intelligent man who was concerned about how he
came across, cared about the interests of his audience--and the life of the
student host I once was. Indeed, the only heated exchange we ever had was
when I kept asking about editor David Solomon: "why do you keep asking about
the past," Leary reprimanded: "I care about the future!"

A man full of egotism would seek out ways to remind us of his contributions
in the past, now, wouldn't he? Leary's essay in Solomon's book, "How To
Change Behavior" became the basis for the analytic tools I would use in my
first book, when I thought about the Catholic Church, power and Notre Dame--
and how it could allow a sexually abusive priest (and my spiritual advisor)
to advance at the University during a 20-year career of abuse.

So, the egotist, in my life, was the Catholic Fr. Hesburgh had promoted time
and time again--not the one he had shadow-boxed in the 70s as Nixon's
"favorite college president," the former Harvard professor he welcomed to
Notre Dame, in 1985--and a man who became one of my heros, Dr. Timothy
Leary.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #57 of 225: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Fri 16 Apr 10 15:04
    
That sounds like a wonderful set of experiences.  Thanks for sharing
them John.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #58 of 225: bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 16 Apr 10 20:18
    
Tim Leary came to Wavy Gravy's Pignic concert in Laytonville during his last
year alive.  He was on top of the Furthur bus, wearing a purple robe.

The speakers were playing "they're coming to take me away, uh huh, they're
coming to take me away".  Kesey and the crew had a booth at the concert.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #59 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Sat 17 Apr 10 07:57
    
Lisa, thanks for presenting "the other side" of Timothy Leary. Many
people have/had a love/hate relationship with Tim. Was he a
self-promoting megalomanic and a brilliant prophet of the New Age?
Leary was asked late in this life about all that. "Who is the real
Timothy Leary?" he was asked. His reply: "You get the Timothy Leary you
deserve." 

Perfect reply from a "Trickster."
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #60 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Sat 17 Apr 10 08:08
    
Steve, you asked what the original psychedelic promoters should have
done differently. What would have happened if Leary and Alpert hadn't
taken it to the streets in such as crusading fashion? I spent the whole
day yesterday at a huge "Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century"
conference in San Jose, sponsored by MAPS, the Multidisciplinary
Association for Psychedelic Studies. The subtext to the whole recent
explosion in serious, hopeful, above-ground, government-approved and
socially beneficial research into these substances is (in a way) about
not making the same mistakes that Leary and Alpert made in the early
1960s. This line of research was shut down around the world in the late
1960s, and the backlash against "turn on, tune in, drop out" was one
of the major reasons for that. People at the conference talk about the
40-year "protracted lull" in this research. So I urge people to check
out the work of Rick Doblin and others in the next generation of
psychedelic research at maps.org.    
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #61 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 17 Apr 10 09:11
    
Looking back, what do you think the most lasting contributions to American
culture were of the '60s psychedelic movement?  I know you talk about this
in the book, but thought it might be interesting for readers here.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #62 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 17 Apr 10 09:11
    
Also, if you could have followed up anything in the book more deeply, what 
would it have been?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #63 of 225: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sat 17 Apr 10 21:45
    
Regarding early comments relating attitudes about the experiences not
being truly spiritual because they supposedly came out of a "drug"
(social attitudes, not those of the people posting:-)), i haven't seen
anyone raise the point that spiritual practices of indigenous peoples
all over the world (e.g., ayahuasca in the Amazon, peyote amongst the
Huichols,ibogaine in Africa, often involve such substances, a subject
addressed by quite a few books, including Plants of the Gods by Richard
Evans Schultes and Albert Hoffman (yea, *that* Albert Hoffman:-)) and
The Long Trip by Paul Deveraux. Comments? 
Don, i remember reading you back from Daily Cal days:-) Hi.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #64 of 225: David Wilson (dlwilson) Sat 17 Apr 10 22:05
    
When I studied anthropology at the University of Michigan I knew
Napoleon Chagnon who did fieldwork with the Yanamamo Indians in the
Venezulan Amazon.  Their religion was based around shooting
hallucinagens up their noses.  It was hard to tell from him because he
was such a macho who embroidered his tales.  It was also "Forget it
Jake, it's the 60's."

But the ethnobotonists knew all about the sources of getting high.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #65 of 225: Gas station attendent on the Nile (jonsson) Sun 18 Apr 10 01:18
    

In the anthropology realm Jeremy Narby has written some interesting
books on the subject. His book with Frances Huxley also touches on the
subject. Shamans Through Time: 500 Years on the Path to Knowledge. 

I always think for some reason of Antonin Artaud when looking at the
history of all this, and also an example of what can work in one
culture or setting not really working in another. Particularly a
civilization that seems eager to comidify even a state of mind.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #66 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sun 18 Apr 10 07:37
    
Yes, one thing the book reminded me of is that the history of
psychedelics in the right countries of the West is merely one peculiar
episode in a history of psychedelic use dating back thousands of years.

Or perhaps since little or nothing was written down, a pre-history.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #67 of 225: We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Sun 18 Apr 10 09:18
    
"Food of the Gods" by Terence McKenna has an interesting take on some of 
this stuff.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #68 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sun 18 Apr 10 09:20
    
Rich countries of the West, I meant to say.  Although we certainly
have gone a long way to the right.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #69 of 225: Ed Ward (captward) Sun 18 Apr 10 09:48
    
I really enjoyed the book, and learned a lot from it. For instance, it
had never occurred to me that Ralph Metzner, whom I met at an epic
'60s party dressed in a suit and tie and grousing that "people are
taking LSD to have fun, and that's *not what it's for*" was actually
young enough to be an undergraduate during the early days of acid at
Harvard. 

That party was at the home of my then-girlfriend's best friend, whose
mother was working on alcoholic recovery via psylocibin at the New
Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute with Humphrey Osmond, who was taking
calligraphy lessons from my girlfriend's father. I was scared to talk
to him about acid, although I was fascinated by him, but of course the
dinnertable conversation didn't touch on it too often. 

I've often felt he was an underrated figure in the whole story, and
then I pick up this book and find Huston Smith, whom I'd never even
heard referred to even obliquely, and who turns out to be a fascinating
and important figure. In fact, it occurred to me as I read that one
reason you may have written the book was to bring him into a narrative
that was in danger of calcifying around Leary and Alpert.

Are there other figures from this early era of psychedelic
experimentation who might not have fit into the story in this book, but
whose stories might be worthy of further exploration?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #70 of 225: okay it's (kayo) Sun 18 Apr 10 09:51
    
Jeez, I'm having flashbacks. Er, remembering stuff I had completely 
forgotten about. Never mind. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #71 of 225: We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Sun 18 Apr 10 10:30
    
I want my money back......I've never had a flashback.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #72 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Sun 18 Apr 10 10:38
    
Ya'll are making some great observations and asking great questions.
Flashbacks indeed. Even someone who remembers me from the Daily Cal
back in the 70s, when I really was having flashbacks! I'm a bit
overwhelmed. I'll try to get to some of the other questions next week
as this is a crazy weekend, in part because I'm spending so much time
at the "Psychedelic Sciences in the 21th Century" conference in San
Jose. I was on a wonderful panel last night with Ralph Metzner, John
Perry Barlow and Ram Dass (via video feed from Maui) More on that
later. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #73 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Sun 18 Apr 10 10:47
    
Steve, you asked about the lasting contributions to the culture from
the psychedelic movement. The two areas I focus on in the book (mainly
because of the four lives I choose to follow in the narrative) are the
ways that LSD and other drugs changed the way we practice religion and
medicine, the very way we look at body and soul (not to mention the
entire nature of reality.) Huston Smith and Ram Dass (following the
lead of Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard) took their insights and helped
us understand the common mystical core in all major world religions. I
spent more than 20 years covering the religion beat at the SF Examiner
and Chronicle and noted that every year more and more people would call
themselves "spiritual but no religious." Lots of reasons for that but
the intense spiritual experiences that an estimated 20 million people
had on psychedelics have a lot to do with that. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #74 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sun 18 Apr 10 10:50
    
Don, I know you've got a crazy weekend going, but when you get back,
do you think that people under 40 still regard psychedelics as gateways
to spiritual experience, or are they just another "party drug?"
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #75 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Sun 18 Apr 10 10:56
    
The other area we see the impact is in the ever-expanding interest in
holistic health and well-being. Indicators there include doctors
prescribing meditation, organic produce in Safeway, and yoga studios
popping up everywhere. Again, lots of reasons for this, not the least
of them Andy Weil, who is the villain in the early chapters of my book,
but who (in my mind, at least) himself in the end. Weil, who graduated
from Harvard Medical School after becoming the whistle-blower who got
Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) fired from the Harvard faculty, says his
psychedelic experiences changed the way he sees the whole connection
between mind, body and spirit. Weil spoke at the SJ conference on
Friday and told a funny story about how one LSD trip at age 28 cured
his lifelong allergies to cats.
  

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