William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 08:38
You believe Frank Zappa when he says he only tried LSD twice? *;-)
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 11 Jun 13 08:43
I sure do. In fact I'm surprised he took it the second time.
William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 09:19
Did you have personal contact with Zappa on which to base that view? My sense is that his "I don't take drugs myself" posture was more than a little bit disingenuous (albeit self-protective).
William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 09:30
More broadly, however, I must say I am finding this discussion very interesting. I knew Tim reasonably well, having first met him in the fall of 1961, when the Harvard Psychedelic Project was just getting under way, working out of his office at 5 Divinity Avenue. I had many very interesting visits at his (rented) house on Homer Street in Newton, MA and our paths crossed many times later on. Tim stayed with us here in Duxbury the night of his 64th (as I recall) birthday (I'd run into him at the Harvard Club in Boston and invited him to come down for the night rather than stay in his hotel), on which occasion he gave me a copy of Bill Burrough's "Western Lands" that Bill had given him not long before that (it has an inscription from Bill to Tim as "an old comrade in arms" and Tim's marginal notes when he read it). I also used to visit him fairly regularly in his house on Sunset (which really was not in Beverly Hills but just over the line back into LA). I've been thinking about him a good bit lately. My opinions of him have evolved quite a bit over time. On the notion, however, that Tim (et al) somehow 'ruined' psychedelic research, you are spot on. That is total rubbish. And, in any case, psychedelic research is actually doing very well these days, thank you, and is undergoing a quite remarkable renaissance. The boring old, person as merely a thing, behavioristic pseudo-psychology that Tim so abhorred seems finally to have (mostly) run its course. Developing neuro-science (etc.) is creating a new and more interesting period where study of consciousness is steadily coming back into fashion, even in the most hide-bound academic environments. The '60 were fun and very interesting, but the next decade or two have even greater potential. Luckily, we really still do live in interesting times! *;-)
William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 09:33
Correction, the street was not Sunset. But it was something like that and was not far north of Sunset Boulevard. Even then I kept mucking up the name of it. But it was just up the road from the Beverly Hills Hotel.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Tue 11 Jun 13 10:42
A biography of Zappa that I read said he tried acid twice. A woman I knew who may have been in the (ahem) position to know told me he did it more than that... I may believe the biographer a little bit more. More later...
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 11 Jun 13 11:20
"Did you have personal contact with Zappa on which to base that view?" Yeah. Two weeks on tour with him. If music hadn't called to him, he could have made it as a hedge fund manager.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 11 Jun 13 11:25
Zappa's disdain for drugs was well known, and he claimed he never dropped acid. I don't really get the comment that "...his 'I don't take drugs myself' posture was more than a little bit disingenuous (albeit self-protective)."
William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 13:54
What don't you get? I am simply saying I do not believe his claim. I think Zappa did his fair share of tripping but denied it publicly cuz he did not want to risk getting busted. That's all.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 11 Jun 13 15:08
If I may ask, what makes you think so?
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 11 Jun 13 15:30
I certainly didn't know Zappa, but everything credible I've read is in accord with <rik>'s experience. And yeah, Leary didn't ruin psychedelic research. He only ruined it for about 40 years.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 11 Jun 13 15:37
Not that I'm bitter or anything...
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 11 Jun 13 17:18
I think some people who tried LSD were terrified by the experience, intellectuals included. A lot of people who didn't try it were terrified as well.
William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 17:45
On average, people who did not try it were much more terrified than those who did! LOL!
William Zachmann (wfz) Tue 11 Jun 13 17:47
She who tastes, knows! *;-)
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Tue 11 Jun 13 22:10
As Tim said, "Psychedelic drugs cause panic and insanity in people who have never taken them." As I recall, McDee, your preference runs towards Vicodan and beer.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 12 Jun 13 09:15
I think the question is less whether psychedelic drugs (and maybe the context in which they're consumed) cause real problems, vs whether they're consistent with personal goals for consciousness development. I.e. I think there's always a question whether psychedelics escalate perception showing greater Truth, or fiddle with perception causing greater Delusion. I suspect they can do either depending on context and personal will (or lack thereof). Does this align in any way with Leary's thinking? Would he tell me (typing all caps, per my recollection of his online habit) that I'm spot on, or full of it?
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Wed 12 Jun 13 13:08
One little sidelight to this fascinating discussion: LSD was instrumental in the discovery of antidepressants. Back in the late 1940s, when Sandoz was distributing LSD to doctors, it included a package insert suggesting that they take it in order to understand their patients' psychoses. So word was out pretty quick about just what kind of drug LSD was. At around the same time this was happening, there was a resurgence of interest in serotonin, a chemical first identified in the cephalopod gut in 1930s. A young woman biologist, Betty Twarog, theorized that serotonin was a neurotransmitter and that it would be found in the human brain. this was a triple heresy: 1. for forty years or so, the orthodoxy held that there were only 2 neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and adrenaline; 2. the orthodoxy held that impulses in the brain were mediated not bt chemicals but by electricity, i.e., that sparks jumped across the synapse like they do across the electrodes of a spark plug; and 3. she was a woman. By 1853, through a series of ingenious exp0eriments Twarog proved it all (excep0t the third, which was self-evident, although furtehr proof ensued when her paper was held up so a man could claim to have amde this discovery first). IN the meantine, the LSd was working its way into the highest, so to speak, echelons of the biologists looking at the brain, including John Gaddum at University College in London. Gaddum took careful notes of his trips. He also noted taht serotonin and LSD were closely related chemically. He theorized that LSD was replacing serotonin at the synapse; it was close enough to have an affinity for the receptors, but not close enough to produce the same effect. He went on to explore the LSD/serotonin connection, using the drug in the old-fashioned way: to elucidate a biochemical process. Meantime, a group of scientists in th U.S. took it one step further. Serotonin was a neurotransmitter, they said, and LSD, which was related to serotonin, caused profound changes in consciousness, therefore a surplus or lack of serotonin was what caused mental illness. None of this turned out to be exactly true, but nonetheless thus was born the psychopharmacological era.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 12 Jun 13 22:04
Wow. That is interesting. Psychedelics continually pop up as a method of understanding the brain, in situations where getting high is beside the point. As to Jon's question... I note in the book that psychedelics seem to both enhance and exaggerate pattern recognition (pattern imagining?). I think Timothy saw the whole "I'm the reincarnated princess from Atlantis" type of tendency as a harmless frivolity that at least made some people's lives less boring. Hippies were somewhat silly, premature mutants, signs of the future, in Leary's 1970s version of things. As for the more harmful types of delusional reactions... he would probably pin most of that on a bad set and setting in society-at-large; secrecy... and sexual repression and paranoia related to secrecy, illegality and thus the lack of social institutions to follow up on tripper's insights and the places where they get into trouble; a lack of sophistication and bad education, (about psychedelics and generally) and the effects of cognitive dissonance (he was a Bob Wilson friend and fan)in a weird civilization that precedes and surrounds the tripper. He also said psychedelics weren't for everybody, which he could have certainly made a bit clearer during the '60s. Did he REALLY SPEAK IN ALL CAPS WHEN HE CAME ON THE WELL? Such an annoying thing, but I think a lot of newbies do it. I did it occasionally.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Thu 13 Jun 13 01:45
I SPOKE IN ALL CAPS EVEN BEFORE I CAME ON THE WELL.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Thu 13 Jun 13 06:50
Hey! I'm trying to get some sleep here, dammit.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 13 Jun 13 08:34
We'll be launching a new conversation later today. We don't have to stop this one, but since Ken's commitment was for two weeks, this is a good time to say thanks for the Leary book and the extended conversation here. We should have a broader discussion sometime about consciousness expansion via psychedelics, meditation, music, light, etc. What would the world be if we all made an exponential jump or two?
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Thu 13 Jun 13 10:06
I'll check in to see if people are still yakking. Meanwhile, a reminder that the book itself is at TimothyLeary.org and the electronic version is FREEEEEE!!! Here's a segment of text by Leary that I included in the book. Seems relevant, if not entirely 100& spot on, to the current historical moment... Excerpt from Secrecy, by Timothy Leary from Neuropolitics, 1977 (originally written in 1973) Secrecy is the original sin. The fig leaf in the Garden of Eden. The basic crime against love. The issue is fundamental. What a blessing that Watergate has been uncovered to teach us the primary lesson. The purpose of life is to receive, synthesize and transmit energy. Communication-fusion is the goal of life. Any star can tell you that. Communication is love. Secrecy, withholding the signal, hoarding, hiding, covering up the light is motivated by shame and fear, symptoms of the inability to love. Secrecy means that you think love is shameful and bad. Or that your nakedness is ugly. Or that you hide unloving, hostile feelings. Seeds of paranoia and distrust. Before the FBI there were no secret police. Before World War II there was no CIA and America was much less concerned with secrecy. The hidden sickness has become lethally epidemic in the last forty years. They say primly: if you have done nothing wrong, you have no fear of being bugged.Exactly. But the logic goes both ways. Then all FBI files and CIA dossiers and White House conversations should be open to all. Let everything hang open. Let government be totally visible. The last the very last people to hide their actions should be the police and the government. We operate on the assumption that everyone knows everything, anyway. There is nothing and no way to hide. This is the acid message. Were all on cosmic TV every moment. We all play starring roles in the galactic broadcast This is Your Life. I remember the early days of neurological uncovering, desperately wondering where I could go to escape. Run home, hide under the bed, in the closet, in the bathroom? No way. The relentless camera I follows me everywhere. We can only keep secrets from ourselves. None of the legal experts get the point of Watergate. The Special Prosecutor for the Watergate scandal chasing leaks from his own staff. We recall the political scandals involving secrets. The heroic figures around whom Washington now revolves: Dan Ellsberg and Tony Russo. Brave Russian dissenters uncovering the secrets that everyone knows about Soviet repression. Now comes the electronic revolution. Bugging equipment effective at long distance. I laugh at government surveillance. Let the poor, deprived,bored creatures listen to our conversations, tape our laughter, study our transmissions. Maybe it will all turn them on. Concealment is the seed-source of every human conflict. Lets forget artificial secrets and concentrate on the mysteries.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 13 Jun 13 10:57
Thanks! I love this: "I laugh at government surveillance. Let the poor, deprived,bored creatures listen to our conversations, tape our laughter, study our transmissions. Maybe it will all turn them on."
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 13 Jun 13 14:45
Thanks, interesting discussion on a valuable contribution to the literature.
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