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The Birth of 'New Age' America

Timothy Leary addresses the crowd at the "Human Be-In," which he helped organize, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on Jan. 14, 1967. Leary told the crowd to "Turn on, Tune in and Drop out." (AP)

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Half a century ago this year — fall 1960 — psychologist Timothy Leary ate psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico and had what he would call “the deepest religious experience” of his life.

He came home to promote psychedelics as the path to revelation, revolution. Richard Nixon called him the most dangerous man in America. Much of the 1960s danced to his tune.

My guest today tells the remarkable story of how a tiny band of seekers and psychic explorers ended up changing the culture of a nation, and its very understanding of mind, body and spirit.

This hour, On Point: The psychedelic roots of New Age America.

Guest:

Don Lattin covered religion for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades and is author of “Following Our Bliss: How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today.” His new book is “The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America.”

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  • Ellen Dibble

    (I posted this in the black-tar heroin thread just before the comments here opened, since there is a connection, it seems.)
    In the era of the Vietnam war, in certain college campuses, if you wanted to socialize, what you did was “hang out,” which did not mean meaningful discussions, flirting, otherwise sizing people up. It meant doing drugs. One was informed that one was hopelessly stuck in the mud, with a closed mind, without vision, if one did not uses “substances.”
    My own view at the time was that I had plenty of highs and lows, fireworks, without “substances,” and I thought that for me “substances” would be suicidal. I wasn’t tough enough. Some folks could use or not use, it seemed, but my body/mind were not together enough for even experimentation. “Are you trying to kill me??” No, just that that’s their “group.” Other groups have other flaws, but the “user” groups were, so they thought, vastly more broad-minded, vastly more enlightened. They were the Himalayas of conceptualists; I was the worm.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Not only “hanging out” as the way to be socially “cool,” but “chill” and “chilling” seemed to start post Leary. And when the baby boomers regarded their elders as “uptight,” there was something we took off from in terms of shedding the Given Wisdom. Church as the place to conform, to honor the brainwashing you had impressed upon your consciousness, was giving way to — something new.

  • Courtney

    Leary and his ilk added more fuel to the fire of confusion about mysticism (begun by William James and others), mistaking mysticism for a subjective, individualized state rather than the product of disciplined practices and ways of life connected to community.
    So yay! Thanks to Timothy Leary for his own personal contribution of narcissistic self-worship to American culture.

  • Gerald Fnord

    Dr Leary seems to have the soul of an huckster, but he always seemed to have conned himself first, making him something of an innocent (or as much an innocent as a serial user of people and an informant with no compassion for the casualties of acid—’That’s Darwin for you, baby,’—could be).

    He also set the field of psychedelic research back decades by getting it criminalised—that’s Social Darwin for you, baby—which I think he couldn’t see because his fatal flaw, as Dr Thompson wrote, was the delusion that someone was out there tencing the light at the end of the tunnel.

    On the other hand, he went to prison and was persecuted for things that were none of the State’s damned business.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Courtney, mysticism? A social component to elevated states of consciousness? I think in some cultures substances are used to enhance community. I’m thinking of swirling dervishes. Sans drugs, spin till you are in a trance.
    If you weren’t there in the 1950s, you can’t know what a straitjacket awareness did have. Perhaps we owe Leary for a lot of the tolerance we began to fight for… No More UnAmerican fulminating. Well, not in Harvard.
    The upheavals in the fields of psychology and religion were seismic. I was in the mist of this, you might say, in the midst, where the experts were all vested in old ways of teaching/being. One course in mysticism edged toward the water, but…

  • Dayle Ann Stratton

    I don’t buy it. I grew up in the 50s, and came of age in the 60s. Leary and his “club” may indeed have had hand in shaping the 60s, but the fifties had already begun changing under the influence of many explorations of spirituality. Leary was a bit player, an evangelist whose stage crumbled while he was still on it. Leary confused the effects of drugs with true insight, a shortcut to enlightenment without the work. His legacy is actually the extreme turn to right-wing closed fundamentalism that grew out of the excesses of the culture he helped spawn.

    This was brought home to me as a grad student in the late 80s when Leary came to our campus to promote something, perhaps a book. On my very liberal, left-leaning campus of about 4000 students, he drew about 50 people. His spiel was nearly incoherent, and his answers to our questions disjointed. Most of the audience left before the presentation was over, either disillusioned or disgusted.

    The young people at my college were, in the meantime, carrying on with the mindful approach to spirituality that had its roots earlier in the 20th century, decades before Leary. They, and others like them, and the teachers of earlier spiritual traditions adapted to American culture, are the ones who are the real changers of American spiritual life and the understanding of how the mind and brain works.

  • Richard Posner

    Tom: The proper pronunciation of ‘New Age’ rhymes with ‘sewage’, to give the listener fair warning.

    Further evidence that the Romantic movement was a BIG mistake…Go Team Enlightenment!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I agree that incoherence is not enlightenment, Dayle Ann. I got to where I stereotyped men with long hair with people who forswore true reason.
    But those long-haired had a huge agenda, much as some have today. They thought the military-industrial complex was driving us to a war that would gobble them up, and they thought a way to persuasion was (somehow) psychedelics. Rebel against the government, the parental generation who fought World War II, and let go, Come Togther, “Let it Be,” all sorts of psychological advice about surviving a cultural cusp where we twisted, I think, forward.
    Some became neurological victims of the drugs along the way.

  • Jim Esslinger

    You touched briefly on LSD and Hollywood… Do you remember the 1957,58 (?) film “The Tingler”, starring Vincent Price, who plays a physician studying fear. He injects himslef with a substance called “the acid”, which produces lots of terrifying hallucinations. I’ve always believed the substance was LSD.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Is fundamentalism, the Republican extreme right, somehow a reaction to the “psychedelic counterculture” (as is being phrased now on air)?
    Didn’t it pre-exist the 1960s? Isn’t religious fundamentalism part of our heritage back to — each century has its re-flowering, back to the Puritans, even.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Leary lived a life of waste and died a mere footnote in history. I lived through this era. I argued and debated all the issues being discussed by your author and guest. There may be some value in remembering Leary as a historical figure, but let’s not canonize the man, please.

    The wastelands of life that Leary propounded has opened our eyes to the malleability of the brain and susceptibility of the human psyche to the millions charlatans who circulate and live among us.

    I’ve read Rahm Dass, as well. His work often circulates among members of A.A., a fact that your guest may not be aware of (though he hints).

    Any recovering alcoholic who takes Rahm Dass’ work to heart is making a big mistake.

  • Todd

    “Do you remember the 1957,58 (?) film “The Tingler”, starring Vincent Price, who plays a physician studying fear. He injects himslef with a substance called “the acid”, which produces lots of terrifying hallucinations. I’ve always believed the substance was LSD.”
    Posted by Jim Esslinger

    @ Jim Esslinger:
    Yes, I remember that one! Very eerie movie indeed—gave me the creeps when I saw it as a kid. Thanks for the flash-back! ;)

  • Ellen Dibble

    I believe Sigmund Freud approached mental illness by studying the nose. He thought there was something physiological about the nose that related to mental illness. He wanted a medical/physiological understanding of the psyche. I believe that is so.
    But pretty quickly, like Timothy Leary, he got sidelined into a study of the way the mind perceives and processes things.

  • Paul Angiolillo

    In my opinion, the “psychedelic” movement had a sea-change in 1970, when Harvard professor Richard Alpert, reborn as Ram Dass, returned from India, where he had been living and meditating with a spiritual teacher. Sitting in Battell Chapel at Yale U., Ram Dass, just back from India, and radiating silence, took a long breath and began that culture-shifting (at least for us drug-taking Yalies) talk with the declaration: “We all know how to get high….The goal is to BE high.”

  • jim

    No matter what one will or can say about Timothy Leary and his crowd of Harvard hipsters hanging out in wonderful Massachusetts, for the past thirty five plus years I’ve found magic mushrooms to be well…just marvelous!!!!!

  • Ryan M

    What I find interesting about this movement is how it seems to have planted the seeds of Eastern thought, etc, as alternatives to Judeo-Christian belief structures. A generation of people have now been raised by those influenced by / involved with experimentation in the ’60s – and we’re now in the process of developing Westernized versions of what are traditionally viewed as Eastern religious and philosophical systems – such as the growing Insight Meditation Society (founded by Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, and Joseph Goldstein, – rooted in Theravada Buddhism) and Shambhala (founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and based on Tibetan Buddhism).

    It seems to me that it’s actually too soon to see the full effect of experimentation in the 60s, as changes are still taking place in society based on discoveries from this time.

  • Joel

    I actually remember hearing a lecture by Baba Ram Dass at WPI in the 1970s – not exactly the type of school that you’d expect to hear him at. I had read “Be Here Now” and thought that his lecture brought it all together. I think I still have an audio tape of that lecture if Don is interested.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The word “transcendentalism” might characterize the psychedelic movement. The objective was to get beyond a lot of useless ways of perceiving and being. Andrew Wyle (sp?) and integrative medicine, to the extent they use medication and yoga and so on, pay tribute to transcendence — my word now. Personally, I think dreaming is the template for transcendence, and that humor can be made to do the same thing. We can help each other transcend by reminding people the limits of rationality, pulling their rip cord, funny bone, whenever possible.

  • Dayle Ann Stratton

    Meditation for patients did not come out of the psychedelic movement (what an amazing leap!), but directly out of mindfullness practices of various schools of Buddhism taken into daily life by practitioners.

  • jim

    The most enlightening experiences in my life were at concerts while taking magic mushrooms. First 1967 Springfield, Massachusetts seeing up close the fabulous Judy Garland- a magical time with a true goddess- and ten years later in Boston, Massachusetts seeing Frank Zappa. Over the rainbow with suzie creamcheese!!!!!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I heard that people with post traumatic stress syndrome don’t dream. Someone will say, what? They have nightmares. Well, anyway, I heard that. When I hear the caller talk about the merging of psychotherapy and psychedelics, I think of this. If your dreams are not doing it, help the brain out.

  • A East

    The first four or five books in Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan series of books are full of instances of Carlos taking “Power Plants”, i.e. psychoactive plant substances. In the later books Don Juan says that those experiences weren’t important in themselves, he gave the plants to Carlos only to shake him out of his everyday consciousness. Maybe this is the most valuable result of using psychoactive substances.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Sure, they went on to find “kinder, gentler” ways of accessing the same experiences they received through psychedelics, and guess what? … they try spirituality and can’t find it. And what does that mean? … it means fall back into mysticism, disillusionment, the writings of Deepak Chopra, Rahm Dass and the eventual relapse back into drugs and destruction.

  • Tammy

    I met Ram Das on several occasions and to be in his presence, you can feel the vibration of peace and love. I got a hug from him and it took me hours to recover. Although I am not a supporter of drug use, it’s obvious that it created the body/mind/spirit wake up call we needed.

  • Ronald Rossetti

    I was a Psych student in the 60′s and I went on to become a medical research scientist. I have worked with the chemicals in marijuana and have published many papers in medical research journals on a variety of subjects. I have been a faculty member at a major medical school in Massachusetts for many years, but today I am out of the lab and teaching at several area colleges. One of the courses I teach is Pharmacology and one of my interests in Psychotropic therapy in children. As you can imagine, I am very interested in this book and can’t wait to read it. Leary and Weil are discussed often in my classes (I have met them both at different times in my life). What they didn’t know in the 60′s is the impact psychoactive drugs have on the development of the brain-something I lectured about this morning, as matter of fact. I think the therapeutic use of these drugs (in children especially) is dangerous.

  • Mike Maginn

    What was carlos castenadas role in all this?

  • John

    I experimented for a few years while friends did much more. I was science oriented in my studies and examined every psychedelic experience as amazing explorations of the how the brain or mind works, consciousness, and awareness. I did learn certain things, but after a while I realized that these were not true spiritual experiences and if done too often would basically “burn up” one’s potential for true spiritual experience … something most people do not really seek and find. I stopped all use and subsequently had a number of profound spiritual experiences with associated explanations and understandings over the last two decades, all through the grace of a humble Sufi teacher from Sri Lanka. So these drugs may introduce or wake up those who had no clue, but they are far from a wise approach to spirituality. Thanks and great show!

  • Anne Konetzny

    Great program today! Can’t wait to read the book.

  • Todd

    Leary = Snake-oil salesman.

  • A. East

    Ram Das gave LSD to his Guru in India. Before he could tear off a small piece of the paper impregnated with acid, his Guru grabbed the whole sheet and ate it all, a huge dose. The Guru disappeared under his robes. Ram Das worried that he had ruined his Guru with this unintentional massive dose of LSD. Later the Guru emerged with a horrible expression on his face! Then he laughed and said that the yogis has known about these psychoactive substances for thousands of years, and they didn’t affect accomplished yogis.

  • A East

    The first four or five books in Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan series of books are full of instances of Carlos taking “Power Plants”, i.e. psychoactive plant substances. In the later books Don Juan says that those experiences weren’t important in themselves, he gave the plants to Carlos only to shake him out of his everyday consciousness. Maybe this is the most valuable result of using psychoactive substances.

    Ram Das gave LSD to his Guru in India. Before he could tear off a small piece of the paper impregnated with acid, his Guru grabbed the whole sheet and ate it all, a huge dose. The Guru disappeared under his robes. Ram Das worried that he had ruined his Guru with this unintentional massive dose of LSD. Later the Guru emerged with a horrible expression on his face! Then he laughed and said that the yogis has known about these psychoactive substances for thousands of years, and they didn’t affect accomplished yogis.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    The most enlightening experiences in my life were at concerts while taking magic mushrooms.

    Posted by jim

    Enlightening? Do you know the meaning of the word “catachresis?” It’s “wrong word use.” I’ve got the one you should have used, and I just made it up myself. Call it “de-lightening.

    Pity the human and his large brain. Evolution has plans for him … not the ones he might hope for.

  • Gemli

    Pour a Pepsi into the back your your big flat screen TV and you’ll likely see lots of swirly, mysterious colors. The results will not likely be related to mystical visions but rather to shorted-out wiring.

    To make heroes out of this motley bunch of burn-outs is just wrong. I have more respect for the black tar heroin users discussed in a previous program. At least that program focused on the desperation and sadness that drug use reflects. To think that shorting out your brain does anything to advance spiritual knowledge is new-age claptrap of the worst kind.

    And the tone of this program is just weird. Is this supposed to be a “fair and balanced” view of the benefits of hallucinating in broad daylight?

    Saying that these whack-o’s “ushered in” the 60′s is just ludicrous. Who follows an hallucinating usher?

  • Dayle Ann Stratton

    Astonishing to me: Carlos Castenada was a fake and his books were fiction. He admitted this. And yet people still think he actually experienced the things he wrote about. It’s sad, because people get so caught up in the “flash” of what they think is insight and often never come to the realization that it is there all along, readily available without drugs. The man on the air who spoke of an experience of finally letting go of his grief while on drugs: It was clearly a moving experience to him. The thing is that that potential was in him already, but our culture does not teach us the means to allow that to happen, and to allow ourselves to experience potential for insight already within us. We are instead taught to lock it in, not to look too closely. No wonder people thought drugs were a secret key. They’re not, but without anything to compare it to (like the yogi someone mentioned), how would these people know?

  • Dianne Jordan

    Today’s show was incredible, as usual. Just thought you’d like to know that old white women (73) :) love this stuff. I have vivid memories of the era, and they weren’t exaggerating. Ashbrook is my favorite on air talent, bar none. Smart,great interview skills, and obviously a very kind person. Keep up the good work, all of you NPR folks.

  • Brett

    I would say that there are no shortcuts to enlightenment (and, there never has been and never will be a true messiah–more on that later).

    I grew up in the changing times of the ’60′s. I read all of the books on psychedelia and experimentation, as well as many of the books on mysticism, before I had even dwelled much in post-pubescence, or at least even before I got my driver’s license.

    I was NOT an early experimenter of various drugs, unlike most of my friends. It wasn’t out of fear or even out of rejecting what my peers considered social norms; I just simply recognized that all drugs are powerful and should be respected. I felt, especially in the case of LSD, that this was a very powerful substance, and IF it was to be experimented with, then only under very carefully planned conditions and only if and when one were to know one’s self so well as to recognize what would be happening to the self under an influence of such a substance.

    I was bewildered by some of the wanton disregard for LSD’s possible dangers, as well as its potential uses, by many of my peers. It didn’t seem to be a “party” drug to me, nor did it seem any more responsible to take LSD in a social situation than, say, drinking and driving.

    All of that said, I decided to conduct my own experiments using LSD when I was 18 and living in a commune. I very carefully planned–as much as any plans could have been made–my first “trip.” I felt I had my research under belt, so to speak.

    I decided to conduct the experiment alone, so as not to be influenced in any way by others (in terms of if I wanted to opt out of any social grace, if I simply wished to engage in an activity without hurting another’s feelings by leaving him/her abruptly and rudely to study some object or be alone or something while I was feeling the effects of the drug; I also didn’t want to observe and experience my “trip” based on another’s perception of what I was supposed to be feeling, as I had witnessed in situations where others had taken LSD in social situations).

    We had an extensive library of books and music at our commune, and I spent time before the experiment compiling books I thought might be interesting, as well music I might want to hear. I also prepared foods I might want to consume, as well as had on hand a Valium and some alcohol in case my experiment went awry. I also decided to record, as much as possible, my thoughts as I went through the “trip.” I also had procured some very potent LSD from a very reliable source out of California, and the tabs were direct descendants, as it were, of the first generation of psychedelics that came from California. The tabs I had on hand were in 250 mcg. doses.

    I suppose one could say I performed my own acid tests…

    (So ends part one of “my own private acid tests” …look for part two in an upcoming blog comment nearest you!)

  • mike

    I find it hard to believe your author when he says a spiritual enlightenment and LSD are the same as the one you would find in AA. I did a lot of LSD in the 70s and I have been clean and sober for 23 years and I got news for him. My spiritual awakening was nothing like an acid trip. I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking about.

  • Brett

    Part Two: “my own private acid tests”

    I had read that one could readily feel the effects of LSD at between a 250 and 500 mcg. dose, so I decided to take two tabs (500 mcgs.)

    I felt the first wave of effects in about 45mins., which made colors much more intensified and gave everything sort of an iridescent shimmer; in fact I found spectrums of color within each color value. The sun was setting, and the sunset was, I felt, the most glorious sunset I had ever experienced. I took a photo so I could later have some record of what the camera saw in the sunset (I had a Rollieflex SLR camera with a Zeiss lens, slow film and a light meter, so I was pretty assured I could capture the sunset fairly accurately). I had Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the stereo, and it too sounded as if it had never sounded before; I actually had a feeling that I was hearing it for the first time and was able to fully examine not only its sound in terms of piano tone, its auditory depth, its dramatic sonic and percussive dynamic, but also its emotional correlation to what was a fast-rising fulsome moon appearing in the waning twilight sky.

    Emotionally, after about an hour or so, I was completely giddy and in a state of utter euphoria. The visual sensations and the euphoria lasted for some time (I would say the first two-three hours). During this time I remember listening to all kinds of music, performing a series of mimes (Red Skeleton and Marcel Marceau had always captured my imagination) in reflection of my hallway window, the overhead light illuminating my image. The mirror on my dresser (I still have the dresser and mirror) was from 1896 and had uneven waves behind its surface, barely detectable previously in my life, but so pronounced in my current state that I could distort my features like in a funhouse mirror. I also tried a series of yoga poses and found amazing flexibility and shifts in blood flow and breathing.

    I “played” jester, mime, acrobat and contortionist for some time it seemed, then I got out my musical instruments and played drums, percussion, guitar and flute. I made some basic recordings on a Teac two-track recorder but decided to play with the “mix” of sounds later.

    I began to pour over the books I had compiled for the evening, but found myself in a frame of mind to forego the books on psychology, philosophy and fiction in favor of the coffee table books on art history. I also became fixated on the texts of the various artists described in those books.

    I then felt a strong urge to go for a walk, so I gulped down some red grape juice, had a banana, and went out into the night with a flashlight and a canteen of water. Out in the darkness there was much light aided by the full moon, and I felt a particular kinship with various creatures I encountered along my stroll and heard glorious music conducted by an orchestra of crickets, frogs, night birds.

    I returned home at around 2 am and most of the rest of the household humans were sleeping, except for a roommate who was playing some acoustic guitar in his basement studio. The house’s animals–two dogs and a cat–were up and about and quite charming and affectionate in how they seemed drawn to me. I petted them a bit, gave them each a treat then went back up to my attic suite. By this time my mindset was ready for some deep thinking and explorations of the mind. I read several essays from various 20th century authors and began to write down my own thoughts in essay form.

    I spent a considerable amount of time in this phase. My giddy body sensations had passed, the euphoria had also passed, and most of the more intense visuals had returned to normal but with everything still bathed in a luminescence and iridescence. My mind was still going through certain books with pauses for pondering and wondering along the way until I could sense dawn approaching.

    I went downstairs, made myself a mug of warm milk with honey and had two hard-boiled eggs. I went back up to the attic, crawled out onto the roof of our Victorian house, sat on the apex of the roof and watched the sunrise. I came inside at about 7am then rode with one of my housemates to take her daughter to Montessori school. We had great fun in the car, and I met the girl’s teachers and classmates upon arriving at the school.

    When I came home, I went up to bed and slept until around 4 pm, getting up just in time to watch another housemate wash his car, the water still possessing a wonderful iridescence and creating very vibrant mini-rainbows.

    I continued on in my experiments once a week for about a month and a half, and the routine was very similar to my first time. Interestingly, the visuals and body/mind sensations were very similar and with similar intensity and duration each time, but my “awakening” part of the experience had subsided and my actual thought processes in the “pensive” phase of the “trips” became no different than what my thoughts were in a “normal” state of consciousness.

    I had read that LSD was only really intended to be a positive experience for just a few experiences, that whatever one was going to get out of it was only going to occur in the first few times. I decided my “experiment” was over and that I would probably spend the rest of my life gaining true insight and wisdom.

    End of part two.

    (Part three will be my conclusion, as well as my impression of the show today.)

  • Ellen Dibble

    Weren’t there secret rituals in ancient Greece that involved states of altered consciousness? Secret in that no one would ever divulge? As to acid trips, here people would only say that it was indescribable and incomparable. So, Brett, you finally described it. Tsk, tsk.
    Once you get to the advanced age when you have cataracts on the eyes, you can get the halo effects quite readily, by the way.
    I can’t say I’m opposed to young people finding out the range their consciousness can extend. The world can seem pretty incrutable as you try to find your sealegs, and here is a way to rattle your cage. Um, mixed metaphor. Do we want a poetic nation or one pedestrian and cramped. Oh, poetic, flexible, however that can be accomplished.

  • Ferd

    I am so happy to hear that the 60′s weren’t a dream. There were individuals trying to reach new heights of consciousness. During that time it wasn’t about getting high it was about learning about the self and the world. It changed many people’s view of the world that it was not as concrete as we thought it was. I am still very much interested in the mind because of my experiences. I don’t use drugs anymore but I meditate daily and would never have come to realize my potential without going through those times myself. We were “thick” minds during that time – very materialistic. It created a space in our minds to see that we are more than just our bodies. I am a very religious person and now I’m Buddhist. I owe much of these wonderful changes in my mind to those drug experiences.

  • Monticello

    The truth about Timothy Leary takes us deeper down the rabbit hole than most probably dare venture: according to many reliable accounts, Leary and his “work” have been reliably tied to the CIA’s MKULTRA Program.

    (For those readers unaware of the CIA’s MKULTRA Program, this link: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book1/html/ChurchB1_0199a.htm , is an excerpt from “Book I: Foreign and Military Intelligence” (19 75), published by The Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (popularly known as “The Church Committee”, after the committee’s chairman, Sen. Frank Church) that provides some interesting beginning online reading about MKULTRA.)

    The writer W. H. Bowart provides some further background on Leary in his article, “The Spy Who Came in from the (Ergot) Mold” :

    “While doing research for my book, Operation Mind Control (originally published in 1978), I’d come across a CIA document with Leary’s name on it. The CIA memo directed agents to contact Leary and company, who were then operating an organization called International Federation for Internal Freedom ( IFIF). The memo asked its agents to discover if any agency personnel were taking acid with this group. The CIA wanted to determine what IFIF really knew about what was then billed as “the most powerful drug known to man,” LSD, a drug which the agency was experimenting with in an attempt to create mind controlled zombies.

    “Another, earlier similar CIA document I found ordered agents to contact Aldous Huxley for the same reason. There were no follow-up documents to indicate whether the CIA had, or had not, made contact in either instance. Still, other documents indicated that Leary had received money channeled by the CIA through various government agencies. The files showed that, in all, there were eight government grants paid to Leary from 1953 to 1958, most of them paid through the National Institute of Mental Health, now known to have “fronted” for the CIA in the MKULTRA program.”

    (Read the entire article by Bowart online at: http://www.theworldismycountry.org/allposts/timothy-leary-and-the-cia)

    Finally, it’s very telling that Bowart mentions Aldous Huxley together with Leary and the CIA in the above quoted passage. Why? -Here’s what Huxley, the author of “Brave New World,” had to say about “pharmacological methods.” :

    “There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”

    (~Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961)

    No doubt about it, Leary et al. were truly “Usher[ing] in a New Age for America.”

  • chai latte

    Diane Linkletter not on LSD.
    from wikipedia

    there is no proof that Linkletter took LSD on the day she died. All available evidence suggests that she was a despondent woman and that her death was a suicide rather than a drug-related accident. An investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office determined that Linkletter died from “multiple traumatic injuries” sustained from the fall and that she had no drugs in her system at the time of her death.[1]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Linkletter

  • http://riktinory.com rik tinory

    Good evevning Tom:
    Your show this eve on Tim leary was brought to my attention by my daughter who heard ON POINT this evening, she remembered as a child that I recorded Tim Learys last recording entitled, “Right Brain Lover”.

    Tim and I spoke many times up until his passing
    with all the talk of LSD and sugar cubes the man was mighty brilliant.

    He was the first person to introduce me to a yet unknown massive electronic device called a “computor” describing to me how powerful it would become after seeing it at MIT in cambridge.

    Enjoyed your show ..Not tuned out…. but tuned in .. my best.. Rik Tinory

  • Shoshana Alexander

    I was there in the Sixties, on the Lower East Side in New York, then went to San Francisco “with flowers in my hair.” My 21-year-old son is part of a generation in which I see some of the same passion and sense of a new way to live and think. This time it’s called eco-awareness and is concerned with thinking globally–just as radical as that previous shift in consciousness. And it’s only beginning to come into cohesion. These are the children and grandchildren of the children of the Sixties, and this time it’s overtly a worldwide movement, fueled by the internet. I think we’ll look back one day and recognize this generation and time as bringing about another major, and equivalent, cultural shift.

  • Lochinvar

    Have it on direct authority that while Leary was a research psychologist at Mass Mental( Harvard Med School), he turned a lot of his colleagues on to acid, including Alvin Semrad (America’s “Heinz Kohut”/self psychology) Leary also delegated some pretty hefty “intellectuals” to proselytize, acid, re: Huxley felt that the world was on a “suicide trip” p/s The Bomb, and that acid, etc. was a powerful, potential “antidote”. (See Jay Stevens’ work)

  • Brett

    Part Three: “my own private acid tests” (epilogue…Yey!)

    I wouldn’t recommend LSD, or any hallucinogenic substance for that matter; who, that is a responsible person, would? I had great experiences in my “experiments” but I did see how a person could just as likely have a negative experience. I felt I gained some insight, not into the universe or into the mysticism of the ages or anything like that (although certain moments really did feel like that), but into my sense of self and where my place is in the world; essentially, I feel I came to a better understanding of myself. At least myself at age eighteen, but also a refocusing that was a kind of shedding of certain “clothes I was trying on” and finally finding an outfit that fit perfectly. I think I would have gotten to that place if I hadn’t done LSD, but I don’t think my “shift” would have been quite as swift and comprehensive if I hadn’t done LSD.

    I think it was Dayle Ann Stratton who said…wait, let me find her direct quote, because I like it and think it is important to this discussion: “…It was clearly a moving experience to him [a caller who had lost his mother, had developed a sense of hopelessness, and had later taken LSD, reawakening a kind of hope]. The thing is that that potential was in him already, but our culture does not teach us the means to allow that to happen, and to allow ourselves to experience potential for insight already within us. We are instead taught to lock it in, not to look too closely. No wonder people thought drugs were a secret key.” I remember thinking, all those years ago, and still believe, that something like LSD can not endow you with a quality you do not already possess.

    I did keep my writing and music recordings from my “experiments.” I have to say, they are pretty amazing and not merely some false perception I had, and they are wonderfully insightful into my mindset and into some relatively profound conclusions I was drawing in my thoughts. However, I was already an accomplished musician by that time, a good natural entertainer, writer and photographer, and I had read quite a bit of philosophy and psychology by that age. I feel the only thing I got from the experiences that seemed new was kind of giving myself permission, so to speak, to think my own thoughts, to draw my own conclusions, and I had more confidence in my own views after. But, maybe some of that has to do with coming of age…

    As far as “a religious experience” or “a spiritual awakening,” I believe those moments, whatever they are, can happen to anyone under any circumstances. Children have them, people who are very sick have them, etc. I was a bit bothered by the question being asked by the various “players” from the 1950′s and 1960′s in early investigations into LSD: “are people having an authentic spiritual/religious experience while on LSD?” First of all, what did they mean by “authentic”? Was it really talking to God/tapping into universal understanding/being one with the universe? And so on. I think this very question is presumptuous. One would have to first “know” precisely what that is, have a clear and universal definition of those experiences before determining if it is “real” or not. Some may believe they are tapping into something when they pray, meditate, chant, etc., but what proof do they have that anything more than a change in brain chemistry in conjunction with a belief system is at play?

    True wisdom, understanding and higher consciousness comes over many journeys in one’s life, and while one may get some momentary glimpse from an LSD experience, what is that truly worth? I venture to say not really that much, in the scheme of things. If asked “would our culture be different now if LSD hadn’t been part of our culture in the ’60′s and early ’70′s?” I would say 1) I don’t know/probably and 2) Probably music would be different, modern fiction would be different; I do think the sensibilities of the ’50′s that seemed to change fairly quickly into a much less materialistic generation who sought to live life outside the mold of nuclear family, etc., was helped along for some through people examining those mores within a culture of “tune in, turn on and drop out.” It was part of so many changes happening in our social structures, though, and it’s hard to separate out what influenced what from that time.

    In terms of psychiatric/psychological use, I think that LSD could and should be studied very carefully under very controlled conditions; but like any “medication,” there are no “miracle” drugs. LSD also has the potential to be dangerous to someone who has some latent classic mental disorder, such as schizophrenia, and how could anyone test for that before it manifests itself?

    As far as Leary…I thought he was incredibly misguided and misguiding even when I was fourteen. I always liked Kesey, think his book “Sometimes a Great Notion” is one of the great (and underrated) novels of mid-20th century American literature. I also liked so many of the cultural icons from that era (although many are dated when I hear them now). Did they have insight beyond their era and generation? I don’t think so. Leary himself never had any real insight even within the context of his own era. Andrew Weil always has been a bit of a weasel and probably always will be; although, he will be remembered for promoting some very good, new and holistic approaches to modern medicine. He is, however, in large part, a kind of charlatan. And much of what he espouses that is good would be present in the way we view wellness even if he had never been born.

    P.S. Ellen, I did find that my “experiences” really helped me get through problems with cataracts, cataract surgery (both eyes) and subsequent “halo” and “star” effects I get from having had a virus in my eyes many years ago that has caused permanent damage. ;-)

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    The most seductive, dangerous and mind-distorting drug is nostalgia, and there’s a lot of it being passed around WRT this show and the 60′s in general.

    Leary didn’t usher-in anything new. Cultures all over the world have been using various mind-altering substances for religious and spiritual purposes forever.

    Lots of major writers and poets of the 19th century used drugs to achieve an altered state of consciousness to help their writing – Samuel Taylor Coleridge (laudanum), Charles Baudelaire (absinthe), etc.

    And the idea of personal “mystical” experiences producing insights of universal import, along with the desire to share these, was already the domain of the Beat writers who preceded Leary by a good 15 years – William S. Burroughs, say, or Jack Kerouac. Infact a lot of the language (and drug use) we associate with the hippies actually came from the jazz and beat eras preceding them. The first time I ever tried marijuana (1970) I was listening to Thelonious Monk.

    . . . and they all did it . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D44pyeEvhcQ

  • Janet

    The entire 1960′s drug culture is way over hyped. Nothing good came from it and those that fully participated in it wasted their lives.

  • http://ftvmushrooms.blogspot.com Rick Burroughs

    While in public high-school in the early ’70s, an English teacher gave me a copy of Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception.” In those days we actually discussed the creative, artistic and religious value of psychedelic drug use in Western society. I remember LSD and cannabis being discussed as part of the curriculum in English, Art and Music classes, and cannabis being mentioned in history class while discussing the war in Vietnam.

    No doubt some of my teachers (in an affluent Northern Virginia school district) earned teaching degrees from colleges and universities in the ’60s where psychedelics were viewed with excitement and promise. This is the attitude they passed down to me.

    Later, I witnessed the changing societal attitudes that draped a dropcloth of negativity over drug use in general. The societal pressure to put drugs in a negative light is so great that no positive discussion can be had without someone voicing a strong negative detraction; eg. the comments following this broadcast.

    How has my life been affected by the New Age ushered in by Leary and his gang? I live in the forest and have an active interest in psychoactive and medicinal plants and especially fungi, most of which can be found within walking distance of my home. These include; Gymnopilus luteus, Laetiporus sulphureus, Lobelia inflata, Solanum nigrum, Datura stramonium.

    These plants and fungi can have subtle or profound effects on consciousness. Some can be dangerous if used carelessly. I see these substances as teachers, as part of an animalistic religion developed from a close proximity to Nature.

    It is interesting to see R. Gordon Wasson and Andrew Weil as the ethnomycological, chronological bookends of the era of psychedelic proselytization occupied by Dr. Leary and his friends.

  • http://www.gather.socialvaccine.com brennan

    I was 14 when we’all did a bunch of IT
    I came from berkely CA, the absent room mate of the girls who ‘had it’, yet I NEVER GOT LAID!!! [SEX?!?!] ..because like jimi hendrix and Kurt Cobain I am LEFT HANDED RAISED in WEST AMERICA [BORN TO DIE... like TWILIGHT SAGA's EDWARD... [left-handed body language=cultural normative values of GEOGRAPHY!!!]

    One night in particular a bunch of us did way way tooo much! and I suppose “i” had a “vission” of that whole hopeless normative social [left handed west america RAISED] thing [very very important ..."forever and ever and ever" my friend -the hot girl- would quote me for years after wards [I never got laid!!! sex would have put me in the position to "SAY NO"!!! but I felt invisible yet charismatic enough to "allow" this sort of foolishness! -the "hot girl" who my slightly OLDER brother would "have" her [and others] on occation -about my age- she had an older sister who was “manic depressive”[bi-polar?]

    it was 1984 [!!!] and just after I had lived in HAWAII [...]for 2 months, [HI] which has a “pro LSD attitude”
    after my “teen age years” I rarely did it and havn’t done it in a good 15 to 20 years [39 now]

    I am having a “de ja vu” about this whole ONPOINT discussion [rite?]
    ‘i’ would also like to bring up the concept… of sexually transmitted diseases [v.d. or your STD-standard ambiguity...] and the “weakened mind… self preservation” , VS the “prescribed psychoanalisis” and how [like "exstacy" -no personal exp- has a "defined psychiatric purpose"] that can really OPEN DOORS, but when “the street”[youth!] is the only avenue [street] of obtainment -easier than love or SEX! on “prefered onpoint objective’sss” it becomes a percieved as a “recreational drug” and not “a rare psychiatric avenue”
    MY VISSION was only developed many years after taking these drugs [lsd, shrooms and the traditional pot & coke] only after I had “real problems” that I seemed “UNABLE TO REACT TO”, I simply could not get laid![sex] and this “kurt cobain /JIMI HENDRIX” …exp… was the fundamental CHILD LEFT BEHIND!!! that I MUST! solve, but I had both upper-middle class intelligence, yet no geo-historical backup, I couldn’t escape! geographically!!! and that made me a subliminal poster child/”authority of permission”…

    I would have not! taken so much drugs if I had been [right handed or...] somewhere the “girls”!!![sex] loved-me like ‘the east coast’ or anywhere but WEST AMERICA. that is “the X-file” that is the fundamental king pin of america’s drug ‘excuse’

  • mitch hampton

    While I appreciate this discussion for the information and the history, I feel the Boomer centered view behind it is flawed. it is yet another book telling us how important and world-changing the boomers were as if post WW 2 history were a simple battle between the spirits of the fifties and the sixties. It is so much more complicated than that: some younger historians are rethinking this narrative, for example Bruce Schulman. That said, I do agree with the writer and guest that shifts in consciousness are as important as material factors, a single truth all too often left out of Marxist inspired accounts.

  • peter nelson

    That said, I do agree with the writer and guest that shifts in consciousness are as important as material factors, a single truth all too often left out of Marxist inspired accounts.

    I’m not convinced that there was much of a shift in consciousness. How would you characterize that shift?

    To dredge up the old cliche, Jerry Rubin became a stockbroker. OK, technically he wasn’t a boomer, but then, neither was Timothy Leary, unless we count him as a boomer from WW I (he was born in 1920).

    But it’s not clear to me that boomers (which include me) left much of any great historical value to the world. You could say the ongoing march of technology – PC’s and the web and whatnot – but technology has been advancing rapidly since the start of the industrial revolution, so it’s not obvious that the boomers ushered in anything dramatically different than if there had never been hippies.

    A more boomer-specific contribution is probably their Peter Pan conviction that if they, personally, believe something hard enough it must be true. This explains both the invasion of Iraq and the real-estate boom resulting from people expecting that their insanely expensive houses would continue to increase in value forever. In many ways the current economic collapse is a project of the boomers. From boomers to busters.

  • http://ftvmushrooms.blogspot.com Rick Burroughs

    “While I appreciate this discussion for the information and the history, I feel the Boomer centered view behind it is flawed. it is yet another book telling us how important and world-changing the boomers were as if post WW 2 history were a simple battle between the spirits of the fifties and the sixties.”

    Leary is fascinating for the fact he puts human history, culture, politics and behavior into a social-behavioral-evolutionary context. History becomes a set of data points to illustrate man’s social behavior which form the characteristics that define him as a social organism. Politics, religion, government, etc. are all viewed as characteristics of human social/tribal behavior, pure and simple.

    In this light, capitalism, communism, nationalism, Marxism, Leninism, and the resulting conflicts, etc., etc. are neither good or bad, they are expressions of human social behavior. These behaviors developed through evolution of humans into a social/tribal organism. In this context, the finer details of history become footnotes to a broader definition of what it means to be human, beyond the merely biological into evolutionary sociology. Leary was outside looking in, and we were the subject of his study.

    And, Leary goes even further. Seeing the evolutionary development from primitive organisms, to mammals, to primates, to higher apes, to humans… Leary postulated on the directions human evolution will take in the future, both biological and sociological.

    Leary and his group saw politics, war, economics, sexism, racism, etc, as the expressions of relatively primitive neurological circuitry in the central nervous system of the social mammal, man. Leary found very potent ways to deprogram these circuits. But our market driven, consumerist society is very dependent on programming. Still, the alternative circuitry discovered by Leary remains intact, and is in fact an evolutionary endowment to prepare us for the future.

  • peter nelson

    n this light, capitalism, communism, nationalism, Marxism, Leninism, and the resulting conflicts, etc., etc. are neither good or bad, they are expressions of human social behavior. These behaviors developed through evolution of humans into a social/tribal organism. In this context, the finer details of history become footnotes to a broader definition of what it means to be human, beyond the merely biological into evolutionary sociology.

    Leary and his group saw politics, war, economics, sexism, racism, etc, as the expressions of relatively primitive neurological circuitry in the central nervous system of the social mammal, man

    What does any of this have to do with Leary? He didn’t invent, discover, or popularize any of these ideas. These are all basic tenets of evolutionary theory, including evolutionary psychology which have been in development since early in the 20th century. When he was being arrested for marijuana on the west coast I was a student in my university’s neurophysiology lab and these idea were already old hat.

    In fact the biggest resistance to these ideas has come from the “new age” crowd who reject what they saw as biological and evolutionary reductionism implied by an evolutionary model. They prefer a more “spiritual” concept of human beings where we are somehow cut loose from the genetic and biological effects of millions of years of male coalitional violence resulting from competition over reproductive success.

    I can still remember back in the late 70′s and early 80′s when studies published in major research journals showed that homicide rates in hunter-gather and early hominid societies were higher than modern western societies, it was the new age crowd reared on Margaret Meade that simply couldn’t accept this! Now it’s well-established science, of course.

    If Leary believed that our social behavior was the product of millions of years of evolution from earlier primates to modern homo sapiens, good for him, but many of his followers could never accept that.

  • david peterson

    I notice that many younger people are sick of the sixties and seem to resent the obsession with an era that seems ever more distant in today’s internet world. They sense the something has been lost from that age and that it can never be experienced again so it’s depressing to look back on. It’s like some kind of golden age of experimentation before the conservatism crushed and killed the spirit of that age. Now in the aftermath of financial chaos and the destruction of the middle class the non materialistic aspect of the sixties is even harder to bear but the fault is not our nostalgia but the poverty of our present and our lack of courage to make changes that we must. You have to look inside yourself and decide that your spiritual life is worth living for and dying for.

  • jeffe

    The real thing the 60′s produced is civil rights and some very iconic leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and LBJ for that matter to name a few. We don’t seem to have that now at all. We have a lot of technology and the web, but what else?

    One other good thing to happen was the music, Hendrix, Joplin, Mile Davis, Sly Stone, this period changed music and to me that was the best thing that ever happened.
    Timothy Leary was an interesting person and I think he had some vision, but was he a major person of that era?

    I think more people today are affected by Jimi Hendrix than Leary and Hendrix at least created art.

  • Ishmael

    Interesting show, except the guys were giggling too much at what was really very predictable material more than anything else. There was nothing really new there, other than some mildly amusing connections. kind of a warmed-over look at some cliches and well-known personae.

    Was an extremely pregnant time for the US culturally and even a bit spiritually. A segue from the Beats of the ’50′s, into whatever ensued: hippiedom, “Me”, X, Y, Millennials …. People in the US were pretty fed up with the ridiculous and silly war in VN and were shocked by a nasty series of ssassinations. “Illegal” drugs made their public entry into the middle class, and fueled a lot of great rock music and other cultural phenomena.

    Loved the comment about the Republicans still kind of stuck back there and fighting the avante garde. Some things never change.

    Leary was kind of a Forrest Gump type of character, a Chauncy Gardner for the ’60′s. He was indeed a self-promoter more than anything, a very extreme self-promoter, a touch of the hedonist, although he did stumble onto some interesting chemical compounds, and became a link between them and other publicity-seekers and some other pretty interesting people. Among these were the Merry Pranksters, the Beatles, other cultural icons of that time. Leary himself had no public political views (perhaps surprisingly in view of the aura that later became associated with him), and is best remembered for “tune in, turn off, drop out”, that kind of thing.

  • Ishmael

    Oops, I think it was “tune in, turn on, drop out”, rather than “turn off”. Whatever.

  • willem

    Like they said:

    “Timothy Leary’s dead.
    No, no no no,
    He’s Outside,
    Looking In.

    “He flies the astral plane,
    Takes you trips around the Bay,
    Brings you back the same day –

    “Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary.”

    There are two movies on him. Neither is hagiographic. Both are worth watching. They each have the courage to deal with nuance and contradiction in a person’s life.

    Leary wasn’t so much a pioneer as a popularizer, with all the good and bad qualities that may come with this status. He was catchy but incautious, and ultimately too caught up in his own fantasies. So he tripped himself up.

    Still, a lot of good came from those popularizers, and it has taken a lot of naked hostility to try to force the genie back in the bottle.

    And, to respond to a comment above, anyone who thinks the Romantic movement is somehow contrary to or a contradiction of the Enlightenment doesn’t know the full history. It’s like saying Beethoven was a negation of Haydn, rather than a development of tendencies already implicit in the earlier form.

    The same is true of psychedelia and the New Age. The pioneering work was done a long time ago. It only remained for someone to build an amusement park, and turn on the power. And if the nation wasn’t ready for it the press wouldn’t have reported it, no one would have known the park was open, and before you know it the thing would have closed for lack of revenues. But the press did report it, people were ready to hear it, and before long there were so many people there they started tearing the place down. Not enough sense of boundaries.

    But before amusement parks are taken down anyone who visits can have some terrific experiences. Experiences powerful enough to last a lifetime. Experiences that, if they are refelcted upon in the right context, can have a truly transformative impact on the individual.

    And that’s one thing that hostile rhetoric can’t take away, no matter how disparaging and dismissive they try to sound. The fact is that people have the ability to use the rides on the amusement park to self-consciously alter their own states of consciousness and experience, and no amount of bluster can deny it.

  • http://ftvmushrooms.blogspot.com Rick Burroughs

    “If Leary believed that our social behavior was the product of millions of years of evolution from earlier primates to modern homo sapiens, good for him, but many of his followers could never accept that.”

    This is what most surprised me when I attended a lecture given by him in the ’80s. Admittedly late in his career, the majority of his lecture had to do with human socio- and evolutionary biology. (I remember him mentioning Edward Wilson, among others.) He spent a fair amount of time discussing human migration patterns?!

  • peter nelson

    I notice that many younger people are sick of the sixties and seem to resent the obsession with an era that seems ever more distant in today’s internet world. They sense the something has been lost from that age and that it can never be experienced again so it’s depressing to look back on. It’s like some kind of golden age of experimentation before the conservatism crushed and killed the spirit of that age. Now in the aftermath of financial chaos and the destruction of the middle class the non materialistic aspect of the sixties is even harder to bear but the fault is not our nostalgia but the poverty of our present

    I don’t know how you came to the conclusion that critics of the 60′s are younger people. I’m 57 and I don’t think the 60′s produced much of unique value. Someone else mentioned that the 60′s produced iconic music, but every generation produces its own iconic music.

    What was different about the 60′s from any previous or subsequent generation was the brazen claim that this generation was going to fix the world. We would usher in some new age of “peace, love, and understanding”. No other generation trumpeted its own horn of world-change the way the boomers of the 60′s did with their Age of Aquarius and Woodstock anthems.

    And it was exactly this conceited confidence, this high-minded hubris that led ultimately to the invasion of Iraq and the financial collapse that we have now because both were born of a completely insane overconfidence.

  • peter nelson

    The real thing the 60’s produced is civil rights and some very iconic leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and LBJ for that matter to name a few.

    MLK was born in 1929, Robert Kennedy in 1925, LBJ in 1908.

    They were part of an earlier generation. They ended Jim Crow, they gave us the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and the Environmental Protection Agency. the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the subsequent Equal Employment Opportunity regulations by the Justice Department, which provided legal protections for women in the workplace. And the generation just prior to them gave us Social Security. And the generation prior to that gave women the right to vote.

    By contrast as the boomers have come to power in Washington and in corporate America, what have they (we) produced of comparable scale and merit?

  • Sam E.

    I am of a different generation than Leary, Lattin, and Ashbrook and have never encountered any of these drugs personally. While I am open to the idea that it is possible that some of them should be legalized, I think it’s a little bit silly to talk about recreational drugs as having some great societal value. I also don’t believe that the east coast and west coast drug movements can really be seperated. If recreational drugs are proliferated users will inevitably begin to use them in irresponsible or reckless ways.

  • Ishmael

    One thing the boomer generation provided was some pretty strong anti-war sentiment (b/c of the draft and the inherent immorality of VN), and a great deal of acceptance of creativity and what formerly would be called “unusual”. Things like Iraq and the neocon phenomenon were produced by boomer-aged people (chronologically) who didn’t catch the zeitgeist at all, whose thought patterns have little to do with the “iconic”, consensual flavor and “idealism” of the ’60′s

    Pop/rock-musically speaking, it is as yet unmatched for staying power and inspiration for others who subsequently make music. The music was anything but homogeneous.

  • charles coryn

    A curious footnote perhaps, but around 1963 I was working at the S.F. Medical Center when LSD was all the rage in the Bay Area. I was working for Dr. Charles Hine, doing research on rabbits for the alcohol breathalyzer he was developing. He asked me if I could come in Sat morning and monitor an experiment that Dr. Burbridge, or perhaps a doctor Meyer, was conducting, and of course I agreed.

    I showed up that next morning to find about 25 medical students sitting in chairs in the lab, all apparently doing their homework, all extremely quiet and serious about their studies. Dr. Burbridge informed me they have each been given 25 micrograms of LSD, and I was to watch them.

    For about 3 or 4 hours I watched them study. I only later learned that it was about 250 micro grams that was required to experience the drug.

  • Brett

    charles coryn,
    That is a bit curious. I can’t imagine 25 mcgs. doing much of anything; anyway, what if anything did you observe from the students that would be considered beyond what one would expect as “normal” behavior from students sitting in lab chairs doing homework for 3-4 hours? Were the students told what it was they were being given and what its effects might be? Was there a baseline established of students observed under the same conditions w/o being given LSD?

    Also, did the experiment continue over time with a gradual increase in dosages? Was the whole thing handled like a double-blind study, etc.? You’ve got me curious…sorry for all the questions. It sounds like a unique experience on your part, something worthy of a tale to tell! ;-)

  • peter nelson

    One thing the boomer generation provided was some pretty strong anti-war sentiment (b/c of the draft and the inherent immorality of VN), and a great deal of acceptance of creativity and what formerly would be called “unusual”. Things like Iraq and the neocon phenomenon were produced by boomer-aged people (chronologically) who didn’t catch the zeitgeist at all,

    Do you have any evidence for this? What makes you think the Boomers are more antiwar than what came before? Under the Boomers the US has a bigger military budget that the next 11 counties combined!! It was never anything like that before the Boomers.

    I think this is a convenient ex-post-facto categorization to say that supporters of the Iraq invasion don’t qualify. What’s your evidence? Before Iraq most people would have probably categorized people like Tony Blair or Thomas Friedman as typical boomers WRT their values and attitudes.

    The point is that a whole generation came to power who listened to the same music and smoked the same pot and read Walden and the Whole Earth Catalog and everything else as the rest of us. And when they came to power they created a whole bunch of military and economic quagmires just like they said they wouldn’t do. And in the Boomer economy the disparity between rich and poor grew. Remember, Jerry Rubin became a stockbroker.

    I think the Boomers have a LOT to answer for.

  • Ishmael

    One thing the boomers have to answer for is forgetting the idealism to begin with, but that comes with the territory for a lot of people as they get older. The anti-war sentiment didn’t last long for a lot of them, that’s for sure; it was probably specific to VN for a lot of them. It was palpable at the time, however long- or short-lived it turned out to be. People still use the symbols and chants, though, so there was a certain cultural embeddedness that ensued. Some people took it more seriously than others, obviously.

    And as I mentioned, it escaped a lot of them totally.

  • peter nelson

    . . . and another thing . . .

    I already mentioned that the generation prior to mine after surviving the Depression and winning a World War, fighting on two fronts, proceeded to enact legislation ending discrimination against blacks and women and enacting programs like Medicare (and Medicaid) and environmental protection.

    But another thing they did was this: Between 1950 and 1980 median family income in the US, adjusted for inflation, rose steadily. So the boomers grew up in an atmosphere of confidence and relative affluence. Thanks to the prosperous society created by our parents we got to go to college at low cost. I went to UMass Amherst which was heavily subsidized by state taxpayers, so I not only paid for it with just summer and odd jobs, but I graduated with no student debt and $2000 in my pocket!!!

    Imagine trying to do that today. As the Boomers took control of Washington and the economy in the 1980′s, increases in real (inflation-adjusted) family income leveled off. The self-absorbed boomers took an attitude of “I’ve got mine, Jack, ef you” and enacted tax cuts and cuts in public spending on education. Today college students routinely graduate with mortgage-size debts.

    Pop/rock-musically speaking, it is as yet unmatched for staying power and inspiration for others who subsequently make music.

    “Staying power”? Ever hear of Bach and Beethoven? The reason why the CD holds 74 minutes of music is that Akio Morita (then CEO of Sony) demanded that it hold enough music for a complete performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. For decades the 9th Symphony has been one of the most popular pieces of music in Japan – 10′s of thousands of Japanese gather in stadiums to sing the choral portion.

  • peter nelson

    “Staying power”? Ever hear of Bach and Beethoven?

    OK – my last followup for awhile.

    The irony of the above is that I was mistakenly regarded as a well-behaved student in high school because I hardly ever got in trouble. The very one time I got detention was for arguing with my music teacher (Mr Drew, Wellesley High School) who claimed that real music has staying power and the Beatles and Stones would be forgotten in no time. I said that 50 years hence they would still be remembered.

    As Jeffe and others here have pointed out, I like to argue and I like to be right, and this shows that I had these traits at a young age. If the Beatles and Stones are still remembered in 8 years then I’ll be right. But real staying power is measured in centuries.

  • Ishmael

    I don’t consider the immortals like Bach et al to be “pop” or “rock” so they surely aren’t intended for this discussion. We could bring Bernstein into it, though, and he is certainly one of those quite interested — and active — “icons” of the Leary era, whose work we could discuss if one prefers the grander scale.

    In the realm of rock and pop, the Beatles, Donovan, and Stones may not have quite reached the heights of Lady Gaga, Britney or U2, but they still weren’t too shabby.

  • Gary Chipman

    Hi, ya this is the caller, Gary from Sandown NH, live radio 03/01/10,WBUR THANK you Tom, Don NPR!

    Every thing I said was 100% TRUE, I asked GOD,on LSD if he was listening? What is the reason for everything? I need to know now, or I will be leaving this world.

    Immediately, I heard a voice in my head, NOT with my ears, Say; “See we have no body’s…..” How can words describe? What JOY to know everything is going to be alright, Their is a GOD! And He has Angel’s!

    I sensed some were Bald Eagles and some Killer Wales between 20 and 40 thousand years old! And they could go from Galaxy to Galaxy in an instant! They were listening! Ya, at first I wanted to go with them! My friends talked Me out of it.

    Be-for that at 14 years of age, We tried psilocybin capsules, with tele-caster in hand, drummer and bassist on board, 4 cords,

    I was surrounded with 90 thousand watts of GOLD light! There were spirits waving through my body! They were using me for Pleasure to Hear, See and Feel what I was experiencing! They seam to play my guitar! After 40 thousand years they were pretty good! There was no better place for them to be ?? They were only with me for minute or two?

    Me and the boys consequently became The Rockadelics, To fathom hell or soar Angelic just take a pinch of Psychedelic! DR Osmond? But don’t if you have a guilty conscience, You might Fathom hell? I have since found the Baha’i Faith!
    ASTRALMAN Gary

  • http://LOURDESDIVINVOLERE.COM Lourdes

    WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE the DIVIN WILL.
    MY WEBSITE IS LOURDES DIVINVOLERE.COM
    THANKS VERY MUCH AND HAPPY LUCK

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Jul 25, 2014
Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Eindhoven, Netherlands, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP)

Secretary of State Kerry to Israel. Obamacare back in the courts. Mourning as remains of Malaysia Flight 17 victims come home. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Jul 25, 2014
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