inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #76 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Sun 18 Apr 10 11:08
    
Mark, I think younger people might be using LSD more as a "party" drug
now, partly because people tend to take lower doses. But there was a
lot of LSD partying going on back in "the good old days." Seem to
recall some group called the Merry Pranksters. Last night, John Berry
Barlow told a young person who asked our panel a question that using
LSD to party so much was one of the mistakes OUR culture (baby boomers)
made. That said, I have been pleasantly surprised by how many younger
people have written me or approached me at book signings and said they
are using psychedelics as part of their spiritual life. A young woman
came up to the mic last night and said "reading the Harvard Psychedelic
Club changed my life and is the reason I came to this conference."
That kind of feedback keeps me going! We forget that many young people
who take psychedelic drugs today have never heard of Tim Leary, Ram
Dass or Huston Smith. They think Richard Alpert is just a character on
"Lost." (Which I've never seen. Is that true?) . 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #77 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Sun 18 Apr 10 11:16
    
Fascinating stuff, Don.  I so wish I was at that conference!  Please do 
report -- anecdotes are most welcome.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #78 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 19 Apr 10 07:37
    
One of the best books I've ever read on indigenous use of psychedelics is 
Warren L. d'Azavedo's "Straight with the Medicine," which talks about 
peyote use in the Native American Church:

<http://www.amazon.com/Straight-Medicine-Warren-L-dAzevedo/dp/1597140295/>

Most of the book consists of first-person accounts from Peyote Way
practitioners, and it offers invaluable insights.  One of the points that
I've stressed in my own writings is that a major difference between
indigenous use and modern urban use is that in cultures where psychedelics
are used as initiatory/healing agents, the experience draws the
participants more deeply into the fabric of traditional culture; whereas
the laws against psychedelics in modern societies mean that would-be
psychonauts have to walk away from their own culture, rejecting its
taboos, in order to have the experience.  That seems significant to me.
One kind of frame brings you closer to your ancestors and your family by 
taking psychedelics;  the other kind of frame alienates you and encourages 
paranoia.  That's one reason I became interested in the subculture of 
Deadheads.  It was as if they were trying to improvise a new "indigenous" 
psychedelic tradition in the middle of a culture hostile to the notion.

Another set of books that would be valuable to anyone interested in
traditional contexts for psychedelic experience is the trilogy by Dale
Pendell, "Pharmako/Poeia," "Pharmako/Dynamis," and "PharmakoGnosis."  
Pendell is a botanist, chemist, Zen student, poet and friend of Beat poet
Gary Snyder, and he brings all those domains of knowledge to the table in 
these remarkable books, which are still in print.  They may be too poetic 
for someone looking for straight science, but they are, altogether, my 
favorite books on the subject of drugs by far.

And Don, this looks interesting, an upcoming book on the friendship 
between Leary and Ginsberg by author and Well member <peterconners>:

White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen 
Ginsberg 

<http://www.amazon.com/White-Hand-Society-Psychedelic-Partnership/dp/0872865355
/>
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #79 of 225: David Dawson (dawson54) Mon 19 Apr 10 10:50
    
And a Happy Bicycle Day to one and all. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #80 of 225: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 19 Apr 10 11:56
    
Isn't that actually the 25th? 
Marlene Dobkin De Rios (her husband is well-known re MDMA research)
and Peter Furst (of SUNY Stoney Brook) have both written on the topic
of indigenous use. To add to <digaman>'s comments about Deadheads
creating a new "indigenous" culture, Devereax in The Long Trip makes a
point of how modern western civilization (Gandhi said "It would be a
good idea" when he asked what he thought of it:-)) is unique in its
repression of practices involving psychedelics.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #81 of 225: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Mon 19 Apr 10 12:06
    
19 April 1943!
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #82 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Mon 19 Apr 10 15:56
    
Yes. Happy Bicycle Day! I look forward to seeing Peter Conners book.
Send me a review copy and I'll pitch a review to the Chronicle. I would
have loved to explore the Ginsberg/Leary relationship more, but had to
stick to my four title characters. Ginsberg seems to pop up on the
cusp of everything interesting in the 1950s and 1960s. There sure are a
lot of titles coming out this year on the Beat/Hippie front. I was
asked to write a blurb for "The Typewriter Is HOly -- The Complete
Uncensored History of the Beat Generation," by Bill Morgan. Here's what
I said: "Bill Morgan draws on an encyclopedic knowledge of the Beat
writers to shine sober, sympathetic light into the dark corners of four
tortured lives. His painfully personal profiles of Allen Ginsberg,
Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs show how their
misguided search for personal freedom trapped them in their own
obsessions and addictions, yet also sparked an enlivening burst of
creative genius." The pub date is May 11. There's also a new book just
out on the Leary-inspired Brotherhood of Eternal Love, "Orange
Sunshine," by Nick Shou. 

 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #83 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Mon 19 Apr 10 16:02
    

Speaking of the Ginsberg/Leary relationship, here's an excerpt the
Chronicle ran from "The Harvard Psychedelic Club." As someone who used
to work at the Chron, it's one of my favorite scenes.


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/05/DD291BAJCJ.DTL
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #84 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 19 Apr 10 16:04
    
You know it's funny.  There were a ton of books published about
psychedelia when it was the latest thing - I grabbed piles of that
stuff on a used bookstore trip on the West coast c. 1980, just as
everyone was throwing it out and have a pretty nice little collection
as a result.

After about 1980 it really slacked off.  Now and then, a decent book
would come out - "Storming Heaven," "Acid Dreams," and a fair number of
good biographies of key counterculture and Beat figures.  But all of a
sudden it seems like there's a real revival of interest (perfectly
timed for your book!).  Do you think this revival of interest is real,
and if so, what do you think is driving it?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #85 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Mon 19 Apr 10 16:15
    
Steve, you asked for interesting tidbits from the psychedelic
conference. Here's one: 

Ram Dass just discovered that he has a son (now in his forties) and
some grandchildren. He was asked how he felt about it and replied, 
"It's wonderful. He's very handsome. Just like me." I think my book or
a review of it might have had something to do with them re-uniting. Not
sure about the details. But I do know that the son read "The Harvard
Psychedelic Club" on the plane to Hawaii when he flew over to meet Ram
Dass in Maui. He was also asked about his early life struggles around
his homosexuality, and said, "Ram Dass is not gay. Richard Alpert was
gay. I think." I think what he means when he says "Ram Dass is not gay"
is that he has transcended gay/straight categories, or maybe he's just
so old that he doesn't care about sex anymore. Who knows? There still
seems to be some confusion on that front. He talks about it in my book.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #86 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Mon 19 Apr 10 16:24
    
Mark: The revived interest is not just in books about psychedelics in
the past. There is something happening now. There's a change in tone in
the mainstream media coverage. Just check out last week's page one
story in the NY Times. There was a feeling at the SJ conference that we
are at a turning point in the revival of interest in beneficial uses
of psychedelics for things like PTSD, end-of-life issues, cluster
headaches -- not to mention as a tool for spiritual growth. It's like
we're picking up where it all stopped in 1969. Psychedelic scientists
have started calling it "the protracted lull." I think one reason for
all of this is simple -- the kids who were tripping in 1967 are now
running the universities, the publishing houses and the government.  
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #87 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 19 Apr 10 17:13
    
Right.  And while members of our generation may or may not have
positive feelings about drugs, they at least have taken their measure,
and probably probably have some personal experience.  So much of the
earlier anti-drug hysteria was built on fanciful misinformation.

That's really true going back to the earliest points at which
non-European drugs started with European culture - for example the
hysteria over opium and "the white slave trade" in late 19th century
America.

Your book also has me starting on Huston Smith's recent autobiography.
 I was reasonably familiar with Weil's career, and had certainly read
lots about Leary and Alpert, but I had never even heard of Huston Smith
- somehow that name never crossed my desk at all.  The story of his
meeting with Aldous Huxley is just amazing.  What a small world it was
then!
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #88 of 225: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 19 Apr 10 19:50
    
4/19 is correct indeed, i checked out the Skeleton Key on my way out
the door, years ago i saw something to the effect of 4/25, and i've
since learned to the contrary, but it's hard to get that piece of bad
data out of the brain once it's in:-)
But it's actually great that it's today. I had scheduled already days
ago for today to take a bike ride to the Cal campus (that's where i was
headed out the door for) and then hike into Strawberry Canyon, and of
course later ride my bike home. The bike rides weren't too eventful,
though the ride home was entertaining. The hike, with a spring flower
color riot on and the skies filling with all sorts of clouds from the
storm coming in, with sun darting in and out of them, made for quite a
spectacular day. Funny how timing has its own sense. So, glad i was
wrong about the date:-)
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #89 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 20 Apr 10 04:31
    
I remember it because on the 50th anniversary, I was a student
teacher, and made it part of the lesson.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #90 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 20 Apr 10 07:34
    
"Martin Luther King was not black.  He transcended that."

How would that read?  Just sayin'. 

Thanks for the report, Don.  Speaking of Ram Dass' alleged non-gayness,
did you ever interview Peter, the guy he referred to in his interview with
you as one of the loves of his life?  I believe he may have been a former
neighbor of mine, a very sweet, soulful, and angelic-looking guy who told
me he had been Ram Dass' lover though he tended to be more attracted to
women.  I lost touch with Peter years ago and always wondered what
happened to him.  (I also can't remember his last name, alas.)  Is he in
Hawaii with Ram Dass?

By the way, I'm just about to review Bill Morgan's book for the Chronicle.  
Will be starting it today, in fact.  I'm also reviewing Morgan's *other* 
new book, the collected Ginsberg/Kerouac letters.

Don, the only statement in your book that took me aback was your claim 
that LSD is a "more dangerous" drug than psilocybin.  On what basis are 
you making that claim -- raw potency?  Certainly LSD is a much more 
potent drug by molecular weight, but on the other hand, because mushrooms 
vary so widely in potency, I'm not sure one could say there's more of a 
chance of overdosing on acid.  I know there's plenty of anecdotal buzz 
about psilocybin being easier on the body because it's "natural" -- and I 
do think there's less of a burn-out period after the come-down -- but I 
have never seen any scientific evidence that LSD is "more dangerous" than 
psilocybin.  Certainly, people with a predisposition for schizophrenia 
should avoid both drugs like the plague.  But what was your source?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #91 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 20 Apr 10 07:38
    
Lots of stupid things were said in the 60s, but Leary's comments about
homosexuality in the parts of the Playboy interview quoted in the book
were especially painful to read. Of course, it was all said 40-some
years ago, different era, etc., etc. but still.

When I read those interview excerpts, I was reminded of his famous
quote that "Everyone gets the Timothy Leary they deserve."  He was
certainly giving Playboy exactly what they deserved.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #92 of 225: Ed Ward (captward) Tue 20 Apr 10 08:09
    
He was giving them the Timothy Leary they *wanted,* at any rate. 

I remember going to one of his "LSD Experience" multi-media ripoffs at
what became the Fillmore East. I'm not sure that I deserved that
Timothy Leary, unless the message was "suckahhh!"
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #93 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 20 Apr 10 08:31
    
You gotta love Leary choosing Allen Ginsberg as his example of a 
successfully "treated" homosexual.  It's like having Jackie Gleason 
endorse your diet plan.

I think the homosexuality riff in that Playboy interview was a little 
window into how much of a 1950s square Leary still was, even at the height 
of his post-Tomorrow-Never-Knows fame.  His fulminations about sexuality 
were just unprocessed classic homophobia, dressed up in all this blarney 
about acid revealing your genetic programming and whatnot.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #94 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 20 Apr 10 08:34
    
It's hard to remember how weird a magazine Playboy was when it was
still important.

The part of Don's book where the four main characters go their
separate ways is interesting.  They all did well, to a greater or
lesser extent, except for Leary.  I only saw him once, in the days when
he was a touring lecturer.  He was as bright and charming as everyone
says.  I made him laugh with some comment of mine - can't remember what
it was.

ISTR Curtis Sliwa was on the bill (what a moron!) but I may be
confusing it with another event.

I read Robert Greenfield's very detailed bio of Leary a couple of
years ago.  It was a painful read.  He never came right out and said
it, but it seemed pretty clear to me that Greenfield came to detest
Leary during the course of researching the book.  And it was kinda hard
to argue.  Although as is the case with many of us humans, one wonders
how differently things might have turned out without alcohol abuse.

Speaking of which, Don my favorite factoid from your book - that Bill
W., the founder of AA, tried and had a positive reaction to LSD.  I had
no idea.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #95 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 20 Apr 10 08:37
    
That was a great factoid that I didn't know either.

Side note:  A review of Orange Sunshine, a new book on the Brotherhood of 
Eternal Love: the "Amway" of acid. http://bit.ly/bKmOnP
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #96 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 20 Apr 10 08:40
    
Slip, and yeah, I agree with what you say, Steve.  

One thing I think Don's book is especially good on is how some of the
founders of the movement realized that psychedelics, in and of
themselves, were not going to be a panacea or a guaranteed road to
enlightenment.  (I loved the anecdote about Alpert and his co-voyagers
locking themselves in the bowling alley at Millbrook and taking acid
every four hours for a couple of weeks - and ending up profoundly
hating each other!)

Leary certainly must have figured this out too, being extremely
bright.  So one must conclude that being the "High Priest of LSD" was a
gig too good to give up.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #97 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 20 Apr 10 08:55
    
"High Priest" is far and away my favorite Leary book, for the record. It's 
full of engaging stories and was presciently hypertextual, which feels 
appropriate for the subject.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #98 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 20 Apr 10 09:06
    
Don and <mcdee>, you might be interested in an article in today's NYT 
about Bill W. --

Did a belladonna hallucination inspire the founder of 12-step programs? 
http://nyti.ms/serenitea
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #99 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 20 Apr 10 09:11
    
Fascinating - thanks!
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #100 of 225: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 20 Apr 10 11:28
    
Ironic that the man whose life was a hype about how acid would change things
for the better turned out to be living proof that it wasn't true.
  

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