Harvard Psychedelic Club: 1956 Footage Of Housewife’s Acid Trip

Harvard Psychedelic Club: 1956 Footage Of Housewife’s Acid Trip

Jan 19


By Don Lattin
Huffington Post
January 16, 2011

Original Link

Here’s some rare footage of an experimental LSD session that I came across doing research for my next book, a group biography of British writer Aldous Huxley, philosopher Gerald Heard, and Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s from a television program, circa 1956, about mental health issues.

The researcher, Dr. Sidney Cohen, was dosing volunteers at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Los Angeles. Aldous Huxley, who first tried mescaline in 1953 and wrote about it in his seminal book, The Doors of Perception, got Gerald Heard interested in the spiritual potential of psychedelic drugs.

Heard then turned on Bill Wilson, guiding him on an LSD trip supervised by Dr. Cohen in the summer of 1956 — perhaps in the same room we see in this video. Wilson, who started AA in the 1930s, thought LSD could help alcoholics have the “spiritual awakening” that is such an important part of the twelve-step recovery program he popularized.

Heard and Huxley set the stage for better-known psychedelic research of Timothy Leary, Richard “Ram Dass” Alpert, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil, who are profiled in my 2010 book, The Harvard Psychedelic Club.



By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
January 5, 2010

Original Link

The following excerpt is taken from Don Lattin’s new book, “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“. It’s the story of what happened when three university professors and one ambitious freshman crossed paths in the fall of 1960 at Harvard, where Leary had just begun putting together a controversial psychedelic drug research project. This scene is from a chapter in the middle of the book titled “If you come to San Francisco.” It’s January 1967, and the center of the psychedelic scene has shifted from Boston to Baghdad by the Bay.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: HarperOne (January 5, 2010)
Language: English


Timothy Leary could not be stopped. He was determined to secure his position as the “high priest” of the LSD movement. He knew he needed the news media to spread the psychedelic gospel, and journalists knew they needed Leary to figure out what was going on in the early years of the counterculture. Leary’s concern for public relations was on display the night following the Human Be-In extravaganza in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the event where the former Harvard psychology professor – dressed in white with beads around his neck and a yellow flower tucked behind his ear – first uttered his infamous slogan, “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.” Leary had just run out to get an early edition of the San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner. He rushed the newspaper over to an apartment in the Haight-Ashbury where Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and others were in the midst of a post-celebration party.

Leary handed the newspaper to Ginsberg, who read the story, headlined HIPPIES RUN WILD, and let out a moan. “That’s ridiculous,” Ginsberg complained. “Like, it was an aesthetically very good scene. They should have sent an art critic.”

Reporting a complaint

Ginsberg picked up the phone and called the newspaper to register his complaint with the night editor at the newspaper.

“What is this nonsense about hippies running wild?” Ginsberg asked the befuddled editor. “Your story has the kind of inaccuracy of tone and language that’s poisoning the community. Is that what you want to do?”

“We sent our hippiest reporter,” the night editor replied.

“I don’t know what kind of hippies you’ve got over there at your place,” Ginsberg said, chuckling. “Besides, what is this hippie business? What does ‘hippie’ mean, anyway? These kids aren’t hippies – they’re seekers. Today was a serious religious occasion.”

Ginsberg promised to come over to the newspaper first thing Monday morning and talk to the reporter about doing a more accurate follow-up story. The editor said that would be fine. They’d see the famous poet at The Chronicle offices on Monday.

“Well, peace,” Ginsberg said, hanging up the phone.

Ginsberg, still dressed all in white, was sitting on a mattress in the meditation room in the apartment of Michael Bowen, one of the Human Be-In organizers. The mattress and the wall behind him were covered with Indian bedspreads. Sitting next to him was Gary Snyder, who had beads hanging over his turtleneck sweater. Most of the people at the party were still in their Be-In costumes, except for Leary, who had taken off his loose white garments and changed into sports jacket and trousers. That way he looked more professorial when the television news crew showed up dragging klieg lights and cables into Bowen’s apartment.

It’s all about visuals

The cameraman turned away from Leary and held a light meter up to Ginsberg’s face. Here was a guy with a bushy black beard, love beads and white robes. Better visuals for a TV news segment on the hippies.

The poet groaned at the TV crew. “Man,” he said, looking at Bowen, “it’s bad enough that you have a telephone in your meditation room.”

Ginsberg lightened up when the TV reporter offered his take on the day’s festivities. “I don’t know why,” the television guy said, “but this whole day strikes me as absolutely sane and right and beautiful. You guys must have put something in my tea.”

“What’s so insane about a little peace and harmony,” Ginsberg replied. “Thousands of people came to the park today, just so they could relate to each other – as dharma beings. All sorts of people – poets, children, even Hell’s Angels. People are lonely. It’s strange to be in a body.”

Gary Snyder nodded. “People are groovy,” he said.

Ginsberg looked into the television camera. “It was very Eden-like today,” he said. “Kind of like Blake’s vision of Eden. Music. Babies. People just sort of floating around having a good time and everybody happy and smiling and touching and turning each other on and a lot of groovy chicks all dressed up in their best clothes and -”

“But will it last?” the reporter asked.

“How do I know?” Ginsberg said. “And who cares?”


By Roberto Loiederman
January 15, 2010

Original Link

This review is from: 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

The story of Ram Dass/Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary is well-documented. But the new news in this extremely readable and enjoyable book is how the psychedelic tendrils that emanated from Cambridge in the early 1960s also included an MIT professor who would become the foremost expert on comparative religion (Huston Smith) and an ambitious Harvard freshman who would become the most successful exponent of alternative medicine — Andrew Weil. How these four lives intersected, how they supported and betrayed one another, makes for fascinating reading. But what gives this book its heft is the fact that Lattin lets us know what happened to these men in the subsequent 50 years, how they feel now about what they went through then, and what the social and political implications are of the revolution they helped to foment and promote.

Lattin understands that the key conflict in the 1960s wasn’t so much between those who took LSD and those who didn’t, but rather between those who felt that the revolution would occur if enough people took psychedelics and re-calibrated their perceptions; as opposed to those who felt that change would happen only if enough people agitated and protested, radically altering political and social structures. Lattin also understands that among those who took a great deal of LSD, there were two main outcomes: having been exposed to mystical/psychotic experiences, you either looked for ways to change your life according to what you’d seen and learned while on psychedelics; or you got hooked on the high itself, trying to repeat that experience as often and intensely as possible.

The Harvard Psychedelic Club is a wonderful book, full of insight and compassion. It also casts a cold eye on what those events mean when looked at now, 50 years after they occurred.



Don Lattin, author of “The Harvard Psychedelic Club,” discusses his new
book on VORA.tv
(50 minutes)

Psychotropic Drugs On An Integral Path



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