The Man Who Turned on the World
2. The Harvard Happenings
1961At Harvard University in the early sixties, students had not yet discovered pot; the great majority were into booze, and there was considerable emphasis on physical prowess and middle-class, American WASP values. They had not escaped from the prison of their conditioning and the grand diagonal of crisis in student sensibilities was between those who went to football games and those who didn't. There was also a snob element, the Ivy League ethos, which pervaded the campus. Harvard was a sort of club designated by the imprimatur of the establishment. Yet 1961 was to herald a change of consciousness that was to have a seismic effect not only on the sensibilities of many Harvard students but on all sections of American culture. I refer of course to the advent of psychedelic drugs.
Leary had returned from a holiday in Mexico where he had first taken the Sacred Mushroom called teonancatl or 'flesh of the gods' which had been used as a kind of sacrament in Aztec religious rites, with a history going back more than 2000 years. The botanical name for this narcotic mushroom is Psilocybe mexicana, which has autonomic side-effects similar to those of LSD, though milder. According to the Harvard ethnobotanist, Dr. Richard Schultes,
' . . . psychedelic plants act on the central nervous system to bring about a dream-like state marked by extreme alterations in consciousness of self, in the understanding of reality, in the sphere of experience, and usually marked changes in perception of time and space; they almost invariably induce a series of visual hallucinations, often in kaleidoscopic movement, usually in rather indescribably brilliant and rich and unearthly colour, frequently accompanied by auditory and other hallucinations and varieties of synesthesias.'
The Psilocybe mexicana mushroom was synthesised by Dr. Albert Hofmann in 1958 at the Sandoz Laboratories and given the trade name Psilocybin. It was one of a range of psychedelic (mind-manifesting, mind-opening) plants which dramatically alter psychological functions such as mood, sensation, perception, consciousness, and cognitive function, which are described as 'mystico-revelatory' by various investigators, but statements about the subjective effects and clinical differences among these substances are, at this stage of our knowledge, in the realm of folklore.
There is considerable disagreement in the literature as to the interpretation of the effects of psychedelics, but there is substantial, one might say unanimous, accord on one major point: they do drastically alter human consciousness. They apparently knock out inhibitory processes in the nervous system (which select, discriminate, censor, evaluate) and they thus release an enormous flow of previously screened-out awareness.
The words which one uses to describe the psychedelic experience depend upon the investigator's cultural background, his language repertoire, his literary breadth. If you usually label 'psychotic' anything which lies outside the middle-class cultural ego of your tribe, you will call these psychedelic experiences pathological. If you define 'maturity' in terms of those modes of perception popular in urban America of 1961, then you may call any experience outside these limits as 'regressive'. It was Leary's thesis that the psychedelic effect is a transcendental experience, accompanied by intense positive or negative psychological reactions. There is transcendence of space-time categories, of the ego, of subject-object worlds of experience, of words. There is usually a sense of unity or 'oneness' with internal and external process which can be ecstatic and exalting, but which can also be frightening to the unprepared person in a strange or non-supportive physical setting. Whilst most psychologists tend to emphasise the pathological reactions; most subjects, who do not think in pathological categories, stress the positive aspects of the drug experience.
This would suggest that specificity of reaction to a psychedelic drug is primarily a function of set and setting. If the mental set of the subject and the physical setting or environment are positive, supportive, anxiety-free, then the reaction of the subject will be ecstatic, insightful, and educational. If the set and setting are clinical, experimental, non-supportive, and impersonal, then the reactions will be frightening and confusing. Take the case of the American Indians who still use peyote in connection with their religion. The peyote rite is one of prayer and quiet contemplation. Their doctrine consists of belief in God, brotherly love, care of family and other worthy beliefs. Peyote is conceived of as a sacrament, a holy god-given food and an available means of communion with the Spirit of the Almighty. When ingested, it causes the worshipper to experience a vivid revelation in which he 'sees' or 'hears' the spirit of a departed loved one, or experiences other religious phenomena; or he may be shown the way to solve some daily problem, and experience a deep reverential attitude to the divine; sometimes he may be reproved for some evil thought or deed. For the Indian, there is nothing debasing or morally reprehensible about using a psychedelic substance to establish contact with the gods, for he believes the peyote cactus to be of divine origin.
For the modern-day Westerner, the psychedelic experience can be very unexpected, seeing how personality is the product of conscious and unconscious imprinting as it may also be seen as the subjective expression of the society in which we happen to be brought up. We like to believe in the general regularity of our mental life, in the constancy of our views or opinions, and like to think how much we are alike, our so-called normality. But in the psychedelic state, our mind seems to obey no rules and, except in trivial ways, seems to exist outside the scope of ordinary rational consciousness.
It was not surprising, therefore, that psychedelic drugs like LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and peyote were considered by the American psychological establishment as psychotomimetic agents, and in the literature we note that researchers use the language of psychopathology to describe mystical and ecstatic experiences, in what Leary calls 'catalogues of anguish and conflict'.
The psychiatric researcher is trained to see the world through negative, pathological lenses. He is myopic and cannot see the wood for the trees. When he observes mystical or transcendental or ecstatic reactions the psychiatrist falls back on the concepts to which he is committed. He uses the language of pathology. Psychedelic drugs produce reactions which are not conventional. Somebody else's ecstasy always looks rather bizarre or foolish or insane to such an observer. Since ecstatic behaviours are not conventional and 'normal' it follows that they must be abnormal. Psychotic. Crazy.
A typical psychiatric interpretation reads like this:
'This paper describes our initial pilot study of clinical effects of psilocybin. The volunteers selected were told only that they might receive a substance which would produce temporary changes in perception and bodily feelings or an inert substances A baseline EEG, mental status and checklist of symptoms was completed before the drug was administered.
(Notice the suggestive use of a 'list of symptoms'; a researcher not oriented towards pathology could have checked the subject out on a list of ecstasies and illuminating experiences.)
'The experiment was conducted in a dark room. A nurse or doctor or both were constantly in attendance. Every fifteen minutes the psychiatrist rated the subject's responses on the checklist and conducted a mental status examination. Volunteers were told that they might be required to remain in the hospital for twenty-four hours, but only in two instances (out of fourteen) was this necessary. Results visual hallucinations, illusions, a form of hyperacusis, body image distortions, euphoria, anxiety, depression, blocking, disorganised thinking, distractibility, flight of ideas, clang associations, inability to abstract. A subject in response to the proverb "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones'' said before the drug, "You shouldn't point out faults in others that might exist in yourself". After the drug he said, 'At who? That depends on a lot of things." Autonomic responses, pupillary dilation, nausea, dizziness, flushing, abdominal complaints, blood pressure and pulse.... Usage of these drugs especially in an out-patient setting is fraught with the danger and should be undertaken only with the greatest caution. Psilocybin, LSD and mescaline are extremely potent agents capable of producing acute psychotic behaviour in many individuals. Depression with the ever-present risk of suicide may develop during or after their administration. Additional post-drug effects also occur. Once a patient has been entrusted with a hallucinogen even when instructed to take the drug in small doses, below the hallucinogenic threshold, we have no control over the number of pills he may take. The use of hallucinogens should be restricted to research in a hospital setting.'
The genius of Leary was that he avoided the behaviourist approach to the study and use of psychedelics. Avoid labelling, depersonalising the subject. Don't impose your own scientific jargon or your own experimental game models. Do not set out to validate the redundant implications of your own premises. Do not limit yourself to the pathological hypotheses. Do not interpret ecstasy as mania; calm serenity as catatonia; we must not diagnose Buddha as a detached schizoid; nor Christ as an exhibitionist and/or masochist; nor the mystic experience as a symptom; nor the visionary state as a model psychosis.
Right from the start the Harvard Psychedelic Project was surrounded by a charged field of excitement, glamour, adventure, enthusiasm, mystery, hyperbole, passion, controversy. Those who were running the show were charismatic, distinguished, articulate and colourful. Whilst the majority of the Harvard faculty was content to observe the world, our message was revolutionary: if things are not right, then let's change them. LSD et as was the New Heresy that gave birth to momentous social change in the form of a New Radicalism, which had as its core the experience of transcendence. Man could take a 'third eye' view of himself. He could escape from the prison of his conditioning, his robot-self, and move towards wholeness, completeness, place-in-the-world. We could all be conscious agents in the evolutionary process. This was to be our brave Golden Age of Anarchy when man would free himself from the dehumanisation of self-perpetuating, oligarchical bureaucracies and build a new, socialised, humanized super-society. We wanted to make 'turning-on' a natural part of modern man's existence, for the experience of liberation from the tyranny of the ego is an experience so extraordinary, so unique, that it is never forgotten by the individualindeed, the vision is the impetus to behaviour change.
Our offices at that time were located in an old, remodelled Cambridge houseFive Divinity Avenue. About nine faculty members and seventy graduate students in psychology used the building as their place of research and study, and it was a division of the Social Relations Department.
As fate or chance would have it, the building was called Morton Prince House after one of the first American psychologists to recognise alterations in consciousness as a critical area for research. Morton Prince would still be considered 'far out' today with his curious and bold interests in multiple personality, hypnosis, trance states and visionary experience.
It seemed somehow most natural and proper that we should be initiating a research into altered states of consciousness in this building.
Although Morton Prince was the founder of the Center he was not the first Harvard scholar to adventure boldly into the uncharted realms of inner space. The lineage of this research can be traced to the turn of the century, to that most venerable and greatest of American psychologists, William James, who saw that if the riddle of consciousness was to be solved then the researcher must use psychophysical means on himself. James tried the peyotl cactus, the sacramental food of the Indiansonly to be daunted by the stumbling block of nausea. He also tried nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as an available means of enlarging consciousness, and refers to his experiences in his classic work, The Varieties of Religious Experience:
'Some years ago I myself made some observations on this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the questionfor they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality. Looking back on my own experiences, they all converge towards a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. Not only do they as contrasted species, belong to one and the same genus, but one of the species the nobler and better one, is itself the genus and so soaks up and absorbs its opposite into itself. This is a dark saying, I know, when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if it must mean something, something like what the Hegelian philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it more clearly. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of its reality only comes in the artificial mystic state of mind.'
So the genealogical line of research in altered consciousness at Harvard starts with William James and from him to Morton Prince. And after Prince came another giant of psychology: Henry A. Murray, who was the director of the Center.
Professor Murray used fantasy, dream legend, folklore, mystic vision, poetry and esoteric writings as the raw material of his work on human personality. It was perhaps inevitable that he would request a psychedelic session, and in the spring of 1961 he took the drug for the first time. As he said of his decision afterwards, 'Curiosity and the envisaged possibility that I might revel in a little efficacious lunacy spurred me on to it. Why not?' It was a bold decision for a modern behavioural scientist at a time when the behaviourists were the tough-minded guys who wanted to apply impeccable scientific methodology to the study of the human organism, hiding their mediocrity and lack of imagination behind 'scientific' models, techniques, and mechanical 'designs' of the mind which are by definition mediocre and unimaginative, generating triviality and error.
Professor Murray realised that modern man is sitting on top of a simmering volcano. The psychedelic experience is one possible solution to avoid the deepening chaos; but thinkers, philosophers, psychologists and scholars have been singularly reticent about the possibility of expanding man's awareness and as a group are disinclined to face up to the existence of this new range of mind-changing chemicals by modern synthetic chemistry. If the minds of men are blind, then surely we should utilise whatever available means we have to restore true vision.
The psychedelic experience and the insights it provides entail the obligation to communicate and to listen. Revelation and response are not a man's private affair; for the revelation comes to one man for all men, and in his response he is representative of mankind. And since the response is representative it endows the recipient of revelation, in relation to his fellow men, with the authority of the prophet.
But here we come to the central problem. Spiritual fervour is not necessarily accompanied by tact; and men at large do not willingly recognise a new voice of authority when they hear it. (Vide Leary, Aldous Huxley, Herald Hear, Alan Watts, Robert Graves, Henry Murray). The difficulties are infinitely aggravated in our present-day world of easy mass communication which encourages a multiplicity of successive and often parallel authorities whose rival claims extend all over the place by virtue of the large followership which they have found. I think if a Jesus or a Buddha were to appear in our midst today he would be hard pressed to convince anyone of the relevance to mankind of his teachings. We find ourselves in a situation that Aldous Huxley, the patron saint of the psychedelic movement, touches on in his essay 'Art and the Obvious', where he talks of the incompetence and vulgarity with which the great obvious truths have been trivialised by hacks, and goes on to say that 'on some of the most sensitive and self-conscious artists of our age, this state of affairs has had a curious and unprecedented effect. They have become afraid of the obviousness of things, the great as well as the little.'
But perhaps the communication of an old obvious truththat the fullest kind of maturity has its core in the experience of personal transcendenceconsists not so much in looking for new things to do as in finding new and relevant ways of doing the obvious things.
It is evident that every scientific, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual advance has been made by individuals who, to some extent, broke out of the prison of their linguistic and social conditioning. And when we consider the present situation of the world, we see that advancing technology has rendered our prevailing nationalistic and militaristic culture completely obsolete, inappropriate and appallingly dangerous. Populations, civilisations and their rulers are everywhere the prisoners of this obsolete culture. They can't escape. Indeed, they have been so thoroughly conditioned that, although on the intellectual level they are aware of their danger, they do not, on the subconscious levels really want to escape.
What can be done to help individuals to become the beneficiaries of language and culture without, at the same time, becoming their prisoners and passive victims, or running amok under the intoxicating influence of misused words? There are several 'obvious' things that might be done. We can give young people (and adults) instruction in the nature, limitations and capabilities for evil as well as for good, of language. We can drum into their heads (as every wise man from Buddha and Saint Paul down to those of the present has always done) that words are not the same as things, that concepts are not experiences, that pigeon-holes do not exist in nature, that it is both stupid and unjust to hang a dog because somebody has given him a bad name (Hitler massacred six million Jews who were regarded not as human beings, but as the embodiment of a bad name). We must teach our youth to take their ease with words, naively, by reflex.
These thoughts are pretty 'obvious' to those who use psychedelics.
(Huxley: Private correspondence.) 'The accelerating rate of technological advance, of preparation for war, and of population increase leaves the human race very little time in which to get out of the prevailing mess. Perhaps within a decade the difficulties created by increasing pressure of numbers upon resources and by the disruptive impact of technology upon established behaviour patterns, may easily involve the whole world in a deepening chaos, to which the only antidote will be the iron dictatorship of generals or commissars. Those of us who worked with psychedelic drugs believed that within this short period we must try to train up a sufficient and effective minority of individuals, capable of profiting by language and culture without being stultified or made mad by them, capable of changing obsolete behaviour patterns in such a way that mankind may find it possible to live in conformity, not with disastrous slogans and dogmas inherited from the past, but with the life process, the essential Suchness of the world.'
My own view is that LSD may be nothing more than the extreme lengths to which a handful of individuals were prepared to go in order to ensure the continuity of their necessary freedoms.
This slight digression over, let us return to the activities at Five Divinity Avenue, to that tiny group led by Leary and sustained by Murray, who were to fiddle with irrelevancies while the giant powers multiplied their infernal weapons, threats, and provocations. As soon as it became known that a research project involving the use of these new psychedelic drugs was to be organised, large numbers of graduate students came round to join the project. There were many planning sessions, and an air of excitement pervaded Morton Prince House. We also examined the available literature on the subject, including the works of Aldous HuxleyHeaven and Hell and The Doors of Perception which detailed his experiences with mescaline, as well as his novel Island about a 'positive Utopia' in which psychedelic drugs are used by a community to help expand awareness and bring its members closer to God. It was Huxley's solution to the problems and horrors he described so dramatically in Brave New World and Ape and Essence. There were also Leary's papers on the subject as well as monographs by Frank Barron, a leading American authority of creativity, Richard Alpert, a member of the Harvard Faculty, and William Burroughs. It was not much, but it was enough to start planning sessions based on non-clinical methodologies.
My job at this time was as an assistant to Leary. I was living in his house and we would drive to the office each morning from Boston, just across the river from Cambridge. I was also given a course to teach, two hours a week, when I would meet with perhaps a dozen graduate students in psychology to plan and discuss LSD sessions. We would sit around discussing how best to run group sessions, the function of the 'guide' or administrator, and the ethical and interpersonal principles involved. The atmosphere of the Center hadn't been this stirred since Harry Murray was trying to solve the Lindberg kidnapping, since Morton Prince tried to get in touch with the co-conscious 'spirit world', since William James started a rage of nitrous oxide parties in Boston's Back Bay.
What we wanted to achieve was an 'open', collaborative and humanistic response to our research in order to produce optimally positive reactions to the drug experience. And by 'positive reaction' we meant a pleasant, ecstatic, non-anxious experience leading to a broadening of awareness and an increase in individual insight. The following principles were laid down by the team:
1. Participants whenever possible will alternate roles of observer and subject.
2. Participants will be given all available information about the drug and its effects before the experiment. We will attempt to avoid an atmosphere of mystery and secret experimentation.
3. The participants will be given control of their own dosage. A maximum dosage will be determined by the principal investigators. This maximum number of tablets will be given the subject and he will be told to dose himself at the rate and amount he desires.
4. The sessions will take place in pleasant, spacious aesthetic surroundings. Music, art reproductions, sympathetic observers will be available.
5. The subject will be allowed to bring a relative or friend to be his observer.
6. No subject should take the drug in a group where he is a stranger.
7. An attempt will be made to have one observer for each two subjects. The subjects will be given complete freedom of the house but cannot leave the premises. Observers will be available at all times for discussion.
8. Observers will be present at the end of the session for follow-up discussions.
It is interesting to look back at some of the original members
of the Harvard Psychedelic Project, who were first introduced
to LSD via the contents of the magic mayonnaise jar, and to note
their successive and deepening involvement in the psychedelic
movement, which was to spread from Harvard to all sections of
our Western culture as well as introduce a new vocabulary for
a turned-on youth movement ('psychedelic', 'acid', 'trip', 'stoned');
new slogans ('turn on, tune in, drop out'); new artistic forms
(psychedelic art, acid rock, psychedelic discotheques, a Beatle
album openly celebrating the psychedelic experience); new drug-associated
organizations (The International Federation for Internal Freedom
[IFIF] in Cambridge, The Agora Scientific Trust in New York, The
World Psychedelic Centre in London, The Castalia Foundation at
Millbrook); new religions (The Neo-American Church, The League
for Spiritual Discovery, The Free High Church of Cumbrae [Scotland],
The Church of the Awakening, San Francisco); new life-styles (head
shops, ashrams, communes, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love); an
underground newspaper service; new literary forms and themes (High
Priest, Time Psychedelic Review, The Ecstatic Adventure, The Psychedelic
Experience, Psychedelic Prayers, The Varieties of Psychedelic
Experience) and so on and so forth.
'The atmosphere could hardly have been made more pleasant and congenial. The freedom, spontaneity, and personal warmth within the group and between members of the group became very meaningful. In these moments the psychology vs. theology business dropped off, the faculty-student barrier just did not matter, even the friend-stranger game was minimised. For these few moments we interacted not as role players or status seekers but as human beingsmen who share common sorrows and common joys, some of which we discussed.
'Things going on inside me took all my attention. Early in my session I fastened upon the question of the distinction between knower and known, recalling Allport's and Hall and Lindzey's discussion of whether the self should be conceptualized in terms of the processes of knowing (self-as-subject, James' pure Ego) or in terms of the structures, patterns, abstractions by which one defines himself (self-as-object, proprium). It seemed to me that these were being dissociated in me, and I as knower was unable to confirm my knowing or to sustain my sense of identity by referring to any stable elements of myself. I recall looking at a Buddhist symbol, a circle divided into two S-shaped parts, one black and one white, with a centre in each of the semi-circles which formed the S. I struggled to bring the two centres together, as if "the 1" had to do so to survive. I can remember twisting and straining with all my might, saying I-I-I-I-I and somehow being aware that the batter of my universe was to maintain the "I" while all else was stripped away.
'Two related feelings were present. One was a tremendous freedom to experience, to be I. It became very important to distinguish between I and Me, the latter being an object defined by patterns and structures and responsibilitiesall of which had vanishedand the former being the subject experiencing and feeling.
'What it all means: First, for psychological theory. One striking aspect of the experience was the lack of sexual feelings or thoughts. We all commented upon this. Another was the lack of aggressionmoments of irritability produced only a desire to move away from the irritating one. Moreover, I experienced no developmental regression. While this does not in any way disprove Freudian theory, it makes it utterly irrelevant to this experience....
'To begin with, the usual: the experience is so fantastic in both its novelty and its power as to beggar all possibility of adequate depiction through words. The most that can be hoped for by way of description is an approximation, and only those who have had the drug can know how far removed from actuality the approximation must be.
'The things that can be said easily and unequivocally are: (I) My physical symptoms were a pronounced quaking which centred in my lower limbs, climaxing (I would judge) about one and a half hours after taking the drug but continuing off and on for about five hours; a slight stomach cramp for about ten hours; the feeling of physical depletionhaving been wrung through a wringeron coming out of the spell; and inability to sleep (bright flashes of light) until 3.00 a.m. (2) No disorientationat no point did I lose awareness of who I was, where I was, or the group experience that was underway. (3) Considerable apprehension, but no real terror or paranoia.
'Now to the difficult part. The best way I can describe the experience as a whole is to liken it to an emotional-reflective-visual kaleidoscope, with the words listed in order of decreasing importancemood and emotion most important, thought next, visual (internal, of the sort you can get with your eyes closed) least. Experience involving these three components kept dissolving continuously from one pattern into another.
'Emotionally the patterns ranged from serene contentment and mild euphoria to apprehension which bordered on, but never slipped into, alarm, but overwhelmingly they involved (a) astonishment at the absolutely incredible immensity, complexity, intensity and extravagance of being, existence, the cosmos, call it what you will. Ontological shock, I suppose. (b) The most acute sense of the poignancy, fragility, preciousness, and significance of all life and history. The latter was accompanied by a powerful sense of the responsibility of all for allall this, it must be pointed out, while lying comfortably and privately flat on one's back.
'Intellectually, the dominant impression was that of entering into the very marrow of existence. Instead of looking at a painting, I was climbing into it, almost through it, as if to view it from behind. So too with being in general. It was as if each of the billion atoms of experience which under normal circumstances are summarised and averaged into crude, indiscriminate wholesale impressions was now being seen and savoured for itself. The other clear sense was that of cosmic relativity. Perhaps all experience never gets summarised in any inclusive over-view. Perhaps all there is is this everlasting congerie of an infinite number of discrete points of view, each summarising the whole from its perspective with the sum of all perspectives running the entire gamut from terror to absolute assurance and ecstasy.
'During the supper, after the two groups had gathered together I found myself disinclined to speak much. And the reason seemed clearand still does. Several times a thought began to take shape. But immediately one saw three or four feasible (and very different) ways any overt expression of it could be taken: straightforward, platitudinous, farcical, too personally revelatory to be publicly broadcast, etc. As language seemed too gross and clumsy to screen out the senses 1 did not intend, it seemed, not so much more prudent as more truthful in the sense of not-multiplying-misunderstanding, to remain for the most part quiet.
'Felt cleancleansed, actuallyclear and happy the next day; the reverse to about equal degree the day following: normal, thereafter.'
We also tried to scotch the rumours by 'coming out front' and including mention of them in the Newsletter:
'During the fall of 1961 reports circulated in Manhattan literary, artistic and intellectual circles about the availability of black market hallucinogenic drugs, allegedly psilocybin. These substances were sold in liquid form. Because of our interest in the anthropology of consciousness-altering substances we investigated these reports. Conversations with a physician who analysed this liquid revealed it to be a form of LSD mixed with another substance, probably amphetamine.
'In December we were informed about the case of a well-known model who had been wandering for several weeks in lower Manhattan in a delirious state which was attributed to liquid "mushrooms". A New York businessman who is producing a movie on the Mexican mushroom heard of this casehis wife being a former friend of the model. The girl was located and a physician called. The girl made an apparent recovery. After a week, at the suggestion of the physician, and at our invitation the girl came to Boston for a rest. We had anticipated that we could assist her in integrating her experience into her life. However, she was immediately seen to be suffering from a severer psychosis. A psychiatrist was called and hospitalization arranged in a local hospital. Subsequent investigations have determined that the girl had probably been functionally psychotic for several months.
'On Saturday, morning 7 October, we were asked for help by an undergraduate who knew of our work and was concerned about his girl. It seemed that he had obtained (from New York) and taken a hallucinogen the previous evening and had spent this evening with his girl, who was, apparently, already quite emotionally disturbed as the result of a series of recent traumatic experiences. During the night, although the girl did not take any drugs herself, she was affected by the situation, so much so that she lost contact with reality a number of times during the course of the evening. After a review of the situation, we arranged for the girl to see a Cambridge psychiatrist whom she reported having visited previously. We have continued to see the boy up to the present time in order to help him integrate and make use of his experience.
'A recent rumour suggested that the punch at a University function had been "spiked" with hallucinogens by a student who obtained the material from us. In fact, our materials are carefully safeguarded and are signed out only to the members of our staff (who sign a requisition for all material) for specified research purposes. We were unable to ascertain the source of the rumour.
'In the fall of 1961 members of our research group were approached by and met twice with several young men who have been informally experimenting with conscious-altering substances. All of these young men were or had been Harvard undergraduates. They wanted to talk with us about their experiences, and particularly about their plans for a model free community in Mexico. Two of these young men did go to Mexico to look for a location, but they returned to Cambridge. To our knowledge no community has been established. In our discussions with these men we found them to be imaginative, decent, and full of youthful exuberance. We did nothing to encourage their use of conscious-altering substances. Rather, we expressed concern about the clandestine atmosphere in which they used these substances and talked very frankly with them about the frightening experiences that stem from secretiveness, suspicion, and fear.'
The Newsletter ended with a paragraph about 'Group leaders':
'There is, at present, a group of psychologists who, during the past year have become very familiar with psilocybin and its effects. They have each participated in a number of sessions both as member and leader. We start with this group as a nucleus of administrators. The group includes: Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Michael Kahn, George Litwin, Ralph Metzner, Gunther Weil, Ralph Schwitzgebel, Michael Hollingshead.
But the paranoia was not restricted to Harvard. The Press were having a field-day, and reports of our activities began to appear in such mass-circulation magazines as The Reporter ('The Hallucinogenic Drug Cult'); Look ('Weird Story of Harvard's Drug Scandal'), and even an article entitled 'Psycho Chemicals as Weapons' which appeared in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which prompted us to reply in an article duly published in their next issue; our article was headed 'The Politics of the Nervous System'.
(Published in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Pub: Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science, Inc., 935 E. 60 St. Chicago 37, III.)
'The article by Dr. E. James Lieberman entitled "Psycho Chemicals as Weapons" (January, 1962) could lead to serious confusion in the minds of a credulous public and of a credulous military. The author seems to be moved by admirable democratic sentiments, but he has mixed together an astonishing combination of psychiatric folklore and chemical warfare fantasy. The results are misleading.
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