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AMST 3100 The 1960s The Psychedelic Movement Part 2 Powerpoint 7 Read the web notes by Owsley On Psychedelics for an editorial by one of the persons who made acid so available during the 1960s. Primary source is Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, 1998 LSD and the Beats

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Amst 3100 the 1960s the psychedelic movement part 2 l.jpg

AMST 3100 The 1960sThe Psychedelic MovementPart 2

Powerpoint 7

Read the web notes by Owsley On Psychedelics for an editorial by one of the persons who made acid so available during the 1960s.

Primary source is Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, 1998


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LSD and the Beats

  • The Beats were “hip.” They excelled at producing existential vaudeville: theater experiences that were surreal.

    • The Beats loved absurdity.

  • In doing so, they were morphing into what would later be called hippies.

    • A distinguishing feature of the hippies was the presentation of the absurd self.

  • It was the emerging fashion to push things to their extreme, including all kinds of sexual and drug experimentation, and this became a hallmark of the 1960s counterculture.

Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. Cassady was the living display of sublime absurdity, and Kerouac – a bit more socially restrained – really admired Cassady.


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Timothy Leary as Advocate

  • Leary was a product of the 1950s backlash movement called humanistic psychology.

    • It was time to ask what made people healthy – not just what made them sick.

  • Leary’s humanism led him to have contempt for the Organization Man conformity of that era.

  • When he discovered psychedelic drugs for himself in 1960 he felt that he had discovered a tool to unleash the intuitive mind and to experience profound transformations.

    • And he couldn’t wait to share his discovery.

Timothy Leary, 1963.


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Timothy Leary as Advocate

  • Leary experimented with psychedelic drugs at Harvard, using his students as assistants.

    • Their first experiment was to give psilocybin to 175 people in a naturalistic study.

      • Over 50% of the participants claimed the experience taught them something about themselves, and 90% wanted to try it again.

  • By 1961 it was less clear whether Leary was running a scientific experiment or whether he was trying to start a cultural revolution.

  • By 1962 Leary was experimenting with LSD. If psilocybin was all about love, LSD was all about death and rebirth. It was much more powerful.

Dr. Timothy Leary at Harvard.


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Leary, Huxley, and Ginsberg

  • Leary and Huxley exchanged enthusiastic correspondence over Leary’s research.

  • They discussed the proper strategy to introduce mind expansion to a culture of Organization Men.

    • Huxley argued that they should turn on artistic, intellectual and economic elites, and Leary initially agreed.

    • However, after listening to Allen Ginsberg, Leary would later shift toward making LSD available to a wider array of people.

    • Ginsberg stressed that it should be up to the individual and that everyone, not just elites, should have access to LSD. Ginsberg was an egalitarian.

      • By turning everyone on, they would generate a snowball effect of mass change.

Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and Ralph Metzner at Millbrook, 1966.


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LSD Spreads Across the Popular Culture

  • Eventually psychedelic drug use spread across different groups, including the wealthy and the avant-garde, who mingled at the same drug parties that Beats, artists, and intellectuals attended.

    • Note: the motivations for drug use varied by the group. Some took the drugs mainly for pleasure purposes while others took them for spiritual growth purposes.

    • Gradually the West Coast parties began to emphasize the pleasure purposes.

      • This was not a problem for Timothy Leary, who felt that American culture was too rigid and sexually hung-up. Leary believed pleasure and spirituality were linked.


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Social Change

  • At the core of the egalitarian philosophy was that true social change begins from the bottom – among the masses - and moves up to the elite. This view opposes the more elitist view that change must stem from elites and their institutions, and the masses will follow.

  • The problem with the egalitarian approach was that by giving everyone access to acid, there would be many casualties.

  • This debate relates to a deeper debate:

    • The most important debate within the counterculture involved whether to place the emphasis upon Nirvana or Utopia as the primary goal of The Movement.

Utopia Visionaries

Nirvana Visionary


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Personal Politics versus Institutional Politics

  • The 1960s protestors felt that both personal (psychological) and institutional (social structural) changes were needed, but which was more important – making people at peace with themselves or making institutions more humanistic?

  • Hippies and Radicals were split on this issue.

    • Hippies favored a personal-change emphasis, with LSD as the tool for personal introspection. Their goal was Nirvana.

    • Radicals (like the Black Panthers and SDS) favored an institutional-change emphasis, with organized social activism as the tool for change. The radical’s goal was Utopia.


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Personal Politics versus Institutional Politics

  • Regardless of whether the emphasis was on Nirvana or Utopia, the two are interrelated.

    • Under a Nirvana emphasis, we would expect that as minds became loving, institutions would eventually be reconstructed to be more humanistic.

    • Under a Utopian emphasis, we would expect that as institutions became more humane, minds would eventually be reconstructed to be more loving and compassionate toward others.

  • Both approaches are valid.

The Woodstock concert is often regarded as a symbolic pinnacle of the peace and loving aspects of the counterculture. Indeed, when Abbie Hoffman tried to deliver a political speech he was largely ignored or booed by a crowd not so interested in radical political speeches. This crowd was perhaps closer to the psychedelic counterculture than the political radical counterculture, but they were intertwined.


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Timothy Leary as Spiritual Prophet

  • By 1962, Leary was beginning to see himself as a spiritual prophet of sorts – that he needed to lead society to a higher consciousness.

  • Leary’s research had confirmed that psychedelic drugs produced forms of the mystical experience.

    • His mission was assuming an increasingly religious or spiritual tone.

    • According to his friends’ characterization, he saw himself as having “evolved” from his earlier - more scientific - self into a spiritual Guru self. He was losing interest in the scientific component of psychedelics. For this reason, Harvard would eventually boot him out.


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The Politics of Consciousness

  • “Lysergic acid hits the spot. Forty billion neurons, that’s a lot.” – Marshall McLuhan.

  • By 1962, the mood began to change.

  • Some psychiatrists began to feel that LSD was a dagger pointed at the heart of psychiatry. They were fearful that the increasingly visible and controversial Leary would bring down the house.

    • LSD had become easy to get, and it was now associated with an emerging hedonistic California subculture.

  • Others in psychiatry advocated continued LSD experimentation.


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Research into LSD Safety

  • By the mid-60s, qualms about the safety of LSD were being put to rest.

  • Researcher Sidney Cohen surveyed a sample of 5000 LSD users and learned that an average of 1.8 psychotic episodes occurred per 1000 ingestions – far less than the anti-drug forces had argued. LSD was fairly safe.


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LSD as a therapy tool

  • With the question of safety out of the way, interest now focused on the best way to use LSD.

  • There were 2 schools of thought for LSD use within the field of psychiatry:

  • 1. LSD could be used as a facilitator of traditional Freudian psychiatry, or

  • 2. LSD could be used in huge doses to try to produce an integrative or mystical insight that would lead to a radical change in behavior. This was called “psychedelic therapy.”

    • If successful, the effects could be dramatic. Humphrey Osmond claimed a success rate of 50-70% for chronic alcoholics, while Dr. Al Hubbard (by now a PhD) reported a success rate of 80%.

Popular Science article, 1967.


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LSD therapy

  • What some trippers discovered was that, underneath the fragile ego, there exists an “imperishable self” that is at one with nature, death, and the universe.

  • Much therapy involved moving past the vain ego into this selfless state. If successful, neurotic patterns die away because neurosis stems from an “insecure” ego. This is how the Freudians see it.

The 1967 Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury embraced this vision of loving selflessness, melding psychology with new age spiritualism and mysticism.


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Different Interpretations of LSD

  • However, LSD’s effects were seen differently by different researchers.

  • One researcher might see LSD “dissolving” the ego while another might see it as a form of depersonalization, while Timothy Leary saw the same effects as a mystical union or an integrative experience.

  • A hallucination to one was a vision to another.

  • These discrepant interpretations represented turf wars between various types of psychologists, as well as spiritualists, artists and others.


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1962: LSD Research is Curtailed

  • To conservative representatives of the Establishment, LSD was harmful. Period. In 1962, Congress passed a law that gave the FDA approval over all new experimental drugs.

  • This law was aimed mostly at speed, but it could be used against LSD too. LSD was no longer so readily available for research after 1962.

    • The research machine was being turned off by the authorities.

  • However, it was too late to turn off the publicity machine.

LSD glassware seized in a drug raid.


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The Fifth Freedom

  • If the psychedelic movement had a nostalgic highpoint, it might be in mid-1962 when Timothy Leary gathered 35 LSD experimenters in Mexico for tripping.

  • Leary was interested in “internal freedom,” involving the right to do what one wanted with one’s own consciousness. This was the “Fifth Freedom” to Leary.

    • By this point, Leary had rejected the idea of turning on only elites. What was needed was a group of well-trained acid guides, capable of training others in the art of psychedelics.

    • So Leary founded the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to promote the movement.

      • IFIF lasted only a year. Leary dissolved it in 1963 as “too rigid” or too bureaucratic. Leary’s attention shifted toward founding a commune that would offer less formalized training.


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Leary’s goal: 4 million

  • Leary estimated that 25,000 people had used LSD by 1961. He forecasted that by 1967 one million people would try it.

    • To Leary, the magic number was 4 million people, after which he felt the movement would have enough momentum to bring great change in American society.


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1962: the good ole days

  • Leary’s subculture blended Beat coolness with a zest for having fun while learning at the same time. The prevailing mood was “serious cosmic fun.”

  • At this point (1962) the subculture was moving beyond Beat but had not yet morphed into the hippie scene.

  • The official definition of LSD at that time was that it was potentially useful but had become dangerous in the “irresponsible” hands of scientists like Timothy Leary.

  • By now, the psychedelic movement was generating much publicity. Of the many magazine articles written about LSD at that time, Playboy provided one of the only positive articles.

LSD in liquid form.


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1963: Huxley dies

  • It was soon after then (11-22-63) that Aldous Huxley would die of disease and expressed his wish to his wife that he die while tripping.

  • Huxley believed in LSD but feared that the politics of LSD would bring the movement to an end.

    • Given the socially conservative climate of America, he did not want anyone to promote LSD irresponsibly.


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Leary’s Millbrook Commune

  • During the early 1960s, Leary moved to Millbrook, NY, where he established a psychedelic commune on the wealthy estate of a benefactor.

  • Millbrook became the center of the psychedelic movement, which was growing in popularity.

  • Leary offered a merging of psychology with a dose of spiritualism and hedonism at Millbrook.

    • The weekend drug parties at Millbrook quickly became famous.

  • Click here to link to Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s 1963 article, “The Politics of Consciousness Expansion,” published in The Harvard Review.

Leary at Millbrook. The NY estate was on loan from a wealthy supporter, but expenses to run it were high.


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Kesey: The Boy Most Likely to Succeed

  • In the early 1950s, Timothy Leary was a well respected psychologist. By 1963 he was a famous psychedelic guru.

  • A similar change occurred for Ken Kesey.

  • Kesey was a regular jock athlete with a likeable personality who got good grades in school. As a senior in high school he was voted “most likely to succeed.”

Ken Kesey, 1967.


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Kesey discovers LSD for himself

  • When Kesey attended the Stanford Writing Program in 1958 he discovered that he was a gifted writer and that he was attracted to the Beat subculture.

    • He grew a beard, began playing folk songs on his guitar, and started to smoke pot.

  • Later he volunteered as a drug tester at a hospital studying psychedelic drugs.

    • Kesey found that LSD was great and became an instant convert to the cause.

Ken Kesey, author.


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Kesey becomes famous

  • It was during this period that he got his material for his famous novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.”

  • This novel was a metaphor of 1950s America, where there was no room for individuality in the “combine.”

  • Meanwhile, Kesey began to have gatherings for mutual drug exploration in his California home.

  • By 1962, an inner circle of fellow-adventurers had emerged to call themselves the Merry Band of Pranksters, with Kesey at the center of it all and with Neal Cassady as their role model.

This 1962 book captured an emerging theme of the counterculture – that society and its institutions were over-rationalized and had become quasi-totalitarian as they denied individual free will.


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How does one sustain Nirvana?

  • One of the issues Ken that Kesey and Neal Cassady were familiar with involved how to sustain one’s state of cosmic consciousness.

  • As Leary and others in the movement had discovered, people would often drift back to old routines and regress.

Neal Cassady, the driver of the Merry Prankster bus called Further.


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So how does one sustain Nirvana?

  • Over at Millbrook in New York, Leary and others were working on ways to “break set.” This involved brain research and other ways to sustain nirvana.

  • On the West coast, Kesey and the Pranksters believed the trick was to “live totally in the here and now,” where one was not trapped by the socially conditioned self.

Photo of the Millbrook house. Notice the art work on the house.


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The Pranksters take a trip

  • By 1964 Kesey had finished his second novel and purchased a bus to travel with his Merry Pranksters across the country to New York for its publication party. They were going to go to the World’s Fair - and also to look up Timothy Leary.

  • The bus, named Further, was equipped with motion film cameras, a sound system, and drugs. They planned on making a film of their adventure to the East Coast and filmed almost anything and everything.

With Kesey on the roof and Cassady at the helm, the Merry Pranksters head East.


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The Pranksters go to Millbrook

  • When they reached Millbrook, they realized that the psychedelic movement had split in different directions.

  • Timothy Leary’s group regarded the Pranksters as too garish, while the Pranksters regarded Millbrook as too stuffy and “egghead” like.

    • In others words, Millbrook was too scientifically serious while the Pranksters were too hedonistic.

    • The Millbrook meeting strengthened the Prankster’s sense of their own psychedelic identity as a distinct and separate subculture from the Leary crowd.

The is a 1964 photo of Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs and other Merry Pranksters when they arrived at Millbrook. They are apparently waiting to see Timothy Leary. Unfortunately Timothy Leary was in an extended session, but he eventually came out to greet his West Coast visitors.


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The psychedelic movement splits

  • The Pranksters avoided the European-style intellectual “heaviness” or seriousness of Leary’s subculture.

    • They also rejected the careful reliance on LSD guides that Leary believed was necessary for the revolution.

    • Instead they adopted a “go with the flow” approach.

  • But here were the seeds of disaster: where Leary pulled away from Huxley, Kesey was pulling away from Leary. Kesey was developing an even looser code where anyone and everyone could take LSD freely. This was exactly what Huxley feared would happen, and what would bring the authorities to put a stop to LSD. Ultimately the publicity drawn by both Leary and the Kesey acid tests would attracted not just the countercultural hipsters – it attracted the attention of the moralistic authorities.

The growing psychedelic movement attracted the attention of prosecutors, one of whom was G. Gordon Liddy, who would later raid the Millbrook house in 1966 to bust Leary.


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The West Coast scene

  • When the Merry Pranksters returned to the West Coast in 1964 they believed they represented a legitimate heir to the psychedelic movement.

  • In this hedonistic subculture, there were no rules. New recruits had to figure out for themselves what the informal norms were and prove themselves before being accepted into the group.

  • At Millbrook, new recruits were given Leary’s intellectual writings. At Kesey’s home, new recruits were given comic books and science fiction novels like “Stranger in a Strange Land” about an alien on Earth who had no ego.

Ken Kesey with some of the Merry Pranksters in San Francisco, 1966.


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Pranksters and Hells Angels?

  • As Kesey’s subculture grew it attracted the authorities. Narcotics raids were infrequent, however, and generally did not yield much.

  • By 1965, the Pranksters decided to test their philosophy of love and drugs on the Hell’s Angels.

    • Hunter Thompson was the midwife for this strange bedfellow meeting between hippies and Hell’s Angels. It went surprisingly well but unfortunately increased the Angel’s sense of self-importance.

    • The Hell’s Angels would go on to provide security at various pop festivals. The most notorious was Altamont in 1969, where they murdered a man and beat up members of the Jefferson Airplane.

The Hells Angels consisted mostly of thugs who refused to conform to mainstream society. However, with the Merry Pranksters they got along relatively well. Hunter Thompson would hang out with the Hells Angels for a year and write a book about his experiences, thus beginning his career as his own gonzo style journalist.


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Allen Ginsberg

  • At the same time that Kesey was taming the Hells Angels, Kesey was also meeting with Allen Ginsberg.

  • Ginsberg brought his radical egalitarian politics into the West Coast movement, which was already somewhat egalitarian under Kesey.

Allen Ginsberg in the mid-1960s.


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The Acid Test Parties 1965-66

  • The Acid Test was Kesey’s experiment on the nature of “group mind” and a possible new art form.

  • It was a total party experience, complete with lights, music, cameras, theater, incense, and LSD.

  • The music at these public parties was provided by the Warlocks, soon to rename themselves “The Grateful Dead.”

  • During these parties people would play weird sounds, do spontaneous theater, and make magic.

  • The conditions were designed to manipulate the suggestibility of the psychedelic condition – to push people further, and to push people together.

  • Ultimately, thousands of people showed up at these parties, which were becoming famous.


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Kesey is busted, 1966

  • By the end of 1965, Kesey’s Acid Tests were the psychedelic equivalent of a Billy Graham crusade.

  • The tests peaked out in 1966 at the “Tripps Festival,” where 10,000 people paid admission to come in and gawk or grok.

  • Just before this event Kesey was arrested for pot – and this time the authorities intended to put him away for good. Kesey decided to flee to Oregon while he appealed. When Kesey vanished, the movement temporarily lost one of its most charismatic leaders.

    • And at just the moment that the movement was about to snowball.

Ken Kesey in San Francisco, 1966, with some of the Merry Pranksters.


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Leary and Buddhism

  • Meanwhile, Timothy Leary had become interested in Buddhist mysticism. He believed that he was a tool of the great transformation of our age.

    • Occasionally Leary himself lapsed into his “Holy Man” performance to the irritation of some insiders who felt he had too big of an ego.

  • To many in the counterculture, the evolution of the human race depended on the restoration of unity between outer science (Western philosophy) and inner yoga (Eastern philosophy).

    • Many were experimenting with Eastern ideas by the mid-1960s.

Timothy Leary at Millbrook house incorporating Eastern philosophy. The new spiritualism associated with the psychedelic movement of the 1960s drew people outside of their traditional religious foundations to seek ideas from other cultures. The Beatles helped popularize Eastern mysticism when they went to India.


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Millbrook issues

  • One problem at Millbrook was that when Leary left the estate to research Buddhism or other topics, Millbrook sometimes devolved into a hedonist playground for omnisexuals.

    • Plus, petty personal conflicts emerged.

  • Another problem was that some people wanted to push the envelope to higher and higher doses of acid. The problem was that they always came back down and little had really changed.

  • Yet another problem was that Leary had problems with finances. Millbrook was expensive to operate.

    • Consequently he began to devote weekends to paying customers who paid to have a drug-free “experiential weekend” – workshops designed to stimulate psychedelic growth and enlightenment.

Millbrook, 1966.


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Leary is busted big in 1966

  • The politics of LSD were getting repressive by the mid-60s. Leary had moved from research, to politics, to the idea that people should be free to feed their minds without government restrictions.

  • But by now government and medical bureaucracies were portraying LSD as worse than heroin. A new era of Prohibition was on the horizon.

  • In 1966, Leary was busted for pot in Texas (it had been found on his daughter) and received a 30-year jail sentence plus a $30,000 fine.

    • He appealed and set up a defense fund, but this was the beginning of the end.

Leary was busted for possession of marijuana in 1966 but the verdict was overturned on appeal later. He would be arrested again in 1968.


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Leary: part shaman, part showman

  • Media coverage of Timothy Leary tended to portray him as a colorful weirdo not to be taken too seriously. When he was taken seriously he was often criticized for not being serious or responsible enough to the movement. He was caught between these two characterizations.

  • Leary was becoming part showman, because this helped pay the bills, yet Leary saw himself as part shaman.

  • Meanwhile the authorities had staked out Millbrook with the intention of shutting it down.

  • It was none other than G. Gordon Liddy, the local DA and future Watergate burglar (chief operative of the White House Plumbers), who sent 24 deputies to raid Millbrook in 1966.

Leary appeared at the 1969 Washington War Moratorium protest. In 1970 he began to serve a 10-year sentence for marijuana possession but he escaped with the help of the Weathermen.


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LSD outlawed in 1966

  • The Psychedelic Movement had grown so large that by 1966 American politicians began to react to it.

  • The reaction was severe.

  • The governors of California and Nevada competed for the prestige of being the first to sign anti-LSD legislation.

  • Their eagerness was matched by Washington politicians.

  • By October of 1966, the possession of LSD had been made illegal in every state in the country.

Anti-LSD propaganda helped fuel the rising public concern over hallucinogens. President Nixon’s War on Drugs utilized such propaganda to generate fear that LSD use would cause genetic mutations and other harmful effects.


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The LSD backlash

  • The backlash against LSD was not simple politics. It wasn’t until 1965 that concrete evidence of its danger first appeared. This evidence was legitimate and it suggested that people with unstable personalities were prone to disintegration when exposed to LSD in uncontrolled settings. They tended to “freak out” in an anxious or panicked state.

  • A second problem with LSD was that some people claimed to have “flashbacks” months after tripping.

  • The mainstream media immediately exploited these fears and began to portray LSD as a social danger.

  • At the same time authorities released anti-LSD propaganda, much of which made false claims about LSD causing chromosomal damage or other permanent harmful chemical alterations.

  • In March of 1966, Time Magazine declared that America was in the midst of an LSD “epidemic.”

This is an image from an anti-LSD pamphlet distributed by authorities in 1971. The copy above this image says, “Dr. Allen Katzenburg, of Southwestern Foundation for Research and Education, San Antonio, Texas has estimated that LSD use has caused more genetic damage to the human race than the atomic bomb.”


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Is .7% temporary psychosis that bad?

  • Unfortunately there was little hard data on this. Among researchers it was largely agreed that roughly 2% who took LSD in uncontrolled settings experienced anxiety or panic attacks.

  • Of that 2%, one-third became temporarily psychotic.

  • In other words .7% of LSD users had a temporarily psychotic breakdown.

  • However, the mainstream media and politicians tended to exaggerate these psychotic breakdowns, and LSD was labeled a drug that causes insanity.

This is one of the rare 1966 articles on LSD among mainstream magazines that was not negative.


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The LSD Witch-Hunt

  • The LSD witch-hunt after 1966 occurred partly from

    • 1. Ignorance.

    • 2. Capitalist journalistic styles that emphasize sensationalism.

    • 3. The dominant value system that all drugs are bad.

    • 4. Poor research. For example the FDA concluded that 3.6 million people had an LSD problem by counting known illegal cases (360) and multiplying them arbitrarily by 10,000.

  • The Reefer Madness of the 1930s had become LSD Madness in the 1960s.

LSD-inspired art and music often has a swirling flow to it that echoes the sensory experience of an acid trip. For a fascinating look at how LSD affects the work of an artist as they are tripping click on this link.


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LSD Research Conclusions

  • The researchers generally did find one thing to agree about regarding LSD – it did offer the potential to affect personality (for better or worse, depending on one’s views).

  • Regarding personality change, researchers had found only one significant effect on personality.

    • In 1966, a Rand Corporation study concluded that LSD users tended to have second thoughts about settling into a routine corporate job after a single acid trip. Rather, the user stated they would prefer a more contemplative lifestyle.

    • If a person became more sensitive to poetry and music but less concerned with competition and success, is this good or bad? People do not agree here.

    • But even this effect wore off over time if users stopped tripping.

It appears this couple has rejected the corporate lifestyle. They seem happy.


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LSD: a mixed bag

  • Perhaps the most threatening aspect of LSD is its unpredictability. It is difficult to tell what it will do beforehand.

  • Therefore, it is not surprising that some authorities were so concerned.

  • The fallout led to LSD’s outlaw by 1966 and to Sandoz’s decision to stop making LSD – even for research purposes - in 1966.

    • This was at the very time that many researchers were saying that what was needed was more research.


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LSD: a 3-part story

  • Some view the LSD story as a 3-part story:

  • 1. A scientific story about the potential of LSD to unlock consciousness.

  • 2. A religious story about LSD as a means to human salvation.

  • 3. A cultural story involving a cultural revolt against the over-socialized or over-disciplined self into a more hedonistic and re-creative self.


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The Counterculture

  • At the essence of the 1960s is a restless desire for change.

  • The question was, in what direction?

  • Kids of the 1960s were beginning to believe that large corporations were part of “the problem” during the 60s. Corporations seemed to promote rampant materialism and used advertising to make people feel insecure.

  • Yet most kids in the counterculture realized that corporations were only the tip of the iceberg. The real menace was “The Establishment” – the web of institutions, of which corporations were members, that formed the basic infrastructure of the society. Change was needed – but where should the priorities be in starting this change?

Most of these people are recognizable to Americans, and most identified with key elements of the 1960s counterculture.


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The Counterculture

  • Big Business, Big Government, Big Labor – all were part of the Establishment and its promotion of

    • Anticommunism and militarism.

    • Greed and American hegemony abroad.

    • An emphasis on “managing” people as cogs in a machine-like system.

  • Americans were polarized about how to view themselves during the 60s. Was it better to dismantle the Establishment and redistribute wealth or was it better to get a good job?

  • One of the rising strains within the counterculture was hedonism. Students who advocated a disciplined and carefully structured campaign against the Establishment were running into others who advocated hedonism and personal politics as solutions to a repressive society. The counterculture was divided.


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Kesey and the Counterculture

  • Ken Kesey was opposed to Vietnam and the Establishment, but he was equally opposed to the idea of youth as a political vanguard to seize power in the name of equality.

  • To Kesey, this was playing their game. Kesey felt that people should simply turn their backs on the “combine.”

  • And many did just that - to the disappointment of the SDS and other political radicals who advocated a disciplined political solution.

  • Those who dropped out called themselves “freaks” or “heads.” By 1965, the youth protest movement had two symbolic capitols: Berkeley for the radicals and Haight Ashbury for the heads.


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The Hippies

  • The hippies emerged by way of the Beats by the mid-60s, but unlike the nihilistic and dark Beats, the hippies were colorful and loving.

  • The hippies were the locus of the personal political revolution, where individual diversity was championed in context of communal allegiances.

  • To hippies, the revolution started from within - with the ego and the self - and LSD was the tool of this personal revolution because it opened the self up for change. Taking acid was a very serious thing.


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The Hippies

  • At first, hippies used acid as a de-conditioning agent to remove elements of the overly socialized, conventional self.

  • Haight-Ashbury provided the geographic context for this re-making of the self.

  • The catalyst in this was Ken Kesey and the Acid Tests, where the Merry Pranksters introduced thousands of people to acid – way more than Leary had done.

  • By the summer of 1966, 15,000 people were living and tripping in the Haight, and from this emerged countercultural shops of all kinds.


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A Creative Awakening

  • The Psychedelic movement initiated new forms of slang: LSD was acid, a user was an acid head, a dose was a hit, marijuana was pot, getting high was groovy, people were far out in cosmic or bummer ways, etc.

  • People who moved to the Haight typically changed their names.

  • Huxley predicted that acid would awaken the baby boomers’ appetite for spiritual meaning – but he had not anticipated the diverse sources of this “food:” astrology, numerology, black magic, Eastern mysticism, various New Age philosophies, etc.

  • All of these aspects of spiritual awakening tend to emphasize that knowledge and direct experience go hand in hand. They emphasize experiential knowledge over book knowledge.

Perhaps the best band and album of the 1960s was the Beatles’ Sgt Peppers. This incredible album was heavily influenced by acid and pot use. Click the image above to hear Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in mp3 format.


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Sex, Drugs, and Rock’n’roll

  • At the center of the lifestyle was sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Rock music was a perfect complement to drugs, as was dancing. The outside world was temporarily exorcized.

  • Doing acid was not conducive to having a full time job, so many hippies had part time jobs. For this reason they also pooled their resources and developed a sense of tribe or extended family.


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The decline of the movement

  • So this was the choice within the counterculture: hippie or radical activist. While LSD was outlawed in 1966 the momentum of the psychedelic movement carried it into the late 60s and early 70s.

  • Unfortunately, instead of coming together as one beautiful tribe, Haight Ashbury was getting zooier. A miscalculation had occurred – by 1968 kids were tripping wherever and whenever they could without much interest in human spirituality.

  • Hedonism, a feature of the dominant capitalist culture, was usurping the drive of the counterculture. LSD was becoming merely a source of mindless fun, or worse, a source of escapism for some. Rising cocaine use was also usurping the counterculture’s spiritual ideals.

  • By the late 60s, many kids were using LSD for the wrong reasons and in the wrong settings – and bad trips were becoming more common. (It didn’t help that the acid was often of inferior quality and frequently had strychnine in it).


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The decline of the movement

  • In the end, the psychedelic movement withered due to

  • 1. A new era of Prohibition and ignorance about the nature of LSD and countercultural drugs in general.

  • 2. A split in the movement between hippies and radical activists.

    • Hippies emphasize personal change, with LSD as the tool for transformation, along with hedonism, with nirvana as the ultimate goal.

    • Radical activists emphasize institutional change with disciplined social activism as the tool for change toward utopia.

  • 3. A collapse of idealism by the late 60s, along with rising cynicism and fatalism.


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Legacy of the Psychedelic Movement

  • What is left of the psychedelic movement is

  • 1. Largely underground again due to Prohibition.

  • 2. Taking new forms in various New Age movements involving spiritualism.

  • 3. The legacy of new music, art and dance forms that involve wildly expressive or trance like behaviors (raves, electronic trance music, avant garde art forms, etc). Click here for an interesting music-oriented site, for example.

  • 4. Found in the subcultural legacy of the Dead, Phish, Radiohead, and other post-hippie segments of society.

Radiohead is one of many current popular bands that have been influenced by the psychedelic movement.



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