Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, November 23, 2015

Timothy Leary 2/3 - Lucas Pennington

Psychedelic Experiments and Experiences

            Anthony Russo was one of Leary’s colleagues. Russo had experimented with Psilocybe mexicana mushrooms in Mexico and told Leary about it. In 1960, Leary and Russo decided to travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico where Leary ingested psilocybin mushrooms for the first time. This was an experience that greatly changed his life. Leary mentioned that he "learned more about his brain and its possibilities and more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than in the preceding 15 years of studying and doing research in psychology."

            After his trip to Mexico, Leary returned to Harvard in 1960. Along with psychologist Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), he created the Harvard Psilocybin Project and began administering psilocybin to graduate students. The goal of this project was to evaluate the effects of psilocybin, a synthesized form of the hallucinogenic agent found in certain mushrooms, on human subjects. The compound used was produced by a process developed by Albert Hofmann of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, who was famous for synthesizing LSD. In Leary’s research, he concluded that psychedelic drugs could be effective in transforming personality and expanding human consciousness.

            Allen Ginsberg, a well-known Beat poet, heard about the Harvard Psilocybin project and asked to join. Leary was given great ideas by Ginsberg's enthusiasm, and they shared feelings of hope in the positive effects of psychedelic substances to help people "turn on" (meaning: to discover a higher level of consciousness). Together they began a campaign of introducing artists and intellectuals to these psychedelics to explore the cultural and philosophical implications of psychedelic drugs.

            Leary’s experiments were very controversial. This likely influenced his dismissal from Harvard in 1963. After he was fired, he began to intensively explore LSD, a psychedelic drug that was first derived from ergot of rye in 1938 by chemist Albert Hofmann. He traveled frequently giving many public lectures, mostly on college campuses. He became a main focus of the controversial public debate over LSD. His phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out” became a popular counterculture slogan. Cultural conservatives thought Leary was a damaging influence on our society. U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon called him “the most dangerous man in America”.


Timothy Leary 1/3

1 comment:

  1. I'm in favor of the use of mind-altering substances to instill a different state of mind that could bring about novel thoughts, provided they aren't too harmful to the body, since addictive and/or harmful drugs tend to harm the human mind. I'm a tad critical of their use to "turn on, tune in, and drop out". In a way, I'm thinking analogous to J.S. Mills' views on criticism in that it is society's right, and maybe to an extent duty to criticise that which is harmful, or even non-beneficial to society. Maybe I'm just a bit too fond of the utilitarians. but I think that sort of drug use is beneficial with the provision that it provides any sort of net benefit to society.