Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:29 pm

The Psychedelic Manual

Life at Millbrook had a mythic dimension that was nourished by a sense of having embarked upon a journey into unknown waters. Once they had eaten the apple of expanded consciousness, there was no going back. The umbilical cord that tied them to the world of the mundane was irretrievably sundered. Caught between a past that was no longer accessible and a future without precedent, they had only one option: to plunge headlong into the moment, to ride the crest of the wave that was still building, even if they could not see where it would take them. All they had was each other, their audacity and sense of humor, and plenty of LSD. Sooner or later, as everyone realized, the trip would have to come to an end. And what then? They celebrated their own transience by bathing in an atmosphere of hijinks and adventure. The incredible had become commonplace: ecstasy merged with confusion; dream and reality were interchangeable.

Even though they became more familiar with the psychedelic terrain over the years, the profound sense of disorientation that characterized their first trips lingered to some degree among the Millbrook residents. LSD had opened the floodgates of the unconscious, both personal and collective, and all kinds of strange flora and fauna were emerging. They didn't know quite what to make of it; some of it made sense, some of it didn't. Not enough time had elapsed for their insights to take root and mature. They tried to put their fingers on a definite truth, but there was nothing solid to grasp. It was all slippery, ambiguous, dialectical; everything implied its opposite. Old meanings had been annihilated, new ones were yet to be articulated. In searching for a language to describe essentially non-verbal experiences, they kept running up against a built-in credibility gap. As Kleps put it, "For every clarification that one arrives at by discussing these matters with others, there is a corresponding reinforcement of an illusion or misunderstanding. The only reliable way to get there is by closing one's eyes and jumping blindly into nowhere. It is only in such leaps, motivated by whatever passion, perversity, or dedication, that the adhesive grip of duality is escaped and the way made clear for the unconditioned light."

Despite all the changes they had undergone, Leary and his associates were still basically psychologists who felt compelled to figure it all out. But acid had overturned their dogmas and left them dangling precariously in an intellectual limbo that was reinforced by the hermetic environment of the Millbrook estate. As far as they were concerned, nothing less than the entire history of human thought had to be reconsidered in light of the psychedelic experience. Kleps parodied their dilemma in his chronicle of the Millbrook years, describing the arrival of LSD as "The Big Crash" in whose wake the intellectual history of mankind fluctuated madly on the cosmic exchange.

Zen and Buddhist stock rose sharply while Yoga, Brahmanist and Vedantist issues plummeted.... In London, Blake enjoyed a mild rise, Hume skyrocketed, Aldous Huxley weakened, then held, and penny-a-share issues such as Aleister Crowley and Yeats disappeared entirely from view ... In Paris, former glamor stocks like Sartre and Camus began to look a little green around the gills.... such superficially disparate stocks as Thoreau, Nabokov, Borges, and Norman O. Brown were driven to undreamed of levels.... All the Zen masters spiralled into the blue.... Freud and Jung went through wild gyrations resembling an aerial dogfight, before both sank gradually to earth.... the I Ching went through the roof. The Gita crashed.... Shakespeare, unlike almost every other stock being traded, remained absolutely stable.

The sense of psychic displacement was felt most acutely by Timothy Leary. Even though years had passed since his first acid trip, he could still say, "I have never recovered from that shattering ontological confrontation. I have never been able to take myself, my mind, and the social world around me seriously." Now that he was aware of "countless realities," routine existence had been revealed to him as "illusory"; but that did not make it any less problematic. He confided to Kleps that at times he had the uncanny sensation that his head was running down his shoulders, and that he had even considered having himself committed. Whenever Leary took LSD, he relived a "recurring science fiction paranoia. Suddenly I am on camera in an ancient television show.... All my life routines a pathetic clown act."

Leary particularly wanted to develop an organized framework for understanding the potentials released by psychedelic drugs. He set out to devise a manual or program that would serve as a guide for acid initiates on their jaunts through higher consciousness. Given that there were no extant myths or models in his own tradition, he looked to the only sources that dealt directly with such matters -- the ancient books of the East. In The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Leary found a text that was "incredibly specific about the sequence and nature of experiences encountered in the ecstatic state." With a little intellectual tinkering the self-proclaimed priest-scholars Leary, Alpert, and Metzner produced an "updated" interpretation of the ancient scripture. They represented it not as a treatise for the dead but as an instruction manual on how to confront the Clear Light of the Void during the acid peak "with a minimum of fear and confusion."

The Tibetan Book of the Dead was first linked to the psychedelic experience by Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception. Huxley reported that at one point he felt himself on the verge of panic, terrified by the prospect of losing his ego. He compared his dread with that of the Tibetan dead man who could not face the Clear Light, preferring rebirth and "the comforting darkness of selfhood." Huxley said that if you began a trip the wrong way, everything that happened would be proof of the conspiracy against you. It would all be self-validating. You couldn't draw a breath without knowing it was part of the plot." He thought that perhaps he could hold the terror at bay by fixing his attention on what The Tibetan Book of the Dead called the Clear Light, but only "if there were somebody there to tell me about the Clear Light. One couldn't do it by oneself. That's the point, I suppose, of the Tibetan ritual -- somebody sitting there all the time and telling you what's what."

Leary took Huxley's remarks literally and turned The Tibetan Book of the Dead into a psychedelic manual. While Huxley had referred to it in an essay written after his psychedelic experience in order to clarify it, Leary promoted the book as a guide before and during the trip. This strategy represented a significant departure from the procedures employed by Dr. Humphry Osmond and other psychedelic therapists of the previous decade who simply sought to help subjects relax and remain open to the experience without defining what was supposed to occur. Leary now presented turning on as a process of initiation into a great brotherhood of free souls christened by the mind-blowing apprehension of the Clear Light during the peak of an acid trip. While the Eastern vibes surrounding the acid sessions at Millbrook may have been benign, Leary's methodology was in some ways analogous to that of the CIA and the military, which also "programmed" trips, although with a very different objective. Eventually Ralph Metzner and Michael Hollingshead were forced to admit that programming a trip was much more difficult than they had originally anticipated. LSD did not easily lend itself to step-by-step goal-oriented instructions, which more often than not created more confusion than they dispelled.

There was a great deal of disagreement among seasoned acid veterans as to the real meaning of the vision of the Clear Light. Hollingshead experienced something akin to it but did not consider it the final nirvana: "let's face it -- LSD is not the key to a new metaphysics of being or a politics of ecstasy. The 'pure light' of an acid session is not this -- it may even be the apotheosis of distractions, the ultimate and most dangerous temptation. But it does allow one to live at least for a time in the light of the knowledge that every moment of time is a window into eternity, that the absolute is manifest in every appearance and relationship."

The experience in which eternity takes root in the waking state is brief, yet its significance is profound. It may take months, years, even a lifetime to come to terms with this fleeting moment of vision. Any experience so overwhelming, so incomprehensible to normal waking consciousness, carries with it a tendency to rationalize it as quickly as possible. Art Kleps felt that the peak of a major death-rebirth experience was no time for making formulations; on the contrary, he insisted that one should fight this urge: "If you can't let go and instead grab the first lifesaver or bit of wreckage that floats near your thrashing form, you will come down firmly believing that the lifesaver you grabbed was the meaning of the trip rather than the exit from it. Your new personality will be defined, not in terms of the truth, but in terms of the particular lie you happened to grab at the crucial moment."

It would appear that Leary succumbed to this "LSD temptation" when he developed the notion that a person could tune in to his genetic code while high on acid. "Is it entirely inconceivable," he mused, "that our cortical cells, or the machinery inside the cellular nucleus, 'remembers' back along the unbroken chain of electrical transformations that connects every one of us back to that original thunderbolt in the pre-Cambrian mud?" Leary suggested that by taking LSD he could commune with the "evolutionary program" and actually make contact with the ultimate source of intelligence: DNA. He turned his cellular visions into a kind of psychedelic Darwinism, positing the reading of the individual genetic code as a universal truth: "God does exist and is to me this energy process; the language of God is the DNA code."

Kleps took issue with Leary's conception of a good trip. He insisted that people who never had mystical experiences on acid could learn just as much as those who did. He thought Leary placed too much emphasis on pleasurable visions. "Nine times out of ten, talk about bad trips resolves itself into a naive identification of pleasurable visionary scenes and sensory appreciation of the present (during the trip) with 'goodness.' When such people find themselves in a few Hell-worlds here and there, they think that something is seriously amiss." For Kleps LSD was never supposed to be easier than traditional methods of self-realization; it was only "faster and sneakier." According to the Chief Boohoo, you could be devoured by demons during a psychedelic experience and it still might be a good trip if you came out of it feeling that it was worthwhile. Kleps maintained that striving for a preconceived visionary end in the acid high only complicated things and led to bummers.

It is as if [Leary] deliberately and with malice aforethought polluted the stream at its source and gave half the kids in psychedelic society a bad set to start out with. Almost every acidhead I talked to for years afterwards told me he had, as a novice, used The Tibetan Book of the Dead as a "guide" and every one of them reported unnecessary anxiety, colossal bummers, disillusionment, and eventual frustration and exasperation, for which, in most cases, they blamed themselves, not Tim or the book. They were not "pure" enough, or perhaps the "Lord of Death" did not deign to transform them because they were not worthy of His attentions, etc., etc.

The psychedelic biography of Allen Ginsberg illustrates the futility of the programmed trip, be it self-initiated or imposed from without. Ginsberg found that even self-programming could create formidable psychic tensions often resulting in awful bummers. His desire for a heavenly illumination, which he sought through LSD, was a carry-over from a powerful non-drug experience he had in 1948. Ginsberg was then living in a sublet apartment in Harlem. While reading William Blake's "Ah, Sunflower," he heard a deep resounding voice. He immediately recognized it as Blake's own voice emerging from the dead. Ginsberg felt his body afloat, suffused with brilliance. Everything he looked at appeared in a new light. He was struck by an overpowering conviction that he had been born to experience this universal spirit.

When Ginsberg began using psychedelic drugs, his Blake vision was his reference point. As he put it, LSD gave access to "what I, as a poet, have called previously aesthetic, poetic, transcendental, or mystical awareness." But he ran into trouble when he attempted to recapture the cosmic heights of his Blakeian episode via drugs. He wanted to write a poem under the influence of LSD that would evoke a sense of divinity, but he found that the act of writing interrupted the multitudinous details inundating his nervous system. The tension between the romantic vision of illumination and the simultaneous urge to communicate it turned his divine quests into bum trips. Ginsberg described his frustration in numerous poems he composed while high on acid and other psychedelics: "The Reply," "Magic Psalm," "Mescaline," and "Lysergic Acid."

Ginsberg had been painting himself into a corner with drugs, thinking that he should take acid to cleanse his soul and trying too hard to attain some sort of satori. He felt a compulsive obligation to use LSD again and again to break down his identity and conquer his obsession with mortality. His growing paranoia with regard to psychedelics came to a climax when he ingested yage in Peru in 1960. Again he was primed for divine revelation, but instead "the whole fucking cosmos broke loose around me, I think the strongest and worst I've ever had it.... I felt faced by Death ... got nauseous, rushed out and began vomiting, all covered with snakes, like a Snake Seraph, colored serpents in aureole all around my body, I felt like a snake vomiting out the universe -- or a Jivaro in head-dress with fangs vomiting up in realization of the murder of the Universe -- my death to come -- everyone's death to come -- all unready -- I unready."

Toward the end of 1961 Ginsberg undertook a spiritual pilgrimage to India to come to terms with his unsettling drug visions. On the way he stopped in Israel to talk with Martin Buber, the eminent Jewish philosopher, who emphasized human relationships and advised him not to get caught up in confrontation with a nonhuman universe. Ginsberg received a similar message in India from Swami Sivananda, who told him, "Your own heart is your guru." These encounters set the stage for a sudden realization that came to him a few months later, during the final days of his long journey. While riding a train in Japan in mid-1963, he had an ecstatic conversion experience, an inexplicable but deeply felt resolution of his trials with psychedelics. The relief was so great that he wept on the train. Inspired by this breakthrough, he pulled out a pencil and wrote a poem called "The Change: Kyoto Tokyo Express," which signaled a turning point in his spiritual search.

Ginsberg had been seeking divinity through out-of-the-body trips on psychedelics. In trying to superimpose the acid high on his old memory of a cosmic vision, he was not living in the present; he was blocking himself. Now he saw the futility of attempting to conjure visions of a blissful imaginary universe when the secret lay within his own mortal flesh. In this moment of profound insight he understood that truth could only be experienced within the framework of the body; therefore, the overarching mystical imperative was to become one with his own skin. He was not so much renouncing drugs as refusing to be dominated by them or by the obligation to take psychological risks with chemicals to enlarge his consciousness. "I spent about fifteen, twenty years," Ginsberg reflected, "trying to recreate the Blake experience in my head, and so wasted my time. It's just like somebody taking acid and wanting to have a God trip and straining to see God, and instead, naturally, seeing all sorts of diabolical machines coming up around him, seeing hells instead of heavens. So I did finally conclude that the bum trip on acid as well as the bum trip on normal consciousness came from attempting to grasp, desiring a preconceived end, a preconceived universe, rather than entering a universe not conceivable, not even born, not describable."

Secure in his sense of self, his mind calmed, Ginsberg had a different personal set for his subsequent LSD trips, which took on a whole new character for him. He began to enjoy himself while he was high. After all he had been through, Ginsberg finally realized that the experience of peaking on LSD is above all one of an open horizon, a field of presence in the widest sense. Any clutching at the Eternal or the Clear Light or the hidden message of the DNA code necessarily became a fixation, an objectification, and therefore an inauthentic relationship to the infinite openness of psychedelic consciousness. Once Ginsberg was able to direct his attention outside himself, there were no heavy judgments required by acid, just an appreciation of the world that lay before him.
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:30 pm

The Hard Sell

Despite criticisms of trip programming, Leary still saw advantages in working with a manual: if a particular spiritual state could be consistently reproduced, there was a good chance the psychedelic movement would really take off. Hence the adoption of the The Tibetan Book of the Dead as the first LSD guidebook. Since the movement's only "activism" was the psychedelic session, the first step was to persuade people to take the drug. Leary aimed his message at those whose hearts and minds were still up for grabs: the younger generation. He saw himself as the orchestrator of a mass cultural phenomenon. His goal was to encourage large numbers of American youth to decondition themselves away from the work-duty ethic by means of psychedelic drugs. Leary insisted that the insane rat race was the real "narcotic escape" and that people could find a new kind of harmony by dropping out and "sanitizing" themselves with large helpings of LSD. He advised taking the drug repeatedly in order to transcend the mind's habitual fixations: "Find the wisdom in yourself. Unhook the ambitions and the symbolic drives and the mental connections which keep you addicted and tied to the immediate tribal game."

To those in the inner circle it quickly became apparent that the psychedelic movement "would be sold like beer, not champagne," as Kleps put it. Whether or not the liberation was bogus, the style was strictly Madison Avenue. Leary not only hyped LSD as a shortcut to mystical enlightenment but also fused it with something that had proven mass appeal: sex. In his 1966 Playboy interview he discussed psychedelics in the broad social context of "erotic politics" and "hedonic engineering." Acid was portrayed as a "cure" for homosexuality and a means of inhabiting a supremely sensual reality. "In a carefully prepared, loving LSD session," Leary stated, "a woman will inevitably have several hundred orgasms. The three inevitable goals of the LSD session are to discover and make love with God, to discover and make love with yourself, and to discover and make love with a woman. ... That is what the LSD experience is all about. Merging, yielding, flowing, union, communion. It's all love-making.... The sexual impact is, of course, the open but private secret about LSD."

Leary had a knack for telling his audiences exactly what they wanted to hear. He could be all things to all people; whatever guise he chose, the gist of the message was essentially the same. "It's all God's flesh," he insisted. "LSD is always a sacrament: whether you are a silly thirteen-year-old popping a sugar cube on your boyfriend's motorcycle, or a theatrical agent giving pot to a girl to get her horny ... or even a psychiatrist giving LSD to an unsuspecting patient to do a scientific study."

Leary's public pronouncements were calculated to seduce and frighten. He taunted his critics and prospective followers with brazen epigrams: "You have to go out of your mind to use your head." As he saw it, Western culture had reached such a critical impasse that one couldn't afford not to experiment with LSD. Regardless of how dangerous such a venture might seem to the uninitiated, the potential benefits were simply too great to pass up: "I would say that at present our society is so insane, that even if the risks were fifty-fifty that if you took LSD you would be permanently insane, I still think that the risk is worth taking, as long as the person knows that that's the risk."

Leary was a kind of carnival barker for the psychedelic movement. He had no compunctions about using the media to promote LSD. "Tim had what we needed," said Kleps. "He had the 'dreams' of the true salesman." Leary was quite candid about his role as a media mogul. "Of course I'm a charlatan," he often joked in public. "Aren't we all?" To Leary the PR was all pretense, a cosmic put-on. That was what he had learned from LSD - all social roles were a game, and he could change personalities like so many different sets of clothing as the occasion warranted. His close friends never took him seriously as a guru or prophet or high priest. As Hollingshead commented, "It was easier to see him as an inspired impresario, an Apollinaire or Cocteau."

During the mid 1960s, Millbrook attracted considerable publicity. TV crews filmed regularly at the estate, bringing even more notoriety to Leary, who quickly became one of the most famous and controversial figures in America. Leary knew he could get more coverage by making provocative statements, and he played upon the public's infatuation with the sensational. He realized that the press was not an organ for disseminating truth; no matter what one said, it would always be distorted by straight journalists. Thus, even when the media castigated him as everything from an "irresponsible egotist" to a "madman" hooked on acid, he was not in the least flustered. On the contrary, such outbursts seemed to be grist for his mill. Any publicity was a walking stick, as far as Leary was concerned, and if it came down to choosing between no publicity and bad publicity, he would opt for the latter. Leary was confident that the subliminal message -- LSD could take you to extraordinary places -- would come through between the lines and young people would turn on in greater and greater numbers.

The Millbrook clan not only had their sights set on America; their aspirations were international in scope. In September 1965 Michael Hollingshead returned to his native London armed with hundreds of copies of the updated Book of the Dead and five thousand doses of LSD (which he procured from Czech government laboratories in Prague). Hollingshead felt there was very little understanding of LSD in England, but he intended to change that. He proceeded to establish the World Psychedelic Center in the fashionable Kings Road district of London, attracting the likes of Jo Berke (a psychiatrist working with R.D. Laing), the writer and philosopher Alexander Trocchi, multimedia artist Ian Sommerville, filmmaker Roman Polanski, and numerous musicians including Donovan, Peter and Gordon, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, and the Rolling Stones.

London was a swinging scene in the mid-1960s, and psychedelics were an intrinsic part of the cultural renaissance that revolved around the rock music explosion. Strangely enough, hardly anyone under twenty-one listened to the radio in England, as the BBC monopolized the airwaves with dance music and symphonies. To compensate for the lack of commercial channels, a group of go-getters organized a network of pirate radio stations that operated offshore beyond the three-mile national limit but within transmitting distance of population centers all along the coast. The entire country was surrounded by small seacraft, and when they started beaming rock music, everyone bought transistors and tuned in. Hollingshead dug the setup. Every week he would emerge from his London apartment wearing his long coat, pink glasses, and wry smile, to be taken by motorboat to a floating pirate station near the Thames. He tripped with the deejays, rapped, played music, and laughed. There was no censorship of any kind. Needless to say, the British authorities were not amused.

During this period Hollingshead smoked pot and hash constantly, dropped acid three times a week in doses often exceeding 500 micrograms, and began using hard drugs. He obtained a doctor's prescription for Methedrine, and after working up to seven injections a day he found himself at the mercy of a nonmiraculous addiction. His gargantuan appetite for drugs turned him into a near zombie. In this condition he was hardly capable of keeping his own house in order, let alone leading a psychedelic revolution in Britain. All hell finally broke loose one night at a party thrown by Hollingshead and his wacked-out colleagues. They decided to offer punch with LSD and without, but someone went ahead and spiked the whole batch. Suddenly there were over a hundred and fifty people at his pad stoned out of their minds, including a lot of unsuspecting folks. Among those who turned on accidentally were a couple of undercover policemen masquerading as hipsters.

When reports of this gala event surfaced in the London press, Hollingshead suspected his number might be up. A few days later the bobbies came to his flat and arrested him for possession of less than an ounce of hash. Hollingshead showed up in court high on LSD and who knows what else, and was sentenced to twenty-one months in Wormwood Scrubs. He managed to smuggle an ample supply of acid into prison, but it was not his custom to turn on other inmates. However, he made an exception in the case of George Blake, the convicted spy who penetrated the highest echelons of British intelligence and passed information to the Russian KGB. Blake was serving the sixth year of a forty-three-year sentence when he met Hollingshead. His interest was aroused as soon as he learned that Hollingshead had hung out with Leary, and they arranged one Sunday afternoon to take LSD behind bars. As the session progressed, Blake became noticeably tense and paranoid. He thought he had been given a truth serum, and he accused Hollingshead of being a secret service agent. The spy finally settled down and spent the last hours of his trip reflecting upon his future and whether he'd be able to stand many more years of incarceration. A few weeks later Blake escaped by scaling the prison wall with a rope ladder. When last heard from, he was living in Moscow and working in the Cairo section of the Soviet Foreign Ministry.

Hollingshead wasn't the only one in legal trouble. Leary had been busted in December 1965 after he and his daughter were caught transporting three ounces of pot across the Mexican border into Laredo, Texas. Leary was fined $30,000 in addition to receiving a maximum sentence of thirty years. While his lawyers appealed the verdict, Leary returned to Millbrook, but the political harassment continued. Relations between the acid commune and the affluent townsfolk of conservative Dutchess County were always a bit strained, to say the least. When the town bigwigs heard that some of the local teenagers were hanging around Millbrook, they pressured the sheriff to put an end to the shenanigans of Leary and company. At the time the Dutchess County prosecutor was none other than G. Gordon Liddy, the future Waterbugger whose arsenal of dirty tricks included LSD and other hallucinogens to neutralize political enemies of the Nixon administration. But these events were still a few years in the offing.

As far as Liddy was concerned, Leary and his pernicious band of dope fiends epitomized the moral infection that was sweeping the land. He was eager to raid the Millbrook estate, where, as he put it, "the panties were dropping as fast as the acid." He and a team of deputies staked out the mansion for months, waiting for the right moment to make an arrest that would stick. Early one morning in April 1966 they decided to act. Crouched behind the bushes with their binoculars, they noticed some kind of film being shown in the house. Splendid, thought Liddy, jockeying for a peek at what he hoped was a pornographic display, the prospect of exposing a citadel of smut as well as a den of dopers was fine by him. He must have been disappointed to find that the film only showed a waterfall.

The deputies made their entry in classic "no-knock" fashion, kicking in the front door and charging up the main stairwell. They were greeted by Leary bouncing down the stairs in nothing but a shirt. A warrant was read aloud, and Leary was finally persuaded to put on a pair of pants. The search continued for five hours; a small amount of marijuana was found, but no other drugs. Leary accused the police of using Gestapo tactics and violating his constitutional rights. When the Supreme Court ruled that suspects must be informed of their legal rights at the time of arrest, the bust was thrown out of court. Leary had escaped on a technicality, but Liddy was still hot on the case. Roadblocks were set up around the estate, and anyone who wanted to visit had to submit to a lengthy, humiliating strip search. The state of siege grew more intense, until the commune was forced to disband in the spring of 1967. The golden age of anarchy at Millbrook had come to an end.

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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:37 pm

Chapter 5: The All American Trip


Of the notorious acid proselytizers of the 1960s, it was perhaps Ken Kesey who best understood the futility of trying to label the LSD experience. Kesey, like Ginsberg and many others, was first turned on to acid through a federally funded research program. He was a graduate student at Stanford University's creative writing program in 1960 when he heard about some experiments being conducted at the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park. Volunteers were paid $75 a day for the privilege of serving as guinea pigs in a study of "psychotomimetic drugs."

Kesey, a burly, blue-eyed ex-high school wrestling champion, experienced some wild states of consciousness in the clinic. While stoned on acid, he felt he could see right through the doctors, who had never taken the drug themselves and had no idea what it really did. A few weeks later he showed up at the Veterans Hospital as a night attendant in the psychiatric ward, where there was an array of psychedelics -- LSD, mescaline, Ditran, and a mysterious substance known only as IT -290. Soon the drugs were circulating among Kesey's friends in the collegiate bohemia of Perry Lane. Sometimes he would go to work flying on LSD and spend hours leaning on a mop pondering the nature of insanity. "Before I took drugs," said Kesey, "I didn't know why the guys in the psycho ward at the VA Hospital were there. I didn't understand them. After I took LSD, suddenly I saw it. I saw it all. I listened to them and watched them, and I saw that what they were saying and doing was not so crazy after all." Slowly his first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, came to him.

The Perry Lane community went through some rapid changes as more and more people started turning on. A psychedelic party scene developed around the consumption of Kesey's notorious Venison Chili, a dish laced with liberal helpings of LSD. Among those who dined "electric" were artist Roy Seburn, dancer Chloe Scott, a young musician named Jerry Garcia, and writers Robert Stone (Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise) and Larry McMurtry (Hud, Terms of Endearment). The tripping collegians quickly developed a taste for exotica in the way of mind-altering chemicals, and they procured hundreds of peyote buttons via mail order from a company in Laredo, Texas.

Folklore has it that large amounts of the Native American sacrament often produce visions indigenous to the drug's ancient traditions and locale. Sure enough, Kesey took peyote and had a vision of a strange, primitive face. It was the face of an Indian, Chief Broom, who became a central character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Writing at times on peyote or LSD, Kesey told the story through the eyes of the schizophrenic Indian. The other main character, McMurphy, was the literary prototype of the new Ken Kesey, a boisterous rebel scheming to blow the mind of the authoritarian Big Nurse. The book received fabulous reviews, and its success gave the psychedelic scene a curious legitimacy; one could have one's cake (LSD) and write the great American novel too.

With his earnings from the book, Kesey bought himself a place in La Honda, fifty miles south of San Francisco. There he finished his second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion. With powerful amplifiers strung up in the trees belting out rock and roll, his country home became a magnet for beatniks, college professors, and a new breed of doper -- the acidhead. Along with the original Perry Lane crowd, Ken Babbs, an old friend of Kesey's who had flown helicopters for the marines in Vietnam, started to hang out at La Honda. They all took LSD together on numerous occasions. For them acid was a means of eradicating the unconscious structures that interfered with experiencing the magical dimensions of the here and now, the ever-widening Present. As Kesey put it, "The first drug trips were, for most of us, shell-shattering ordeals that left us blinking knee deep in the cracked crusts of our pie-in-the-sky personalities. Suddenly people were stripped before one another and behold: we were beautiful. Naked and helpless and sensitive as a snake after skinning, but far more human than that shining knightmare that had stood creaking in previous parade rest. We were alive and life was us."

Out of the happenings at La Honda came Kesey's famous Merry Pranksters. The Pranksters did not have to trek across continents, as the beats had done earlier, to find a witch doctor or curandero who could administer the power plant. With plenty of LSD on hand, they could just as easily have continued to trip in the warm California sun with the outdoor speakers twanging out tunes by Dylan and the Beatles. But travel was still attached to the bohemian lifestyle as a metaphor for spiritual discovery. The Pranksters purchased a 1939 International Harvester school bus and refurbished it with bunks, refrigerators, shelves, and a sink. They put a hole in the roof so people could sit up top and play music, and they wired the entire vehicle so they could broadcast from within and pick up sounds from outside as well. En masse the Pranksters swarmed over the weather-beaten body with paintbrushes, producing the first psychedelic motor transport done in bright, swirling colors. A sign hung on the rear end which read, "Caution: Weird Load." Emblazoned on the front of the bus was the word "FURTHUR" (with two u's), which aptly summed up the Prankster ethos. There were twenty-odd people aboard, and the entire crew was ready for "the great freak forward."

The Pranksters dressed in elaborate costumes, donning capes and masks, painting themselves with Day-Glo, and wearing pieces of the American flag. They took names befitting their new psychedelic identities. Among the women were Mountain Girl, Sensuous X, Gretchen Fetchin the Slime Queen, and Doris Delay. Ken Babbs was Intrepid Traveler. The magnetic Kesey was Swashbuckler. And Mike Hagen, trying to keep his movie camera steady while the bus lurched down the road, was Mal Function. The Pranksters were constantly filming an epic saga that would star everybody. Kesey's slogan -- "Get them into your movie before they get you into theirs" -- was not just a conviction but a strategy.

As they disembarked from the bus with the loudspeakers blasting rock and roll, the Pranksters were well aware that they looked to straight citizens like inhabitants of another planet. That was exactly what they intended. They were into "tootling the multitudes," doing whatever was necessary to blow minds and keep folks off balance. "The purpose of psychedelics," said Kesey, "is to learn the conditioned responses of people and then to prank them. That's the only way to get people to ask questions, and until they ask questions they're going to remain conditioned robots." During the 1964 presidential campaign the Pranksters drove into Phoenix decked out in American flag regalia, waving Old Glory and demonstrating with a huge placard that stated, "A Vote for Barry Goldwater is a Vote for Fun."

The driver of the psychedelic bus was Neal Cassady, the aging beat avatar, who had recently been released from San Quentin after serving two years for possession of a single joint of marijuana. Though the years in prison did not totally wither his joyful manner, the experience hardened him. The essence of Cassady's style remained the mad exultation in the moment, but his identification with sheer speed was even more compulsive; he ate amphetamines constantly. With Cassady at the helm the Pranksters retraced the mythic path forged by the beat protagonists some years before. As Ginsberg wrote, "Neal Cassady drove Jack Kerouac to Mexico in a prophetic automobile the same Denver Cassady that one decade later drove Ken Kesey's Kosmos-patterned schoolbus on a Kafka-circus tour over the roads of an awakening nation."

When Cassady joined Kesey's group, his legendary reputation preceded him. Some of the Pranksters were awed by him, others did not fully accept him at first. Ginsberg wondered if the Pranksters truly appreciated his brilliance, or were taking advantage of him in some sense. He was Neal Cassady, the "holy primitive"; the atmosphere on the bus encouraged him to perform, to show these younger men and women what real craziness was. His presence lent a certain edge-quality to the general pranking. Indeed, one wonders what extrasensory space he must have inhabited to pull off some of his incredible antics.

On their way to New York the Pranksters passed through the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the steepest downhill road, with Kesey perched atop the bus and everyone stoned on LSD, Cassady decided to careen all the way down hill without touching the brakes while the Stars and Stripes streamed in the wind. Nobody told him he shouldn't have taken the risk, because nobody on the bus told anybody not to do anything -- especially not for the reason that it was "crazy." Lunacy was not an absolute for the Pranksters; they had moved beyond the world of the Big Nurse and voluntarily embarked upon a trip that was insane by conventional standards. When Cassady took the whole crew with him towards either death or his own version of satori, he was simply going "furthur." This prank was Cassady's way of saying that it was easy to claim, "We're all one," but another thing entirely to act as if everyone's life were his to risk. Through such gratuitous acts Cassady became a kind of teacher for the group. He was the Zen lunatic whose gestures embodied the bohemian commitment to spontaneity and authenticity. Kesey described Cassady's spiritual path as "the yoga of a man driven to the cliff edge by the grassfire of an entire nation's burning material madness. Rather than be consumed by this he jumped, choosing to sort things out in the fast-flying but smogfree moments of a life with no retreat."

Cassady represented for the Pranksters an ideal of thought and action fusing into a vibrant whole, into pure up-front being. They assumed that whatever was inside a person would come out during the trip (LSD had a way of making this happen); everyone agreed this did not mean that whatever spewed forth would always be beautiful and lovey-dovey. Weird behavior was commonplace on the bus, and awards were given out regularly for "Most Disgusting Trip." The idea really was to go "furthur," to explore the unknown, to feel no limit as to what might be discovered and expressed on acid. It was in this sense that a mission was taking shape among the Pranksters. It had nothing to do with the salvation of the world; it was more a feeling, a " synching" together that created an atmosphere of "creeping religiosity." As a group they searched for a unified consciousness that would outstrip once and for all the pseudo-reality they had left behind.

The Pranksters were in high spirits when they finally hit New York City. Cassady secured an apartment for a powwow between Kesey's group and his old friends Ginsberg and Kerouac. Would the original white hipsters accept these psychedelic neobohemians as kindred spirits? The environment was typical for the Pranksters, with tapes echoing and lights flashing off mirrors. An American flag covered the sofa. Kerouac felt out of place amidst the madness. He and Kesey didn't have much to say to each other. Kerouac walked over to the sofa, carefully folded the flag, and asked the Pranksters if they were Communists. He left early with Cassady and returned to his home in Massachusetts, where he lived with his mother. As Tom Wolfe described the meeting, "It was like hail and farewell. Kerouac was the old star. Kesey was the wild new comet from the West heading christ knew where."

If there was anybody who could dig where the Pranksters were coming from, they figured it had to be Leary's group. After traveling a few thousand miles, they were not going to pass up the chance to visit Millbrook, the only other psychedelic commune they knew of. The Pranksters expected a heartwarming reception, but upon their arrival they were not exactly embraced. Things were friendly but somehow cool. Everyone was waiting for the momentous meeting between Kesey and Leary. However, Leary would not meet with the Pranksters. He was supposedly on a very serious three-day trip upstairs in the mansion and could not be disturbed. Kesey was bewildered by this turn of events, but as the Pranksters grew more familiar with the Millbrook scene, they began to understand why they made everyone so uptight. The Millbrook group was essentially made up of behavioral scientists who kept records of their mental states, wrote papers, and put out a journal. Leary and his people were going the scholarly route, giving lectures and such; they had nothing to gain by associating with a bunch of grinning, filthy bums wearing buckskins and face paint. The distance between the East Coast intellectuals and Kesey's clan was cavernous. As Michael Hollingshead recalled the encounter, "They thought we were square and we thought they were crazy."

The general atmosphere of quietude -- the special meditation rooms, the statues of the Buddha, the emphasis on The Tibetan Book of the Dead -- was unbearably stuffy to the Pranksters, who dubbed the whole thing "the Crypt Trip." In this scene there was no room for electronics, no guitars or videotapes, no American flags, and well, no freakiness. Kesey was not at all interested in structuring the set and setting of an LSD trip so that a spiritual experience would result. Why did acid require picturesque countryside or a fancy apartment with objets d'art to groove on and Bach's Suite in B Minor playing on the stereo? A psychedelic adventure on the bus needed no preconceived spiritual overtones; it could be experienced in the context of a family scene, a musical jam, or a plain old party. The Pranksters thought it was fine just going with the flow, taking acid in the midst of whatever was happening, no matter how disorienting or unusual the situation.

It was, after all, a question of style, East Coast versus West Coast. The Merry Pranksters were born in California, starting out as a party of outlandish proportions that evolved into a stoned encounter group on wheels. Kesey, having first turned on to LSD in a government drug testing program, saw the whole phenomenon of grassroots tripping as "the revolt of the guinea pigs." Now that he had taken LSD out of the laboratory and away from the white smocks, any notion of a medically sanitized or controlled psychedelic experience was abhorrent to him. Programming the LSD trip with Tibetan vibes struck him as a romantic retreat, a turning back, submitting to another culture's ideas rather than getting into the uniqueness of the American trip.

Kesey the psychedelic populist was attempting to broaden the very nature of the tripping experience by incorporating as many different scenes and viewpoints as possible. "When you've got something like we've got," he explained, "you can't just sit on it and possess it; you've got to move off of it and give it to other people. It only works if you bring other people into it." Toward this end the Pranksters staged a series of public initiations, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests of the mid-1960s, which turned on hundreds of people at a single session. The acid tests were weird carnivals with videotapes, flashing strobes, live improvised rock and roll by the Grateful Dead, lots of bizarre costumes, and dancing.

The ultimate example of Kesey's attempt to get everybody into the Prankster movie was when he turned on the hoariest outlaw group of them all, the Hell's Angels. Kesey had met the Angels in the summer of 1965 through Hunter Thompson, the notorious Doctor of Gonzo, who was then writing a book about the motorcycle gang. Whatever the reason (perhaps the bit of redneck in Kesey), he smoked a joint with some of the Angels and they hit it off right away. "We're in the same business," Kesey told them. "You break people's bones, I break people's heads." He invited his new friends to La Honda for a party. The Pranksters laid in unlimited quantities of beer and strung a huge banner across the lawn welcoming the Hell's Angels. The bash would be a reunion of sorts; the old Perry Lane people were there, along with Allen Ginsberg, Richard Alpert, and a lot of San Francisco and Berkeley intellectuals. The Pranksters got ready for the Angels the way they got ready for anything -- by dropping acid. The local townsfolk prepared themselves by huddling nervously behind locked doors, while the police turned out to greet the visitors with ten squad cars and live ammunition.

Kesey had really done it this time. A bunch of spaced-out bohemians getting high was one thing, but a violent motorcycle gang was something else again. Even among the Pranksters there was some uncertainty about their guests. The trepidation thermometer must have been sky-high as the Angels roared into La Honda with skulls, crossbones, and swastikas embellishing their denim jackets. But once the Angels dug into the beer, the tension eased considerably. The Pranksters were probably the first outsiders actually to accept the Angels. To Kesey's group they were fellow outlaws with just as little tolerance for hypocrisy or compromise. An atmosphere of peaceful coexistence was established, and then acid was doled out as a party favor.

Contrary to certain dire expectations of brutal carnage wreaked by drug-twisted criminals, the LSD made the bikers rather docile. They all walked around in a daze, mingling with the radicals, pacifists, and intellectuals. There was Allen Ginsberg, the epitome of much they despised, a gay New York poet chanting Hare Krishna and dancing with his finger cymbals, and the Angels were actually digging him. It was quite a spectacle. The befuddled policemen stayed outside the grounds with their red flashers blinking through the trees. With so many of the Angels bombed out of their minds, the cops deemed it wise to keep their distance.

The party went on for two days -- a monument to what the Pranksters had set out to accomplish on the '64 bus trip. They had broken through the worst hang-up intellectuals have -- the "real life" hang-up. After this first bash the Angels hung around Kesey's for the next six weeks, attending numerous Prankster parties. Their presence added a certain voltage that was unforgettable for those in attendance. Hunter Thompson wrote that if he could repeat any of his early acid trips, it would be one of the Hell's Angels parties in La Honda. "It was a very electric atmosphere. If the Angels lent a feeling of menace, they also made it more interesting ... and far more alive than anything likely to come out of a controlled experiment or a politely brittle gathering of well-educated truth-seekers looking for wisdom in a capsule. Dropping acid with the Angels was an adventure; they were too ignorant to know what to expect, and too wild to care."
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:37 pm

Acid and the New Left

Kesey's scene was all the rage in the Bay Area. Among others, it attracted a number of people who were involved with the Free Speech Movement (FSM) that arose on the Berkeley campus of the University of California in the fall of 1964. This was a period of unbridled optimism and enthusiasm among student activists. The Cold War had finally thawed, and many were eager to flex their political muscle for a variety of issues: civil rights, disarmament, university reform, and so forth. Nothing less than a wholesale transformation of society was thought to be in the offing. The cities would be renovated, the institutions remade, the downtrodden uplifted, and justice would ultimately prevail. It was a moment saturated with possibility, and those who joined the protest struggle were confident, in the words of Lautreamont, that "the storms of youth precede brilliant days."

The FSM was a groundbreaking event as students asserted their right to organize politically on campus in the face of attempts by the university administration to ban such activity. At a mass rally in front of Sproul Hall attended by thousands, Mario Savio, a curly-haired twenty-one-year-old FSM spokesperson, delivered a stirring address in which he denounced the university as a factory for processing students -- its raw material -- into standardized personnel. "There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes one so sick at heart that you can't take part, you can't even tacitly take part, and you have to put your body upon the gears and the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to stop it. You've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working."

On cue the demonstrators marched into the administrative offices and occupied four floors of Sproul Hall. During the next thirty hours, they established a "liberated" zone with areas designated for political discussion, entertainment, study hall, kitchen, infirmary, legal aid, alternative classes, and steering committee meetings; the roof was reserved for couples who wanted to sleep together and people who wanted to smoke pot. In effect, they created an embryonic version of the future society, the "beloved community," which they hoped to bring about through social activism.

The young radicals were fashioning the beginnings of a unique political gestalt that encompassed a dual-pronged radical project. They believed that challenging entrenched authority entailed a concerted attempt to alter the institutions and policy-making apparatus that had been usurped by a self-serving power elite; at the same time, they sought to lead lives that embodied the social changes they desired. For sixties activists, the quest for social justice was in many ways a direct extension of the search for personal authenticity. They were as much concerned with questions of psychic liberation as with economic and political issues. Their demand for a high-energy, freewheeling, erotic culture was a keystone of their anti-authoritarian crusade.

The FSM and other emerging New Left organizations attracted not only those who were steeped in campus politics but also a sizable contingent of social "dropouts" who hung out on the periphery of the academic scene. Although these people rarely attended classes, in a sense they constituted the heart and soul of the new lifestyle emerging in and around various college towns all across America. Hunter Thompson described the nonstudent left in The Nation in 1965:

Social radicals tend to be "arty." Their gigs are poetry and folk music, rather than politics, although many are fervently committed to the civil rights movement. Their political bent is Left, but their real interests are writing, painting, good sex, good sounds, and free marijuana. The realities of politics put them off, although they don't mind lending their talents to a demonstration here and there, or even getting arrested for a good cause. They have quit one system and they don't want to be organized into another; they feel they have more important things to do.

For the new bohemians, radicalism had become a way of life. Moving against the structures of antifreedom involved distinctive modes of dress and speech, how you wore your hair, what you smoked, the kind of music you listened to, and so forth. Getting stoned and floating through the day formed the basis of an almost ritualized existence for these people. Finding the clothes, making the connection, copping the dope and smoking it, and leavening the mixture with one's ongoing experience was in many ways a full-time job in itself.

To the conventional observer this lifestyle appeared shiftless, useless, and parasitic. Invariably the root of this creeping social disease was traced to those evil drugs and that unhealthy lust for kicks they inspired, which was allegedly ruining the lives of so many young people. But drug use was not simply for kicks, an end in itself, even if that was how the straight press and the schoolteachers portrayed it. Indeed, if one insisted on calling it a kick, then it was more like a swift kick in the rump of the establishment.

During the nascent phase of the student movement, taking drugs was a way of saying "No!" to authority, of bucking the status quo. Drug use and radical politics often went hand in hand. If a certain percentage of young people in a given college town were smoking pot or dropping acid, then there was generally a corresponding level of political activism. Not everyone who turned on was also involved in political protest, but there was a significant overlap between the two groups. Many people associated with the FSM, including half the members of the steering committee, were getting high. In this respect Berkeley was not much different from other schools; it was just the leading edge of the political and cultural groundswell that would soon sweep the entire country.

The act of consuming the forbidden fruit was politicized by the mere fact that it was illegal. When you smoked marijuana, you immediately became aware of the glaring contradiction between the way you experienced reality in your own body and the official descriptions by the government and the media. That pot was not the big bugaboo that it had been cracked up to be was irrefutable evidence that the authorities either did not tell the truth or did not know what they were talking about. Its continued illegality was proof that lying and/or stupidity was a cornerstone of government policy. When young people got high, they knew this existentially, from the inside out. They saw through the great hoax, the cover story concerning not only the narcotics laws but the entire system. Smoking dope was thus an important political catalyst, for it enabled many a budding radical to begin questioning the official mythology of the governing class.

It is impossible to understand the politics of LSD without also considering the politics of marijuana, as the two were linked within the drug subculture. The popularity of both substances was inseparable from the outlaw ethos surrounding their use. Dope was an initiation into a cult of secrecy, with blinds drawn, incense burning to hide the smell, and music playing as the joint was ritualistically passed around a circle of friends. Said Michael Rossman, a veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, "When a young person took his first puff of psychoactive smoke, he also drew in the psychoactive culture as a whole, the entire matrix of law and association surrounding the drug, its induction and transaction. One inhaled a certain way of dressing, talking, acting, certain attitudes. One became a youth criminal against the State."

That dope was fun and illegal made the experience all the more exciting. The toking ritual drew people together in a unique way, so that they felt as if they were part of a loose tribe. Who you got high with was as important as what you got high on, for you shared parts of yourself along with the smoke. There was a natural intimacy about toking up with friends that facilitated the revelation of hitherto hidden facets of personality. (The OSS was right to select marijuana as a truth drug, for it does help loosen reserve and stimulate loquaciousness.) As a mild relaxant that also enhanced awareness, pot was frequently smoked in conjunction with some other activity, such as reading, listening to music or making love. The decidedly sensual effects of marijuana often put people on a different timetable. Getting stoned was a reprieve from dead time, school time, television time, punch-the-clock time, and that was what made the drug so attractive.

Once you had smoked marijuana and enjoyed the experience, an interest in other drugs was natural. For many people lighting up was a prelude to tripping out; the set they took off the smoking high disposed them favorably toward LSD. Although acid and grass are both aesthetic enhancers, the strength of LSD put it in a whole other category. Tripping is a very special type of activity, mentally as well as physically. It can include moments of astonishing insight and supermellow serenity ("a peace which passeth all understanding"), but always lurking at the edge of the psychedelic aura is the specter of something deadly serious. Whereas pot is mild enough to be playful, acid is an intense and unremitting dose of bacchanalia. Unlike marijuana intoxication, which can be regulated by the number of puffs, the acid high cannot be controlled once the tab or sugar cube is ingested. The sheer duration of an LSD trip -- eight to twelve hours and sometimes longer -- requires a much greater commitment than smoking a "jay."

In some sense one is forced to earn whatever psychological truths can be gleaned from having the mind stretched to unknown limits by a psychedelic. That was what Kesey and the Merry Pranksters meant when they invited people to try and "pass the Acid Test." The willingness to endure what could be a rather harrowing ordeal was for many young men and women a way of cutting the last umbilical cord to everything the older generation had designated as safe and sanitized. If smoking marijuana turned people into social outlaws, acid led many to see themselves as cosmic fugitives.

The decision to experiment with LSD for the first time was often as important as the experience itself. One had to muster a certain amount of courage to commit a transgression of this sort. It wasn't because dropping acid was against the law (the drug didn't become illegal until late 1966); nevertheless, a leap of faith was required since no one could be sure what lay in store after the deed was done. The only certainty was uncertainty, but that did not dissuade the young from going one on one with the Abyss. Too much was at stake to refuse the gamble. For those who made the leap, the prospect of not taking LSD was even more awesome than the nagging question mark that loomed on the horizon. (Or, as the sixties wall graffiti proclaimed, "Reality is a crutch for those who can't face acid.") Their primary motive was not to escape from the "real" world but to experience by whatever means necessary some sort of existential uplift that might shed light on the quagmire of the self.

Psychedelic initiates were willing to pay some heavy dues as they explored a host of mind-altering chemicals. Before LSD became a staple of the street, the most frequently used "brain food" was the foul-tasting peyote, which induced nausea, cramps, and vomiting. (Michael McClure compared peyote to the smell of "a dead wet dog on a cool morning.") In the late 1950s and early 1960s, peyote buttons could be purchased via mail order from a cactus farm in Texas. Other naturally occurring hallucinogens were also available -- morning glory seeds, the Hawaiian baby wood rose, and nutmeg (used by many prison inmates, including Malcolm X before his conversion to Islam). Such drugs frequently resulted in aching joints, weak muscles and a powerful hangover the next day, but that was all part of the "trip." The passion with which young people embraced these substances, despite the attendant somatic discomfort, was indicative of an overriding conviction that psychedelics were a means to liberation, a way of confronting oneself in cosmic dramas, just as Huxley and the beats had described.

If any single theme dominated young people in the 1960s, it was the search for a new way of seeing, a new relation to the world. LSD was a means of exciting consciousness and provoking visions, a kind of hurried magic enabling youthful seekers to recapture the resonance of life that society had denied. Drugs were a passport to an uncharted landscape of risk and sensation, and those who entered the forbidden territory moved quickly into areas where most adults could offer little assistance. The drama enacted in this zone of enchantment was totally alien to the academic curriculum, which failed to provide the necessary tools to deal with the rewards and pitfalls one might encounter on such a journey.

Experimenting with LSD and other hallucinogens often created a feeling of separation or alienation from people who hadn't had the experience. Not surprisingly, those who turned on found it increasingly difficult to identify with anyone of a distinctly older mindset; instead their own peer group became the primary source of information as young people assumed the task of educating themselves. They were committed not so much to a predetermined objective as to a process of self-discovery that was open-ended and ripe with images of tomorrow. Their infatuation with psychedelics was symbolic of an attempt to seize control of the means of mental production in a very personal sense. They would get by -- and high -- with a little help from their friends, learning what they had to know before or after or in spite of school, so that in the midst of a period of chaos and confusion they might find a way to forge a link with the future.

Carl Oglesby, former president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the leading national New Left organization in the 1960s, reflected on how the psychological underpinnings of taking LSD and rebelling against authority were complementary.

The acid experience is so concrete. It draws a line right across your life -- before and after LSD -- in the same way you felt that your step into radical politics drew a sharp division. People talked about that, the change you go through, how fast the change could happen on an individual level and how liberating and glorious it was. Change was seen as survival, as the strategy of health. Nothing could stand for that overall sense of going through profound changes so well as the immediate, powerful and explicit transformation that you went through when you dropped acid. In the same way, bursting through the barricades redefined you as a new person. It's not necessarily that the actual content of the LSD experience contributed to politically radical or revolutionary consciousness -- it was just that the experience shared the structural characteristics of political rebellion, and resonated those changes so that the two became independent prongs of an over-arching transcending rebellion that took in the person and the State at the same time.

The first big surge of street acid hit the college scene in 1965, just when the political situation in the United States was heating up. The mid-1960s were pervaded by a sense of daily apocalypse: President Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, Malcolm X was assassinated, twenty thousand marines conducted a "police action" in the Dominican Republic, and the Watts rebellion caught fire in Los Angeles. During this volatile historical moment the New Left seized the time as well as the attention of the national media, grabbing headlines and making waves. The publicity windfall opened up hitherto undreamed-of possibilities in terms of reaching a large portion of the citizenry but also posed unprecedented challenges for the New Left.

Vietnam was the first television war, and it was the war, more than any other issue, that radicalized people and spurred them to direct action. By the same token the antiwar movement was the first opposition movement to emerge under the full glare of the media spotlight. SDS was catapulted into prominence in April 1965, when it sponsored a rally in Washington, DC, to protest LBJ's decision to initiate the sustained bombing of North Vietnam. Thirty thousand people showed up for this demonstration, far more than had been expected, and the media coverage was extensive. A flood of newly radicalized recruits joined SDS and its influence expanded considerably.

Of course, SDS was only part of the New Left or "the Movement," as insiders called it, and the Movement itself was part of a larger cultural upheaval that occurred during this period. Nearly everything was being questioned and most things tried in an orgy of experiment that shook the nation at its roots. Students everywhere were rejecting mainstream values, turning on to drugs, and marching in the streets. There were teach-ins, sit-ins, mass draft card burnings, guerrilla theater, and other forms of high-spirited protest, as the New Left abandoned a reformist approach and entered a phase of active resistance.

Life seemed to be one grand eruption of creative energy in the mid-1960s, and many thought the crosshatch of cultural and political rebellion was workable and exciting. The hipster and the activist represented two poles of the radical experience. Both shared a contempt for middle-class values, a disdain for authority, and a passion for expression. But there were also significant tensions between the two camps. Each had different ideas about how to achieve personal liberation and remake the world. The first signs of friction became evident not long after the New Left burst into the limelight and large amounts of black market acid hit selected college campuses.

In October 1965 Ken Kesey addressed the Berkeley Vietnam Day rally, an event that was part of the first International Days of Protest, when young radicals in a hundred cities throughout the Western world demonstrated against the war. The Berkeley rally attracted nearly fifteen thousand people who listened to folksingers and a slate of antiwar notables including Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Kesey showed up with a band of Merry Pranksters in the old psychedelic school bus, which had been painted blood-red for the occasion and covered with swastikas, hammers and sickles, the American eagle, and other nationalist symbols.

Kesey's entourage, which included a number of mean-looking Hell's Angels, grew restless while the antiwar speakers riled up the crowd about the genocide across the ocean. The Chief Prankster was disturbed by the angry overtones of what was supposed to be a peace demonstration. The lack of humor amidst all the self-righteous rhetoric rubbed him the wrong way. When it was his turn to speak, he strolled to the mike in his Day-Glo helmet and windbreaker and proceeded to shock the audience by saying that wars had been fought for ten thousand years and they weren't going to change anything by parading around with signs and slogans. Then he pulled out a harmonica and regaled the crowd with a squalling rendition of "Home on the Range." "Do you want to know how to stop the war?" Kesey screamed. "Just turn your backs on it, fuckit!" And then he walked away.

Kesey represented those elements of the hip scene that emphasized personal liberation without any strategic concern whatsoever; the task of remodeling themselves took precedence over changing institutions or government policy. This posture rankled hard-core politicos who were committed to busting the system that had driven them into limbo. Their opinion of Kesey did not improve the following day when the Hell's Angels began to hassle antiwar activists as they set off toward the US Army installation in Oakland in an attempt to block trains carrying American troops destined for Vietnam.

Bob Dylan was in the Bay Area during the Berkeley Vietnam Day protest, and the march organizers sent Allen Ginsberg to ask him to lead the demonstration. But Dylan was not interested. "There's no left wing and right wing," he said, "just up wing and down wing." He did make a modest proposal, however. He would agree to participate only if it was a festive rally with a sense of irony. If the marchers would carry placards with pictures of lemons or watermelons or words like "orange" or " automobile," then he would join in. Not surprisingly, his whimsical offer was refused.

Dylan's attitude toward antiwar protest disappointed many New Left activists who had once revered him as the folk avatar of the civil rights movement. In his early finger-pointing songs Dylan took on all the sins of the parent culture and spit them back in verse, addressing obvious issues of social justice: antinuke, antiboss, anti exploitation. He sang to hundreds of thousands in August 1963 at a huge rally in Washington, DC, which culminated in Martin Luther King's eloquent "I have a dream" speech. To all appearances it should have been a moment of crowning glory for Dylan, but instead it was a time of crisis for him both as an artist and as a spokesman for social change.

Dylan was caught up in a symbiotic relationship with the inequities of society. His protest songs had made him rich and famous, but where was it all going; The pressures attendant upon his sudden notoriety, as well as his growing doubts about the ability of the Movement to revitalize American life, distanced him from his earlier material. During this period of self- examination Dylan did what he had done when he left his hometown in Minnesota to pursue a career as a folksinger -- "strike another match and start anew."

With a small entourage of friends and musicians he holed up in Woodstock, an artist colony in upstate New York, and opened himself to various new influences. Everyone around him was popping pills and experimenting with acid and mushrooms, and Dylan himself entered a period of protracted drug use. At the time he was fond of saying that he was "pro-chemistry": "Being a musician means -- depending on how far you go -- getting to the depths of where you are at. And most any musician would try anything to get to those depths, because playing music is an immediate thing -- as opposed to putting paint on a canvas, which is a calculated thing. Your spirit flies when you are playing music. So, with music, you tend to look deeper and deeper inside yourself to find the music."

It was obvious listening to Dylan's 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home, that he was exploring new directions. The shift in his aesthetic was drastic, as if, like the figure in Cocteau's film The Blood of a Poet, he had looked at his own poetic image in the mirror until he convulsively splashed through it. Determined to express the full range of his imagination in song, he plunged into strange, beautiful and chaotic worlds. "Mr. Tambourine Man" is an invocation to a mystical journey through "the foggy ruins of time." The lyrics are appropriately vague; the Tambourine Man may be the pusher, the drug, or the experience itself. But the ambience of the work is unmistakably that of early dawn, the hour of the wolf, when all hangs in an eerie balance, as at the end of a long and difficult LSD trip.

On the same album Dylan made his most explicit statement on the outlaw quality of the drug subculture. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is a paean to the paranoid head-space associated with the use of controlled substances. The opening stanza describes Johnny the bathtub chemist in the basement "mixing up the medicine" while the narc in "the trenchcoat" waits to be paid off. Dylan goes on to offer some homespun advice: keep a low profile, avoid the heat, yet maintain a certain awareness -- Don't try No-Doz" -- and above all rely on your intuition -- "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." (A group of militant SDS radicals would later take their name from this line, calling themselves "the Weathermen.")

In these brilliant and unprecedented works Dylan exorcised the knee-jerk moralism of the topical protest song in favor of his search for a sustaining vision. At first many Dylan fans had a hard time with his new material. For starters one side of Bringing It All Back Home featured electric accompaniment, which Dylan had never used before, and this was strictly taboo as far as the folkies were concerned. To confound matters, these elusive and evocative compositions did not seem to have a single message or ultimate meaning. The interpretation of a Dylan song usually said more about the interpreter than about the song or Dylan, which was what the songs were about anyway -- facing oneself.

Dylan showcased his new music at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965. His set completely shattered the expectations of his audience. On the hallowed ground of Newport -- where Pete Seeger sang of peace and freedom, where Dylan himself had sung "Blowin' in the Wind" with Peter, Paul and Mary just two years earlier -- Bobby D. gave the quintessential protopunk performance. He did three electric numbers with a backup band, but the loud, pulsing electronic rock drowned out a lot of the lyrics, causing some in the crowd to scream and heckle the musicians. This wasn't the Dylan they knew, who had provided a musical backdrop to their most intimate hopes. With some prodding Dylan returned with his acoustic guitar and sang "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." While this encore somewhat mollified the scandalized audience of folkies, the real message was that the black-and-white politics of the folk era was over. [1]

The process Dylan inaugurated with Bringing It All Back Home characterized his output during the mid-1960s. The songs on Highway 61 Revisited, also released in 1965, were testaments to the mystic trials he suffered during his heavy drug period. In his first international chart-buster, "Like a Rolling Stone," Dylan asked the musical question of how it feels to face the Void. This remarkable song combined his most withering vocal sneer with a joyously uplifting melody to capture the combination of fear and exhilaration that accompanied his listeners' first groping steps out of the boredom and security of middle-class suburbia. "How does it feel," he moaned, "to be on your own, a complete unknown ..." Never was an artist more in synch with his time and his cultural moment. He was inside the psyches of millions. Phil Ochs described Dylan during this period as acid incarnate: "He was LSD on stage."

Before Dylan went electric -- that is to say, psychedelic -- folk was the music of moral conscience, while rock was the Dionysian backbeat glorifying the baser pleasures of sex and speed. But the moment Dylan plugged in his guitar, social critique went Top Forty and rock, with its growing audience, became a vehicle of protest. His songs, along with those of other turned-on folk-rockers who followed in his footsteps -- Simon and Garfunkel, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Lovin' Spoonful -- became an instant body of oral tradition appealing to an enormous audience of disaffected youth. The idealism of folk was wedded to the anger and exuberance of rock music, and before long many of the same people who trashed Dylan for selling out and leaving the protest movement in the lurch began to rock out.

Dylan's emergence as a rock and roller was part and parcel of his problematic self-exploration with psychedelic drugs in the mid-1960s. The vastly accelerated personal changes Dylan underwent as he moved from protest to transcendence were archetypical of a rite of passage experienced by thousands of turned-on youth. Dylan knew that everyone had to go through the process of individuation on their own, that neither he nor anyone else could lead the masses to that other shore. To those who were attempting to navigate such treacherous waters, his only suggestion was: "Everybody must get stoned."



1. In 1965 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the radical youth wing of the civil rights movement, expelled white activists from its ranks and introduced black power as a counterpoint to integration.
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:38 pm

PART TWO: Acid for the Masses

Chapter 6: From Hip To Hippie


The initial breeding ground for the large-scale use of psychedelics was the social and artistic fringe areas associated with the beat phenomenon. For some years prior to the emergence of LSD as a street drug, the number of people whose lives were influenced by psychedelics had been slowly building to a critical mass, until they became visible on both coasts as distinct communities. The most significant expression of the new psychedelic lifestyle was centered in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. It was in the Haight that the cultural rebellion fueled by LSD happened so vividly and with such intensity that it attracted worldwide attention.

Situated on the periphery of Golden Gate Park, this quiet, multi-racial, and somewhat rundown neighborhood first became a haven for nonconformists in the early 1960s, when tourists, gangster elements, thrill seekers, and narcs squeezed the life out of the hip scene in North Beach. A good number of beatnik refugees migrated across town to the Haight, where ramshackle Victorians were available at low rent. The next few years were a gestation period in which Haight-Ashbury continued to evolve as a gathering point for the creatively alienated. Increasing numbers of Berkeley radicals, fed up with academia, joined the artists, musicians, and bearded habitues who were probing eccentricity and other forms of dissent.

By 1965, Haight-Ashbury was a vibrant neobohemian enclave, a community on the cusp of a major transition. A small psychedelic city-state was taking shape, and those who inhabited the open urban space within its invisible borders adhered to a set of laws and rhythms completely different from the nine-to-five routine that governed straight society. More than anything the Haight was a unique state of mind, an arena of exploration and celebration. The new hipsters had cast aside the syndrome of alienation and despair that saddled many of their beatnik forebears. The accent shifted from solitude to communion, from the individual to the interpersonal. The new sensibility was particularly evident in musical preferences. The sound of the in-crowd was no longer folk or jazz but the bouncing rhythms of rock and roll that could incite an audience to boogie in unison almost as a single organism.

Music happenings were a cornerstone of the cultural revival in the Haight, providing a locus around which a new community consciousness coalesced. One of the early energy-movers in the local rock scene was Chet Helms. A couple of years earlier, Helms had forsaken a future as a Baptist minister and hitchhiked from Texas with a young blues singer named Janis Joplin. Together these two rolling stones traveled the asphalt networks of America in search of kindred spirits until they settled in the Haight. Joplin fell in with other musicians, joining what would later become Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Helms formed the Family Dog, an organization dedicated to what was then the rather novel proposition that people should be encouraged to dance at rock concerts.

On October 16, 1965, the Family Dog held its first rock extravaganza at the Longshoreman's Hall, a dome-shaped union headquarters near Fisherman's Wharf. Dubbed "A Tribute to Dr. Strange," the evening featured the city's premier psychedelic rock band, the Jefferson Airplane, and a handful of other local acts. A large crowd turned out for this inaugural event, including quite a few political radicals who participated in the Berkeley Vietnam Day rally earlier the same day. Everyone was decked out in weird costumes. There were even a few Hell's Angels in attendance, and they joined the snakedance weaving circles and figure eights through the hall.

The Family Dog dance was a huge success, and soon these concerts became a staple of the hip community. Each weekend people converged at auditoriums such as the Avalon Ballroom for all-night festivals that combined the seemingly incongruous elements of spirituality and debauch. Thoroughly stoned on grass and acid and each other, they rediscovered the crushing joy of the dance, pouring it all out in a frenzy that frequently bordered on the religious. When rock music was performed with all its potential fury, a special kind of delirium took hold. Attending such performances amounted to a total assault on the senses: the electric sound washed in visceral waves over the dancers, unleashing intense psychic energies and driving the audience further and further toward public trance. Flashing strobes, light shows, body paint, outrageous getups -- it was mass environmental theater, an oblivion of limbs and minds in motion. For a brief moment outside of time these young people lived out the implications of Andre Breton's surrealist invocation: "Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all."

No affair in the Haight better illustrated how far these rock events had strayed from conventional entertainment than the Trips Festival staged by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in January 1966. "The general tone of things," Kesey advertised, "has moved on from the self-conscious happenings to a more jubilant occasion where the audience participates because it's more fun to do so than not. Audience dancing is an assumed part of all the shows, and the audience is invited to wear ecstatic dress and to bring their own gadgets (A.C. outlets will be provided)." This was a wide-open three-day LSD party with just about every sight and sound imaginable: mime exhibitions, guerrilla theater, a "Congress of Wonders," and live mikes and sound equipment for anyone to play with. Closed-circuit television cameras were set up on the dance floor so people could watch themselves shake and swing. Music blasted at ear-splitting volumes while Day-Glo bodies bounced gleefully on trampolines. At one point Kesey flashed from a projector, "Anyone who knows he is God please go up on stage."

Jerry ("Captain Trips") Garcia, the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, [1] one of the bands that performed at the Trips Festival, tried to put his finger on what made those early events so special:

What the Kesey thing was depended on who you were when you were there. It was open, a tapestry, a mandala -- it was whatever you made it.... When it was moving right, you could dig that there was something that it was getting toward, something like ordered chaos, or some region of chaos.... Everybody would be high and flashing and going through insane changes during which everything would be demolished, man, and spilled and broken and affected, and after that, another thing would happen, maybe smoothing out the chaos, then another.... Thousands of people, man, all helplessly stoned, all finding themselves in a room of thousands of people, none of whom any of them were afraid of. It was magic, far-out beautiful magic.

The Trips Festival was a shot of adrenalin for the entire hip scene in the Haight. The head population began to realize its growing strength in numbers. Scores of local bands were forming, their names indicative of their psychedelic orientation: Blue Cheer, Clear Light, Daily Flash, the Loading Zone, Morning Glory, Celestial Hysteria, Ball Point Banana, Flamin' Groovies, the Electric Flag, the Weeds ... There was even a band called the CIA (Citizens for Interplanetary Activities). Some of the groups -- notably the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, and, of course, the Grateful Dead -- established themselves as first-rate performers. Their music was rooted in folk and blues, but the rhythms mutated under the influence of LSD and the raw power of electricity. Acid rock, as the San Francisco sound was called, was unique not only as a genre but also as praxis. The musicians viewed themselves first and foremost as community artists, and they often played outdoors for free as a tribute to their constituency. Even when there was a cover charge, Chet Helms and the Family Dog usually waived it for friends and neighbors. People revered Helms for this, but because of his generosity he frequently lost money and could not always pay the bands.

It was only later, when acid rock went national in the summer of 1967, that the scene began to change. Whether it was the profit motive or just that the euphoric spirit of the early days was becoming harder to sustain, some of the originals felt that things were going sour. An up-and-coming rock promoter named Bill Graham was holding shows at the Fillmore auditorium and handling the biggest acts. Unlike Chet Helms, who ran his dance shows more like a church, Graham was in it strictly for the bucks. Although he refused to turn on, he was tuned in enough to see that light shows and acid rock could have mass appeal. Before long, high-powered record execs were knocking at his door.

While a lot of young people didn't dig Graham's "short-haired" attitude toward business, he did manage to stage an ongoing musical shindig, and he also supported the talented poster artists who would soon make psychedelic art an international style. It was under Graham's patronage that the rock club emerged as a significant cultural institution. (He also booked nonrock acts such as Lenny Bruce, who performed at the Fillmore in 1966 shortly before he died of a heroin overdose.) The rock and roll shows Graham promoted became the new social ritual, above all a music for heads and a powerful reinforcement for the spread of psychedelics.

The acid rock celebration was not confined to the concert hall but poured over into the street, which became the focal point of life in the Haight. The street was center stage, the place where you walked, talked, and dressed any way you wanted. With the pleasant climate you could hang out on the street most of the time, bombarded by a perpetual parade of stimuli -- wild costumes, spontaneous theater, assorted antics, wandering minstrels. People were not just striking poses. To patrol the street in full regalia was an act of defiance, an open refusal to buy into the System. But it was also something more. For those who exchanged knowing smiles during their daily rounds, the long hair, beads, and bare feet were not only a symbol of estrangement but a positive leap of consciousness, an affirmation of a radically different set of personal and social priorities.

The Haight was becoming a testing area for fresh shapes of human experience. Dwellers in the acid ghetto frequently clustered into tribal or "intentional" family units. They practiced communal living arrangements in which private property was restricted to a bare minimum. Sexual exclusivity was often rejected in favor of group marriage. The loosening of sexual mores was in part an expression of a growing appetite for a common spirituality. Hangups or restrictions of any sort could only impede the healing process, which entailed nothing less than the reinstatement of ecstasy as the fulcrum of daily life.

Excitement was brewing in the Haight. Although the straight world had scarcely begun to notice what was happening, the psychedelic city-state was having its brief golden age. The energy was unmistakably sky-high; poets and dreamers had the upper hand. One way or another, it all revolved around drugs. The psychedelic experience was the common chord of shared consciousness that unified the entire community. People talked about acid all the time, how it blew apart preconceptions and put you through intense changes. "It seemed like we were in a time machine," said Stephen Gaskin, a self-styled Haight-Ashbury orator. "Nearly anything we did was cool in a sense because it was all learning.... It was all paying attention, and you couldn't build experiments fast enough to catch acid."

Haight-Ashbury was the world's original psychedelic supermarket, the place where acid was first sold on a mass scale. The undisputed king of the illicit LSD trade was Augustus Owsley Stanley III, a dapper individual who could rap for hours on topics ranging from acid rock to Einsteinian physics. Owsley's personal history is something of an enigma -- what can you say about someone who ate four steaks a day because he was convinced that vegetables were poison? His father was a government attorney, and his grandfather a US senator from Kentucky. Owsley had been expelled in the ninth grade for bringing intoxicating beverages onto school grounds, after which he was shunted from one prep school to the next. By the age of eighteen he had severed all family ties. He then did a short hitch in the airforce, drifted around the West Coast for a few years and hooked up with Melissa Cargill, a young Berkeley chemistry major. Together they began to mass-produce the LSD that would make him a youth culture legend.

Owsley's product first hit the streets in February 1965, during the halcyon days of the early Acid Tests. Though his career as a bootleg chemist led him to adopt a reclusive lifestyle, he did pop up now and again on the psychedelic scene. He visited Millbrook and was on hand to freak freely at some wild parties hosted by Kesey. Owsley was so impressed by the music of the Grateful Dead that he became a patron to the band. During this period he also met Tim Scully, a Berkeley science prodigy whose IQ tipped the scales. He and Scully traveled for a while with the Merry Pranksters. Scully's skills as an electronics wiz came in handy on the psychedelic bus, and he helped design sound equipment for the Dead. But Owsley was more interested in his knowledge of chemicals -- which was formidable. Scully became his apprentice, and together they set up an underground laboratory in Point Richmond, California, in the spring of 1966.

Known throughout the Haight as "the unofficial mayor of San Francisco," Owsley cultivated an image as a wizard-alchemist whose intentions with LSD were priestly and magical. Over the years he developed a rather esoteric view of LSD and its potential. He was convinced, for example, that the psychic "vibes" in the laboratory at the precise moment when the raw ingredients of LSD were being mixed had a strong influence on what kind of trips people would have. Owsley was obsessed with making his product as pure as possible -- even purer than Sandoz, which described LSD in its scientific reports as a yellowish crystalline substance. As he mastered his illicit craft, Owsley found a way to refine the crystal so that it appeared blue-white under a fluorescent lamp; moreover, if the crystals were shaken, they emitted flashes of light, which meant that LSD in its pure form was piezoluminescent -- a property shared by a very small number of compounds.

At first Owsley produced LSD in a powder form that could be doled out in gelatin capsules. He also sold it as a liquid ("Mother's Milk") tinted light blue so that distributors could keep track of which sugar cubes had been spiked. But it was hard to control the dosage with this method, so Owsley invested in a professional pill press and soon he started dyeing his tablets a different color each time he turned out a new shipment. Although there was no difference between the tablets (each contained a carefully measured 250 micrograms), street folklore ascribed specific qualities to every color: red was said to be exceptionally mellow, green was edgy, and blue was the perfect compromise.

By putting out high-quality merchandise and color-coding his tablets, Owsley was able to stay a few steps ahead of his competitors. Even in the Haight, where he was by far the principal source of LSD, there were other brands available on the black market. But Owsley acid was universally recognized as the most potent, and it was revered by turned-on youth. "Every time we'd make another batch and release it on the street," Scully recalled, "something beautiful would flower, and of course we believed it was all because of what we were doing. We believed that we were the architects of social change, that our mission was to change the world substantially, and what was going on in the Haight was a sort of laboratory experiment, a microscopic sample of what would happen worldwide."

Drug trafficking in the Haight quickly grew to enormous dimensions as people came from all over to cop in large quantities. With his commanding position in the underground market, Owsley kept the retail price of LSD at a steady $2.00 per trip. He and his assistants are said to have manufactured four million hits in the mid-1960s, and he probably gave away as much as he sold. Of course there was money to be made, and Owsley and the others made plenty, but financial considerations were not the sole motivation. The local dealers saw themselves as performing an important community service: "consciousness raising". They distributed acid because they believed in the drug, and while making their deliveries they also functioned as wandering rap specialists, bearers of news, gossip, rumor, and folk wisdom.

It was perhaps inevitable that those who tripped out would often worship LSD and deify its catalytic properties. And who could blame them in the early days, when so many were heady with optimism? The most ardent enthusiasts looked to LSD as something capable, in and of itself, of ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The drug was hailed as an elixir of truth, a psychic solvent that could cleanse the heart of greed and envy and break the barriers of separateness. Needless to say, these young romantics had no idea that the CIA's "enlightened" operatives had been dropping acid since the early 1950s without being moved to trade in their blow darts, shellfish toxin, and extreme prejudices for flowers, love beads and peace signs. If the spies had their minds blown by the drug, it was generally in the direction of bizarre James Bond scenarios like putting thalium salts in Castro's shoes to make his beard fall out.

When Ron and Jay Thelin opened the Psychedelic Shop near the corner of Haight and Ashbury in January 1966, they had a clear-cut purpose: spread the word about LSD. The Psychedelic Shop was unique among the numerous storefronts popping up in the Haight to cater to the hip population. At a time when information about LSD was passed primarily by word of mouth, it served as a place to hang out, gossip, and trade drugs. The shelves were stocked with books, smoking paraphernalia, dance posters, paisley fabrics, imported bells -- in short, anything an acidhead might be interested in. The Thelin brothers also installed the first community bulletin board. They had a rather benign vision of the country's manifest destiny. Haight Street, Ron Thelin rhapsodized, would soon become "a world-famous dope center. There would be fine tea shops with big jars of fine marijuana, and chemist shops with the finest psychedelic chemicals."

The Thelin brothers were turned on to acid by Allen Cohen, who was then dealing some of Owsley's finest. Cohen ended up working part-time at the Psychedelic Shop and later became editor of the Oracle, a psychedelic tabloid backed by the Thelins. The Oracle printed articles on eastern mysticism, macrobiotics, yoga, astrology, and whatever else fit into the "new age" scheme of things. The pages were occasionally sprayed with perfume and were often difficult to read because the colored type was slanted to evoke the undulating shapes that characterize LSD hallucinations.

While most people in the Haight were probably in tune with Kesey's cosmic giggle, the Oracle group was particularly keen on Timothy Leary's trip. They took their cues from the ex-Harvard professor who spoke in cliches about acid as an evolutionary tool that could guarantee religious epiphanies. Oracle philosophy was Leary philosophy; Ron Thelin summed up the newspaper's editorial slant: "To show that LSD provides a profound experience....To get everyone to turn on, tune in, and drop out."

When the Oracle first started publishing, there was already considerable tension between the police and the hip community. Pot busts were becoming more frequent, and the California legislature had recently passed an edict banning the use of LSD. The new law was slated to go into effect on October 6, 1966. The date took on mystical meaning for the Oracle group. In the Bible "666" is a symbol of the Beast, the Anti-Christ, the precursor of Apocalypse; the law against LSD was interpreted as a demonic act, a violation of a people's God-given right to experience their own divinity. But the Oracle group did not want another angry showdown with the authorities. Instead of protesting the new law, they decided to organize a gala event that would expose the falsity of the legal system. "We were not guilty of using illegal substances," Cohen insisted. "We were celebrating transcendental consciousness, the beauty of the universe, the beauty of being."

On the same day that LSD became a controlled substance, the Oracle hosted an outdoor gathering called the Love Pageant Rally. It was an expression of the community's steadfast devotion to their chosen sacrament. A few thousand people, far more than expected, assembled peacefully in the Panhandle next to Golden Gate Park. Rock bands played for free, and the master of ceremonies read a manifesto entitled "A Prophecy of a Declaration of Independence": "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all is equal, that the creation endows us with certain inalienable rights, that among these are: The freedom of the body, the pursuit of joy, and the expansion of consciousness ..."

At the appropriate moment hundreds of people placed a tab of acid on their outstretched tongues and swallowed in unison. The next year in the Haight would be quite a trip indeed.



1. The first member of the Grateful Dead to turn on to LSD was Robert Hunter, the Dead lyricist, who participated in a government-sponsored drug study at Stanford University during the early 1960s. Hunter later recommended the experience to the other band members.
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:38 pm

Politics of the Bummer

Spring of 1966.

The Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency convenes yet another round of hearings in Washington, DC, to deal with the growing "LSD problem." Chairman Thomas Dodd, a conservative Democrat from Connecticut and a noted Communist hunter, speaks out against the use of psychedelic drugs. He dismisses consciousness expansion as an alibi for sheer kicks and proposes strict new laws aimed at "the pseudo-intellectuals who advocate the use of drugs in search for some imaginary freedoms of the mind and in search for higher psychic experiences." Quick and drastic measures are necessary, Dodd asserts, because the LSD scourge is spreading at an alarming rate among America's youth.

A parade of scientists, health officials, and law enforcement experts render their verdict: the unsupervised use of LSD for nonmedical purposes can only lead to tragic results. L-S-D spells instant psychosis and a tendency toward bizarre behavior and capricious fits of violence. What is more, the psychotic interlude can recur at any moment without warning (the "flashback phenomenon"). Other perils are cited: those who take the drug exhibit a disturbing tendency to withdraw from productive activity, and some end up drifting aimlessly through life. To complete the hatchet job, the experts resort to their favorite ploy -- the domino theory of drug abuse: the neophyte starts with marijuana and LSD and inevitably winds up hooked on heroin.

The bad rap on acid was sensationalized in the establishment press, which had been focusing on the detrimental effects of LSD since the Harvard scandal. Typical scare headlines from the mid-1960s read: "GIRL 5, EATS LSD AND GOES WILD" ... " A MONSTER IN OUR MIDST -- A DRUG CALLED LSD" ... "THRILL DRUG WARPS MIND, KILLS." In March 1966 Life magazine ran a cover story entitled "LSD: The Exploding Threat of the Mind Drug That Got Out of Control," which described the psychedelic experience as chemical Russian roulette in which the player gambled with his sanity. Pictures of people on acid cowering in corners, beyond communication, were used to underscore the message that LSD "could be a one-way trip to an asylum, prison, or grave." Life, whose publisher, Henry Luce, had once spoken favorably of psychedelics, didn't pull any punches: "A person ... can become permanently deranged through a single terrifying LSD experience. Hospitals report case after case where people arrive in a state of mental disorganization, unable to distinguish their bodies from their surroundings.... it brings out the very worst in some people. LSD is being dropped in girls' drinks. Terrifying parties are being given with a surprise in the punch. The Humane Society is picking up disoriented dogs...."

The smear campaign paid off. In April 1966 Sandoz Pharmaceuticals recalled all the LSD it had distributed to scientists for research purposes, bringing to a halt nearly all government-sponsored experiments in the US (with the exception of the secret research conducted by the CIA and the military). Politicians issued pronunciamentos against the drug, hoping to ride the coattails of the full scale LSD panic that was sweeping the land. One government official went so far as to characterize LSD as "the greatest threat facing the country today ... more dangerous than the Vietnam War."

Amidst this atmosphere of near hysteria a few spokesmen for the burgeoning acid subculture were called to testify before the Senate subcommittee. Timothy Leary offered an olive branch to the politicians, suggesting that a moratorium on LSD might be appropriate. (A few months earlier Leary had been convicted of attempting to smuggle marijuana into the US, for which he received the heaviest sentence ever meted out for possession of pot -- thirty years in prison and a $30,000 fine. His case was being appealed at the time of the Senate hearings.) Dressed in a suit and tie, with neatly trimmed hair, Leary announced he would urge everyone to stop taking LSD for a year if the lawmakers refrained from banning the drug. Repressive legislation, Leary warned, would usher in an era of prohibition that would be "much more onerous and anguished" than the moonshining days of the 1920s and 1930s. "We do not want amateur or blackmarket sale or distribution of LSD," said Leary. "You don't know what you are getting."

Leary claimed that he had always been opposed to the indiscriminate use of psychedelics. "For six years I have been in the unfortunate position of warning society that this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an LSD panic. We saw it coming the way a meteorologist can see a hurricane coming.... But every attempt has been made to keep it underground. All that energy just cannot be kept underground." To insure good-quality LSD and proper use of the drug, Leary proposed seminars for high school and college students at special psychedelic training centers. These institutions would license responsible adults who wished to utilize LSD "for serious purposes, such as spiritual growth, pursuit of knowledge, or in their own personal development." And what about the lad who chooses military service rather than college? asked Senator Ted Kennedy, a member of the Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee. "I should think that in the Army of the future," Leary responded, "LSD will be used to expand consciousness so that these men can do their duties more effectively."

Arthur Kleps grew peeved as he watched the politicians react with scorn and derision to Leary's testimony. When it was his turn to speak, he decided to get tough with his interlocutors. "Would you mind telling me if you are really called Chief Boohoo?" asked one southern senator. "I'm afraid so," Kleps replied. Whereupon he launched into one of the most outrageous diatribes ever delivered on Capitol Hill.

"It is difficult for us to imagine what it is like to have been born in 1948," Kleps ranted, "but it is very much like being born into an insane asylum." The Chief Boohoo was particularly irked by FDA commissioner Goddard's contention that LSD- induced mind expansion was "pure bunk" since it could not be measured by objective tests. "If I were to give you an IQ test and during the administration one of the walls of the room opened up giving you a vision of the blazing glories of the central galactic suns, and at the same time your childhood began to unreel before your inner eye like a three-dimensional color movie, you would not do well on the intelligence test."

Kleps spoke with righteous vengeance. "We are not drug addicts, we are not criminals, we are free men, and we will react to persecution the way free men have always reacted." If Leary was imprisoned, Kleps threatened, then all hell would break loose. There'd be a religious civil war. "I'd rather see the prison system become inoperable, and it would be if large amounts of LSD were delivered into the prison and distributed among the inmates.... We would have to regard these places as concentration camps where people are being imprisoned because of their religion.... I would resort to violence.... This is the way this country started...."

When Allen Ginsberg took the stand, he tried to placate the committee by explaining in a calm and dignified tone that many people who took LSD were motivated by a desire for long-lasting beneficial effects rather than the immediate flash. In an effort to communicate the nature of the LSD experience, he invoked his own psychedelic history. He told of writing the second part of Howl on peyote and having fearful visions when he ingested yage in Peru. He said he had stopped taking psychedelics for a few years, until 1965, when he dropped acid in Big Sur on the same day President Johnson was scheduled for a gallbladder operation. It was scarcely a week before the Berkeley Vietnam Day demonstration at which Ginsberg was slated to speak. A great deal of hostility to Johnson policy was percolating in radical circles. Ginsberg thought of the ailing president and the impending protest. Impressed by the majesty of the wooded landscape and the ocean cliffs, the poet realized that more harsh words and negative vibrations would not help the situation. While high on acid, he knelt and prayed for Johnson's health in psychedelic reconciliation with his anger about the administration's Vietnam debacle.

All of this was Ginsberg's way of telling the senators that LSD could have a positive effect on consciousness. For a healthy individual, he asserted, the drug posed a negligible risk -- whereupon the bearded bard was quickly rebuffed by Senator Jacob Javits of New York, who reminded him that as a layman he was not qualified to comment on the medical aspects of LSD. But Ginsberg would not recant. He insisted that there had been a journalistic exaggeration of the dangers of LSD, and he warned that laws enacted in a climate of ignorance and hysteria would almost certainly create more problems than they solved.

Certain government officials also expressed reservations about new legislation to ban LSD. "I have a strong feeling," said Dr. Stanley Yolles, former director of NIMH, "that if we make the possession of LSD illegal, it will drive it further underground and make what perhaps is the beginning of a flaunting of authority ... a more pathological process and a more strongly accented act of rebellion." Yolles believed that punitive measures would actually spur the growth of the illicit drug market -- which was exactly what happened.

Historically in the United States repressive controls have been targeted at drugs identified with the poor, the underprivileged, and racial minorities; often such controls were enacted in times of social crisis (the reefer of the black and brown ghettos was outlawed during the Depression, for example). During the 1960s psychedelic drugs became associated with cultural and political rebellion, but in this case the user population was composed primarily of well-educated white middle-class youth. As a symbol of generational conflict acid provided a convenient scapegoat for the guardians of the status quo, who embraced the anti-LSD crusade as a high-consensus issue in an era otherwise riddled with political schisms. By invoking the specter of hallucinogenic drugs, conservative politicians implicitly attacked the groups that opposed the war in Vietnam. Certainly it was a lot easier to discredit the radical cause if the rest of society could be convinced that those uppity radicals were out of their minds -- and the LSD craze was touted as sure proof of that.

"We are now in a position to understand the real reason for the condemnation of hallucinogens and why their use is punished," wrote Octavio Paz in Alternating Current. "The authorities do not behave as though they were trying to stamp out a harmful vice, but as though they were attempting to stamp out dissidence. Since this is a form of dissidence that is becoming more widespread, the prohibition takes on the proportion of a campaign against a spiritual contagion, against an opinion. What the authorities are displaying is ideological zeal: they are punishing a heresy, not a crime."

Indeed, if it were simply a matter of public health, it would be hard to explain all the hubbub about LSD when other commonly used substances are far more injurious: six million Americans are addicted to alcohol; ten million consume enough caffeine to cause health problems, over fifty million smoke cigarettes, which have been linked to lung cancer; and barbiturates (usually in conjunction with alcohol) are responsible for 90% of drug-related deaths each year. Nevertheless, President Johnson mentioned only LSD in his State of the Union address of 1968 (the year LSD possession was reclassified as a felony) when hyping his war against dangerous drugs.

LSD was also singled out as Public Enemy Number One by the mass media, which whipped America into a virtual frenzy over psychedelic drugs. It wasn't enough to convey the false impression that LSD probably caused permanent insanity; all of a sudden the press conjured up the frightening prospect of couples giving birth to some kind of octopus because acid had scrambled their chromosomes. However, when the Army Chemical Corps ran in-house studies to assess the potential hazards of LSD "from a tissue or genetic standpoint," it could not duplicate these findings. "Although human chromosome breaks have been reported by others, we found them much more frequently from caffeine and many other substances," stated Dr. Van Sim, chief of clinical research at Edgewood Arsenal during the 1960s and early 1970s. "We were unable to demonstrate any damage by LSD to any system used." But army officials never uttered a public peep while the so-called facts about LSD and chromosome damage were trumpeted over and over again by the mass media. Nor did the CIA attempt to set the record straight, even though the Agency had access to the same classified reports as Dr. Sim by virtue of a longstanding liaison between the CIA and the research and development staff at Edgewood.

The chromosome hoax had all the earmarks of a media-hyped disinformation campaign against psychedelic drugs. Hardly a day passed in the mid-1960s without yet another story about people freaking out and hurling themselves from windows while high on acid. At the same time, Leary and his cohorts kept churning out magical proclamations about mind expansion, groovy highs, and utopian prospects. ("Can the world live without LSD?" asked the East Village Other, an underground newspaper. Their answer, of course, was no.) The combination of dire warnings and ecstatic praise created a highly polarized atmosphere. LSD acquired the emotional and magnetic pull of the taboo, and as a result, more and more people decided to try the drug.

The political controversy surrounding LSD was not an abstract debate that had little bearing on daily use and experimentation. On the contrary, the barrage of contradictory messages conveyed by the straight and alternative press made the situation all the more precarious for the acid initiate. During an acid trip one is in a state of extreme susceptibility to an infinite variety of stimuli, including pressures from the immediate environment as well as more subtle influences stemming from the overall cultural matrix -- that invisible field of presence which informs the psychological framework of the subject. Given the highly politicized environment of the 1960s, it is not surprising that taking LSD was accompanied by a considerable degree of anxiety and apprehension. Those who were willing to risk their own sanity to attain ecstasy or expanded consciousness often had unsettling experiences on acid.

How many people actually had bummers on LSD? More than many an acid buff would probably care to admit. In his paper "Social and Political Sources of Drug Effects: The Case of Bad Trips on Psychedelics," Richard Bunce, a research sociologist at the School of Public Health in Berkeley, California, cited statistics based on a survey he conducted in which nearly 50% of those questioned reported having had a bad acid trip during the 1960s. The high percentage was in part a consequence of the widespread anxiety that ensued after LSD was declared illegal in late 1966. These witchhunting laws created a hostile environment that predisposed people toward more traumatic reactions. As the level of hostility rose, so did the frequency of "marginal psychoses" attributable to LSD. By the mid-1970s, however, the emotionally charged atmosphere had subsided, and the percentage of bad trips dropped accordingly. "We can explain the substantial historical decline in the incidence of bad trips," Bunce concluded, "by reference to variations in the political culture which informs its use."

But what did Bunce mean when he spoke of bad trips? To be sure, there were tragic incidents involving LSD, but only a small percentage of those who experimented with the drug required hospitalization. For most people the hellish vision was only temporary, and because it was temporary it was also in some sense salutary. Difficult experiences were relatively common during LSD trips, but they were often thought to be useful, especially when one worked through their meaning with a therapist or friend. But the potential efficacy of the so-called bummer was never acknowledged by the mass media, which portrayed a bad acid trip as a no-exit situation, rather than an existential challenge. This climate of fear predisposed some people to panic as soon as anxiety set in, thinking that a bout with utter insanity was imminent.

The interpretation of the bummer as pure psychosis -- the standard psychotomimetic analysis -- was initially promoted by scientists connected with the US Army and the CIA. In addition to influencing the debate over LSD and its effects, the CIA and the military, through their complicity in the dissemination of false information about LSD and chromosome damage, helped create a negative set and setting on a collective scale for those who turned on during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"That was a mean and dirty trick," said Ken Kesey in reference to the chromosome hoax. Kesey recalled the early days of acid glory before the media created the bad trip: "We didn't have bummers back then." Laura Huxley also lamented the passing of that era of relative innocence, when LSD had not yet become a household word:

How lucky those of us are who approached LSD before it had either the demoniacal or paradisical vibrations it has now -- when it had no echoes of gurus and heroes, doctors or delinquents. We went into the experience not knowing what would happen, not expecting that it would be like the experience of someone at last Saturday night's party, or like that of Mary Jones, whose hallucinated, frightened eyes stare at me from the pages of a magazine. LSD -- those three now famous letters were free of association with scientific righteousness and beatnik conformity, with earthly paradise and parental loving care -- also free from close-mindedness, obscurantism and bigotry. The unconscious identification with those ideas feelings and fears inevitably occurs now, with disastrous consequences.
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:39 pm

The First Human Be-In

As the Love Pageant Rally drew to a close and the crowd began to drift away from the Panhandle, the organizers of the stoned festival exulted in their achievement. That same evening members of the Oracle group gathered at the home of Michael Bowen to consider their next step. Bowen was a key personality within the Oracle clique, and his studio served for a time as the office of the psychedelic tabloid. A painter with beatnik roots, he spent much of his time depicting third eyes and occult symbols amid swirls of bright color. When he wasn't putting the brush to an acid-influenced canvas, he acted as a self-appointed liaison between the Oracle staff and various psychedelic and artistic luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Some years earlier Bowen had fallen under the singular and charismatic influence of a mysterious guru-type figure named John Starr Cooke. A man of wealth and influential family connections, Cooke was no stranger to high-level CIA personnel. His sister, Alice, to whom he was very close, was married to Roger Kent, a prominent figure in the California state Democratic party; Roger's brother, Sherman Kent, was head of the CIA's National Board of Estimates (an extremely powerful position) and served as CIA director Allen Dulles's right-hand man during the Cold War. John Cooke hobnobbed with Sherman Kent at annual family reunions and is said to have made the acquaintance of a number of CIA operatives while traveling in Europe.

Driven by an avid interest in the occult, Cooke journeyed around the world befriending an assortment of mystics and spiritual teachers. In the early 1950s he became a close confidant of L. Ron Hubbard, the ex-navy officer who founded the Scientology organization. Cooke rose high in the ranks of the newly formed religious cult. (He was the first "clear" in America, meaning he had attained the level of an advanced Scientology initiate.) Before long, however, he grew disillusioned with Hubbard and they parted ways. A few years later, while living in Algiers, Cooke was stricken with polio, which left him crippled and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Despite his physical disability he was revered by a Sufi sect in northern Africa as a great healer and a saint. Some of his admirers claimed he could activate shakti, or kundalini energy, and induce a blissful spinal seizure merely by touching people on the forehead.

By the early 1960s Cooke had moved back to California, where he immersed himself in an intensive study of the tarot. Word quickly spread through the West Coast occult circuit about an extraordinary psychic who possessed a tarot deck with the handwritten annotations of its previous owner, the infamous Aleister Crowley. Crowds of young people started to flock to Carmel to visit Cooke, and they were not disappointed. With a bald head, goatee, and piercing gray eyes, Cooke looked as though he belonged behind a crystal ball. Shortly after he participated in a series of "channeling" sessions, which resulted in the New Tarot Deck for the Aquarian Age, he had his first taste of LSD-25. Apparently he found the psychedelic to his liking, as he proceeded to drop acid nearly every day for a two-year period. According to one of his disciple-associates, Cooke was also something of a bacchant. At times his penchant for alcohol and acid left him drunk and crazed in his wheelchair.

While the Haight was in its heyday, Cooke was sequestered at a secluded outpost in Cuernavaca, Mexico (his home until he died in 1976), from whence he directed a small but dedicated band of acid evangelists known as the Psychedelic Rangers. Michael Bowen was a member of this group. At Cooke's instruction a half-dozen Rangers were dispatched to various psychedelic hot spots in North America and Europe. Bowen went to Millbrook to try and influence the thinking of Leary's clan and lure some of them back to Mexico where Cooke was leading seances while high on acid. Among those who are said to have visited the crippled psychic were Ralph Metzner, songwriter Leonard Cohen, Andrija Puharich, who conducted parapsychology and drug experiments for the US military in the late 1950s, and Seymour ("The Head") Lazare, a wealthy business associate of William Mellon Hitchcock's.

Following Cooke's "master plan," the Psychedelic Rangers targeted selected individuals for high-dose LSD initiations. They employed 2,000 to 3,000 micrograms (100 to 250 micrograms is usually sufficient for a full-blown acid trip) during a single session in an effort to bring about a rapid and permanent transformation of psychological disposition. Bowen claims he furnished acid to a number of well-known public figures, including comedian Dick Gregory and Jerry Rubin, the future Yippie leader. He also turned on certain journalists (among them a reporter for Life magazine) with the hope that they might see the Clear Light, as it were, and present a more favorable picture of LSD in the press.

Cooke and his Psychedelic Rangers believed that by spreading the LSD revelation they were helping to enlighten mankind. They fancied themselves cosmic Good Guys secretly battling the Forces of Darkness in an all-out struggle that would ultimately determine the destiny of the planet. Their world view was distinctly Manichaean: Eros versus Thanatos, the great mythic showdown, with history merely the echo of these titanic opposites locked in eternal conflict. In this respect their perceptions were akin to those of another group of psychedelic devotees who operated in secret while invoking a Manichaean demonology to justify their activities. Nourished by the dual specter of an all-powerful enemy (Communism) and a permanently threatened national security, the CIA assumed the role of America's first line of defense. In its never-ending battle against the Red Menace the cult of intelligence utilized every weapon at its disposal, including covert LSD warfare.

In 1966 Michael Bowen settled in Haight-Ashbury, at the specific request of John Cooke. The two men communicated on a regular basis, keeping each other abreast of new developments within the burgeoning youth culture. When the Oracle people convened at Bowen's pad after the Love Pageant Rally, he dutifully called his spiritual adviser to tell him what had transpired. During their conversation, according to Bowen, the plan for an even bigger event was conceived: a "Gathering of the Tribes," a spiritual occasion of otherworldly dimensions that would raise the vibration of the entire planet. The Haight would host the Happening of happenings. It would be the first Human Be-In.

One of the main purposes of the be-in, as formulated by Cooke, Bowen, and the rest of the Oracle crew, was to bring together cultural and political rebels who did not always see eye to eye on strategies for liberation. In effect the goal was to psychedelicize the radical left. Toward this end the organizers decided to include at least one representative of the Berkeley activist community among the list of invited speakers. Bowen suggested Jerry Rubin, a leader of the Berkeley Vietnam Day protest, who was still a devoted Marxist although he had recently turned on to acid (evidence, according to Bowen, that the LSD reconditioning process was only partially successful). A permit was secured to hold the demonstration on the Polo Grounds of Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967. Five different posters were printed to advertise the be-in, including one with a picture of a Plains Indian on horseback holding an electric guitar. The posters appeared in shop-windows, on kiosks, and on coffeehouse bulletin boards. The Berkeley Barb, the Bay Area's first underground newspaper, announced the event on the front page with a banner headline.

The publicity campaign was not solely directed at the radical and hip population. The organizers had their sights set on a much wider horizon. They wanted to send a message throughout the world that a new dawn was breaking and the time had come for all good men and women to abandon their exploitative posture toward the earth lest apocalypse spare them the task. Buoyed by an instinctive understanding of McLuhan, the Oracle group realized that in an age of instant communication any event could acquire worldwide significance with the proper press coverage. "We knew we had the tiger by the tail," said Allen Cohen. "We knew that anything we did would attract the attention of the mass media."

The be-in was staged as much for the press corps and TV cameras as for the hip community. A few days prior to January 14, the organizers held a meeting with reporters. "For ten years," declared a press release," a new nation has grown inside the robot flesh of the old. Before your eyes a new free vital soul is reconnecting the living centers of the American body. .. Berkeley political activists and the love generation of the Haight-Ashbury will join together ... to powwow, celebrate, and prophesy the epoch of liberation, love, peace, compassion, and unity of mankind.... Hang your fear at the door and join the future. If you do not believe, please wipe your eyes and see."

True to expectations, it was an unforgettable afternoon. Over twenty-five thousand men, women, and children assembled around a makeshift stage at the edge of an open meadow. Gary Snyder opened the proceedings by blowing on a white-beaded conch shell. Beside him were other poets from the beatnik era -- Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lenore Kandel -- while a group of Hell's Angels guarded the PA system. (Many Angels had settled in the Haight, where they served as self-appointed protectors of the acid community.) Allen Ginsberg chanted OM and clinked his finger cymbals. Just two months earlier, in a "Public Solitude" address at a church in Boston, Ginsberg had proposed that every American in good health over the age of fourteen "try the chemical LSD at least once ... that, if necessary, we have a mass emotional nervous breakdown in these States once and for all." But there was no need to reiterate such remarks on this unseasonably warm winter day in San Francisco. The be-in was a healing affair, a feast for the senses, with music, poetry, sunshine, bells, robes, talismans, incense, feathers, and flags. The smell of marijuana lingered over the park slope, and acid flowed like lemonade.

"Welcome," said a calm, clear voice from the platform. "Welcome to the first manifestation of the Brave New World." It was a rather ironic way of introducing the hip superstars who were about to address the crowd. Clad like a holy man in white pajamas, Timothy Leary teased the audience with one-liners such as "The only way out is in." The High Priest of the psychedelic movement spoke of expanded consciousness as the "Fifth Freedom," urging everyone to start their own religion -- which was exactly what he and his Millbrook friends had done. Leary's be-in appearance was part of a barnstorming tour to promote his new group, the League for Spiritual Discovery. The League had only two commandments -- "Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow man" and "Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering his own consciousness." A tireless proselytizer, Leary had presided over a series of "psychedelic religious celebrations" featuring dramatic re-enactments of the lives of the Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, etc. The purpose of these well-advertised, well-financed productions (one promoter called them the "best thing since vaudeville") was to reproduce the effects of an acid trip without drugs. But Leary's traveling light show was antique by Bay Area standards.

For some people Leary's brief sermon at the be-in marked the highlight of the afternoon. It didn't matter that they had heard it all before; they accepted as gospel every word he'd uttered since he came out of the academic closet and turned into the Pied Piper of the acid generation. But others were not particularly impressed by Tim's laconic manifesto. ("We could even tolerate him!" commented one Haight-Ashbury resident in describing the community's live-and-let-live attitude.) The Pope of Dope was trying to symbolize in rather outmoded ways a religious revival that defied traditional categories. After all, why invoke catechisms and commandments when the sheer fact of being alive in that corner of time and space was sufficiently intoxicating?

The be-in was not organized to protest a specific government ordinance or policy. Thousands of people had come together to do nothing in particular, which in itself was quite something. They sat on the grass, shared food and wine, and marveled at how peaceful everyone was. There wasn't even a single uniformed policeman around to spoil the party. At one point a man parachuted down from the sky within view of the gathering. A rumor spread that it was none other than Owsley, the premier acid chemist, descending upon the faithful in waves of billowing white silk. It was just another piece of instant mythos that characterized the day. As Michael McClure put it, "The be-in was a blossom. It was a flower. It was out in the weather. It didn't have all its petals. There were worms in the rose. It was perfect in its imperfections. It was what it was -- and there had never been anything like it before."

The be-in was the culmination of everything that had been brewing in the Haight, and people were still buzzing from it weeks later. If LSD already had a reputation as a drug of peace and love, the be-in swelled it to gigantic proportions. Those who basked in the afterglow of this " epochal event," as Ginsberg referred to it, were convinced that acid constituted nothing less than a pharmacological key to world peace -- not a peace negotiated through compromise and treaties, but a veritable "Glad State" based on mutual recognition of the supranational Godhead. If only President Johnson turned on to the "right stuff," many an acidhead effused, surely the war in Vietnam would be over in a matter of days! Richard Alpert spoke as a true believer when he claimed that twenty-five thousand freaks represented a political force. "In about seven or eight years," he predicted, "the psychedelic population of the United States will be able to vote anybody into office they wanted to.... Imagine what it would be like to have anybody in high political office with our understanding of the universe. I mean, let's just imagine if Bobby Kennedy had a fully expanded consciousness. Just imagine him in his position, what he would be able to do."

Even if one did not succumb to this kind of puerile thinking, it was hard to remain immune to the messianic fervor associated with the psychedelic upsurge. Juxtaposed with the grim realities of nine-to-five and the nuke, LSD seemed to herald an alternative, a new way of life. During the peak of an acid high one could wink at a turned-on sister or brother, who might also catch a glimpse of a happily-ever-after ending. Or beginning. No need to pin it down. No mix of words or meanings could recapture that overwhelming sense of promise. Such sentiments were immortalized in a stitch of drug-inspired prose by Hunter Thompson: "There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.... And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave."

The grandiosity generated by the be-in was reinforced and exaggerated by the tremendous airplay the event received. Just as the organizers had intended, the be-in attracted not only national but international notice. It marked the beginning of a concentrated media assault on the Haight-Ashbury. Soon it became the most over-exposed neighborhood in the country as reporters from all over the world zeroed in on the psychedelic underground. Nearly every major American media outlet, including all the big TV networks, ran features on the hip community, and for a time it seemed that the rest of the country was mesmerized by this baffling lifestyle revolution. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen bestowed a new title on the cultural rebels, branding the whole lot "hippies." Other descriptions, such as "flower children" and "love generation," reeled off the presses and into the mainstream vocabulary; providing straight society with an assortment of ready-made labels to pin on an otherwise inscrutable phenomenon. Hippies became the Other, the very people "our parents warned us against," and this negative definition quickly congealed into a national obsession. The public response was typically ambivalent; the flower children were variously treated as threats to public order or as harmless buffoons. Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, described a hippie as someone who "dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smells like Cheetah."

Yet for all the ridicule, there was something deeply disturbing about the youth subculture that begged for an explanation. Why had the sons and daughters of white middle-class America forsaken the affluent lifestyle of their parents? Why did they give up the plush, easy routine of the suburbs to crash in a crowded commune? And why did they blow their minds with dangerous drugs? A panoply of pundits offered interpretations as to what it all meant. To some the hippies were a barometer of a sick society, a warning to industrial civilization of its impending collapse. Others compared them to the early Christians because of their commitment to universal brotherhood and love for all mankind. A journalist from Time suggested that "in their independence of material possessions and their emphasis on peacefulness and honesty, hippies lead considerably more virtuous lives than the great majority of their fellow citizens." (This was quite a switch from an earlier assessment by the same publication, which dismissed the longhairs as utopian dreamers in search of a "zero-hour day and freakouts for all.") More than a few commentators projected absurd hopes on the youthful dropouts, claiming that they were "the most significant development of the twentieth century," "the salvation of the Western world," "the incarnation of the gospel," and so forth and so on. Indeed, it was possible for reporters, sociologists, educators, clergymen, or psychologists to find nearly anything they wanted in the Haight. And some of the hippies actually believed what was written about them.

The media coverage in the wake of the be-in obscured the fact that the Oracle group failed to accomplish one of its major goals: the unification -- if only on a symbolic level -- of political radicals and psychedelic dropouts. If anything, the be-in tended to underscore the differences between the two camps. This tension was crystallized when Jerry Rubin addressed the mind-blown throng. His aggressive ranting about the danger of the war in Vietnam, and the greater danger of doing nothing to stop it, seemed out of context at the peaceful gathering, and the audience generally ignored his speech. Except for Ginsberg, no one else mentioned the bloodshed in Southeast Asia.

The apolitical tone of the event was disconcerting to New Left activists, who had once looked upon their hipster brethren as spiritual allies. The radicals disagreed with acid eaters who thought they could elevate the world simply by elevating themselves. This wistful notion was shared by hippies, dropouts, and others in the LSD subculture who believed that massive change would only come about when enough people expanded their consciousness. They rejected the possibility of revamping the social order through political activity, opting instead for a lifestyle that celebrated political disengagement.

Not surprisingly, hard-core politicos were critical of some of the more bizarre manifestations of the acid scene. In an article for Ramparts magazine, the leading left-wing monthly of the late 1960s, Warren Hinckle attacked the Haight-Ashbury community for its mindless mystagogy, druggy excess, and latent fascist tendencies. Veteran political organizers, however, were not about to ignore the hippie phenomenon. They saw masses of youth all across the country getting off on this vague peace-and-love kick, and they made efforts to lure them into the political camp. In the spring of 1967 antiwar activists in New York sponsored Flower Power Day, handbills for the event made it look like a be-in, and rock bands were scheduled to entertain the marchers. By this time signs of an emerging counterculture were everywhere: bell-bottoms, work shirts, beads, light shows, pot parties, transistors pulsing with acid rock. People started showing up at political meetings in costume, the style firmly hippiesque, and it became increasingly difficult to discern where protest ended and lifestyle began.

This interaction was certainly evident at the SDS national office in Chicago, where staff members lived and slept together in communal apartments. They shared drug experiences -- mostly marijuana, but also LSD -- that engendered a sense of closeness and unity. But even as they got stoned during their daily activities, the SDS staffers were always cognizant of the difference between changing their heads and changing the system. "The hip thing," explained former SDS president Carl Oglesby, "was fundamentally a mass introspection, a drug-boosted look-in. The New Left, on the other hand, went out to the world from a set of shared moral perceptions about race, war, and imperialism; it was recreating a private moral judgment as a public political act. Of course, the hippie's every instinct indisposed him to war and made him wholly eager to demonstrate this, provided someone else set the stage. But he was satisfied to act without strategic thought, without any sense of political plan, except that the more people who smoked grass, the better off the country would be."

The leaders of SDS saw grass as a mild pleasure rather than a social panacea. LSD, however, was a bit more problematic. A strong dose of acid could dredge up all sorts of weirdness that had little to do with the world of Realpolitik; if anything, all the psychic debris was likely to be more distracting than stimulating when it came to questions of strategy and organization. Bob Dylan's nightmare surrealism, so much admired by student radicals, was heavily influenced by psychedelics, and he withdrew from political protest during the peak of his acid phase to probe the tangled roots of the self. The Dylan saga was proof to some that drugs in general and acid in particular nurtured a privatistic tendency within the youth culture, or perhaps that the ingrained privatism of American life insinuated itself in such a way as to use the chemical high for its own purposes. In either case, certain activists were concerned about the long-range implications of the drug scene.

A few days after the be-in, the Oracle hosted a hip summit conference focusing on "the whole problem of whether to drop out or take over," as philosopher Alan Watts put it. Watts was joined by Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Timothy Leary, who made no bones about where he stood on the issue. In his opinion the psychedelic and antiwar movements were completely incompatible. "The choice is between being rebellious and being religious," he declared. "Don't vote. Don't politic. Don't petition. You can't do anything about America politically." To Leary there was no real difference between capitalism and Communism, between Ronald Reagan and Fidel Castro; both were hung up on competitive power politics. And so were the student activists, whom he denigrated as "young men with menopausal minds." Leary dismissed any action that did not emanate from an expanded consciousness as "robot behavior." "People should not be allowed to talk politics," he stated, "except on all fours."

Watts cautioned against imposing a particular vision on the world, but Leary persisted. As far as he was concerned, the psychedelic subculture was the only game in town. Forget about civil rights and exploitation, forget about the war; dropping out was the revolution. "The first thing you have to do is completely detach yourself from anything inside the plastic, robot Establishment." And then what? Leary envisioned the Haight as a launching pad for thousands of young people who would gallantly band together in small tribes and wander the United States and Western Europe, living off the fat of what he contemptuously called the unenlightened "mineral culture" (technological society). He preached his own version of lysergic Leninism -- the nation-state would eventually wither away as more and more people turned on. ("Let the State Disintegrate" was one of his less successful slogans.) In the meantime the hippies would "stamp out reality," as the famous button read, by loving the establishment to death.

Leary's rap was such an affront to the radical community that at one point when he brought his traveling religious road show to the Bay Area, the editors of the Berkeley Barb urged antiwar activists to demonstrate against the acid guru. Even his ostensible allies were put off by his apolitical stance. Gary Snyder felt that dropping out could easily mean copping out unless people cultivated techniques of self-sufficiency as a prerequisite to building a new social order. He did not want to reject those who made tremendous sacrifices for the cause of social justice, although he hoped they could be brought around to what he considered "a more profound vision of themselves and society." That was where LSD might prove useful -- to help broaden the very definition of politics and thereby enhance the historical vision of the New Left. Snyder understood that student radicalism and the psychedelic subculture derived from similar roots, and he tried to encourage a creative dialogue between the two.

The flower power ethos was in some sense a caricatured extension of the nonviolent pacifist ideology that dominated the early history of the New Left. During the mid-1960s the psychedelic underground plugged into the spiritual rhetoric of the civil rights movement, which had nothing to do with "expanded consciousness" per se. Although acid in and of itself does not imply a particular moral framework or political outlook, as a nonspecific catalyst of psychic and social processes (the two realms are intimately connected) it brings out "the flavors and ingredients of whatever happens to be cooking in the cultural stew," as Michael Rossman put it. That LSD and the subculture it inspired came to be so closely associated with peace and love and tra-la-la was in no small part due to the prevailing left-wing political gestalt of passive resistance.

The rhetoric of nonviolent pacifism constituted only one aspect of the legacy that was adopted by the acid subculture. Members of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, SDS, and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the radical youth wing of the civil rights movement, were trying to create alternative structures within which "the loving community" could flourish. This notion -- which harked back to the Wobblies' slogan a half-century earlier, "Forming the new society within the shell of the old" -- became a moving force in the Haight. By early 1967 a number of thriving alternative institutions already existed in the psychedelic city-state: the Oracle, the Community Switchboard, the Hip Job Coop, Happening House (a cooperative teaching venture), Radio Free Hashbury; in coming months the Free Medical Clinic would open its doors. Even the neighborhood merchants formed a business council, HIP (Haight Independent Proprietors). The idea of building a parallel society smack-dab in the belly of the beast held great appeal to many a shell-shocked pacifist who'd grown weary of sit-ins, demonstrations, and police violence. For these people the futility of trying to reform the system was amply confirmed by the landslide election of Ronald Reagan as governor of California. They were ready for a different approach; rather than try to overhaul the social and economic structures of mass commercial society, they would simply try to outflank them.

By dropping out and joining the Haight-Ashbury scene, young people were not necessarily renouncing their commitment to social change. But they felt that the personal and the political could not be split into separate categories. Human liberation was something to be acted out because it was right on, a better way to live, rather than an item petitioned for during protest hour. If, as Charles Olson proposed, "the private is public, and the public is where we behave," then the clearest political statement was how people chose to comport themselves on a daily basis. This premise informed the hip penumbra of the radical left, that widening sphere where culture and politics overlapped in ways both complementary and problematic. The Haight became a crucible of dynamic interchange as left-wing activists cross-fertilized with turned-on poets, drifters, artists, and dropouts who were refashioning themselves into living articulations of the struggle against bureaucracy. A hybrid army of young rebels was on the move: politicos loosened up and grew their hair long, antiwar posters appeared in psychedelic design, and demonstrations incorporated more colorful elements of music, dance, and absurdity.

The hippies, for their part, never completely deserted the peace movement, despite Leary's proddings. At their best they represented an edge where the perspectives and tactics of the New Left were being transformed. Although there were important distinctions that placed the two groups at either end of the spectrum of dissent, the common ground they shared was significant. Both were expressions of the "Great Refusal," and the existential project they embraced was essentially the same: the regeneration of personality. The cultural renaissance fueled by LSD was the force that broke the stranglehold of bourgeois morality and the Protestant work ethic. It provided the passionate underpinning for a lifestyle that existed on the far side of power politics. Above all it insisted upon a revolution that would not only destroy the political bonds that shackle and diminish us but would also, in the words of Antonin Artaud, "turn and face man, face the body of man himself, and decide once and for all to demand that he change."
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:39 pm

Chapter 7: The Capital Of Forever


Something's astir on Haight Street. Thousands of hippies are making the scene when a roving band of mysterious characters suddenly appears among the day-trippers, passing out handbills that bear two enigmatic phrases. Street Menu and Carte de Venue ("Your ticket to somewhere"). It's the beginning of a street theater spectacle put on by a gangster performing troupe who call themselves the Diggers. The theme on this occasion is "The Death of Money and the Birth of Free." A bizarre funeral cortege is making its way up LSD Avenue. Leading the procession is a group of women mourners dressed in black singing "Get out my life why don't you babe ..." to the tune of Chopin's Funeral March. They are followed by three hooded figures hoisting a silver dollar sign on a stick and a half-dozen pall-bearers carrying a black-draped coffin. Even stranger are the huge animal masks -- at least five feet high-worn by the pallbearers.

There won't be any reruns of this event, no encores or applause -- in fact, there aren't even any spectators. Everyone's part of the show. The entire neighborhood becomes the stage as twenty death-walkers at the rear of the funeral march give away flutes, flowers, penny-whistles, and lollipops in preparation for the next act, so to speak, a cacophonous orchestration mocking the law against being a public nuisance. Public nuisance equals public "new sense," get it? Hundreds of hippies line both sides of the street with instruments in hand, goofing and spoofing, and so it goes, one scene after another for hours at a time.

As twilight approaches, a few hundred rearview car mirrors procured from a junkyard are distributed to the mischievous masses, who are encouraged to climb atop the buildings and reflect the setting sun down onto the street. Meanwhile a chorus of women in silver bell-bottom pants, bolero tops, and tie-dye outfits raises a banner of marbleized paper inscribed with a poem and chants back and forth to some other women perched on the rooftops. Thousands pick up the cue and chant poetry, and soon the police arrive to clear the mob scene -- a rather formidable task, considering that the crowd has swelled to unmanageable proportions. The spontaneous interaction between cops and hippies (call it a riot) becomes part of the performance. It's all for free -- a free-for-all: anarchist antics scripted to make something wide-open happen. "Street events are rituals of release. Reclaiming of territory (sundown, traffic, public joy) through spirit," proclaimed a Digger manifesto. "No one can control the single circuit-breaking moment that charges games with critical reality. If the glass is cut, if the cushioned distance of the media is removed, the patients may never respond as normals again. They will become life actors ... a cast of freed beings."

The Diggers burst upon the scene in the summer of 1966, when a number of actors broke away from the San Francisco Mime Troupe and formed their own loose-knit collective. They felt that the Mime Troupe's political satire was too formal, a predictable rehash of left-wing ideas that failed to appreciate the Haight's unique potential for a new kind of social theater -- "a poetry of festivals and crowds, with people pouring into the streets," as Artaud put it. The debate over dropping out versus political engagement was a moot point to the Diggers. Their imaginative pageants were beyond codification, challenging the assumptions of the New Left as well as the psychedelic religious fringe.

The Diggers took their name from a seventeenth-century English farming group that preached and practiced a form of revolutionary communism. Convinced that money and private property were the work of the Devil, the original Diggers claimed squatters' rights for the people and gave free food to the needy. When Lord Protector Cromwell announced the Enclosure Act, which allowed landowners to cordon off public lands for their own use, the Diggers responded by digging the soil (hence their name) and planting a garden in the Commons Area. Their defiance provoked the wrath of Cromwell and his Roundheads, who charged the upstarts with "encouraging the looser and disordered sort of people into greater boldness." The ministers began exhorting their congregations to go out and give the troublemakers hell, and a wave of bloody repression ensued.

Like their British forebears, the San Francisco Diggers believed that the world was run by a cabal of greedy liars and thieves. It was downright foolish to expect the perpetrators to redress the ills they had created, for to deal with a system that was rotten to the core -- either by fighting it or joining it -- could only lead to further corruption. The Diggers never protested for or against anything, refusing to be seduced by the romantic pretensions of the New Left, whose faith in the efficacy of telling Truth to Power betrayed its own naivete. That was how the Diggers saw it, and they had no intention of squandering their energy on angry leftist protest that would end up filling a twenty-second slot on the TV news. Peace marches and demonstrations might provide an outlet for private frustrations -- a dose of solidarity for temporary relief of alienation -- but it seemed doubtful to the Diggers that all the word-slinging and finger-pointing would amount to much in terms of real change.

If you wanted a better world, the Diggers maintained, then it was up to you to make it happen, because no one else -- least of all the fraudulent politicians -- would hand it over on a silver platter. To take back what was rightfully theirs, people had to assume their own freedom in the here and now: "No frozen moments for tomorrow's fantasy revolution!" The Diggers went about their business as if utopia were already a social fact and everyone were free. They chided other lefties for being stodgy, dull and fixated on social models (Cuba, China, Vietnam) that had little relevance to the situation in the United States. The goal of revolution, as far as the Diggers were concerned, was not merely to seize the wealth hoarded by a handful of the filthy rich and spread it among the hapless masses. A simple transference of power, a redistribution of things already valued, constituted only a degree of liberation. At best it was a prelude to an overall transformation of values culminating in a revolt against the very concepts of power, property, and hierarchy.

The Diggers sensed a tremendous opportunity in the mid-1960s to experiment with what post-industrial society might look like assuming the human species survived its next cataclysmic moment. Although the precise features of this new social order were never consistently articulated, one could begin by postulating the abolition of the division between labor and leisure, so that the logic of the game once again took precedence in human affairs. It was a game they played for keeps. "Western society has destroyed itself," stated the Digger Papers. "The culture is extinct. Politics are as dead as the culture they supported. Ours is the first skirmish of an enormous struggle, infinite in its implications."

Tough, charismatic, and streetwise, the Diggers illuminated the Haight with wild strokes of artistic genius. In acting out their version of an alternative society, they emerged as the avant-garde of American anarchism, a homespun tradition that went back to the previous century and had recently taken a detour through psychedelics. For the Diggers LSD was "hard kicks," a way of extending oneself to the perimeters of existence where something spectacular and awesome might occur. Acid imbued their eyes with a visionary gleam and provided the distance that enabled them to see how they matched up against the grand scheme of life. But the Diggers never copped to the notion that everything would be groovy if everyone turned on. The Oracle's transcendental twaddle struck them as vapid and elitist. They scoffed at those who took drugs to discover the hidden truth and mystery of being.

The Diggers viewed acid in terms of personal fulfillment, but always within a social context. They were more activist-oriented than revelatory; things were real when people did them, and what they did had to relate to the basics: food, clothing, shelter, creativity. As a counterpoint to the vague love ethic of the flower children, they promoted the no-nonsense ethic of "FREE." When they began serving free meals in the Panhandle in the autumn of 1966, it wasn't a one-shot publicity stunt. This Robin Hood routine actually continued on a daily basis for more than a year. Any hippie -- or straight, for that matter -- who was hungry merely had to show up at the park at 4:00 P.M., walk through a large orange scaffold (a "Free Frame of Reference"), and chow down. The Diggers also set up a Free Store, which distributed a wide range of "liberated goods" (most of which had been donated by local shopkeepers). There was even a basket with "free money" in it, if anyone was short on cash. The Diggers were dead set against profiteering of any kind, whether it involved dope dealing or HIP merchants hawking psychedelic souvenirs during tourist season. They insisted that any hippie worth his salt had to drop out of America's true national pastime -- the money game. "The US standard of living is a bourgeois baby blanket for executives who scream in their sleep.... Our fight is with those who would kill us through dumb work, insane wars, dull money morality."

The media portrayed the Digger thing as a goodwill gig, a "hip Salvation Army." Of course they missed the point entirely. Charity was not what motivated the free service initiatives. The Diggers were attempting to lay the groundwork for a collective apparatus, an alternative power base capable of providing the necessary resources so that people wouldn't have to depend on the system or the state to get by. The gist was practical but also theatrical. Inject FREE into any event, and it could turn into theater. FREE was "social acid" that blew apart conditioned responses and called into question prevalent cultural attitudes about class, status, morality, consumerism, etc. Like LSD, FREE could shake people out of the rut of ordinary perception and catalyze some sort of revelation. This was the upshot of Digger activities: to make street theater into an art form, a social opera that would ignite and liberate the human spirit.

To the Diggers FREE also meant not claiming credit for what they did. Anonymity was a cornerstone of their operations, and it greatly enhanced their mystique as a group. Of the dozen men and women who initially formed the Diggers, there was no single leader or spokesperson. Whoever had a good idea became the prime mover of that project; others pitched in if the spirit moved them. People did what they were good at doing, but they also made a point of keeping out of the media spotlight. They were wary of the media not only because it distorted everything but also because it was hierarchical, an intermediary between people and the world. Worst of all it purported to tell people "the way it is," when everyone should be their own source of news. The Diggers had little tolerance for reporters and made life difficult for them whenever they came around for interviews. On one occasion a journalist from the Saturday Evening Post dropped by the Free Store and asked to speak with the manager. He was told that the manager was a shy person who didn't like to answer questions but would make an exception in this instance. The man from the Post was then introduced to a Newsweek reporter who had been told the same thing. The two press stiffs questioned each other in a corner for twenty minutes before discovering that they'd been duped.

The Diggers' aggressive anarchism ran into conflict with the Oracle group, which went out of its way to accommodate the Fourth Estate as part of the publicity campaign for the be-in. Although the Diggers had not been specifically invited to the be-in, they showed up anyway and gave out free food and ten thousand hits of "white lightning" acid Owsley had recently concocted. But that did not mean they approved of the be-in format, which was dominated by media personalities and centered around a stage -- the same old hierarchical mode. In contrast to the Oracle's shoot-the-moon scenario of one huge global turn-on, the Diggers focused on the immediate nitty-gritty concerns of their own community. They set up crash pads and a free medical service for the young runaways who started flocking to the Haight after the be-in; they facilitated group rituals (often coinciding with solstice and equinox celebrations) as a way of unifying the spaced-out zone of hip; and they kept up their criticism of the HIP merchants and media sycophants whose "psychedelic logorrhea" prevented them from getting down to brass tacks and dealing with the serious problems that plagued the acid ghetto.

A lot of changes had taken place as a result of the media blitz. The local press was having a field day, with reporters from the Chronicle and the Examiner engaged in a running contest to see who could come up with the most lurid details about the human zoo on Haight Street. They took a complex social phenomenon, reduced it to a few sensationalistic elements, and repeated the same tripe over and over again. In every edition there were stories dwelling on dope, promiscuity, long hair, filth, and bizarre behavior -- themes that reflected the prurient interests and prejudices of straight journalists locked into the usual middle-class stereotypes about bohemia. The sensational press coverage was tantamount to a full-scale advertising campaign -- albeit of a twisted sort -- and the neighborhood became a magnet for people who were into just what the media reported: sex, drugs, dirt, weirdness, all the seamiest aspects of the hippie trip. A different crowd filtered into the acid ghetto, and although it passed unnoticed at first, the original community began to disintegrate.

The psychedelic style had a certain meaning for the first wave of self-conscious innovators who were engaged in acting out communal modes of existence. Mundane objects such as love beads and peace insignias were tokens of self-imposed exile that communicated a forbidden identity; they warned the straight world of a threat and issued an oblique challenge to consumer society. But this meaning was not readily apparent to the multitudes who turned on for the first time after the be-in. Before long, teenyboppers and "plastic hippies" from the suburbs started frequenting the hip hotspots for some weekend entertainment. Department stores blossomed out in paisley swirls and psychedelic color schemes, and hippie lingo entered into common usage; suddenly everyone was "rapping" about "doing their own thing." Long hair, beads, and dope -- anyone could be a hippie by following the latest fashions.

The exceptional attention Haight-Ashbury received -- its continual newsworthiness -- undermined the spontaneity of the psychedelic style and created a schism within the acid ghetto. On the one hand, there were the LSD veterans whose images and definitions of psychedelia stemmed from a grassroots sensibility that arose organically during the early and mid-1960s; on the other hand, there were the Johnny-come-lately flower power trippers who were keyed into trendy images of an emerging youth culture. The newcomers began to mimic a collective reflection of themselves; they learned who they were (or were supposed to be) and how to act through the media, which offered a new standard of nonconformity to which they conformed. "The media casts nets, creates bags for the identity-hungry to climb into," a Digger broadside declared. "Your face on TV; your style immortalized without soul in the captions of the Chronicle. NBC says you exist, ergo I am."

For some the Haight was nothing more than an easy place to pick up hippie "chicks" or cop a buzz; others knew a fast buck when they saw one. And then there were those who came just to gawk. Tourists, carloads of them, bumper to bumper creeping up Haight Street. The Gray Line bus company announced a "Hippie Hop" -- "a safari through psychedelphia ... the only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States." Local storefronts suddenly filled with concession stands pushing "hippieburgers," "lovedogs," Day-Glo posters, and an endless assortment of psychedelic gim-cracks. The street people were turned off by the whole scene and held up mirrors when tourists peered out of the windows to get a good look at the weirdos.

The influx of tourists and thrill seekers exacerbated the animosity between the flower children and the rest of San Francisco, particularly the police and city officials. Businessmen complained that hippies were clogging the sidewalks in front of their shops and scaring away customers. The cops started busting young people for loitering, panhandling, drug use, and vagrancy. Runaway teenagers who'd been staying at Digger crash pads were the target of a series of daylight raids ("sanitation sweeps") led by Ellis D. Sox (the hippies loved his name), director of the San Francisco Health Department. By this time the Diggers were mustering their considerable talents for open confrontations with the authorities who condoned the deterioration of their neighborhood. They joined forces with the Communications Company, an underground mimeograph service that printed and distributed free handbills with on-the-spot news, poetry, and announcements geared toward prodding the love generation into standing up for its rights. "Stamp out police brutality," suggested a Digger leaflet. "Teach a hippie to fight." With traffic tie-ups becoming a real downer on Haight Street, the Diggers elected to take matters into their own hands. On Easter Sunday 1967 a six-block area was effectively closed to cars as thousands of longhairs rejoiced and danced on the pavement, shouting "LSD, LSD!" and "The streets belong to the people!" By evening the police had arrested a dozen people, including a twelve-year-old boy.

Tempers were already at a boiling point when the Chronicle picked up an offhand comment by a Digger and turned it into a front-page banner headline: "HIPPIES WARN CITY -- 100,000 WILL INVADE HAIGHT ASHBURY THIS SUMMER." Images of a psychedelic Grapes of Wrath sent city officials into a tizzy. The mayor immediately declared "war on the Haight," and shortly thereafter the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution stating that hippies were officially unwelcome in their town. A futile gesture, to be sure, as the press kept on predicting that a deluge of acid eaters would descend upon the Golden Gated city as soon as school let out for the summer.

As self-fulfilling prophecies went, this one couldn't be beat. The acid ghetto was headed for a forced consciousness expansion of the rudest sort unless someone figured out a way to stabilize an already overloaded community. The crisis was so grave that various community groups -- including the Diggers, the Oracle people, the HIP merchants, and the Family Dog -- put aside their differences and tried to work out strategies for housing and feeding the media-hyped masses. They proposed that Golden Gate Park be turned into a huge free campground, but the city's political leaders balked at the idea. The Diggers countered by organizing a feed-in on the steps of City Hall. They dished out free spaghetti and meat sauce to government workers and circulated a leaflet that read, "Say if you are hungry, we will feed you, and if you are tired, we will give you a place to rest. This is to affirm responsibility. We merely provide food, shelter and clothing because it should be done."

Some took it as an omen when the Monterey Pop Festival drew nearly fifty thousand people to the Bay Area shortly before the summer solstice, becoming the largest rock and roll event of its time. Flyers at the Human Be-In had first announced the festival, a non- profit affair with the slogan "Music, love, and flowers." Monterey featured a lineup of psychedelic superstars, including Janis Joplin, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. Joplin pulled out all the stops in a total freak-rock performance that was seen by millions in D. A. Pennebaker's film of the concert. But it was Hendrix who really stole the show when he ended his first American appearance by kneeling in front of his electric guitar and setting it on fire. For the country as a whole, the acid rock era really began with Monterey. Scott McKenzie summed up what it all portended for the Haight when he sang his hit single during the final set: "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair."

The entire city braced itself in uneasy anticipation as young people started pouring into the Haight. They came in droves, a ragtag army of tattered pilgrims who'd gone AWOL from the Great Society. Propelled by a gut-level emptiness, they rode the crest of Kerouac's bum romance, searching for kicks or comfort or a spiritual calling -- anything that might relieve the burden of nonliving that gnawed at their insides. They believed that it would be like the newspapers said, that somewhere at the other end of the rainbow was Haight-Ashbury, the Capital of Forever, where beautiful people cared for each other, where all would be provided and everyone could do their own thing without being hassled.

But the Haight was hardly a paradise during the so-called Summer of Love. The early days of acid glory had receded into memory along with the pioneering spirit that once sustained the hip community. Things were getting rougher on the street, and a lot of kids left when the vibes got too heavy. Those who remained were quick to learn the meaning of Dylan's adage about the rules of the road having been lodged: "It's only people's games that you got to dodge." Young runaways had a hard time finding a way to earn a living or even a place to sleep. Some took to begging for spare change, but the transient rut didn't hold much in the way of good luck. It was enough just to avoid getting caught in the wicked undertow of the drug scene, which claimed more than a few victims in the Haight.

Most of the newcomers were less interested in gleaning philosophic or creative insight than in getting stoned as often as possible. They smoked or swallowed anything said to be a psychedelic, and when the visions grew stale they turned to other drugs, especially amphetamines. That such charms were addictive or potentially lethal mattered little, for the dangers belonged to the future, and the future was a slim prospect at best, too improbable to acknowledge with anything but a shrug. For these people Haight-Ashbury was the last hope. They had nowhere else to go. They were the casualties of the Love Generation. You could see them in the early morning fog, huddled in doorways, hungry, sick and numb from exposure, their eyes flirting with vacancy. They were Doomsday's children, strung out on no tomorrow, and their ghostlike features were eerie proof that a black hole was sucking at the heart of the American dynamo.
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:40 pm

The Great Summer Dropout

Nineteen sixty-seven was a year of stark contrasts. America's war against the Vietnamese had swollen into a disaster, provoking disgust and condemnation throughout the world. The black ghettos of Detroit and Newark exploded in the summer heat while Aretha Franklin belted out her anthem for women and oppressed minorities: "All I want is a little respect ..." Yet it was also a moment of high-flying and heretofore unimagined optimism as the youth movement reached a dazzling apogee. (Time magazine gave its Man of the Year award in 1967 to "anyone under twenty-five.") Nowhere was the upbeat sentiment of these turbulent times better expressed than by the Beatles, who embodied in their music and personalities the very principle of change itself.

The Beatles were the foremost lyric spokesmen for an entire generation; millions worshiped their verse as holy writ. Their songs were synchronous with the emotional excitement surrounding Haight-Ashbury. The Beatles were a symbol of the communal group that could accomplish anything, and their unprecedented success fueled the optimism of the times in countless ways. Just before the Great Summer Dropout, the Beatles gave the blossoming psychedelic subculture a stunning musical benediction with their release, in June 1967, of the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Later that month they supplied an anthem for the advocates of flower power, "All You Need Is Love," in the first live international satellite broadcast, to an estimated audience of seven hundred million people. "I declare," stated Timothy Leary, "that the Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God with a mysterious power to create a new species -- a young race of laughing free men.... They are the wisest, holiest, most effective avatars the human race has ever produced."

In their early days the Beatles had popped uppers and downers to keep pace with the rigors of the late-night performing circuit in the bars of Hamburg, Germany. They took whatever was around -- French blues, purple hearts, and the "yellow submarines" immortalized in their "children's song" of the same name. It wasn't until 1964, after they broke through to rock stardom, that they tried marijuana. The Fab Four got their first whiff of the wacky weed when John Lennon smoked a joint with Bob Dylan at London's Heathrow Airport. It was a happy high, and from then on the Beatles spent much of their time together stoned.

In early 1965 Lennon and his wife, Cynthia, went to dinner with George Harrison at a friend's. The host slipped a couple of sugar cubes of LSD into their after-dinner coffee, and things got a little barmy when they left. Cynthia remembered it as an ordeal. "John was crying and banging his head against the wall. I tried to make myself sick, and couldn't. I tried to go to sleep, and couldn't. It was like a nightmare that wouldn't stop, whatever you did. None of us got over it for about three days." For John the experience was equally terrifying. "We didn't know what was going on," he recalled. "We were just insane. We were out of our heads."

Despite his jarring initiation into psychedelia, within a year John Lennon would be dropping acid as casually as he had once smoked a cigarette. But Lennon was hardly in the vanguard of psychedelic use, which had gained a certain currency among British rock bands in the mid-1960s. A number of pop stars, including Donovan Leitch, Keith Richards, and the Yardbirds, had been introduced to LSD via Michael Hollingshead and his short-lived World Psychedelic Center in London. Soon the turned-on message was being broadcast throughout the English-speaking world, and acid became an international phenomenon. The Rolling Stones announced that "Some-thing Happened to Me Yesterday." Eric Burdon and the Animals crooned a love song to "A Girl Named Sandoz." Across the ocean in America the Count Five were having a "Psychotic Reaction," the Electric Prunes had "Too Much to Dream Last Night," the Amboy Dukes took a "Journey to the Center of My Mind," and the Byrds flew "Eight Miles High." [1]

LSD influenced much of mid-1960s rock, but it was the Beatles who most lavishly and accurately captured the psychic landscape of the altered state. Their first acid-tinged songs appeared on Revolver (1966). "She Said She Said" was inspired by a conversation in California with Peter Fonda during Lennon's second LSD trip. Fonda talked about taking acid and experiencing "what it's like to be dead." The album also featured Lennon's "Dr. Robert," a song about a New York physician who dispensed "vitamin shots" to the rich and famous. On the final track, "Tomorrow Never Knows," Lennon exhorted his listeners to turn off their minds, relax, and float downstream. Originally titled "The Void," this song was inspired by Leary's Tibetan Book of the Dead manual which Lennon was then reading while high on acid. On it he used the first of many "backward" tapes while tripping in his studio late one night. He even considered having a thousand monks chant in the background. Although this proved unrealistic, it pointed up Lennon's growing obsession with musical special effects, which would reach an apotheosis on Sgt. Pepper.

By the time Sgt. Pepper was recorded, all of the Beatles were getting high on acid. Paul McCartney, the last Beatle to take LSD, made candid admissions to the press about his use of psychedelics, causing an uproar. "It opened my eyes," he told Life magazine. "It made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society." If the leaders of the world's nations were to take LSD even once, McCartney insisted, they would be ready to "banish war, poverty and famine."

Teen America got its first look at the psychedelicized Beatles on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, in a film clip accompanying the release of "Strawberry Fields Forever." Their hair was longer, they had grown moustaches, and they were dressed in scruffy, slightly outlandish clothes. Lennon especially looked like a different person, with his wire-frame glasses, Fu Manchu, and distant gaze. That was how he appeared on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, where on close inspection, according to Lennon, "you can see that two of us are flying, and two aren't." John and George had taken LSD for the photo session.

Sgt. Pepper is a concept album structured as a musical "trip." The Beatles play the part of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an old-time musical group, that takes its listeners on a sentimental journey through the history of music from ballads and folksongs to dancehall tunes, circus music, and rock and roll. The album includes at least four cuts with overt drug references, and the entire LP utilizes sound effects in novel ways to evoke unique mental images and create an overall psychedelic aesthetic.

It is difficult to overstate this record's importance in galvanizing the acid subculture. For the love generation, Sgt. Pepper was nothing less than a revelation, a message from on high. Thousands of people can still recall exactly where and when they first heard the magical chords of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" wafting in the summer breeze. This was the cut on which Lennon celebrated the synesthetic peak of an acid trip. The hallucinatory visions of "tangerine trees," "marmalade skies," "newspaper taxis," and "looking glass ties" mesmerized the multitudes of Beatle fans who listened to Sgt. Pepper on pot and acid until the grooves were worn out. Lennon said that the title of the song, rather than standing for LSD, was inspired by his son's drawings, but his disclaimer had little effect on the general interpretation of the lyrics.

The Blue Meanies immediately denounced the album. The ultra-right-wing John Birch Society charged that Sgt. Pepper exhibited "an understanding of the principles of brainwashing" and suggested that the Beatles were part of an "international communist conspiracy." Spiro Agnew, then governor of Maryland, led a crusade to ban "With a Little Help from My Friends" because it mentioned getting high. And the BBC actually did ban "A Day in the Life," with Lennon singing "I'd love to turn you on."

In September 1967 the Beatles went on an adventurous trip modeled after the Merry Pranksters' odyssey. Loading a large school bus with freaks and friends, they headed for the British countryside. Like the Pranksters, they also made a movie -- an ad-lib, spontaneous dream film entitled Magical Mystery Tour (with an album of the same name). During this period there was an abundance of LSD in the Beatles family thanks to Owsley, who supplied several pint-sized vials of electric liquid along with a cache of little pink pills. Lennon was at the height of his acid phase. He used to "trip all the time," as he put it, while living in a country mansion stocked with an extravagant array of tape recorders, video equipment, musical instruments, and whatnot. Since money was no object, he was able to fulfill any LSD-inspired whim at any time of day or night.

By his own estimate Lennon took over one thousand acid trips. His protracted self-investigation with LSD only exacerbated his personal difficulties, as he wrestled with Beatledom and his mounting differences with Paul over the direction the group should take, or even if they should continue as a group. Unbeknownst to millions of their fans, the Beatles, even at the height of their popularity, were well along the winding road to breakup. That acid was becoming problematic for Lennon was evident on some of his psychedelic songs, such as "I Am the Walrus," with its repeated, blankly sung admission "I'm crying."

Eventually the mind-boggled Beatle couldn't stand it anymore. He got so freaked out that he had to stop using the drug, and it took him a while to get his feet back on the ground. "I got a message on acid that you should destroy your ego," he later explained, "and I did, you know. I was reading that stupid book of Leary's [the psychedelic manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead] and all that shit. We were going through a whole game that everyone went through, and I destroyed myself.... I destroyed my ego and I didn't believe I could do anything."

Lennon's obsession with losing his ego typified a certain segment of the acid subculture in the mid and late 1960s. Those who got heavily into tripping often subscribed to a mythology of ego death that Leary was fond of preaching. The LSD doctor spoke of a chemical doorway through which one could leave the "fake prop-television-set America" and enter the equivalent of the Garden of Eden, a realm of unprogrammed beginnings where there was no distinction between matter and spirit, no individual personality to bear the brunt of life's flickering sadness. To be gratefully dead, from the standpoint of acid folklore, was not merely a symbolic proposition; the zap of superconsciousness that hit whenever a tab of LSD kicked the slats out of the ego might in certain instances be felt as an actual death and rebirth of the body (as the psychiatric studies of Dr. Stanislav Grof seemed to indicate). Acid could send people spinning on a 360-degree tour through their own senses and rekindle childhood's lost "tense of presence," as a Digger broadside stated.

But this experience was fraught with pitfalls, among them a tendency to become attached to the pristine vision, to want to hang on to it for as long as possible. Such an urge presumably could only be satisfied by taking the "utopiate" again and again. But after countless trips and sideshows of the mind one arrived at an impasse: "All right, my mind's been blown.... What's next?" Little could be gained from prolonged use of the drug, except perhaps the realization that it was necessary to "graduate acid," as Ken Kesey said. Oftentimes this meant adopting new methods to approximate or recreate the psychedelic experience without a chemical catalyst -- via yoga, meditation, organic foods, martial arts, or any of the so-called natural highs. That was what the Beatles concluded when they jumped off the Magical Mystery Tour for a fling with the Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation. "Acid is not the answer," said George Harrison. "It's enabled people to see a bit more, but when you really get hip, you don't need it." Ditto for McCartney: "It was an experience we went through ... We're finding new ways of getting there."

For many who turned on during the 1960s there was a sense that LSD had changed all the rules, that the scales had been lifted from their eyes and they'd never be the same. The drug was thought to provide a shortcut to a higher reality, a special way of knowing. But an acid trip's "eight-hour dose of wild surmise," as Charles Perry put it, can have unexpected consequences. People may find themselves straddling the margins of human awareness where all semblance of epistemological decorum vanishes and form and emptiness play tricks on each other. Things are no longer anchored in simple location but rather vibrate in a womb of poetic correspondences. From this vantage point it is tempting to conclude that all worlds are imaginary constructions and that behind the apparent multiplicity of discernible objects there exists a single infinite reality which is consciousness itself. Thus interpreted, consciousness becomes a means mistaken for an end -- and without an end or focus it becomes an inversion, giving rise to a specious sort of logic. If the "real war" is strictly an internal affair and each person is responsible for creating the conditions of his own suffering by projecting his skewed egotistical version of reality onto the material plane, does it not follow that the desire to redress social ills is yet another delusion? In this "ultimate" scheme of things all sense of moral obligation and political commitment is rendered absurd by definition.

Herein lay another pitfall of the tripping experience. Even after they stopped taking LSD, many people could still hear the siren song, a vague and muffled invitation to a "higher" calling. Those who responded to that etheric melody were plunged willy-nilly into an abstract vortex of soul-searching, escaping, and "discovering thyself." Some were intensely sincere, and their quest very often was lonely and confusing. The difficulties they faced stemmed in part from the fact that advanced industrial society does not recognize ego loss or peak experience as a particularly worthy objective. Thus it is not surprising that large numbers of turned-on youth looked to non-Occidental traditions -- Oriental mysticism, European magic and occultism, and primitive shamanism (especially American Indian lore) -- in an attempt to conjure up a coherent framework for understanding their private visions.

Quite a few acidheads and acid graduates subscribed to the Eastern belief that reality is an illusion. They were quick to mouth the phrases of enlightenment -- karma, maya, nirvana -- but in their adaptation these concepts were coarsened and sentimentalized. The hunger for regenerative spirituality was often deflected into a pseudo-Oriental fatalism: "Why fret over the plight of the world when it's all part of the Divine Dance?" This slipshod philosophy was partially due to the effects of heavy acid tripping -- "the haze that blurs the corner of the inner screen," as David Mairowitz said, "a magic that insinuates itself 'cosmically,' establishing spectrum upon confusing spectrum in the broadening of personal horizons. It could cloud up your telescope on the known world and bring on a delirium of vague 'universal' thinking." Or it might just reinforce what poet John Ashbery described as "the pious attitudes of those spiritual bigots whose faces are turned toward eternity and who therefore can see nothing."

The laissez-faire intellectualism that flourished in the acid subculture was particularly evident in the San Francisco Oracle, which by now boasted a nationwide circulation of a hundred thousand. The lingo of pop mysticism was sprinkled throughout the pages of the psychedelic tabloid. Sandwiched between various tidbits on ESP, tarot, witchcraft, numerology and the latest drug gossip were announcements of impending UFO landings. Yet in a sense the Oracle was merely echoing a trend that had begun to assert itself in American society as a whole. The appetite for spiritual transcendence, the desire to go beyond "the sweating self," in Huxley's words, is an indefatigable urge that assumes many guises -- offbeat religious sects, parapsychology, the occult, and so forth. While such phenomena are not necessarily futile diversions, there is an inherent danger in "wanting the ultimate in one leap," as Nietzsche put it, whether by pill or perfect spiritual master. This desperate yearning makes individuals highly vulnerable to manipulation by totalitarian personalities. It was, after all Charles Manson who wrote a song called "The Ego Is a Too Much Thing."

Manson, an ex-convict and would-be rock musician, had his own scene going in the Haight during the Summer of Love, before he and his family of acid eaters moved to southern California and made headlines as a grisly murder cult in 1969. Claiming to have experienced the crucifixion of Christ during an acid trip, he declared himself the almighty God of Fuck. Then he fed the drug to his harem of females as part of their daily regimen, had intercourse with them while they were high, and cast a corrupting spell over them. To demonstrate their faith they carried out his bloodthirsty schemes.

Manson was only one among numerous mind vamps, power trippers, hustlers, and rip off artists who hovered over what Mairowitz described as "the ego-death of easy-prey LSD takers" in the Haight. There was a certain type of character who got off on attacking people while they were high and trespassing on their brains. "The whole catalogue of craziness ... was exposed by acid," commented Stephen Gaskin. There were LSD freaks "who were into ego dominance.... That was their hobby and that was what they worked toward." Call it acid fascism or plain old psychological warfare, the hippie community had degenerated to the point where it merely offered a different setting for the same destructive drives omnipresent in straight society. "Rape is as common as bullshit on Haight Street," a Communications Company leaflet declared. "Pretty little sixteen-year-old middle-class chick comes to the Haight to see what it's all about & gets picked up by a seventeen-year-old street dealer who spends all day shooting her full of speed again & again, then feeds her 3000 mikes [twelve times the normal dose] & raffles off her temporarily unemployed body for the biggest Haight Street gang bang since the night before last."

Violent crime increased dramatically as the acid ghetto became a repository for hoods, bikers, derelicts, conmen, burnouts, and walking crazies. The shift in sensibility was reflected in the kinds of drugs that were prevalent on the street. First there was a mysterious grass shortage, and then an amphetamine epidemic swept through the Haight. By midsummer 1967 speed rivaled pot and acid as the most widely used substance in the area. The speed syndrome ravaged people mentally and physically. Widespread malnutrition resulted from appetite suppression, and infectious diseases like hepatitis and VD (from unsterilized needles and "free love") were rampant. The Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic was established in response to the mounting health crisis. Among its other functions the clinic offered a special "trip room" where people could ease off the bummers and freakouts that were becoming ever more commonplace in the Haight. The increase in bad trips was largely due to the fact that inexperienced youngsters were taking psychedelics in a hostile and congested environment. To make matters worse, a number of new mind-twisting chemicals suddenly appeared on the street, including a superpotent hallucinogen known as STP, which could launch an intense three-day trip. "Acid is like being let out of a cage," one user said. "STP is like being shot out of a gun."

STP (2,5 dimethox-4-methylphene-thylamine -- the initials stood for "Serenity, Tranquility, Peace") was developed in 1964 by an experimental chemist working for the Dow Chemical Company, which provided samples of the drug to Edgewood Arsenal headquarters of the US Army Chemical Corps. Scientists at Edgewood tested STP (which was similar in effect to BZ, to see if it could be used as an incapacitating agent, while the CIA utilized the drug in its behavior modification studies. In early 1967, for some inexplicable reason, the formula for STP was released to the scientific community at large. By this time ergotamine tartrate, an essential raw ingredient of LSD, was in short supply, so Owsley, the premier acid chemist, decided to try his hand at STP. Shortly thereafter the drug was circulating in the hippie districts of San Francisco and New York.

STP made its debut in the Haight when five thousand tabs were given away during a solstice celebration marking the onset of the Summer of Love. Few had heard of the drug, but that didn't matter to the crowd of eager pill poppers. They gobbled the gift as if it were an after-dinner mint, and a lot of people were still tripping three days later. The emergency wards at various San Francisco hospitals were filled with freaked-out hippies who feared they'd never come down. The straight doctors assumed they were zonked on LSD and administered Thorazine -- the usual treatment -- to cool them out. But Thorazine potentiates or increases the effect of STP. It was bummersville in the Haight until people figured out what was going on and word went out to think twice before ingesting the superhallucinogen.

STP was just one of the bizarre drugs that were pumped into the willing arteries of the acid ghetto. According to doctors who worked at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, there was a rash of adverse reactions when a compound purporting to be THC (a synthetic version of marijuana) inundated the Haight. The drug was actually phencyclidine, or PCP -- otherwise known as "angel dust" -- which had originally been marketed as an animal tranquilizer by Parke-Davis. But the army had other ideas when it tested PCP on American GIs at Edgewood Arsenal in the late 1950s. At the same time the CIA employed Dr. Ewen Cameron to administer PCP to psychiatric patients at the Allain Memorial Institute in Montreal -- under the rubric of Operation MK-ULTRA. The Agency later stockpiled PCP for use as a "nonlethal incapacitant," although high dosages, according to the CIA's own reports, could "lead to convulsions and death."

Yes, a lot of weird drugs were floating around Haight-Ashbury. The neighborhood was clotted with youngsters whose minds had been jerked around ruthlessly by chemicals touted for their euphoric properties. Much of the LSD turning up on the street was fortified with some sort of additive, usually speed or strychnine, [2] or in some cases insecticide. But where did this contaminated acid come from? Originally the main source of LSD in the Haight was Owsley, but the scene got totally out of hand with all the media fanfare after the be-in, and renegade chemists started moving in on the drug trade. The Mafia exploited the situation by setting up its own production and distribution networks. In June 1967 James Finlator, chief of the FDA's Bureau of Drug Abuse and Control announced that "hard core Cosa Nostra-type criminal figures" were behind "an extremely well-organized traffic in hallucinogenic drugs." Consequently the quality of black market LSD began to deteriorate. Signs posted in the Haight expressed the consensus among hippies: "Syndicate acid stinks."

And what was the CIA up to while its perennial partner of convenience, organized crime, was dumping bad acid on the black market? According to a former CIA contract employee, Agency personnel helped underground chemists set up LSD laboratories in the Bay Area during the Summer of Love to "monitor" events in the acid ghetto. But why, if this assertion is true, would the CIA be interested in keeping tabs on the hippie population? Law enforcement is not a plausible explanation, for there were already enough narcs operating in the Haight. Then what was the motive? A CIA agent who claims to have infiltrated the covert LSD network provided a clue when he referred to Haight-Ashbury as a "human guinea pig farm."

And what better place to establish a surveillance operation than the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco? A dozen years earlier in the same city, George Hunter White and his CIA colleagues had set up a safehouse and begun testing hallucinogenic drugs on unwitting citizens. White's activities were phased out in the mid-1960s, just when the grassroots acid scene exploded in the Bay Area. Suddenly there was a neighborhood packed full of young people who were ready and willing to gobble experimental chemicals -- chemicals that had already been tested in the lab but seldom under actual field conditions.

In addition to the spooks who inserted themselves among the drug dealers, there were scientists with CIA backgrounds who stationed themselves in the acid ghetto for "monitoring" purposes. Dr. Louis Joylon ("Jolly") West, [3] an old-time LSD investigator for the Agency, rented a pad in the heart of Haight-Ashbury with the intention of studying the hippies in their native habitat. The hippie trip must have held a strange fascination for Jolly West and other CIA scientists who had devoted their talents to exploring the covert potential of mind-altering chemicals during the Cold War. Numerous spies had tried LSD long before flower power became the vogue. They had administered the drug to test subjects and watched unperturbed as the toughest of specimens were reduced to quivering jelly, their confidence and poise demolished under the impact of the hallucinogen. No doubt about it -- LSD was a devastating weapon. Richard Helms, CIA director during the late 1960s and early 1970s, had once described the drug as "dynamite" -- a word often used by hippie connoisseurs when praising a high-quality psychedelic.

Indeed, it must have been quite a mind-bender for the elite corps of CIA acidheads who ran the secret behavior mod programs when young people started fooling around with the same drug they had once thought would revolutionize the cloak-and-dagger trade. At first they may have passed it off as some sort of twisted fad comparable to goldfish swallowing or cramming a telephone booth, a kind of hula-hooping of the inner self. But soon the number of drug-indulgent youth reached epidemic proportions. The whole thing seemed downright absurd. Why would anyone willingly flirt with psychosis?

Needless to say, the spooks never anticipated that LSD would leave the laboratory this way, but now that the cat was out of the bag they had to ask themselves whether an incredible blunder had been committed somewhere along the line. There was no denying that the CIA was partly responsible for letting loose upon the land an awesome energy whose consequences were still difficult to fathom. As men of science and espionage they were obliged to consider every permutation of havoc that acid might wreak upon a generation of restless juveniles. If LSD makes a person insane -- and surely that was what the tests had shown -- then would a collective mass not suffer a similar crippling departure from the psychic status quo? A forbidding prospect, these acid casualties, yet seemingly imminent if the present trend continued.

One way or another, something very strange was going on behind the scenes. Rumors of conspiracy circulated among the street people. "The CIA is poisoning the acid these days to make everyone go on bad trips," complained one LSD user. But bad drugs were not the main factor in the decline of the Haight; they merely accelerated a process that began when tons of verbiage started pouring from the press. "The Haight-Ashbury was our town," said Nancy Getz, a close friend of Janis Joplin's. "It was sunshine and flowers and love. And the media got hold of it and ate us and fed us back to ourselves."

With each passing week things got a little heavier, a little freakier, in the Haight. The clincher came when a couple of independent drug dealers were murdered a few days apart; one had his arm cut off, the other was butchered and thrown off a cliff. The hippies were quick to blame the Mob, but nobody knew what had actually happened. Double-crossing, snitching, beatings, burns, and disappearances were endemic to the dope industry, and a number of people had private scores to settle. There was also a lot of friction between white street kids and blacks in the neighboring Fillmore district. For a while it seemed like everyone was packing heat -- a blade or a heavy-caliber weapon -- as Haight-Ashbury degenerated into a survival-of-the-fittest trip.

A lot of acid veterans couldn't handle the paranoia and split to the countryside, where they hoped to pursue a relatively hassle-free existence on one of the many communes that were springing up in California and the Southwest. These rural enclaves provided a temporary haven for those who needed to mellow out after having their minds blown in a million different directions. Others returned to their former homes or traveled to cities where hippie communities were just starting to take root. The mass exodus from the Haight signaled the end of the Summer of Love. The Diggers marked the changing seasons by staging a symbolic funeral in which "the death of the hippie, devoted son of the mass media" was proclaimed. A coffin filled with hippie ornaments -- love beads, bandannas, underground newspapers, etc. -- was carried through the neighborhood and laid to rest. The ceremony took place on October 6, 1967 -- exactly one year after the Love Pageant Rally, when LSD became illegal in California. "We're trying to sabotage the word 'hippie,"' explained Ron Thelin, former proprietor of the Psychedelic Shop and Oracle backer who had recently joined ranks with the Diggers. "It's not our word. It has nothing to do with us. We'd like to substitute the words 'Free American' in its place."

By this time the windows of the Psychedelic Shop were boarded up and the Free Clinic had closed its doors for an indefinite period. Haight Street was turned into a one-way avenue and homeowners and merchants vacated the district in increasing numbers. Property values plummeted, and a wave of crime, drug addiction, and police repression turned Haight Street into Desolation Row. The reign of terror lasted for well over a year as cops patrolled the area in riot gear, roughing up longhairs and busting young people indiscriminately. (A neighborhood councilperson condemned Mayor Joseph Alioto for adopting a "domestic Vietnam policy" in the Haight. Alioto's retort: "We're not going to listen to any crybabies complaining about police brutality.") There wasn't any reason to venture into this combat zone except to score some dope, and that probably meant heroin or downers, which had been plentiful since the autumn of 1967. Most street scavengers, the leftovers from the Summer of Love, were into shooting junk or sniffing glue or drinking rotgut alcohol -- whatever could deliver them to the land of the endlessly numb.

The Diggers, for their part, attempted to carry on the struggle despite the decline of the Haight. An amazing inborn cleverness kept them going through one crisis after another. They practiced street savvy like a martial art, figuring that the best way to deal with the established powers was to outfox them. Their actions were so provocative and unexpected that the authorities often didn't know how to react. On one occasion a Digger was hauled into FBI headquarters for questioning. As the interrogation was about to commence, he placed a tape recorder on the table and turned it on. The G-man was so flustered he cut the interview short.

In early 1968 the Diggers changed their name to the Free City Collective and issued a manifesto calling for a citywide coalition of "free families" to pool their resources and form survival networks that could sustain a long-term revolutionary effort. They forged alliances with street gangs from the Latin and Chinese ghettos in San Francisco and also worked with the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther party. In response to the intense police harassment that was crippling their community, Free City advocates staged a protracted open-air salon on the steps of City Hall. Every day for three months, they gathered to read poetry, give out copies of the Free City News, and carry on outrageously. One of their last events before calling it quits on the summer solstice of 1968 was a Free City Convention (a parody of the upcoming Democratic Convention in Chicago), complete with banners and fanfare and a theme: "A Vote for Me Is a Vote for You."

Beyond the Free City the Diggers were among the first to raise the issue of ecological balance as a political concern. A handful of the original San Francisco activists would resurface in later years as the Planet Drum Foundation, a grassroots organization devoted to articulating biospheric values appropriate to postindustrial society. From city to planet, bioregions instead of nation-states: a politics of living-in-place, reinhabiting where you are. The drum beat could be heard even when the Haight was at its heyday. Listen to a Digger rap it down:

LSD hand-holding is not the end....We're going to view what we're doing as the best we could come up with. It's only the best, scratch it. Scratch sixty-seven. Summer in San Francisco has been the first Be Together for Escapees and Refugees.... Our part now coming up is to communicate in direct spinal language.... To push as hard as we can ... to move past the Civil War in the United States to our planetary concerns, the forms and modes of which we are now developing.... The species on the planet has to get past the non-living of the last century, that most barren sterile time. The time when men died for wages, when lives were counted against profit-sharing coupons ... when coupons and clip-outs became days and nights, when sun-up was time to go to work and sundown was exhausted relief or an alcoholic night out.... We're trying to move our minds as sensuous instruments ... to move the school of fish we swim in ... to move onto the next place that we've got to go because if we don't move from where we are now, the barracuda are going to hit us. And they do. Every time the tide turns, the barracuda turns. Everybody turns when the tide turns.



1. LSD-25 made its debut in the pop world on the flip side of a 1962, single by the Gamblers.

2. Strychnine, a poison that is lethal in sufficient quantities, was listed in an inventory of biochemical agents stockpiled by the CIA. Other drugs in the CIA's medicine chest included tachrin (a vomit-inducing agent), 2,4 pyrolo ("causes temporary amnesia"), M-246 ("produces paralysis"), neurokinin ("produces severe pain"), digitoxin (for inducing a heart attack), and seven BZ homologues.

3. West was head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma during the 1950s and early 1960\s, when he conducted research into LSD, hypnosis and "the psychobiology of dissociated states" for the CIA. (It was West who administered a massive dose of LSD to an elephant as part of an ill-fated drug experiment.) In 1964 he was called upon to examine Jack Ruby, who had murdered Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President Kennedy. After visiting Ruby in his jail cell, West concluded that he had sunk into a "paranoid state manifested by delusions, visual and auditory hallucinations and suicidal impulses." Ruby was not faking these symptoms, West asserted, since he had vigorously rejected the doctor's repeated suggestions that he was mentally ill. "The true malingerer usually grasps eagerly at such an explanation," said West. Since Ruby would not admit he was crazy, West concluded he was nuts. Catch-22.

Ruby's "delusions" included the belief that an ultra-right-wing conspiracy was behind the death of the president. On the basis of Dr. West's diagnosis, Ruby became a candidate for treatment of mental disorders. Another doctor soon put him on "happy pills," although these drugs did not seem to cheer Ruby up. Two years later he died of cancer while still in prison.

West, meanwhile, moved to Los Angeles, where he served as director of UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, a position he still holds. In the early 1970s he became embroiled in a heated controversy over plans for a Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence. Originally proposed by Governor Ronald Reagan, the violence center would have exceeded even Jack Ruby's worst paranoid nightmares had it not been scuttled by the California State legislature after information about it was leaked to the press.

West, who helped formulate plans for the center, described the program as an attempt "to predict the probability of occurrences" of violent behavior among specific population groups. "The major known correlates of violence," according to West, "are sex (male), age (youthful), ethnicity (black), and urbanicity."

The violence center was to have been housed in a former military base located in a remote area of California. The medical facility at Vacaville prison, the site of a major CIA drug testing program during the late 1960s and early 1970s, was listed among the facilities that would have been used to develop treatment models and implement pilot and demonstration programs for the violence center.

Treatments discussed by West included chemical castration, psychosurgery, and the testing of experimental drugs on involuntarily incarcerated individuals. Furthermore, the activities of the Center were to have been coordinated with a California law enforcement program that maintained computer files on "pre-delinquent" children so that they could be treated before they made a negative mark on society.
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Re: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA

Postby admin » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:40 pm

Chapter 8: Peaking In Babylon


There is the story of the Zen master who tells his student, "Don't think of a carrot." Naturally a carrot is the first image that pops into the student's mind. So, too, the establishment media constantly decried LSD and warned in shrill tones of an epidemic of drug abuse sweeping the nation. The net effect of the immense publicity, even though much of it was negative, was to arouse intense interest and curiosity, leading to ever-widening patterns of use. For in an era of generational disaffection the quickest way to spur adolescent action is to say, "Don't do it!"

The evolution of the psychedelic scene was intimately bound up with the media coverage it attracted. Prior to the big publicity barrage, those who lived in the Haight, New York's East Village, and other hip redoubts did not necessarily think of themselves as belonging to an overarching "counterculture." The quantum leap from community to counterculture was precipitated by the first major media event, the San Francisco be-in of January 1967. The organizers of the be-in consciously sought to use the media to send a message throughout the country. On its own terms the event was an astounding achievement: the psychedelic butterfly fluttered through the TV cameras directly into the hearts and minds of America's restless youth. But the ramifications of this sudden exposure were ambiguous, double-edged. As a result of the be-in, Haight-Ashbury became a national symbol. Shortly thereafter the original fabric of the hip community began to unravel as young people responding to the "hippie temptation" (examined in a CBS documentary of that title) inundated the Haight. In fact it was the media doing the tempting, and the acid ghetto was trampled to death during the Summer of Love, leaving a social sewer in its place.

A similar pattern was repeated in the East Village, where a combination of runaways, tourism, and Mafia heroin destroyed a creative scene that had been many years in the making. The psychedelic pioneers in New York were an informal group of beats, students, and pacifists who frequented an arcane bookstore on East Ninth Street run by Eric Loeb; it sold peyote buttons that were on display in the storefront window in the late 1950s. Street acid was available by 1963, and as more people turned on, the gathering places became more explicit: Ed Sanders' Peace Eye Bookstore, the Electric Circus performance space on Saint Mark's Place, Fillmore East on Second Avenue, Tompkins Square and Washington Square Park. There was also an array of coffeeshops, including the Psychedelicatessen, and other conspicuous hangouts offering copies of Inner Space, a psychedelic newsletter published by Lynn House. The topography of New York City made the situation all the more intense, and there was plenty of street action leading up to the be-in at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park on Easter Sunday 1967. The New York be-in, organized by Abbie Hoffman, Jim Fouratt, and others, was inspired by its San Francisco prototype. Thousands of glassy-eyed youths smoked pot and gobbled acid while suspicious cops and TV cameramen surrounded the site. The psychedelic community quickly degenerated after this event, and a series of brutal drug murders in the fall of 1967 marked the end of an exotic social experiment.

The decimation of the East Village and the Haight might have been the final chapter of a unique phase in cultural history if not for the profound impact these communities had on American society as a whole. Like a cueball scattering the opening shot, the media laserbeam broke open the energy cluster that had coalesced in these hip enclaves and spread the psychedelic seed throughout the country. Soon there were love-ins and be-ins in nearly every major city in the US as hippie colonies sprang up across the land. Wherever LSD appeared on the scene, it announced itself in obvious ways: long hair, way-out clothing, funny glasses, and overall freakiness. (Frank Zappa, leader of the Los Angeles-based rock group, the Mothers of Invention, defined "freaking out" as "a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette in order to express CREATIVELY his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole.") People who turned on were entertained and enlightened by distinctive modes of art, film, dance, poetry, and, perhaps most important, music. The new electric sound, at once lyrical and dissonant, had broad appeal without losing any of its rebellious bite. For the first time in history young intellectuals and the young masses were not only grooving to the same beat but getting high on the same drugs.

"No corporate leader can afford to ignore the changing social, political and intellectual standard summed up in the phrase 'the generation gap,"' lectured David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, to a group of executives at the University of Chicago's annual management conference in early 1968. By this time Madison Avenue had appropriated hip lingo to sell consumer goods, and snatches of popular songs could be heard in various advertising jingles. Opel promised to "light your fire," while a new brand of laundry detergent was touted as "out of sight." (The hippies, meanwhile, adapted the motto of the megacorporation: "Better living through chemistry.") The mystique of the Haight was ripped off by the bell-bottom salesmen and the promoters of Hair, a box-office triumph that took Broadway by storm in the fall of 1967. "LSD, LBJ, FBI, CIA," sang the cast of this widely acclaimed "tribal love-rock musical " which featured nudity, draft card burning, and an AM chartbuster hailing the day when peace would rule the planet and love would steer the stars. America may not have approved of its flower children, but commercially it ate them up.

The styles associated with psychedelic drugs achieved widespread cultural diffusion throughout North America and the Western world thanks to the ubiquitous reach of the mass media. Even those who did not actually sample LSD were apt to wear their hair longer and partake, however indirectly, of the psychedelic groundswell. But LSD had a much deeper effect on those who actually experimented with the drug. The media fanfare surrounding Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love catalyzed the sudden explosion of the acid scene. Four million North Americans are said to have tried acid in the late 1960s, and the average user, according to an extensive survey by Dr. Sidney Cohen, Richard Alpert, and Lawrence Schiller, was taking a dose every three or four months. Seventy percent of the turned-on set were of high school or college age, and many of them were involved in radical politics at one time or another.

The burgeoning acid scene raised more than a few eyebrows within the intelligence community, and a number of CIA-connected think tanks, including the Rand Corporation, [1] analyzed the broader questions relating to the social and political impact of LSD. Based in Santa Monica, California, the Rand Corporation played a crucial role in designing strategies for counter-revolution and pacification that were implemented in Vietnam. In the mid-1960s the think tank approach was expanded to include domestic issues; along this line Rand personnel examined the short and long-term effect of LSD on personality change. A Rand report by William McGlothlin refers to "changes in dogmatism" and political affiliation: "If some of the subjects are drawn from extreme right or leftwing organizations, it may be possible to obtain additional behavioral measure in terms of the number resigning or becoming inactive."

While Rand Corporation specialists pondered whether LSD might be an antidote to political activism, the Hudson Institute, another think tank with strong ties to the intelligence community, kept tabs on shifting trends within the grassroots psychedelic movement. Founded by Herman Kahn, [2] one of America's leading nuclear strategists, the Hudson Institute specialized in classified research on national security issues. Kahn experimented with LSD on repeated occasions during the 1960s, and he visited Millbrook and other psychedelic strongholds on the East Coast. From time to time the rotund futurist (Kahn weighed over three hundred pounds) would stroll along Saint Mark's Place in the East Village, observing the flower children and musing on the implications of the acid subculture. At one point he predicted that by the year 2000 there would be an alternative "dropped-out" country within the United States. But Kahn was not overly sympathetic to the psychedelic movement. "He was primarily interested in social control," stated a Hudson Institute consultant who once lectured there on the subject of LSD.

The psychedelic subculture and its relationship to the New Left and the political upheavals of the 1960s was the subject of an investigation by Willis Harmon, who currently heads the Futures Department at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Located in Palo Alto, California, this prestigious think tank received a number of grants from the US Army to conduct classified research into chemical incapacitants. Harmon made no bones about where he stood with respect to political radicals and the New Left. When Michael Rossman, a veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, visited SRI headquarters in the early 1970s, Harmon told him, "There's a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose."

Harmon was turned on to LSD in the late 1950s by Captain Al Hubbard, the legendary superspy, who took a special interest in his new convert. Shortly thereafter Harmon became vice-president of the International Federation for Advanced Studies (IFAS), an organization devoted to exploring the therapeutic and problem solving potential of LSD. IFAS was the brainchild of Hubbard, who undoubtedly leaned on his political connections in Washington to insure that Harmon and his colleagues would be allowed to continue their drug investigations even after the first big purge of above-ground LSD research by the FDA in the early 1960s. During this period IFAS charged $500 for a single session of high-dose psychedelic therapy -- an arrangement that led some critics to accuse IFAS of bilking the public.

Adverse publicity forced IFAS to disband in 1965, whereupon Harmon, who considered himself a disciple of the Captain, became director of the Educational Policy Research Center at SRI. In October 1968 he invited Hubbard, then living in semi-retirement in British Columbia, to join SRI as a part-time "special investigative agent." As Harmon stated in a letter to his acid mentor, "Our investigations of some of the current social movements affecting education indicate that the drug usage prevalent among student members of the New Left is not entirely undesigned. Some of it appears to be present as a deliberate weapon aimed at political change. We are concerned with assessing the significance of this as it impacts on matters of long-range educational policy. In this connection it would be advantageous to have you considered in the capacity of a special investigative agent who might have access to relevant data which is not ordinarily available."

Hubbard accepted the offer of a $100 per day consultant's fee, and from then on he was officially employed as a security officer for SRI. "His services to us," explained Harmon, "consisted in gathering various sorts of data regarding student unrest, drug abuse, drug use at schools and universities, causes and nature of radical activities, and similar matters, some of a classified nature."

Hubbard was the ideal person for such a task. He boasted a great deal of experience both in the law enforcement field and in the use of psychedelic drugs. As a special agent for the FDA in the early 1960s, he led the first raids on underground acid labs, and a number of rebel chemists were arrested because of his detective work. The Captain was particularly irked when he learned that LSD in adulterated form was circulating on the black market. To Hubbard this represented degradation of the lowest order. The most precious spiritual substance on earth was being contaminated by a bunch of lousy bathtub chemists out to make a quick buck. The Captain was dead set against illicit drug use. "Impure drugs are very dangerous," he explained, "and the Law takes a dim view of it." He kept a sample of street acid for "comparative purposes" each time he busted an underground LSD factory during the 1960s; most of these outfits, Hubbard maintained, were run by the Mafia.

Even though Hubbard took a lot of acid and was a maverick among his peers, he remained a staunch law-and-order man throughout his life. The crew-cut Captain was the quintessential turned-on patriot, a seasoned spy veteran who admired the likes of J. Edgar Hoover. Above all Hubbard didn't like weirdos -- especially long-haired radical weirdos who abused his beloved LSD. Thus he was eager to apply his espionage talents to a secret study of the student movement and the acid subculture. After conferring with Harmon, the Captain donned a khaki uniform, a gold-plated badge, a belt strung with bullets, and a pistol in a shoulder holster. That was the uniform he wore throughout his tenure as an SRI consultant, which lasted until the late 1970s.

Ironically, while Harmon and Hubbard were probing the relationship between drugs and radical politics, a number of New Left activists grappled with a similar question. Political and cultural radicals from both sides of the Atlantic discussed the drug issue at a conference on "the dialectics of liberation," which took place in London during the summer of 1967. Some were wary of mixing acid and politics. "Don't give LSD to Che Guevara, he might stop fighting," said Dr. David Cooper, a British psychiatrist who feared that drugs might undermine political commitment (the same thesis put forward by the Rand Corporation). But others, such as Allen Ginsberg, saw great advantages in a "politics of ecstasy." The pro-LSD faction insisted that acid was a radicalizing factor and that psychedelics would continue to galvanize the youth rebellion.

Obviously there was a great deal of confusion about LSD and its influence on the New Left. But an assessment of the overall impact of LSD cannot be couched solely in terms of whether acid "politicized" or "depoliticized" those who turned on, for the drug is capable of producing a wide range of reactions. A common mistake with respect to LSD was to attribute the personal effects of an acid trip to something inherent in the drug itself; as a result of this subtle transference, acid acquired the qualities of a particular mind-set or milieu, depending on who was experimenting with it. The love-and-peace vibrations thought to be intrinsic to the psychedelic high were largely an amplified reflection of the unique spirit that animated the mid-1960s, just as the CIA's obsession with LSD-induced anxiety and terror mirrored the Cold War paranoia of the espionage establishment.

Strictly speaking, acid is neither a transcendental sacrament, as Leary claimed, nor an anxiety-producing agent, as initially defined by CIA and army scientists. Rather, it is a nonspecific amplifier of psychic and social processes. LSD "makes you more of what you are," Aldous Huxley concluded. "It gives each person what he or she needs." At the same time acid catalyzes whatever forces are already active in a given social milieu and brings forth those that are latent.

Everyone who belongs to a particular culture shares, in the words of Peter Marin, "a condition, a kind of internal landscape, the psychic shape that a particular time and place assumes within a man as the extent and limit of his perceptions, dreams, and pleasure and pain." This internal landscape was jolted by a series of earthquakes in the 1960s and early 1970s, and psychedelic drugs intensified and accelerated each phase of the youth rebellion as it developed over the years. The crucial turning point occurred in 1967, when the grassroots acid scene was floodlit by the mass media and young people started turning on in greater numbers than ever before. This period marked the beginning of a new phase of political and countercultural transition. The media would be deeply implicated in everything that happened thereafter.

In effect, the media catalyzed the widespread use of LSD, itself a catalyst, and the pace of events suddenly flew into high gear. The fuse had been lit in 1965, and now it was as if the second stage of that acid-fueled rocket had blasted into hyperspace. The fallout from the psychedelic explosion was enormous, reaching even those who shuddered at the prospect of turning on. Every sector of the New Left was affected by it, if only by contamination or the rush to denounce it. Soon the acid crazies would run amok, trashing what remained of the old political style and further upsetting the equilibrium of a movement that was already wobbling in the glare of publicity. But if LSD knocked things off-balance, it also gave the New Left "its first-ever dose of real fun," as Mairowitz put it, and a lot of young people wanted a piece of the action.



1. James Schlesinger, former CIA director and Secretary of Defense, is a senior strategic analyst at Rand. Henry Rowen, former Rand president, previously served as head of the CIA's National Intelligence Command.

2. A well-known futurist, Kahn coauthored a book called The Year 2000 with Anthony Wiener, a professor at MIT's Center for International Studies. Wiener had previously received a $12,000 grant from the Human Ecology Fund, which served as a cutout for funding numerous CIA behavior control studies under Operation MK-ULTRA.
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