A Human Movement
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Following quotes from The Man Who Turned on the World

...which, of course, as any good human person knows has been linked off of A Human Movement before, because It's common knowledge. It's the only call from above, to know your legacy, and Hollinghead's most revealing account of the person-fact-subtleties and events surrounding the lighting up of the social consciousness, and its subsequent dimming, is required in its every word, equally are the simple maxims 'Don't lie to your friends,' and 'don't take on the language of those around you - if you know that language is dangerous.'

You already know that:

At Harvard University in the early sixties, students had not yet discovered pot;

The Psilocybe mexicana mushroom was synthesised by Dr. Albert Hofmann in 1958 at the Sandoz Laboratories and given the trade name Psilocybin.

(The Harvard Study up until late 1961 was only ever studying synthesized Psilocybin, and strictly so!)

It was Leary's thesis that the psychedelic effect is a transcendental experience, accompanied by intense positive or negative psychological reactions. There is transcendence of space-time categories, of the ego, of subject-object worlds of experience, of words. There is usually a sense of unity or 'oneness' with internal and external process which can be ecstatic and exalting, but which can also be frightening to the unprepared person in a strange or non-supportive physical setting.

But I think that for perhaps the majority of the avant-garde. in this very early period, LSD was still something of an 'exotic' whose effects could not be taken for granted. LSD involved risk. It was anarchistic;

September 1961

George lead me along a corridor to Leary's office. Leary was seated behind a desk dictating something to his Chinese secretary, who kept giggling every time someone came through the door. A few young men sat on a sofa quietly reading from piles of mimeographed papers. One wall was entirely covered with a huge blackboard on which the day's timetable was noted. Leary waved me to a chair next to the desk,

'Dr. Leary? How nice to meet you. I'm Michael Hollingshead.' We shook hands, and he smiled broadly and beckoned me to the dining-room door, seating us at a small table by the wall, where we could talk without being disturbed. I asked him to order for both of us. We small-talked during the meal. Leary seemed a bit distracted with other thoughts, and sometimes would fiddle with his hearing-aid, as though blaming the instrument for his inability to catch what I was saying. So I said nothing, and encouraged him to talk. He was a very funny raconteur and told stories about his life in Berkeley and his family and his sabbatical in Florence. It wasn't until the coffee came that he got on to the subject of psychedelics. He began telling me about his work with psilocybin, the mushroom drug...

...It seemed that the University had let him set up something he called the Harvard Psychedelic Research Project for the study of these drugs and to test their potential as aids to facilitate behaviour change.

Every now and then I'd bring up the matter of the mayonnaise jar, but Tim didn't seem particularly interested in trying LSD, probably because he didn't want to get other issues in the way of his on-going (and officially sanctioned) 'mushroom research', as it was referred to in those days.

The effect was excellent, though not as powerful as LSD. It contained lots of magic and induced all kinds of very pleasant visual changes, with colours deepening, turning the house and garden into a Persian miniature of exquisite beauty and prettiness.

I was a little disappointed when, after four hours, the landscape changed back into twentieth-century American reality. But I enjoyed it and used to take it pretty regularly after that. Perhaps after all, LSD was too powerful for our fragile nervous systems to bear?

There was in those days no popular voice speaking for marijuana, although it was considered by the 'in' crowd to be the last word in status symbols. It was also illegal, a fact that made Tim feel a bit paranoid about people smoking it in his house. He did not use it himself. He took nothing stronger than a few micrograms of psilocybin. And of course wine and whisky, which he believed were 'indispensable luxuries'.

One evening the subject turned to LSD. They discussed acid in terms of a fluent flow of neologisms, jazz slang, and weird verbal formulations. They treated the subject lightly, as they also would marijuana and getting stoned in general. And it became apparent to me that they had never actually tried it.

Later, when they heard that I had some, they suggested that we all have an acid session together, including Tim. Tim excused himself, saying he had some papers to mark.

Perhaps Tim was impressed by the evidence of his two friends, who were after all pretty hip and experienced in using drugs. Perhaps he saw that we were all having a great time, and he wanted in. Whatever it was, something finally decided him and he took a spoon of the acid.

What happened to him next was the subject of a chapter in his book, High Priest, which he published several years later. As Tim described it in his book:

"'It has been five years since that first LSD trip with Michael Hollingshead. I have never forgotten it." [ T. Leary, High Priest, The New American Library, New York: 1968.] Noting the date.

At the least, this refocusing has brought me back to the focus, of understanding why it might be possible that some personality types seem to understand the mystical-unity-deity-wholly within, and yet remain wholly outside of 'it,' they can see the tangible light of 'it,' as it lights, but not the light directly, they exist perhaps as mere fans, admirers of things individually without actually seeing the nine sided diamond light of experience all time. These people and their forces must be accounted for, and seen within each of us, so as to be quickly extinguished. I don't think Leary saw it, and we all suffer for his actions.
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