The Brotherhood of Eternal Love
Stewart Tendler and Davaid May
Slow Dance of Golden Lights
'I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creationthe miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence... flowers shining with their inner light and all but quivering under the pressure with which they were charged... words like "grace" and "transfiguration" came to mind.' In the large garden buried in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles early in 1953, the very tall, slightly stooped Englishman marvelled at his new-found insight.
Aldous Huxley, author, philosopher and prophet, felt an intensification of light and colour changing even such a mundane object as a garden chair: 'Where the shadows fell on the canvas, upholstery stripes of deep but glowing indigo alternated with stripes of incandescence so intensely bright that it was hard to believe that they could be made of anything but blue fire... it was inexpressibly wonderful, wonderful to a point, almost, of being terrifying.' Under the influence of mescaline it was as though the valves of the brain were being opened wide so that, instead of the trickle of utilitarian information that normally reached the mind, a torrent of awareness and understanding was released. 'To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the inner and outer world... as they are apprehended directly and indirectly by the Mind at Large, this experience is of inestimable value to everyone... the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out.'
Huxley turned to his watching wife and the doctor who had nervously poured out the dose of mescaline and told them: 'This is how one ought to see. This is how things really are.'
Huxley found expression for the tearful emotions of the CIA technician and the growing extracurricular interest in the hallucinogenics: something else besides deathless weaponry was locked away in LSD-25 and its hallucinogenic brothers. A year before he took the mescaline Huxley wrote: 'From poppy to curare, from Andean coca to Indian hemp and Siberian agaric, every plant or bush or fungus capable when ingested of stupefying or exciting or evoking visions has long since been discovered and systematically employed. The fact is strangely significant; for it seems to prove that always and everywhere Human Beings have felt the radical inadequacy of their personal existence, the mystery of being insulated selves and not something else, something wider, something.. "far more deeply infused".'
Born into a famous English family of scientists and writers, Aldous Huxley established his own reputation as an author in the 1930s with a series of widely-acclaimed satires on modern society and his own social background. The bitterness they represented showed the first traces of a growing disaffection with western values and institutions, and an increasing horror at the progress of the twentieth century which Huxley came to see accelerating into a barbarous post-atomic world.
His interest in drugs as a means of enlightenment and pleasure dated back to the 1930s when he came across a neglected copy of Phantastica, a study of psychoactive drugs by Louis Lewin. To Huxley the book was 'an unpromising-loo king treasure' which he put to good use in Brave New World, the most famous of his works of fiction. In the future world he created for the book he described I soma', an impossible combination of euphoric, hallucinogen and sedative which was used by anyone who was depressed or below par. The name came from a drug described by Lewinan alcoholic juice reported in Hindu literature and said to have been used by the ancient Aryan invaders of India in their rites.
Although the book pointed up the use of drugs in mind control, Huxley was far more intrigued by the benign use of drugs, the 'deeply infused'. By the 1950s Huxley was settled in California, where a man of his scientific and questing instincts could hardly remain ignorant of the gathering interest in the hallucinogenics across the United States.
The man who introduced Huxley to mescaline was Dr. Humphrey Osmond, another English exile and a pioneer in the use of mescaline for treating alcoholics. Huxley wrote to him after spotting a report by the psychiatrist and a colleague in an obscure medical journal. Lewin had mentioned peyote in his work, describing its use among Indians as a sacrament in religious rites; Huxley offered himself to Osmond, working in Canada, as a 'relatively sane' subject to broaden the research. He told the doctor of the 'enormous possible world of consciousness waiting to be discovered...' Mescaline or something like it might allow young people to 'taste and see... the writings of the religious, the works of the poets, painters and musicians'.
Osmond agreed, not without considerable trepidation, to try the mescaline on Huxley. He prepared 400 milligrams of mescaline and passed it to his illustrious guinea-pig in a tumbler of water. Osmond later remarked: 'I did not relish the possibility of being the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad.' Half an hour later, Huxley began to see what he described as a 'slow dance of golden lights' and moved into an experience which went on for eight hours.
Although Huxley did not equate mescaline with religious mysticism, he was nevertheless deeply impressed with the experience. 'All I am suggesting,' he wrote, 'is that the mescaline experience is what Catholic theologians call a "gratuitous grace", not necessary to salvation but potentially helpful and to be accepted thankfully.' Huxley's home was no stranger to experimentation by the time the mild-mannered Dr Osmond arrived. The writer had experimented with mental techniques including parapsychology, sensory deprivation, extrasensory perception and phenomena. Huxley numbered among his friends the writers Gerald Heard and Christopher Isherwood, as well as the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.
The experiments and the fascination with mysticism and Eastern religion seeped into the steady stream of books and essays, drawing attacks that he was erring from the true intellectual path. It was suggested that Huxley's philosophical blend was turning into an attempt to establish himself as a religious leader. In a treatise on three thousand years of philosophical and religious belief, Huxley insisted that the publishers note in their foreword: 'Mr Huxley has made no attempt to found a new religion.'
In the aftermath of the mescaline experience, Huxley resolved upon a Dew work; a month after Osmond's visit he told his publisher: 'It is without question the most extraordinary and significant experience available to human beings this side of the Beatific Vision; and it opens up a host of philosophical problems, throws intense light and raises all manner of questions in the field of aesthetics, religion, the theory of knowledge.' The mescaline session, polished by a lifetime of scholarship, became the basis of a small book, The Doors of Perception, which provided the most famous literary description of a hallucinogenic experience.
With the book (its title taken from the works of William Blake, the English eighteenth-century visionary artist and poet) Huxley declared himself a propagandist for the use of hallucinogens. It proved to be the most controversial work Huxley had written for years. Theologians were concerned at what they took to be an offer of a chemical short-cut to spiritual understanding, and indeed Huxley did seem to be democratizing the mystical experience. Some literary critics found quackery and intellectual abdication while others were embarrassed by what they saw as evidence of the further decline of a once great writer. Nonetheless Huxley was now bent upon continuing his 'mental exploration to discover the far continents of the mind'. It was but a short step to LSD, which became the basis of another work, Heaven and Hell.
From the very beginning there had been an edge in the drug experiences bordering, frighteningly, on insanity. Huxley's second wife, Laura, herself an LSD psychotherapist, later wrote: 'Always Aldous emphasizes how delicately and respectfully these chemicals should be used.' LSD should only be taken with a doctor's consent and then when the subject was peaceful, in good health, friendly surroundings and wise company.
Huxley disseminated his opinions on hallucinogenics through a stream of articles in some of the most widely read newspapers and magazines in the English language. So impressed was he by the potential of LSD and the other hallucinogens that he urged the establishment of an interdisciplinary committee to examine its uses, telling friends: 'As the man whose book was largely responsible for the great interest in mescaline, I hope to participate.' He continued his experiments with the drugs, taking LSD in the majority of twelve hallucinogenic sessions.
Island was the last of Huxley's novels, written as the 1950s drew to a close, the final statement and a partial answer to the bleak vision of Brave New World. Pursuing an early belief in the concept of small utopian communities, he set the book on an island where the inhabitants ate visionary mushrooms and practised Tantric Buddhism, hypnotism and eugenics. Soma had now been replaced by 'moksha', a perfect hallucinogenic whose name was taken from the Sanskrit for liberation. Yet Huxley still could not shake off his deep pessimism, for the community finally falls prey to the guns of a neighbouring dictatorship.
Other experimenters had also by now recorded their impressions of the hallucinogenics in newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. There was even a new word to describe the hallucinogenic experience. Appropriately enough, the coiners were Huxley and Osmond, now close friends. Huxley suggested 'phamerothyme' (from phameroimto make visible; thymossoul) and wrote a couplet for Osmond:
To make this mundane world sublime
Take half a gram of Pharnerothyme.
Osmond had his own name:
To fathom Hell or sour angelic
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.
He derived the word from psychothe mind, and delos -arising from. Huxley hesitated, then accepted it. Psychedelic.
Despite his writings and his appearances, Huxley urged caution as interest in the hallucinogenics grew. It was a forlorn hope and, given Huxley's own powerful advocacy, perhaps a naive one. The new drugs were not something either Huxley or the government could keep restricted. There was too much research, too much publicity.
In 1957, Life magazine published the story of the discovery of the 'magic mushroom', Psilocybe mexicana and another hallucinogenic was revealed to the magazine's millions of readers. The powers of the mushroom, known as 'God's Flesh', had been used for centuries by Mexican Indians to enhance their religious rites, much in the same way that peyote had been used by North-American Indians. In Europe, Hofmann collaborated with a French professor of chemistry to add synthetic 'psilocybin' to mescaline and LSD.
The hallucinogenics got a further boost in 1959 when two Hollywood doctors published results of experimental LSD therapy with 110 patients, including Cary Grant and his wife, Betsy Drake. Grant was enthusiastic about the treatment, saying: 'If I drop dead within the next ten years I will have enjoyed more living in the latter part of my life than most people ever know.' The story was picked up across the United States and provoked an enormous response. On the West Coast, interest prompted one journalist to talk of the 'Great American LSD binge' in which LSD became fashionable at cocktail parties.
LSD spread north from Los Angeles to San Francisco where the hallucinogenics had already struck a respondent chord among intellectuals, those perennial seekers of new perceptions. The Beat subculture was emerging among the young. It had many meeting points with Huxley's own philosophy.
Beat at its crudest represented a volatile urge to escape from the constrictions of post-war America, its art and its mores. It was a world which from the outside seemed populated by 'frenetic young men and women racing furiously across America to wherever life is fastest, where girls are hottest, parties wildest, " bop" to be heard, marijuana to be smoked, or a road to be taken at 90 m.p.h. plusa neurotic hunger for sensation and experience.' Moving to the rhythms of modern jazz, it was also about a study of Zen Buddhism, anti-materialism and a sense of anarchy.
Some of the Beats like Allen Ginsberg, the poet, had already tasted peyote. Others, like the writer William Burroughs, were established denizens of the drug world. Their importance lay in the fact that they linked the psychedelics to a tiny groundswell of non-conformity which might appeal to the growing numbers of young Americans taking higher education in the late 1950s. By the middle of the next decade, there would be over five million students at the universities, part of a subculture of 25 million between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. In 1955, Ginsberg wrote a poem called 'Howl', inspired by a drug cocktail containing peyote. A sweeping diatribe of America's conformity and materialism, there was something prophetic in 'angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo... who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating...'
No doubt many of the young were already listening to Huxley. As Carnegie Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the winter of 1960, his lectures on the theme 'What a piece of work is Man' drew huge audiences; the crush of people trying to attend was so heavy that traffic was backed up across the Charles River bridge towards Boston.
At the time, few knew that Huxley was rapidly approaching the end of his life. Some months before the lectures, he had already received radium treatment for cancer. By the autumn of 1963, Huxley was terminally ill. In November, on the day President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Huxley slipped away, supported by injections of LSD given by his wife. As she administered 400 milligrams intravenously, Laura Huxley saw her husband's face show 'this immense expression of complete bliss and love'. She whispered: 'Light and free you let go, darling, forward and up... you are going towards the light.'
The value of Huxley's work on hallucinogenic drugs has been fiercely debated. But one point is not in doubt: he gave the psychedelics an intellectual imprimatur for the layman. The importance of the experiment in his Los Angeles garden in 1953 is that the age of the psychochemicals was taken out of the laboratory. In his writings he fused the drugs with a concept of life opposed to materialism, based on simple communal lines and painted with the mystic colours of eastern religion. While he wrote, the psychedelics were becoming available through the research programmes and psychotherapists, drawing further publicity.
But, by the time Huxley died, his warnings about the indiscriminate use of psychedelics were proving prophetic. The 'slow dance of golden lights' was turning into a swirling, spinning rush. Huxley, the psychedelic visionary of the 1950s, had passed the baton to the psychedelic revolutionary of the 1960s.
The tall, lean figure seen crossing Harvard Square in autumn 1960 seemed everything the New England campus might expect of its staff. Dressed in a Harris tweed jacket and grey slacks, Dr Timothy Leary was a psychologist with a reputation for stimulating, original thinking. At the age of forty he was a recent recruit to the university's Center for Research in Personality, to which he brought experience gleaned from hospital work and research projects elsewhere in America. There were those who called him 'Theory Leary', but his self-confidence was boundless. In his own words he was 'handsome, clean-cut, witty, confident, charismatic and in that inert culture unusually creative...'
At the start of a new decade Leary walked with the inner knowledge of his psychedelic experience. Here was a man with a strong sense of rebelliousness which more than once in his life had pulled him away from the safety of convention: a sense of mischief. Leary was an iconoclast who regarded his chosen profession as a 'piddling science'.
A few months before in Mexico, Leary had taken a fistful of mushroomsPsilocybe mexicana. Within minutes he was 'swept over the edge of a sensory Niagara'. Five hours later he decided that his life would be dedicated to this 'new instrument' for psychology, a science badly in need of new directions.
He fired the enthusiasm of a young colleague at Harvard, Richard Alpert, an assistant professor of education and psychology. At first sight they made an unlikely partnership for they came from such different backgrounds. Alpert, son of a wealthy New England lawyer, was ten years younger and obsessed with 'success'. With his thick, black-rimmed glasses and neat hair, Alpert was a man aggressively determined to get on in life, even though he already had many of the trappings of attainmentan aircraft, a boat, a motorcycle, and both a sports car and a foreign limousine. Alpert's climb was going to be by the book, a brilliant frontal assault.
Leary, on the other hand, seemed to have spent his life fighting guerilla campaigns against the establishment. His mother wanted him to become a priest and his father cherished visions of him in uniform. Neither got their way. Leary gave up his place at a Catholic seminary and then resigned from West Point after an infraction of the rules which led to his being ostracized by the other cadets for nine months (Leary used the time to study Eastern philosophy). He enrolled at Alabama University to read psychology, only to be thrown out after being caught in the girls' dormitories. After an undistinguished war career as clerk and hospital aidehe was partially deafhe returned to finish his degree and went on to take a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland as director of psychology research and it was here that Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation, all 518 pages of it, was born and completed in 1956. It was described as 'Best Book on Psychotherapy of the Year' by the Annual Review of Psychology. In the midst of public success his private life came under attack and collapsed. His two marriages failed; his first wife eventually killed herself. Leary, also disillusioned with his work, went off to Europe with his two children. In Florence he met David McClelland who was director of the Center, a division of Harvard's Laboratory of Social Relations, and who persuaded him to join the university.
Now Leary, aided by Alpert, was about to do battle again. The two men plotted the outline of a psilocybin experiment, and for reference Leary turned to Huxley's two works, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. The man who used West Point as a yoga monastery was immediately in tune with Huxley, understanding both the psychedelic and the oriental strains in the books. Even as Leary was reading them, Huxley was at MIT delivering his lectures.
The two men first met over lunch in Harvard's faculty club. In the course of a meal starting (appropriately enough) with mushroom soup, they began to discuss the Harvard project. Amid the hubbub of the dining room Huxley was charmed by the psychologist and Leary was spellbound by the writer's erudition. According to Leary, he and Alpert listened as Huxley 'advised and counselled and joked and told stories... and our research programme was shaped accordingly. Huxley offered to sit in on our planning meetings and was ready to take mushrooms with us when the research was under way.'
At first the Harvard psilocybin research project was small, comprising Leary, Alpert and six graduate students. Leary and Alpert wanted to study the mental and emotional effects of the drug on artists and intellectuals. Using psilocybin, ordered from Sandoz, the thirty-eight subjects were allowed to control their own dosages (within reasonable limits), taking the drug in pleasant, spacious surroundings. Huxley was among the volunteers, as were Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, two of the leading Beat artists; Alan Watts, noted expert on Zen Buddhism; and Arthur Koestler, writer and philosopher.
The project took a fresh direction with a series of experiments at the nearby Concord men's prison, to discover if psilocybin could cure recidivism. In the short term the drug seemed to work since only a quarter of the thirty-five who took part later got into fresh trouble, against the normal rate of 80 per cent.
Huxley remained in touch with Leary, corresponding on aspects of visionary art useful to psychedelic research. It was through Huxley that he graduated on to LSD.
The man who made it possible was Michael Hollingshead, denizen of Greenwich Village and British expatriate. Hollingshead had been working as the executive secretary of a foundation established to promote Anglo-American cultural relations through student exchanges. The demands of the foundation left Hollingshead free time to investigate the wilder side of the cultures he was cross-fertilizing, in Greenwich Village coffee bars among the Beats. Impressed by Huxley's writings on mescaline and LSD, Hollingshead persuaded a fellow countryman working at a New York hospital to place an order with Sandoz's New Jersey office using hospital notepaper.
When the gram of LSD arrived, Hollingshead diluted it with water and poured it into an empty mayonnaise jar. His first taste astonished himand left him eager to learn more. Huxley advised him to approach Leary.
Although Leary gave Hollingshead a job within his. team and a room in his home, he at first could not be persuaded to dip into the mayonnaise jar. 'His view might be summarized,' said Hollingshead, 'as "when you've had one psychedelic, you've had them all".'
Leary was finally won over by the enthusiasm of those who had taken the drug. LSD became the basis of the most dramatic of the Harvard experiments'the miracle of Marsh Chapel'. On Good Friday 1963, twenty students from Andover Theological Seminary filed into Marsh Chapel at Boston University to test the religious and mystic possibilities of LSD. Ten were given LSD and the other ten a mild amphetamine, but none knew what they were taking. Nine of the ten who took the LSD reported mystical experienceone began to read out passages from Donne's poetry, ripped the buttons off his clothes and claimed he was a fish. Another wandered out into the Boston traffic, believing he was Christ: nothing, he thought, could harm him. Confusion reigned in the chapel as the untouched students watched their colleagues gyrating like snakes or stretched out rigid on the pews.
The 'miracle' was the climax of Leary's formal academic programme of experiments, coming in the middle of a year which proved to be a watershed for the Harvard psychologist. As the experiments extended their scope, Leary could not resist proselytization through less organized experimentation; 400 writers, artists, priests and students between them took 3,000 doses of the hallucinogenics. With such work came a stream of intellectual hyperbole which rapidly turned into a torrent of assertions and claims for the significance of LSD and its lesser brethren.
Harvard's initial response to the early psilocybin experiments was expressed as little more than academic doubts about the methodology of the work, mingled with sarcastic murmurs that the experiments were hallucinogenic cocktail parties. But by 1962 Leary's psychedelic research was alarming both the university authorities and the Massachusetts Public Health Department. When the Boston Herald picked up the story, the university found itself the focus for unwelcome publicity. The university decided that the contracts given to Alpert and Leary would not be renewed when they expired in the summer of 1963.
Tired of academic in-fighting and the unwelcome attention of state investigators, the researchers retreated into exile. Leary, Alpert and a dozen followers rented a hotel in Zihuatenejo, a small Mexican fishing port on the Pacific coast, to conduct personal experiments without interruption. When they returned to Harvard for the start of the new academic year, the exile had restored their vigour and enforced a new militancy.
Opposition welded Leary and his disciples more tightly together. The psychedelics were not only an artistic and medical tool; they held the promise of changing the world, changing Man, heralding a new millenium.
To the group round Leary and Alpert the situation seemed simple. The creators of many great movements and intellectual developments in history have had to fight an entrenched establishment in their early days, only to see themselves eventually vindicated. Could this not be the case with the psychedelics? Those who had taken it were convinced of the rightness of their cause and of Leary, their leader. Even Alpert, apparently joint organizer of the experiments, was moved to say of Leary: 'I've never met a great man before and this is one of them and it is enough for my life merely to serve such a being.'
Back at Harvard, they created a 'colony for transcendental living' in a spacious house in Newton, a sedate Boston suburb. Based on Huxley's Island, the commune was made up of Leary, his children, another Harvard man and his family, Alpert and a number of friends. This 'multi-family' existence was invented to 'maintain a level of experience which cuts beyond routine ego and social games'. A meditation room was specially built, accessible only by ladder and furnished with cushions, mattresses and curtains. Illuminated by one small light stood a small statue of Buddha, and the fragrance of incense hung in the air. Soon, a second 'multi-family' centre was opened nearby.
Within the university, Alpert continued to lecture on motivation while Leary took his graduate seminars in research methods. Outside it they launched IFIF, the International Federation for Internal Freedom, dedicated to the new fifth freedomfreedom to expand one's consciousness. Students were encouraged to join and form I cells' through which they would later be able to obtain drugs. Alpert went fund-raising among the wealthy in Boston and New York.
At Harvard the experiments and the authorities were moving towards fresh battles. Huxley, soon to die, wondered what would happen next. He told Osmond: 'What about Tim Leary? I spent an evening with him a few weeks agohe talked such nonsense... that I became quite concerned. Not about his sanitybecause he is perfectly sanebut about his prospects in the world; for this nonsense talking is just another device for annoying people in authority, flouting convention, cocking snooks at the academic world; it is the reaction of the mischievous Irish boy to the headmaster of the school. One of these days the headmaster will lose patience.'
Indeed, patience was becoming scarce at Harvard. The authorities were increasingly worried by the growing black market for drugs in and around the campus. There were reports of sugar cubes coated with LSD selling on Harvard Square for a dollar a time and a student dispensing mail-ordered peyote to his friends.
John Monro, Dean of Harvard, issued a strong warning against the evils of drugs: the psychedelics 'may result in serious hazard to the mental health and stability of even an apparently normal person'. Leary and Alpert replied that 'the control and expansion of consciousness would be a major civil liberty in the next decade'. In February 1963, IFIF sent its literature to Harvard students, graduate students and faculty members.
As matters came to a head at HarvardLeary was facing dismissal for failing to turn up on campus, and the authorities began an investigation into both him and AlpertIFIF, with branches in Los Angeles and other American cities, opened its most grandiose extension back at Zihuatanejo. This was intended to be an extension of the early Harvard communities and a training centre for missionaries. Leary announced he would gamble his reputation on the centre. He hired a public relations firm to stimulate interest. It opened on I May 1963, and lasted six weeks.
Dr Joseph Downing, a Los Angeles psychologist, reported on the Mexican centre in a 1964 survey of LSD. The group he watched was drawn from Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. They were aged between twenty and sixty and included clinical psychologists, engineers and businessmen. Dr Downing described the IFIF philosophy as 'a mixture of modern psychology, New England mysticism and modified Mahayana Buddhism... The urbane and skilful writings of Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts, the Tibetan Buddhist emphasis on mystic preparation for death-rebirth experience and the stern nononsense pragmatism of Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhist philosophy with its emphasis on satori (transcendental enlightenment) have been adapted to order and rationalize the other-worldly experiences which this school of thought attributes to the psychedelic drugs.'
The philosophic cocktail was not to the taste of the Mexican authorities, who watched the community with growing alarm. Three days after the community opened its doors Alpert was fired from Harvard; investigations revealed that he had broken a promise not to give drugs to students.
The sacking aroused further Mexican anxiety and the antipathy of at least one prominent Mexican newspaper. Public opinion gathered momentum. Eventually the government decreed that the IFIF people had entered Mexico under false pretences: they claimed to be tourists when they were in fact researchers and students. The expulsion Was courteouseven friendlybut final.
For the benefit of the photographer, Leary turned slightly on the back of the big white mare and laughed down at the camera lens. The renegade psychologist was naked to the waist, a large medallion round his neck, and his bare feet hung down from loose white trousers, either side of the horse. Riding her bare-back, Leary kept a firm grip on the animal's reins. One eye on the camera, she seemed to be laughing as well. Behind them extended the frontage of a magnificent sixty-four-room New England mansion, and in front of them 2,000 acres of land. Within two months of being ejected from Mexico, Leary and his followers had found themselves a new home. Huxley's Island was a possibility a few miles off US Route 9 in the Hudson valley.
The name of the mansion was Millbrook, a turreted, slightly spooky, neo-Bavarian creation dating from the 1890s. The grounds included an ornamental lawn and lake, cottages, barns, a bowling alley and a gatehouse.
The owner of Millbrook and Leary's saviour was William Mellon Hitchcock, a tall, fair-haired, handsome young man in his twenties, who had the added advantage of being rich. Hitchcock was the grandson of William Larimer Hitchcock, founder of Gulf Oil, and a nephew of Richard and Andrew Mellon, Pittsburgh financiers and philanthropists extraordinaire.
Hitchcock, a Wall Street broker, met Leary through Hitchcock's sister Peggy, director of IFIF's New York branch. The psychedelics were moving in the smart, moneyed set nowa set Alpert had first tapped from Harvard. Hitchcock offered Leary the use of the mansion at a nominal rent of $500 a month. He himself obligingly moved into the gardener's cottage but left his helicopter in one of the barns.
Why Leary and LSD? In the words of a family friend, 'Hitchcock is a bored, rich guy and it was fun, adventure.' It was also very fashionable and appealing to someone who enjoyed a touch of risk, trifling with the unconventional.
A student at universities in Vienna and Texas, Hitchcock abandoned academic life without a degree to make money, but at one time worked as a roughneck on a Texas oil-well in order to experience the roots of his wealth. He found his true niche with a reputable New York firm of stock brokers where, apparently driven by a desire to prove his worth by his own capabilities, he built up contacts with Bahamian and Swiss banking interests, not to mention the world of fast money. 'Mr Billy', as he was known to the servants, was liked by almost everyone who met him.
Millbrook became the home of the Castalia Foundation, based on Herman Hesse's book The Glass Bead Game. In the book, Castalia was the name for an intellectual colony. Leary was impressed by Hesse's vision and the message he spelled out for any colony that wanted to set itself to one side of everyday life.
At Millbrook in the mid-1960s, Leary pulled together strands from many such philosophies, both Eastern and Western, bound them with the wonders of LSD and articulated them with the staccato rhythms of Beat'Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out'.
A disciple who joined Leary at Millbrook said: 'Tim Leary is generally accepted by most of us as the equivalent of Christ for the Christians and so on, not in a foolish way... We look at him as a great religious leader.' Leary, who had never been known for modesty, added: 'All religions start with visionaries who taught peopleChrist, Mohammed, Ignatius Loyola...' Huxley's Irish schoolboy had ordained himself.
An artful publicist, he used the media to best effect with neat catch-phrases like 'Acid Is Ecstasy, Ecstasy Is Good For You'. Leary and LSD attracted nationwide publicity.
The psychedelics were the subject of a procession of books from investigators, for and against, from academics and from those who had used them. Leary himself contributed to a collection of essays prepared by David Solomon, a New York editor connected with IFIF.
For the debate was no longer just about their efficacy but their proscription, for American medical opinion was turning against LSD. From 1963, under new Federal Drug Administration rules, LSD and most other psychedelics were only supplied to researchers in federal or state agencies; but researchers who still had these drugs in hand could continue using them until 1965, when they had to be given over to the government. As yet, psychedelics in the main were not subject to any controls under criminal law.
From Millbrook, Leary and Alpert tried to maintain their LSD supplies while at the same time continuing their proselytizing. Fortified by a smoke of marijuana, the neatly-suited Leary was ever ready for the television interviewers and comperes, and his claims were growing more outrageous. In a lengthy Playboy interview, stretching to 20,000 words, Leary enthused about the use of LSD to enhance sex and sexual performance. On one occasion he claimed to have given away ten million doses himself. It seems unlikely. Since Leary was neither a federal nor a state researcher, the embargo often presented problems.
During the expulsion from Zihuatenejo, Alpert planned to get the LSD past customs by putting it in his shaving lotion, but at the airport the suitcase was dropped. Not until they were driving home from the airport did he dare to slip open the suitcase. The bottle has smashed, covering a suit with LSD. Rather than waste the drug, the suit was hung up on a wall so that anyone could simply suck the material. But this bizarre supply could not last for ever.
Leary and Alpert turned to the black market, organizing a loose distribution system across America: a network later claimed to include a mid-Western professor, an Atlanta businessman, ministers of religion and a New York magazine editor. The supplies came from a mysterious gentleman whom Leary called 'Dr Spaulding'. The man, said to be one of America's top chemists and the owner of a lot of LSD, contacted Leary during one of the psychologist's lecture tours. The two met, so Leary claims, in a deserted carpark where Spaulding, warning of further restrictions on LSD, announced he would release part of his stockpile. He would send Leary 1,000 grams in plain brown envelopes and hollowed-out books. Over the weeks after the meeting, the LSD arrived through the post in consignments each of 100 grams. The LSD does not seem to have lasted very longalthough in telling the story Leary estimated that the 1,000 grams should have lasted four yearsbecause Alpert continued his newfound interest in smuggling. There was no longer any need to approach Sandoz with supplications. The Swiss firm's patents had run out and Alpert could buy Czech LSD from small chemical traders in London. He would store the LSD in a matchbox, catch a flight for Montreal, Canada, and then hop over the border to New York on a second flight. On the last leg to Millbrook, he would fly his own plane, sometimes high on LSD. One dealer in London was even quite prepared to send the drugs over by airmail.
By whatever route they came, the supplies were an essential part of life at the New England estate. The Millbrook community developed group LSD sessions, led by a guide who orchestrated lights, musical tapes and readings. After some hours of meditation and exhortation, the group would flourish little hand mirrors in front of their faces, seeing '... lives past, and lives we might yet live in the present'. The sessions, on up to 800 micrograms per person, ended with a walk in the woods and a simple meal.
Hitchcock, the patron of all this, could hardly remain isolated from happenings at the big house. He was turned on to LSD by Alpert, eventually taking it over fifty times in the next few years, as well as a wide range of other drugs from cocaine to heroin. The man about Wall Street found it was 'a tool for the process of growth. I wanted to share the experience and further the movement.'
It meant (among other things) the introduction of friends such as Charles Rumsey, a lawyer. A nephew of Averell Harriman, a leading American politician, Rumsey is said to have become a missionary for LSD among the Manhattan set and New York sent many new disciples to Millbrookfor the experimental weekend workshops. Even breakfasts were designed to be part of the experience. The scrambled eggs were green, the porridge was purple and the milk black. The visitors sat down hesitantly and tried manfully to cope with this sudden assault on their conventions.
The visitors were mainly middle-class professionals who paid $75 each to take part. They arrived, fifteen at a time, on Friday night to a silent welcome and written exhortations on which they were to meditate for an hour. They gathered to hear the programme and explanations, splitting into groups of five under guides. On Saturday they would be prepared for a simulated psychedelic experience. To the sound of Buddhist chants, Tibetan music and a melange of image and light, they were urged to leave their minds and find their heads.
Among those who came to be initiated for real or by simulation were Felix Topolski, the artist; Charlie Mingus, the jazz musician; Saul Steinberg, cartoonist; and Dr Ronald Laing, a notable British psychiatrist and innovator. Leary later claimed he had even persuaded Hermann Kahn, dean of the think-tank academics and soothsayer of the nuclear age, to try LSD among the many converts at Millbrook.
There were others who took up residence at Millbrook as Hitchcock's generosity attracted devotees of various exotic cultures to find a home among the 2,000 acres. Art Kleps, formerly a school psychiatrist, eventually founded the NeoAmerican Church as an off-shoot of Leary's religious drive. With a claimed congregation of 500 across America, Kleps styled himself Chief Boo Hoo of an anarchic theology. Eccentric even by Millbrook's standards, Kleps became its chronicler. Tents and tepees were erected in the woods for the little communities which grew up. Millbrook became an experimenters' playground, encouraged by Hitchcock's seemingly endless charity.
But first and foremost, Millbrook was the heart of Leary's movement. From its offices near Harvard, IFIF sent out magazines and letters, keeping in touch with a network which Leary put at 50,000 people across the United States. Hollingshead, the man with the mayonnaise jar, founded the Agora Foundation in New York with the aid of Victor Lownes, the crown prince of the Playboy empire, and the finance of Howard Teague, a Nassau millionaire. From there he went back across the Atlantic to the Swinging London of the mid-1960s and set up shop in Chelsea. Based in a large and comfortable flat off the Kings Road, he founded the World Psychedelic Centre with the help of two old Etonians. Hollingshead imported books and half a gram of LSD from the United States. The centre built up links to St Martin's School of Art and the recently opened Institute of Contemporary Arts. Among those who (he claims) came within his circle were Alex Trocchi, the writer; Julie Felix, the folksinger; and Sir Roland Penrose, artist and photographer.
Meanwhile Millbrook organized psychedelic events and 'explorations' in New York itself. It was, according to Hollingshead, the dawning of the 'Golden Age of Anarchy'.
True, Hollingshead could be as hyperbolic as Leary when he wantedhe eventually wrote an autobiography entitled The Man Who Turned On The Worldbut he was not entirely inaccurate. For there came a day in the summer of 1964 when a strange bus pulled into the driveway of Millbrook. On the front destination-board someone had written 'FURTHER'. On the back, the board read: 'CAUTION, WEIRD LOAD'.
Smoke bombs tumbled from the bus with a crump, sending green clouds billowing across Millbrook's lawns. A couple, wandering on the grass and lost in contemplation, looked up in astonishment and scuttled away hurriedly. Streaked and splashed with a confusion of red, blue, green and yellow paint, the bus was a moving sound-system blaring out rock and roll from speakers on the top. The 'Stars and Stripes' streamed in the wind as the vehicle came up the drive.
The passengers stared out, laughing, chattering, shouting. They were as weird as the bus, with painted faces and bizarre clothes, with names like Zonker, Speed Limit, Intrepid Traveller, Gretchin Fetchin. The leader was a muscular balding figure with a wide grin who looked a bit like everyone's favourite mad professor. On the bus he sometimes went by the name of Swashbuckler, but he had been christened by his Baptist parents in rural Oregon as Ken Kesey. Athlete and successful author, Kesey was also known in some parts of the West Coast as the initiator of a robust, extrovert use of LSD which made Leary look Victorian by comparison. Beat was back on the road, in psychedelic livery.
Kesey had laid out $1,500 for a 1939 schoolbus converted for long-distance travel, and set out with a group of young Californians, dubbed the Acid Pranksters, to tweak America's nose and invade its mind. A hole had been cut in the roof of the bus so that the passengers could take the air or startle unsuspecting passers-by. A complex microphone and tape system picked up sound outside and then played it back to the Pranksters' victims.
Heading East via the Deep South, the LSD in chilled orange juice, they conceived the idea of The Movie somewhere out in the desert; and from then on, every policeman who stopped them and every garage attendant who gawped at them got footage for free. The Pranksters painted themselves, thrusting Day-Glo hands at passers-by. Who's mad? You or us?
The lurching, creaking bus crossed America at the height of summer and barrelled into New York. Here Kesey briefly met Jack Kerouac, darling of the Beats, before moving on to Millbrook.
It was going to be the great meeting of East and West, but it fell flat. Leary was unavailable. Alpert and a few others showed the Pranksters around Millbrook, but to the newcomers it seemed like a tour round the family mausoleum. They dubbed the moment 'the crypt trip'.
It was back on the bus, back to California. Alpert could not even spare them any LSD. The abortive meeting illustrated a major division which was developing in the psychedelic movement. Leary and Kesey had discovered LSD at almost the same time; but the drug had led them in very different directions.
There was always something slightly rarefied about the East Coast psychedelic movement. Initiates met in Greenwich Village bars, swish Manhattan apartments or the intellectual hides round Harvard and at Millbrook. By and large, the movement was restrained.
Not so on the West Coast. It was insane in the way the word is often used in America; not to denote genuine madness but something unreal, difficult to believe because there is no apparent logic, defying understanding.
In 1959, while Leary was chewing the Magic Mushroom by a Mexican pool, Kesey was the 25-year-old holder of a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University, supplementing his grant by earning $75 a day on one of the government's drug research programmes at Menlo Park Veterans' Hospital. Part of an intellectual colony in Perry Lane, Stanford's answer to Greenwich Village, Kesey was enchanted by the psychedelics. Somehow supplies followed him back from the hospital to the Lane where he became the centre of a group of cognoscenti.
Influenced, like many young writers, by the Beats of the 1950s, Kesey had planned to write a novel on them, set in their San Francisco home of North Beach, not far from Stanford. He began writing while working as an aide on the night shift in Menlo Park's psychiatric wards. Locked in with the sleeping patients, Kesey's creative juices bubbled with LSD and peyote and the theme of the novel changed.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is set in a psychiatric ward where a new patient arrives who is feigning madness to avoid prison. His attempts to provoke the other inmates out of their supine existences challenge the preconceptions of insanity and its treatment, asking who was really mad. Kesey once said: 'The real thing behind it is that it's about America... and it's about what's crazy in America.' In retrospect, the book was also a prophecy and Kesey's working philosophy with the psychedelics. Kesey would challenge vested authority, just as Randle McMurphy, the new patient, fought the malignant ministrations of Nurse Ratched. Kesey's 'madness' was the euphoria and vision of LSD with which he would summon America to save itself, in the same way as in the book McMurphy finally reaches the catatonic Chief.
One Flew drew critical acclaim, but Perry Lane was no more, destroyed by developers, and Kesey moved to a log house in sedate La Honda. He was now the central figure of a group which included not only the inner circle from Perry Lane but Beat figures from San Francisco.
Kesey had also met a group of the Hell's Angels through Dr. Hunter Thompson, then a young journalist with a taste for the oddball, who was writing a book or them. They were invited to La Honda. They agreed to come: no one had ever invited them anywhere before.
A billboard proclaimed: 'The Merry Pranksters Welcome the Hell's Angels.'
A motorbike gang based in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, the Angels were legendary for their violence, their machismo and their outlaw attitudes. The media added to the aura, creating an image of rape, pillage and unadulterated evil. The sound of those massed HarleyDavidson 74 motorcycles was calculated to turn the heart of every suburban Californian into an uncontrollable pulse of rage or fear.
It was that distant rising roar which broke the Saturday afternoon peace in August 1965 as drivers on Route 84 watched the beards, the long hair and the sleeveless denim jackets with the death's head insignia fly past.
Waiting for them at La Honda were the Pranksters, some of the old Perry Lane crowd and dignitaries from San Francisco's bohemia. The two sides met over beer and LSD. The party went on for two days with the police waiting outside in their cars, powerless until someone stepped over the fence and broke the law where they could reach them. The Angels usually found that their presence anywhere provoked a fightsomeone always objected to them or tried to test their meanness. At La Honda, relative peace reigned. The party was a meeting of kindred spirits, brother outlaws. Allen Ginsberg, author of Howl and now rising bard of the psychedelic movement, with his wispy beard and bald pate, rubbed shoulders with the toughest Angels. They liked LSD.
In the wake of the party Kesey discovered an interesting fact. The doctrine according to Leary was that you needed peace, the right setting and the right mood to initiate people. But there was really no need for Leary's intellectual map-reading course. LSD should come out of the smoke-filled back rooms and on to the hustings. If you wanted to turn people on, then you had to go out there and find them. The new thing would be the 'Acid Test'. The Pranksters would-challenge: 'Can you pass the Acid Test?'
Kesey was to begin the populist approach to LSD, a blend of the aesthetic and the entertaining, loud and rollicking, hitting the senses from every direction with rock and roll and strobe lighting. The audience was young. The optimism fired by John F. Kennedy was mingling with a growing campus radicalism. In 1962, Kennedy's little bush war in Vietnam had involved 11,000 American troops. In 1965 there were 170,000, many of them teenage conscripts. The 'Students for a Democratic Society' organization was growing across the country, expressing a feeling that students could be instruments of change. Kesey was among the speakers in an anti-Vietnam protest at Berkeley and the bus took the road painted blood red, its passengers shouting anti-war slogans.
Leary wrote and spoke of the psychedelics as the way towards the new millenium that the young seemed set on finding. Kesey offered further directions, using language and imagery they understood. In the autumn of 1965 the Acid Tests began.
The first one fell flat because very few people came, but the second was scheduled for San José when the Rolling Stones were giving one of a series of concerts across America.
Failing to find a suitable hall, the Pranksters settled for an old rambling house. Music was provided by the Grateful Dead, a group led by Jerry Garcia, part of the Perry Lane scene. The group was closely identified with LSD but was never involved in the trafficking or manufacture of hallucinogenics. They lugged their equipment into the house while the Pranksters waited outside San José's civic auditorium with handbills and waylaid the crowds. The house was jam-packed.
The posters for the first Trips Festival were odd, letters and drawings which bent like images in a fairground distorting mirror. Youngsters came in their thousands for the three-day event. It was a revelation. Everyone knew someone else who was taking LSD or smoking marijuana like themselves, but no one knew there were that many. Kesey, dressed in a space suit, heard his 'Psychedelic Symphony' played by the Grateful Dead with a sound-light console on a tower. Under a mass of flags hung from the roof of the octagonal building of the Longshoremen's Hall, the young danced in Indian dress, old uniforms, flowing robes, bare-breasted. The strobe lights caught the dancers freeze-framed like stills from a film.
The festival was the outcome of the Pranksters' tests up and down the West Coast. 'Trip' was the word for an LSD session, borrowed from the term used by the US Army for LSD experiments. Bill Graham was persuaded to act as impresario, after his success with a number of rock benefits. The festival, in late January 1966, cost very little but made a lot$16,000and Graham went to the Fillmore Hall and hired it every week, every Saturday, for one never-ending festival.
Many of the celebrants were inhabitants of a town within a city. The sharing of experience meant newspapers, shops, a community. People were moving into a district called Haight-Ashbury, where Haight Street ran for twenty blocks through the Ashbury district. It was a quiet place with cheap Victorian houses bordered by parks.
The kids could play music in their rooms and no one would come in shouting about the TV, or go round the dormitory shouting about exams. In Haight, no one complained about clothes or long hair. Life here meant being free, communes, sharing. Everything was beautiful. Someone described it as a latterday Children's Crusade.
It was also wonderfully esoteric: the 'tree hut that became a canton. No one out there knew what it was about, not parents, not teachers, not the police.
The kids arrived in Haight Street with packs on their backs, punched-in cowboy hats tilted back or bright headbands tied over long hair and with Indian beads over their T-shirts.
The kids were 'hip', as the Beats used to say. They were hippies. Long hair and exaggerated clothes became part of the uniformanything that was different, as different as possible from the conventional.
Haight-Ashbury was the manifestation of a feeling among the young that they had something special, a collective sense of righteousness. The posters and handbills talked about the tribe: linking the urbanized young to the old natural ways of the Indian before the white mar! came and corrupted their pure freedom.
Peace and love... Flower Power... Make Love Not War. Leary's talent for slogans had been quickly acquired by a generation brought up to slick commercials in a country where the best political manifesto has often been the shortest, pithiest message. The message of Haight Ashbury spread very quickly. In the first six months of 1966, San Francisco police dealt with over 8,000 juveniles who had run away from home. There were more on the way. Others were moving to enclaves in other citiesEast Village, New York; a section of Boston; Cleveland; Los Angeles; and Philadelphia.
For those who stayed at home, in school or college, the message was passed on by music. In the mid-1960s record sales in the United States topped the $1,000 million mark for the first time as the new tribal chants beat out. Part of it was protest, a lot of it was about drugs. In 1965, Eric Burden and the Animals crooned: 'A Girl Named Sandoz'; the Byrds went 'Eight Miles High'; and Dylan was rapidly becoming the electronic Byron. He turned on the Beatles in a brief meeting at Kennedy Airport by giving Ringo marijuana. George and John took LSD in 1964 in their after-dinner coffee. Some members of the Rolling Stones tried it in 1965 after starting with marijuana. On the West Coast, there were the Grateful Dead, accompanists to the Pranksters, Jefferson Airplane, the Fugs, the Family Dog, Big Brother and the Holding Company.
In 1962, Leary estimated that some 25,000 Americans had tried the main psychedelics. Three years later, a study of the drugs by Alpert and others suggested that four million had now tasted LSD; and in 1966 Life magazine put the number who had tried mescaline, let alone the other psychedelics, at one million. Seventy per cent of the LSD users in the Alpert study were described as high-school or college age -teens to early twenties. The drugs had clearly moved from the clinical couch on to the street in an upsurge of drug use which the United States had never seen before. Many of the young inhabitants of Haight Ashbury made pin money from selling and dealing in drugs, and local police were no longer fazed by discovering caches. Drugs were so common they were, as one narcotics officer put it, 'like pennies in your pocket'. The problem for such officers was that the law covered some psychedelics but not others.
Apart from the restrictions brought in by the FDA, there were still no other controls on LSD; no laws on dealing or possession. Sandoz's patents had run out in 1963 and drugs could reach the United States from new legal producers springing up in Europe. At the same time, there was evidence that amateur producers were starting domestic production as well. It was clear that interest in the psychedelics had brought about an expansion in the use of marijuanaLeary and Kesey both used it, as did many of the old Beats.
The rise of LSD and the new interest in marijuana presented a contradiction: marijuana had been controlled by criminal law since the 1930s and was regarded internationally as being in the same class of drug as heroin and cocainenarcotics. Over the decades, marijuana had been presented as the refuge and the stimulant of base criminal elements, and propaganda campaigns presented it in the worst light imaginable. After years of being told that drugs like marijuana turned innocent young people into raving debauched savages, the conventional, adult public was growing uneasy and so were the media.
The friendly, curious treatment given to LSD had changed. Since 1963, press interest had concentrated on the detrimental effects. Horror stories were avidly circulated on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sandoz, who had tightened its distribution over the years, halted the sale of LSD and psilocybin in the United States and Britain. The decision provoked a lengthy editorial in the British Medical Journal, the official voice of the British medical profession, which cited the case of a man who had driven his car at 100 mph into a house, and of a woman who had stabbed the man who made her pregnant. LSD, said the editorial, had its uses and was not addictive, but the experiences of the United States were a warning signal. Controls should be instituted. Sandoz's decision brought protests from doctors, but the company itself issued a statement explaining that the drug had never produced profits and its manufacture was a service to the medical profession. Aware of the dangers of the drug, Sandoz had always taken precautions, but they were now faced with the great lay interest, lack of any controls and changes in production which made it possible to manufacture the drug in bulk.
When Sandoz talked about 'lay' use, they meant Kesey and Leary. Neither man had done anything to abate public unease since both had been arrested for marijuana offences with all that that entailed to a public fed the antimarijuana propaganda.
Such brushes with the law did not embarrass Leary or deflect him; indeed they were grist to his mill, and there were those who began to wonder if Leary was being deliberately provocative. The doubters included Alpert, who had left Millbrook after fighting futilely against the chaos Leary seemed to enjoy creating. In retrospect, Alpert admitted Leary's brilliance and gave him due credit for initiating the psychedelic movement; but his achievement was tinged with a destructive element. Like Huxley, Alpert was also worried by Leary's desire to twist the lion's tail.
Leary got his chance to take on a whole pride of the beasts when, in May 1966, he was called to give evidence to the Senate sub-committee on juvenile delinquency, chaired by Senator Thomas Dodd from Connecticut, who was calling for urgent legislation on the psychedelics. Leary was as persuasively articulate as ever, but Senator Robert Kennedy, sitting in on the hearing, chose to interrupt and attack Leary constantly throughout his twenty-five-minute testimony. Leary left the hearing badly mauled by Kennedy's attacks.
Since Alpert was no longer available to play a supporting role, the task of seconding Leary passed to Art Kleps, Chief Boo-Hoo of the Neo-American Church and Millbrook habitué. Kleps told the senators that if new legislation was brought in they would face mayhem. Leary was a great religious teacher and the day he finally went to prison would be the day religious civil war broke out.
Washington was unmoved by the threat. Pressure to take action was not only national but international, with the United Nations calling on all member-countries to legislate speedily. Early in 1966, the United States took the first step when the Drug Abuse Control Amendments became effective, making the unlawful sale or manufacture of the psychedelics into a misdemeanour. Enforcement was entrusted to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare rather than to the Bureau of Narcotics. Nationally, possession remained untouched, but in California and New York, state legislators in the two centres of psychedelic use took their own action. Possession became a crime in both states by the middle of October 1966, and other states would follow. Leary's answer was to declare the formation of the League of Spiritual Discovery, to fight for LSD as a legal sacrament. The precedent already existed, since the Indian members of the Native American Church had already been granted legal immunity for peyote. In San Francisco, the people of Haight-Ashbury gathered in force in Golden Gate Park to declare their opposition to the new law.
From 7 October 1966, possession of LSD became a misdemeanour punishable by a fine of $1,000 or one year in prison; manufacture or sale could, as a felony, bring one to five years for the first offence and two to ten years for further offences.
But the supporters of the psychedelics were prepared to stand their ground. 'They're like the Romans,' said one LSD promoter, referring to the legislators. 'They don't realize this is a religious movement. Until they make it [the use of psychedelics] legal, we'll find our sacrament where we can. And no sooner is one made illegal, we'll come up with another.'