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The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America

Don Lattin.
Publisher HarperOne/BOMC  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 0.9 inches
ISBN 9780061655937
Pages/Publication Date 256/2010
Daedalus Item Code 30600
This item is not available.
The author of Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge and Following Our Bliss: How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today, religion journalist and commentator Don Lattin here takes us back to the early 1960s and a Harvard-sponsored research project on psychedelic drugs. This is the story of how three brilliant scholars—Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (later Ram Dass), and Huston Smith—and an ambitious freshman named Andrew Weil crossed paths in this study, and how their exploration of an expanded consciousness helped set the stage for the social revolutions of the 60s.

"This would be a terrific social history of a fascinating historical period even if it didn't star some of the most important influences on today's culture. But Andrew Weil remains a guru of alternative medicine and nutrition, and Huston Smith's books on world religion are required reading at almost every college, while Timothy Leary and Ram Dass are icons of consciousness exploration through drugs and Eastern religions, respectively. So this energetic study of the time all four were together at Harvard tells much about today's culture. Lattin's quasifictional techniques (most notably, reconstructed dialogue) bring to life the antics of trickster Leary, who once said that he'd turned seven million people on and only 100,000 ever thanked him, and seeker Ram Dass (originally Richard Alpert), who helped bring awareness of meditation and other Indian religious techniques to the West. Smith, son of Christian missionaries in China and early on a fellow traveler with Leary and Alpert, determined that drugs constituted but a shortcut to the religious ecstasy he sought, while Weil's opposition was instrumental in ending Leary's and Alpert's tenures at Harvard (although he was himself experimenting with the same drugs). Some laugh-aloud passages make this an entertaining read, but the underlying exploration of the sociocultural reasons for the extravaganza that was the 1960s merits attention."—Booklist (starred review)

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