Week 48 Non-Fiction
The Harvard Psychedelic Club is an absolutely delightful account of the invention of the 1960s-era psychedelic movement and four of the men who were involved—Timothy Leary (of course), Huston Smith, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), and Andrew Weil.
|Richard Adkins (Ram Dass)|
This story was quite incredible to me. I was at Boston University School of Theology just three years later and never once heard about the Good Friday experiment. I knew about LSD being available on the Quad outside of the chapel, but not about that infamous day. I have emailed a friend from graduate school to ask her if she remembered anything. We’ll see what she says. Maybe I was just too naïve and too in love with a farm boy from Indiana to know about such things.
Lattin follows these four men through the next few years. Leary became the guru of the psychedelic movement with the mantra “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Alpert became a guru of another sort when he realized that one couldn’t find wholeness with LSD and found solace in Hinduism and Buddhism. He changed his name to Ram Dass and gathered many followers through the years. Huston Smith remained a renowned scholar of world religions and wrote a signal book on the subject, The World’s Religions. Andrew Weil is respected in the field of holistic healing and is a purveyor of vitamins and natural foods.
Three of the four are still alive. Huston Smith is 91 and has just written his memoirs. Ram Dass is 89 and remains a teacher via the Internet. Andrew Weil is 67 and still very active in his businesses. All were interviewed for this book. Timothy Leary died in 1996.
Is this a profound or important book? No, of course not. Is if a fun read? For sure! I found a short review of it in The New York Review of Books which convinced me to read it.
A review in the New York Times:
An interview with Don Lattin in Time Magazine: